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Southeast Asia is a diverse region. The countries in it have a shared history and culture and beautiful landscapes and cityscapes that set the region apart from the rest of the world. The region is also an affordable destination to visit because of cheap flights (if you book early enough), accommodation, food, and transportation. Most importantly, it’s also visa-free for Filipinos.
I have yet to see all that Southeast Asia has to offer, but here are some places you’d want to add to your Southeast Asia travel bucket list.
- Coron – Coron is quieter than El Nido with plenty of the same beautiful beaches and lagoons. Go island hopping, snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming. Don’t miss out on taking a photo with the iconic gigantic rock formation before dipping into the waters of Kayangan Lake.
- El Nido – El Nido has developed at a fast paced since the first time I visited in 2013. Gone are the days when electricity wasn’t 24 hours and there were no ATMs. Many tourists have discovered this once hidden paradise. Don’t let the crowds deter you from visiting. El Nido still has some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the country. Island hopping is a must during your visit.
- Boracay – Boracay might just be the most touristy destination in the Philippines, but despite this, it’s a place you should visit at least once. The fine white sand and the crystal-clear waters are enough reasons to go. However, the highlight of a trip for me is the magical sunset (cliché but worth it).
- Batad – If hiking is your thing, Batad Rice Terraces is a must. The hike to the different viewpoints might be tiring, but the overlooking views you get are spectacular. The cool weather is a bonus for visitors who want to beat the heat.
- Batanes – Rolling hills, beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, and a rustic charm, what more could you ask for? Batanes is a noteworthy destination and should be on your bucket list when visiting the Philippines.
- Mt. Rinjani – Nature lovers and adventure seekers would want to add Mt. Rinjani to their itinerary while traveling around Indonesia. This active volcano is open to hikers who are willing to take on the challenge. You can find packages that offer multi-day tours with routes to the peak, just the crater lake, or both.
- Borobudur – This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It has more than 2,000 relief panels and hundreds of Buddha statues. It dates to the 9th century during the Sailendra Dynasty. Luckily for tourists, Borobudur is an easy day trip from Yogyakarta. Sunrise is an ideal time to visit the temple.
- Prambanan – This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site you might want to visit in Indonesia. It’s the largest Hindu temple complex in the country and is only second to Angkor Wat in the region. This destination is also a popular day trip from Yogyakarta and is often combined in one day trip with Borobudur.
- Tanjung Aan – Indonesia is full of beautiful beaches; one beach I would recommend adding to your bucket list is Tanjung Aan. Located in Lombok, Tanjung Aan has powdery white sand and turquoise-tinged waters.
- Bali – This Indonesian island is a popular destination because of its beaches, temples, and overall ambiance. It’s touristy, but there are still spots where you can get away from the crowds and enjoy nature. Go temple hopping, go to a spa, rent a motorbike or car to explore on your own, go surfing, or simply hang out at one of the beaches.
- Penang – Georgetown is Penang’s most famous destination. It used to be under British colonial rule. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site with plenty of heritage buildings, cafés, restaurants, museums, and shops. It’s also famous for the street art you’ll find in different spots in the city. As Malaysia’s food capital, make sure to try some of the local dishes such as Char Koay Teow, Nasi Kandar, Penang Assam Laksa, Curry Mee, and Penang Cendol.
- Melaka – Melaka City is a famous tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Malaysia. Its waterfront is lined with colorful buildings with murals, cafes, accommodation, and shops. The Red Square is a vestige of the former Dutch colonizers. Jonker Street is your go-to spot for street food and shopping.
- Petronas Towers – These twin towers in Kuala Lumpur finished construction and opened to the public in the late ’90s. Both used to be the tallest buildings in the world until it was surpassed by others over the years. The Petronas Towers are part of Kuala Lumpur’s beautiful cityscape.
- Marina Bay Sands – Singapore is full of architectural wonders; one of them is Marina Bay Sands. This luxurious hotel and casino might be out of many people’s budgets, but it’s simply a marvel to look at even from the outside.
- Gardens by the Bay – This destination is a must-visit while in Singapore. One of the most impressive man-made structures in the country is located here: the Supertrees. The latter is part of Singapore’s impressive cityscape. You can spend an entire day visiting the attractions of Gardens by the Bay such as the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest.
- Universal Studios – If you love amusement parks, you’ll want to visit Universal Studios in Singapore. Spend the entire day experiencing all the rides and watch some of the shows during your visit.
- Luang Prabang – This quaint and historic destination in Laos doesn’t disappoint. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its cultural significance and its well-preserved combination of traditional and French colonial architectural styles. Visit one of its many temples, watch the sunset at Mount Phousi, and try waking up early to participate or get a glimpse of the alms giving.
- Patuxai – Located in Vientiane, the Patuxai is a war monument built somewhere between the late 1950s to the late 1960s. It was built to honor those who fought for the independence of the country from France.
- Pha That Luang – This golden stupa in Vientiane is considered a national symbol and monument. Its golden appearance glimmers in the day and at night.
- Kuang Si Waterfalls – This beautiful natural wonder is a possible day trip during your stay in Luang Prabang. You can dip into one of the many waterfalls and pools during your visit. The walk around is easy and mostly flat.
- Bagan’s Temples – Bagan is a fascinating destination littered with temples as far as the eyes can see. Thousands of temples are in the Bagan Archaeological Zone which is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Myanmar isn’t exactly atop people’s bucket lists, but for the interested and adventurous, a trip to Bagan is worth it.
- Shwedagon Pagoda – The Shwedagon Pagoda is also known as the Golden Pagoda. It lives true to its moniker with its glistening golden exterior. It’s a famous and recognizable centuries-old landmark in Yangon (an interesting city in its own right). Make sure to visit the pagoda in the morning or afternoon and at night.
- Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) – Located in Chiang Rai, Wat Rong Khun or also known as the White Temple, is a must-see whenever you decide to visit Northern Thailand. Chalermchai Kositpipat is the architect behind the temple’s design. Its striking façade and details symbolize the journey to happiness and the wickedness of people.
- Maya Bay – If you’re old enough to be familiar with Leonard DiCaprio’s movie The Beach, you’d want to tick off Maya Bay from your Southeast Asia bucket list. Anyway, even if you’ve never heard of the movie, you’d still want to visit this destination in Thailand. The powdery shore, rock formations, and the mesmerizing waters will lure you in. Since its reopening, many restrictions are in place and enforced to preserve Maya Bay. Just follow the rules and you can still enjoy your visit.
- Grand Palace – Bangkok is a backpacking mecca and an urban jungle. Amid this chaos is the Grand Palace. The latter is a huge complex dating to the 18th century. The complex is also the venue for many royal ceremonies and state events. You’ll find administrative offices and the famous Temple of the Emerald Buddha within its walls.
- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – If ever you’re in Chiang Mai, add Doi Suthep to your itinerary. It’s a sacred site to Buddhists and is also a popular tourist attraction.
- Cu Chi Tunnels – These networks of tunnels functioned as hospitals, supply routes, food storages, weapon caches, living quarters, and other functions during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong effectively and successfully used these tunnels to fend off the invading Americans.
- Ha Long Bay – This destination is a popular day or multi-day trip from Hanoi. Go on a cruise and marvel at the beautiful landscapes of Ha Long Bay. Depending on the tour you book, you’ll make stops at caves and/or beaches. Soak in the views and have a relaxing trip to Ha Long Bay.
- Hoi An – Hoi An’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is full of charm. It does get crowded when the tourists arrive; however, there are times when you could walk around with little to no people. The town is also quite picturesque, making it a popular choice for couples’ photoshoots.
- Ninh Binh – It is often called the “Ha Long Bay on land” because of its similar looking landscapes to its counterpart. This part of Vietnam boasts beautiful views of the mountains and towering tooth-like formations. Visit Trang An, Hang Mua, and the Van Long Nature Reserve during your trip.
- Angkor Wat – This destination is often synonymous with Cambodia and is often the first thing that comes to mind when anyone mentions the country. This ancient complex deserves all the wonder and adjectives you attach to it. Angkor Wat showcases the long and storied past of Cambodia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-visit when traveling through Southeast Asia.
- Beng Mealea – Angkor Wat is the most famous complex in Cambodia; however, Beng Mealea deserves a visit as well. This temple complex is in a far more ruinous state compared to the Angkor complex. Its stone building blocks, walls, and foundations are overgrown with vegetation or covered with moss, giving it a jungle-like feel.
- Angkor Thom – King Jayavarman VII had this complex built. Its most distinguishing feature is the many stone faces you’ll see during your visit.
- Killing Fields – Pol Pot’s reign of terror in Cambodia led to the death of millions including children, seniors, minority groups, intellectuals, and even members of the Khmer Rouge because of suspected treason. Visiting the fields and museums and hearing and reading about their stories is a sobering experience.
- Royal Palace – Located in Brunei, the Istana Nurul Iman is regarded as the “world’s largest residential palace” by the Guinness World Records. It has more than 1,700 rooms, a mosque that can accommodate more than 1,000 people, and a banquet hall that can accommodate 5,000 guests. It’s only open to the public during Eid-ul-Fitr. As an additional tidbit, Filipino architect Leandro Locsin designed the palace complex.
These are only some of the places you can add to your Southeast Asia bucket list. There’s plenty of other destinations you can visit when you explore the region. – Rappler.com
Joshua Berida is a writer that loves to travel. He blogs at www.thewanderingjuan.net.
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