12 Stunning Destinations Worth Exploring in Southeast Asia

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Stephanie is a cherished member of the Sampling America writing team, dedicated to crafting captivating narratives that transport readers to thrilling adventures across the country and beyond.

Backpacking through Southeast Asia can be a life-changing trip for many people. Although it might seem frightening to travel so far to experience such a different culture, seeing some of Asia’s most stunning places is well worth it.

Follow along to find 12 new unique destinations to add to your bucket list. From Cambodia’s jungle to Thailand’s beaches, Southeast Asia will surely surprise you.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat Cambodia
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Angkor Wat is a 12th-century religious temple that spans over 162 hectares of land. It sits about 6 kilometers away from the closest town, Siem Reap, a popular tourist destination.

The jungle vegetation has slowly taken over this majestic temple over the last few hundred years. The vines grow almost intertwined with the sandstone bricks. There are hundreds of structures at this one religious site alone, so take your time touring one of the oldest World Heritage Sites.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Vietnam
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Thailand’s famous Ha Long Bay is a collection of monolithic cliffs covered in thick green jungle and towering over a turquoise bay. 

When visiting Vietnam, many people take a guided tour of the area on small wooden boats. The tour guides take visitors around the stunning cliffs and will let them step out into the many caves around the base of these islands. 

Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui Thailand
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Known as one of the best beaches in the world, Koh Sumui in Thailand attracts millions of visitors a year because of its white sand, crystal clear water, and jungle backdrop.

Although the beach is the main attraction, there are several long docks to walk along and a 12-meter-tall golden Buddha shrine. Many waterfalls and jungle hikes can be taken just next to the beach.

Boracay, Philippines

Boracay Philippines
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While many people might not think of the Philippines as a tropical paradise, they couldn’t be more wrong. The tiny island of Boracay is across the way from Panay Island, one of the main islands in the Philippines. 

Getting to this exotic paradise is easy, and staying in one of the villas built into the side of the jungle is a breathtaking experience. Walk along the long white sand beach to experience the beauty of this small cluster of islands. 

You can also experience many outdoor activities, such as cliff diving, kite surfing, and parasailing. 

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan Myanmar 1
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You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful place on the planet than the Bagan Archaeological Zone, which hosts over 3,500 temples. These pagodas were once more than 10,000 strong in the Kingdom of Myanmar.

For the best view of these remarkable temples, walk over to the white Shwesandaw Paya pagoda for a 360-degree view. Then, tourists can be guided through the more prominent temples to experience the stunning 13-century hand-carved details on the buildings.

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok Thailand
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Bangkok, Thailand, is the capital of this amazing country. The city perfectly combines the beauty of old-world temples dating back hundreds of years and new technology.

The city is a bustling metropolis with over 24 million visitors each year. Next to the Chao Phraya River, the towering skyscrapers share the space with intricate temples. Enjoy tasting some of the best food in Southeast Asia while visiting ancient temples, all without leaving the city center.

Yangon, Myanmar

Yangon Myanmar
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Yangon is another city that encapsulates a mixture of the old and new worlds. Mixed through this busy city are thousands of towering golden pagodas.

Seeing these temples up-close and personal to see the intricate hand-carved golden designs within thousands of ancient temples gives an idea of how much wealth the ancient Kingdom of Myanmar had.

Due to the military control in the country up until 2006 (you might remember the country used to be named Burma), the number of tourists allowed into the country was very minimal. But now, the country is excited to welcome tourists to see all that Myanmar has to offer. 

Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng Laos
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Although Laos is a smaller and less developed country compared to Singapore or the Philippines, it’s still a fantastic place to visit.

Vang Vieng sits between two of the larger cities in the country. One of the draws is to take a tube down the Nam Song River while enjoying the lush jungle scenery.

Another popular place is the Tham Phu Kham Cave, known for its blue lagoon and giant bronze statue of Buddha.

Palawan Island, Philippines

Palawan Island Philippines
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This rocky jungle-covered island is a rustic and undeveloped area of the country. Here, tourists can enjoy renting small boats with a captain to take them around these fascinating structures of islands.

Experienced divers can enjoy the numerous Japanese shipwrecks just off the coast. Turtles and tropical fish can also be seen swimming around the coral reefs that the wrecks and the ocean floor employ.

Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Bali

Tegalalang Rice Terraces Bali
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Bali is a small area in Indonesia, and you’ve most likely seen people enjoying the white sand beaches or taking a yoga retreat in the mountains.

However, the tiered rice terraces are a fantastic sight to see. Feel free to walk around the trails in these fields to take photos and bask in this unique place.

While visiting this area, consider checking out the Ubud Monkey Forest, a macaque sanctuary set in the jungle.

Komodo Island, Indonesia

Komodo Island Indonesia
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Indonesia has over 17,000 islands, many of which have completely unique flora and fauna.

Komodo National Park is home to the infamous Komodo Dragons. On this island specifically, the lizards run wild as the area is uninhabited by people.

When visiting, consider snorkeling along the coral reefs and walking along the mangrove forests to experience these ecosystems.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi Vietnam
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Vietnam is another country that only recently opened itself up to tourists. Thankfully, you can visit the city of Hanoi to enjoy its buzzing energy.

Due to the different countries that have colonized parts of Vietnam, the food scene is a wonderful mix of intense, spicy Asian flavors and subtle French influences.

The Temple of Literature is one of the most stunning buildings in the city. Be sure to take a tour of the city’s many temples and ancient architecture.

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Lake Tahoe
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Arches National Park
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