Last updated on June 30, 2023

Southeast Asia was my first true backpacking trip, can’t even tell you how precious and valuable. I quit my pretty good job and sold my favourite car that I worked so hard to get to go for it. With no plan, no limitations and no rules, I got into a plane with one-way ticket. Best feeling ever! Southeast Asia is a region filled with diverse cultures, stunning landscapes, and rich history. From vibrant cities to idyllic islands, the adventure in this corner of the world never ends! Whether you are a nature lover, history enthusiast, or foodie, Southeast Asia has it all. I’m taking you through the top 10 must-see destinations in Southeast Asia, guaranteeing you an unforgettable adventure. So pack your bags, grab your passport, and get ready to explore the wonders of this magical region.

Top things to see in Bangkok-the world’s hottest city!

Why Southeast Asia is a must-visit destination.

Southeast Asia is unlike any other region in the world. It offers travelers a unique blend of rich history, diverse cultures, stunning landscapes, and unparalleled hospitality. Here are several reasons why Southeast Asia should be at the top of your travel bucket list:

  1. Rich Cultural Heritage – Southeast Asia is home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations, with a tapestry of cultures and traditions that date back thousands of years. From the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia to the majestic pagodas of Bagan in Myanmar, the region is a treasure trove of cultural landmarks and UNESCO World Heritage sites.
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  1. Natural Wonders: From the lush green rice terraces of Bali to the pristine beaches of Thailand, Southeast Asia boasts some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes on the planet. Whether you’re seeking adventure in the jungles of Borneo or relaxation on the white sandy beaches of Phuket, there is no shortage of natural wonders to explore.
  2. Culinary Delights: Southeast Asian cuisine is renowned for its flavors, diversity, and freshness. From the fiery street food of Bangkok to the fragrant spices of Malaysia, the region’s culinary scene is a vibrant melting pot of flavors and aromas. Whether you’re indulging in a bowl of pho in Vietnam or sampling the mouthwatering satay skewers of Indonesia, your taste buds are in for a treat.
  1. Warm Hospitality: Southeast Asians are known for their warm and welcoming nature. The locals take pride in their culture and are often eager to share their traditions and experiences with visitors. You can expect genuine hospitality and a sense of belonging as they immerse themselves in the local communities – best thing you can do in Asia! Go to yoga lessons, or meditation, explore temples. 
  2. Affordable Travel: Compared to other popular travel destinations, Southeast Asia offers incredible value for money. Accommodations, food, and transportation are generally more affordable, allowing travelers to stretch their budget and experience more for less. Whether you’re a budget backpacker or a luxury traveler, Southeast Asia caters to all types of travelers.
  1. Vibrant Cities: From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the modern skyline of Singapore, Southeast Asia’s cities are a vibrant mix of ancient traditions and modern innovations. Get lost in the labyrinthine streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, explore the rich colonial history of Yangon, or party the night away in the vibrant nightlife scene of Kuala Lumpur.
  2. Adventurous Activities: If you’re an adrenaline junkie, Southeast Asia has plenty to offer. Snorkel with vibrant marine life in the crystal-clear waters of Indonesia, hike through the dense jungles of Malaysia in search of rare wildlife, or go kayaking in the stunning limestone karsts of Halong Bay. Each region is an adventurer’s paradise. Check top 10 must-see destinations in Southeast Asia!

1. The cultural wonders of Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

When it comes to Southeast Asia’s must-visit destinations, Angkor Wat in Cambodia is at the top of the list. This magnificent archaeological site is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also one of the most important cultural wonders in the world. Here are three reasons why you should not miss the opportunity to visit Angkor Wat:

  1. A Testimony to a Glorious Past – Angkor Wat is a testament to the greatness of the Khmer Empire, which ruled over Southeast Asia for centuries. Built in the 12th century, this massive temple complex was the political and religious center of the empire. The intricate carvings and architectural marvels found within its walls showcase the incredible craftsmanship and artistic skills of the Khmer people.
  2. Architectural Grandeur: Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, covering an area of over 400 acres. Its iconic towers, moats, and intricate bas-reliefs make it an architectural masterpiece. The temple’s symmetrical design, inspired by Mount Meru, the sacred mountain in Hindu mythology, represents the mythical home of the gods. As you explore the temple complex, you’ll be awestruck by its grandeur and the attention to detail in every corner. For best tour option & prices check here. 

Spiritual Significance – Angkor Wat is not just a beautiful ancient temple; it is also a sacred site for Buddhists and Hindus. Originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, it later became a Buddhist site. Today, you can witness the fusion of both religions through the various statues and shrines found within the complex. The spiritual atmosphere and the presence of monks add to the serene ambiance of Angkor Wat, making it a truly special place for introspection and reflection.

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2. The natural beauty of Halong Bay, Vietnam.

As you explore top must-see destinations in Southeast Asia’s, one place that should not be missed is the breathtaking Halong Bay in Vietnam. Known for its stunning natural beauty, Halong Bay offers a truly unforgettable adventure. Even though it may be a little crowded and a lot of people say it has lost its charm, there are still few good reasons you should explore the region yourself. 

  1. Spectacular Landscapes – Halong Bay is famous for its limestone karsts and emerald green waters, creating a landscape that is nothing short of spectacular. As you will be cruising through the bay, you’ll be mesmerized by the sight of thousands of towering limestone pillars jutting out of the water. These karsts are covered in lush vegetation, creating a surreal and ethereal atmosphere. The bay is also dotted with numerous caves, grottos, and hidden beaches waiting to be explored. Whether you choose to kayak through the limestone formations or take a traditional junk boat cruise, the natural landscapes of Halong Bay will leave you in awe.
  2. Biodiversity Hotspot – Halong Bay is not only a visual feast but also a haven for biodiversity. The bay is home to hundreds of species of fish, coral reefs, and endemic flora and fauna. Exploring the underwater world of Halong Bay through snorkeling or diving will reveal a vibrant ecosystem brimming with life. You may encounter colorful fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins during your underwater adventures. On land, the surrounding rainforests are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, creating a paradise for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

3. Cultural Heritage – In addition to its natural wonders, Halong Bay is also steeped in cultural heritage. The bay has a rich history dating back thousands of years, with evidence of ancient human settlements and archaeological sites. The local communities living in and around Halong Bay have preserved their traditional ways of life, offering visitors a glimpse into the region’s cultural heritage. From fishing villages floating on the water to traditional crafts and culinary delights, immersing yourself in the local culture will add depth to your Halong Bay experience.

Visiting Halong Bay is still like stepping into a postcard-perfect paradise. Its natural beauty, diverse ecosystem, and cultural heritage make it a destination that will leave a lasting impression. Whether you choose to sail through the karsts, explore hidden caves, or simply relax on the pristine beaches, Halong Bay offers an adventure that is both awe-inspiring and rejuvenating. 

3. Borobudur - the most mistique place on earth, Indonesia.

Indonesia is a fascinating country (my second favourite after Thailand), it spreads over hundres of island, from which every is different in culture, local traditions and landscape. Indonesia covers five main islands and around 30 archipelagoes, all together brings it to more than 18 000 islands and over 6 000 inhabited. From Java (the main island with Jakarta – the capital city), Sumatra and Sulawesi to the frontier islands of Bali, Lombok, Komodo (Dragons Island) and Flores. The more west it gets, the more Christian Indonesia becomes. Locals told me the island name ‘Flores’ comes from Portuguese – flower.

Borobudur (temple hill) – world’s largest Buddhist temple was built between 750-850. It is located in Central Java and easily accessible from Yogyakarta. The history of the place is captured on its reliefs, covering the walls, presenting the life scenes of Buddha.

Opening Hours6 am – 5 pm/daily
Entrance Fee350,000 IDR ($25 USD)
Borobudur the most mistique place in Indonesia

4. Experiencing one and only Bangkok, Thailand.

No visit to Southeast Asia would be complete without experiencing the vibrant streets of Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. My favourite country in Asia! And the hottest in the world! Gosh you are always sweat.. no matter how many showers you had.. Full of energy, culture, and delicious cuisine (best ever!!), Bangkok offers a unique and unforgettable adventure. 

Bangkok is renowned for its bustling street markets, where you can find everything from delicious street food and local handicrafts to designer knock-offs and fashion accessories. The most famous market in Bangkok is Chatuchak Weekend Market, which spans over 27 acres and boasts more than 15,000 stalls. It’s a shopper’s paradise, offering a wide variety of products at bargain prices. Exploring the vibrant rows of stalls and bargaining with the friendly vendors is an experience not to be missed.

Temples and Palaces – Bangkok is home to a multitude of ornate temples and grand palaces that showcase the city’s rich history and cultural heritage. The most iconic temple is Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, with its towering spires and intricate mosaics. Another must-visit is the Grand Palace, a breathtaking complex that houses the revered Emerald Buddha statue. Exploring these architectural wonders will transport you back in time and provide a deeper understanding of Thai culture and spirituality.

Chang Mai best stays:

Bangkok accommodation: from $7/per night in a guesthouse/hostel to $60 – $70 for 4* or 5* hotels in the city centre. 

Street Food Paradise!! Bangkok is renowned for its street food scene, offering a plethora of mouthwatering dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. From the famous Pad Thai and flavorful Tom Yum soup to delicious mango sticky rice and crispy fried insects for the more adventurous eaters, Bangkok is a food lover’s paradise. The best way to experience the city’s culinary delights is by venturing into the local street food stalls and night markets, where the aroma of sizzling woks and sizzling skewers fills the air.

TRANSPORTATION: Tuk-Tuk Rides: No visit to Bangkok is complete without hopping on a tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled motorized vehicle that serves as a popular mode of transportation in the city. Tuk-tuk rides are not only a fun and exhilarating way to navigate through the bustling streets, but they also offer a unique glimpse into the local way of life. Feel the wind in your hair as you zip through the traffic, taking in the vibrant sights and sounds of Bangkok. However Tuk-Tuks run only in the city centre. Before getting inside always ask for a taxi-meter. If there is none agree the price before the rise!!

TAXIS – very convenient transportation in Bangkok. All should have taxi-metres and the rates are really low. 

SKY TRAIN – extremely convenient way to avoid Bangkok traffic. 

Nightlife and Entertainment – As the sun goes down, Bangkok comes alive with its vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene. From rooftop bars offering panoramic views of the city skyline to lively nightclubs and traditional Thai dance performances, there’s something for everyone. Experience the city’s pulsating energy as you dance the night away or relax with a drink in hand, soaking in the lively atmosphere.

Exploring the vibrant streets of Bangkok is like stepping into a sensory wonderland. With its bustling street markets, ornate temples (don’t forget to visit China Town), mouthwatering street food, tuk-tuk rides, and vibrant nightlife, Bangkok offers an adventure that will leave you wanting more.

5. Exploring the ancient temples of Bagan, Myanmar.

Bagan is home to over 2,000 temples, pagodas, and monasteries spread across a vast plain. The temples range in size and style, from small hidden gems to towering structures that offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Each temple showcases intricate carvings, murals, and architectural details that reflect the different periods of Myanmar’s history. Exploring these awe-inspiring temples will transport you back in time and provide a deeper understanding of the country’s religious and cultural heritage.

You will probably spend 2-3 days exploring bagan and the option you absolutely can’t miss is Sunrise and Sunset over Bagan – MAGICAL EXPERIENCE! As the first rays of sunlight hit the ancient structures, the temples are bathed in a golden glow, creating a stunning visual spectacle. Drive to climb to the top of one of the larger temples to witness this breathtaking sight. Similarly, sunset views offer a tranquil and serene atmosphere as the sun sets behind the temples, casting a warm hue over the landscape.

Hot Air Balloon Ride! For a truly unforgettable experience, consider taking a hot air balloon ride over the temples of Bagan. Drifting above the ancient structures, you will witness a bird’s-eye view of the vast plain dotted with temples as far as the eye can see. The peaceful and serene experience provides a unique perspective of the temples and allows you to fully appreciate their grandeur and scale. Check best prices for Balloons over Bagan trips!

Bagan region is huge, so biking could be a little exhausting. E-bike exploration is a very convenient way for Bagan. Renting an e-bike is a popular way to explore the temples of Bagan at your own pace. These electric bikes allow you to easily navigate between the temples, offering flexibility and freedom to discover hidden gems off the beaten path. You can spend hours meandering through the temple complex, stopping to admire the intricate details or entering lesser-known temples for a more intimate experience.

Preservation efforts – the temples of Bagan have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and efforts are being made to preserve and restore these ancient structures. By visiting Bagan, you contribute to the ongoing conservation and restoration projects, ensuring that future generations can continue to appreciate the beauty and significance of these architectural treasures. Bagan is a noise-free area, which makes the place even more unique (especially in Asian land of horns and noise ;)!. 

Two thing to check before you go: VISA requirements and Flight ticket. Visa is required for every traveler. Only few land borders are opened for foreigners to enter from Thailand to Myanmar. Some are located in the north part of Thailand but check carefully before you go. 

6. Relaxing on the pristine beaches of Bali, Indonesia.

Bali is renowned for its stunning beaches that boast white sands, turquoise waters, and dramatic cliffs. Whether you prefer secluded coves or bustling beachfronts, Bali has a beach to suit every traveler’s taste. From the famous Kuta Beach to the hidden gems of Nusa Dua and Uluwatu, you will find yourself surrounded by postcard-worthy landscapes.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION:

  • MEALS: $7-15
  • ACCOMMODATION: from $7/budget room by the beach.
  • BEST TIME TO TRAVEL: May-October/dry season
  • TRANSPORTATION: Scooter rental $10-15/per day depending on a moped condition.
  • BALI MASSAGE: $6-10/per hour, depending on a spa place.

MEMORABLE ACTIVITIES IN BALI:

  • Surfing Paradise – Bali is known as a surfer’s paradise, attracting enthusiasts from around the world. The island offers waves for all skill levels, making it an ideal destination for both beginners and experienced surfers. Head to spots like Uluwatu, Padang Padang, or Bingin Beach to catch some world-class waves.
  • Snorkeling and Diving – The underwater world surrounding Bali is just as breathtaking as its beaches. Grab your snorkeling gear or sign up for a diving excursion to explore vibrant coral reefs teeming with tropical fish and other marine creatures. Nusa Penida, Amed, and Menjangan Island are popular snorkeling and diving spots that will leave you in awe of Bali’s underwater beauty.
  • Sunsets to Remember – Bali is famous for its mesmerizing sunsets, and the beaches provide the perfect backdrop to witness these magical moments. Whether you choose to watch the sunset from the comfort of a beachside cafe or from the sand with your toes in the water, the vibrant hues painting the sky will create memories that last a lifetime.
  • Beach Clubs and Bars – Bali’s beach scene is not only about relaxation, it also offers vibrant beach clubs and bars for those looking for a livelier atmosphere. Popular spots: Potato Head Beach Club, Ku De Ta, or Finns Beach Club.
  • Traditional dances –  witness colorful ceremonies, or participate in a purification ritual at one of the beachside temples.

7. Singapore's Marina Bay and Gardens.

One cannot talk about Singapore without mentioning the iconic Marina Bay Sands. This luxurious integrated resort boasts three towering hotel towers topped by a breathtaking SkyPark offers panoramic views of the city! The SkyPark also features the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool, making it a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike to capture Instagram-worthy photos (of course!). 

Gardens by the Bay located next to Marina Bay Sands, is a futuristic garden paradise that features towering supertrees, giant glass domes and a mesmerizing light and sound show called the Garden Rhapsody. The Supertree Grove, with its vertical gardens and skywalk, offers a surreal experience as you can stroll amidst the towering trees while enjoying stunning views of the city skyline. Singapore is simply magic! And it’s a must-see destination in Southeast Asia at least once in your lifetime. 

TRAVEL ADVISE:

8. Getting lost in the enchanting streets of Hoi An, Vietnam.

I couldn’t believe how cool this town is when I stopped there on my way to north Vietnam. Hoi An, a charming ancient town located in central Vietnam, is a destination that will transport you back in time with its historical architecture, colorful lanterns, and bustling streets. Known for its well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage sites, Hoi An offers a unique blend of cultural heritage, culinary delights, and traditional crafts.

As much as there are amazing things to see in Vietnam like: Dalat, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa or biggest vaes in the world, you cannot miss to visit Hoi An!

ANCIENT TOWN – explore the ancient town of Hoi An, a living museum that showcases a fusion of Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese architectural styles. Wander through its narrow alleys, adorned with lanterns, and discover historical landmarks such as the Japanese Covered Bridge, Fujian Assembly Hall, and Phung Hung Old House. 

TAILOR MADE CLOTHES – Hoi An is renowned for its tailoring shops, where you can have custom-made clothes crafted to your specifications. Take advantage of the skilled local tailors who can create a wide range of clothing items, from suits and dresses to traditional Vietnamese ao dai. Indulge in a unique shopping experience and leave Hoi An with one-of-a-kind garments.

LANTERN FESTIVAL – Experience the magic of Hoi An’s lantern festival, held on the 14th day of each lunar month. As the sun sets, the town is illuminated by countless colorful lanterns, creating a mesmerizing sight. Float a candlelit lantern down the Thu Bon River, make a wish, and soak in the enchanting atmosphere of this traditional celebration.

CULINARY DELIGHTS – Hoi An is a food lover’s paradise, offering a wide array of mouthwatering dishes. Sample the local specialty “cao lau,” a flavorful noodle dish unique to Hoi An, or indulge in fresh seafood at riverside restaurants. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a cooking class and learn how to recreate traditional Vietnamese dishes at home.

CENTRAL MARKET – Dive into the vibrant atmosphere of Hoi An’s central market, where locals gather to buy and sell fresh produce, spices, and handicrafts. Explore the maze of stalls, haggle for souvenirs, and immerse yourself in the bustling energy of daily Vietnamese life.

BICYCLE RIDE – Discover the surrounding countryside of Hoi An on a bicycle ride. Pedal through lush rice paddies, quaint villages, and scenic landscapes. Enjoy the tranquility of rural Vietnam while interacting with friendly locals and witnessing traditional farming practices.

BEACHES – Hoi An is conveniently located near beautiful beaches, such as An Bang and Cua Dai. Take a break from exploring the town and relax on the soft, sandy shores. Enjoy swimming in the crystal-clear waters, sunbathe under the warm sun, or try your hand at water sports such as surfing or paddleboarding.

9. Witnessing the majestic landscapes of Luang Prabang, Laos.

Loas is another amazing must-see destinations in Southeast Asia. Majestic landscape of Luang Prabang offer a harmonious blend of nature, culture, and spirituality. Whether you are exploring the awe-inspiring waterfalls, taking in the panoramic views from Mount Phousi, or immersing yourself in the local way of life, this enchanting city will leave a lasting impression.

Kuang Si Waterfalls are a magnificent place. Nature lovers and adventure seekers will be captivated by the mesmerizing beauty of Kuang Si Waterfalls. Located about 29 kilometers south of Luang Prabang, this three-tiered waterfall cascades down limestone formations, creating turquoise pools that are perfect for swimming and cooling off in the tropical heat. You’ll be able to take a dip in the crystal-clear waters or hike along the trails to fully appreciate the splendor of this natural wonder.

Top 10 Must-See Destinations in Southeast Asia

10. Shwedagon Pagoda - the oldest pagoda in the world - Yangon, Myanmar.

Shwedagon Pagoda – the oldest pagoda place in the world dated for 2600 years. One of the most mistique places I’ve been. The complex is located in Yangon, Myanmar capital city. The main dome is 100 meters tall covered with 7000 diamonds and tons of golden leafs. 

There are 4 entrances to the complex and hundreds of steps taking you to the top. Join the place for sunset for best atmosphere. You need to cover your body up to the ankles, avoid transparent shawls. 

Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!
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