Southeast Asia may have been a well-worn region for both backpackers and luxurious travellers with its variety of mountains, beaches, and cities. However, while much of its nature and bustling cities have increasingly attracted tourists from all over the world, there are still a whole of destinations left untouched and often overlooked.
These are some of the few places you should check out should you be in the vicinity.
1. Plain of Jars, Laos
Humongous stone jars littered around the area of Phonsavan begets a sense of mystery among the locals and travellers, as its ancient origin remains undiscovered.
Nonetheless, the place has gained its contemporary name, “Plain of Jars”. Located in central Laos and as a transit city to Vietnam, it is easy to miss this site in the quiet town that is nestled between backpackers’ favourite Vang Vieng and the natural beauty of Luang Prabang.
Don’t be surprised if no local travel agents are willing to bring to this UNESCO World Heritage Site until you get a large enough group.
2. 4000 islands, Laos
4000 islands is a group of islands in the most southern reaches of Laos, where there is more river than land. Some islands are so small; they stay submerged during wet seasons while some can host a luscious forest.
This is actually another alternative route between Cambodia and Laos, rather than the well-worn one through Thailand with a gruelling 40 hours land travel.
3. Bolaven Plateau, Laos
Bolaven Plateau lies in the crater of an ancient volcano that erupted million years ago. Perched at an altitude of 800, Bolaven Plateau is green all year round with a temperature cooler than most part of Laos.
This charming town is home to some of the world’s highest-grade coffee beans, dramatic waterfalls, untouched dense jungles and remote hill tribes.
4. Lopburi Sunflower Fields, Thailand
No one would imagine Southeast Asia to be home to flower gardens at such magnificent scale, but Lopburi province, just a mere 2.5 hours drive from Bangkok, has proven us wrong.
Every late November to early February, Lopburi will see sunflowers in full bloom, with most of them growing to a height of at least 1.5metres! With sunflowers by your side, and sunflower seeds in your hand, there is no better way to get away from the bustling of Bangkok City.
5. Chiang Rai Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
Spiritually known as the bridge of ‘the cycle of rebirth’ and more commonly, ‘Chiang Rai’s White Temple’, Wat Rong Khun sits in the Golden Triangle region of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. This is one of the most unique temples in the Kingdom of Thailand, bearing deep Buddhist themed paintings and architecture.
6. Sapa, Vietnam
Although Sapa is gradually gaining popularity and recognition among travellers, this province of majestic rice terraces and indigenous hill tribes is still pretty much uncovered. Sapa offers one of the most spectacular views in the region with plunging valleys of rice terraces against the mountains, and of course, the warmth and friendliness of the local hill tribes.
Bordering neighbour China and with strong French colonial influence, this quaint town retains much cultural diversity to explored.
7. Mui Ne Sand Dunes, Vietnam
Mui Ne Sand Dunes in Southern Vietnam will get you feeling like Sahara Desert with its sandy expanse. Mui Ne is famous for its limitless red and white sand dunes; the oceanic breeze sculpting the sands into Sahara-like formations.
Although Mui Ne is increasingly thronged with travellers, the area has retained much of its original charm with its fishing village unchanged. Don’t forget to try sand sleighing when you are there!
8. South Inle Lake, Myanmar
Tourism in Myanmar has been flourishing ever since its opening, but still remains relatively quieter compared to neighbour Thailand.
Do you really want to travel back in time? Jump (not literally) on a boat for a ride on serene Inle Lake. The traditional fishermen will bring you through the roads of villages, on water. Talk about manoeuvring with motorbikes in Southeast Asia.
9. Bagan, Myanmar
In the central of Myanmar lies Bagan, one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites, a historical rival to Angkor Wat, so you can imagine its reign during heydays in the 9th century. Luckily for us, its majestic existence was uncovered and retained till date.
Do bear in mind this is a temple town, so lose your late night partying thoughts and respect the culture.
10. Vigan, Philippines
This place leaves physical evidence of Spanish colonialism in the Philippines. Vigam, one of the few Hispanic towns left, is a World Heritage Site where its Spanish colonial architecture is retained.
Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved colonial town in Asia. Its architecture not only features Spanish presence but the different influences in the past – Chinese, Europe, and local.
11. Chocolate Hills, Philippines
Apart from the unrivalled white beaches along its coastline, Central Bohol is home to another natural wonder. The Chocolate Hills are a group of unusually shaped hills, and each barely reaching 120 metres in height.
Even today, geologists have not reached a conclusion on its formation. But we don’t a reason to admire beauty, do we?
12. Battambang, Cambodia
This is a special city with the perfect blend of urban modernity and small-town warmth, with cafes littered along the small lanes and ancient temples surrounding the city.
If that’s not enough to capture your attention, Cambodia’s first and only winery is located here. You will get to taste their ‘cognac’ and the different juices.