Between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, the southeastern region of Asia consists of a group of diversified countries prominently famous for their scenic beaches, mouthwatering cuisine, comparatively lower rates, and great air connection.
The majority of these countries have been heavily influenced by Chinese, Indian, and Western culture, so you can be sure that each location has its own story to tell. While you might be well acquainted with places like Singapore or Bali, there are some exceptionally amazing places that for the most part, remain off the tourist’s radar.
It’s rather difficult to make a rundown ranking these countries in terms of traveler preference, but if you’re thinking about getting the ticket, these are the top 10 best places to visit in Southeast Asia.
1. Angkor, Cambodia
Situated in Northern Cambodia, Angkor has some of the world’s oldest and finest archaeological sites. It’s a feast to the eyes and food for the soul that travelers wouldn’t want to miss.
Less than six kilometers south of Siam Reap, the gateway to Angkor city, lies Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious monument. Encompassing an area of 162 hectares are the remains of this 12th century temple.
There are some other notable temples too, like Angkor Thom, Pre Rup, the Bayon temple, and Ta Phrom – a temple ruin with gigantic trees woven around it; like something out a mythical movie.
- The best time to visit is Angkor is during the drier weather, from November to February. Avoid April to avoid scathing heat.
- Due to the cultural and religious ties, people in these segments are very conservative. Strict laws dictate that you must wear something that covers your knees as well as shoulders.
Where to Eat
At the center of the Old market in Siam Reap, small food stalls are set up which are constantly serving local fried delicacies. Make sure to grab a bite! If you’re feeling fancy, head to Damnak Lounge Fine Dining for a mix of local flavors and continental dishes.
2. Bali, Indonesia
A classic representation of the phrase “tropical paradise”, Bali is the uncontested favorite of all 17,000 islands of Indonesia to make its mark on the list of best places to visit in Southeast Asia.
From the calm waters of Seminyak beach, to the ashy volcanic sands filling Kermas beach, to the fan favorites Kuta and Legian beaches, there’s a myriad of peaceful oasis to suit all your moods.
- If you’re going to shop, get comfortable with haggling, as you’ll sometimes find there are two different price tags for locals and foreigners.
- Want to hit the waves for a chill day by the beach, or warming up to get a good surf? Head west. Want fun activities like snorkeling and scuba diving? Head east.
Where to Eat
The seafood in Bali is everything you could ever want in a good plate of food. Hit the night market in Gili Trawangan where you can try some grilled king prawns freshly caught out of the ocean. Definitely try out the local delicacy “Gado gado” – a salad of boiled veggies and eggs.
3. Bangkok, Thailand
The capital of Thailand, Bangkok is truly a destination that will appeal to almost everyone – filled with awe-inspiring skyscrapers that coexist with religious buildings and also trendy cafes and restaurants, this cosmopolitan destination has many wonderful treats for the average tourist.
While you’re there, the Grand Palace is a must-visit for all the royalty and heritage it holds. If you’re wanting to take a deeper dive into Thai culture, drop by Wat Traimit, Temple of the Golden Buddha from some beautiful statues and rich history.
- Although Bangkok attracts tourists all-year-round, the peak season is between November to March. It’s significantly cooler then.
- To avoid being stuck in a traffic jam for hours, avoid hours between 07:30-09:00 am, and the evening rush from 04:30 – 09:30 pm.
Where to Eat
Wang Lang Market and Chinatown house some of the best street shops that are guaranteed to give you that strong local taste. Apart from the local restaurants that serve great food, Paste offers a more refined experience with a delicate balance of flavors.
4. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay of Vietnam will leave you spellbound with its limestone karst islands. It fits the dreamy definition of a scene from a fantasy novel to the tee.
Cat Ba, which is the largest island of Ha Long Bay hosts the maximum number of overnight tourists. Kayaking on these emerald green waters is considered to be one of the best activities while you’re on the destination.
As you pass by, you will come across some islands which are actually monolithic cliffs – tall, covered in lush green forests, and unfortunately don’t provide scope to be explored.
- Bring along a bottle of shampoo if you’re planning to take a dip in those waters, as they’re extremely salty.
- There is no cell reception or internet in the Ha Long Bay. So, don’t take a look at your phone every 10 minutes and just kick back and relax.
Where to Eat
The Bay Chai area of Ha Long city has a ton of local shops and street vendors that cook beautiful seafood and local delicacies. Eat at Papa’s BBQ for an extensive list of items prepared with a zingy blast of local flavors.
A unique and one of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia, Singapore is a delightful blend of cosmopolitan living, multi-storied shopping centers, and a touch of natural attractions.
If you’re thinking of an incredible nightlife with some of the best parties around, Singapore is your hotspot. With a glass of cocktail in one hand, you will able to get a great view of the city from the world’s tallest infinity pools.
In contrast to that, head over to MacRitchie Nature Trail or the Flower dome for the green experience. Almost forgot the best part – Universal Studios. Everyone at one point in their lives has wanted to step foot inside this massive theme park. That’s your ticket to blood-pumping rides and overwhelming nostalgia.
- In comparison to other Asian countries, Singapore isn’t cheap. Keep a moderate budget to get the best out of this place.
- Public smoking is restricted and you could get fined up to $1,000 if you get caught smoking. There are designated smoking zones; limit your cigarettes to that region.
Where to Eat
The Chili Crab is to die for, but it’s also huge so it’s better to share with a partner (or you could pack up the rest to take with you if you’re a solo traveler). There’s an abundance of fancy restaurants, but Chinatown will beat them all with the diverse cuisine and native feel.
6. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur receives brownie points for the extreme amalgamation of contrasts – the financial and cultural core of the country, skyscrapers kissing the clouds, three of the world’s biggest shopping malls interlaced with architecture that goes back to the colonial area and Islamic details scattered across the region.
Standing at a humongous 452 meters tall, the Petronas – the world’s largest twin buildings attract a lot of tourists to the architectural marvel. Lake Garden houses the largest aviary bird park in the world.
- KL sees some extremely humid days, sometimes drizzling the entire day. Pack some lightweight yet durable clothes to beat the heat.
- The night markets bustle with life and vivacity. Definitely venture out, shop, and eat in these places.
Where to Eat
Limapulo is served by a very hospitable staff and the food, décor, outdoors; everything mixes to make it the perfect eating spot in KL. Kafe Old Market Square will serve amazing coffee while you admire its 1906 heritage. When you’re in Malaysia, you must try Nasi Lemak – the Malaysian national dish.
7. Boracay, Philippines
There are beaches, and there are beaches on the tiny island of Boracay redefining everything about the best places to visit in Southeast Asia. Turquoise waves crash onto the powdery golden-silver sand sparkling under the bright sun with sailboats just wafting across the clear waters, turning something you’d see in overly edited movies a reality.
Two of the most popular beaches would include White beach – go there for the sunsets that might make you poetic; and Yapak beach – for pearly white shells. If you’re looking for something to get the adrenaline pumping, there’s cliff diving and parasailing, as well as more relaxed activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, and kiteboarding.
- The best time to enjoy the scenic location is from November to April when there’s a cool breeze sending a soft shiver down your spine. Beware, it will get very crowded.
- Many tourists mispronounce the name. It’s pronounced Bo-Rah-Kai, not “Cay”. The locals will be friendlier if you say the name right.
Where to Eat
Any beach visit would be incomplete without seafood. Enjoy some delish oysters from Percy Seafood. Sands have a mouthwatering range of Filipino dishes that will be served in a very posh interior.
8. Phuket, Thailand
While the capital city Bangkok offers a cityscape that will be pinned into your memory, Phuket is a complete turn from the hustle and bustle to relaxing beaches and excellent diving locations.
Have a great time at Phuket FantaSea show, get up close and personal with the gentle giants in the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, make a visit to Phang Nga Bay to discover the protected lagoons, coves, and the lush mangrove. There’s just so much to do!
- Pesky mosquitoes are very likely to make an appearance and hinder your enjoyment. Keep some handy bug repellent.
- Don’t collect coral shells. Those belong to the beach and enrich the beauty of it; let it stay there.
Where to Eat
Authentic Tom Yong Goong should be one of the first things on your “To-eat” list. Make a visit to One Chun Cafe & Restaurant for a variety of Thai dishes to try from. If you’re really trying to take the luxury trip, head to Mom Tri’s Kitchen – a property owned by the Royal Thai family.
9. Luang Prabang, Laos
When listing some great tourist locations, Laos may not make it to the top of the list, but we’re here to take it out of the back of your mind and give you a reason to want to book a ticket to the nation: UNESCO Town of Luang Prabang World Heritage Site.
This northern city of Laos remains iconic for its unique and exquisite blend of architectural feats from different generations. French colonial, rural work, and religious influence has truly enriched the heritage and culture associated with this village.
According to us, the best attraction in Luang Prabang would have to the Kuang Si Falls, a breathtaking waterfall with azure waters cascading off a 50 meters height. Visit the Bear Rescue Center just outside the city to catch glimpses of adorable sun bears.
- The optimum time to travel is from November to March, but the festivals start around January which just makes the region much more colorful and pleasant. Book ahead if you’re planning to go during that time.
- Don’t trek without a guide. The country has a few undetonated cluster bombs lying around which must be avoided.
Where to Eat
The “Jaew Kee Pa” – egg fish chili dip of Xieng Thong Phonsavahn Restaurant will leave you wanting more, so will almost everything else on the menu. For a family that values eating together, Phamsai Houngchalern Restaurant will provide a classic selection of Lao cuisine.
10. Yangon, Myanmar
This city is the proud land of the most colonial buildings counted in Southeast Asia. Centering the Sule Pagoda which is a whopping 2,600 years old, a cluster of beautiful and praiseworthy architectural feats has been developed.
The skyline of the city shines with a subtle shade of gold owing to the Shewdagon Pagoda (also known as Golden Pagoda) – considered to be the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in the land. Taking the Yangon Circular Train is a must-do that will give you a nice sight into the real life of the Burmese.
- Don’t wear shoes near pagodas or temples.
- Due to the religious obligations, the Burmese are pretty conservative. Steer clear of showing off your shoulders and knees.
Where to Eat
For a solid crash course on local food, Feel Myanmar Restaurant is a nice choice. Sharky’s can be considered a place that serves a mix – a great serving of Burmese delicacies with local spices, and the occasional Western items like pizza and burgers on special days.
Southeast Asia – this side of the world will appeal to almost everyone, and you will find yourself craving for another slice of the amazing experiences you will potentially make in these countries.
It’s the most phenomenal fusion of food, flavor, colors, culture, religion, history; and most importantly, the locals. There are also multiple other Best Places to Visit in Southeast Asia that could blow you away with, so maybe it’s time to plan your next getaway to this part of the globe.