Traveling is an essential part of life that should be explored to the fullest. Through traveling, you can make new friends, discover new inventions, experience ancient civilizations, meet business partners and most importantly allow your hair to blow in the direction of the wind-completely at peace with nature itself.
One of the best parts of the world to take a tour is Southeast Asia. You have heard of the Asian Tigers namely Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. These are the countries that leveraged on emerging technologies and open markets to create a global economic showdown. It is now time for you learn about how you can unwind in countries that made up Southeast Asia. Incidentally, an Asian Tiger, Singapore is one of them.
The rest are Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia, The Philipines, East Timor and Brunei.
LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
The languages spoken in the region is as vast as the number of various ethnic groups. The Dravidian languages is a family of languages that are spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Philippines. Some of the languages in this family include Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu. Burmese is the official language of Myanmar. Tagalog is spoken widely in Philippines while Thai is native to Thailand. Bahasa Melayu is spoken in several countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar. Khmer is spoken in Cambodia and Laotian is the common language in Laos.
Whatever the country you are planning to visit in Southeast Asia, it is very important that you understand words you need to express yourself in day-to-day activities like asking for prices of goods, hitching a ride, where to find a market etc. A notebook might come in handy here to record common words in the locality you visit. One sure thing you will soon discover is that Asians become more connected to you when you show deep interest in understanding their language and culture.
RELIGION AND CULTURE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
Asians are very religious people .Their religious codes have strong influence on the way of life of the people. Religion and culture are interwoven with inseparable ancient threads that are passed from generations to generations. Coming from Europe or America, you might have a culture shock with the religious beliefs in Southeast Asia, but learn to respect the belief systems of your host communities.
Religions practiced in the region include Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity.Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Roman Catholicism the main religion in East Timor while Islam is the major religion in Indonesia.
Southeast Asians are highly respectful and easy going. They are conservative and may not approve public display of affection. They also hold their temples in great esteem ,therefore, you should consult your tour guide on acceptable behavior when you are visiting a religious site.
GENERAL GUIDE FOR VISITORS TO SOUTHEAST ASIA
BEST FOR LESS: Southeast Asia is the place to enjoy your vacation to the fullest while operating on a lean budget. Accommodation is cheap and food is very affordable. With an average spending within the range of $30 and$40 ,you will live like a royalty as you travel across the region.
TIMING YOUR VISIT: You can visit the region all year round but considering activities and weather, some time ranges may be ideal than others. For example, January and February are great times to visit Myanmar because of the Pagoda festivals. Festival of light also holds in October. May to October may not be the best time to visit Myanmar as there are heavy rains at those times. The climate in the country is great from November to February. November to April is a cool period to visit Thailand.Vietnam ‘s climate is ideal for visitors between February and April. You may also consider visiting between august and October. October to April is the rainy season in Indonesia. Unless you enjoy getting soaked in your vacation gears, you might consider travelling to Indonesia between May to September.
GETTING VISAS: A lot of tourists have had bitter experience of being denied entry at a foreign airport due to visa issues. It is very important that you have clear understanding of the visa requirements of each country that you are going to visit. Thailand gives you a free 30 day visa stamp on your arrival .Philippines gives you a 21 days free visa on arrival while Malaysia gives you a 90 day free visa on arrival. Western countries get a free 30 to 90 days visa on arrival. Vietnam requires you to obtain your visa before arriving at the country. So, check in with your passport at the nearest Thai embassy to get it processed. If you are from Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, USA ,Norway or any EU country, then you are in luck. Brunei will give you visa-free entry for up to 90 days. In Cambodia, you can get tourist visa for 30days.The visa costs $30.
SAMPLE THE LOCAL FOODS: Sampling local foods is an experience you don’t want to miss.Primarily because they will save you a lot of money compared to eating western foods and secondarily because your visit will not be complete without those pictures showing you devouring those local delicacies. Yes, the initial trepidation you will have about how your stomach will react to the food is part of the delightful experience you must have on your visits.
PLAN YOUR BUDGET: there are two things you need to critically plan for-time and money. You don’t want to be stranded in a foreign country with no one to call for help. Project management rules encourage addition of contingency costs to your estimates. Plan for unforeseen expenses.Indulge yourself but be careful of overspending in order to avoid situation that can sour your vacation. Also, plan your time per country and per location. When developing your schedule, also make allowance for contingency days as you might stay longer at some sites than you earlier plan for.
EXCITING SITES TO VISIT
We have compiled a snapshot of places you can visit while in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam is one of the most historical countries in the world. It has the ninth highest population in Asia .The country has had its fair share of struggles with foreign invaders. Northern Vietnam was colonized by China for over a thousand years. The Japanese took over the country in the 40s.the French then took the mantle from Japanese. Under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam fought off the French. The country was highly affected by the cold war between USA and the Soviet Union in the 50s.This led to a civil war between the north and the south with a decisive northern victory. The country then became communist but is currently moving more towards open market economics.
Visiting Vietnam is a great opportunity to learn history spanning thousands of years of country that stood up to stronger forces. You can visit Ho Chi Minh museum and mausoleum at Hanoi, War Remnants Museum at Ho Chi Minh City for more education. Visiting the remnants of The Hanoi Hilton prison where the popular American senator John McCain was held can also give you a didactic experience.
HO CHI MINH CITY
Formerly known as Saigon ,the city was named after Ho Chi Minh, the communist leader of the northern forces after the war. The city is the ideological centre of the country, an icon of a people’s resilience against a world power.
The highlights of the south Vietnam where famous with rivers, floating markets and Small canals. Mekong delta is the rice basket of Vietnam and people here are open-hearted, friendly. Boating, Cycling, River Cruise or Homestay are some of the recommended activities when visiting Mekong delta.
The top destination of Vietnam and the world, Hoi An ancient town is lovely, charming and colourful. Hoi An is a little Vietnam, having many cultural and historical sites, great food, picturesque countryside, rivers and sandy beaches. Hoi An is also a paradise for shopping fans.
The capital of Vietnam is a 1000 year old city, named as the city of peace and there are so much to see such as the old quater of Hanoi, Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pogoda, Hoan Kiem Lake, Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, etc. Hanoi is voted as the top destination of the world. Come to Vietnam, visit Hanoi!
Ha Long Bay has been designated as a UNESCO heritage site. It is a tourist paradise consisting of myriads of isles, big caves, beaches and floating fishing villages.
SAPA AND THE NORTH
The north of Vietnam is the most beautiful part of the country, blessed with amazing Ban Gioc waterfall in Cao Bang, Rock Plateu in Ha Giang, breathtaking rice terraces in Hoang Su Phi, Mu Cang Chai and Sapa.
Sapa is called the queen of mountains and if you plan a trip to the north, Sapa should be top-listed. The best time to see the rice terraces in Sapa and the north is from June to Early Octorber.
In an Indochina tour package, tourists spend most of the time in Vietnam because of beautiful nature, great food and beaches. Beaches in Vietnam are white sandy and some listed as the most beautiful beaches in Asia and the world like My Khe beach in Danang, Lang Co beach in Hue, An Bang beach in Hoi An, Doc Let beach in Nha Trang, Mui Ne beach in Phan Thiet, Sao beach in Phu Quoc, etc.
Vietnam's beauty is diverse and after having explored Vietnam enough, it is time at the beach to relax before flying home. Beach resorts in Vietnam are many and world-class, great for honeymooners, couples and families.
Called themself as the kingdon of wonder, Cambodia steps out from a bloody khmer rouge regime and now is one of the hot destination for international tourists. Cambodia is a beautiful country, blessed with pristine beaches, national parks, usual foods, rich culture, friendly people, but most famous is Angkor temples - the world's largest religious complex.
The symbol of Cambodia located in Siem Reap, once forgotten in jungles for some centuries. Angkor is majestic, imposing, magical and mysterious. Words are not enough to describe the beauty of this temple and it is said that the temple was built by the hand of gods. Believe or not, just come and see it with your own eyes once in your lifetime.
Not far from Angkor Wat, Angkor thom was the last capital of the Khmer Empire, including some beautiful designed temples such as Bayon temple (Buddha faces), Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, Banteay Srei, etc. Angkor thom is where tourists got impressed with giant trees growing on the ruins of temples. Time has done its great job, but could not take away the belief in gods of Cambodia people.
Any tour in Cambodia will not be complete without a visit to Angkor, and it must be on top of one's bucket list.
The today's capital of Cambodia has witnessed the pains of Cambodian during the khmer rouge regime. On your trip to this capital city, remember to visit the Killing Fields, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to understand more about this bitter page of Cambodian history. If you have more time, royal palace is a must-see place.
Known as a land locked and multi - ethnic country, Laos still a destination to discover in Southeast Asia where the life has not been changed much and people are happy in their own way.
Laos is a mountainous country with green mountains, wonderful waterfalls, ethnic villages, elephant villages, etc. A visit to Laos is a step back in time.
An ancient town, a UNESCO site, Luang Prabang is charming, pretty and peaceful. If you come to Luang Prabang, do not forget to join the Alms Giving Ceremony in early morning, climb to Mount Phousi, visit Wat Xieng Thong, swim at Kuang Si falls or ride elphants.
An ideal destination for Rafting & Tubing, or hiking to ethnic villages. Vang Vieng is like a mountain retreat during your adventure in Laos.
Note: Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are known as Indochina or Indochinese countries where local culture got influenced by Indian and Chinese culture. If you have time, let's go on an Indochina tour (three countries, one destination), 3 week holiday will be enough to see the highlights of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Vivutravel will help.
Thailand is a must-visit in the region. Known a s the land of smiles ,you don’t want to miss exciting sites in the country.
THAILAND NATIONAL MUSEUM
The National Museum is located in Bangkok. It was established in the 19th century by King Rama V. The museum is rich in Thai culture and history that date back to thousands of years.
Pai is a small town of a few thousand people. It is a tourism centre in Thailand with its affordable guest houses, restaurants, souvenir outlets, waterfalls and hot springs. Another main attraction the town has is its Wednesday markets that are patronized by several ethnic groups across its environs. The town has been opened up by the government with daily flights now a regular.
KHAOYAI NATIONAL PARK
If you enjoy biking and hiking, this is the place to be. With a geographical spread of 2,000 square kilometers of forest and grassland in Nayok District of Thailand, the park has more than enough space to indulge you. The park is also a resort to wildlife such as elephants and bears.
Railay beach is the site for the adventurer. Accessible only by boat as it is cut off from road links by carbonate cliffs. The beach is divided into two parts-the east and the west. In order to get maximum experience, plan to stay a day or two at each. East Railay is more affordable than West Railay.
As a member of the Asian tigers, Singapore is a country for the affluent. So, vacating in Singapore will expectedly hit your pockets relatively hard. Having said that, it is an experience worth having.
The zoo receives a turnover of almost two million visitors every year. Several scenes in the Bollywood film Krrish were shot at the zoo. The zoo simulates wild life experience for the animals with minimum use of cages. An adult and children tickets cost $20 and $3 respectively.
JURONG BIRD PARK
MARINA BAY SANDS
If you want to literally experience Las Vegas in Southeast Asia, Marina Bay Sands is the place. This is a complex resort built to give a “ whao” experience to the tourist. it has the world’s longest elevated swimming pool termed infinity pool. it boasts of shops, casinos, a hotel with thousands of rooms ,restaurants, theatres and floating Crystal Pavilions .
At 374 feet, is the tallest pagoda in Myanmar. That makes it a tourist attraction. It was build about the 10th century and has survived several destructions by earthquakes.
This is the most sacred pagoda in the country as it contains relics of past Buddhas. The relics include a staff, strands of hair, water filter and piece of robe. The Shwedagon Pagoda Festival is held at the twelfth month of the traditional Burmese calendar.
THE GOLDEN ROCK
Your visit to Myanmar cannot be complete without a visit to the Golden Rock. Known by the locals as Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, it is an amazing sight that seems to suggest that the law of gravity has exceptions .the pagoda was built on a rock delicately tilting in such a way that one would think it would roll off anytime. Locals believed that the rock was held in place by a strand of Buddha’s hair.
Puerto Galera means Port of the Galleons. It is the perfect place to unwind after a hectic session. Founded over four hundred years ago, with numerous coves, beaches, hotels and a natural harbor, it is regarded as one of the most beautiful bays in the world. It has a 9-hole golf course and a bubbling nightlife .
PUERTO PRINCESA SUBTERRANEAN RIVER NATIONAL PARK
this park is one of the areas protected in the country for biodiversity preservation. It is home to the intriguing Puerto Princesa Underground River. In 1999, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .the underground river has been confirmed to have two floors with small waterfalls, a 980 feet cave dome and diverse marine creatures. On January 28, 2012,the underground river was categorized as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
Donsol in the Bicol region of Philippines. The municipality has a great population of whale sharks and locals can often be seen swimming with the sharks. This practice is called butanding. The locals used to be afraid of the whale sharks until in 1997 when a scuba diver named Romir Aglugub was able to demonstrate how friendly they are. Donsol is now regarded as the “Whale Shark Capital of the World”.