Comparison of megacities in Southeast Asia – Where to visit?

Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, Manila, Singapore or maybe Kuala Lumpur? Which city do I like the most? Which city is worth a trip and which city should be avoided? What’s the difference, and why should you visit the cities?

All the above mentions cities are million people cities, one bigger than the other and one more chaotic than the other – knowing that you’re not a city person you probably won’t like any of these cities. If you love big cities, like me, these cities will make your heart beat faster – millions of things to do, chaotic, busy, fast living and continuously changing with everything you need in one place. Following I’m going to describe every city and what makes it so unique, or not. I am starting with my absolute favorite city, Bangkok, to my least favorite city, Jakarta.

Bangkok

Thailand vs. Malaysia
Pool party in Bangkok one of the best parties ever

What can I say, I fall in love with that city, and that has its good reasons. Bangkok is the most visited city in the world, yes more than Paris, London and New York. Bangkok is just a city of the superlative in every way. 20.000.000 people live here, and there is nothing you can’t find. From the best Street food over the biggest shopping malls or world-famous temples. Everything is here. The best thing about it? It is super affordable! Although Thailand isn’t the cheapest destination anymore and because of a very strong baht it’s getting more expensive every year, Bangkok remains as one of the most affordable cities in the world to live and travel. There are endless tourist attractions, I spend 30 days there and here is my list of the 30 best things to do.

I often heard people saying that they hate Bangkok – the problem about these people is that they didn’t leave Khaosan Road. They didn’t go to all the incredible night markets spread around the city, they didn’t discover all the Street food in local areas, and they didn’t saw the modern part of the city.

Singapore

Why I like Singapore
Why I like Singapore

Singapore is different, different then the rest of Southeast Asia, different than all of Asia and that’s the reason I really like this city. Apart from that, there are so many tourist attractions, and the architecture is fascinating. The reason why Singapore isn’t my number one favorite city is the fact that it’s expensive – Singapore is very expensive and to have a good time you have to spend around 3 to 4 times the amount you would pay in Bangkok. But therefore, the city is super clean and not even nearly as chaotic as the other cities on my list. I would say that the city is partly more modern then most European cities and Singapore is doing a great job in sustainable living and new technologies. Spending 4 or 5 days in Singapore is enough, and after that, your budget will be gone anyway.

Hanoi

Hanoi has something special – many things to visit, super cheap and by far the most chaotic city you’ll find. But the little plastic chairs and food stalls with fantastic noodle soups and spring rolls will make the visit worth it. There are also several tourist attractions around the city, and it’s the place to start all your travel adventures in the north of Vietnam. The streets are filled with millions of motorbikes, and there are no traffic lights – yes, no regulation at all, everyone goes in all directions with motorcycles, cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrian crossing all together with a big horning concert.  Only to see this all working somehow is worth the visit. But also, the amazing food and the train which passes the houses by centimeters are the main reasons to come.

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh

The other big city of Vietnam is located in the South of the country. It’s the same as Hanoi with motorbikes all over the place and chaos wherever you look. However, I found Ho Chi Minh a little more modern and developed then Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh is very popular for its historic sites like the war museum or the Cu Chi tunnels where you can relive the horrific scenes happening during the war. Many people rush out of the war museum full of anger as nobody taught them in school how bad the war was and how wrong the Americans acted, and I felt the same. A part of History not well known in the west as the Americans don’t want people to know their cruel acts. The city is perfect for a history lesson but also to visit rooftop bars and party until the morning. 

Kuala Lumpur

Bangkok vs. Kuala Lumpur
Petronas Towers Kuala Lumpur

The Capital of Malaysia is in my eyes comparable to Bangkok. A lot of good food, skyscrapers, and traffic chaos. However, a few things are missing when compared to Bangkok. Thailand and its culture are much more open, and therefore, Bangkok offers a lot better nightlife and a more relaxed atmosphere. I compared both cities more in detail, and I concluded that Kuala Lumpur is a small town compared to Bangkok and that Bangkok offers everything Kuala Lumpur offers and much more. That’s why I didn’t enjoy Kuala Lumpur that much and I would suggest visiting Bangkok instead.

Manila

Manila counts as one of the worst cities in the world to visit, and I can partly agree. There is nothing touristic to see, and it’s just a massive city with a lot of chaos. However, it’s the entry, and exit port for any travels in the Philippines (one of my favorite countries). There is no way to avoid Manila, and so I spent one day there. I spend my day in the more modern part of the city called Makati city, this is where all the rich people live, and the big businesses are located. In here it seems to be a different word from the rest of the city. You can find high-end restaurants; big shopping malls and the streets aren’t chaotic at all. It was good to go around there for one day, but that’s it. As soon as you leave this area, you see the poverty of the rest of the city, and there is nothing else to do.

Jakarta

Jakarta has even less to offer the Manila for tourist, and the chaos in that city is mad. The city has 25.000.000 people living there, and it’s just madness how chaotic the streets are. Take a motorbike taxi around the city, that’s better than most roller-coaster in the world. It’s fascinating to see how a city like this can work and how people live here, but there’s nothing more. I had a drink on top of the highest building in the city, the BCA tower in a bar called SkyE – that was pretty cool. Other than that the city is very exhausting and nothing to visit.

  • Total countries I visited until now: 38

WorldTravel:

  • Planes: 21
  • Busses: 48
  • Trains: 19
  • Boats: 24
  • Km driving: 8000
  • Km running: 2891

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Author: Flo

Hey everybody, I took the decision of my life and will start my worldtravel on the 1. October 2018. Hope you'll follow my journey and enjoy all the posts.

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