Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a collection of related but dissimilar states squeezed between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Indonesia is the most populous country with 255 million people as of 2015, and also the 4th most populous country in the world.

The area has long been a favorite region for travelers, well-known for its beautiful beaches, quality cuisine, low prices, and good air connections.

The culture in Southeast Asia is culturally diverse. Mainland Southeast Asia is a mix of Indochinese (Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand) and Chinese (Singapore and Vietnam). The island nations of Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia are a mix of indigenous Austronesian, Indian, Islamic, Western, and Chinese cultures.

The region’s rain forests are the second largest on earth, and home to important (but disappearing) species of orangutan, Asian elephants, the Malayan tapir, the Sumatran rhinoceros and the Bornean clouded leopard. Its extensive coral reefs have the highest levels of biodiversity among the world’s marine ecosystems.

Southeast Asia is mostly tropical — hot and humid all year round with plentiful rainfall. Cooler conditions are found in its many mountainous areas.

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Asia (Southeast) (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

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Countries in this region:

Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Burma / Myanmar

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, October, November, December

 Burma / MyanmarBurma (aka Myanmar) was founded over a thousand years ago, with coasts on the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. In addition to dominant Bamars, Myanmar is also home to many minority ethnic groups and nationalities which have their own distinct cultures and languages. Its largest and most important city isYangon (Rangoon). Burma includes a number of mountain ranges, all of which run north-to-south, perpendicular to the Himalayas. The Irrawaddy River dominates the landscape, and is home to the majority of its population.
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Cambodia

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, November, December

 CambodiaCambodia is dominated by its Khmer population, with minority groups including Vietnamese, Chinese, Chams, and around 30 hill tribes. The capital and largest city is Phnom Penh, the political, economic, and cultural center of Cambodia, while an increasing numbers of visitors are discovering its temples and beaches. The most distinctive geographical feature is the inundations of the Tonle Sap (Great Lake), which expands greatly during the rainy season. This densely populated plain, which is devoted to wet rice cultivation, is the heartland of Cambodia and has been designated as a biosphere reserve.
 
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Indonesia

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: May, June, July, August, September

 IndonesiaIndonesia contains 18,110 islands, 6,000 of them inhabited -- the largest archipelago in the world. With an estimated total population of over 252 million people, Indonesia is by far the largest country in Southeast Asia and the largest Muslim country in the world. Indonesia's size, tropical climate, and archipelagic geography, support the world's second highest level of biodiversity. In addition to various forest systems, Indonesia has a range of sea and coastal ecosystems, including beaches, sand dunes, estuaries, mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass beds, coastal mudflats, and tidal flats.
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Laos

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, November, December

 LaosLaos is a landlocked country that, despite its small population has 49 different ethnic groups. Laos is officially Buddhist, but animism remains important, especially in the countryside. Since 1975, it has been ruled by a Marxist government, but the country is welcoming to travelers and has become known for its laid back overall atmosphere. Much of Laos consists of thickly forested mountains, with scattered plains and plateaus. The Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand and is used for both commercial and tourism-focused travel.
 
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Malaysia

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: May, June, July, August, September

 MalaysiaMalaysia is split between the southern portion of the Southeast Asia peninsular mainland and the northern third of the island of Borneo. Peninsular Malaysia is home to the bulk of Malaysia's population, its capital and largest city Kuala Lumpur, and is generally more economically developed. Malaysia is a multicultural society, with an equally diverse religious makeup that includes Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sikhism and indigenous shamanism. Because of its broad geography, extensive forests, and location as part of the Coral Sea, Malaysia is considered one of 17 megadiverse countries biologically, with large numbers of endemic species.
 
A Natural Atmosphere includes a diverse range of destinations with outdoor-oriented features, including both water-based (beaches, rivers, lakes, etc) and land-based (mountains, forests, deserts, etc). It also includes specific outdoor activities, ranging from water adventuring (eg, kayaking, sailing) to land adventuring (eg, hiking, biking).

Natural Interests tend to be:
(a) outdoors-oriented, and therefore more dependent on weather conditions
(b) less easily accessible and more physically demanding than other destination categories.

In some cases (eg, rafting and climbing), this includes a significantly increased degree of adventure (or danger, depending on one's viewpoint).

Philippines

Atmosphere: Nature    
Best Weather: January, February, March, April, November, December

 PhilippinesThe Philippines is an archipelago nation with more than seven thousand islands. Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the islands. Since Spanish colonial times, the country has been Asia's largest Catholic country. As a result of later colonization by the U.S., English is considered a second language and is much more widely spoken than in most of the region. The Philippines' rainforests and extensive coastlines make it home to a diverse range of birds, plants, animals, and sea creatures and one of the ten most biologically megadiverse countries.
 
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Thailand

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, November, December

 ThailandThailand is the most visited country in Southeast Asia as a result of its combination of exotic destinations, decent infrastructure, low costs, and good food. Travelers often combine multiple places and activities on their itineraries, including beautiful beaches, tropical jungles, limestone karst formations, and other features. The country's official language is Thai and the primary religion is Buddhism. Although the great majority of the population is ethnically Tai, the northern, mountainous areas are known for their Mons, Khmers and various "hill tribes.” The capital and largest city is Bangkok, which is Thailand's political, commercial, industrial, and cultural hub.
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Vietnam

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, October, November, December

 VietnamVietnam is a long-but-narrow country on the Indochina Peninsula. Most people in Vietnam are ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh), though there is a sizable ethnic Chinese community in Ho Chi Minh City and numerous other ethnic groups occupying the mountainous parts of the country. Vietnam's land is mostly hilly and densely forested, with with mountains accounting for 40% of the country's land area and tropical forests around 42%. Vietnam’s capital city has been Hanoi since the reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1976.