Southeast Asia’s 13 Best Experiences according to Lonely Planet
13. Singapore Food
Singaporean cuisine is indicative of the ethnic diversity of the culture of Singapore which originated from Malaysia, as a product of centuries of cultural interaction owing to Singapore’s strategic location. The food is influenced by the native Malay, the predominant Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Peranakan, and Western traditions.
12. Bagan (Myanmar)
Bagan, also spelled Pagan, on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, is home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world, many dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. The shape and construction of each building is highly significant in Buddhism with each component taking on spiritual meaning.
11. Kuching (Malaysia)
Once the capital of the White Rajahs of Sarawak, now with a population of some 600,000, Kuching is small enough to walk around but interesting enough to keep you there for several days, and a good base for exploring Sarawak. It’s safe and relatively clean.
10. Penang (Malaysia)
Visitors will find Penang brimming with charming historic buildings, ornate religious sites, sandy beaches, kampungs surrounded by rice paddies, vast unbeaten jungles, all topped with a splash of bustling city life. Hailed as the food capital of Malaysia and sometimes likened to Singapore fifty years ago, Penang has become a popular destination with plenty on offer for those who visit.
9. Hanoi (Vietnam)
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, and also its second largest city, is a fascinating blend of East and West, with Chinese influence from centuries of dominance, and French je ne sais quoi from its colonial past. It was largely unspoiled by the modern architecture of the 1970s and 80s, and is now undergoing a rapid transformation that makes it a rising star in Southeast Asia.
8. Hoi An (Vietnam)
Hoi An, once known as Faifo, with more than 2,000 years of history, was the principal port of the Cham Kingdom, which controlled the strategic spice trade with Indonesia from the 7th-10th centuries and was a major international port in the 16th and 17th centuries. The foreign influences are discernible to this day.
7. Chiang Mai (Thailand)
Chiang Mai is the hub of Northern Thailand. On a plain at an elevation of 316 m, surrounded by mountains and lush countryside, it is much greener and quieter than the capital and has a cosmopolitan air and a significant expatriate population, all factors which have led many from Bangkok to settle permanently in this “rose of the north”.
6. Luang Prabang (Laos)
Luang Prabang is the former capital of Laos and a UNESCO World Heritage city. Set at the confluence of two rivers that almost surround the town, and beneath a temple-topped hill, Luang Prabang is a wonderful patchwork of traditional Lao wooden houses and hints of European architecture, reminders of when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochine.
5. Halong Bay (Vietnam)
Ha Long Bay is in northern Vietnam, 170 km east of Hanoi. The bay is famous for its scenic ocean karst topography and is often included on lists of natural wonders of the world. The Ha Long Bay archipelago is made up of 1,969 islands, both settled and uninhabited.
4. Ko Tao (Thailand)
Ko Tao was once a detention place for political prisoners similar to Ko Tarutao of Satun Province, but today it is a great place for divers or anybody who wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of Ko Samui or the chaos of the Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan. The island is geared towards diving tourists more than backpackers on a budget.
3. Bangkok (Thailand)
Its high-rise buildings, heavy traffic congestion, intense heat and naughty nightlife do not immediately give you a warm welcome — but don’t let your first impression mislead you. It is one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities with magnificent temples and palaces, authentic canals, busy markets and a vibrant nightlife that has something for everyone.
2. Temples of Angkor (Cambodia)
Angkor Archaeological Park, near Siem Reap in northern Cambodia, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Stretching over some 400 square kilometres, including forested area, Angkor contains the magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to the 15th centuries, including the largest pre-industrial city in the world.
1. Bali (Indonesia)
Bali, the famed Island of the Gods, stakes a serious claim to be paradise on earth. Its varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides provide a picturesque backdrop to its colourful, deeply spiritual and unique culture.