Cambodia & Lao
I have to say I really like both Cambodia and Lao. Oh not that I don’t like Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia too, but Cambodia and Lao are a little more rough and tumble, they are a little more the road less traveled. Even in the most touristy places; like Vang Vieng (Lao) or Angkor Wat (Cambodia) with even the slightest of deviations from the brochures plan you can find yourself in a completely local place that is unseen by 99.5% of the other visitors.
It is easy to do, all you need is a desire to explore and a lack of fear that you are out of place – that and knowing a few words of the local language helps (and don’t be daunted by the knowledge that you are horribly mispronouncing them all). If you can learn to say “hello”, “please” and “thank you” you are pretty much on your way. Knowing how to say “beer”(very important), “Chicken” (or beef), “vegetable” and “good bye” also helps.
It is not hard to find a good local experience, head down a side street, or rent a bike and ride around. Smile and nod to people, and say Hello (Chum’ree-uhp Soo-uh*), don’t be afraid to stop and talk. People like it when you try.
In some places people will even seek you out to talk - especially the younger people. They are excited to practice their English (in Lombok, Indonesia I could scarcely get 20 meters without another person asking me to “please, Mee’ster - sit and speak English with me”). And once you get a out of the toeurist areas the food is always more authentic (i.e.: better - imo). Better food, better views, and nice people - all at cheaper prices, what's not to like.
I think that is what appeals to me most about Cambodia and Lao, the ease in which one is able to step out and glimpse a little bit of the local life style and how friendly the peole are when you do.
*Cambodian. Sah bah Dee in Lao