Stretching from eastern India to China, Southeast Asia has long been a favourite of intrepid travellers and backpackers for its diverse mix of cultures and island-hopping opportunities. Southeast Asia consists of eleven countries: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam on the mainland, whilst Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei and East Timor, largely island nations, are dotted across the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. From the largest archipelago in the world to the eternal temples of Angkor Wat, travel to Southeast Asia is a captivating experience and a journey through different cultures their rich historical legacies.
A land of extremes, Southeast Asia showcases the power of nature in its immense jungles, volcanic islands, country-spanning rivers and rainbow-coloured coral reefs. Whether you’re snaking through the Mekong Delta in Vietnam or snorkelling with whale sharks off the coast of the Philippines, Southeast Asia’s landscapes are the stuff that dreams are made of. Wildlife flourishes here, from Indonesia’s Komodo Dragons to Borneo’s famous orangutans and Thailand’s elephants. The remote islands of Malaysia and Indonesia are particularly well-known for their rare, endemic species.
A tour of Southeast Asia is sure to involve a number of its super cities. Bangkok’s urban chaos is juxtaposed by the sleepy charm of Laos’ ancient Luang Prabang, where 24/7 partying is stunned in favour of solemn dawn alms ceremonies when the streets fill with orange-robed monks. Hanoi’s motorbike traffic and Singapore’s litter-free utopia are a world away from the golden domes of Brunei's skyline and the elaborate Buddhist temples of ancient Chiang Mai in Thailand. No two cities in Southeast Asia are the same, so don’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy a city-hopping tour of Southeast Asia, as it’s sure to reveal a lot about the diversity of the region.
Over 800 languages are native to Southeast Asia, but from the beaches of Thailand to the cheerful islands of the Philippines and the most remote, tiger-filled jungles of Myanmar, the warm hospitality of Southeast Asian people is world-renowned. Such a huge region will of course host a rich mix of cultures and each nation has its own cultural curiosities. From Cambodia’s gold-adorned Royal Ballet to Vietnam’s fantastic coffee scene, the elaborate traditions of Malaysia’s Kadazan people and the highly skilled leg-rowing fishermen of Myanmar, meeting the locals of this amazing region is sure to be the highlight of any holiday to Southeast Asia.
A trip to Southeast Asia has the potential to become a spiritual awakening for some travellers, owing to its rich religious traditions and soul-stirring landscapes. Whilst Indonesia and Brunei have strong ties to Islam, Buddhism is predominant in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, where sacred temples and relics of its spiritual past provide some of the more rewarding places to visit on a tour of Southeast Asia. On the other hand, the Philippines is known for its Roman Catholic heritage and the idyllic island of Bali in Indonesia is home to a number of Hindu sites and ornate temples in honour of various deities. From Phuket’s Big Buddha statue to Kuala Lumpur’s Thean Hou Temple, rich in Chinese influence, it’s impossible to travel to Southeast Asia without contemplating the spirituality at the heart of its cultures.
There’s no denying the popularity of travel to Southeast Asia and it’s easy to see why this part of the world is such a coveted travel destination. From the familiar streets of Bangkok to the far-flung corners of rugged East Timor, taking in the full breadth and diversity of Southeast Asia would be a life-long pursuit.