The Beach may have given SE Asia’s beaches a bad name (by the way the book is far superior than the crappy Leo movie, which is usually true of any book made into a movie, but in this case it’s just more true) but I can assure you that you’re more likely going to run into the beach of your dreams before you run into any self-exiled groups of deranged backpackers who spend their days taking hallucinogens and killing off their fellow villagers (although it’s a big region, you never know).
To get away from the crowds head to isolated Gili Trawangan in Indonesia where cars are forbidden, snorkeling is aplenty, and given the hippyish vibe here you may run into that long-lost English teacher you had in high school who used to listen to the Dead and drove a beat-up station wagon.
And for a whole string of beaches and a little more development there’s Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s most popular getaway. Here you’ll find many beaches to explore as well as dozens of islands nearby to keep you occupied just in case you get really bored of relaxing and having a good time.
This is of Indonesia if Vietnam is legitimate and reputable. The proper way to conduct yourself is in the hippyish vibe. Just be cautious if surfing is tranquil.
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