Tag Archives: wanderlust

Travel Reading List : Books Set in Asia

I live in Asia and devour books, therefore it makes sense to create a list of all the best books set in Asia that I have read.  Please leave me a comment and add your favourite novels set in Asia as I’m always after new reading materials to explore.

Best Novels set in Southeast Asia

If you’re planning a trip to South East Asia and you want to get prepared for the vibe, learn about the history and cultures you may encounter then read some of these books set in southeast Asia. Many of them are in the genre of historical fiction set in Asia.

Books Set in Thailand

Starting off the list with books set in Thailand. In the historical fiction set in southeast Asia there are a few books about Thailand.

Bangkok in Times of Love and War by Claire Keefe-Fox

If you want to learn something of the history of Thailand then I recommend reading this book set in Bangkok. It follows a female nurse who is the protagonist who falls in love with a British man based in Bangkok but they then become separated during World War 2.

The author really captures the feeling of Bangkok from an outsider perspective and I enjoyed the snippets into how Siam became Thailand and political history that I learnt through reading this novel set in Thailand.

Books Set in Myanmar

My top recommendation for books about Burma is Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig. This incredible book, set in Myanmar, follows the history of one family through the last century. The characters in the novel are based on Craig’s own family members. This book was incredible for teaching me about Burma, its history, its multiple cultures and explains a lot about World War 2 and British colonisation that I never knew.

Miss Burma is one of the best novels set in Asia that I have ever read.


Books set in Asia : South Asia

Books set in Sri Lanka

As someone who has never read a book set in Sri Lanka that I didn’t like, I recommend nearly all these Sri Lanka novels and historical fiction reads.

The Elephant Complex – John Gimlette

One of the best books on the Sri Lankan Civil War, this is an extremely readable history which explains the complexities of Sri Lankan history and is completely engaging

Mosquito – Roma Tearne

Historical fiction set in Sri Lanka during the period of the Sri Lankan civil war.

When Memory Dies Ambalavaner Sivanandanfictional book set during the civil war

Anil’s Ghost – Michael Ondaatje- fictional book set during the civil war

Tamil Tigress – Niromi de Soyza –

One of the best books about Sri Lanka that I have read. This is an autobiography of a former female soldier in the Tamil Tigers and is eye-opening, raw and emotional.



Shantaram – Gregory David Robert (first book I read and decided I needed to visit India!) – Epic adventure story that is also true!

A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth- Family orientated drama concerning arranged marriages and religion issues

A Fine Balance -Rohinton Mistry – Heartbreaking and important

The Palace of Illusions – Chitra Divakaruni – Tale of the Mahabharata, one of the oldest, most epic stories in the Hindu religion told from a female perspective

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie – Fantasy story set during India’s independence

Holy Cow – Sarah Macdonald – Autobiographical book concerning India’s spiritual and religious elements

The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling – Children’s story of jungle adventures about a boy growing up with wolves

A Passage to India – E.M.Forster – short novel depicting the beginning of the end of the British Empire in India

The Far Pavilions – M.M.Kaye – Adventure, love, war, religion – one of my favourite books of all time.

Shadow of the Moon – M.M.Kaye – fictional story about the lead up to the First Afghan War

City of Djinns – William Dalrymple – extremely readable history of Delhi, this book feels like it’s a fictional story

Thinking about solo travel in India? Read this


The Beach – Alex Garland (Thailand) – backpacker tales from Thailand

Forget You Had a Daughter – Sandra Gregory – Autobiography about an English teacher who served time in Thailand’s notorious Kong Klem prison, nicknamed the ‘Bangkok Hilton’


Travel – All Countries

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert (Italy, India, Bali) – don’t watch the movie but do read this book! Touches on dealing with depression as well as travel

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson (Worldwide and humorous!)

First They Killed My Father – Loung Ang (Cambodia)

The Quiet American – Graham Greene (Vietnam)

House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende (South America)

The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank (WW2)

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller (USA- WW2)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe (USA)

The Island – Victoria Hislop (Crete – Greece)


Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

The Goldfinch – Donna Tart

The Versions of Us – Laura Barnatt

Nocturnal Animals – Austin Wright

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climber Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson


Adventure Stories

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe

The Moonstone and The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

Old Classics

Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

The Forsyte Saga – John Galsworthy

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Tender is the Night – F Scott Fitzgerald

The Beautiful and Damned – F Scott Fitzgerald

Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

The Ultimate Bucketlist for Asia

Having lived in Asia and travelled around Asia for the last 10 years I have created my own southeast Asia bucket list to share with you all the amazing activities that you can do on this continent to hopefully inspire you to travel here. This article has been updated post covid pandemic.

Bucket List South East Asia: Learn to scuba dive

Scuba diving is probably one of my top recommendations for your southeast Asia bucket list. It opens up a whole new underwater world that you probably didn’t know existed. Learning to dive in Asia is much cheaper than in other parts of the world and we have some of the top dive sites in the world. If visiting Thailand, then you can definitely add learning to scuba diving to your bucketlist Thailand as Koh Tao is the best place to learn scuba diving in Asia and likely to be one of the cheapest places in the world for Open Water divers.

Travel Bucket List Asia : See the Taj Mahal

Far from being a cliche, seeing the Taj Mahal in person really moved me as I stood in awe at a building. Usually, I am in awe of nature and seek out many natural places while travelling, however, India is definitely an exception for me as the stunning architecture of the Mughal Empire in Rajasthan. If you’re thinking of travelling India as a solo female traveller then check out my solo female travel India advice.

Asia Travel Bucket List : Snorkel with Manta Rays

These incredible gentle ocean giants are so worth a trip specially to see them. There are two spots where I have been snorkelling with mantas, once in Nusa Lembongan, an island south of Bali and also in the Maldives during rainy season in the famous Hanifaru Bay – you can read more about it here on my Maldives travel blog.

Bucket List Adventure Asia : Wild Elephants

If you have visited South East Asia before then you will definitely be aware of many elephant camps where elephant abuse is rife. One of the best ways to counter this and support wild elephants is to see them in their true home in the jungle, thereby also supporting national parks and the rangers who protect these areas. Thailand has a good chance of spotting wild elephants in Khao Yai National Park. However, Sri Lanka is probably the best place in the world for wild elephants in Udawalawe National Park or the famous Yala National Park.

Bucket List Asia: Celebrate Songkran, the Thai water festival

Thailand has many fun festivals but this has to be everybody’s favourite water festival. To celebrate Thai new year in April, the streets of Thailand turn into one massive water fight with water guns, ice buckets and water balloons everywhere for about 4-5 days. The best place to celebrate Songkran is in Chiang Mai where locals and tourists all can enjoy the water fights, Buddha processions and local markets.

Bucketlist Adventures in Asia : Surf in Bali

I have never met a person who disliked Bali. This island in Indonesia is famous for its beauty and its surf breaks which are great for beginners and experts depending on which area you go to.

Asia bucketlist adventures : Fairytale Waterfalls

Laos is home to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfall which has stunning turquoise blue water thanks to the natural minerals in the area. The nearby town of Luang Prabang is fantastic to relax in and soak up the chilled Laos vibes.

Asia Ultimate Bucketlist : Angkor Wat

Stay in Siem Reap and visit the incredible temples of the Angkor Wat complex. Over a thousand years old, these temples are still standing, yet many have been reclaimed by nature with tree roots growing over them. This is the site where Tomb Raider with Lara Croft was filmed and if you’re interested in ancient history you should definitely add Cambodia to your travel bucketlist.

Asia Bucketlist for Adventurers : Komodo Dragons

These dinosaurs are definitely worth a visit to Indonesia and Komodo National Park, the only place in the world to see the famous or infamous Komodo dragons. Yes ,they are really as huge as they look in the photos. This area also has some of the top diving in the world with healthy, colourful coral reefs, manta rays and reef sharks and beautiful pink sand beaches with clear turquoise water.

Bucketlist South East Asia : Visit Buddhist Temples

If you are from a country where there are not any beautiful Buddhist temples then there are more than a few that are definitely worth a visit. As a long time inhabitant of Bangkok I can definitely recommend Wat Pho and Wat Arun during your Bangkok trip. If you are in the North of Thailand then the White Temple, Wat Rong Khun, should be on your Thailand bucketlist.

South East Asia Bucket List : Orangutans

This endangered species will sadly not be around for much longer so take the chance to see them in the wild while it is still possible. One of the best places to see wild orangutans is in Bukit Lawang in Sumatra, Indonesia. They are wild and semi-wild orangutans here as some of them have been rehabilitated after being rescued from the exotic pet trade.

Asia Bucketlist : Caves

Visit huge, very impressive caves in Vietnam. There are many caves and day trips and even overnight trips to choose from. The best ones I visited were visitable when staying in Dong Hoi, Vietnam.

Asia Bucketlist : Sleep on a Houseboat

One of the best ways to explore the backwaters of Kerala is from a houseboat which you can organise while staying in Kochi. Swim in the river, see the local way of life while cruising slowly through the Kerala backwaters.

Bucketlist Adventure Travel Asia : Kayak to Desert Islands

Kayaking to desert islands is possible in many countries in Southeast Asia such as Thailand, the Maldives and the Philippines. A popular option is to find a clear kayak so that you can appreciate the beauty of the reef below you.

Asia Bucketlist : Shark Diving

If you are a diver, or want to become a qualified scuba diver then diving with sharks is likely already to be on your scuba bucketlist asia plan. Asia boasts incredible dive sites for shark diving, from thresher sharks in the Philippines, to bull sharks and tiger sharks in the Maldives to reef sharks in Indonesia.

Southeast Asia Bucketlist : Feed Rescue Elephants

Many tourists want to get up close to elephants but it is very important to find an ethical place to do this. Anywhere can call themselves a ‘sanctuary’ so how do you find one that is actually an ethical elephant experience? The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand has been rescuing elephants, gibbons and many other animals for years now and have opened the I Love Phants lodge which is an amazing place to experience elephants, feed them by hand and know that your money is going to the right place. Never do anything that involves chains, mahoot hooks, elephant riding or an elephant show or camp.

Asia Bucketlist: Markets

Every country will have an amazing market to visit, whether it’s for souvenirs, street food or unique crafts but few can boast that they are the world’s biggest outdoor weekend market. Chatachak market, also known as JJ market to locals, is a huge, sprawling market in Bangkok. If you are visiting Bangkok on a weekend then add it to your Thailand bucketlist. Please note while many vendors are returning in a post covid world it is still not as huge as it once was before the Covid pandemic.

Bucketlist Asia : Blue Whales

In Sri Lanka you can see the biggest animal in the world, the blue whale. They are present in Sri Lankan waters almost year round depending on which area you visit. Two of the two spots for blue whale spotting are in the south in Mirissa and the north in Trincomalee. Boats must adhere to guidelines and do not approach too close to the blue whales and once the whales dives three times they are required to leave the area to not disturb the whale more than necessary for viewing.

Thailand Bucketlist : Full Moon Party

If you are a party animal then you may have already heard of the infamous Full Moon Party in Thailand which is essentially a huge beach party every month on the day of the full moon on Koh Phangan. For a crazy fun night of drinking and dancing on the beach then read my full article here on advice and guidance for the Full Moon Party Thailand. 

South Asia Bucketlist : Stay on a Paradise Island

The Maldives is home to over a thousand paradise islands, waiting to welcome you onto white sand beaches, and clear, warm Indian Ocean waters. Many potential visitors to the Maldives think that you must always stay at a resort and spend a huge amount of money, however, staying on local islands in the Maldives is a more authentic, affordable experience. Read this article for more information about resort islands and local islands Maldives. 

South East Asia Bucketlist : Street Art

Enjoy walks around the island of Penang in Malaysia while discovering all the street art this charming place has to offer.


Ultimate Travel Bucketlist Asia : Trek the Himalayas

Head to Nepal and get involved in an organised trek of the Himalayan mountains. Treks can range from a few days to more and can include treks like Pune Hill, Annapurna Base Camp and Everest Base Camp.

Travel Bucketlist Asia: Wild Tigers

There’s a few places where you have a good chance of seeing wild tigers in Asia. Add Ranthambore National Park to your India travel bucket list as this is the best place there to try and spot these gorgeous creatures. Unfortunately I was not so lucky on my two days safari there but I will try again in the future. Seeing wild tigers is very high up my India bucketlist.

Asia Bucket List Travel : Drink at a Skybar

Many of the huge Asian cities boast glorious sunset and night time views from skyscrapers with sky bars on the top. Bangkok has many incredible skybars such as Above Eleven, Tichuca and Octave. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have equally supurb views and possible the best of all is the Helipad bar in Kuala Lumpur which is a working helipad during the day so has completely unblocked views.

Travel Bucket List Asia : Learn about History

There is so much ancient and modern history to be learnt about while travelling in Asia, much of which you will not have learnt at school. Visit museums in Vietnam to fully understand the impact of the American War included human rights abuses and the use of poison Agent Orange. Go to Kanchanaburi in Thailand to visit and understand about the death railway and the prisoners of war that were forced to work there. Explore national museums such as those in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, India and Sri Lanka to understand about the lasting effects of colonisation by European empires.

What else is on yours?