If you dream of strolling through streets crowded with ancient Buddhist temples or browsing native markets filled with exquisite, hand-crafted merchandise, a visit to some of Southeast Asia’s remarkable lands is a must. Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar in particular offer cultural and spiritual attractions both on and off the beaten path.
Thailand boasts a rich cultural and spiritual heritage, gorgeous beaches, dense green jungles, and delectable cuisine. Most of the country’s inhabitants adhere to Buddhism, and the many temples and shrines are among the most intriguing and beautiful sights available to visitors.
Elephant riding along Mae Ping River in Chiang Mai, Thailand
In Bangkok, you can see the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace and in Chiang Mai, you can take an elephant ride along the Mae Ping River. Avoid the hottest and wettest part of the year by scheduling your luxury tour during the cool season from November through the end of February.
Traveling northeast from Thailand takes you to Laos, a mountainous country known for its quiet, colonial cities. When visiting Luang Prabang, you can see locals giving alms to the orange-robed Buddhist monks and witness a traditional Lao Baci Ceremony of blessing.
Buddhist caves in Pak Ou, Laos
The caves of Pak Ou, home to thousands of sacred statues, is another popular attraction. The laid-back nature of Laos and its inhabitants means they are rarely in a hurry. If you embrace this leisurely pace of life, you may just discover the plentiful treasures that lay hidden in this quiet nation.
From the central lowlands to the northern and western mountain ranges, Cambodia is a place of pure natural beauty and historical significance. This area was once home to the mighty Khmer Empire, best remembered today by the Angkor temple complex in Siem Reap, home to the famous Angkor Wat.
Banyan tree growing over stone temple at Angkor Wat
When visiting such sacred sites, it is respectful to dress in long pants or skirts and sleeved shirts and to remove your shoes before entering any shrine or temple. The capital city, Phnom Penh, houses the Royal Palace and the National Museum, where you can learn more about Cambodia’s history and see the collection of Khmer sculptures.
Located on the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea coast, Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a repository of natural beauty and historic sites. When you enter the Yangon, you are certain to notice the imposing golden dome of the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar.
Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar, also known as the Great Dagon Pagoda / Golden Pagoda
Should you find yourself not appropriately dressed when en route to these spiritual sites, you can rent a longyi, a kind of sarong that is popular in the area. While enjoying a boat ride on Inle Lake, you can see the stilt houses of the Intha tribe and watch natives paddling their wooden boats with one leg.
From traditional Buddhist sites and relics to gorgeous lakes and lush jungles, Southeast Asia is a truly desirable destination. Enjoy the beautiful natural wonders and partake in the traditional foods and customs in this warm, tropical corner of the world, where every country offers uniquely authentic experiences.