What is the Best Place in South East Asia to Write a Book?

“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” – Christopher Hitchens

Last week I cancelled most of my phone calls, dusted off my copy of Freedom app (to turn off WIFI capabilities on my laptop), and caught a flight with my fellow blogger and coffee enthusiast James Clark. We were headed to the capital city of Vietnam– Hanoi– a place I always thought had a bookish vibe.

In the past, while fantasizing about going on a creative retreat, I’ve Googled phrases like “what is the best place to go write a book?” and never really got the types of blog posts I was looking for. I figured I’d write down the top spots I’d suggest in the hopes that I’d get some suggestions from you as well.

Where might you travel to if you wanted to get some solitude and focus on starting a business, writing a book, or brainstorming a new project?

My top 3 locations are all in SEAsia, although I’d love to hear about places in other parts of the world as well. The places on my list are strong in the following criteria:

  • A writerly vibe.
  • Inspiring landscapes and/or architecture.
  • Good and affordable spa culture.
  • Easy access to healthy and inexpensive food.
  • Good for walking and/or hikes.
  • Good cafes and coffee.
  • Unexciting nightlife options.
  • Relatively inexpensive (you might want to hang around and write your memoirs!)
If people asked me “where should I go for a writing retreat in South East Asia?” I’d respond with…

1. Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

Ah Bali, you really do have it all. Nestled away in the center of the island, it is the setting of the now famous Eat Pray Love. Hey, if it’s good enough for Elizabeth Gilbert, it’s good enough for me.

In Ubud you’ll find a few handfuls of the mid-life crisis crowd with creative ambitions. That might not be such a bad thing. If it’s alone time you are seeking, you won’t have trouble finding it around the edges of town, where narrow sidewalks fade into jungles and rice paddies.

You’ll find an abundant creative culture as well–  cafes, eateries, yoga studios, and spas litter the landscape. Ubud is equal parts cultured town and mountain retreat, and attracts artisans and creative types from across Indonesia and the world.

2. Old Town Hanoi, Vietnam.


The old town in Hanoi is one of the most beautiful downtown areas I know. It delivers the “exotic” vibe you dream of when you think of old Asian cities.

My writer's cocktail-- to prepare, pour one part caffeine sludge, one part soda water, and take them as you please on cubes. A pinch of self-hatred sets the mix off, but try not to over do it.

My writer’s cocktail– to prepare, pour one part caffeine sludge, one part soda water, and take them as you please on cubes. A pinch of self-hatred sets the mix off, but try not to over do it.

In the hundreds of winding tree-lined streets and alleys you’ll find endless food and cafe options. Prepare to be assaulted by smells of jasmine, incense, fresh cut flowers, and barbecue  (mix in some sewers and motorbike exhaust for good measure!).

Hanoi is Ho Chi Min City’s more subdued and cultured older brother. In Hanoi you write books, in Ho Chi Minh you write checks.

Hanoi is a writers retreat for those who don’t want to “get away from it all,” but want to be inspired by a buzzing city.

3.  Dalat, Central Highlands, Vietnam.


Dalat is an alpine resort town planned by the French in the late 19th century. It has since become a popular vacation destination for local Vietnamese tourists who love the cool weather. At 4,900 ft above sea level, is one of the few non-tropical climate areas in Vietnam. Dalat is dotted with signs of it’s French heritage– from the beautifully preserved villas lining the roads leading to town, to the wineries covering the immense valleys.

You’re in Vietnam, so of course you’ll eat well, and you’ll have easy access to nature–   forests, temples, rivers, and lakes. When you get back to town you’ll find a nice array of cafes, eateries, and spas.


Feeling writerly at an outdoor cafe just overlooking central dalat.

Out of the three spots, Dalat is probably the most “unhappening” for a foreign visitor– it’s ideal for somebody really looking to get off the grid.

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Have you taken a creative get away before? I’d love to hear your suggestions for locations.


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