Why the best secret islands in Southeast Asia?
As you all know, changing how we travel has moved from being something that interests me to being something we just have to do. This isn’t to say that the best secret islands in Southeast Asia need all of us to go there as soon as we can. Far from it! But some of our previous holidays have made me realise that the old model was completely unsustainable. Everyone wants the easy holiday (more on that another day). We head off to find paradise, lured there by over-photoshopped Instagram posts and professional pictures in popular newspapers and magazines. The fact is that these overcrowded destinations that have didn’t (and don’t) have the infrastructure to support mass tourism. They have fragile ecosystems and communities that should be respected and protected. They do not need to be not exploited for a cheap holiday, and some great posts on social media.
If there’s one thing that lockdown and zero travel has done, it has been to get me to stop and think about the sort of travel I really want us to do whenever it becomes possible. It has been a great time to reflect on the travel we have done. To think about what has been successful and what hasn’t. And also to look at the news that has made me happy in these dark times.
The silver lining
I have rejoiced in the knowledge that our environment has had a break. We have seen pollution reductions documented and wildlife exploring urban areas. Knowing that over-tourism has been forced to stop makes my heart happy. Mr Wanderlust and I travel to discover new things about the world and about ourselves.
But recently we have found ourselves disillusioned by what we have learned.
We’ve learned that the world (including us) is selfish. In our race to see the world, we forget how to behave. We forget that the places we visit are people’s homes. We leave litter and we take photos cropping out the reality – that there are crowds just outside the frame or even edited out. Crowds that are putting pressure on the local infrastructure and environment. People who are unwittingly supporting a much darker side of tourism.
The future of travel
No one can quite agree on when travel will start up again, or what it will look like when it does. But one thing pretty much everyone does agree on is that things are going to be very different.
I really hope they are right.
Of course, much of that change will be born out of necessity – this COVID-19 thing is not going anywhere fast. I’m hoping, though, that the world takes this opportunity to really look at how we travel. I hope that we can make travel what it is supposed to be. The chance to learn from the world and from other communities is invaluable. As is the opportunity to have a positive impact on the places we travel to.
So, as soon as we can safely and legally do so, we will be getting back in the travel saddle.
If we can’t get far to see family and friends then we will start local. So this best secret islands in Southeast Asia with kids series is the first place I’m going to look for to find my inspiration! Originally, my idea was to have one single blog post called the best secret islands in Southeast Asia with kids. Since I have only limited experience in this area, I asked the blogging community to contribute their ideas. I got such an amazing response (25 different islands!) that I decided to turn it into a mini-series instead.
Best secret islands in Malaysia with kids
My post on the best secret islands in Malaysia with kids was the first in the series to be published. And oh wow I loved it. I had six islands suggested and they included some of my own personal faves.
Lotte from Phenomenal Globe wrote about the Perhentian Islands, Sharon from Dive Into Malaysia told us about Redang Island, and Suzy at Survey Suze recommended heading to Tioman Island. Sasha at Mog and Dog Travels said Gaya Island is the place to go, Marco from Monkey Rock World told us to go to Pulau Tenggol while Hannah’s from Hannah’s Happy Adventure recounted her experience on Kapas Island.
Of course, I couldn’t resist adding my own two cents worth and I added Penang for good measure.
The best secret islands in Indonesia with kids
The next week I wrote about the best secret islands in Indonesia with kids. Indonesia is one of our favourite places to travel and, actually, was one of my first travel experiences with Mr Wanderlust. It changed the way I travelled for good and I’d love for you to experience it too! Most people head to Bali when they go to Indonesia and, while that certainly has its place, there is so much more to Indonesian islands than that.
In this post, I include contributions from Sophie Marie from Baby, Toddler and Kids (the Gili Islands – co-incidentally one of my faves), from Vaibhav Mehta at The Wandering Vegetable (Nusa Lembongan / Lembongan Island), and from Mal, from Raw Mal Roams (Nusa Penida / Penida Island). Carly and Agung of We Are Sumatra and Tanayesh from Shoestring Travel delighted me with their off-radar suggestions (Pulau Weh, or Weh Island and Togean Island respectively), and Oksana & Max from Drink Tea Travel wrote about Raja Ampat. I added a piece about Bintan too. Bintan isn’t exactly off the beaten track but is certainly relatively unknown outside of the Singapore area.
The best secret islands in the Philippines with kids
My next post on the best secret islands in Southeast Asia was the best secret islands in the Philippines with kids. This was my first post ever to include no destinations that I have been to. So that was super interesting for me to read about!
Jon from Jon To The World told us about the idyllic sounding Once Islas in Zamboanga and Evie from Mumpack Travel told us about Siquijor which is committed to sustainability. Ellie & Ravi from Soul Travel Blog wrote about Malapascua and Veronica from Travel Geekery co-incidentally offered to write about neighbouring Kalanggaman Island. Finally, Elsa from Travelling Quote wrote all about Inaladelan Island in Palawan.
The Philippines were high up on our list before COVID-19 locked us all down. Writing this post got me all excited again and I mentally started planning where we would go!
The best secret islands in Thailand with kids
We have loved Thailand for a long time. Mr Wanderlust went backpacking there before we met and I was desperate to go to see what everyone was raving about. We have been lucky enough to visit Thailand twice. Once we went to Phuket and the other time to Krabi/Ao Nang. Phuket with kids is probably one of the easiest holidays you’ll ever do, especially if you can afford a nice resort on the beach. Our other trip to Krabi was great but did open our eyes to over-tourism. We had always been conscious of it but our trip to Koh Phi Phi was on a whole new level. We also felt that both Ao Nang and Phuket were both so geared up for tourists that we weren’t sure that anything we were seeing was real.
So, I was really excited to put together a post on the best secret islands in Thailand with kids. When we can travel again I want to get back to Thailand but really have a more authentic and genuine experience. I loved reading about a much more chilled out vibe on these Thai islands.
We start the post with Koh Lipe which has been on my radar for quite a while. I know a number of super adventurous travelling families who love Koh Lipe. Melissa over at Camp Essentials told us all about it. Next up was Koh Phangan which I was very hesitant about including because of its reputation. I was really glad that Veronika from Travel Geekery changed my mind!
Then Dani from Diapers in Paradise restored my beliefs in Phang Nga Bay when she recommended Koh Yao Yai is. As I mentioned, our trip to Koh Phi Phi had left us disillusioned and what with finding Krabi and Phuket too developed and touristy, I thought maybe that area wasn’t for us. But Koh Yao Yai sounds much more up our street and I can’t wait to visit one day! Nearby Koh Yao Noi also sounds much more like our sort of destination so I was glad when Ilse from Digital Travel Couple wrote about it.
The last secret island in Thailand was written about by Josh from The Lost Passport. Koh Kood is a recent addition to my bucket list after hearing about it from quite a few other families. I was delighted to be able to include it in my post.
The best secret islands in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos with kids
Last but by no means least was my post on the best secret islands in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. This was a bittersweet post for me to write since we cancelled our trip to Vietnam with just a day to go. COVID-19 as a pandemic was still very much in its infancy at that point (March 2019). But borders around the world were closing fast and Halong Bay was completely closed for 2 weeks.
Still, you know I love reading about brand new places and this post had a few. It had been a while since I had written anything (thank you summer holidays!) and I was feeling rusty and uninspired. Writing the post actually got me excited about travelling again so it ended up working out really well!
Given the background, I had to start the post in Vietnam. I couldn’t believe it when Dani from Diapers in Paradise asked to write about Bai Tu Long in Vietnam. It was exactly where we had planned to go… and the exact same cruise operator! Phu Quoc was another one that has been on my radar for a while. I was so thrilled to include it via Neha from Travel Melodies.
Next up was Don Get in Laos via Samantha from Intentional Detours. This place sounds like one of the most relaxing and peaceful places ever! We finished the post, and the series, on Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia with Evie from Mumpack Travel. Her photos alone sold it to me!
So there we have it, Wanderlusters.
This best secret islands in Southeast Asia was an absolute mission of a series to pull together but I am soooo glad I have done it! It was the perfect time to do a series like this as I could get great ideas from other bloggers while we are all not travelling. Thank you so much for reading and following along. I would love to know your thoughts and if you liked it. I always love hearing from my readers so please do let me know if you have been to any of these places or if you are planning on going in the future. Or, of course, if there are any islands that we missed that you think belong on this list!