With the football world cup in full swing, we are all in for some healthy competition, and when it comes to travel, these countries put on a thrilling match. Thailand and Indonesia are two tropical paradises that sit high on every traveller’s bucket list. With striking scenery, fabulous food, unique landmarks and tropical climates, these Southeast Asian hots spots are worthy competitors and it’s a tough bet to make. Thankfully, our experts are here to help you decide whether Thailand or Indonesia scores highest for your next Southeast Asia adventure.
In Thailand, the charm of Chiang Mai and the lush green landscapes of Pai are well balanced by balmy beaches, turquoise waters, and idyllic islands in the south. The capital city of Bangkok is a feast for the senses where every colour, smell and flavour is heightened, while sun seekers and barefoot climbers can belay their way up sheer cliffs in Krabi. In Indonesia, otherworldly islands and surreal underwater worlds in Raja Ampat, dragons in Komodo, and volcanoes in Java are softly framed by deep green rice terraces, bustling beaches, and a laidback lifestyle in Bali. If you want to tick off some trekking, the mountains of Mae Hong Son in Thailand offer ancient trails through forest covered hills and lush valleys, while in Indonesia you can chase waterfalls in East Java or hike up Mount Batur at sunrise and look out towards the distant peaks of Mount Rinjani and Mount Atung across the mist. Thailand’s southern islands are idyllic, and with regular ferries between them it’s easy to island hop, but their popularity over the years has led to overcrowding and occasionally less-than-pristine beaches. Meanwhile, Indonesia still has plenty of pristine sandy spots, like Kanawa Island in Flores, that are off the beaten track, as well as the more tourist trodden Gilli Isles.
Both countries offer some spectacular scenes, but Indonesia’s pristine landscapes takes the lead here. One – nil.
Thailand and Indonesia are both havens for food lovers, boasting fantastic fusions of flavours that can satisfy every palate. Thailand is for the spice lovers, where food can be ordered ‘tourist spicy’ or ‘Thai spicy,’ and hot heads can really test their limits. Classic dishes like Pad Thai, Tom Yum (sweet and sour soup) and Som Tum (papaya salad) shine while fruit smoothies, fresh coconuts, and summer rolls make for the perfect beach-side snack. The food scene in Indonesia has a growing consciousness around health and wellness, with an incredible selection of vegan and superfood options. Traditional dishes such as Nasi Goreng (fried rice with meat and vegetables) and sateh (skewered meat) are salty and sumptuous, and tropical fruits make for the perfect pud.
Both Indonesia and Thailand leave travellers spoilt for choice when it comes to food, but Thailand really turns up the heat, so it wins this round by one hot point. One all.
Both Thailand and Indonesia are tropical climates that really only have two seasons: dry and rainy. In Thailand, the dry season runs from November to May, while in Indonesia the dry season runs from May to early December. In both countries, heading into the hills is the best way to escape the hot humidity and find cooler climates. Equally, Indonesia’s rainy season runs from November till March and Thailand’s runs from July to October. So, if you’re planning a sabbatical or extended trip, why not chase the sun and start with Indonesia in the summer and then on to Thailand for some winter sun?
Two seasons, two goals – 2 all.
There is so much to see and do in Indonesia and Thailand, and both countries offer an array of unmissable experiences. For divers, a liveaboard diving cruise in Raja Ampat is an experience second to none, while keen trekkers won’t want to miss the ethereal beauty of Mount Batur at sunrise. In Thailand, it’s all about temples, and Wat Rong Kun in Chiang Rai with its unique and intricate design should definitely be on your list. A street food tour in Thailand is a treasure for your tastebuds, and the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is unlike anything you will have ever seen before.
Thailand is full of experiences, but Indonesia is country like nowhere else, so Indonesia takes the lead here.
It’s a close match but Indonesia wins the gold with a final score of 3-2. Thailand is easy to travel through, making it perfect for first time solo travellers and young families, but for those seeking to escape the crowds and get off the beaten track, Indonesia has so much to explore. The scores are close, so why not chase the sun and go to both on your next Southeast Asia adventure?