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3 Awesome Places to Visit in Southeast Asia

July 2, 2019

Exotic landscapes, beautiful weather, affordable accommodation: these are just a few of the reasons Southeast Asia attracts a whopping 130 million tourists every year. There are hundreds of awesome places in Southeast Asia, all deserving of a visit—but alas, we could only pick three. Read on to find out more about these bucket-list-worthy destinations!


Chiang Mai, Thailand

While Bangkok, Phuket, and Thailand’s southern islands tend to get all the attention, the country’s northern city of Chiang Mai, the second biggest city after Bangkok, is one of Thailand’s best destinations.

Known as the “rose of the north” by locals, Chiang Mai is famed for its temples, night market, and charming, laid-back vibe. The city has over 300 Buddhist temples, called “wat” in Thai; many date back to the 13th century, when the city was founded. Located in the mountains, Chiang Mai is less humid than most cities in Thailand and is a great jumping off point for visiting the northern hill tribes, elephant sanctuaries, and some of northern Thailand’s most beautiful landscapes. Chiang Mai has several night markets, where you can find local food, handicrafts, souvenirs, and more.

And don’t you dare leave the city without trying khao soi, a mouth-watering coconut curry noodle soup. But beware: once you try this curry-of-the-gods you may have to extend your stay a few days because you will not be able to get enough of it.

Golden Stupa by Buddhist Temple Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Golden Stupa by Buddhist Temple Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo credit: I G / Flicker

Hoi An, Vietnam

With its captivating old town and a perfect blend of beaches and rice paddies, Hoi An deserves a spot near the top of your Southeast Asia bucket list.

The main draw of Hoi An is its ancient town, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. A bustling trading port between the 15th and 19th centuries, the city’s streets and buildings reflect its Chinese, Japanese, and European influences. Hoi An is considered remarkably well preserved, and indeed entering the ancient town feels like you’re stepping back in time. The town has retained its original street plan and has over 1,100 charmingly weathered yellow buildings, many of which have colorful lanterns strung outside.

If you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with the Hoi An lantern festival, held on the 14th day of each lunar month. On this night, Hoi An’s florescent lights are shut off, other lights are dimmed, and the town is illuminated by thousands of multicolored paper lanterns.

But Hoi An’s charm doesn’t end with its old town. Visitors can hop on a motorbike or bicycle and explore nearby villages and rice paddies. There are also two beaches within biking distance of the ancient town. The more popular of the two, An Bang beach, is lined with restaurants and bars where you can plant yourself for the day.

Hoi An a village in Vietnam
Hoi An, Vietnam. Photo credit: Toomas Tartes / Unsplash

Bali, Indonesia

No, it’s not just your imagination. Everyone really is going to Bali, but there is a good reason for that.

Bali has an undeniable magic to it, one that remains even as the island welcomes around five million tourists a year. This magic is due in large part to the island’s unique religion and the key role that religion plays in daily life. The majority of the Balinese people practice Balinese Hinduism and expressions of this religion are everywhere. The island is home to tens of thousands of temples; some of the most famous include Tirta Empul, Tanah Lot, Luhur Uluwatu, and Goa Gajah. Everywhere you go, you see canang sari, which are daily offerings that Balinese Hindus make to the gods. These tiny palm leaf baskets are filled with items such as flower petals, incense, money, and candy, and placed around doorways, intersections, and temples—all things that need protection.

Of course, Bali’s scenery isn’t hard on the eyes either. The island boasts misty jungles, dazzling beaches, and jaw-dropping rice terraces, three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Moreover, with a strong tourism infrastructure Bali is a relatively easy destination, especially for solo travelers or those that are visiting Southeast Asia for the first time. There are tons of accommodation options to choose from, many of which are super affordable—we’re talking hostels for $6 a night or a villa with a private pool for less than $100 a night. Yes—get thee there now. 

Tegalalang Rice Terrace in Bali Indonesia
Tegalalang Rice Terrace in Bali, Indonesia. Photo credit: Jamie Fenn / Unsplash

Happy travels!

Written by Whitney Currier for Knockaround.


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