Planning a trip to Southeast Asia? Here are 10 must-sees from Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and several other places in the region.
Asia’s must-see attractions
Traveling to Southeast Asia for a short stay? It can be difficult to know where to start. Beyond the big cities like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi and many more, there are also temples, ruins, quaint villages and natural attractions. But how to choose? These 10 attractions will amaze you.
Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia
Popular attractions like the Spanish Steps in Rome or the Alamo in Texas promise so much that in the end, we are often more disappointed than amazed. But this is not the case with the temples of Angkor. First, the set of temples is so vast that they can only impress. In addition, the size of the place forces the crowds to disperse. Most of them cluster around the main attractions: Angkor Wat, Bayon and the Ta Prohm, the vine-covered temple.
And what about the remaining 400 km2? It’s up to you to discover it! And there’s so much to see. Generations of Khmer rulers have built hundreds of stunningly beautiful temples on the site. One day will not be enough to see everything.
Penang is one of the few destinations in Southeast Asia, or even the world, known for their rich cuisine. With Indian, Chinese and Malaysian influences, the cuisine of Penang is a tourist attraction that is literally to be savored. Varieties of spicy curries, delicious lassam laksas and savory soups are on the menu. Most restaurants and food stalls are more than affordable, so if you were planning on going on a diet, Penang is not for you!
When you’ve had your fill of mango lassi, head to Georgetown: a city listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 200-year-old temples, mosques and colonial buildings.
The temples of Bagan, Myanmar
There are few sunsets quite like that of the fabulous plains of Bagan, where the golden rays of twilight blend with the rusty patina of its thousands of temples. Unlike the temples of Angkor, in Cambodia, the appeal of the Buddhist temples of Bagan is not based on their individual majesty, but on their number: 13,000 temples with similar structures spring from the plains. They once formed the city of Bagan, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Pagan. Some 2,000 of them still exist today. This experience of spiritual fullness makes Bagan a must-see attraction.
In the “place of the descent of the dragon”, a unique karst relief reveals some 2000 rocky peaks jutting into the sea. These islets with vertical cuts are covered with dense forests. A cruise along this karst chain will allow you to admire its splendor, visit the islets, practice climbing and other activities.
A word of warning: visibility is reduced during the monsoon months, from June to September and from January to March. In any case, the best choice is to opt for a cruise to the outlying islands where very beautiful natural landscapes little explored by tourists await you.
Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, Indonesia
There are temples all over Indonesia, and some are very impressive. But if you’ve ever traveled to Southeast Asia, you might want to see something other than the temples of the Indonesian archipelago.
Fortunately, Indonesia has a lot to offer to impress tourists, including the landscapes of the volcanic range located, of course, on the Ring of Fire. And one of the most spectacular places to watch the sunrise is undoubtedly Mount Bromo. Tourists flock there, it’s true, but the magnificent caldera there offers a panorama that you will not soon forget, no matter who you share this moment with.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the site includes an entire city. Colonial and Laotian architectures are omnipresent there. Beyond its serene temples, Luang Prabang is known for its many religious parades, a ritual practiced every morning during which monks, dressed in saffron robes, collect food offerings. Outside the city, you can visit mighty waterfalls in the jungle, beautiful pools where you can swim, and caves.
The town is popular today for its star-studded haunting stories, and while that’s not a reason in itself to visit, this particularity of the town has attracted high-profile culinary chefs. You can enjoy a gourmet meal in quite unusual places.
Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia
With a bit of luck, you’ll be able to see the Philippines, or so it says in the publicity material on Mount Kinabalu. To tell the truth, it is rare to be able to observe the Philippines because of the frequency of the rains and the fog, which however does not detract from the pleasure of climbing the highest mountain of Borneo.
The ascent is rather direct: it is also one of the easiest mountains to access on earth. However, the excursion is exhausting since the summit is at an altitude of 4095 m. During the ascent, you may feel like you’ve lost your mind accepting this challenge, but going through with this adventure provides an incomparable feeling of euphoria.
It’s well known: backpackers from all over the world flock to Kuta, the tourist capital of Bali. There are very few unexplored places left on this island. If Bali offers nothing “new”, on the other hand there is a wide variety of attractions. From the best places to surf to the myriad of temples, passing through its black sand beaches and the hikes in volcanic environment, the “island of the gods” has something to occupy you. And if you’re tired of surfers and screaming tourists, you can always find rest in the remote and peaceful villages of Bali, where beautiful palm trees and rice terraces await you along the coastline.
Ifugao rice terraces, Philippines
A few thousand years ago, emigrants from what is now Yunnan Province, China, brought their rice terrace technology. These innovations today line the hills of the Ifugao region of the Philippines. Seemingly built entirely by hand, the stone or earthen walls rest on incredibly steep slopes, and the rice paddies are irrigated by spring or stream water from the mountain forests.
During harvest season in Banaue and Batad villages, when the rice plants are vibrant green, the valleys glisten in the sun, making treks around the hills a surreal experience.
Krabi Province, Thailand
When travelers rave about pristine Thai beaches, they mostly mean the beaches in Krabi Province. The water and sand quality are among the best in the world. It’s no wonder that so many people go there.
Despite the many tourists, one can find peaceful places there. Ko Phi Phi, filming location for the film The Beach , is packed with tourists, but Ko Lanta offers virtually deserted beaches as far as the eye can see. If lounging on the beaches isn’t your thing, you can go scuba diving in Southeast Asia, especially Ko Lanta, and not far away in Rai Leh you can go rock climbing. .