10. Vientaine, Laos
Compared to the hectic, bustling capitals in other Southeast Asian countries, Vientiane's deliciously relaxing atmosphere makes it feel like the small town it is. After you've done the round of temples, the best thing to do here has always been to wander down to the riverside, relax with a cold Beerlao - the national beer - and watch the sun set over the Mekong.
Of course, the booming tourism industry is changing this by slowly but surely bringing the excesses of Thailand and China to this formerly sleepy city. Just like any other Southeast Asian capital/major city, Vientiane is experiencing a building boom. Even its Presidential Palace is having a major makeover-addition and a new convention center has opened recently.
9. Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Bandar Seri Begawan (formerly known as Brunei Town) is the capital of the Sultanate of Brunei. It is officially governed as a Municipalities of Brunei. Bandar Seri Begawan has an estimated population of 100,700, and including the whole Brunei-Muara District, the metro area has an estimated population of 279,924. Bandar Seri Begawan is most notable for the absence of the mayhem that is typical of most south-east Asian cities. Central Bandar Seri Begawan is quiet, pleasant, greenery-dotted with a low-skyline that is decorated with minarets and neat arrangements of buildings.
8. Krong Siem Reap, Combodia
The name Siem Reap literally means "Siam Defeated". These days, however, the only rampaging hordes are the tourists heading to the Angkor Archaeological Park. This once quaint village has become the largest boom town and construction site in Cambodia. It's quite laid-back and a pleasant place to stay while touring the temples and a nice compromise between observing Cambodian life and enjoying the amenities of modern services and entertainment, thanks to a large expatriate community.
Since Siem Reap is a major tourist destination, prices in many instances are higher than elsewhere in Cambodia. Expect to receive almost constant offers for motodop and tuk-tuk rides, along with everything else which drivers may be able to offer to you.
7. Baucau, Timor Leste
Baucau has always played second fiddle to Dili in terms of national relevance. But the town has a backdrop that is just as scenic as that of Dili, with dramatic cliffs skirting the town.
Like Dili, Baucau suffered from the post-referendum carnage in 1999 where many of the main administrative buildings were burnt down. Departing Indonesian troops and the mobs they sponsored ripped out all infrastructure and utilities, leaving it without electricity and telephones. Baucau has since recovered remarkaby, although one can still see many gutted buildings.
Baucau's administrative centre is located at the foot of the cliffs that overlook the town. There is a large colonial hall surrounding a small fountain that was used for public addresses in colonial times. Nowadays you are more likely to see a goat wandering through than any colonial administrators. The real action now happens up on the cliffline - an area called Kota Baru (Indonesian for "New Town") which was developed during the Indonesian era - where the UN and now the East Timorese government have set up shop.
6. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, Saigon was "officially" renamed Ho Chi Minh City. However the old Saigon name is still used by both Vietnamese and foreigners, especially when referring to the most central part of the city to which most tourists flock. During the 1940s, the U.S. had supported the Viet Minh against the Japanese. During the 1950s, they supported the French against all rebels. During the 1960s, the United States defended South Vietnam against incursions from the Communist North. On April 30th, 1975, however, the U.S. ended all involvement in Vietnam, and the Viet Minh took Saigon, renaming it Ho Chi Minh City in 1976.
After the "Fall of Saigon," which the victors called the "Liberation of Saigon," many Saigon residents fled to the U.S. and elsewhere, creating a Vietnamese diaspora. While in this sense the city shrank, it grew in that its borders were expanded to include its suburbs and its whole province. Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, having eight million inhabitants, and is the nation's economic hub, accounting for 20% of national GDP. The city also attracts many tourists, especially to its French District, museums and its numerous cinemas. To explore Ho Chi Minh city, you can book a transfer service to go around.
5. Pattaya City, Thailand
Pattaya (พัทยา) is a seaside resort on the Eastern Gulf Coast of Thailand, about 150 km southeast of Bangkok. Pattaya is mostly famous for its go-go and beer bars, but local authorities have made some efforts to provide more family-friendly attractions and activities. Although the sex industry is still going strong and sex tourism remains the key money earner for Pattaya, the resort also attracts local families and holidaymakers from around the world.
Efforts by local authorities over the past few years have improved the quality of the beaches, but they are still lacklustre by Thailand's standards, and over-development has long since destroyed some of the natural charms the area once had. However, the plethora of hotels and guest houses, and easy access from the capital and airport, make it a popular weekend getaway. Catering for over five million annual visitors, Pattaya is also able to offer an excellent range of eating options and a wide variety of things to do. Its population is a colourful mix of nationalities and ethnicities from near and far.
Pattaya occupies most of the coastline of Bang Lamung District (one of the eleven districts that comprise Chonburi Province). This article only deals with Pattaya proper, which spans the areas to the east of Naklua Beach and Pattaya Beach, plus the Buddha Hill headland (which is immediately south of Pattaya Beach). Jomtien is covered in a separate article, and contains Jomtien Beach and the areas east of it, including Dongtan Beach. The beaches of Jomtien are much broader and generally in a better shape, and the atmosphere locally is more sedate and family-oriented than at Pattaya Beach.
4. Port Barton, Philippines
Port Barton is comparatively unspoiled and somewhat unsophisticated, and that’s exactly what seems to make it an attractive destination. Only recently has construction of a paved, concreted road into Port Barton gotten priority, and the majority of the road construction work is complete. Public transport from Puerto Princesa and El Nido is provided by several van operators and 1 bus line. Ask at the Puerto Princesa terminal for SBE ( San Isidro ) who have 1 bus daily in the mornings, and multiple van trips, or for Recaro who have multiple van trips. There is a daily jeepney service to Roxas which leaves Port Barton in the morning and returns at lunchtime. (There is a road going to San Vicente, however it is only passable by 4 × 4 and motor bike. Major roadworks has started on this road at both ends, San Vicente and Port Barton.) The houses along the beach have turned into small resorts or restaurants but the interior of the village is still mostly untouched.
There is 24 hour electricity now and 2 ATM machines. There are no doctors or hospitals. There is a small medical centre.There are no five star hotels. Many places are now enticing tourist with free internet, air conditioning and hot showers.
The community was built on fishing and offshore pearl-farming, although tourism has gradually (since the early 1990s) taken over as the primary source of income. Increasingly, outsiders are moving into Port Barton to set up small businesses that can cater to tourists. Farmers can be seen walking their buffalos to their fields, children in school uniforms walking the 2-3 blocks to school, older teens playing in the basketball courts, and fishermen untangling their nets on the beach.
3. Penang, Malaysia
Penang was part of the Malay sultanate of Kedah until 1786, when Captain Francis Light built a fort at the site of present-day Georgetown and managed to get the island ceded to the British East India Company. The island, along with Malacca and Singapore, was one of the three British Straits Settlements.
The name Penang comes from the Malay word Pinang, means the betel nut (槟榔） tree (Areca catechu). The name Pulau Pinang translated literally from Malay means "betel nut island". The original name of Penang was Pulau Ka-satu or "First Island", it was renamed to Prince of Wales Island on 12 Aug 1786 to commemorate the birthday of the Prince of Wales, later, George IV. During the early and middle part of the last century, Penang Island was also known as "The Pearl of the Orient".
The capital city, Georgetown, was named after King George III of Great Britain. Today, Penang Island is Malaysia's second largest city and has the highest population density in Malaysia. In addition, Penang is the only state where the ethnic Chinese are the majority. Penang also has the third-largest economy amongst the states of Malaysia, after Selangor and Johor, incredibly for its tiny size.
2. Singapore City , Singapore
Singapore is a microcosm of Asia, populated by Malays, Chinese, Indians, and a large group of workers and expatriates from all across the world.
Singapore has a partly deserved reputation for sterile predictability that has earned it descriptions like William Gibson's "Disneyland with the death penalty" or the "world's only shopping mall with a seat in the United Nations". Nevertheless, the Switzerland of Asia is for many a welcome respite from the poverty, dirt, and chaos of much of the Southeast Asian mainland, and if you scratch below the squeaky clean surface and get away from the tourist trail you'll soon find more than meets the eye.
Singaporean food is legendary, with bustling hawker centres and 24-hour coffee shops offering cheap food from all parts of Asia, and shoppers can bust their baggage allowances in shopping centres like Orchard Road and Suntec City. In recent years some societal restrictions have also loosened up, and now you can bungee jump and dance on bar tops all night long, although alcohol is still very pricey and chewing gum can only be bought from a pharmacy for medical use.
Two casino complexes — or "Integrated Resorts", to use the Singaporean euphemism — opened in 2010 in Sentosa and Marina Bay as part of Singapore's new Fun and Entertainment drive, the aim being to double the number of tourists visiting and increase the length of time they stay within the country. See Do, Gambling, below.
1. Bali, Indonesia
Bali is one of more than 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and is located just over 2 kilometers (almost 1.5 miles) from the eastern tip of the island of Java and west of the island of Lombok. The island, home to about 4 million people, is approximately 144 kilometres (90 mi.) from east to west and 80 kilometres (50 mi.) north to south.
The word "paradise" is used a lot in Bali and not without reason. The combination of friendly, hospitable people, a magnificently visual culture infused with spirituality and (not least) spectacular beaches with great surfing and diving have made Bali Indonesia's unrivaled number one tourist attraction. Eighty percent of international visitors to Indonesia visit Bali and Bali alone.
The popularity is not without its flip side— like many places in the island's South, once paradisiacal Kuta has degenerated into a congested warren of concrete with touts and scammers extracting a living by overcharging tourists. The island's visibility has also drawn the unwanted attention of terrorists in 2002 and 2005; however, Bali has managed to retain its magic. Bali is a wonderful destination with something for everyone, and though heavily traveled, it is still easy to find some peace and quiet if you like. Avoid the South of the island if you want a more traditional and genuine Balinese experience.
A consideration is the tourist season and Bali can get very crowded in August and September and again at Christmas and New Year. Australians also visit during school holidays in early April, late June, and late September, while domestic tourists from elsewhere in Indonesia visit during national holidays. Outside these peak seasons, Bali can be surprisingly quiet and good discounts on accommodation are often available.
The modest dress is expected in Bali. Although bikinis are fine on the beaches and in hotel swimming pools, they are not appropriate while shopping, eating in restaurants.