Beyond the Crowds: Explore the Underrated Places in Southeast Asia

Beyond the Crowds: Explore the Underrated Places in Southeast Asia

Who doesn't know Bali or Bangkok, very popular destinations in this region? Among the many well-known destinations in this region, many others are not widely known; destinations rich in natural beauty, cultural heritage, and unique experiences, hidden gems tucked away in this region.

Using CNN Travel's report as a guide, we will explore some of the most underrated places in Southeast Asia, destinations that may not be well known, but hold their wonders and charm.

Ipoh, Malaysia

Visitors have the opportunity to explore the city's iconic sites and local heritage, such as the Ho Yan Hor Museum, Happy 8 Cafe, and Chinese temples such as Perak Tong, Sam Poh Tong, and Kek Lok Tong. The city's distinctive cuisine, including its world-famous white coffee, is also worth trying.

The best time to visit Ipoh is during the winter months, between December and February when the temperature ranges from 23°C to 30°C. The weather is very pleasant for evening walks. However, if you prefer sunshine and longer days, you can visit Ipoh in July.

Isaan, Thailand

With its distinctive rural character, Isaan offers an authentic and unspoiled Thai experience. Here you can experience the Thai way of life away from the crowds of popular tourist destinations, enjoying delicious food and warm hospitality. From ancient temples to colorful markets and breathtaking natural beauty, Isaan is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by adventurers seeking a unique Thai experience.

Thailand's vibrant Isaan markets offer local flavors and traditional crafts to explore. For those seeking tranquility, Nong Han Lake offers a peaceful atmosphere, while craft enthusiasts can explore the famous Dan Kwian, known for its various ceramics. The Khon Kaen National Museum and Phanom Rung Historical Park are also fascinating cultural destinations. Equally enticing, indulging in the authentic and spicy Isaan cuisine will be an unforgettable culinary experience.

Dalat, Vietnam

With its unique French colonial architecture and cool climate at an altitude of 1,500 meters, Dalat offers a captivating natural charm. Despite its allure, the city remains relatively unknown to international tourists, making it a hidden destination.

Surrounded by natural beauty, such as green hills, pine forests, lakes and waterfalls, Dalat offers an engaging experience for both locals and tourists. Outdoor activities such as fishing, picnicking, and kayaking can be enjoyed here, while the Truc Lam Zen Monastery offers a tranquil atmosphere for meditation, making it an intriguing place to explore.

Davao, Philippines

Known for its diverse nature, from the Philippine Eagle at the Philippine Eagle Center to the beauty of Mount Apo and the Davao River, Davao showcases a variety of natural wonders. Nearby Samal Island rivals the renowned beauty of the Philippines' beaches. Surrounded by lush green rainforests, Davao presents a rich ecosystem.

Aside from its natural charm, Davao City is also known for its vibrant culture, reflected in its local markets, historical sites, and traditional festivals. The Roxas Night Market tempts visitors with a variety of foods ranging from barbecue to grilled seafood, including the delicious simplicity of dishes like fresh seaweed salad (lato) and vegetable soup (law-uy). Meanwhile, pride in the local culture is evident in the Kadwayan Festival held in August. The festival showcases the wealth of local textiles, woodwork, songs, and dances of the 11 tribes that live in the mountains and surrounding seas.

Pulau Ubin, Singapore

This island serves as a sanctuary for various flora and fauna, including rare bird species and mangrove trees. Visitors can enjoy various outdoor activities such as cycling on beautiful trails, hiking through dense forests and mangrove swamps, and bird watching.

In addition to its natural attractions, Pulau Ubin has a rich cultural history, with traditional village houses still standing, providing a glimpse into the island's heritage. The island comes alive on weekends when visitors from all walks of life come to enjoy the charm of old Singapore. Chek Jawa, a rich mangrove wetland, has become a major attraction with its wooden boardwalk that allows visitors to get up close to marine life such as sea sponges, octopus, starfish, and cuttlefish.

Samosir Island, Indonesia

Located in the middle of Lake Toba, the world's largest volcanic lake, this volcanic island is surrounded by steep green mountains, creating an extraordinary and rare destination. Located in North Sumatra, the island is not only a vacation spot but also home to the Batak tribe.

Samosir Island offers visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the cultural richness of the Batak people through traditional villages and the hospitality of the locals, providing a unique and unforgettable cultural experience. Its stunning natural charm, with beautiful landscapes, lush vegetation, and the tranquility of Lake Toba, makes Samosir Island a hidden and captivating destination for nature lovers.

Pakse, Laos

Pakse, a city in Laos, is a fascinating destination in Southeast Asia with its unique French colonial architecture, Lao-Thai-French cultural heritage, and the natural beauty of the Mekong River, Phouk Luang National Park, and the Bolaven Plateau. Although less known internationally, Pakse offers a tranquil and authentic experience. Local cuisines such as sticky rice, larb, and papaya salad add to its appeal. With its charming cityscape and relatively unknown status, Pakse appeals to travelers looking for a different exploration of Southeast Asia.

Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

Often considered a lesser-known destination in Southeast Asia, Lan Ha Bay in Vietnam offers an experience similar to the more famous Ha Long Bay. Located to the south of Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay offers captivating natural beauty with pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and tranquility, making it a perfect choice for travelers seeking a quieter and more authentic experience.

As an alternative to the bustling Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay offers opportunities to explore caves, grottos, and sandy beaches with various activities such as kayaking, canoeing, cruises, and junk boat excursions. Despite its comparable beauty, Lan Ha Bay remains relatively unknown to international tourists, adding to its appeal as an underrated destination.

Banteay Chhmar, Cambodia

Under a canopy of trees and 20 kilometers from the Thai border, Banteay Chhmar offers a glimpse of the glory of the Khmer Empire without the crowds. Built in the late 12th century by Jayavarman VII, this "cat fortress" consists of eight temples with stone-faced towers that smile mysteriously.

Visitors can enjoy a serene and little-visited environment while exploring intricately carved reliefs depicting religious and military history. Banteay Chhmar also offers homestay programs and community-based tourism, allowing travelers to experience local life. The site is still underexplored by archaeologists, and many temples in the area remain relatively unrestored, offering a more authentic and less touristy experience.

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