The top 5 South East Asian destinations for the culturally-minded traveller

It has been a long time belief of mine that the most fulfilling travel destinations around the world are ones that are a true cultural opposite of the city you call home. Amazing architecture and natural wonders are incredibly popular with travellers, though it never quite satisfies those of us who enjoy a side of culture with our travel. Walking city streets in awe watching the local populace go about their lives, struggling to read road signs, getting lost and experiencing truly unique cuisine makes for a far more memorable experience abroad. Here are my top 5 destinations to get lost in on purpose:

Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand is known for fragrant cuisine, mind blowing temples, tropical islands and beautiful scenery. The heart of Thailand beats in Bangkok, the capital city. Every street corner delivers something amazing to do or see, such as the floating market or the huge Siam Center, an enormous and luxurious shopping centre. Grab a bite to eat while exploring the street markets, or go for a ride in a tuk tuk. Keep your eyes and mind open, and you will lose yourself to the very active and immensely interesting world around you.

Bangkok

Halong Bay, Vietnam

With over 2000 islands dotting the beautiful Halong Bay, entire days will simply vanish as you explore the various beaches, fishing villages, floating bars or historic sites such as Hospital Cave, a Vietnam War heritage site. While Halong City provides the region with hotels, restaurants, bars and casinos, most people prefer to spend their time in the bay itself. A night or three on a boat amongst the towering and spectacular islands of Halong Bay makes for mind-blowing scenery you would want to wake up to every day.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Delhi, India

The capital region of India, populated by 16.7 million people, is an exotic region where you will find Mughal forts, ancient ruins, museums and bazaars scattered between office buildings and shopping malls across seven cities. The metro system makes it easy to reach cultural hotspots such as the famous Taj Mahal, currently a day trip via train. However the Gatimaan Express, a bullet train currently in development, would see travel times shrink from 2-3 hours each way, to a 90 minute journey through beautiful landscapes at over 160 km/h, bringing you even closer to one of the seven wonders of the world than ever before.

Delhi, India

Singapore City, Singapore

Quite possibly the most chaos free city in Asia; Trains run on time, traffic jams are near nonexistent and huge skyscrapers give the skyline a truly beautiful shape. The city is far more than just expensive buildings and pristine waterways, Singapore is also one of the most culturally diverse cities where Malay, Chinese, Indian and western cultures combine to create a truly wonderful atmosphere. A trip here will not be complete without a visit to the Marina Bay Sands, the world’s second most expensive building, which features the world’s biggest rooftop infinity pool, as well as a park spanning the very top of the three buildings.

Singapore

Manila, Philippines

The big city in the middle of a tropical paradise, Manila is known as the Pearl of the Orient. The city itself provides for outstanding sightseeing, while trips outside of the city takes you through amazing emerald rice fields, volcanoes and beautiful beaches. Catholic inspired architecture and culture from 350 years of Spanish rule really sets Manila apart from other Asian cities, and makes for a genuinely interesting city to explore.

Philippines rice fields

Travel makes for some of life’s most memorable experiences. While famous cities such as London or New York are definitely worthwhile destinations, you can’t go wrong with injecting a bit of culture into your life. The world is full of fascinating people, incredible sights and differing cultures. Why not get out of your comfort zone, and be a little adventurous?

Campbell Bevan is Founder and Managing Director at Amazing Accom.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Ingrid says:

    Great list! I like how you included Singapore, it is indeed a great cultural destination despite its modern look.

  2. This list is nice but not entirely accurate. Delhi is not in South East Asia and Manila does not look like a giant rice terrace. BTW. You didn’t add Bali?

  3. Amazing destinations! I’ve been to Singapore and Thailand..hope to do India, Philippines and Vietnam this year! Stunning cultural destinations they all are, bustling with the intensity of Asia.

  4. Steph says:

    Hi there! Great tip on visiting Manilla – sounds fascinating and isn’t a place in Asia I really think about going.

  5. Karen says:

    Just returned from Delhi – totally mind blowing. Even Old and New are worlds apart. Loved wandering the chaotic streets of Chandni Chowk and then by contrast admiring the grand designs of Lutyens in New Delhi.

  6. Tazz says:

    Well, experiencing different cultures is surely one of the main goals for many travelers.Some really good cities to visit to experience five different cultures…

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