The Jewel of Asia
A magical world of undiscovered secrets, South-East Asia is like nowhere else on the planet. Divided into two parts, the mainland and maritime, there are a total of 11 countries each with something different to offer. It is the promised land of glistening temples, breath-taking rice terraces and over 20,000 islands. Every explorer’s dreams come true here, with dense jungles to delve in to and hidden waterfalls to cool down in. Simply getting around by motorbike, tuk-tuk or long-tailed boat makes even everyday experiences post-card worthy. South-East Asia is also renowned for its sensational and affordable cuisine from Thailand’s beloved Pad Thai to Vietnam’s Pho Bo, this continent truly is culinary heaven!
What to Expect
Culture and Traditions
South-East Asia is a whirlwind of so many different religions, cultures and traditions that it’s almost impossible to keep up with! Most of the mainland countries adhere to Buddhism but there is a mix of Muslim, Hindu, Christian and other minor religions spanning the countries. The fashion is spectacular, with brightly coloured silks worn in mesmerising individualistic styles. There are many unique food traditions here, ranging from the insanely good to, well… just insane! Duck foetus is considered a delicacy in Cambodia and deep fried insects or a bottle of vodka with a snake inside can always be found! Many colourful festivals take place in this varied continent, the most exceptional being Songkran, the celebration of the Buddhist New Year marked by the throwing and sprinkling of water. This is widely celebrated across Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar and is essentially a huge water fight that the whole country and its visitors get involved in!
Weather and Climate
Due to its equatorial location most of the regions of South-East Asia have a tropical and humid climate, therefore it varies from the hot to the extremely hot! There is rainfall all over the region, however in the period before the wet season from March to May it becomes exceptionally arid and hot. It is a relief for the locals when the rain finally appears around June as the land is desperate for water and temperatures become unbearable. Northern Vietnam and Myanmar’s section of the Himalayas are the only regions in the continent to feature a sub-tropical climate with cold, often snowy winters!
Mainland South-East Asia, also known as the Indo-Chinese Peninsula is made up of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. These countries are mountainous and covered with jungle terrain, perfect for trekking through their surreal landscapes. The colossal Mekong river flows through North-Eastern Thailand, Laos Cambodia and Vietnam and is impressively the 11th longest river in the world! Many rare species inhabit this river such as the Irrawaddy Dolphin which isn’t found anywhere else in the world. The maritime/oceanic region of South-East Asia is home to the Malaysia, The Phillipines, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Timor-leste. As its name suggests, this part of the region is made up of islands, so time spent here is invariably in or around the water. There are countless islands to hop, mountains to climb and lakes to swim in! The beautiful Indonesian archipelago is the largest island country in the world with an incredible 17,000+ islands. It is also home to the prehistoric komodo dragon and is one of the earth’s most active volcanic regions.
Angkor, located close to Siem Reap in Cambodia, is the world’s most famous city of temple ruins. The dazzling complex of Khmer architecture stretching over 400km2 is the perfect place to completely lose and absorb yourself in. With tree roots overgrowing the temples, it provided the perfect setting for the Tomb Raider film! Listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Angkor Wat is the complex’s main attraction, the world’s largest religious monument and symbol of the country. Visitors eagerly flock here in the middle of the night to arrive before sunrise and watch the sun emerge from behind the temple, an incomparable spectacle.
Nestled in the North of Vietnam lies the hill station town of Sapa, a culturally rich destination known as ‘The Tonkinese Alps’. It is a beautiful world of rice terraces, hill tribes and lush mountain ranges, still largely untouched by tourism. The local people dress in incredible clothes made from hemp string and dyed by indigo from the plants, many women having their hands stained purple from the dye. Tribes decorate their outfits with geometric patterns in bright colours making them visually stunning and the perfect feature in photographs of this cultural utopia.
The island of Komodo in Indonesia is perhaps not unsurprisingly home to the Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest living lizard! The Komodo Dragon is a type of monitor lizard native to the island, males growing to an impressive 2.6 metres. The island is also a renowned diving hot-spot and home to one of the only seven pink beaches in the world!