Day Three of my #whenthisallover travel bucket list and I’m planning a trip to South-East Asia. I’ve only been there a couple of times for just few nights stopover in Bangkok and Singapore on the way to Bali.
I’d like to base myself in the region for a few weeks, here’s the top 10 places I want to visit and the reasons why taken from the Lonely Planet’s ‘Ultimate Travelist of the 500 best places on the planet..ranked’
- Temples of Angkor, Cambodia – this was ranked No. 1 in the book winning 36% more votes than those in second and third places. It’s described as the world’s greatest temple to the Hindu god Vishnu and a literal representation of heaven on earth hewn from thousands of sandstone blocks.
- Hanoi Old Quarter, Vietnam – a little bit French, a little bit Communist and a whole lot Vietnamese. In this neighbourhood, French colonial mansions sit amidst a frenetic street markets and cool cafes where teenagers rock out to wailing guitars. Sprawling north from Hoan Kiem Lake is Hanoi’s cosmopolitan heart with its unbridled exuberance and brash joie de vivre.
- Halong Bay, Vietnam – more than 2,000 islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Designated a world heritage site in 1994 this mystical landsacape’s sparsely forested islands are dotted with wind and wave eroded grottoes that ring with birdsong.
- Ko Thao, Thailand – Warm, calm waters surrounding a beautiful droplet of land. You can toast the day with sunset cocktails on a white beach and you can get lost in coastal jungles before hitting the pumpin’ bar scene that rages until dawn.
- Hoi An Old Town, Vietnam – the country’s most civilised town is both cosmopolitan and provincial, but above, all beautiful. Once an ancient port, it’s now bursting with gourmet restaurants, hip bars, cafes and boutiques.
- Wat Phou, Laos – in a country better known for laid-back escapes than ancient ruins, here though you get both. This complex of Khmer-era temples is hidden in the pristine jungles of southern Laos on the banks of the Mekong River. The tumbledown pavilions, graceful Buddhist and Hindu carvings and tall trees shading the site give it a mystical ambience.
- Ko Phi-Phi – thrust to the top of every backpacker’s bucket list by one of my favourite films, The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The azure waters of Ko Phi-Phi’s Leh’s Maya Bay is encircled by jungle covered limestone cliffs making it one of Thailand’s most beautiful pilgrimage sites. By sundown day-trippers flock back to hedonistic Phi-Phi to sip cocktails to bone-rattling beats in heaving bars.
- Ao Phang-Nga, Thailand – with turquoise bays peppered with limestone rock towers, brilliant-white beaches and tumbledown fishing houses this is one of Thailand’s most exquisite bays. It was here among the towering cliffs and swifts’ nests that James Bond’s nemesis Scaramanga chose to build his lair.
- Tuol Sleng & the Killing Fields, Cambodia – apparently nothing prepares you for the Genocide Museum which remains a festering would for Cambodians who survived the ‘prison without walls’ that was ‘Democratic’ Kampuchea from 1975-79. Some 17,000 prisoners passed through its gates and were later executed at Choueng Ek.
- Bagan, Myanmar (Burma) – a complex of 2200 Buddhist pagodas on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. Largely constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries by a dynasty of zealous temple-building kings, the pagodas come in all colours, shapes and sizes.
A good mix of city and culture, landscapes and history, beach-life and hedonism I’ll be looking to get here as soon as humanly possible!