For some people, it’s the volcano. For others, it’s the rain. For yet others, it’s the thought that another plate of nasi campur may make your head explode, but skipping down the street to that posh cafe every meal will break your bank (real talk: those smoothie bowl prices just keep creepin’). Whatever it is for you, you’re not alone: sometimes, we all need to leave Bali and get far, far away.
Don’t get us wrong—this island is amazing. When I think of my poor, sad countrymen in the USA, buried in snow, getting lost at WalMart, and weeping every morning at headlines about our president slapping a disabled veteran (not yet; probably soon), I am absolutely not jealous. Bali is paradise, no doubt.
But when you feel the itch to move, you’ve gotta scratch it. I know I did. Back in November, I packed a monk’s-worth of belongings (so, nothing) and headed to India. But Mt. Agung had other plans for me. My ticket back to Bali was cancelled, and my short India trip bled right into my next trip: tourguiding my family around South East Asia. It all made for a non-stop winter (I’m back in Ubud and recovering at WAMM now, whew) but got me thinking: good god, there are so many cheap, unique, easy places to reach from Bali!
Here’s where to head when you just gotta jet—and another island just won’t do.
1. Kampot, Cambodia
Why go? Life on the river is sweet, my friends. Sit with a coconut and just watch the world float on by. Kampot has been on the rise for the past few years, a welcome addition to the tired SEA backpacker trail. The town itself is perfectly lovely—a few good markets (local and tourist, depending if you want dried fish or yoga pants), cute cafes, a close-by beach, and some excellent local food. But most people head up the river—just a mile or so north of town, you’ll find riverside bungalows so cheap and sublime you’ll wake up thinking you’ve died, and Cambodia is heaven. We stayed at Eden Eco Village (that’s our pad at the top). Incredible food, outdoor showers, and unreal sunsets. Plus, you can wake up with the sun and jump into the river *from your bed*. You’re welcome.
Extra Inspiration: Take the main road north from central Kampot along the river and you’ll find a nighttime carnival, complete with games, food, shops, and bumper motorcyles!
How to get there: AirAsia flies Denpasar to Phnom Penh daily for about $230, then hop a bus or van directly to Kampot.
2. Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Why go? Listen, we love Chiang Mai as much as the next digital nomad, but it’s getting a bit crowded up there. Welcome to Kanchanaburi. Just two hours from Bangkok, this town is the perfect hub for exploring the wonderland that is Western Thailand. Kanchanaburi is best known for its famous bridge, and sure, walk across it and take a picture. Maybe even check out one of the many WWII museums. But then dig into the real appeal: killer Thai food, more cheap Thai massage parlors than you could try in a lifetime, a handful of boutique coffee shops, and some massive temples. The biggest draw of Kanchanaburi isn’t in town, though. Rent a bike and drive out to Erawan National Park, packed with waterfalls that give Bali a run for its money and are filled with *very* friendly fish.
Extra inspiration: The temple just across the bridge features the whole Chinese zodiac, so it’s easy to find your spirit animal.
How to get there: It’s not uncommon to snag a Denpasar-Bangkok ticket for under $150, then hop the local train from Thonburi Station. It’s a fun, rattling, old school trip.
3. Pondicherry, India
India may feel like a world away, but the country that birthed our dear island’s majority religion is closer than you think. And Pondicherry, or Pondi, is one of the more unique spots to hit up on any big, Indian odyssey. I’d heard Pondi was influenced by the French, but I had no idea just how much.
In the center of town, expect to hear Indians speaking fluent French, sipping coffee and eating croissants on their way to or from church. And when the cultural mindfuck becomes too much, just walk away from the beach and you’ll step right back into loud, chaotic, dirty, and delicious India (which, of course, is a different type of mindfuck). Plus, there are gems all around Pondi. To the north, the beaches are gorgeous and empty; to the west, you’ll find the famed Auroville, the guru-founded equalitarian society.
Extra inspiration: Where else can you find Jesus blasting light from his heart *and* Hindu temples (one of which features Kali, the goddess of death, eating human heads) within just a few blocks of each other?
How to get there: Multiple airlines fly Denpasar-Chennai everyday for about $250. From Chennai, take a bus (or a cheap cab, it’s India, after all) south to Pondicherry.
Is this list exhaustive? Helllll no. We’re in the land of cheap flights, and these are really just a few. So get to Google Flights and start mapping out your next interesting escape (we know, we know, the Gilis are nice, too). Got a cool destination in mind? Holler at us—we’re always looking! Just like Jesus in Pondicherry, we have confidence in you!