From the pretty mountain villages of Myanmar to sophisticated and contemporary Singapore, this is a diverse area occupied by devoutly spiritual people.
Here hundreds of ancient temples and working monasteries share spaces with Mosques and churches. A place defined and molded by fire and water, here volcanoes pushed land from beneath the ocean’s waters to form some of the seven thousand islands that make up Indonesia. One of the world’s most active volcanoes is in this area.
On the continent many of the countries are defined by the mighty waters that run through them, using them for transport, floating bazaars, restaurants and houseboats. It’s also a place going through a fast development with road, air and railway travel improving every year.
An area of great natural beauty, the mountains are cloaked in tropical rain forests and the long palm-fringed beaches, are ringed by Coral Reefs that teem with tropical fish.
Countries in South Eastern Asia
A sultanate on the island of Borneo, Brunei is located in the South China Sea. It is a wealthy nation possessing the largest oil fields in South East Asia, yet unlike many other oil rich countries it has managed to hang onto its old world charm, and has preserved much of the natural beauty of the rain forests that cover the land.
Visitors to the Ulu Temburong National Park can view the forest from a canopy walk that hangs above the treetops, and then take a boat up the Brunei River to the Mangrove swamps to view proboscis monkeys and crocodiles in their natural habitat.
The capital Bandar Seri Begawan is unlike any other. Standing on one side of the river that runs through the city, a magnificent white marble and sandstone mosque with shimmering gold dome and gold-topped minarets. Just across the river water taxis, ply their trade in the world’s largest stilt house village, pretty as a postcard and complete with schools and shops.
Cambodia is known for its beautiful coastlines, colonial buildings and magnificent temples. The white sandy beaches and unspoilt tropical islands are scattered with the odd picturesque fishing village, and are great diving destinations.
The Mekong River, which flows through Cambodia is home to the endangered Irrawaddy, freshwater dolphins and fronts the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, with its many hotels, bars and restaurants.
Cambodia is famous for its magnificent Buddhist temples. The fabled Angkor Wat is the largest of any Angkor Temple and the most impressive. It was built in the twelfth century and is considered one of the Wonders of the World.
Visitors to Cambodia can choose from a host of pastimes. Dive in the clear Gulf of Thailand. Hike through the tropical forests or take a trip to a volcanic lake. Go boating or rafting on the rivers and view the everyday, traditional lifestyles of the Cambodian people.
Running along the equator for five thousand kilometers, Indonesia is built on a ring of fire, and consists of thousands of volcanic islands, many of which are well-known travel destinations each unique in landform and culture. Bali is known for its great nightlife, white beaches and blue sea, and some of the most beautiful ancient temples in the world.
In Papua time has stood still and the people live as they have lived for hundreds of years. Raja Ampat has the best diving destination in the world, and is home to nearly two thousand species of tropical fish and more that seventy five percent of the world’s coral species.
Borneo, with its rain forests and indigenous tribes, is also home the Tanjung Puting National Park with the largest population of orangutan in the world.
Indonesia, home to Komodo Dragons and orangutan, boasts a huge variety of natural wonders that include volcanic pools, tropical beaches, mangrove swamps, rain forests and mountains with equatorial glaciers.
Sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam, Laos is often overlooked as a tourist destination, but it has charms of its own. Full of rustic villages with stilt houses and rice paddies, people live here much as they have for centuries.
The ancient Hindu and Buddhist Temples of Laos have roofs of gold leaf. Monks still worship in the many monasteries. The Mekong River runs through Laos and is the centre of economic activity. It also serves the tourist industry, as the islands on the river are popular tourist attractions.
This mountainous country has an extensive network of underground caves, some served as hideouts during the Vietnamese War whilst others serve as Buddhist shrines. The mountains with limestone cliffs, lush, tropical vegetation and high crashing waterfalls are great for summer hikes.
The Bokeo Nature Reserve is home to black-cheeked Gibbons, previously thought to be extinct, as well as to bears, tigers, elephant and wild buffalo, and they accommodate tourists in tree houses.
Myanmar in South East Asia is home to more than one hundred ethnic groups. Hindu temples, Buddhist Pagodas, Muslim mosques and Christian churches, pay tribute to the great diversity of this nation.
Myanmar has many splendid temples. but it is the two and a half thousand-year-old Swendagon Golden Temple that is the most magnificent. It is one of the largest temples in the world; the gilded Stupa of this temple rises ninety-eight meters into the air.
For magnificent and imposing twelfth and thirteenth century temples visit the ancient city of Bagan and view the city from a hot air balloon.
Myanmar is known for its traditional dance and great food. The old towns are full of ancient buildings, ruins of once great palaces and monasteries. The many waterways are lined with timber houses and colorful fishing boats. Visitors can explore parts of the country on Electric bike, boat or horse and carriage.
Beautiful Malaysia is situated on a South East Asian peninsula just below Thailand. Seventy percent of Malaysia is forested, and this tropical land is blessed with a huge diversity of flora and fauna.
This country is truly one of the most beautiful on earth. Clear tropical waters, hosting magnificent marine habitats, lap against white unspoilt beaches.
Hikers can access steamy mountains, large cave systems, crashing waterfalls and wild rivers on trails or wooden boardwalks.
Traditional tribes still live in some of the remotest parts of the Malaysian rain forest, which is also home to some of the world’s rarest wild animals.
Whilst modern architecture lights up the city skylines, below many of the historic buildings have not changed for centuries. There are thousands of colorful Hindu and Buddhist Temples, majestic Mosques and traditional old shops and homes. The food and culture reflect nuances of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influence.
In the western Pacific Ocean, located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines has more than twenty volcanoes. It consists of seven thousand islands, only one thousand of which are inhabited by people.
Nature has endowed this country with scenes of breathtaking splendor. The turquoise seawaters lap onto powdery white or pink beaches bordered by coconut trees, and magnificent limestone cliffs. The hinterland combines mountainous tropical rain forests with rivers and inland lakes.
Dive into the surrounding coral reefs or discover the remains of four shipwrecks. Kite surf or sail the tropical waters, parasail or cliff dive.
Take a horse ride into ancient rice terraces cut into the mountain more than two thousand years ago, swim with whale sharks or take a hike in the mountains. It’s all there for you to explore.
Once a British trading post, the Singaporean culture and architecture reflects a combination of its British colonial, Indian, Malay and Chinese heritage.
The delicious and very reasonably priced cuisine available in places such as Little India and China Town reflects this mixed legacy.
A Bumboat trip up the Singapore River gives visitors a great view of the city. The country has many interesting museums and the zoo is one of the best in the world with more than three thousand six hundred species of animals.
Singapore’s Orchard Street is famous for the best shopping in the world. The transport system is very efficient so getting around is easy.
The Singapore Botanic Gardens has fifty-two hectares of streams, waterfalls, orchid gardens and rain forest. Pretty mountain trails and treetop board walks meander through it.
Thailand is known for its outstanding cliff hung shoreline where bright, blue water laps at pristine white beaches. Inland the lush landscapes are full of traditional farming villages and fishing communities that live as they have done for centuries.
Tropical forests and rice paddies, vie with hot springs and waterfalls in defining the natural splendor of the land. The bustling towns, chaotic with traffic, have plenty of entertainment on offer.
Amongst this natural splendor visitors will find some of the most remarkable architectural masterpieces on earth, temple complexes of enormous intricate design. Most temples in Thailand are dedicated to Buddha but there are also Hindu temples that hale back as far as the eleventh century.
Eat some of the world’s best cuisine, travel the waterways by boat to see limestone cliffs in Aonang, white water raft, dive in the crystal clear waters, swim with whale sharks or kite board, all at one of the least expensive destinations on earth.
Gaining independence in 2002, Timor Leste is the newest nation in Asia. It occupies the eastern side of the island of Timor in Indonesia.
In the capital city, Dilli, perched on a hill an enormous statue of Christ overlooks the city, with its pretty beaches and bustling waterfront. Climb to the top of the hill for a great view of the harbour and the surrounding Ocean.
Take a boat ride to Atauro Island to climb the mountains, or hike through the hills. Go snorkeling, diving or fish with the locals. The waters surrounding the island are the most bio-diverse in the world.
Find the best beaches in South East Asia on Jaco Island where translucent blue waters touch snow-white beaches.
Vietnam has been blessed with natural beauty, from the pristine beaches lined with palms or tropical forests to the waterways, bamboo forests and rice terraces of the verdant hinterland.
Stone citadels and beautiful pagodas decorated with intricate carvings are to be found all over the country.
Find an enchanting floating fishing village in Ha Long Bay, bracketed by cliffs shrouded in mist on the tranquil green water, and in Hoi An an ancient fishing village fronted by an exceptionally pretty riverfront is a very well preserved example of a fifteenth-century trading port.
The islands alongside Vietnam are surrounded by unspoiled coral reefs and covered by tropical forests. Colorful fishing boats lie at anchor in the clear seawater that borders the powder white sandy beaches.
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Train travel in Southeast Asia – Nomadic Notes