1. Vientiane, Laos
© Jason Langley / Getty Images
Vientiane is the capital of Laos. The city is where you will find genuine Laotian culture. Located on the Mekong River, Vientiane is attracting travelers with its historical background. For the traveller happy with a couple of low-key sights and lots of contemplative river watching while sipping on Beerlao, or hopping from cafe to cafe, Vientiane excels. And best of all, these pleasures are available to all budgets, be it via the city's low-cost digs and street markets, or its upscale boutique accommodation and foreign restaurants. Don’t miss Pha That Luang while in Vientiane.
2. Sapa, Vietnam
If you are interested in the fantastic nature of earth, Sapa should be on your list of places to visit in Southeast Asia. Sapa is a peaceful town in Vietnam and known for trekking, rice paddies, traditional villages, and hill tribes. The gorgeous mountainous town of Sapa is a place where the Black Hmong culture is embraced, and beautiful rice terraces line the hillsides. Climb up to northwestern Vietnam to see Sapa’s rice terraces and cloud-covered slopes, best discovered through day hikes and longer treks, some reaching up to Mount Fansipan. Part of the Hoang Lien Mountain Range, Vietnam’s highest peak rises about 3,143 meters above sea level, taking three days to climb.
3. Vang Vieng, Laos
© Philippe Marion / Getty Images
Vang Vieng is a rural town located on the banks of the Song River. It has always been known as the ecological adventure point. Still, it turned into a party location during the last years. The center of town is now thriving, with boutique hotels and high-end restaurants replacing some of the party-laden backpacker bars that used to pack the waterfront.
If you’re backpacking Vang Vieng, know it’s no longer the hedonistic jungle town it was once was – it’s now a calm oasis for enjoying nature, jungle hikes, and lazy days cooling off in the river. If you’re seeking outdoor adventure, explore the area’s cave system (including by tube in a water cave), kayaking Nam Song’s rapids, climb Pha Poak Mountain at sunset, or drive an ATV on the backcountry roads. When it’s time to cool off, take a refreshing plunge in the Blue Lagoon.
4. Palawan, Philippines
© Dmitry Pichugin / 500px
Anchoring the southwest corner of the Philippines, Palawan is a largely undeveloped island that channels the wild vibe of nearby Borneo, in Malaysia. Travel & Leisure magazine honored Palawan to be the world’s best island. It is not a surprise considering its amazing natural beauties: beaches, caves, mountains, and jungles. The island's natural treasures include eerie Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River and the pristine coral gardens of super-remote Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park - both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Nothing defines Palawan more than the water around it. With seascapes the equal of any in Southeast Asia, and terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, the Philippines’ most sparsely populated region is also the most beguiling.
5. Gili Islands, Indonesia
The three sister islands just off the coast of Lombok are probably much more popular than the mainland. For decades, the Gili Islands have become a renowned destination for partying, diving, and everything you could want from an island getaway. Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are accessible via fast boat from Teluk Kodek or public traditional boat from Bangsal.
The renowned ‘turtle capital of the world’ offers a myriad of things to see and do, and there’s something for everyone. Daredevils can try extreme watersports at Gili Air, while zen-seekers may opt for a serene morning doing aqua yoga. Enjoy beach side healthy bowls in the morning and party hard at night – a day in Gili Islands is more eventful than most.
6. Hoi An, Vietnam
© Mijastrzebski / 123rf
Hoi An is a town located at the mouth of the Thu Bon River. Its unique architecture of wooden houses is inspiring. Hoi An is surrounded by gorgeous countryside, historical monuments, stunning passes, breathtaking views, exotic islands, and surreal fantasy parks. If you are interested in traveling a place that offers out-of-world experience, do not miss Hoi an.
7. Taman Negara, Malaysia
This one is a national park in the Titiwangsa Mountains in Malaysia. At 130 million years of age, Malaysia’s Taman Negara rainforest is the oldest in the world. Covering 4343 sq km, the national park is one of Malaysia’s biggest draws, its thick jungle and fast-flowing rivers pulling in thousands of tourists every year. We highly recommend Taman Negara to the ecotourists and travelers interested in a vacation in nature. You can do hiking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing and more here.
8. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Most people associate Thailand with beaches and Phuket, Krabi or Koh Samui remains the standard destination of choice. People rarely try to go off the beaten path and many do not even know that Thailand has a beautiful hill station. Chiang Mai is anything but beach, yet it is beautiful with its green rice paddies and terraced farmlands. The town is home to local villages with unique culture, dense forests, and beautiful waterfalls. It also has some adventurous attractions such as Zip Lining. You will find many tours in Chiang Mai that will take you through all the sightseeing and attractions.
9. Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is a classic, but still; we had to mention this gorgeous place. As the largest island in Thailand, it is already trendy. Renowned for its breathtaking beaches with cerulean waters, Phuket is a prized tourist destination among all kinds of travellers – honeymooners, backpackers, solo trippers, and families. It is also much favoured for its numerous top spas, resorts, and party scenes. Historically, the island was one of the main trading routes between India and China.