Squeezed between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, South East Asia is a congregation of attractive beaches, primordial historic sites, along with adrenaline rich excitement, which attracts thousands of discerning travelers every year.
|3. Vang Vieng|
|5. Kuala Lumpur|
|6. Gili Islands|
|7. Phnom Penh|
|8. Chiang Mai|
|9. Inle Lake|
|11. Hoi An|
|14. Komodo National Park|
|16. Ko Phi Phi|
|17. Luang Prabang|
|21. Halong Bay|
|24. Koh Tao|
One of the smallest and quietest capital cities in South-east Asia, Vientiane has a laid-back, quaint and historic beguile. Situated on the banks of Mekong, this Capital city of Laos is steeped in legend and history going back to 1000 AD with age old Buddhist temples scattered all through the city. The pretty streets have tree-lined boulevards, colonial buildings finished with French façade and a quirky riverside night market to indulge in local food and handicraft.
Situated at 1600m above sea level, Sapa, in North-Western Vietnam near the Chinese border, Sapa is a picture perfect mountainous town awesome for travelers who are nature lovers. The region is home to dense vegetation, rice terraces and Fansipan, the highest mountain peak in Vietnam. Established by the French in 1922, the villages around this quaint hill-station are home to local hill-tribe people. Going for a strenuous mountain trek or rice-paddy tour, spending a night with the tribal community cheering over wine pot or just bask in the beauty of this picturesque town, the choices are limitless.
Mostly identified as a party destination, Vang Vieng is a tiny riverside town in central Laos. The place offers a dreamy spectacle of Nam Song River flowing through the middle with limestone mountain peaks and spectacular hills surrounding it. With innumerable outdoor and adventure activities such as kayaking, tubing, mountain biking, caving, swimming, trekking and rock climbing, Vang Vieng is one of the most exquisite places to warrant a week or more off.
From blue lagoons, sandy white beaches to tropical pink sunsets, Phuket is a spectrum of all things gorgeous. The island offers an array of exciting activities, whether it is partying at a luxury yacht, high-end dining, playing golf at international standard courses, water sport activities ranging from kayaking to deep-sea diving, or adventurous tropical forest trails. At the very least, one can just sunbathe on gorgeous sandy beaches sipping margaritas watching the sun disappear into horizon.
Kuala Lumpur is a city of magnificence, the pulse of Malaysia, being its Capital and the largest city. It’s a fusion of old world charm and modernized architecture. The 452m tall Petronas Twin Towers (tallest twin tower building in the world) offers a bird’s eye view of the metropolitan city that houses high end malls and art galleries. While the Jamek Mosque at the riverside, 131 feet tall clock tower of Sultan Abdul Samad building and the old railway station made in 1910, all are witness to its cultural heritage.
Gili Islands are a set of three islets in the Indonesian archipelago adorned by powdery white sand beaches, palm trees, and sea of the color of pristine turquoise. Also known as the turtle capital of the world, for its large number of Leatherback and Hawksbill turtle, the islands have no cars, motorbikes and even dogs, making it an ideal getaway destination. Despite similar, each of the three islands have individual characters. Gili Trawangan with its bars full of live music is known for its nightlife. Gili Meno has large stretches of deserted beaches and hence, called the Honeymoon Island. Gili Air is quiet and perfect for enjoying a lazy and relaxed holiday.
Once called the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh has an unfortunate history of war and revolution. However, the capital city of Cambodia has transformed since then and is now bustling with vibrant bar and café scenes. Situated at the convergence of three rivers, Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap, the city emanates provincial charisma and serenity with French colonies and tree lined boulevards. The majestic beauty of the Royal Palace, the National Museum, the Silver Pagoda, all these places have hundreds of years of history and culture seeped into them.
Second largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai is also its ‘culture capital’. It’s in existence for more than 700 years and is home to more than 300 Buddhist temples. Embraced by Thailand’s highest mountains, the city brings escape from whirlwind chaos of its Southern rival, Bangkok. It is a perfect destination for backpackers and travelers seeking solace, alike. From visiting ancient temples that have hundreds of years of history seeped in, to outdoor activities such as white river rafting, this city has something for everyone.
One of the most off-beat locations of Myanmar, Inle Lake is magical and magnificent nonetheless. Situated at a high altitude of 900m above sea level, the lake is 22 km long and 10 km wide. The picturesque lake is famous for its floating villages, floating markets and various gardens around the lake. The local inhabitants, Intha people are known for their unique method of leg rowing. This rural countryside town is ideal for a relaxed vacation.
Known as ‘Last ecological frontier’ for its efforts to protect its wildlife and natural beauty, Palawan is one of the largest islands in Philippines with abundance of flora, fauna, exotic wildlife, crystal clear water and pristine beaches. The island itself is made up of 1780 islets, each having its own charm and plethora of places and activities to choose from. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River has been declared New Seven Natural Wonders of the World by UNESCO.
With 2000 year old history backing up, Hoi An is a fusion of century old Temples and Buddhist Pagodas on one hand, and colonial architecture and queer museums on the other. What was once a prominent trading port, the old town and riverside of Hoi An have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. The local villages, Asian night markets and pristine beaches are some of the many things that have kept travelers coming back to this charming Vietnamese town.
Despite not being the capital any longer, Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is the largest city and economic hub of Myanmar. The city known of its colonial architecture is an eccentric mix of British, Indian, Chinese and Burmese influences. The vibrant city offers spectacular sites of its architectural and cultural treasure such as Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas. The fascinating Garden city, local cuisine, gems museum and pristine lakes make this city livelier.
Though only 7 km long and 1 km wide at its narrowest stretch, Boracay is one of finest beach destinations in Philippines. Its dreamy White Beach is the centre of attraction having a 4 km long picture perfect stretch of powder white sand with pristine shoreline offering galactic views. The area is filled with restaurants, cafes and bars where one can spend the whole day just sipping on to pina coladas.
A visit to Komodo National Park is a rare experience in itself as it is home to rare Komodo Dragons that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. Located on the equator, this UNESCO World Heritage site is the center of Indonesian archipelago. Apart from the big lizards, the park also provides refuge to other exquisite species like an endemic rat, Timor deer, orange-footed scrub fowl, and incredible marine life with sharks, sponges, mata rays, whales, and sea turtles to name a few.
Singapore is all things beautiful. The city is abuzz in action day and night, with innumerable activities for toddlers and senior citizens alike. From luxury shopping at Orchard Street lined with swanky malls, experiencing world’s largest glass greenhouse at Gardens by the Bay, adventuring at Sentosa Island and Universal Studios that has rides and activities for all age group, or unique riverside dining experience at Clark Quay, the days are never enough to explore it all.
An archipelago of six islets, Ko Phi Phi is one of the most beautiful holiday destinations in Thailand. Though destroyed in Tsunami in 2004, the island has redeveloped to even a greater extent than before. The incredible rock formations, stunning beaches and serene turquoise water filled with marine life takes your breath away.
Former capital city of Laos, Luang Prabang is a World UNESCO Heritage Site due to its impressive historic, cultural and architectural values. The quaint, little town sitting at the confluence of Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, beneath a temple topped hill, is a coalition of European influenced urban structures and centuries old well-preserved, traditional architecture. Experience the Laos beauty while strolling through narrow lanes lined with Buddhist temples, French colonial buildings and traditional timber homes.
The single largest Buddhist Structure in the world, Borobudur in Java is a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO. Though the village is small but the temple draws millions of visitors from all over the world. Built in 8th-9th century and measuring 123×123 meters, Borobudur is one of the three temples, making a perfect straight line with the Mendut and Pawon temples situated close by. The view of the temple with well-preserved terraces, humungous gateways and stairways along with volcanic steam erupting from Mount Merapi in the background adds to its beauty.
Bagan , located in the central region of Myanmar, holds the largest and most dense concentration of Buddhist temples. It is home to more than 2200 temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins, dating from 11th and 12th centuries, scattered over an area of 50 sq km approximately. The construction, shape and size of each temple or stupa have great significance in Buddhism as each of these structures has spiritual meaning attached to them.
Bangkok is an outstanding place for travelers, many amazing things to do. The capital of Thailand is an amalgamation of enticing aromas, intriguing sights and visual delights. One of the world’s top tourist destination cities, it has the right mix of cultural legacy evident through exquisite Buddhist temples, palaces and museums, and fascinating urbane edge with glitzy night life, gourmet delicacies and luxury shopping malls. Thai hospitality has to be experienced to be believed as the city offers something for everyone.
Halong Bay is undoubtedly Vietnam’s marvelous gem listed as a World Heritage Site as it is made up of more than 1600 beautifully sculpted limestone islets emerging from crystal blue waters. What makes the bay even more gorgeous is its scenic ocean karst topography, amazing rock formations and caves. Experience the magnifying beauty of this island via kayaking, renting a junk boat or soaring on a luxury cruise.
The Islands of the Gods, Bali has varied landscape, right from mountain tops, dense forests, rugged coastline, rice terraces and sandy beaches, offering scenic backdrop to its spiritual, colorful and rare culture. The sublime beaches are an ideal spot for diving and relaxation, while you can bring the explorer and adventurer in you out with hikes, mountain trails, cycling, white river rafting and snorkeling.
Angkor, the ancient city of Cambodia, the capital city of Khmer Empire, flourished between 9th to 15th centuries, is one of most important archeological sites in South East Asia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site includes Angkor Watt and Angkor Thom. Angkor Wat is believed to be the largest religious monument ever built. Apart from visiting the primordial temples, one can indulge in various activities such as trekking and hiking through the tropical rainforests, or cycle around the town immersing oneself in local culture and cuisine.
Thailand’s most spectacular gem, also known as Turtle Island, Koh Tao is a land of scuba diving paradise, golden beaches and secluded bays. A tropical dream that this place is, it has a busy beach party vibe mixed with laid back nature. Whether you want to work up that sun tan lounging on the beach or looking for a clubbing, beach bars, Koh Tao offers it all.
The amiable Vietnamese capital has largely come out unscathed from ravages of war, and is now blooming with the growth spurt in all phases. The second largest city in the country, Hanoi is a riveting synthesis of East and West preserving old quarters, pagodas, colonial framework while making way for progressive developments of entertainment, dining and shopping in the heart of the city.
All these destinations mentioned above are the best that South East Asia has to offer, but definitely not limited to it. The charisma and exquisiteness of these countries, cities, towns and islands is something that pulls a traveler towards it, whether a backpacker, business client, honeymooner or luxury seeker.