The country of Cambodia has come a long way and now shines as an authentic and deeply fascinating destination in Southeast Asia. The remote floating villages on Tonle Sap and the more than 21 ethnic minorities groups like the Indigenous Khmer people provide true insight into the daily life of this growing country. While the temple of Angkor Wat may be at the top of many traveller’s lists of places to visit in Cambodia, there are more than 100 other stone temples scattered throughout the country. Cambodia is not without its white sandy beaches, either, as Sihanoukville, known locally as Snooky, is home to some of the country’s most beautiful. Visit Otres Beach for 4km of white sands and beach bars while Victory Beach is home to budget accommodation options and close to the local port. Learn more about touring Cambodia.
Don’t miss: As far as big cities go Phnom Penh is definitely worth the visit. This fast-moving capital is where three great rivers, the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap converge. Enjoy the local hospitality and visit the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda while you’re here, too. Thought to be the world’s largest religious building – and one of the most visited sites in the country – Angkor Wat was built by Suryavarman as a home for the ancient gods, but most likely used as a tomb.
With a population of more than one billion people, there’s no shortage of things to see and do at every turn in India. From lucky cows lazing about in the middle of busy Delhi streets to the ruins of Hamp and the languid backwaters of Kerala. India is ever-moving and magical, where ancient culture intertwines with colonial influence and former British rule. The mysticism and beauty are a stark contrast to the poverty and class divide seen here, signifying the complex dance the country does as it fights for growth and development. There is a constant hum in the city of Delhi that is the sign of the development, movement and overwhelming variety of attractions, people and history here. This northern capital varies from bustling ancient laneways in Old Delhi to the wide green boulevards of New Delhi.
There are hundreds of temples of all different faiths in Delhi, but one of the most visually impressive is Akshardham, which means the divine abode of god. It took 8,000 volunteers from around the world more than 300,000,000 hours to build the sandstone and marble carved building. If you do visit, be sure to take in the view and preserve the memory as much as possible, because photography is strictly forbidden. Learn more about touring India.
Don’t miss: A trip to India would be incomplete without visiting the favourites like the Taj Mahal, but don’t forget to soak in the sights of the longest river in the country, the Ganges, where you’re likely to see the Hindu religion come alive. Rajasthan, in the north of the country, also lures travellers with promises of glimpses of the Great Thar Desert, which can be found in the state of Rajastan but also some of Haryana and Gujrat. The Desert National Park is also home to fossils more than 180 millions years old and dinosaur fossils have even been found here.
6. Sri Lanka
Known for producing some of the best tea in the world, Sri Lanka is more than just the land of plantations. Even Marco Polo was enamoured by this island nation, calling it the finest island of its size in the world. With more than 2,000 years of cultural history, this country makes up for in experience what it lacks in size. Beyond the culture, Sri Lanka is known for its natural landscapes – from beaches and mountain ranges to tea estates and stunning coastal regions. Sri Lanka’s white beaches are something to behold, so grab your beach towel and hit the sands. You may even get the opportunity to visit the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery, which is home to Sri Lanka’s pioneering sea turtle conservation project. But if it’s Sri Lanka’s famous wild elephant herds that you’d like to see, then Udawalawe National Park has more than 200 elephants that call the place home. Learn more about touring Sri Lanka.
Don’t miss: If you love to indulge in a cup of tea every day, then a trip to the plantations, where some of the best brews in the world come from, is a must. Ceylon tea is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest exports after the country’s first tea plantation was planted in the hills of Kandy in 1867. Almost 30 different types of Ceylon tea are produced here and plantations can be found across the country. Jump on the train from Ella to Nanu Oya for the most scenic view of the plantations, while a walk up to Little Adam’s Peak in Ella will provide even better views.
The most iconic image of Southeast Asia often includes things like monks draped in saffron-coloured robes, locals cycling their bikes through busy streets and sparkling gold temples that provide a stark silhouette against the setting sun. All of this and much more can be discovered in Laos, which shares borders with Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and China.
Laos isn’t quite as busy as some of its neighbours, which makes it the perfect place to begin a Southeast Asia adventure. Once known as a bit of a party town, Vang Vieng is now a quiet rural area surrounded by limestone mountains that has become popular with hikers, climbers and cyclists and well-worth the visit in 2018. Learn more about touring in Laos.
Don’t miss: The religious Tak Bat ceremony practiced by the local Buddhist monks is an enchanting practice to witness but travellers are encouraged to take in the ceremony at a respectful distance. Dress modestly and watch as the monks meditate and receive their annual offerings. Watch the sun set over the Mekong at the riverside city of Vientiane, known for its laidback atmosphere and French flair. Colonised by the French in the 1893, this city has a distinctly European influence, from the food to the architecture. After enjoying a hearty breakfast of croissants or a baguette, take a wander through the streets dotted by impressive French abodes and traditional colonial architecture. There’s even a monument similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Patuxai.
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar was previously ruled by a military junta and was largely closed to the outside world. Change has been slow, though, so much of Myanmar is still undeveloped providing real opportunity to get to the heart of this country, and before other tourists catch on to what a special place it is. Considered the lifeblood of the country, the Irrawaddy River has been significant in shaping the country’s future. It is more than 2,000km long and a commercial waterway that connects the country. This enchanted river has also inspired many an author, including George Orwell who lived in the country and penned his first novel here, Burmese Days. The river is also a source of travel, food, entertainment and spiritual connection. Learn more about touring Myanmar.
Don’t miss: Be sure make time to visit Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay as this is where what is known as the world’s largest book can be found. 730 stupas surround the pagoda and contain 1,460 pages, originally inscribed in gold, that explain the teachings of Buddha known as dharma.
Are you planning a trip to Asia for 2018?