There’s nothing like a tough physical challenge to get that heart beating fast and make you feel alive.
We’re spoilt in Southeast Asia for adventures and thrill-seeking opportunities, whether it’s climbing mountains or exploring the depths of our surrounding seas.
Battling volatile weather systems and coming up close to the raw power of mother nature are all at our fingertips in this part of the world, so let’s start making the most of it. Regardless of whether you’re an ultra-marathon fiend or more in favour of a relaxing caveside kayak, there’s something for you.
Here are some of our favourite adventures and physical challenges on offer in Southeast Asia…
Volcano Trekking On Mount Rinjani
Rinjani is a huge, 3,726-metre tall active volcano on the island of Lombok which offers a multitude of trekking opportunities and the experience of seeing nature at its most dangerously stunning.
There are plenty of packages available offering different lengths and difficulties, as well as some that cater to those specifically looking to visit the crater rim, the summit, or the beautiful Segara Anak – a six-kilometre wide sulphur lake from which is forming new volcano, Mount Baru.
As well as the stunning scenery and surroundings on offer at Rinjani, the spot is of great spiritual and geographical importance, being one of the four corners of the Ring of Fire. There are many local religious ceremonies regularly performed here too.
Trail Running around The Philippines
The Salomon X Trail is an annual trail running event held in the Philippines on a specifically designed scenic yet technical trail, offering a variety of different terrains with which to fully challenge yourself with.
Last year saw the trail wind around the hills and valleys of Morong where runners faced steep inclines, loose rocks and thick foliage before routing through the stunning mountains of Bataan and Zambales. Details are yet to be announced for 2016 although the date of April 9 has been set. Get training!
Jungle Trekking and Rapid Shooting in Taman Negara
Malaysia is home to one of the world’s oldest patches of jungle: the Taman Negara. It’s thickly lush with vegetation and wildlife, including over 200 tigers, monkeys and elephants, and is a real ‘back to basics’ experience once you enter its kingdom.
There are a host of treks and adventures on offer to test your endurance and mental strength, some of which include tough climbing sections and require agility, while other walks are flatter and spotted with beautiful pools in which to swim and relax. Be sure to check out the canopy walk – it’s the longest in the world. There’s also river rapids and waterfalls to navigate, as well as caves to explore.
Cycling the Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van Pass on the Truong Son mountain range is considered by many cyclists to be Southeast Asia’s holy grail. Although the pass itself is just 11-kilometres long, the seven percent gradient and high elevation allow it to be both a physical challenge and an incredibly beautiful spot.
On the spur of a mountain in the middle of Vietnam, the Pass juts out into the sea and offers sublime dual views of what was formerly the separate nations of North and South Vietnam. Hai Van translates as “ocean cloud” and you’ll well believe it once you experience these views.
Many tours start the cycle at sea level in beautiful Hoi An, and then enjoy the 55-kilometre picture-perfect cycle to the bottom of the pass.
Deep-Water Soloing on Railay Beach
If you fancy bouldering with a difference, try out deep-water soloing (DWS) on the cliffs of beautiful Railay Beach in Krabi. You won’t need to use any ropes for this climbing experience as you’ve got a surefire natural safety net below you – the depths of the Andaman Sea.
DWS excursions with experienced operator Basecamp Tonsai last between 5 and 6 hours and provide challenges from Grades 5 to 8a, always supervised by a guide. Railay is considered to be the one of the best places to develop and hone your climbing skills so you’ll be able to learn from some really experienced climbers. There’s plenty of opportunity for snorkelling around these cliffs too while specialist trips at sunset are also available.
Recreating the Deathmarch on Borneo
The spookily named Borneo Deathmarch is the 250-kilometre ultra marathon undertaken over 7 days in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. This is the ultimate physical challenge and warrants the ultimate achievement upon completion.
Race director Avtar Singh describes it thus: “Expect spartan conditions… hot and humid with basic facilities along the route with temperatures on bad day exceeding 37 degrees Celsius.” The route is a mix of gravel roads, asphalt and sheer jungle, allowing you access to some of Borneo’s most protected wildlife habitats – look out for elephants and orangutans!
The route covers the same journey taken as the tragic deathmarch of 1945, which saw prisoners of war marched from Sandakan Camp to a Japanese airfield in Ranau at the foot of Mount Kinabalu.
Kayaking and Caving in Khammouane
Konglor Cave is the centre piece of Laos’ little known limestone cave systems, which is one of the largest of its kind in Asia. It’s seven and a half kilometres long, 90 metres wide and around 100 metres high, complete with stunning stalagmites and stalactites to observe.
You can kayak or sail all the way through the extensive cave as it’s connected to the Hinboun River. If the kayaking isn’t enough to raise your heart rate, you can combine the cave with a more extensive trekking or cycling tour around Ban Na Hin in central Laos. The village is also home to a number of beautiful waterfalls.
Nearby is Tham Khoun Xe (see the above video!) and the 400-metre long Tham Nong Paseum Cave which you can swim inside to explore and cave within. Remember to bring a head torch!
Tower Running up The Swissôtel
The Swissôtel Vertical Marathon is an annual race up one of Southeast Asia’s tallest hotels, established back in 1987.
At 226 metres tall, the Swissôtel commands runners climb 1,336 steps over its 73 storeys in the shortest time possible. It’s a quick race with each age category alloted just 10 minutes each and so a high level of physical fitness is required. Some pretty sweet prizes are on offer for outstanding competitors while the oldest and most creatively dressed participants also get a nod.
Last year’s winner in the Men’s Open category was Pole Piotr Lobodzinski, at 6 minutes 48 seconds. The Women’s Open winner was Australian Suzanne Walsham at 7 minutes 46 seconds.
Mountain Climbing on Mount Kinabalu
Southeast Asia’s highest peak is at your fingertips with a challenging yet accessible trek up Mount Kinabalu on Sabah, Malaysia Borneo. Expect fantastic views and a sublime, spiritual sense of accomplishment once you attain the summit.
Treks are usually over two or three days with the final summit push starting at around 2am in order to reach the peak for sunrise. Climbers also have the option of trying out the world’s highest via ferrata – an assisted climbing route that allows inexperienced climbers to enjoy the dramatic views of hard to reach spots.
You’ll be rewarded with a certificate once you’ve summitted!
How do you like to adventure in Southeast Asia?