(BEGODI) – Bucket list travellers will find themselves with an overwhelming number of things to experience while in Southeast Asia. From natural wonders to ancient temples and mind-blowing man-made sites, the list seems to be never-ending. In order to help you refine your itinerary, here are our top picks of must-sees in Southeast Asia.
Trek in Sapa’s rice fields
For breathtaking views of endless rolling hills, a trek in Sapa is certainly one for your Southeast Asia bucket list. Connect authentically with local guides from ethnic minority groups by partaking in a homestay after the trek. This will add a layer of warmth to an already unforgettable experience.
Witness Hoi An’s full moon festival
Lights glimmer all over Hoi An by night, but it is particularly special during the full moon every month. All of the streets of the Ancient Town are barred from traffic, completely pedestrianised. Candles are released into the river as prosperity wishes for the month to come. The town is alive with hopeful effervescence. It is already beautiful by day, but Hoi An at this time is nothing short of magical.
Take a boat ride through the Mekong Delta
Floating through the complex maze of canals that make up the Mekong Delta is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. Visit Can Tho’s water markets at sunrise to see the incredible masses of fresh produce being traded between colourful boats. Watch as the locals live by the tides and in complete harmony with the expansive nature that surrounds them.
Cruise through Halong Bay
With nearly 2 thousand islands making up the area, Halong Bay is an extraordinary sight. Enjoy the tranquillity of still waters and lush limestone caves passing endlessly around you as you move through the bay. Stop off at Cat Ba Island and wonder through its national parks, or engage in a plethora of water activities. Any way you pass the time in Halong Bay will be filled with equal doses of excitement and calm.
Explore the White Temple in Chiang Rai
Wat Rong Khun is one of Thailand’s most recognisable temples due to its white colour and intricate construction. The Chiang Rai-born visual artist that designed the temple used unconventional and imaginative ideas to portray Buddhist teachings. The white plaster holds pieces of glass that reflect in the sun, and ornate symbolism is used throughout the structure. One of the temple’s most stirring depictions is the pool of reaching hands representing the suffering in hell. More art exhibit than holy site, the White Temple is a definite must-see for Thailand travellers.
Experience a lantern festival in Chiang Mai
Yi Peng and Loy Krathong are two festivals of light that happen around November each year. The first is Yi Peng, characterised by masses of paper lanterns which are released into the sky. This act is a symbolic practice of letting go of the ills and misfortunes of the previous year. Most people make a wish while releasing the lantern, as Buddhists believe that it will come true with good deeds. Loy Krathong is celebrated through sending candles into the river in decorative baskets. Gratitude for Buddha is the symbol of this floating gift, and brings about joyful refection.
Take part in Songkran over Lunar New Year
This festival is one of the best that Southeast Asia has to offer in terms of fun and significance. Occurring over the New Year on both Buddhist and Hindu solar calendars, Songkran is a week-long water celebration. Its huge water fight gatherings make it incredibly entertaining for both locals and visitors. The water signifies cleansing of the previous year’s bad deeds, and blesses each other with good fortune. If you’ve always wanted an excuse to join a giant water fight, Songkran should definitely be on your festival bucket list.
Watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat
Seeing the magnitude as well as the intricate detail of the Angkor Wat temples will have you marvelling for hours. King Suryavarman II built this ancient wonder in the first half of the 12th century. This task took 30 years, and resulted in the creation of the world’s largest complex of religious buildings.
To truly take in the majesty of this incredible site, visitors need to spend a few days at Angkor Wat. After a night’s stay, you should make an effort to wake up before the sun. You will then be treated to a once in a lifetime spectacle as you witness the light rise into warm hues. It creates beautiful shifting shadows over the ancient Khmer temples, and will surely take your breath away.
Swim in the Kuang Si Waterfall
Located 29 km south of Luang Prabang, the Kuang Si Waterfall area is a spectacular scene. The waterfall is nestled in a lush tropical rainforest, gifting its visitors with cool shade and cooler water. Three large tiers make up the waterfall itself, with a 50 meter drop pouring into rich turquoise pools.
A swim in these pools under the crystal cascades of flowing water is an ultimate spa experience in nature. There are also many trails that you can hike around the rainforest, and great places to picnic under the canopies.
Take a hot air balloon ride in Bagan
Bagan’s enchanted plain has over 3000 diverse temples and stupors clustered majestically beside one another. The best way to take in this incredible landscape is from above, silently drifting through the sky at dawn. Hot air balloon rides begin before sunrise, and after treats of warm coffee and croissants you will gently embark.
Bagan will unfold delicately before you as the light begins to shine and the evening mist retreats. Your skilful pilot will navigate the balloon to float above the area’s most interesting temples. It has been said that in one flight you can see more temples than you would in 3 days of exploring on foot. Witnessing Bagan by air is thus not only a spectacular sight, but a practical excursion for travellers in Myanmar.
Explore the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
Clothed in 27 metric tonnes of gold leaf and sprinkled with 7 000 diamonds and gems, the Schwedagon Pagoda is a remarkable vision. At 99 meters high it sits on a hilltop reigning over the city and landscapes of Yangon. It is possibly one of the oldest pagodas in the world, and is certainly the most important Buddhist site in Myanmar. The relics of past Buddha’s have been housed in the temple, and it is a truly beautiful site to explore.
See the Supertrees in Gardens by the Bay
Wandering through the Supertree Grove feels like something out of Avatar. Housed in the nature park Gardens by the Bay, these solar-powered trees hope to breathe life into Singapore’s urban jungle. The vertical gardens of this man-made forest collect rainwater, act as air vents, and generate solar energy. It provides lighting and aids water technologies for the many conservatories that surround it.
The nature park is an eco-initiative to promote and practice urban sustainability. It aims to transform Singapore into a ‘city within a garden’ rather than the area being a garden in the city. A visit to Gardens by the Bay is thus a great way to really witness sustainability in action, Singaporean style.
We hope that this list has been a helpful source of inspiration for your next trip to Southeast Asia. Let us know what else is on your travel bucket list, and get in touch for more tips and booking advice.
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