Hiking and Trekking
Thailand has some of the best trekking in Southeast Asia although nowadays it is becoming somewhat overrun with tourists and is harder to find that unique experience. The mountains of the north are the most popular while Tak and Khao Sok National Park in the south are also fine.
Indonesia has an abundance of undulating volcanic landscape and is ideal for trekking and climbing. Although jungle trekking is good fun, walking days on end under thick canopy can be somewhat stifling, so head to Indonesia for stark beauty and open views.
The Philippines is also one of numerous islands and volcanoes where every type of adventure sport is on hand. The recent eruption of Mount Pinatubo is on most trekkers’ itineraries.
Malaysia is another superb destination for trekking with its extensive forest coverage and abundance of national parks and wildlife reserves. Many of these have recognized trails where tours can be easily organized.
Most visitors to Laos also go for the trekking, and like Thailand, the best is up north in the mountainous regions in remote ethnic hill tribe country. Neighbouring Myanmar, with its many government controlled wildlife safaris, is an unlikely, yet beautiful country for trekking in. The lack of crowds makes it worthwhile although trekking at the southern end of the Himalayas can be expensive.
Many visitors come to the northern city of Chiang Mai specifically to go trekking and it is one of the best places in all of Southeast Asia to be based. Treks typically range from a day to a week (usually two or three nights) and feature jungle walking, elephant riding and bamboo rafting. Overnighting in Lisu and Aka hilltribe villages is also generally on the agenda.
GUNUNG MULU NATIONAL PARK – SARAWAK, BORNEO, MALAYSIA
Gunung Mulu National Park has some of the best trekking in the region and features the mighty Sarawak Chamber; the world’s largest enclosed natural space. Mulu National Park has recently been put on the World Heritage list and is an area of outstanding natural beauty.
KINABALU NATIONAL PARK- BORNEO, MALAYSIA
On the Malaysian part of Borneo (Sabah), Kinabalu National Park is one of the most well known trekking options in Southeast Asia owing to its highest mountain, Mount Kinabulu. Despite its height, the 4,000-plus-metre mountain offers easy climbing and is very accessible.
MOUNT PINATUBO, PHILIPPINES
This leviathan erupted in 1991 throwing ash all over the world and one can discern the magnitude of the event by trekking to the caldera lake. The mountain can be reached by 4wd and then a two-hour hike from the rim to the caldera lake.
Extremely remote and truly untouched (so far) by modernization, Cambodia’s northeastern frontier province of Ratanakiri is a unique place to trek. Unspoiled tropical rain forest with many tribal villages, hiking through the region is like hiking back through time.
GUNUNG JERA, KEDAH, MALAYSIA
Mount Jerai is the highest mountain in Kedah at a height of 1,217m. The mountain is essentially a massive limestone rock, protruding from the rest of surrounding geography. The height of the mountain was used by traders as a navigational point; in other words it’s really high compared to everything else.
MT. PULAG, PHILIPPINES
Luzon’s Mount Pulag is the island’s highest peak rising 2922m and is the second-highest mountain in the Philippines. Because of it’s towering stature, Mt. Pulag is pretty much rain soaked throughout the year, with August getting the most precipitation. The interesting thing, besides the vast amount of wildlife, is the grasslands near the summit of the mountain. Like something out of Sound of Music, without those annoying Von Trapp kids, the scenery is completely unique and seems out of place with the volcanic rock and cliffs that predominate the region.
KHAO SOK, THAILAND
Thailand’s southern Khao Sok National Park features dense tropical rain forest with an abundance of flora and fauna including the world’s largest flower. The park is criss-crossed with numerous trails and also features a huge lake in its centre. Keep an eye out for the huge blooms of Rafflesia and for wild elephants, leopards, and tigers.
Thailand’s Tak province doesn’t get as many trekkers as other regions and is thus good for the more discerning walker. The Ti Lor Su Waterfall is the largest in Southeast Asia and is the most popular trek here.
Northern Laos has the best trekking in the country where ethnic hill tribes still call the mountains of Laos home. Landing in Luang Prabang or Luang Mantha are the perfect starting points to organize trips into the hills and spend some time with indigenous locals.