Southeast Asia - Best Tours & Trips 2019
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Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.
Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.
Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.
Price Per Day
Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.
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Rivers & Seas
Cities & Attractions
Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.
Flights & Transport
Continents & Regions
- Enjoy a traditional khantoke dinner in a rural village
- Enjoy a visit and talk with a monk at wat suan dok temple
- Have lunch at a training restaurant for disadvantaged youth
- Witness an outstanding performance at phare (the cambodian circus)
- Take thrilling cyclo rides for a different perspective in bustling cities
- Whip up a culinary storm and taste delicious local dishes in a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai
- Immerse yourself in the wonders of an ancient tribal culture with a night in the Hmong Lodge, treated to a BBQ dinner and Hmong Cultural show
- Make some new pachyderm pals at the unique Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital and learn about the great work they do to protect these magnificent creatures
- By paying homage to ancient Angkor, you will visit one of the world's greatest archaeological treasures
- Discover the contrasting sides to Cambodia’s history at Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sieng Genocide Museum (S21) and Choeung Ek, and the city’s Royal palace and Silver Pagoda
- Visiting Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, you will uncover that vibrant mix of the various major influences.
- Hoi An and Halong Bay unveil places of eternal beauty that have played their part in Vietnam's history.
- Experience three distinctly different countries in two weeks
- Overnight in the Mekong Delta at a homestay
- Visit the moving Killing Fields of Cambodia
- Explore the world famous Angkor complex
- Jungle trails of Thailand
- Visit the Royal Palace complex and Wat Po of Bangkok
- Crawl through the Cu Chi war tunnels
- Visit Wat Trimitr & Wat Po Buddhist Temples (Bangkok)
- Join an optional excursion to the colorful Damnoen Saduak floating market
- See exotic orchids and rare flowers in Singapore's Botanical Gardens
- Visit the Elephant Cave (Bali)
- Enjoy the spectacular city view from Victoria Peak (Hong Kong)
- Visit Aberdeen Floating Fishing Village (Hong Kong)
- Cycle through 3 countries
- Discover awe-inspiring ancient monuments
- Explore incredible Angkor by bike
- Wander the streets of Cambodia's Phnom Penh, an exciting capital city with a frontier feel
- The fertile Mekong Delta and Saigon, Vietnam's most vibrant city
- Experience a taste sensation with mouth-watering cuisine
- Explore Hoi An and Danang
- Have a chance to see water puppet show
- Visit Ho Chi Minh City
- Experience the cruise in Mekong river delta
- Discover Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
- Visit Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda
- Visit the Baisha Murals at Baisha Village
- Visit the ancient ruins of Indein
- Explore the pristine surroundings of Inle Lake with a kayak to soak in the sound of nature
- Enjoy Ayeyarwaddy Day Cruise
- Visit Buddhist Temples (Bangkok)
- See the Floating Market (Bangkok)
- Explore Grand Palace (Bangkok)
- Wat Mongkol Borpith Statue (Ayutthaya)
- Visit Elephant Camp (Chiang Mai)
- Wat Doi Suthep (Chiang Mai)
- Temples of Angkor Wat
- Tenle Sap Lake Boat Trip (Siem Reap)
- Overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay
- sampan cruise in Mekong Delta
- cyclo ride in Hoi An
- optional 'Killing Fields' visit
- buggy ride & water puppet performance in Hanoi
- alms-giving & well-wishing ceremony in Luang Prabang
- village visits in the Laotian countryside
- Explore Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in just 13 days on this speedy but comprehensive adventure
- See Indochina as you’ve never seen it before – from the seat of a bicycle. Cycling is the ultimate way get off the beaten track
- Work up an appetite for Southeast Asia's famously delicious local and regional food
- Get among nature, wildlife, small villages and ancient ruins, as well as the region's most lively cities
- We cover approx. 440km/270 miles on this itinerary, averaging around 50km/30 miles each riding day, with 4 non-riding days
- Phnom Penh - visit the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, Toul Sleng (Security Prison - S21) and the Killing Fields
- Cruise the Mekong and Tonle Sap River for four nights on board one of the finest Mekong River Cruisers
- Practice Tai Chi at sunrise on the sun deck
- Angkor Ban village - step back in time on a visit to this unspoiled rural community
- Mekong - meet the children at a local school, visit the pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Hanchey and the colourful monastery of Wat Nokor
- Koh Oknha Tey Island - tour the island by Tuk Tuk and learn how silk is processed at a local workshop
- Kampong Chhnang - discover Cambodia’s wonderful “water world” with its floating villages
- Tonle Sap Lake - cruise across Asia's largest fresh water lake
- Angkor Temple Complex - marvel at legendary Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and the temples of Angkor Thom
- Siem Reap - independently explore this charming town
- Experience the age-old rhythms of daily life on Bangkok & rsquo;s canals on our long-tail boat adventure.
- Spend two days exploring the temples of Angkor, including sunset from a prime vantage point.
- Cruise from Bagan to Mandalay, stepping off in remote regions where the rhythms of Old Asia can still be experienced.
- Visit a remote village and support a partnership that has bought a library to its 1,000 inhabitants.
- Enjoy a leisurely 2-night stay on Inle Lake where traditions endure as they have for centuries; this enchanting gem is rarely included on other tours.
- Includes 1 UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Sample delicious varied cuisine and master chopstick skills!
- A night in a village homestay
- Cruise the waterways of the Mekong Delta by dug-out boat
- Crawl through the Cu Chi war tunnels
- Fruit and pepper plantations of rural Cambodia
- Cycle tour of the Angkor Wat temple complex
- Bangkok’s glittering Grand Palace and huge reclining Buddha
- Visit Salay and Gubyaukgi Temple in Myinkaba
- Explore Yangon and see the Sule, British colonial buildings, National Museum, meditation center, circular train ride, River Gallery
- Visit Salay and Gubyaukgi Temple in Myinkaba
- Visit Minnanthu Village for sesame and peanut oil
- Discover Bangkok
- Visit healer and stroll through Ubud
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Top Southeast Asia Experiences
- Touring the ruins of Cambodia’s stunning Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex ever built.
- Taking an Irrawaddy River cruise through Burma, sailing by a wealth of Buddhist temples, monasteries, and exotic villages.
- Visiting the extraordinarily ornate Royal Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.
- Getting to know one of Southeast Asia’s new hot spots, Laos’ beautiful town of Luang Prabang.
- Discovering the fascinating tribal cultures of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
- Exploring East Malaysia on the island of Borneo, where traditional customs and architecture live on.
- Experiencing the “new Asia” in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, with its twin high-rise Petronas Towers.
- Joining a wildlife safari in Indonesia to view komodo dragons.
- Relaxing on a cruise around Vietnam’s gorgeous island-dotted Halong Bay.
- Dining at one of Singapore’s famous outdoor noodle stands, serving up some of the finest Chinese cuisine in the world.
- Kicking back on the tropical island of Palawan in the Philippines.
Southeast Asia Trip Reviews
2,011 Southeast Asia Tour Reviews - Summary 99% Recommend
Southeast Asia Tours and Travel Guide
Southeast Asia Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Southeast Asia – comprised of nine major nations and two smaller ones that lie south of China and north of Australia -- is one of the world’s greatest travel destinations. An exotic blend of cultures, religions, art, architecture, history, cuisines and landscapes, Southeast Asia never fails to fascinate, and is deserving of multiple trips to discover its wide array of attractions and people.
There’s a good reason why a visit to Southeast Asia is on the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. When you travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Malaysia and other countries in the region, you’re guaranteed to have experiences and witness sights that you will never forget:
- A young Vietnamese woman dressed in a white silk tunic cycling past lush green rice paddies through a morning mist.
- A stream of Burmese Buddhist monks garbed in saffron robes walking to riverside temples to pray.
- Thai children swimming in the klongs (canals) of Bangkok, as myriad longboats speed past them.
- Outdoor noodle stand operators (“hawkers”) firing up their woks in Singapore, while their aromas permeate the air.
- A string of open-air longhouses standing on stilts in East Malaysia on the exotic island of Borneo.
- Thick tropical jungles teeming with rare birds, plants, and animals.
And so much more that it can be overwhelming deciding where to go first – or next.
Here are some highlights of each country to keep in mind when making your decision:
Thailand is the most visited Southeast Asian country, and the one with the best tourist infrastructure. It also has some of the best food in the world – whether it’s a noodle dish from an outdoor stand or a seafood feast served at an upscale restaurant. Bangkok’s traffic and heat can be unnerving, but the fabulous Royal Palace, colorful wats, busy canals and floating markets make up for it and more. Cool off in mountainous northern Chiang Mai, relive some history at the Bridge on the River Kwai on the Burmese border, or experience the beaches and islands of southern Thailand. The Thai people are known for their smiles and hospitality.
While war museums and underground guerilla tunnels are still on most tour itineraries, Vietnam is long removed from the traumas of the 1960s-era Vietnam War. The vast majority of Vietnamese were not alive then, and Americans are warmly welcomed. Busy Saigon is a must stop, but more peaceful Hanoi is more reflective of the traditional culture. Halong Bay – with its wealth of islands and grottoes viewed from cruise ships -- is the top scenic wonder in the country, while the Mekong River is popular for river cruises. Vietnamese food is also exceptional.
Touring Burma (Myanmar)
Burma has been dubbed a “Buddhist wonderland” because of its thousands of temples and throngs of Buddhist monks. Mostly cut off from the world until the last few years, Burma hasn’t changed much for decades, though change will come – a good argument for seeing it now. The best viewing may be via a river cruise on the Irrawaddy, which flows through the country. The cruises typically include time in Yangon (Rangoon) and Mandalay as well as providing unforgettable views of the countryside and a mix of Buddhist and British colonial architecture.
Devastated by the wars of the 1960s and ‘70s and by the subsequent “Killing Fields” rule of the maniacal dictator Pol Pot, Cambodia has rebounded into one of the upcoming tourist destinations in the region. The prime attraction is Angkor Wat, the ruins of the 12th century “City of Temples” built during the Khmer Empire and the largest religious complex ever built. It lies in the jungles near the city of Siam Reap and can be reached via Mekong River cruises that often start or end in Vietnam.
Another country that suffered from the effects of the Vietnam War, Laos is now coming into its own as a tourist destination. Its capital, Vientiane, is a city of Buddhist temples and of leafy boulevards laid out in the French style (like much of Indochina, Laos is a former French colony). Another jewel now being discovered is the ancient city of Luang Prabang, which occupies a highly scenic spot along the Mekong valley in northern Laos; it’s also known for its wealth of Buddhist temples, French ambiance and variety of outdoor activities.
Southeast Asia’s most populous country stretches across a vast sea of islands large and small. It includes crowded Java, parts of Borneo and New Guinea, Komodo Island (home of the famous Komodo dragons), and tourist haven Bali, known for its beaches, arts scenes, rice paddies, and as the only Hindu-majority island in this predominantly Muslim nation. With as many as 17,000 islands in all – many uninhabited – Indonesia merits multiple visits, each of which may prove very different from the rest.
Touring Malaysia & Singapore
Malaysia is another majority Muslim country that also has a strong Buddhist population, many of them ethnic Chinese. The country is divided into two main sections: Peninsular (mainland) Malaysia and East Malaysia, which occupies part of the island of Borneo. Highlights of the former include the spice island of Penang, known for its cuisine; Malacca, which shows heavy Dutch influence from centuries ago; and the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, home to some of the tallest buildings in the world, a trove of restaurants, and classy hotels.
The east coast of mainland Malaysia is known for its sea turtles, beaches, and offshore islands. East Malaysia is the site of Mt. Kinabalu, Borneo’s highest peak (which can be climbed) and exotic plant, animal, and human life. Singapore, an island nation situated at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, has gone modern in a big way, but is known for its superb Chinese cuisine and attractively designed parks and urban spaces.
Touring The Philippines
Like Indonesia, the Philippines is a nation of thousands of islands. Located in the western Pacific off the eastern coast of continental Asia, the Philippines were once under U.S. and Spanish control, and many residents speak English and Spanish as well as the native Tagalog. The country is a jumble of ethnicities and religions.
Manila, the capital, is traffic choked but a must-stop for its colonial-era center along the waterfront, its atmospheric Chinatown, and the historic island of Corregidor in Manila Bay, where U.S. troops battled the Japanese in World War II. The outer islands offer a varied mix of tropical beaches and traditional culture.
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