Summer In South East Asia

Escape the hot and muggy climate of Shanghai with your friends and family this summer. Easily and quickly accessible, South East Asia offers a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of our beloved city. Here are our top destinations from countries across the region.


Siem Reap

Although Cambodia's recent history is stained with violence and political turmoil, today the country is home to a robust culture and endless natural beauty. Its people are curious about the outside world and eager to share their country with foreigners through their food or just a warm smile.

Sitting in the north-western corner of the country is Siem Reap, the cultural and historical capital of Cambodia. Once home to the vast Khmer civilisation, the area around the city is spotted with countless ancient temples. At sunrise, head to Angkor Wat; the largest religious monument in the world. When you've snapped your pictures and the sun is up, rather than following the crowds into the temple, take a tuk tuk to Ta Prohm. At this time of day, the Tomb Raider temple, which is slowly yielding to an encroaching jungle, is virtually free of other guests. At dusk, take in Bayon, another sprawling temple adorned with hundreds of giant stone faces. Stand atop the impressive structure and marvel at how it was created over 800 years ago. For those looking for a day trip outside Siem Reap, channel your inner Indiana Jones at Beng Mealea, a crumbling temple completely overgrown by jungle. On the way back into the city, stop at Banteay Srei, the Citadel of Women, a stunning temple built of red limestone housing some of the most intricate carvings found anywhere in the Angkor kingdom.

Once tired of temples, Siem Reap has plenty to offer those who have taken in enough culture for one trip. Pub Street, a backpacker Mecca, is lined with crowded bars offering beer for pennies. While Pub Street is great for drinks, go elsewhere for dinner. Try The Indian just around the corner for shockingly delicious Indian food or travel a little outside town to Touich for an upscale, but still affordable, take on traditional Cambodian cuisine.

Cambodia is a land of contrasts. One of the world's most impoverished populations sits in the shadows of imposing monuments built by an ancient civilisation of unimaginable grandeur. An older generation remembers the horrors of an all-to-recent genocide while young Cambodians brim with confidence about the future of the rapidly developing nation. These contradictions play out on a canvass of beautiful scenery, making Cambodia a destination of unparalleled mystery and discovery.

Chiang Rai

Sitting just 50 kilometers south of the notorious Golden Triangle convergence of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos, Chiang Rai is Thailand's northernmost major city. A jumble of night markets, ornate dedications to the King, and food stalls offering delicious Northern Thai curries, the city is rapidly gaining the attention of tourists. While one could spend days wandering the hectic streets of Chiang Rai, you can also use the city as a jumping off point to explore the beautiful scenery in and around Northern Thailand.

Rent a motorbike and drive the 65 kilometre north to the border town of Tachileik, Myanmar. Once across the border, you can hire a tuk tuk driver to take you around a few local attractions: a Shan meditation temple, Shwedagon pagoda, and a “gem” market. King’s mother and zipping around the beautiful scenery.

Head back to Chiang Rai for dinner at Barrab Restaurant, near the clock tower, to try Khao Soi, a classic Northern Thai Another great destination by motorbike is Mae Salong, a village high in the mountainous region northwest of Chiang Rai. The village is home to a Chinese Kuomintang refugee community, originally settled by the troops of the Republic of China Army’s 93rd Division who refused to surrender after the Communist victory in 1949. Instead, they fought their way out of China and into Burma where they hid in the jungles until granted asylum in Thailand. Once the epicenter of the opium trade, the poppy fields have since been replaced by fields of tea. The village feels like a return to China. Most of the residents speak Chinese and all of the street signs and business names are written in Chinese characters.

Spend the day eating delicious Yunnanese noodles, visiting a chedi dedicated to the combination of crispy egg noodles and boiled rice noodles served with a curry sauce. However you choose to fill your time in Chiang Rai, you're certain to be blown away by the beautiful scenery and incredibly hospitable people.


Puerto Galera

The Philippines, an idyllic, tropical holiday destination that most expats in the city are familiar with thanks to its warm, sunny climate, favourable Pesos to Yuan rate and ease of travel from Shanghai directly to Manila. Upon arrival in Manila, most tourists opt for the famed and beautiful beaches of Boracay and El Nido. However, we suggest slipping off to the equally, if not more, beautiful secluded beaches of Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindora.

Travel overland to Batangas and then ride a banca across the crystal clear, blue sea to Puerto Galera. As soon as you step off the banca onto the shore of White Beach, the most popular of Puerto Galera’s 32 beaches the holiday begins.

Hop in a jeepny visit a beach area called the Sandbar; a beautiful long stretch of white sand jutting out into the ocean with water on either side. From here, you can hire out a two-seater, motorised banca to indulge in a spot of snorkelling. Ask the helmsmen to kill the engine and jump into the sparklingly clear water, put on your snorkelling gear and hold on to the outriggers as he starts up the engine again. It is an ingenious way of covering a lot of ground whilst taking in the spectacular underwater scenery. After periods of flying through the water at high speeds, if you’re lucky the boat will hovering above bustling underwater ecosystems while you are handed fistfuls of bread to feed the fish. The bold aquatic creatures will literally take the food right from your hands and swim all around you. Viewing this unspoilt area of the ocean is a humbling experience and particularly moving for children, hopefully inspiring them to learn more about environmental awareness and marine preservation.

The Philippines could easily be a holiday just about lounging on the beach and diving or snorkelling in the clear waters but, if you scratch the surface, there is even more to discover in the way of arts, culture and local history. Go forth and explore.



A seemingly endless series of rice terraces and an eclectic blend of ethnic minority hill tribes make the remote region surrounding the town of Sapa, in north-western Vietnam, an ideal destination for travellers looking to trade Shanghai's smog for crisp mountain air. With no commercial airport, the most common route into the area is by bus or train from Hanoi. The overnight ride ends in Lao Cai where smaller minibuses make the one-hour trip to Sapa and the twohour drive to Bac Ha.

Start your trip in Bac Ha. Every Sunday morning, sleepy Bac Ha is transformed as members of the local hill tribes descend into town for the weekly market hoping to buy and sell livestock, food, clothing and other necessities. The empty hotels fill up and the pace of life escalates dramatically as the streets become packed with stunningly dressed ethnic minorities making their way to and from market. The Flower Hmong are the most vibrant. Women dressed head-to-toe in traditional garb pedal colourful handicrafts while the men, for the most part, sit and drink homemade corn vodka.

When leaving Bac Ha, catch a minibus back to Lao Cai. From there, the drive to Sapa is a steep climb into the mountains. A long time stop on the backpacker trail, Sapa is the region's tourism hub, sitting in the shadow of Mt. Fansipan, the nation's highest peak. The city has a completely different feel than Bac Ha, where tourism is just beginning to catch on. Instead, busy hotels, restaurants, and souvenirs shops line the streets of the small, dense downtown area. Stop by the daily market for an assortment of Hmong handicrafts and local delicacies or take in the views from any of a number of restaurants overlooking the valley. While the crisp air, beautiful views and peaceful feel of the quaint mountain town may be hard to leave behind, the real magic happens on short multiday treks outside the city. Check out Sapa Sisters; a trekking company organised to benefit women in the local communities. Led by Hmong women, the various treks can accommodate groups of any size and skill level. Regardless of how fit you may be, the twelve year old Hmong girls who accompany each trek will make you feel out of shape, but they'll include plenty of breaks to let you catch your breath. Hike through bamboo forests, along the thin walls of centuries old rice terraces, past waterfalls and up soaring peaks. Words and pictures don't do the landscape justice. The incredibly gracious people, the stunning scenery and the calm pace of life make any visit to Sapa unforgettable.


Inle Lake

Myanmar, formally known as Burma, the once isolated state, is slowly working to expand its tourism industry. Although this might be a hard, after long being associated with oppression and a military junta, over the past few years, great strides have been taken towards a building a brighter future for the country.

Catch an internal flight to Heho from Yangon before taking a one-hour taxi to Inle Lake, famous for its leg-rowing fishermen who manage to balance on one leg at the end of their longboats, whilst casting their fishing nets. The lake is a place of unimaginable beauty, with bright blue skies reflecting onto the calm water and making it almost impossible to tell where one finishes and the other begins.

Spend a few nights in Nyaung Shwe, a town in Shan state that lies on the north of the lake. Shan is known as the garden state and produces most of the fruit and vegetables in the country. We found that the best way to get to grips with the famous five-day market, Shan food and the local way of life for people living on and around the lake was a Shan cooking class with Mr. Min (myomintun2008@ Eager Mr. Min picks his guests up in the morning for an early rummage around rotating market. The group is then transported by longboat to his family’s stilt house on the lake. Have a crash course in Shan food with an introduction to each dish and the local ingredients used; make sure you request the tealeaf salad. It’s extremely interesting to note the Southeast Asian, India and Chinese cooking influences.

Not to be missed is a visit to Red Mountain Estate Vineyards and Winery. This is one of the only two wineries in Myanmar. Perched on a sloping hill, go for a wine tasting and stay for the splendid view out over the lake.

It is also possible to stay in a stilt hotel on the lake itself. Amazing Hotel is a low-budget, high-quality hotel brand in Myanmar, which has a hotel in Nyaung Shwe as well as Inle Lake ( Spend a few days in a stilted, wooden room on the lake, taking longboat tours to surrounding, floating villages.

The smiling, welcoming and deeply spiritual people in Myanmar, along with the beautifully stunning and unspoilt scenery, make the country a must-visit destination.



Malaysia attracts visitors from all around the world throughout the year thanks to its temperate climate, interesting culture and awesome food. However, whilst many head to the popular beaches of Penang on the West Coast, travel to the less popular, but pristine, beaches on the East Coast of the country. Kuantan is the state capital of Pahang, which stretches along the South China Sea.

Cherating, about 30 kilometres north of Kuantan, is known as the epicentre for Malaysian surfing and populated by a ragtag crew of international and local surfers. In the small village, it is possible to rent surfboards and body boards along with wetsuits or snorkels, for those who are not so coordinated. The surf breaks far out from the village and offers both experts and beginners the chance to get out onto the waves.

A short drive away from Cherating is the Kemaman Terengganu Turtle Hatchery (Tel: +60139064828). This small hatchery aims to protect green back turtles that lay their eggs on the East Coast beaches. At the hatchery, if you’re lucky, you can glimpse freshly hatched green back turtles, and release them into the sea that evening.

Unfortunately, giant leather back turtles, that were once prevalent in this area, no longer come to Malaysia’s East Coast to lay their eggs. Previously, the beaches were not protected so locals and tourists alike were able to disturb the female turtles when they were laying their eggs. Now, however, the local government protects the beaches and no one can visit the beach during the evening, unless with a guide. Although seeing a green back turtle swim out of the sea to lay her eggs is not guaranteed, you may be lucky enough to catch the beautifully intimate moment.

On the drive back to Kuantan, there is the opportunity to take a sightseeing tour to watch fireflies (Tel: +60179789256). In the evening, journey on a small boat though the mangrove to see fireflies in their natural environment. Wellknown local guide, Hafiz, is an extremely inspiring and passionate firefly enthusiast. As you float past trees teaming with the critters, watch him flash a torchlight and beckon the fireflies out. It’s an awesome display that will certainly put a smile on your face.



Luang Prabang

The best way to describe Laos is to talk about what it’s not. It doesn’t have the same number of tourists as its neighbouring countries, or the same number of sights. Much of the experience of the country’s mostvisited city, Luang Prabang, comes from spending your days wandering and your nights eating by the mighty Mekong River and drinking icy-cold Beer Laos.

Unlike every other tourist destination in Asia, you won’t be hounded by taxi or tuk tuk drivers from the moment you exit the airport and shopping at local markets isn’t accompanied by a bout of frenzied haggling. Beggars are few and far between and Buddhism is inescapable, with a wat (temple) on almost every street corner.

Although getting from place to place can be something of a trial, Laos’ beautiful countryside, well-preserved waterways means the country is emerging as a prime outdoor adventure destination.

Most people fly in and out of Vientiane and the sleepy capital is a gentle introduction to the temperate temperament of Laos. There are some nice things to see, including Pha That Luang (Great Stupa) – a gold-covered Buddhist stupa on the eastern outskirts of town regarded as the national symbol of Laos.

The UNESCO World Heritage listed Luang Prabang is the country’s gorgeous former imperial capital. It’s dotted with 32 wats of all shapes and sizes, inhabited by thousands of saffron-robed monks and framed by charming French colonial architecture.

One of the most popular tourist activities happens daily at dawn, when the townspeople rise with the sun to offer alms to the monks. Lining up in order of seniority the monks (aged from 80 to novices younger than eight) file through the streets, filling their bowls with sticky rice.

Later in the day, walk through the town, admiring the colonial architecture and stopping in at any wats that catch your eye. Constructed in 1560 by King Setthathirat, Vat Xieng Thong is the most historically significant and magnificent wat in Luang Prabang. The home of royal coronations and the centrepiece of many festivals, the site is dominated by the central sim, but there are dozens of other structures within the compound, including stupas, a drum tower, monks’ quarters, a library and a chapel.

Another must-try experience is a boat trip on the Mekong River to the Pak Ou caves, about 25 kilometres from Luang Prabang. The journey is certainly a big part of what makes this such a peaceful way to spend half a day, with two hours of leisurely boating there and back. The caves themselves house thousands of Buddha statues placed there by devout locals.