Living in Southeast Asia means being a stone’s throw away from some beautiful tourist destinations. Travel is cheap, the food is great and if you go at the right time of year, the weather can be glorious. However, there are some zones that you should try to avoid when travelling here. Some off the beaten track destinations are best left that way. From rebellions to ethnic clashes and some rather dangerous borders, always check with your home country’s travel warnings before you decide to visit anywhere new. So if you are still planning a getaway, here are some areas to avoid in the region.
Kachin and Rakhine States, Myanmar
Whilst being a beatiful country to visit with plenty to offer to tourists, you should take extra care visiting these hotspots. Rakhine has an ongoing conflict between Muslims and Buddhists which can turn extremely dangerous. Kachin is also in the midst of frequent fighting between government troops and rebels. Areas around these states often have landmines and after an incident in 2016, when two German tourists were injured after setting off a mine, you would be well advised to steer clear. Myanmar has plenty of tourist areas but if you decide to travel through the country, exercise caution and steer clear of any demonstrations in towns and cities.
The provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani have been under martial law since 2005, thanks to a full-scale rebellion. This rebellion has grown ever more violent so tourists are advised not to travel to these regions. Since 2004, over 6000 people have been killed in a series of spats over borders and a government attempt to erase the local Muslim culture. Car bombs are frequent, especially in Hat Yai and Songkhla, both of which have a fair amount of tourist through traffic. It is strongly advised not to travel here except in the case of emergency.
Papua and Central Sulawesi
Indonesia is a favorite among those looking for low-cost cultural travel, especially to the islands of Bali and Sumatra. However, Papua and Sulawesi have seen conflict in recent years, which are only occasionally kept under control. The Muslim and Christian communities of Sulawesi have fought for years and Papua routinely undergoes surges of riots for independance. Travel to these areas is not encouraged, but on the other hand, it is not actively discouraged either. However, travellers wishing to visit Papua will have to apply for a permit in advance.
Mindanao, The Phillippines
Insurgents have been fighting for independance here for decades. It is not unusual here to find warlords in control of provinces. These largely consist of political families with ties to the central government and who have built up huge personal armies to protect themselves against the rebels. However, what has ensued is largely chaos. The problem has been confined to the west of the island but there have been effects felt in Divao and Cagayan de Oro, both of which are tourist cities. Travel here is not discouraged, but tourists are urged to remain in well-known tourist areas.
Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, following the devastating effects of the Vietnam War and the ensuing civil war. Over 6 million unexploded mines still exist in Cambodia, without beginning to count the bombs that have been left over from US action. Angkor National Park is totally safe, but tourists are discouraged for veering from the path in Cambodia. Local guides are usually well-informed and will be able to help if you are planning on exploring Cambodia beyond the tourist traps.
Where would you recommend avoiding in Southeast Asia? Comment below with your advice!