Highlights Of South East Asia

Take your pick of beautiful beaches, ornate temples, mega-cities and exotic culture
Highlights Of South East Asia

Tropical Beaches And Islands

A major draw of this region for many is the beaches, as postcard-perfect white sand, blue sea beaches are dotted about throughout the region. Thailand has arguably the best and most wide-ranging, from numerous low-key beaches and islands around Krabi and Trang, to upscale resorts on Phuket, Ko Samui and Ko Phi Phi (of 'The Beach' fame). Malaysis is not far behind though, with popular beaches including Langkawi, Penang, the Perhentian islands and Tioman island. With over 13,000 islands, Indonesia has plenty of beaches but the most popular are those on or near Bali and nearby Lombok.

While the highest profile resorts can be moderately crowded, it's not hard to find a nearly deserted beach if that's what you're looking for. Spectacular scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities abound around these beaches and islands too.

Ancient Monuments

The amazing 1000 year old temple complex at Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one of the modern wonders of the world, and undoubteldy the top attraction in this category. Just as ancient and almost as impressive are Indonesia's Borobudur and Bagan in Myanmar, definitely not to be missed sights if you're nearby. If you can't make it to Angkor Wat, Thailand's Sukhothai or Ayuthaya ancient cities offer some sense of it on a somewhat less dramatic scale.

Temples, Mosques, Religious And Royal Sites

It's not only the ancient temples ruins that are worth seeing, as the glittering spires, pagodas and chedis of the modern day temples are another one of the region's most impressive sights. Thailand's top religious sights are Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and Wat Arun, and Chiang Mai's Doi Suthep, though there are many, many others. The same could be said for Mynamar, where the impressive Shwegaon Pagoda in Yangon is similar in style and scale. The temples in Laos aren't quite as opulent as those in its neighbours, though the somewhat bizarre Buddha Park in Vientiane is like nowhere else. In majority-Muslim Malaysia, there are impressive mosques in Kuala Lumpur and Petrajaya along with Hindu and Chinese-style temples too.  

Asian Metropolises

For modern shopping, nightlife, dining and entertainment, the city-state of Singapore along with Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are the top choices. Singapore is as developed as any Western city, with a noticeably cleaner look and a less chaotic or bustling atmosphere compared to its neighbours in the region. Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok may both be in developing countries, but it's easy to forget looking at their streets clogged with new cars and skylines of towering skyscrapers, modern shopping malls and office blocks. They are love-it-or-hate-it places though, with some finding the intensity and constant noise and activity just too stressful.

Although Indonesia's Jakarta and Manila in the Philippines are each huge cities with 10 million residents, they aren't generally seen as having much to offer visitors in themselves and are mainly used as transit points for nearby attractions. At the complete opposite end of the scale is Laos's capital Vientiane, still small enough and with little enough traffic that you can get around all of it by bicycle.

Landscape And Natural Scenery

The beauty and variety of both the natural and man-made landscape makes this a very photogenic part of the world. Indonesia's Java is popular for its numerous volcanoes, both live and dormant, while neighbouring Bali's emblematic stepped green rice terraces are also a result of its volcanic nature. Unspoiled tropical rainforests with their unique wildlife are also located throughout the region, mostly notably in Borneo. More highlights are the tea plantations and Langkawi's sky bridge in Malaysia, the karst limestone formations in southern Thailand and Vietnam and the mountainous scenery and waterfalls of Laos and northern Thailand.

People, Culture And Festivals

From the elegant hand movements and colorful costumes of Thai classical dance, to Balinese women somehow managing to carry towering offerings to a festival on their heads, the cultural images from this part of Asia practically define the word exotic. Festival highlights worth timing your visit to coincide with include are Songkran, the water-throwing traditional new year celebration in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, the Mid-Autumn festivals in Singapore and Vietnam and the Galungan festival in Bali.


Discover South East Asia's hidden travel treasures
Subscribe to our newsletter and keep up to date with our latest posts, straight to your email.
No spam - we promise!