There are many highlights of Southeast Asia. It is a region of great contrasts, from towering limestone formations towering out of warm blue seas to dense jungles filled with unique and fascinating wildlife. Every country has its own special characteristics, history, culture, cuisine and landscape, but in each one you’ll receive the same warm welcome. Here’s a taste of what you can expect from each.
The immense, gilded boulder known as Golden Rock, topped with a small pagoda and perched precariously on a ridge, is an impressive example of the artistic use of Myanmar’s famous gold leaf. The ancient city of Bagan is one of the more memorable sites you’ll visit: for four centuries this was the capital of the kingdom now known as Myanmar, and the remains of more than 2000 temples and pagodas still dot the landscape today.
Learn about the local legends during an overnight cruise amid the spectacular limestone karsts of Halong Bay, take a walking tour through the fifteenth-century Portuguese trading post that is now the historic city of Hoi An, and delve in Vietnam’s more recent history with a visit to the Viet Cong’s Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City.
There’s no doubt that a visit to stunning Angkor Wat is a highlight on any Cambodian itinerary. During your stay in Siam Reap, you can also experience local village life, enjoy a traditional Khmer massage, witness the daily workings of farm life in a rural village and dine at the Sala Bai Hotel School, where local youths are able to train for a career in the hospitality industry.
From the excitement and bustle of Bangkok to the tranquil beaches of the south and the fascinating hilltribe cultures of the north, there is much to enjoy here. In Chiang Mai, you can visit the Elephant Nature Park to learn about the important work being done to protect and rehabilitate these graceful animals, while in the Khao Lak region you can try your hand at soap making in Talae Nok village, one of the areas most affected by the 2004 tsunami.
The beautiful city of Luang Prabang could be described as the jewel in Laos’ crown, where you’ll soak up the enticing combination of French colonial influence and traditional Lao culture. From the traditional Baci ceremony of welcome to the heart-warming daily ceremony of presenting alms to monks, the warmth and generosity of the Lao people is always on display.
The Malaysian state of Sabah occupies the northern part of the island of Borneo, and despite its relatively modest size, it punches well above its weight in terms of biodiversity. From a jungle cruise on the Kinabatangan River in search of gibbons, macaques and proboscis monkeys to a day at the Sandakan Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, the richness of Borneo’s wildlife is a highlight of any trip.
A small group tour is an excellent way to experience the many delights of Southeast Asia: you’ll be accompanied by local guides with knowledge of the destinations you’re visiting, including the secret spots that you’re likely to miss if you’re travelling in a larger group. Ask your personal travel manager to help you choose an itinerary that suits you.