Top places for first-time visitors to Southeast Asia

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11 places in 8 countries
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Southeast Asia is a subregion of Asia consisting of 11 countries. The countries that are commonly considered to be part of Southeast Asia are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor, and Vietnam.

Southeast Asia offers an exciting and diverse range of experiences, from the stunning beaches and tropical islands of Thailand and Indonesia to Cambodia's cultural and historical attractions. There are the bustling cities of Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, and Kuala Lumpur, the beauty of Vietnam's Halong Bay, and the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, to name just a few.

The region also offers excellent opportunities for adventure, with activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, trekking, and more. Add to that the delicious cuisines, shopping, friendly locals, and visitors ensure a wealth of experiences to explore.

Here is the list of top places in Southeast Asia that you should not miss when visiting for the first time.

Singapore
Singapore
Singapore
Singapore

Singapore

City in🇸🇬 Singaporerated 4.6

Clean streets, top-notch public transportation, and soo many shopping malls

Singapore is an exciting and multicultural destination with a unique blend of modern and traditional attractions. Singapore is known for its clean and green environment, world-class public transportation system, and its reputation as a global financial and business hub. It also has a rich history and is home to some of the most delicious foods in the world. It is a great place to explore and experience the best of Southeast Asia. It is also the most expensive place in Southeast Asia for accommodation and eating out (except the street food).

What to do in Singapore

  • Visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens: Stroll through this stunning UNESCO Heritage Site, home to a dazzling array of flora and fauna.
  • Explore the iconic Marina Bay: Take in the views of the iconic Marina Bay skyline with the iconic Merlion Statue in the background.
  • Take a trip to Sentosa Island: Take a relaxing stroll along the beautiful beaches, explore the Universal Studios theme park, or take a ride on the cable car.
  • Visit the iconic Gardens by the Bay: Admire the unique Supertree Grove, the Flower Dome, and Cloud Forest, and enjoy the nightly light show.
  • Shop at Orchard Road: Get your retail fix at Singapore's most famous shopping district, and enjoy the many restaurants and cafes in the area.
  • Visit Chinatown and Little India: Explore the vibrant cultures of these two ethnic neighborhoods, with their colorful markets and unique souvenirs.
  • Take a night safari at the Singapore Zoo: Enjoy a unique experience at the world's first nocturnal zoo and observe the many animals that come out at night.
  • Enjoy the nightlife: Experience the many bars and clubs in the city, with a wide range of music and drinks.
Bangkok
Bangkok
Bangkok
Bangkok

Bangkok

City in🇹🇭 Thailandrated 4.3

Temples and some of the world's most delicious cuisine

Bangkok is the capital and largest city of Thailand. It is famous for its ornate shrines and vibrant street life. Bangkok is a modern metropolis filled with energy and excitement. The city is home to some of Thailand's most iconic landmarks, including the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. Bangkok is also known for its unique cuisine, nightlife, and shopping. There are countless attractions, museums, and cultural experiences to explore.

What to do in Bangkok, Thailand

  • Visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew: The Grand Palace is one of the most famous attractions in Bangkok and a must-see for any traveler. It's home to Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the Emerald Buddha, Thailand's most revered and sacred Buddha statue.
  • Visit the Temple of Dawn: This iconic temple is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and is one of the most photographed attractions in Bangkok.
  • Visit the Floating Markets: There are several floating markets just outside of Bangkok, and they're a great way to experience local life and buy fresh produce.
  • Take a Tuk-Tuk Ride: Experience the iconic three-wheeled taxis of Bangkok, the perfect way to get around the city and take in the sights.
  • Take a boat ride along the Chao Phraya River: Get a unique view of the city and its famous skyline by taking a boat ride up and down the Chao Phraya River. Many companies offer tours, and you can hire your private boat.
  • Shop at the Chatuchak Weekend Market: This vast market is excellent for picking up souvenirs, clothes, and other goods. It's open every weekend and is a great way to experience local life.
  • Enjoy a Traditional Thai Massage: Relax and relieve yourself of any aches and pains with a traditional Thai massage.
  • Try various local cuisine and as many food courts as possible: Thai cuisine is famous for its bold and delicious taste. One great thing about Bangkok is that you can find great meals almost everywhere suitable for every budget.
Phuket
Phuket
Phuket
Phuket

Phuket

City in🇹🇭 Thailandrated 4.4

Stunning beaches, world-class resorts, and non-stop nightlife.

Phuket is an island province in southern Thailand located off the country's west coast in the Andaman Sea. It is known for its dramatic landscape of mountains, rainforests, stunning beaches, crystal clear waters, lush tropical forests, islands, and lively bars and nightclubs. Phuket has many luxury resorts, spas, and restaurants that attract thousands of tourists annually.

What to do in Phuket, Thailand

  • Visit the Big Buddha - one of the most iconic landmarks on the island; the Big Buddha overlooks Chalong Bay.
  • Visit Wat Chalong: Wat Chalong is Phuket's largest and most important temple. Built in the 19th century, the temple features a number of ornate shrines, pagodas, and statues.
  • Explore Old Phuket Town: Visit the old part of Phuket Town and explore the streets lined with Sino-Portuguese architecture that dates back to the 19th century.
  • Visit the Beaches: Phuket has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, from the white sands of Patong Beach to the crystal clear waters of Kata Noi Beach. Soak up the sun and relax on the beach or participate in various water sports available.
  • Go Island-Hopping: Hop on a ferry and explore the stunning islands off the coast of Phuket, such as Phi Phi Island, Koh Racha, and Koh Khai.
  • Go on a Jungle Safari: Explore the lush jungles of Phuket on a 4x4 safari tour and spot wildlife such as gibbons, tigers, and elephants.
  • Enjoy a Spa Day: Relax and unwind at one of the many luxurious spas in Phuket and enjoy a massage, facial, or body scrub.
  • Explore the local markets - from fresh seafood to handmade trinkets, there are plenty of markets to explore.
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

City in🇲🇾 Malaysiarated 3.9

From towering skyscrapers to lush gardens

Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia, located in the western part of the country. It is the cultural, financial, and economic center of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is a modern city with a mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and European influences. It is famous for its towering skyscrapers, modern shopping malls, and bustling street markets. The city is a great place to explore, with its vibrant street markets, historical monuments, shopping malls, and iconic landmarks.

What to do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • Visit the Petronas Twin Towers: The iconic Petronas Twin Towers are one of the most recognizable landmarks in Kuala Lumpur. Enjoy a breathtaking view of the city from the sky bridge, or take a guided tour of the towers.
  • Take a Ride on the Kuala Lumpur Monorail: Enjoy a unique view of the city from the Kuala Lumpur Monorail. Take a ride to the Central Market, Chinatown, or Merdeka Square.
  • Explore Bukit Bintang: Bukit Bintang is the perfect destination for shopping, dining, and nightlife. Stroll through this vibrant district and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city.
  • Visit the Batu Caves: The Batu Caves is a Hindu temple complex just outside Kuala Lumpur. Explore the ancient limestone caves and take part in the annual Thaipusam festival.
  • Visit the KL Tower: For a stunning view of the city, take the KL Tower observation deck. On a clear day, you can see the Petronas Twin Towers and the city skyline.
  • Explore Chinatown: Chinatown is one of the most vibrant districts in Kuala Lumpur, with its colorful street markets, delicious street food, and lively nightlife.
  • Take a Boat Ride: Take a boat ride on the Klang River to explore the city from a different perspective. Enjoy the tranquil scenery and take in the views of the city skyline.
  • Tour the Islamic Arts Museum: The Islamic Arts Museum is one of the most impressive museums in Kuala Lumpur. Take a tour of this fascinating museum and learn about the history of Islamic art.
  • Take a Trip to the Orangutans: Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary to observe and learn about these fantastic creatures.
  • Enjoy the Street Food: Kuala Lumpur is famous for its street food, and there are plenty of stalls and restaurants to choose from.
Manila
Manila
Manila
Manila

Manila

City in🇵🇭 Philippinesrated 4.3

Exciting and crowded

Manila is the capital and most populous city of the Philippines. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a recorded history dating back to the 10th century. Manila is a bustling metropolis with a rich history and cultural heritage. It owns many attractions, from historical sites to modern shopping centers. It is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with a large number of people living in small apartments and cramped conditions. The city is also known for its bustling port, which is the busiest in the Philippines, and sadly also for its traffic congestion.

What to do in Manila

  • Visit Intramuros: Intramuros is the oldest district of Manila and was once the seat of the Spanish colonial government. It is a walled city with cobblestoned streets, Spanish-style buildings, and a number of historical sites and monuments.
  • Visit the National Museum of the Philippines: The National Museum of the Philippines is the country's largest museum. It houses an extensive collection of artifacts, art, and cultural materials that tell the story of the Philippines.
  • Visit Rizal Park: Rizal Park is an expansive park in the heart of Manila. Take a relaxing break from exploring the city and enjoy the lush green surroundings. The park also houses the historic Rizal Monument, a memorial to the Philippines' national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
  • Explore Chinatown: Manila's Chinatown is one of the oldest in the world and a great place to explore the city's rich cultural heritage. It has a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants, temples, and markets.
  • Take a boat ride along the Pasig River: The Pasig River is a popular spot for boat rides. It is a great way to explore the city's architectural and cultural heritage.
  • Spend a day at the beach: Manila is home to several great beaches, including the famous Manila Bay. Spend a day soaking up the sun and swimming in the ocean.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City

City in🇻🇳 Vietnamrated 4.5

From Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. Located in the southern part of the country, Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam's financial and economic center. The city is known for its high-tempo energy and colorful mix of traditional and modern architecture. It has ancient temples and pagodas standing side by side with world-class restaurants, hotels, and bars. Ho Chi Minh City is an excellent destination for those looking to explore the unique culture of Vietnam.

What to do in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Stroll along Nguyen Hue walking street: Stroll along this non-sleep pedestrian street for some shopping, street food, and great people-watching.
  • Visit the Central Post Office: This 19th-century building is a great spot to pick up some souvenirs, mail letters, and learn a bit of history.
  • Visit to the Reunification Palace: This building played a vital role in the reunification of Vietnam in 1975.
  • Visit the War Remnants Museum: This museum showcases the Vietnam War and its lasting effects on the country.
  • Visit the Jade Emperor Pagoda: This colorful and intricately decorated pagoda is one of the most famous temples in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Hike up to the Saigon Skydeck and Landmark 81: Take a trip to the top of this observation deck for stunning views of the city
  • Visit Ben Thanh Market: This iconic market offers an array of goods, from clothes to electronics.
  • Take a boat ride on the Saigon River: Enjoy stunning views of the city from the river.
  • Try the Local Cuisine: Ho Chi Minh City is renowned for its delicious and varied cuisine. Don't miss out on trying some of the local dishes: Bánh mì, Cơm Tấm, Phở, Bún Thịt Nướng, and many more.
  • Spend an evening at a Bia Hoi: Grab a fresh beer and join the locals in this unique drinking experience. Cheap, loud, and fun!
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay

Place in🇻🇳 Vietnamrated 5

Even Kong came for a visit

Ha Long Bay is a stunningly beautiful natural landscape in northern Vietnam. It is located in the Gulf of Tonkin and is a part of the larger Bai Tu Long Bay. It is made up of over 3,000 limestone karsts and isles of various sizes and shapes emerging from the emerald waters. The limestone formations are dotted with beautiful beaches, grottoes, and caves and are surrounded by picturesque fishing villages. There are many activities to do in Ha Long Bay, such as kayaking, swimming, sailing, fishing, and rock climbing. It is a popular destination for locals, tourists, and even film directors; the movie Kong: Skull Island was filmed here.

What to do in Ha Long Bay

  • Visit Titov Island: Titov Island is a popular destination for tourists and is home to a beautiful beach, a historic lighthouse, and several other attractions.
  • Take a Cruise: One of the best ways to experience Halong Bay is to take a cruise on one of the traditional junk boats. There are a variety of boat tour packages available, ranging from day trips to multi-day packages with overnight stays on board.
  • Kayaking: Halong Bay is an ideal destination for kayaking, and a range of kayaking trips are available, ranging from short 2-hour tours to multi-day trips.
  • Explore Caves: Discover the beauty of Halong Bay's hidden caves, such as Thien Cung Cave, Dau Go Cave, and Sung Sot Cave. Many boat trips are available that take you to explore some of the most spectacular cave systems.
  • Visit Cat Ba Island: Day trip to Cat Ba Island and explore its stunning landscapes, beaches, and national parks.
  • Beach Time: Spend time relaxing on one of Halong Bay's many beaches.
Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh

City in🇰🇭 Cambodiarated 3.6

The heart of Indochina

Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. It is located on the banks of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. The city has numerous monuments, museums, and markets, and is asignificantr hub for business and culture of the country. Cambodian people are famous for being friendly and kind. It is a popular tourist destination for those interested in the culture and history of Cambodia.

What to do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

  • Visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda: The Royal Palace is a must-visit attraction in Phnom Penh. It was built in the 19th century and is home to the King of Cambodia and the royal family. The complex includes several buildings, gardens, and a magnificent silver pagoda.
  • Visit Wat Phnom: Explore this beautiful religious site that is considered the spiritual heart of Phnom Penh.
  • Take a tour of the Killing Fields: Take a guided tour to learn more about the dark history of the Khmer Rouge regime and the many atrocities that occurred there.
  • Visit the National Museum: Get an in-depth look at the history of Cambodia and its culture at this museum.
  • Take a cruise on the Mekong River. A cruise on the Mekong River is a great way to explore the city and admire its beautiful landscapes.
  • Take a tuk-tuk tour. Take a tuk-tuk tour around the city and explore its vibrant streets and markets.
Siem Reap
Siem Reap
Siem Reap
Siem Reap

Siem Reap

City in🇰🇭 Cambodiarated 4.6

A world of wonders

Siem Reap is a city in northwestern Cambodia in the Siem Reap Province. It is known as the gateway to Angkor Wat, the world-famous temple complex of the ancient Khmer Empire.

What to do in Siem Reap

  • Explore the Temples of Angkor: One of the most popular attractions in the world, the Angkor Wat Temple Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of a series of Hindu and Buddhist temples and monuments. Explore the ancient temples, such as Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon, and learn about their history and significance.
  • Visit the Tonle Sap Lake: Explore the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and the surrounding fishing villages. Take a boat tour to meet locals and observe the unique floating villages.
  • Check out Old Market: Old Market is the city's oldest and most famous market, where you can find a variety of souvenirs and local handicrafts.
  • Enjoy a Traditional Apsara Dance Performance: Watch a traditional Apsara dance performance, a form of classical Khmer dance, to get a glimpse into Cambodia's culture.
  • Try a Khmer Massage: Relax and unwind with a traditional Khmer massage. These massages are designed to help you relax and reduce stress.
Vientiane
Vientiane
Vientiane
Vientiane

Vientiane

City in🇱🇦 Laos

The quiet brother of Southeast Asia

Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos. Located on the Mekong River, Vientiane is the country's political, economic, and cultural center. It is a city with modern and traditional Lao architecture. The city has a tropical climate, with an average temperature of 25°C and high humidity. It is known for its colorful markets, Buddhist temples, and French colonial architecture. While busy compared to some places worldwide, Laos and Vientiane are calmer than most of their neighbors.

What to do in Vientiane, Laos

  • Visit Wat Si Saket: One of the oldest temples in Vientiane, Wat Si Saket is a great place to learn about the city's history and culture. The temple's stunning architecture and rich history will make it an unforgettable experience. This Buddhist temple is one of the oldest in Laos and hosts thousands of ancient Buddhist sculptures and artifacts.
  • Relax at Buddha Park: Located on the outskirts of Vientiane, Buddha Park is a must-see for its stunning sculptures and gardens. The park features more than 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues, making it an excellent place for contemplation and reflection
  • Explore Pha That Luang: This stunning gold-covered Buddhist stupa is the most sacred monument in Laos and a major pilgrimage destination.
  • Take a Tour of the City: See the sights on a guided tour around the city and learn more about Vientiane's history and culture.
  • Ride the Mekong River: The Mekong River is one of the most scenic routes in Vientiane. Take a boat tour and explore the lush riverside scenery and local villages.
  • Shop for Souvenirs at Talat Sao: Known as the Morning Market, Talat Sao is one of Vientiane's oldest and most popular places to shop. Here you'll find various goods ranging from traditional handicrafts to modern gadgets.
  • Taste Lao Cuisine at Restaurants: Sample the delicious local cuisine at one of the many restaurants in Vientiane.
  • Enjoy Some Lao Beer: Relax and enjoy a cold beer at one of the many bars and restaurants in the city.
Bali
Bali
Bali
Bali

Bali

Island in🇮🇩 Indonesiarated 4.5

Island of the Gods

Bali is an Indonesian island located at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. The island is known for its lush tropical forests, iconic rice paddies, wonderful beaches, culture, and ancient temples. It is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world and is often referred to as the "Island of the Gods."

Bali is home to a large number of Hindu and Buddhist temples, as well as waterfalls, mountains, and a wide range of outdoor activities. Bali is the perfect destination for travelers seeking unparalleled beauty, relaxation, adventure, and spiritual exploration. Bali is also well-known as one of the top places in the world for female travelers.

What to do in Bali

  • Visit Ubud: Ubud is a stunning town in the middle of Bali, surrounded by breathtaking rice paddies, lush jungles, and dramatic volcanoes. Spend the day exploring the markets, temples, and art galleries.
  • Explore the Island's Beaches: From Kuta Beach to Nusa Dua, Bali has a wide variety of stunning beaches for you to explore. Spend the day sunbathing, surfing, snorkeling, or relaxing with a cold drink in hand.
  • Explore Treasures in Candidasa: Candidasa is located on Bali's east cast, and is home to somfantasticng treasures. Spend the day snorkeling, diving, or exploring the coral reefs.
  • Visit Tanah Lot: This iconic temple was built in the 16th century and sits atop a rocky outcrop in the sea.
  • Go White Water Rafting: Bali has some Southeast Asia'sthe best white water raftsia.
  • Hike Mount Batur: Mount Batur is an active volcano located in the center of Bali. Spend a day exploring the trails, and take in the stunning views of the surrounding jungle and rice paddies.
  • Take a Scenic Drive: Bali's winding roads are lined with stunning scenery, and taking a scenic drive is a great way to explore the island.
  • Have a Spa Day: Bali is home to some amazing spa, offering luxurious treatments and relaxation. Spend the day being pampered and rejuvenated.