Bromo, Indonesia. Image courtesy of Michael Huxley.
When Southeast Asia's beaches and temples don't do it for you anymore, consider something more challenging.
Leave the poolsides, temple grounds and shorelines to regular travelers: for a real Southeast Asia experience, try one of the more extreme endurance sports listed here, and take on something really worth bragging about!
Push to the Limit: Volcano Trekking in Indonesia
When the Bemused Backpacker Michael Huxley (Facebook|Twitter|Google Plus) wants a real workout in Southeast Asia, he hits the many trails winding up the region's active volcanoes. “It may not have referees, or points, or even teams competing against each other, but volcano trekking in south-east Asia is the ultimate adventure sports activity, and there is nowhere better to do it than the infamous ring of fire in Indonesia,” Michael tells us.
“There are countless opportunities to trek up a volcano in Indonesia, and no matter where you are in Sumatra, Java, Bali or anywhere in between you will find local tour agencies, hostels, and guesthouses offering a wide variety of trips and sunrise tours with varied lengths and difficulty levels available for most travellers,” he continues.
Most trails require some level of fitness, with hikes taking from an afternoon to several days to complete. “Some of them will test you physically and push your muscles beyond what any game sport can,” Michael says. “But to say that you have trekked to the crater of an active volcano and peered inside is the pinnacle of any adventure sport and will earn you bragging rights for life!”
Robson Cadore after the Angkor Wat Half Marathon. Image courtesy of Love and Road.
Miles of Scenery: Marathons in Cambodia
Natalie Deduck of Love and Road (Twitter|Facebook|Instagram) took on one of Southeast Asia's most scenic races, the Angkor Wat Half Marathon, with her partner Robson Cadore.
“Running through the millenary temples and enjoying the breathtaking landscape was a lifetime experience,” she recalls. “No doubt the Angkor Wat Half Marathon was one of the most beautiful and unique races we have been to.”
She and Robson raced different lengths – he took on the half-marathon, while Natalie did a 10k – both starting in the dark of the early morning at the front of Angkor Wat.
“It felt almost unreal to be there, and the course goes through the jungle passing by temples, ancient gates, group of kids cheering up the runners, monkeys stealing the bananas from the aid stations,” she tells us. “It’s definitely a sports experience like no other, one of the best ways to visit Angkor Wat. It definitely sets a special mood for your next days of sightseeing in Angkor Wat and Siem Reap.”
Rock Climbing at Railay, Krabi. Image courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Vertical Limits: Rock Climbing in Thailand
Mike Aquino of Southeast Asia Time Traveler (Facebook|Twitter|Instagram) wants you to consider a completely vertical way to work out.
“In Thailand, Krabi's limestone cliffs attract plenty of rock climbing enthusiasts,” he explains. With over a hundred climbing routes snaking up the cliffs on the Krabi coast and around the surrounding Railay Peninsula's islands, the local rock faces attract plenty of visitors, despite the need to take a long-tail boat to get to their most popular spots.
“Most rock climbers go to two beaches in Railay Peninsula,” Mike tells us. “There's Railay, suited for new rock climbers, and Tonsai, more suited for experienced climbers.”
The former has over 700 bolted routes to choose from, with grades ranging from F4 to F8c. The latter can go over to a few walls intended for deep-water soloing, or rock climbing without ropes over water. “Climbers can ascend without bolts and ropes,” Mike tells us. “When they're done, they just let go and splash in the water below!”
Other Endurance Sports Experiences in Southeast Asia
Singapore: OSIM Sundown Marathon. This overnight event is Singapore’s first, and Asia’s largest, night marathon. The event also includes a wide variety of fringe activities, such as carnival games, tasty bites from food pop-up stalls and live music. For more information, visit the official page.
Philippines: Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge. A treacherous 120-km, 24-hour race up the tallest mountain the Philippines and back, the course requires challengers to bike and trek up to the summit, then raft and hike down to Santa Cruz town. For more information, read this page on the Mount Apo Boulderface Challenge.
Malaysia: Kinabalu Climbathon. Expert sky-runners race to the peak and back in the space of four hours, covering 33 km beginning at the Kinabalu Park's entrance, up to the summit at 4,100 metres above sea level, and down to Kundasang Town. Contestants must be able to make it to the summit in at least three hours to qualify. For more information, read this page on the Kinabalu Climbathon.