No longer seen merely as an exotic counterpart to the Occident, South-East Asia has developed an identity all its own over the past few years. You will find very little homogeneity in ASEAN, with every country priding itself on a distant identity concerning culture, religion, cuisine, and traditions.
This vast region is an overwhelming mix of landscapes, from verdant, rolling hills, and isolated islands with white-sand beaches to thick forests and intriguing caves. You can enjoy a range of diverse experiences, and no matter what type of traveler you are, you will find that one special place that will have you returning repeatedly. There are beaches to bum about on, temples, and architectural marvels to visit, hills aplenty to hike, tea estates to unwind at and a whole lot of truly incredible foods to experiment with.
Because we know that you could spend your entire life trying to uncover all of South-East Asia’s treats and not make much headway, we have brought together a collection of the best, unique experiences on offer in the ASEAN countries.
Get off the highway and wander down little, hidden by-lanes where you will discover everything from forgotten tribes, to a mosque built of pure gold, and a swimming pool on top of the world.
Best Travel Ideas for Southeast Asia
This is a cocktail of a country, potent and heady. The Philippines does not believe in leaving anything out, so its 7,000-plus islands boast Malay, Chinese, Spanish and indigenous influences, not to mention religious traditions rooted in Islam. Catholicism, animism and everything in between. This country crams as much on its plate as it possibly can, so you will need a clear head to take it all in.
Philippines: At a Glance
Experience the Best Attractions of Philippines
- A Shot of Culture: Intramuros, the Spanish walled city within Manila, has a history and culture all its own, and is worth spending a day or two exploring. Start at the Intramuros Visitors Centre, located right by the entrance to Fort Santiago, and wander about the lanes lined with lovely casas until you reach San Augustin, Manila’s oldest stone church. You can also tour Intramuros on a kalesa—a horse-drawn carriage, though walking has its own charm.
- Surf’s Up: If your beach bum-turn-surfer self is calling out to you, head to Siargao, in the northeast of Mindanao. Time seems to stand still here, as you hitch rides on the famous Cloud 9 break and gaze, over chilled beer, upon skies softening into sunsets. In October, crowds descend on the sleepy island for the Siargao Cup surf competition, one of the Philippines’s largest sporting events.
- A Whole New World: The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River is a marvel of limestone stalactites and stalagmites, and can be accessed on a kayak tour. As you drift into the cave, take in the weird formations sculpted out of the rock over the centuries. You will spot a melting candle by one side, or a rampaging dinosaur on the other!
- Fall Off the Grid: Apo Reef is off the tourist map, which means that you will have the secluded Apo Reef Island and its surrounding reef pretty much all to yourself. You will have a great time being one with the fish as you swim, snorkel, and dive to your heart’s content, emerging only for meals of fresh seafood.
- An Active Getaway: Climb to the top of the overwhelming Taal Volcano in Talisay, where the bubbling green waters of the Taal Lake await. Within the lake sits yet another volcano, steaming away gently. The trip to the top can be tiring but there are horses available for the less active, and the views from up there are well worth the journey.
- Retail Therapy: Indulge yourself in Metro Manila’s financial heart, Makati City, and its Greenbelt mall. You will find a range of treats here—the mall has both open-air and enclosed areas, sit-down as well as fast food eateries, and big international brands (think Calvin Klein, Hermes, and the like) along with high-end and Filipino designer boutiques.
- Hop About: Head to the pristine islands off the coast at gorgeous El Nido. There are multiple islands to choose from, each of which is prettier than the other. You can spend your days lazing about on white sands, exploring the area on kayaks and snorkeling among the many colorful fish that call these waters home. If you are lucky you may spot a hawksbill turtle or two, and you may come across dolphins, whale sharks, dugongs, and mantra rays.
- Be Bucolic: Get a taste of the Filipino countryside and spend some time amid Banaue’s rice terraces. These rice terraces are a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site, gracefully sculpted into the hillside by the Ifugao people of this quiet little farming community.
- Get High: You could be forgiven for thinking you are in Scotland when you visit Batanes, the country’s northernmost province. Expect rolling green hills, towering fortresses and the like among the ten islands here.
- Life’s a Feast: You will have a great time going on an eating binge in the Philippines, especially if you love meat. Pork, in particular, plays a big role in the cuisine here, and a slow-roasted suckling pig is the best treat to be had. Even if you are not a big pork-eater, Manila is where you should aim to experiment with your eats and get an introduction to the many flavors that make up Filipino food.
Mandalay, Bagan, Inle, and Yangon—these names all conjure up the wonder that is Myanmar, at least in a traveler’s mind. Now, you have the freedom to venture a little farther as well. With recent reforms easing restrictions in this proud country, it is finally time to see what Myanmar has been hiding away all these years.
Myanmar: At a Glance
Experience the Best Attractions of Myanmar
- Architecture 101: Former capitals are full of old glory and great architecture, and Yangon is not far behind. Spend the day marveling at the colossal reclining Buddha at Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, the gold-hued Botataung Pagoda and Sule Pagoda, the Burmese Yangon City and the colonial-styled Supreme Court.
- Hunt for Bargains: The Bogyoke Aung San Market (sometimes known by its British name, Scott’s Market) is a sprawling old handicrafts bazaar of around 2,000 shops. Spend the day alongside locals, haggling for colorful Shan shoulder bags, and interesting bits of local arts and crafts, jewelry, ancient antiques, and lacquer ware.
- It’s All Rice: Rice, in all its forms, is a staple in the distinctive cuisine of Myanmar. Rice noodles served with fish soup, known locally as mohinga, are a favorite breakfast dish, and are usually eaten on special occasions.
- Get a Bird’s Eye View: Climb up Mandalay Hill for an all-encompassing view of how flat Mandalay really is. You will see the Irrawaddy twisting across the land from up here, while you help a local monk brush up his English. This hallowed spot is where Buddha once prophesied the founding of a great city.
- Row, Row, Row Your Boat: Surrounded by greenery and marshes, cool morning mists, villages of houses on stilts and floating gardens, the Inle Lake is usually pretty. You can get around the lake on a motorized canoe, or ask around if you want to float about on a traditional flat-bottomed Intha skiff.
- Art Lessons: Bagan, in the Mandalay region, brims with graceful ruins of old temples, pagodas, and stupas. Between Old and New Bagan, the village of Myinkaba boasts an age-old lacquer ware tradition; you can spend hours rummaging through excellently crafted cups, plates, and boxes, wondering just how many you can fit into your luggage.
- Wander through Ruins: Thayekhittaya or the ‘Fabulous City’ a Pyu capital of long ago, was destroyed almost as long ago by Chinese invaders, and today, it has been nominated for a UNESCO World Heritage listing. Rumble through the ruins among the overgrown bush on an ox cart, and explore the Bawbawgyi Pagoda, one of the oldest in the city, and the Leimyethna Pagoda, with Buddhist relief carvings.
- Pagoda Sunsets: Make your way up to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon as the sun begins to set, the golden spires of the temple light up, monks glide past and local residents trickle in to pay their respects as the sky takes on various colors of pink, oranges and blues. Look for a quiet spot, settle down, and enjoy the peace of the evening.
- Find Your Spiritual Side: Go forth and find your holy spirit at Mount Popa, an extinct volcano and the abode of 37 nats or local spirits, once so important that the early kings were rumored to consult them on crucial matters. The solitary peak is covered in stupas; the statues at the base are of the spirits.
- I am with Stupa: Sagaing lies along the Irrawaddy River, across the only bridge that spans it. It is dotted with white and gold pagodas that shimmer away in the sun, and if you clamber up the tree-hung stairways past ancient monasteries that lead up to various viewpoints, the spectacle of stupas is something else.
The Indonesian archipelago is a incredible blend of exceptional cultures, adventure experiences, and indigenous wildlife that goes way beyond the much-explored realms of Bali. There is no better way to step off the tourist trail and have a assortment of holiday stories that no one else will than with a trip through these 17,000 islands
Indonesia: At a Glance
Experience the Best Attractions of Indonesia
- Get Your Cocoa On: ‘Monggo’ is Javanese for ‘please, go ahead’ and when you taste these scrumptious Indonesian chocolates, you will definitely want to go ahead and eat them by the handful. If Willy Wonka lived outside our heads, we are sure that these scrumptious, dark, locally made treats would be his trademark. Leave room in your bag for them!
- Dive into the Deep: Far away and remote, the sparkling clear emerald green waters of the Gill Islands off Lombok are stunning, and diving heaven. Get your scuba gear on—there are hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles, manta rays, reef sharks, lionfish and many funny looking parrotfish to rub fins with swimming amid all the colorful coral.
- Truly In-spired: Huge temples in rice fields seem to be South East Asia’s thing, and, just like Angkor War, Borobudur is spectacular in itself. An enigmatic Buddhist temple complex rising out of too-green-to-be-true rice paddies, surrounded by volcanic peaks reaching for the skies, it looks like it arrived at the beginning of time. There are monasteries around at which visitors are welcome; you can even join the monks in the prayer chanting.
- Tail Tales: Watch out for forked, snake-like tongues on Komodo Island, notable because its home to the world’s largest lizard, the unique and badass Komodo dragon. The largest island in Komodo National Park, surrounded by pink shores and red coral, it is also where you can trek and walk through rural fishing villages on stilts.
- Shop Your Way through Seminyak: Glitzy Seminyak, home to galleries, local Balinese boutiques, restaurants and excellent hotels lining the beaches, is a whole other world. Go window-shopping on Abhimanyu Street, famous for its exclusive boutiques.
- Misty Mountaintops: Climb up the smoky volcanic hills of Berastagi, where it is always cool and green. Gunung Sibayak and Gunung Sinabung each take a day to hike, and are very easy to get to.
- Art it Up: As you saw in Eat, Pray, Love was very real— Ubud is serene, impossibly green, and full of art and character. Spend your days soaking in the culture, browsing through local artisans’ shops and whiling the afternoons away in a cafe.
- Eat Your Heart Out: If you will come back missing something, all bets are on the food. Indonesian cuisine is mouth-watering, colorful and for lack of a better word, delicious. Snack on lightly spiced nasi goreng topped with a fried egg for breakfast, lap up fiery curries and banana-wrapped fish, and enjoy that staple, spicy chili-flavored sambal.
- Go Local: Just east of Bali, the islands of Nusa Tenggara are diverse. Discover native animistic rituals and long-running tribal traditions that co-exist alongside Islamic Lombok and Catholic Bores.
- Of Coffee and Rhinos: Java has a fair bit going for it. Surrounded by the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean, there are temples, tropical islands, and brilliant surf breaks. Glug down some of that world famous Javan coffee, and go looking for the Javan rhino, one of the rarest mammals in the world.
Gorgeous beaches, buzzing, neon-lit cities, great food, idyllic countryside … there is little that this country does not have to offer. You may find yourself most comfortable on Hanoi’s slim by-lanes, or prefer the vast, open spaces of Holong Bay, but one thing’s for sure – Vietnam definitely punches above its weight.
Vietnam: At a Glance
Experience the Best Attractions of Vietnam
- Time Travel: A trip to Hoi An’s Ancient Town is a trip into another era—one of a cosmopolitan trading port with Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese influences. The narrow, sun-washed lanes are a joy to explore, with ancestral homes, assembly halls, and pagodas to stop in at for a break.
- Easy Riders: Go back to a simpler time with a visit to Mai Chau. This verdant valley is a world away from the buzz of Vietnam’s cities, and is surrounded by rolling hills carpeted by lush rice-paddy fields. Mai Chau is also home to some hill tribes, and you could learn more about their culture by spending a night or two in their homes.
- Market Days: Get a taste of modern-day Vietnamese life with a cruise down the River Mekong to the Cal Be floating market. This colorful market is where many locals trade in fresh fruits and vegetables.
- A Flash of Color: Once the home of Vietnamese prisoners, the pristine beauty of the Con Dan Islands will be quick to charm you. This chain of 15 islands is a lovely mix of great beaches, colorful reefs, stunning bays, and thick forest cover.
- Tunnel Vision: No matter how much you may have read about it, nothing prepares you for the maze of tunnels that run under Cu Chi, near Ho Chi Minh City. These tunnels were used by the Vietnamese as a way to evade the American forces, and provide an insight to life through the Vietnamese War.
- Hue Calling: Once the capital of the Nguyen Empire, Hue is worth spending a few days in. Bisected by the Perfume River, so called because in autumn, flowers from upstream scent its waters, this city has a wealth of architectural marvels to be discovered.
- Lessons Learned: For an introduction to Vietnam’s history, a visit to the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is necessary. The Reunification Palace has been maintained as it was at the time of the Fall of Saigon. The War Remnants Museum, divided into three levels, explains the Vietnam War through photographs and accounts from survivors, and makes for a poignant experience.
- Water Ways: While you are in Hanoi, go for a water puppet performance. This enthralling show depicts Vietnamese life, and is great if you are travelling with kids. Modern Vietnam continues the theater tradition that started with farmers and the rural community using puppets that they held up as they stood up to their waists in the water of the rice paddies.
- Meat Feast: Bun bo Hue is a central Vietnamese take on noodle soup. A rich, luscious broth filled with beef, pork, and thick rice noodles, this makes for a fuller meal than noodle meals in the north and south of the country.
- Dune Deal: Look out across the desert-like horizon and you will wonder if you are in the Sahara. The sand dunes of Mui Ne seem as though they would be more at home there than in south-east Vietnam. Grab a board and surf the sandy waves, then stop and admire the lovely lotus lakes hidden within them.
A melting pot of thriving culture, gorgeous landscapes, filled with everything from islands to beaches to major metropolises, Malaysia is the throbbing force in the heart of South East Asia. A popular honeymoon and holiday destination, there’s lots to do and discover here, for both the laid-back traveler and the adventurous explorer
Malaysia: At a Glance
Experience the Best Attractions of Malaysia
- Luxury in Langkawi: If you are looking for a lazy, luxuriant vacation with lots of sun, sea and sand, head to Langkawi for a holiday amid beautiful surroundings, lush rainforests, mysterious mangroves and an abundance of wildlife and marine creatures in this archipelago of 99 islands, which is also a designated UNESCO GeoPark.
- Hippie Hideaway: Lying off the northeast coast of peninsular Malaysia, Perhentian is a veritable haunt for backpackers and wandering artists. The waters here are clear, so much so that you can snorkel straight off the beach and still see a wide array of marine creatures. If you are feeling a little more active, you can hire a boat and spend a day swimming with sharks and turtles, then hit the beach bars in the evening.
- Picture-perfect Tioman: Used as a backdrop in the musical South Pacific, Tioman is known as one of the exquisite islands in the world on account of its tear-topography, rich marine if and blue waters. Its natural beauty, countless kinds of and sea creatures are only a few of Tioman’s many charms.
- Place to Indulge: A little indulgence is in order on every holiday and you cannot get better than Pangkor for just that. The Pangkor Laut Resort is set amid a rainforest and you will be surrounded by lapping water, white sand, and stunning Emerald Bay during all your pampering.
- Underwater Art: Rising 600 meters from the seabed and formed by living corals growing on an extinct volcano over thousands of years, Sipadan hosts all manner of beautiful marine life. Home to 3,000 species of fish, including sharks, rays and parrotfish, the pearl of this region is the famous Turtle Tomb, located in an underwater labyrinth.
- Food & Fusion in Penang: A unique mixture of east and west and deliciously flavorful cuisine makes Penang a great spot for visitors. It is known for sandy beaches, monuments, historical and cultural discoveries, and oodles of old-world charm.
- White Sands: Forming a marine park of nine islands off the eastern peninsular Malaysian state of Terengganu, the Redang archipelago is the perfect summer destination, with pristine beaches and inviting waters. For a change from the perfectly preserved coral and smooth sands, Redang has plenty of interesting wildlife, including deer and monitor lizards.
- Island Getaway: If you are looking for a few days away from the cities, Sibu Island beckons. An idyllic holidaymakers’ paradise, Sibu offers quiet beaches, resorts, and lessons in diving and snorkeling for the amateur water-baby.
- No Kidding About: Give your little ones (and yourself) a special treat and pencil in some time for the very cool Legoland that is opened in Johor. Your day will go by before you know it! The resort opened on 15-Sep-2012 with over 40 interactive rides, shows and attractions.
- Going Sour: A sour fish soup, asam laksa is one of Malaysia’s favorite dishes. Asam (or asam jawa) is the Malay word for tamarind. The main ingredients are shredded fish, cucumber, onions, red chilies, pineapple, lettuce, and pink bunga kantan (torch ginger). Asam laksa is normally served with rice noodles or vermicelli, and topped with a sweet shrimp paste.
Rich in oil, yet oozing with unspoilt charm, Brunei is too often dismissed by travelers. Nestled between the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah, Brunei is almost entirely covered by pristine tropical rainforest with vibrant cultural landscapes that’s just waiting to be explored
Brunei: At a Glance
Experience the Best Attractions of Brunei
- Heavenly Beauty: With a dome made of pure gold, imported marble from Italy and a man-made lagoon, the Sultan Omar All Saifuddien Mosque is the pride of Bandar Seri Begawan. The mosque is visible from anywhere in the city, and the view from the top of the main minaret is enough to make you believe in heaven. At night, the mosque is lit up, literally illuminating its splendor!
- Dive Right In: Some of the best diving sites in the world are located off the coast of Brunei. The good news is, most of them have not been discovered yet. As an explorer, you therefore gain access to serene, clear waters, unspoilt reefs, and marine life and discover a few shipwrecks all on your own before the crowd gets wind of them.
- Midnight Feast: You are on holiday; you should be able to eat anytime you feel like it. Indulge those annoying nighttime hunger pangs at the Pasar Gadong night market. Choose from a tempting array of kebabs, seafood, and noodles, or taste a bit of all if you cannot make a choice. The food here is delicious and very affordable, and it will be hard to tear yourself away from all those tasty treats.
- Eat What?: Ambuyat, Brunei’s national dish, may raise a few eyebrows, but its fun to eat and even more fun to share. The dish is starchy and rather glue-like and is made from the sago palm, but its flavor comes from the cacah, or the variety of dips used to eat it with.
- Get Bucolic: Go back in time and discover the roots of Brunei, its time-honored traditions and rituals showcased through a homestay in a Bruneian village. The residents of Kampong Sungai Matan will be delighted to have you as a guest and will gladly share their way of life with you, demonstrating cooking methods, local customs, and arts and crafts and how to fish like a true Brunei native.
- Early Bird: Get yourself out of bed early for a sunrise safari through the Ulu Temborong National Park. This is a lush spot with more than a few mischievous monkeys you will need to watch out for. The view from the top of the 60 feet canopy, and the active local wildlife are worth waking up for.
- Life on the Water at Kampong Ayer: The pulse of Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, Kampong Ayer is the world’s largest water village, having been inhabited for an impressive 1,000 years. Get yourself a water taxi and go meet the locals in their stilt houses, set amid an array of wooden boardwalks and bridges.
- Wealth of Art: The Royal Regalia Museum gives you a glimpse of what life in the lap of luxury looks like. You will see treasures and ceremonial costumes from the Sultan’s own collection.
- Meet the Royals: The end of Ramadan heralds the festival of Hari Raya, Brunei’s biggest celebration of the year. During this time, the Sultan and his family throw open the doors of their palace and greet people in person. While you are getting friendly with the royals, you can also take a long look at Istana Nurul Iman, the largest residential palace in the world.
- Live among the Stars: The Empire Hotel and Country Hotel will astound you with its opulence. With a shopping arcade, a cinema, a private beach, and a golf course, among others, on the grounds, it is worth a visit even if you are not staying here. Fun fact: The Emperor Suite here has hosted both Prince Charles and Bill Clinton, and has carpets flecked with real gold!
Millions of visitors flock to the ‘Land of Smiles’ every year and it is easy to see why. Whether you want to party, laze on a beach, or stuff yourself with local delicacies, Thailand has something for everyone. Beyond its more obvious attractions, however, a little deeper exploration yields up Thailand’s subtler charms.
Thailand: At a Glance
Experience the Best Attractions of Thailand
- Boxing Days: Grueling training sessions, a rudimentary diet and sparse facilities—these are the staples of training for Muay Thai or Thai boxing. There are special camps run across the country that offer short-term courses for visitors. Most have English-speaking instructors, and training periods can range from one day to a few weeks. Check out the Lanna Muay Thai Boxing Camp in Chiang Mai and the Muay Thai Institute in Bangkok.
- Biker Fun: Thailand is great for two-wheeled exploration, as long as you can deal with crazy traffic. Check out the Big Bike Company in Patong. They rent out Honda CB 400 cc motorbikes that are fun and fast. Your inner petrol head will certainly be happy, especially when you hit the long, winding roads.
- Cook up a Storm: If you love Thai food and like pottering in the kitchen, why not combine the two and take in a Thai cooking class. The Baipai Thai Cooking School in Bangkok is a well-known institute in a beautiful location, and offers short courses run by English-speaking instructors. If you are in Phuket, the Phuket Thai Cookery School offers you a haven from the noise and bustle of the city. Located on Siray Beach, you can couple your cooking classes with panoramic ocean views and then walk off a meal in the evening or even take a siesta on the wooden sundeck.
- Leave the Road Behind: Go off the beaten track and indulge in some soft adventure sports in Nakhon Nayok. From rappelling to cutting through forests and streams on ATVs and white-water rafting, there are lots here for the intrepid adventure-lover.
- Get Wet: Thailand turns into a free-for-all water park once a year. The Songkran Festival is an unrestrained water fight, and visitors are fair game, both to be soaked and to do the soaking Images of the Buddha are ‘bathed’ and young Thais seek the blessing of their elders by pouring scented water over their hands. Held at the peak of the hot season, Songkran is quite literally a chance for the entire country, and all its visitors, to cool off.
- Join the (Yacht) Club: If your sailor self has been feeling neglected for a while, and you are feeling especially indulgent, Thailand has many great yachting options. A sailing holiday in Thailand is an especially beautiful experience with the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea and swimming and snorkeling at your leisure. Most trips are around Phuket and Koh Samui, and you will get to see other islands as well.
- Kick Back: Take a break from all that activity at Koh Phangan’s Sanctuary Island Resort. The Sanctuary is a laid back, alternative health resort on a isolated beach fringed by tropical forest and tropical seas. Your mind and body will both leave refreshed and ready to take on the world again.
- Festival of Lights: Come November, Thailand transforms into a veritable fairyland of lights, Loi Krathong is Thailand’s festival of lights held on the full moon night of the 12th lunar month of the year. If you are lucky enough to be staying on the coast, you will be able to see lights stretching far out across the water. The word ‘loy’ means ‘to float’ while ‘krathong’ is the lotus-shaped receptacle. Originally, the krathong was made of banana leaves or a spider lily plant; it contains food, betel nuts, flowers, candles, and coins.
- Soup It Up: Thailand is known for its spicy, flavorful food and tom yum soup is one of the country’s best-known dishes. This clear, hot-and-sour soup combines herbs, spices, and seafood to great effect.
- Get Inked: Experience tattooing like no place else at Wat Bang Phra. The monks here create delicate sak yant (also known as yantra tattoos) following age-old methods, and bless them afterwards.
Laos was not really thought of as a tourist destination until the 1990s, when people realized it had more to offer than just pachyderms and Buddhist monks. Even as elephants and religion continue to drive the country, there are also dramatic landscapes, ancient architectural ruins and much history to be discovered, making it a wonderful spot for the inquisitive traveler.
Laos: At a Glance
Experience the Best Attractions of Laos
- Take a Walk: A blend of traditional architecture and urban structures, Luang Prabang is made for ambling around in. Make a stop at the Royal Palace Museum before heading on to discover the War Nong, Wat Sene, and Wat Khili temples. Chill for a bit at Dara Market, and later catch the sunset from the boat pier.
- Do a Temple Run: Visit one of the oldest temples in Luang Prabang—Wat Visounnarath, which is home to the incredible That Mak Mo stupa. However, the most beautiful temple in Luang Prabang has to be Wat Xieng Thong, whose tiered roofs sweep low almost to touch the ground. The temple is considered a archetypal example of the Luang Prabang style of architecture.
- A Different Treat: Jump straight into the native experience and try a serving of fried crickets. These crunchy snacks are available both at street-side stalls and in some cafes and eateries, and are best eaten hot, and with an open mind! Khop Chai Deu in Vientiane is a safe place at which to try crickets and other local delicacies.
- Buddha Says: The Pak Ou Caves are a short trip upstream from Luang Prabang. This network of caves at the convergence of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers is where you will find hundreds of Buddha statues left by devotees over the centuries.
- Explore Hidden Caves: The capital of the Khammouane province in south-central Laos, Thakhaek is a small municipality dotted with lots of lovely French architecture. However, its main draw lies in its limestone mountains—the site of hundreds of unexplored caves, including some that are believed to keep undiscovered treasures. How is that for adventure? The most well known among these is the 7.5km-long Kong Lor Cave. Also worth a dekko is the Buddha Cave, which holds, as the name suggests, rows and rows of gorgeous Buddha statues.
- Take a Cooking Class: If you have fallen in love with Lao food, take a cooking class so that you can whip up some of your favorite dishes back home. Tamarind offers cooking classes that give you a crash course in Lao cuisine, followed by a visit to the market to pick out fresh ingredients. You can learn to make mok pa, a dish of herbed fish steamed in banana leaves, or laab, a minced-meat and herb salad, among other tasty treats.
- Heritage up Top: Overlooking the Mekong River valley, the incredibly well preserved Wat Phu Champasak Temple complex is more than a thousand years old. Lined with jacaranda trees, this Khmer-styled temple was originally dedicated to Shiva, and later converted into a Buddhist temple. As you are walking around soaking in all the history and culture, keep your eyes peeled for the funny crocodile and elephant stones.
- Fun in the Water: Drive, trek, or hitchhike your way past forests, villages, and rice fields to the cascading waters of the Kwang Si Waterfalls. Dive in for a bit of a paddle, walk up for pretty views, and then dig into your picnic basket for a well-deserved meal. Remember to stop at the Asiatic Black Bear Rescue Centre that looks after bears rescued from poachers.
- Mountain Shrines: Bang in the heart of Luang Prabang’s old town, Mount Phou Si is a small hill of religious significance to the locals. It is sandwiched between the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, and offers great vistas over the city. Two shrines call Mount Phou Si home, namely War Phou Si, halfway up to the top, and Wat Chom Si, which sits at the peak.
- Night Owls: While Luang Prabang has no dearth of charms through the day, its night market is worth exploring, too. With what is possibly the largest collection of Lao handicrafts available for sale in one place, it is a great place at which to buy souvenirs to take home.
Great things do come in small packages, and Singapore is the ideal example. From quirky, obscure bookshops, gritty designers and excellent cuisine to exemplary street food and sophisticated bars and watering holes and even extraordinary wildlife encounters, this power-packed country offers you a holiday experience you will definitely never forget.
Singapore: At a Glance
Experience the Best Attractions of Singapore
- Down the River: If you always wondered what lies beneath the waters of the Mississippi, you need look no further than in Asia’s first river-themed wildlife park. At River Safari, you will meet over 5,000 aquatic animals, spread out over 300 species. Documenting life in eight river habitats, here you will learn about the giant river otter, the endangered Mekong giant catfish, and much more. This is one experience you will not want to miss.
- Animal Magic: Known as one of the most spectacular zoos in the world, spread out over 26 hectares of intimate viewing platforms and sensitively constructed habitats, the Singapore Zoo is your ticket to wildlife wonderland. You could make friends with the free-ranging kangaroos in the Australian Outback, then head to the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia to see the Hamadryas baboons.
- Something Fishy: Singapore has some of the most superb seafood in the world, none more iconic than its chili crabs. Recognized as an unofficial national dish, this delightful dish involves crab slathered in a sweet-spicy sauce and served with fried mantou (buns) with which to mop up all of that extra sauce. No less well known are the pepper crabs. Served in a black-and-white pepper sauce, these are hugely enjoyable treats.
- Love’s in the Air: What better way to proclaim or re-affirm your love than at 165m above the ground in the world’s largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer is one of the most beautiful ways to take in the magic of Singapore. If you are looking to spend a special evening, book the Moet and Chandon Champagne Flight. Raise a glass of bubbly in this especially themed capsule as you take in the sights of the city and splurge on a romantic four-course meal that comes with a personal butler.
- Green Thumbs: If you are craving some open green space, this 101-hectare horticultural attraction with over 250,000 plants will give you just the breather you have been looking for. A mere five-minute walk from the city, the Gardens by the Bay are made up of three spaces—Bay Central, Bay South, and Bay East. The view from the promenade is resplendently beautiful and the grounds are a great spot for a stroll in the evening followed by a family picnic on the lush lawns amid plain trees.
- Filmi Business: All you movie lovers, who are always dying to be part of the action, get to Universal Studios. Go on rides designed to take you through the worlds of Madagascar, Shrek 4, and The Mummy Returns. Scream your lungs out on the world’s tallest dueling coaster ride at Battlestar Galactica and prepare to be amazed by unbelievable special effects in the Transformers ride.
- Flying High: Experience the heart-thumping rush of skydiving without the risks at IFly, the world’s first vertical wind tunnel for indoor skydiving. With a flying height of 17.22m (the equivalent of five storeys), anyone between seven to 106 years olds can fly. The technology ensures a high degree of safety, and the massive wind tunnel lets you try out free flying and even formation skydiving.
- Something for Everyone: There is not much that Clarke Quay does not have. Whether you are looking to eat, drink, party, or shop for antiques, this colorful entertainment center will have it. At night, the entire zone is lit up and the fountain grooves to suit the mood of the moment. With loads of dining, dancing, and partying options, Clarke Quay is a meeting place for people from across the world.
- Go Peranakan: Descendants of 17th century Chinese traders who migrated to the Malay Archipelago, the Peranakans, brought a rich convergence of Chinese and Malay cultures, with sparks of Dutch, Indonesian, and Portuguese influences, to Singapore. Along with religion and traditions, their food has distinguishing flavors, with recipes that have been handed down for generations, and is a must-try at restaurants like Blue Ginger on Tanjong Pagar Road.
- Dining with the Stars: Marina Bay Sands houses some of the most exquisite restaurants and celebrity-chef outposts in Singapore. Here, you can sample culinary masterpieces cooked up by some of the world’s best-known chefs, including Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, and Daniel Boulud.