Luang Prabang, Laos
Forget Vientiane and its crowded streets and head to Luang Prabang, a beautiful city in central Laos where the Mekong River and Nam Khan River meet and where Buddhist temples and architecture are simply beautiful.
Luang Prabang is less touristy than Vientiane, which means it is a better place to immerse yourself in the “real” Laotian culture and also a good base to explore some of the country’s most impressive natural areas.
For example, you can discover the fabulous waterfalls of Kuang Si or the famous Buddhist caves of Pak Ou which overlook the Mekong River and which contain superb Buddha sculptures. Nearby, you can visit the village where Lao-Lao rice whisky is made.
The architecture of Luang Prabang is a mixture of traditional Laotian wooden houses and European architecture that recalls the time when Laos was part of the French territory of Indochina. Ah and last but not least: the city is suitable for travellers on a very low budget because life is excessively cheap there!
Former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city can be easily integrated into the itinerary of those travelling from Ho Chi Minh in the South to Hanoi in the North (or vice versa) via the country’s east coast. Hue is one of those cities that is big enough to be worth a visit, but also small enough to be able to ride your bike around and not feel lost.
In Hue, you will find Chinese pagodas, castles, fortified citadels that overlook the Perfume River and huge and mysterious forests that surround the city. You can spend 3 or 4 days in Hue without being afraid of being bored, the city is full of wonders! However, if you are a little short in time and can only stay for one day, make sure you see the Forbidden City of the city that was once the seat of imperial power and which includes a 77-story pagoda: simply superb…
With more than 7,000 islands, all of which have heavenly beaches, coral reefs, turquoise waters and breathtaking nature, you might think that the Philippines is one of the favourite destinations for backpackers of all kinds. Well, no, it’s actually the opposite! Despite the obvious beauty of the archipelago, the Philippines has fallen somewhat into oblivion as a travel destination in recent years.
However, just like Manila, Boracay remains a place you must absolutely discover! It is a paradise destination with white sandy beaches and a coral reef that is home to a diverse and colourful marine fauna. It is also an ideal place for anyone looking for a place to party because the city is extremely lively at night, vibrating to the rhythm of the dozens of restaurants, bars and nightclubs that are located along the 2.5 kilometre long beach, without the somewhat “suspicious” or mischievous feeling that is sometimes felt in large Southeast Asian cities like Bangkok!
The wind sometimes blows hard on the small island, which also makes it a popular destination for snowboarders and other water sports fans.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap is home to the superb UNESCO World Heritage site of the famous Angkor Wat Temple. It is therefore not surprising that this destination is part of our selection of the best of Southeast Asia!
Watching the sun set over the Temple of Angkor Wat and its 5 minarets is a beautiful moment, but know that there is even more to see in Siem Reap! You can also discover the ruins of Ta Prohm in the jungle, which are partially hidden by giant fig trees and the huge four-sided statue of Bodhisattava in the Temple of Bayon.
In the evening, go to Bar Street: as its name suggests, you will find a selection of bars, cafés and restaurants. Don’t forget to eat at the Red Piano! It is the most expensive but also the best restaurant in the city. For the record, Angelina Jolie ate there every day during the shooting of Tomb Raider… the milkshakes are to be found there!
Located in the centre of the island of Java and at the foot of the Gunung Merapi volcano, Yogyakarta is known for the Taman Sari Water Gardens. The city also has high schools and a university, and is therefore considered as the cultural centre of Java: it is teeming with the energy of young and active Indonesians. This gives the city a “cool” and local atmosphere, which is precisely what other large cities like Jakarta or Kuta lack, which have gradually been transformed into tourist landmarks.
From Yogyakarta, you can visit one of the most beautiful Buddhist monuments in the world – Borobudur and the Temple of Prambanan – which was built in honour of the Hindu divinities Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu.
In short, Yogyakarta is vibrant, eclectic and interesting: you can explore ruins and other historic monuments and lie on a sublime beach a few minutes later.
Sarawak State is located on the island of Borneo and is often cited as one of Asia’s best-kept secrets. It is home to one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems in the world – including Orang-Outans – and is also the largest state in Malaysia, home to no less than 27 different ethnic groups, each with its own language, culture and lifestyle.
Gunung Mulu National Park, with its ravines, canyons and rainforest, is a place to discover, but the most intrepid among you may venture to visit the caves of the region that were inhabited 40,000 years ago or to hike through the jungle…
If you’re not really the Indiana Jones type and the simple idea of exploring a jungle gives you a sigh of relief, Sarawak also has beautiful beaches and quiet coves where you can relax in the sun!