Thailand: Gateway to South-East Asia

Thailand has long been a favourite destination for visitors from the UK and Ireland. The ease of access, well-developed tourist facilities and diverse choice of destinations have all helped make Thailand a popular choice for holidaymakers. And as part of the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) community, Thailand also provides the perfect base to explore more of South-East Asia. Whether you prefer to travel independently or enjoy the convenience of a tour company, Thailand opens up the gateway to this fascinating part of the world.

Cambodia

If you are interested in history, a visit to Cambodia is an ideal add-on for a trip to Thailand. Known as the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’, Cambodia is best-known for the magnificent temples of Angkor. This UNESCO World Heritage site is impressive enough when you see photos and video footage, but to see Angkor Wat in person for the first time is incredible.  

The more recent history of Cambodia is a tragic one stained with bloodshed. Up to two million people were killed during the barbaric reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s and visits to the Killing Fields and the The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh are deeply moving experiences.

Cambodia has moved on from those dark days and is an increasingly popular location for tourists. If you are heading to Thailand’s eastern provinces or Ko Chang island, you can easily travel on to Cambodia to take in the lovely island of Koh Rong or the beaches of Sihanoukville. Continue along the coast to picturesque Kampong and Kep then up to the capital of Phnom Penh.

Visas and entry requirements:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/cambodia/entry-requirements

More details:

http://www.tourismcambodia.org/

https://www.audleytravel.com/cambodia/country-guides/first-timers-guide-to-cambodia

https://www.trutravels.com/combo-trips/thailand-cambodia/

http://www.telltaletravel.co.uk/thailand/cultural-tours/Thailand-Angkor-Wat.php

Laos

The same relaxed attitude to life that tends to prevail in north-east Thailand extends into neighbouring Laos. Don’t be in a rush to get things done in this part of the world. Once you’ve adjusted to the slower pace of life you may find yourself looking to linger a little longer in laid-back Laos. Try saying that after a few bottles of the excellent local brew, Beer Lao. And don’t leave Laos without sampling another local delight, the Lao baguette ‘khao jie pâté’ with its scrumptious combination of pork, vegetables, herbs, sauces and chilli.

Historic Luang Prabang is the jewel in the crown of Lao tourism. With a stunning setting, dozens of temples and some wonderful restaurants and boutique hotels, Luang Prabang is indeed a highlight of a trip to Laos. But don’t underestimate the capital, Vientiane, which has its own appeal and is easy to reach overland via Udon Thani or Nong Khai in north-east Thailand.  

Visas and entry requirements:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/laos/entry-requirements

More details:

http://www.tourismlaos.org/

https://www.abercrombiekent.co.uk/destinations/asia/laos

https://www.turquoiseholidays.co.uk/laos

https://www.insiderjourneys.co.uk/small-group-tours/laos

Myanmar (Burma)

If you’re planning a trip to Myanmar, you may have already been seduced by glossy photos depicting hot-air balloons gliding over the atmospheric temples of Bagan or captivated by the iconic images of the fishermen on Inle Lake. One of the most intriguing countries in Asia, Myanmar has opened up to tourists in recent years allowing more visitors to enjoy the country. At the same time, it’s impossible to ignore the ongoing Rohingya crisis which raises questions about whether it is ethical for tourists to visit Myanmar at the moment. There is no easy answer and it’s down to the individual. For some balanced perspectives on the issue, take a look at this article and the thoughts of responsible tour operators based in the UK.

Visas and entry requirements:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/burma/entry-requirements

More details:

http://myanmar.travel/

https://www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/burma/travel-guide

https://www.jasmineholidays.co.uk/mergui-archipelago-myeik

https://www.gadventures.co.uk/trips/myanmar-burma-on-a-shoestring/ATTB/

Malaysia

In keeping with the ethnic diversity of the country itself, visitors to Malaysia can enjoy an eclectic mix of experiences. Laze on the beaches of Langkawi, chill out in the Cameron Highlands and relax in a rainforest lodge in Borneo. The Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is often called by residents, is a city of contrasts. A city of skyscrapers and colonial buildings. A city of modern shopping malls and old-fashioned street markets.  A city where Muslim mosques, Indian temples and colourful Chinese shrines provide reminders of the diversity of Malaysia.

Make the trip over to the island of Penang and stay in the historic capital of George Town. The colonial architecture and mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures make George Town a wonderful location to explore on foot and gives you the chance to discover some of the best street food outside of Thailand.

With direct flights to Kuala Lumpur from locations including Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, Malaysia is an attractive add-on to a holiday in Thailand.

Visas and entry requirements:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/malaysia/entry-requirements

More details:

http://www.malaysia.travel/en/uk

http://www.diveworldwide.com/trip-ideas/sipadan-orangutans

https://www.exotravel.com/destinations/malaysia/

https://www.starclippers.co.uk/destinations/southeast-asia-cruises.html

https://www.virginholidays.co.uk/destinations/asia-and-far-east/malaysia-holidays

Brunei

As the smallest of the ASEAN member states, Brunei Darussalam isn’t on the radar of most tourists visiting South-East Asia and that is part of the appeal of this diminutive sovereign state. Located on the island of Borneo, Brunei is home to ancient rainforests, pleasant beaches, and a rich Islamic heritage. Brunei is also earning a reputation for eco-tourism and visitors interested in nature can combine a trip to Brunei with a wildlife safari in Borneo to experience more of the rainforest and see orangutans in the wild.

Visas and entry requirements:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/brunei/entry-requirements

More details:

http://www.bruneitourism.travel/

https://www.audleytravel.com/borneo/places-to-go/brunei

https://www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/brunei

Indonesia

By far the largest country in the ASEAN community, Indonesia sprawls from the Indian Ocean across to the Pacific. The vast archipelago includes thousands of islands, so many in fact that even official sources aren’t sure how many there are. Of all of them, though, it is undoubtedly Bali which is the best known to tourists. And for good reason. The ‘Land of the Gods’ features a lush landscape dotted with ancient Hindu temples and a coastline fringed with sandy beaches. There is no denying the appeal of the island, but venture beyond Bali to discover the culture of Yogyakarta and the natural wonders of Komodo National Park.

Visas and entry requirements:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/indonesia/entry-requirements

More details:

http://www.indonesia.travel/gb/en/home

http://www.kuoni.co.uk/indonesia

https://www.rickshawtravel.co.uk/asia/south-east/indonesia/

Philippines

An archipelago of over 7,000 islands, there is no shortage of destinations waiting to be explored in the Philippines. The most famous resort island, Boracay, has struggled to cope with the number of visitors, but there are many other locations in the Philippines waiting to welcome you. From Panglao Island to Palawan and El Nido, there is still ample choice for visitors in search of a Philippines beach holiday.

Rice terraces aren’t unusual in Asia, but they really have been taken to a new level in the Philippines. These ancient rice terraces are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and include the 2,000-year-old terraces at Banaue which are often described as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Reaching some of the most spectacular terraces at nearby Batad involves a hike, but they are an incredible sight and worth every drop of sweat to get there.

Visas and entry requirements:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/philippines/entry-requirements

More details:

http://www.tourism.gov.ph/

https://www.hayesandjarvis.co.uk/holidays/philippines

https://www.jasmineholidays.co.uk/philippines

Singapore

Singapore may be small is size, but occupies a powerful position in South-East Asia. Home to one of the busiest ports in the world, Singapore has also gained a reputation as a major financial centre. This prosperous city state has a different dynamic compared to other countries in ASEAN and is certainly one of the most orderly destinations in the region. Modern transport links make getting around safe and easy and Singapore also provides a convenient stopover for flights from the UK and Ireland to Australia or New Zealand.

Take a ride on the giant observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer for views of the city and indulge in a spot of retail therapy at Marina Bay and Orchard Road.  Make time for a visit to the historic Botanic Gardens and unwind with a Singapore Sling at the famous Long Bar at Raffles Hotel.

There are direct flights between Bangkok and Singapore, but for those who hanker after the romance of overland travel, book a trip on the Eastern and Oriental Express and enjoy the old-fashioned decadence of this classic train.

Visas and entry requirements:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/singapore/entry-requirements

More details:

http://www.visitsingapore.com/en/

https://www.hayesandjarvis.co.uk/holidays/singapore

http://holidayplace.co.uk/holiday/southeast-asia/singapore

https://www.virginholidays.co.uk/destinations/asia-and-far-east/singapore-holidays

Vietnam

Vietnam is a land of natural diversity. With mountains, river deltas, and a coastline that stretches for approximately 2,000 miles, the country is attracting an increasing number of independent travellers. And with direct flights from Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Vietnam can be combined with Thailand for a multi-centre holiday.

Travel through rural Vietnam to witness photogenic paddy fields and rugged scenery. Trek in the hills around Sapa and visit the delightful towns of Hoi An and Hue. The Vietnamese capital of Hanoi is home to some lovely old buildings and further south, the bustling modern city of Ho Chi Minh is another highlight of Vietnam.

Visas and entry requirements:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/vietnam/entry-requirements

More details:

http://www.vietnamtourism.com/

http://www.ethostravel.co.uk/destinations/vietnam/tours-vietnam/

https://www.outofoffice.com/holidays-to-vietnam

https://www.wellbeingescapes.com/fusion-maia-resort-vietnam-html