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
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.