So many places to go to, so little time! With thousands of destinations calling your name, it can be tough to narrow down your travel list, but if you love traveling, you most definitely must include Southeast Asia in your list of places to see.
Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most traveled tourist destinations for many reasons: rich and colorful cultures, tropical weather, exotic animals, breathtaking natural landscapes, ancient civilizations, and amazing food. What’s not to love? Not to mention it is traversed by a good number of carriers, and the affordable prices of goods and services can make travelling easy as pie.
1. Bohol, Philippines
Bohol is one of the most visited islands in the Philippines. From the floating restaurants in Loboc and the Hinagdanan Cave to the bamboo hanging bridge in Sevilla and the Extreme Adventure Tour in Danao, there’s something for everyone! Since it is a very popular tourist destination in the Philippines, flights are no hassle to arrange, and you can easily find cheap hotels in Bohol, Philippines for your stay.
If you are a more relaxed tourist who is interested in sightseeing, check out the world-famous Chocolate Hills in Carmen, the Bohol Museum, and the historic Sandugo blood compact site in Tagbilaran City that symbolizes the first treaty of friendship between the Spaniards and Filipinos.
Not far from Tagbilaran is Baclayon Town, home of the monumental Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, which also has a small museum. If museums aren’t your thing and you love animals, you can watch a dolphin show in Pamilacan Island, see the Philippine Tarsier (Carlito syrichta) at the Tarsier Conservation Area in Loboc or visit the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella. For a taste of sea adventure, then tropical beaches like Doljo beach, Dumaluan beach, and Alona beach are a must. You can enjoy a boat ride and even try out diving.
When arranging a visit to Bohol, some travel agencies offer tours with complete itineraries. Those who are more on the adventurous side can do DIY travel and rent motorbikes or taxis. Keep in mind, however, that public transportation can be very time-consuming, so it’s best to arrange a mode of transportation on your own. Locals can also speak English, so communication is not difficult if you ever need help.
Known as the Lion City or the Little Red Dot, the Republic of Singapore is a global city and is the world’s only island city-state. Singapore is known for being Southeast Asia’s most modern city, embracing the region’s diverse cultures aside from its own unique traditions. Being a giant in the world of trade and business, you can expect excellent shopping experience, fine cuisine and highly efficient public transportation services.
Though Singapore has state-of-the-art technology, it is still home to a number of nature parks and verdant forests —part of the government’s policy of maintaining Singapore’s natural environment alive. As Singapore’s climate is visitor friendly year-round, a stroll through the parks will be a pleasant and peaceful experience.
Since it is a bustling city, Singapore can be a bit disorienting for first-time visitors. If you want to relax, then head on over to Tiong Bahru, home to some of best cafés on the island. Hit up the PS Café Petit and the Tiong Bahru Bakery for your sweet fix. After a satisfying cup of coffee, pay a visit to the Singapore Botanical Gardens to see the stunning and unique flora and fauna of Singapore. If excitement is what you seek, the Indoor Skydiving at IFly Singapore is the place to go to. With the speed of 300 km/hour, this is the world’s largest wind tunnel, one that is not for the faint hearted.
3. Bali, Indonesia
Renowned for its beautiful beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and highly developed arts scene, Bali is the most popular island to visit in Indonesia. Abundant in culture and tradition, scenic green fields, and exotic wildlife, Bali will charm you.
For enthusiasts of the arts and temples, Bali is a dream come true. Pay homage in more than a handful of temples, and shop at the famous Ubud Art Market, where beautiful silk scarves, handwoven baskets, and other hand-crafted goods can be purchased.
Animal and nature lovers can head on over to ride on the backs of strolling giants at the Bali Elephant Safari Park, interact with the monkeys in the Ubud Monkey Forest, or see the scenic expanses of rice fields along the Tegallalang road.
Don’t forget to visit the island’s most iconic temple, the Tanah Lot, which honors the sea spirits. Perched on top of a huge rock and surrounded by the sea, it is the best place to take photos of picturesque sunsets.
4. Hanoi, Vietnam
Although ravaged by war from 1955 to 1975, Hanoi has radically changed its game and is today steadily becoming a strong center of trade and development. Tourist will find the resilience of Hanoi admirable and its culture fascinating.
While in Hanoi, a show you shouldn’t miss is the water puppetry show in the world-famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. It is mesmerizing to watch the puppeteers create the illusion of the puppets gliding on water by using large rods. Another must-see is the Hanoi Old Quarter area of the city, where you can enjoy architectural marvels from the French colonial era. Also, try to squeeze in some time to shop at the Dong Xuan Market, a sprawling complex where you can buy apparel and souvenirs at the best prices.
Before you leave, check out the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, a relic of an era in Vietnam’s history that displayed great independence. The citadel was recently excavated, with much of the royal palaces and properties in varying states of disrepair. This cultural complex was constructed in 1009 during the Lý dynasty, the first Vietnamese dynasty that was able to hold onto power for more than several decades. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a location you shouldn’t miss when you are in Vietnam
5. Bagan, Myanmar
Myanmar used to be a country where tourists could hardly be granted access to, but in recent years, the country decided to open its doors a bit wider to share with the world its culture.
If you’re interested to see something different and have a love for ancient structures, then the ancient city of Bagan will be your paradise. It is a very enriching destination for those who enjoy tales of times gone by.
The moment you enter the vicinity of Bagan, the first thing you will notice is the sight of temples, pagodas and payas as far as the eye can see. This is what you’ll be seeing for as long as you are in Bagan, which is home to about 2200 temples. It is definitely a surreal experience to be in Bagan, as it feels as if you are in a whole other world. Each house of worship has a unique story to tell, having been constructed between the 11th and the 13th century. You can ask for a guide to help you know more about the history of Bagan, or you can approach locals. Since Bagan is situated in a wide plain, you will need a form of transportation to explore the grounds; you can rent a bike, a taxi, or even a hot air balloon!
6. Ayutthaya, Thailand
The ancient city of Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. Founded in circa 1350, it was destroyed in the 18th century by the Burmese. What remains of this historic city is a shadow of its former glory. With gigantic monasteries and prang (reliquary towers), this city used to be a center of commerce and diplomacy, but it is now a site of archaeological ruins, with incredible structures full of wonder. It is a great area to visit to know more about the ancient civilization of Ayutthaya, which was even called the Venice of the East in the past. Major restoration work began in 1969, and it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You can visit the Ayutthaya Historical Park, explore the Wat Phanan Choeng temple, enjoy a boat ride tour, or even spend time working with the elephants at the Elephant Kraal.
7. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Built by Suryavarman II in the early 12th century and known in the Khmer language as ‘Capital Temple’, Angkor Wat is exactly that —a temple complex in Cambodia. It is the world’s largest religious monumentand an important symbol of Cambodia, appearing even on the country’snational flag.
Angkor Wat is the massive, earthly representation of Mt. Meru, the home of the ancient gods of the Hindu faith, though it was originally built in in honor of the god Vishnu. The temple easily tops most lists of the world’s must-see ancient structures because of its size, historical importance, and religious significance.
Surrounded by a 190-meter-wide moat and watched over by the statue of Vishnu in the west entrance, Angkor Wat is also famous for its grandiose architecture and designs honoring Hinduism Aside from depictions of Vishnu, it also features carvings portraying the Hindu epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as figures of apsaras (heavenly nymphs) and devas (gods) on its walls.
Since it is considered a sacred place, rules and temple etiquette are implemented in Angkor Wat. Visitors must dress modestly because those whose arms and knees are exposed will not be allowed to visit the highest level of Angkor Wat. Of course, there are areas that are restricted to visitors, and touching, sitting on, and vandalizing the structures are prohibited. If all these rules are followed then you’re good to go!
The whole world is yours to explore, and Southeast Asia, as you can see, is home to some of the world’s most sacred sites, vibrant cultures, unique attractions and activities, and interesting flora and fauna. So what are you waiting for? Southeast Asia is waiting for you!