Southeast Asia is home to some of the world’s most beautiful places to visit. There’s bustling Bangkok in the ‘Land of Smiles’; old Town Hoi An in Vietnam; as well as the white sand beaches of Boracay in the Philippines. But those are just three of the hundreds of ravishing wonders that this side of the world has to offer!
Today, we’ll take you around some of Southeast Asia’s most underrated hidden treasures that are certainly worth the visit.
When you hear Indonesia, you’d think Bali, Kuta or Jakarta. But have you heard of Flores? This Indonesian island has been overshadowed by its more known neighbour, Bali. But now it is finally coming out of the shadows and making a name for itself. This island boasts a wealth of underwater vistas and towering yet majestic volcanoes, both dormant and active.
The number of adventure activities and natural wonders to see here in Flores is endless. Want to snorkel and be one with the ocean? Make your way to Bidadari Island. Fancy just a quick dip by the shore? Blue Stone Beach awaits. Trekking? Padar Island is the place for you. Want to see crater lakes nestled right inside a mountain? Then you should visit the Lakes of Kelimutu. The list could go on and on. Regardless of what kind of traveller you are, there is always something for you in Flores.
Bonus tip: Pay a visit to the (arguably) most famous spot in all of Flores, Komodo National Park! The name of the park speaks for itself.
Situated in the Cagayan Valley region is the Home of the Winds – Batanes. This archipelagic province found in the Luzon island of the Philippines is also the smallest province in the entire region, both in land area and population. The Philippines is known to have some of the world’s best beaches and islands but Batanes takes on an entirely different setting altogether.
The rolling hills and mountainous landscapes greet you as you arrive in Batanes, which will leave you in complete awe. This northern beauty of the Philippines prides itself for the abundance of natural wonders ranging from dramatic cliffs, pasture lands, and soaring volcanoes. Did I mention that the locals here are also extremely friendly? If you want to delve deeper into Batanes, take some time to learn about the Ivatan people, and their history and culture.
Up until 1945, Hue was known as the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen Empire. The ancient city of Hue is so steeped in culture and history, that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. During the Vietnam War, the city suffered immensely and the ‘Battle of Hue’ was known to be the most fatal battles in Vietnamese history.
But after years of restoration, Hue has become a notable tourist destination in Vietnam. When in Hue, visit the Hue Imperial City for a taste of history – this very palace was once the home of Vietnamese emperors! Take a stroll along the Perfume River or take a boat tour instead to enjoy a hearty local meal whilst enjoying the river views.
Right at the edge of the mountains in western Thailand, you’ll find the little but charming river city of Kanchanaburi. This city holds quite the sombre past. During World War II, the Kanchanaburi region was where a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp was located. Here, remains of its tragic history can still be observed in several World War II-related attractions such as the World War II Museum and Gallery.
But despite its dark history, this Thailand region is brimming with wondrous natural sights and sees. Known as the ‘land of lush greenery’, this city is filled with rich foliage all around. One place not to be missed when in Kanchanaburi is definitely Erawan National Park; the emerald green waters and cascading waterfalls will leave you feeling like you’re in paradise. For more immersive nature activities, be sure to visit the elusive Lawa Cave or pay a visit to Elephant’s World!
The ancient city of Bagan, or ‘Old Bagan’ as most people know it is one of Myanmar’s most prized treasures. Old Bagan’s art and architecture are heavily inspired by Buddhism, with sacred temples and monasteries surrounding the area. In July 2019, Myanmar’s ancient capital was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its “extraordinary ensemble of Buddhist monumental architecture” that reflects the “religious devotion of an early major Buddhist empire”. Bagan’s sacred landscape is truly captivating yet therapeutic all at once.
One of the most common things to do in the ‘Land of Pagodas’, which is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike is to ride a hot air balloon. Hot air balloon rides will definitely be the highlight of your trip when in Old Bagan. Gazing out on the horizon from a hundred metres above the ground, whilst marvelling at the other dozens of other hot air balloons that are gliding along – what’s not to love? If heights are not your cup of tea, fret not – watching this magnificent sight from the ground can be just as memorable.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Nestled in between the Mekong and Nam Khan River lies the ancient capital of Luang Prabang in Laos. ‘Luang Prabang’ when translated means ‘city of the Golden Buddha Phra Bang’, and this Buddha is said to be the city’s source of protection since the 14th century. The architecture in this ancient city is a harmonious fusion of intricate Buddhist temples and French colonial buildings, inspired by the French colonial period.
While this city is home to some of the most beautiful temples; gold-plated and all, there are plenty of other things to do and see here in Luang Prabang. Visit the Night Market set along Sisavangvong Road lined up with rows of vendors selling all sorts of things from quirky souvenirs and local street food. If you’re an adrenaline junkie and nature lover, be sure to visit Nong Kiew – many hiking trails in this village lead to nearby waterfalls and caves!
There’s so much more to see in Southeast Asia and this is merely just the beginning. Be sure to add any of these places in your bucket list before tourists start to flock!