My Favourite Countries After Eight Years of Travel


Sunset on Otres Beach

Since starting travelling the question I’ve been asked more than any other is which country has been my favourite. I’ll often smile and groan and compare the countries I visit to having children.

“I couldn’t possibly choose one over the other!”

This is mostly a lie.

While I don’t think I could narrow it down to just one country, I’ve put a list together of my absolute favourite places I’ve visited over the past two years, listed in alphabetical order.

Cambodia

Travelling through Cambodia was hard. I wasn’t prepared for the profound, emotional toll as I attempted to come to terms with the country’s tragic past. Visits to the Killing Fields and S-21, places I still haven’t been able to write about, were shocking and upsetting and hard to endure. And though my personal tales of woe can obviously not compare, in Cambodia had some of my worst travel luck to date. Over the space of a month I was given the wrong visa, I got food poisoning, I was attacked by jellyfish, I sprained my ankle and couldn’t walk, I fell over and cut up my knee so bad that it became infected, I had a fish swim into my bikini, I was covered in itchy, infected sand fly bites and I spilled a margarita over my brand new laptop.

And yet, I was devastated to leave Cambodia and despite the mental and physical challenges I had faced, it ended up being one of my favourite countries. I think that says a lot about how amazing it is.

The magnificence of the temples of Angkor — dragging myself out of bed for sunrise over Angkor Wat, hiking up a mountain to watch the sunset, climbing up, around, over and through jungle-laden ruins — was one of my biggest highlights. The incredible beaches and islands are some of my favourites in Southeast Asia, even with the sandflies and jellyfish. And then the charming towns of Kampot and Kep, perfect places to relax, recover and explore by scooter.

As much as I love Thailand, I can definitely see myself settling down in Cambodia in the future…

Links to some of my favourite Cambodia posts: 

Some of my favourite Cambodia photos:

tatai featured

Jungle reflections in Tatai, Cambodia

Otres Beach Views

Morocco

Morocco was a challenging country to travel through but it was also one of the most rewarding.

I actually cut short my time in the country because I was drained from the constant hassle and aggravation, but I still managed to have some of my very best travel experiences while I was there.

There was my first morning in Marrakech — and my absolute delight as I whispered over and over to myself “I’m in Africa!” — taking a tour through the medina and realising that Marrakech was unlike any place I’d ever visited before. It was large, crowded, noisy, polluted, chaotic and intense, it was everything I would usually despise in a city but in Marrakech it just worked. I adored it.

It wasn’t just Marrakech, it was camping in the Sahara Desert, my favourite experience to date. It was following in the footsteps of my favourite musicians in the hippie beach town of Essaouira, and it was falling in love with the peaceful, powder blue town of Chefchaouen.

Morocco definitely wasn’t easy and when I booked my tickets out of the country I swore I’d never return — but since leaving my love for the country has slowly grown until I find myself filled with an overwhelming desire to return.

Links to some of my favourite Morocco posts: 

Some of my favourite Morocco photos:

lanterns in marrakech medina

New Zealand

While I was making a list of everything I wanted to see over my two months in New Zealand, I knew that I was going to enjoy my time there, but I wasn’t sure whether I’d fall in love with the country. You’ll notice that my favourite countries have a strong Asian focus as, while I always enjoy my time in Western countries, they don’t grab me quite as hard as Asia does. I love Asia because it’s different to “home”, because it overwhelms my senses.

Travelling through New Zealand felt a lot like travelling through England, that is, if England had breathtaking scenery and atrocious internet.

New Zealand made it into my favourite countries because of the ridiculously diverse landscapes I experienced while I was there. I sunbathed on black sand beaches and white sand beaches, I saw wild sea lions and penguins — and even the elusive kiwi. I hiked over an active volcano and across a glacier. I bathed in hot springs, trekked through rainforests, sailed through fiords and witnessed crazy geothermal activity. And. So. Much. More.

How could I not fall in love with a country that has so much to offer?

Links to some of my favourite New Zealand posts: 

Some of my favourite New Zealand photos:

The Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

Drive to Mount Cook

The Philippines

I’d never really planned to visit The Philippines.

I was in Hong Kong and planning on heading to China for a second time in a few days, but given how miserable my first visit to the country was, I was looking for any excuse not to go. After having a quick browse of flights leaving Hong Kong and discovering that I could fly to The Philippines for just $30, my plans to give China a second chance were quickly shelved in favour of some beach time.

All it took was a quick search online for “the best beach in The Philippines”, a Google Image search of “White Beach, Boracay”, and my flights were booked and I was off to experience one of my favourite places to date.

I’ve always assumed I wasn’t really much of a party person. I mean, I’m a Physicist! Throughout University, you were always much more likely to find me studying in a library than out clubbing or drinking. Boracay changed all of that and to this date I’ve never had such a fun week. I’d spend my days sunbathing on an incredible beach and exploring the island by ATV and I’d spend my evenings drinking and dancing and partying and swimming under the stars. I could have spent months there.

My time in The Philippines wasn’t just about Boracay — there was Bohol too, complete with an amazing tarsier sanctuary and the chocolate hills — almost 2000 grass-covered limestone hills, stretching out in all directions. Palawan, too. While Coron Town was nothing special, the boat trip I took to the neighbouring islands showed me just how ridiculously beautiful The Philippines can be.

Links to some of my favourite Philippines posts: 

Some of my favourite Philippines photos:

Kayangan Lake in Coron

View of Coron beach

chocolate hills bohol

Slovenia

Slovenia was the very first country I fell deeply in love with — and it was only the second country I visited! I arrived in Ljubljana, tired, sweaty and lost once again (for 18 months I stubbornly refused to carry a phone, resorting instead to hand-drawing indecipherable maps in my notepad).

I was fed up and frustrated when I stumbled onto Prešeren Square, the main square in Ljubljana for the first time. The sun was setting, casting a warm glow over the gorgeous pink buildings. A musician sat on a nearby bench, singing one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs. A few moments later, a woman approached him and asked if she could join in and they began singing in unison.

Beautiful moments like these occurred on a daily basis throughout my stay in Slovenia, and the longer I stay the more my love grows for this wonderful country.

I even chose to spend my birthday in Slovenia last year!

Links to some of my favourite Slovenia posts: 

Some of my favourite Slovenia photos:

Ljubljana at sunset

lake bled sunrise

Bled views from a hot air balloon

Taiwan

Taiwan is the friendliest country I’ve ever travelled through.

So many people imagine Taiwan to be an industrious, factory-filled island, however the Taiwan I experienced couldn’t have been further from this vision. Taiwan was my very first Asian country and it was the first place I visited where I truly felt like I was somewhere foreign. I arrived at midnight and spent my first hour gaping in awe as I experienced sensory overload for the very first time. Every time I stepped outside I was faced with a maze of neon lights and horns, wafting fragrances of foreign and unknown spices and the contrasting juxtaposition of crowds and courtesy.

The friendly locals is what I’ll remember the most from Taiwan. When I wanted to visit Sun Moon Lake but couldn’t find a way to get there, a girl I met, and her mother, took time off work just so that they could drive me there and show me around — and they insisted on paying for everything! When I was lost in Taichung and couldn’t find my hostel, a girl I met on the street took me to her apartment, Googled the hostel name, drew me a map and wrote out the characters in Mandarin so that I could take a taxi or bus if I couldn’t find my way. When I was lost in Kaohsiung (are you sensing a theme…?), a girl I met accompanied me to the temple I was trying to find, even though doing so made her late for work. When I had nothing to do in Hualien one night, the hostel owner called up someone to cover his shift and took me to a Taiwanese dance performance.

As well as the friendly locals, Taiwan is also incredibly beautiful. There’s Sun Moon Lake, there’s the tropical beaches and islands of the south, and there’s Taroko Gorge, one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited.

Oh, and did I mention that Taipei has dozens of ridiculously fun themed restaurants?

Links to some of my favourite Taiwan posts: 

Some of my favourite Taiwan photos:

tiger dragon temple in lotus pond kaohsiung

Longshan temple, taipei

turquoise water and waterfall taroko gorge

Thailand

Nowhere in the world feels more like home for me than Thailand.

I’ve spent eight of my 24 months of travel in Thailand, alternating between cheap living and delicious food in Chiang Mai and stunning scenery and a laid-back vibe in the islands of the south.

Highlights from my time include riding on the back of a scooter around lesser-known parts of Northern Thailand, drinking far too many buckets on Koh Chang, celebrating Songkran and being awed by the Yi Peng lantern festival. I found a deserted paradise island on Koh Yao Noi, incredible scenery on Koh Phi Phi and one of the best beaches of my life in Koh Lipe.

I have so many memories from this incredible country and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself paying it a visit at least once a year…

Links to some of my favourite Thailand posts: 

Some of my favourite Thailand photos:

Yi Peng Mae Jo lantern release

pai countryside

Beach in Koh Kut-1

views from the phi phi viewpoint

Vietnam

Vietnam quickly became one of my favourite countries after my amazing scooter trip through the Mekong Delta. For ten days I sat on the back of a scooter as we rode through endless rice paddies, over nerve-wrackingly unstable bridges and around a maze of waterways. We visited wet markets, I ate the best food of my life, we took dozens of water ferries and didn’t see another Westerner for 7 days. You know you’re really off the beaten track when all the kids you pass in the street stare at you in a mixture of confusion and awe.

I haven’t explored as much of Vietnam as I’d have liked to — the only time I’ve been north of Saigon was a four day trip to Hoi An but every place I’ve visited has been nothing short of incredible.

In Saigon, I fell in love with the crazy, chaotic streets and the incredible food. I struggle with food in Southeast Asia, but in Saigon I loved that I could order absolutely anything from the menu and know that it would be delicious. And so, I ate everything. Hoi An was another favourite place of mine — shopping for gorgeous tailor-made dresses, falling in love with the colourful lantern-filled old town and relaxing one on of the prettiest beaches I’ve been to.

I have so much more to see but I’ve loved every place I’ve visited so far.

Links to some of my favourite Vietnam posts: 

Some of my favourite Vietnam photos:

Lanterns in Hoi An

Tailor shops at night in Hoi An

Hanoi street food

147 Comments

  1. Amanda Slavinsky
    July 23, 2013
    Reply

    TAIWAN! Yes! A country that seems to get so little love. It’s definitely one of my favorite places I’ve ever been and like you said, so different from you’d expect. Cambodia and Vietnam were my two favorite Southeast Asian countries. I’m glad to see them on this list, especially Vietnam because it seems so polarizing and it gets a lot of crap.

    I’m tentatively planning a trip to Morocco for my winter holidays, so I will be combing through your posts for advice :)

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      I’m secretly a tiny bit happy it doesn’t get as much coverage as other places in Asia — I wouldn’t want it getting overrun with millions of tourists :-). Agree, I don’t know why so many people don’t like Vietnam — it’s such a fantastic country!

      • Adam
        May 15, 2014
        Reply

        Hey, I’m just wandering what camera you used and what lens(es) you equipped. I’m currently saving up for the Sony A7 but if there’s a cheaper alternative I’d be more than happy to buy it .

        • May 16, 2014
          Reply

          Hey Adam, I used a Canon 550D with 18-55mm kit lens. Nothing too fancy :-)

          • Gavin Carpenter
            April 15, 2021
            Reply

            I would love to tour the East. Vietnam, Japan, Tialand, ThIwan etc,

  2. What a brilliant list and I loved reading your descriptions! Cambodia is home for me so I’m glad it made your list. Living there is super tough but there’s something that always pulls you back in! I’m excited to get to Taiwan now, just waiting for the monsoon season to pass and I’m straight there! Hope I find a local tour guide too. Always makes the experience unique.

    Keep getting lost – it’s fun, and obviously working for you ;)

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      I think you’ll love Taiwan. I’ll give you the contact details of some of my friends I met there :-)

  3. July 23, 2013
    Reply

    Nevermind the words or your posts, your photos are simply jaw-dropping sweetheart…they look like they come straight from Lonely Planet or National Geographic – amazing!! :)

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Toni! You’re too kind :-)

  4. Elle
    July 23, 2013
    Reply

    I love, love, love this post! Isn’t it amazing how we sometimes end up in places that we never intended to visit (like The Philippines) and end up falling madly in love with the place? I felt the same way about Belize. Belize took my breath away and will always hold a special place in my heart.

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      I’m excited to hear that about Belize, Elle, as I’ll be paying it a visit this year! :-)

  5. July 23, 2013
    Reply

    Awesome, awesome post! I definitely need to explore more of SE Asia… but two of my favorite countries (Slovenia and NZ) have made your list, too!

    Also, love how you’ve incorporated the slide shows of photos in this post! They’re all beautiful. (And your photos of the Philippines make me want to go there RIGHT NOW.)

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you! I’m really enjoying playing with all the fancy new features on my site :-).

  6. July 23, 2013
    Reply

    This makes me want to scrap all my travel ideas and start again ha. You can’t leave me with photos like this :p

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      Hahaha, sorry! You know I love Southeast Asia :-)

  7. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Your photos are awesome! Morocco and Slovenia is now on my travel list :)

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you, Evangeline! I’m glad to hear it :-)

  8. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Love this list! I will be heading to Cambodia before the end of this year to stay with my sister in Phnom Penh for awhile and hopefully traveling throughout the surrounding countries! This list just makes me even more excited for fall to get here!

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      Nice! I hope you like Southeast Asia as much as I do! :-)

  9. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Those pictures are absolutely breathtaking! My favorite pictures are the blue steps in Morocco and the New Zealand and Philippines ones. So gorgeous.

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Allison!

  10. Ryan
    July 23, 2013
    Reply

    Every post I read about your adventures in SE Asia gets me more and more stoked to go. I’ve heard a lot about Cambodia’s history, and I’ve heard of the beauty the country offers as well, and I’m eager to learn about it all for myself.

    New Zealand Internet is some of the worst in the world huh? That is where I originally started blogging, and I nearly could never upload photos! And barely ever free wifi lol. But what amazing scenery though! I guess it’s really made for fantasy and hobbits and not Internet :P

    Great recap, and I’m so crazy excited to land in November!!!

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      I’m so happy to hear that, Ryan! I know you’re going to have an amazing time in Southeast Asia — and I’ll be jealous while you’re there! ;-)

  11. Lilian
    July 23, 2013
    Reply

    I LOVE this post! Your photographs of each country are beautiful. Some of these places are on my “to visit one day” list, but now I want to go to all of them! I’m hoping to visit South East Asia (definitely Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines) next year and move to New Zealand the year after that, so you’ve just gotten me very excited, even though I have no immediate plans just yet! :D

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you, Lilian! Sounds like the next few years are going to be pretty amazing :-)

  12. Chris
    July 24, 2013
    Reply

    I’m torn between 3 countries for my favourite – Cambodia, Switzerland and New Zealand.

    Totally agree with your comment on Cambodia – it’s the perfect mix of history, culture, friendly locals and paradise…all with a super cheap price tag!

    New Zealand my impressions were the same – it caught me off guard with how incredibly beautiful and contrasting it is.

    Switzerland is much the same in that respect – it’s gorgeous…shame about the cost of it though!

    You’d got me even more stoked for the Philippines and Nam now!

    • July 25, 2013
      Reply

      I have to explore more of Switzerland — I’ve only been there once for Physics related shenanigans and didn’t get to see anything outside of particle accelerator madness :-)

  13. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    INSPIRING!

  14. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    I so agree with you on Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia. The first two especially because I found their natural landscapes stunning. You have definitely sparked my interest in Slovenia though! I hope to get to Eastern Europe sometimes this year….it sounds so unique and fascinating.

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      You definitely should try and get there. Eastern Europe is my second favourite region of the world after Southeast Asia :-)

  15. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    What a fantastic list. We’ve been to some but not all on your list. We’re curious – did you make it over to Slovakia as well and if so, did you notice large differences? We are hoping to do an Eastern Europe trip soon.
    We also get that “what’s your favorite country” question and we usually answer that “every country has something wonderful about it”, but truthfully, I think my answer might be “Norway and Laos”, both for their natural beauty.
    Oh, and your pictures look amazing!

  16. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Ahh this makes me SO excited to leave for my travels next year! I’m off to SE Asia and Oz and most of these countries are ones I’m passing through. I wasn’t sure about NZ but you have possibly convinced me otherwise!

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Nice! You should definitely try to visit New Zealand if you can, especially as you’ll be so close :-)

  17. Peter Lee
    July 24, 2013
    Reply

    What a great post ! You have convinced me to travel all of these places. Asia has been always known for its beauty and you have proved it.

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      It’s a beautiful part of the world :-)

  18. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    What beautiful places, pretty sure most of them are on my “to visit” bucket list. It is really difficult to narrow down the countries you love, especially when they are so different and offer such diverse experiences. I think if I had to pick three, they would be Bosnia, Croatia, and Costa Rica. I have really enjoyed the many places I have visited, but there was something extra special about these three that made them feel like “home”.

    Mikaela recently posted…. Boryeong Mud Festival: Oh, the Insanity, http://aplacelikemeinagirllikethis.blogspot.kr/2013/07/boryeong-mud-festival-oh-insanity.html

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Great choices! I loved my time in Croatia and Bosnia, and I’m hoping to visit Costa Rica early next year :-)

  19. Helen
    July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Incredible post, thanks for sharing. Did you take all these photographs? They’re amazing – straight out of a guidebook material. You have a true talent for it. Would be interesting to see a post in which you share some of your photography tips for budding amateurs such as myself. Thanks again, Lauren.

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Helen, you’re too kind! They are my own photographs :-)

  20. We’ve been traveling for nearly 12 months now, solely throughout Asia at this point, and now that we’ve been to enough countries, I definitely have been able to pick out favorites, as these are the countries that still call to me long after I have left. It’s actually pretty cool that many of my favorite Asian countries are ones that are yours too, namely: The Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. (Thailand is a close 4th, but if I could only pick three, those are the ones it would have to be!)

    The Philippines was the first country on our trip that I really fell in love with—we were only supposed to stay 3 weeks and wound up extending our visas so we could stay for a full 2 months. And somewhat eerily, we had never planned to visit the country at all and only did so because we were desperate to escape China and it was the cheapest international destination available to us that we hadn’t already visited! So funny to see how our stories with it overlap so much, though I’m not at all surprised to hear you loved it so much, since I feel like to visit that country is to love it.

    The only country on your list that we have visited and would put near the bottom of our experiences would be Cambodia. I know most people lovet hat country, but although we had some amazing times there, there was also a lot there that we did not like very much at all. I’m glad I visited and I know that I learned and grew a lot during my month there, but it’s one of those places that I can’t ever see going back to.

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Crazy how identical our paths have been so far. I’ve been loving your coverage of Taiwan, by the way, I forward all of your posts to Dave to convince him to visit with me! ;-)

  21. Monica
    July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Hmm, I’m tempted by Taiwan now. I’d never considered going there before because, like you said, I thought he would be an industrial city, so it’s interesting to hear that there’s so much more to it.

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      You should definitely pay it a visit, Monica!

  22. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Stunning photos! Hands up for New Zealand for my favourite country. The landscapes are gorgeous with an abundance of wildlife. I’ve been there twice on separate trips and am probably planning a 6 months slow trip there again at the end of the year! Love your post :)

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      That sounds amazing! I felt like two months would be enough time to see close to everything in New Zealand and even after changing location every 3 days I still left feeling like I barely scratched the surface. Six months is the perfect amount of time :-)

  23. Harsh Ujade
    July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Isn’t it amazing how we sometimes end up in places that we never intended to visit. I am going spend my two months in New Zealand after couple of week. .

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      It really is! I hope you have a fantastic time in New Zealand :-)

  24. Man oh man, I wish I had your photography skills. Yaaaaay Cambodia – and Taiwan is a country that I am desperate to visit. You know they have the biggest Gay Pride celebrations in all of Asia? Amazing.

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Awww thanks, David! Just another reason why Taiwan rocks! :-)

  25. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Beautiful photos, Lauren! Philippines has been on my list ever since I saw your original posts and beach photos–SWOON.

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Christine! I know you’d adore Boracay :-)

  26. Wow, amazing post and photography – views – just breathtaking.
    My favorite countries would be Georgia and Armenia in Caucasus – I was shocked by their beauty. Literally no one knows about this piece of land – I still haven’t come across any blogger who would have visited this forgotten piece of land. And it’s worth it :) It’s like discovering a hidden treasure because you don’t know what to except at all!
    Maybe you should visit Caucasus some day ;) Good luck in your travels!!

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      I was actually planning on visiting Georgia and Armenia last year but I ran out of time in Europe and had to pass. I hope to visit them next year though!

  27. A great post! I can only wish to visit so many countries – and these are only your favourite ones. I have been to a few myself… I also really like Morocco and Slovenia a lot. I did however find Marrakech to be not all that genuine and spoiled with a horde of tourists. I found Fes much more genuine and it easily takes the prize for my favourite Moroccan big city.

    So, when are you coming to Slovenia again? ;-)

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      I was too scared to visit Fes after hearing nothing but horrible things said about it! I didn’t find Marrakech to be so bad once I got out of the main square :-)

  28. Carlo
    July 24, 2013
    Reply

    I just love reading your blog! And your feature about the Philippines just makes me feel happy about my country, which is typically off the backpacking radar. Your website, along with Jaime’s breakaway backpacker, inspire me to travel more!

    Carlo from Manila, Philippines
    Currently in Pokhara, Nepal

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Carlo! Jaime’s blog is one of my favourites too :-)

  29. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Beautiful photos! I love this post and it makes me extra excited to visit Cambodia this fall (your number one pick)

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Kim! I can’t wait to read your posts about Cambodia.

  30. July 24, 2013
    Reply

    2 years, wow! A very inspiring post. I also really loved SE Asia, especially Laos and Cambodia. You’re making me wish I didn’t skip Slovenia in my Euro tour.

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      That just gives you a reason to go back, right? ;-)

  31. Delia (World in Words)
    July 24, 2013
    Reply

    I think we need a list of places you visited that didn’t make the top list :) The Philippines is now officially added to my growing list of places to visit. Nice list.

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Check out my Where I’ve Been page up the top to see everywhere I’ve visited :-)

  32. Roisin
    July 25, 2013
    Reply

    Would love to go to all these countries :) I’m going to Thailand in a few days and your photos have made me even more excited! I will be visiting Vietnam and Cambodia soon after too. Taiwan looks so beautiful :)

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      I hope you have an amazing time in Southeast Asia! :-)

  33. Rusty
    July 25, 2013
    Reply

    People who come to visit my country mostly fall in love with it. I’m glad you are one of them. And thanks to your blog, I hope more people come to see how beautiful the Philippines really is… You should come back and visit! Looks like you have to see more. :)

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Next time I’m in Southeast Asia, I definitely plan on visiting! :-)

  34. A couple things made me really happy in here. The first is that I’m moving to Taiwan in less than a week teaching math for a year. The two things I keep hearing are nicest people and best food. I can deal with pretty much anything else once those two are covered.

    The second is your story of Ljubljana is almost identical to mine. I had been traveling way too hard and way too fast and decided to go be quiet in Ljubljana for a couple days. I walked in to the main square and it sounded like Bob Dylan and his band were playing. It turns out it was a guy playing guitar, harmonica AND drums. He had a drum strapped to his back and was playing it with cables (picture in the link below). It was the beginning of the most relaxing couple days of my summer with amazing food, great music, lots of sleep, and many relaxing walks. I can’t wait to get back and see more of the country.

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      How exciting that you’ll be moving to Taiwan! I have no doubt that you’ll end up loving it as much as I do.

      So funny about the Ljubljana story! It’s one of my favourite places because there always seemed to be amazing music being played on every street :-)

  35. Awesome! We’re planning on visiting Taiwan and The Philippines later this year so I’m glad they were amongst your favourites. :)

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      I have a feeling you’ll love them both :-)

  36. Some great countries on that list.

    I’m lucky to not have been in a country I didn’t like. Some I liked more, but every country I have taken something from :)

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      Every time I’ve struggled in a country and felt like I hated it, I often find that all I need to do is take a break for a few days and I’ll realise I was just being pathetic ;-)

  37. July 28, 2013
    Reply

    I love that, even if you had some bad experiences, you can still look back on all the good of a country. It’s a perfect attitude for a traveller ;)

    • July 29, 2013
      Reply

      Of course! There’s a reason I’m still travelling :-)

  38. Mara
    July 30, 2013
    Reply

    So where are you know and what’s the weather like (hehe)?

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      I’m in Tacoma, Washington and the weather is amazing — nice and sunny and not a single cloud in the sky! :-)

  39. Daniel @ TeacherGig
    July 30, 2013
    Reply

    Thank you for including my adopted home: Taiwan. Amanda got it right… It doesn’t get nearly enough love. It’s just off the beaten track, not really that popular among backpackers, and it bloody should be! Exciting cities, beautiful natural scenery are remarkably close. I live a ten minute walk from Taipei 101 in one direction, and a six-hour hike though the greenest mountains you’ve ever seen five minutes the other way. Sure it’s cramped, busy, and requires superhuman perception to navigate the streets. Asia! But I will definitely vouch for the locals. At least 99% of them are the most awesome people I’ve ever met anywhere. And they’ll usually tell of the other 1% on your behalf!

    Lauren, thanks for the inspiration on places to visit elsewhere in the world. I keep seeing Slovenia popping up on various travel sites. It’s caught my eye and I think I need to plan a trip… After San Franciso, Bali, Bangkok and Boracai I think. Thanks so much for sharing this hit-list. Best of luck and happy travels!

    • August 20, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you so much for the lovely comment, Daniel! You’re lucky to be living in Taiwan — I’m so desperate to return!

  40. July 31, 2013
    Reply

    I’ve only visited one on this list – Taiwan – and it’s made me more excited to visit the others!!! I’m heading to Thailand in December (a week in Bangkok). Mayyybe SE Asia again in January if I can afford the airfare there from the UK.

    And despite all this, New Zealand still doesn’t appeal to me whatsoever.

    • August 5, 2013
      Reply

      But… but New Zealand is so pretty!

  41. August 1, 2013
    Reply

    Totally agree with you on this list – I haven’t been to Taiwan, but almost all of the other countries always make my list of favourites. I’m with you that Thailand feels like home, and I LOVE Slovenia and The Philippines. As Naomi said above, it’s awesome that you don’t let some bad experiences in a country cloud your overall opinion of a place. I always try to do the same!

    • August 5, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Brenna! I let bad experiences cloud my opinion of China and swore to never let it happen again :-)

  42. August 1, 2013
    Reply

    The new site design is wonderful! Very visually appealing.

    I love how you designed this post, with a slideshow of stunning photos for each post! I also LOVE Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. I was just doing some research on Slovenia the other day, and now I’m sold! Thanks for sharing.

    Where are you now?

    • August 2, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you, Jessica! I’m so excited about all of the new features I have for the site and want to use them in every post! :-)

      I’m currently in Portland, OR :-)

  43. August 1, 2013
    Reply

    Fantastic pictures of Slovenia and the lovely islands and beaches of Philippines. Both countries are beautiful. This is a perfect list for beautiful destinations. Thanks for this helpful post.

    • August 2, 2013
      Reply

      No problem, Ariana! Glad you liked it :-)

  44. August 1, 2013
    Reply

    I can understand why you want to move to Cambodia. I came here initially for 6 months and 2 years later I am still here. Completely fallen in love with this beautiful country and the people.

    • August 2, 2013
      Reply

      I think next time I return to Southeast Asia, I’ll be spending the majority of my time in Cambodia :-)

  45. bernie
    August 2, 2013
    Reply

    seen abit of the philippines, great place and people!! bit more of thailand! also great and great people!! really want to go to cambodia and vietnam!!!!!!

    • August 8, 2013
      Reply

      You definitely should — they’re both fantastic countries :-)

  46. Ellie
    August 3, 2013
    Reply

    I have been reading your blog for the past year and I LOVE it! Every time you upload a blog post I get so excited to read all about your adventures, I hope to one day travel the world after I finish university too. However your posts spurred me on to book a flight to Bangkok and I am going to travel some of Thailand for a month with my friend in a week’s time and I cannot wait! Especially to see some of the amazing things I’ve seen you post about in person. Thank you so much for sharing and for all the useful information. :)

    • August 5, 2013
      Reply

      Awww, thank you so much, Elle! I hope you have an amazing time in Thailand and end up loving it as much as I do :-)

  47. August 11, 2013
    Reply

    I’m pretty enamoured with my own back yard (Spitting distance to the Rockies on one side and surrounded by farmland and badlands on the other) but I absolutely love Norway’s north. We have family friends that live close to Lofoten Islands, I could live up there.

    • August 20, 2013
      Reply

      Nice! I’m pretty keen to get to Norway when I return to Europe.

  48. Mary @ Green Global Travel
    August 12, 2013
    Reply

    What an amazing list! I love that you have mixed such wildly diverse countries, namely Morocco, New Zealand and Slovenia, all of which are on different continents, into a wonderfully detailed ode to South East Asia! It’s beautiful to know that each of these very unique countries and cultures have inspired you so much! Your photographs are all gorgeous and really do speak to what you adore about each unique territory.

    • August 20, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Mary! Southeast Asia is always going to feature highly on a list of my favourite places :-)

  49. Ali
    August 13, 2013
    Reply

    Gorgeous photos! Still so many places you mentioned that I haven’t been to. I really loved Cambodia and New Zealand but I didn’t see nearly enough. Same with Vietnam. So many places still on my list of “must see” and “must return.”

    • August 20, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Ali! I know I have so many places on both of those lists too.

  50. CHARLES
    September 2, 2013
    Reply

    Excuse the length of this..Came across this blog by accident and glad I did. Would love a knowledgeable travelers opinion on my itinerary.
    I am going to Chaing Mai for 4 months. Then after that train from CM to Bangkok & Siem Reap, boat to Phonm Penh, bus to Siagon, train to Hanoi, & if possible quick trip to Nanning China and back to Hanoi. Hanoi to Vinh Vietnam & from there bus thru Laos to Vientiane. Bus across border and train back to Bangkok.
    On to Singapore next via train from Bangkok. Plane to Jakarata, only to say I crossed Equator.. Fly from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur and from there train jungle trip to Phi Phi Islands..
    Phi Phi to Pattaya area.

    Staying approx. 2 days each locale except Phi Phi Islands area.
    Ending with 1 month in Pattaya area.

    • September 3, 2013
      Reply

      Hi Charles,

      I’ll be honest with you and say that your itinerary sounds like absolute hell to me. Not because of the places you’re visiting but because of the sheer amount of places you’re trying to cram into such a short space of time. I feel exhausted just reading about it!

      Does your itinerary take into account travel time (often 12-24 hours between the places you mentioned)? Even if it does, 2 days in each place is nowhere near enough time to see anything or to even start getting to know a place, especially when you’ll probably need a day to recover from all the overland travel. I’ve had a few stints of fast-paced travel (though not as fast as you’re planning to move) and after the first few places I hated everything and all I wanted to stop moving. To be honest, it sounds to me like you’re traveling to cross off a load of countries and not because you actually want to explore them.

      I think your plan would be great if you were spending a minimum of 4 or 5 days in each place. If it was me, I’d choose two countries, maybe Cambodia and Vietnam, and explore them in much more depth than you would with your original itinerary. But then, I’m a proponent of slow travel and actually getting to know a country :-).

      I’d recommend getting in touch with Dani and Jess at and asking them for advice on your itinerary. They offer an excellent itinerary planning service that I think would help you out.

  51. BakoymaTravels
    September 5, 2013
    Reply

    My favourite country is New Zealand, I’m currently planning a trip back there if I can scrounge up the money… Best vacation ever, the 6 weeks I spent there in 2010. We were meant to stay four weeks, but the Icelandic ash cloud stranded us there for two more (what a shame!) ;-)
    I’ve never been to the Philippines though, thanks for the tip!

    And thatnk for sharing the wonderful images :-)

    • October 7, 2013
      Reply

      New Zealand is fantastic but, like you say, it’s not cheap! I’m sure I’ll be returning in the future — I can’t believe I managed to spend two months there and still feel like I saw hardly anything.

  52. November 22, 2013
    Reply

    Wow, amazing post and FANTASTIC pictures. I am planning to spend at least 6 months of my 2 years RTW trip in Thailand, can you tell me what you did for accommodation please! is it easy to rent a flat and how much? I will be looking for something simple a 1 or 2 rooms furnished. Thanks.

    • November 24, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you, Laly! In Thailand, I mostly stay in guesthouses or rent apartments. I paid around $500 a month for an apartment with swimming pool, gym, cleaner, A/C… It can be pretty cheap :-)

  53. Awesome overview! I can’t wait to visit Morocco , personally :) But it’s nice to see Cambodia presented in such a good light.

    • December 18, 2013
      Reply

      Yes, Cambodia seems to have had a bit of a bad write-up in travel blogs recently but it’s one of my favourites :-)

  54. Tripper
    January 12, 2014
    Reply

    Gosh, I envy you for visiting Ankgor Wat. I hope one day I see it with my eyes.

    • January 14, 2014
      Reply

      It’s a truly incredible place! I hope you get to visit it one day :-)

  55. June 8, 2014
    Reply

    Your photos are amazing! Make me wanna pack my bag and go! Cheers! Ü

    • June 15, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks, Kat! You should :-)

  56. Jason
    June 22, 2014
    Reply

    Great list and photos! I read on the FAQ that Nepal is near the top of your list of countries to travel to that you have (or had) not yet visited. It’s my undisputed #1 (after it, the list gets hazy). I can’t wait to read about your experiences there and see the photos you capture someday!

    • July 9, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Jason! I loved Nepal and can’t wait to return in the high season to do some trekking! :-)

  57. Jason
    June 22, 2014
    Reply

    /I see that you have been to Nepal now! Can’t wait to see the posts!

    • November 22, 2015
      Reply

      I hope to get around to writing them soon :-)

  58. July 20, 2014
    Reply

    I agree with you on some of your favorite places. Thailand being one of mine.

    I came to Thailand for a year to teach English. 12 years later, I still live here :) – although I’m leaving next month for a few months in the US and then possibly on to Spain for a while but Thailand will always be ‘home’ to me and I’ll still keep my apartment here.

    Haven’t been to New Zealand yet, but have never heard a bad thing about it and, as for Cambodia, I agree. An amazing place, lovely people who are also incredibly strong, considering what most of them have lived and are still living through.

  59. John
    April 13, 2015
    Reply

    I so love you pictures Lauren.

  60. Mailen
    April 15, 2015
    Reply

    Your photo of Slovenia made me breathe in cold air and feel a shivering wind come over me despite the fact that I’ve been stuck on Yap since December. It was refreshing-thank you.

  61. dinah
    July 26, 2015
    Reply

    have you travel to malaysia? if you haven’t, come and visit us here! a country where you can see for more than 3 races in the peninsular and about more than 40 ethnics live at the east malaysia. and malaysia is a heaven of food

    • July 26, 2015
      Reply

      Yep, I’ve visited a couple of times in 2012 and 2013. I’ve only seen KL and Penang, so I definitely have lots left to explore!

  62. Yvet
    April 12, 2016
    Reply

    Hi,

    You have a great blog, to start with. You remind me of me haha, a bit clumsy with a good dose of self-mockery (if that’s word). But I’m quite happy to see you that enthusiastic about Vietnam, this is going to be my first solo travel, and lots of bloggers seems to negative because of the scams. I will be prepared but I hope it won’t ruin my trip or make me feel unsafe in any way. So thank for lighting my spirit a bit, going on a solo trip for the first time is nerve wrecking haha

  63. PandrinTian
    June 18, 2016
    Reply

    Your travel article is very interesting. But Taiwan is not a country, it is a part of China. THX . Im a Chinese

    • June 18, 2016
      Reply

      Ask any Taiwanese people their opinion on that :-)

  64. Louisa Klimentos
    August 29, 2016
    Reply

    Asia to most is beautiful and very cheap destination.rarely do i see travel blogs on the amount of air pollution and water pollution.My son went to Bali and ended up with Barli belli ,because he accidently swollowed ,swimming pool water. How ever when it comes down to Australia,because it is quite expensive ,people love giving Australia a hard bashing.Australia has amazing landscapes just like anywhere else.Sadly most people only visit the busy East coast of Queensland and Byron Bay NSW and forget the West coast of Australia ,which is wild and spectacular.

    • August 29, 2016
      Reply

      I haven’t written about air and water pollution simply because it doesn’t bother me/I haven’t noticed it. I grew up in London, where the air pollution is so much worse than many places I’ve visited in Asia :-) I’ve never had a problem with any swimming pools making me sick either.

      Australia isn’t one of my favourite countries for many reasons, but price isn’t one of them. If that was the case, New Zealand wouldn’t be one of my favourites, and it’s in my top three :-) Sorry — I know you keep commenting on my Oceania posts to sing the praises of Australia, but it’s just not my kind of place and that’s unlikely to change.

      • Louisa Klimentos
        March 24, 2017
        Reply

        Sorry i wasn’t refering to you ,but about other people who have nothing nice to say about my home country ,mainly my relatives .You did make some nice comments about Australia on your blog.Anyway Asia is very exotic and very different to western countries and i can see why you love the Asian countries.best of luck with your travels ,because you deserve it

  65. November 8, 2016
    Reply

    That’s certainly a run of bad luck in Cambodia! Indeed the country has a tragic past and it must have been hard to endure the Killing Fields. I’m headed there next month and I’m glad to have a heads up of what to expect. Your photos are beautiful, by the way!

    • March 2, 2017
      Reply

      Hope you fall for Cambodia as much as I did :-)

  66. Jane
    April 27, 2017
    Reply

    Thanks for this list Lauren. You have inspired me to travel to these countries, especially New Zealand.

    • April 29, 2017
      Reply

      Glad to hear it, Jane! New Zealand is an excellent choice — it’s one of the prettiest countries I’ve ever been to.

  67. Esther
    September 15, 2017
    Reply

    You have to check out Cusco!! omgggg sooo amazing. but you made me consider Taiwan for my next trip hehee.

    • October 9, 2017
      Reply

      It’s on the (very long) list!

  68. Tonkin - Travel Vietnam
    November 14, 2017
    Reply

    Oh, I’m really happy when Vietnam is one of your favourite countries. Hope that you will come back our country again and again. It is more amazing and challenging if you drive scooter (on the back of that) to Dalat, or some provinces in Northwest of Vietnam.

    • November 17, 2017
      Reply

      I’ll be heading back in February next year actually :-)

  69. Dan
    December 2, 2017
    Reply

    Living in Australia and having so much Asian culture here I don’t find Asia as intriguing as yourself as its on our doorstep and easy to travel too regularly. It does have beautiful beaches and nature though I just find the historical aspect not as mesmerising as Europe and find it a little dirilict and third world in parts. I too did love Slovenia but the Postojna Caves and Lake Bled together with tbe beautiful coastal town of Piran were my highlights. My favourite country though to date is Croatia, the towns of Rovinj, Plitvice Lakes and e gorgeous waterfall town of Rastoke, Town of Sibenik and Krka Falls, islands Murter, Losinj, Vis, Hvar, town of Pucisca , Makarska Riviera, Split, Dubrovnik, Motovun can’t be beat for me. So much diversity in a small area you could spend months there. Do yourself a favour and google some of these places you havnt visited and you’ll be booking another trip. I too love Eastern Europe from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro. A true hidden treasure of the world

    • December 3, 2017
      Reply

      I’ve already spent months in that part of the world :-)

  70. Lily
    December 17, 2018
    Reply

    Wow! Love the pictures. I’ve been to the majority of these and totally agree with your choices. Morocco is truly amazing, and I’d love to get to New Zealand soon. Right now, my favorite country is Iceland. I just connect with nature so much and love the culture. Thanks for a great post and keep on traveling!

    • January 7, 2019
      Reply

      Thank you! I’ve actually been going for eight years now, so this post probably needs an update :-)

  71. Scott
    December 11, 2019
    Reply

    Can I ask how you got that sunset picture in Cambodia? I mean… what kind of camera did you use if I can ask? What camera do you think is the best so far (if it is different than the one used in Cambodia)? Thanks and happy traveling!

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