Southeast Asia is a group of diverse countriesbetween the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, featuring indigenous cultures influenced byIndian, Chinese and Western culture.
It has long been a favorite corner of the world forglobe-tramping backpackers, known for its perfect beaches, tasty cuisine and low prices.
The region represents a totally different culture for Western travelers.
Instead ofcathedrals, they’ll find temples.
Instead of cold temperatures in the winter, they’llbe bathed in a tropical climate.
They may find simple accommodations in remote fishingvillages but also luxurious hotels in the cities and on the islands.
Here’s a lookat the best places to visit in Southeast Asia: 21.
Vientiane Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is locatedon the Mekong River near the border with Thailand.
A former French holding, it is a gracefulcity that is now the country’s economic center.
Visitors to Vientiane won’t wantto miss the Pha That Luang, a a Buddhist stupa that dates back to 1586.
The stupa stands49 meters tall and is believed to contain relics of Buddha.
Buddhist temples and sitesabound, but travelers also will want to walk through the Mekong Riverside Park.
Hanoi Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, blends thecharm of the old world with a pace of life that is quickening as this old city modernizes.
Visitors may see locals taking tai-chi lessons in the park in the mornings, while skateboarderszoom by.
At the heart of Hanoi is its Old Quarter, an open-air museum of historic Asianand French colonial architecture that has largely remained intact.
Ancient temples andart museums share the attractions list with museums devoted to the Vietnamese revolutionand military history.
Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur is a bustling city that servesas the capital of Malaysia.
The country’s most populous city, it has a landscape filledwith innovatively designed skyscrapers, including the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, the world’stallest twin towers.
Kuala Lumpur also boasts an outstanding Islamic Arts Museum; the BukitBintang pedestrian bridge that connects the downtown area, and a bird park that is theworld’s largest walk-in aviary.
Gili Islands The Gili Islands are three small islands locatedin northwestern Indonesia off the coast of Lombok.
The islands are perfect for travelerswho want to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Cars aren’t allowed on theislands, with people using horse carriages or bicycles to move about.
Relaxing may bethe primary activity here, but the islands also are popular with divers and snorkelers.
Phnom Penh Once known as “the pearl of Asia, ” PhnomPenh is considered one of the prettiest of the cities the French built in Indochina, though the city is still recovering from war and revolution.
French influence can stillbe found today in Cambodia’s capital.
Located on the Mekong River, the city actually datesback to the 15th century.
Top attractions include the Royal Palace and the NationalMuseum, which contains a large collection of Khmer artifacts.
Chiang Mai Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, was foundedin the 13th century, and is one of the most culturally significant cities in the country.
It’s located on the Ping River among Thailand’s highest mountains.
The region is home to morethan 300 Buddhist temples.
The most famous temple lies just outside the city on a hilltopoverlooking Chiang Mai – head here for a fantastic view.
The city also hosts a nightmarket that is famous for handicrafts.
Inle Lake Located in southeast Myanmar, Inle Lake isthe country’s second largest lake.
The Intha people live in small villages round the lakeand in floating houses on the lake itself, making for a picturesque scene.
Besides fishing, locals also grow fruits and veggies on floating gardens.
Commuter and tourist motorboats andflat-bottomed skiffs navigate the vast lake, the latter propelled by the unique Intha techniqueof leg rowing in which one leg is wrapped around the paddle to drive the blade throughthe water in a snake-like motion.
Palawan Palawan is an island province in the Philippinesthat stretches from Mindoro to Borneo between the South China and Sulu seas.
Puerto Princesa, which is close to large karst formations with an underground river, is the provincial capital.
Coron Reefs is one of the best diving spots in the world, drawing divers who want to exploreJapanese shipwrecks from World War II.
Another popular destination is El Nido, a town sandwichedbetween towering limestone karst cliffs and a beautiful bay.
Hoi An Hoi An is a charming town known for its greatatmosphere at the mouth of the Thu Bon River on Vietnam’s central coast.
The town boastsa well-preserved Southeast Asian trading port, which it once was until the river silted up.
The narrow, winding lanes of the old port are lined with beautiful old architecture, traditional wooden houses and hundreds of tailor shops selling everything from clothingto souvenirs.
Mount Kinabalu Towering 4095 meter above northern Borneo, Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and the island of New Guinea.
The main peak of the mountain can be climbed easily by a person with a good physical condition, and requires no mountaineering equipment although climbers must be accompanied by guides atall times.
For those with limited time or energy, there are gardens and many short walksthrough the jungle to enjoy in the vicinity of the entrance.
Komodo National Park Komodo National Park is located on an archipelagonear the island of Flores.
The islands are populated by thousands of giant lizards knownas “Komodo dragons” because of their appearance and aggressiveness.
This is the only placein the world where these lizards, the largest in the world, can be found.
Although attacksare very rare, Komodo dragons have been known to attack humans.
Singapore Singapore, a city-state, lies at the southend of the Malay Peninsula just 137 km above the equator.
Chinese are the predominant ethnicgroup, at 75 percent of the population.
Travelers will hear residents speaking a variety oflanguages: Mandarin, English, Malay and Tamil.
Singapore is a former British colony, withits top sights including the graceful Raffles Hotel, gardens and nature trails, the BuddhaTooth Relic Museum, and the city zoo.
Ko Phi Phi Phi Phi is a beautiful archipelago locatedin the Krabi Province not too far from Phuket.
Ko Phi Phi Don is the only island in the groupwith permanent inhabitants while the smaller Ko Phi Phi Leh is famous as the filming locationfor the 2000 movie “The Beach”.
Travelers go here enjoy the beaches and to participatein a variety of water recreation activities, such as snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking.
The island was devastated by the 2004 tsunami, but is bouncing back with new constructions.
Luang Prabang Luang Prabang lies at the confluence of theMekong and Nam Khan rivers in northcentral Laos.
The former royal capital is famous forits Buddhist temples and monasteries, with monks walking through the city collectingalms in the morning.
The old town is popular with tourists who want to shop, visit templesor soak in the atmosphere.
There are several waterfalls nearby, as well as the famous PakOu Caves.
Borobudur Located on the island of Java, 40 km northwestof Yogyakarta, the Borobudur is the largest and most famous Buddhist temple in the world.
The Borobudur was built over a period of some 75 years in the 8th and 9th centuries outof an estimated 2 million blocks of stone.
It was abandoned in the 14th century for reasonsthat still remain a mystery and for centuries lay hidden in the jungle under layers of volcanicash.
Ifugao Rice Terraces Photographers will want to have lots of memorycards with them when they visit the picturesque Ifugao Rice Terraces on the island of Luzon.
For 2, 000 years, people have been growing rice on terraces that follow the contoursof the Cordilleras Mountains.
The most famous ones can be found around the town of Banaue.
They were created by the Ifugao ethnic people without modern tools and are still used today.
Bagan Myanmar’s answer to Angkor Wat, Bagan ishome to the largest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas in the world.
Bagan was the capital of the First Burmese Empire from the 9th to the 13th centuries.
The site that Marco Polo once described as the “gilded city” was home to around 13, 000Buddhist temples in its 11th-century heyday.
Thousands remain, including the famous Anandatemple with its sparkling gold spires.
Bangkok What started out as a small trading post inthe 15th century has now grown into a city of eight million people: Bangkok, the capitalof Thailand.
Visitors will find plenty of photo ops at the city’s famous floatingmarkets where they can also buy veggies, tropical fruits and Thai snacks made in a floatingkitchen.
When travelers grow weary of visiting temples, they can visit a snake farm or justgo shopping.
Ha Long Bay Located in northeastern Vietnam, Ha Long Bayresembles a scene from a fantasy story with its thousands of limestone karst islands ofdifferent shapes and sizes.
Halong means descending dragons, which is indicative of the silhouetteof the limestone outcrops that poke out from the water.
Some of the islands contain lakeswhile some are hollow, with a colorful fairyland of grottoes inside.
An overnight boat tripis a spectacular way to experience the beauty of the bay and to see as many of the islandsas possible.
BaliThe undisputed favorite of Indonesia’s more than 17, 000 islands, Bali lives up to itsreputation as the quintessential tropical paradise.
The waters around Bali are knownfor its high marine diversity and coral reefs while the lush rice terraces provide a picturesquebackdrop to its colorful and deeply spiritual Hindu culture.
The island also has severalgreat beach towns, like Kuta, as well as other areas, such as Ubud, which are known for performingand artistic arts.
Angkor When it comes to archeological sites, travelerswon’t want to miss Angkor in northern Cambodia.
It contains some of the world’s most importantcultural remains.
These include the enormous Angkor Wat temple, the Bayon temple with itsmultitude of massive stone faces and Ta Prohm, a Buddhist temple ruin entwined with toweringtrees.
Historically, Angkor served as the Khmer capital from the ninth to 14th centuries, which influenced art throughout Southeast Asia.
Many of the temples at Angkor have beenrestored, making tit one of the wonders of the ancient world while offering an outstandinglook of Khmer history.