1. Mindat, Chin State, Myanmar
Mindat is known worldwide as the home of the tattoo-faced ladies of the Chin tribes, but few tourists make it out to this remote village in the shadow of Mount Victoria. Those who do are rewarded with fresh mountain air, a fascinating Christian culture and some of the friendliest people in Southeast Asia – not to mention superb trekking. If you want to visit, be sure to read up on how this kind of community-based tourism can be done ethically here.
How to get there: Mindat is a 6–8 hour car journey from Bagan along a very narrow winding road.
Life on Saluag is all about fishing, seaweed farming and boat making. There’s little to do here on the Philippines’ southernmost isle besides chilling out, and watching sea eagles soar above the soft waves.
How to get there: fly from Zamboang City to Bongao on Tawi-Tawi, hire a tricycle to Chinese Pier and take the ferry to Barangay Tandubanak on Sibutu. From here take a motorcycle taxi 30 minutes south to Barangay Tandu-owak where the boat leaves for Saluag, 40 minutes away.
Thousands of birds populate this isolated isle and there’s just one place to stay, the Koh Thmei Resort. Nothing spoils the sea view from your wooden bungalow at the water’s edge and wildlife-spotting is a breeze with some 150 types of feathery friend – plus dolphins and sea eagles. The island is part of Ream national park, but several long leases have been granted to developers in recent years; go now.
How to get there: take the bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, getting out at Ou Chamnar. Hire a moto taxi to Koh Kchhang Fishing Village, where the boat departs for the resort. The crossing is one hour.
Image by Program Monkey on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
4. Ao Mai Ngam, Ko Surin Nuea, Thailand
Get the reef sharks more or less to yourself at this idyllic campsite on Ko Surin Nuea, where a small coral reef teems with marine life and the sandy beach sees few visitors. This area is part of Mu Ko Surin National Park and the water is some of the clearest in Southeast Asia. Whale sharks are often sighted in the waters north of the island.
How to get there: take a boat with Sabina Tours from Khuraburi, buying a round-trip without any tour options, then jump on a longtail boat to Ao Mai Ngam. The island is only open from November–April.