As it is famously and often quoted that it’s impossible to take a walk in the woods and be in a bad mood, there’s a lesson to be learned here. Our good old walking is an underrated pleasure when vacationing. There lies a freedom of spirit and discovery when one walks around to explore. Be it walking in the countryside to experience the old school rural verdurous or taking group heritage walks, time slows down for us when we walk. When we take vacations, more often than not we are taking a break from the fast pace and there’s nothing more liberating than walking around and picking up a slower pace just to absorb what’s around you.
As a ‘walking enthusiast’ myself, the highlight for my vacations is the opportunity to find streets, spots, and destinations that let me just walk – and let me be. Here are seven of my favorite self-guided walking tours that I discovered while traveling and volunteering across South East Asia.
1. Baan Mae Jok Village, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand
As a part of my Tuk-Tuk Ride experience trip in Thailand, I headed to the Mae Mai Village, a beautiful countryside escape in Northern Thailand. It was after a few hours of the trek up the hills that I stumbled upon this relatively unexplored village. A secluded village located near the Mae Tang River, it’s the habitat of about 140 members of the Karen hill tribe. The tribe, who live in harmony with their surroundings, mostly depend on the cultivation of rice and hand weaving and hand dyeing clothes. Also, a spot for offbeat travel in Thailand, living at the local homestays gives a closer look into the lives of this tribe and they also recommend great walking/hiking trails for travelers.
2. Ozran Beach, Goa, India
A destination which is otherwise popular during the holiday season in December and January, my visit to Goa during the off-season of Monsoons proved to be a surprising treat. There’s absolutely nothing so off-season about Goa during monsoon if you are looking for rejuvenating vacation. Almost addictive because of its tranquility, take long walks amidst the lush green trails as you sip coconut water on the Goan streets. My special favorite walk was the one from the small Vagator beach to Ozran beach, the latter being a lesser explored and lesser-known beach of the city.
3. Pokhara, Nepal
A traveler’s paradise, especially a backpacker’s paradise, the street beside Phewa Lake is laced with picturesque views and is ideal for walking enthusiasts. Conversations with the boat women of Phewa Lake or mapping the entire sightseeing scene on your foot is the perfect way to exhaust yourself before you go into one of the lively and small eateries, only to wait for 45 minutes before your meal arrives. Yes, Nepal works slow paced and that’s the beauty of this Himalayan country.
4. Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
This is the street which has it all – food, drinks, shopping, spa, and also conversations albeit inebriated ones. Known for having people from around the world on one long stretch of a street, a walk to cover the entire street will take longer than you think. From live street dance shows to stumbling into people absorbed in dancing to the loud music – the 365-day carnival fervor is not be missed only to see it wrapped in a few minutes at sharp 3 AM in the morning.
5. Killing Fields, Choeung Ek, Cambodia
Can traveling not always be about beauty? Can it? Travelers are global citizens, at least in spirit and which is why knowing about both the bright and the dark sides of a country is important. A humbling visit to the Choeung Ek is a not so gentle reminder of the chilling times that the Khmer land underwent during the 90s. A walk across the killing fields as a traveler’s attraction is a debatable concept but one cannot ignore the fact that it’s a learning experience. It’s about the grim past that the country underwent and any traveling enthusiast should be aware of both sides of the coin. It’s always advisable to be respectful while taking a tour of the site and keep the victims in your memories as it’s important to make sure that history never repeats itself.
6. Varanasi, India
One of the oldest living cities in India, stroll along the ghats of Varanasi or the cacophonous streets where you’d encounter a cow or two and maybe some sadhus from whom you can get words of wisdom that will stay with you for a lifetime. An early morning walk along the crescent-shaped curve where the ghats are situated is an experience of a lifetime. Culture enthusiasts can catch a live music concert or two, especially during the winter months of November-January where the cultural fervor of the city picks up. Additionally, for people who are eyeing Varanasi for a longer stay, a walk around the pristine Banaras Hindu University campus exploring its various centers of learning and especially the Bharat Kala Bhavan (Indian Arts Centre) is another walking expedition to be considered.
7. Luang Prabang, Laos
From one ancient city to another, Luang Prabang was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1995. Situated on the Sangam of Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, the city is arguably one of the most picturesque ones in the entire South East Asia. Almost 700 meters above sea level, meander around aimlessly amidst the hazy green of mountains of the city as you explore more about Laotian Buddhism. A visit to the Khmu village for a half day jungle trek is especially recommended to get a rejuvenating retreat into the countryside and take the beautiful road less traveled.
While walking is an underrated pleasure, especially when it’s about walking when we are traveling, I am certain that there are countless more walkable terrains that I haven’t explored and should. For all readers of my tribe, who love to talk, let me know your favorite ones for all of us to explore.