Don’t get us wrong – Bangkok is great, and so is Kuala Lumpur.
But the best stories to tell are ones that nobody’s heard of before. And once you’re back from your trip to these unconventional travel destinations, everyone will definitely be all ears.
Not Valencia, Vientiane.
The charming capital city of Laos marries a European style of architecture peppered with Buddhist temples. It’s got everything a city cat would love, from happening bars to cultural sites, with all the laid-back lusciousness of a countryside (which is never far away – check out the nearby rice paddies!)
A must-visit: the Patuxai Victory monument (pictured). Reminiscent of the Arc de Triomph in Paris, go a little closer and you’ll actually see intricate designs of Hindu Gods in traditional Laotian style. P.S. head to the top of the tower for a stunning view of the cityscape!
NEXT: Chiang Rai, Thailand →
Compared to its sister Chiang Mai, this city is sleepier and more down-to-earth, but that’s not to say there’s any less to do here.
Go temple-hopping on your own time. You won’t miss Wat Rong Khun (pictured) in particular, also known as “the White Temple”, easily one of the most iconic temples in Thailand.
Plan your trip on a weekend so your stay permits a visit to the Saturday Walking Street, where you’ll find quirky bric-a-brac along with plenty of street food and drinks stalls. And you know what even the locals say: these folks do the best Thai food.
NEXT: Kuching, Malaysia →
Kuching is sat on the part of Malaysia separated from Singapore by sea, but it’s worth even the extra effort reaching this city by air.
Fun (and very adorable) fact: “Kuching” means “cat” in Malay, so don’t be surprised to find a massive cat sculpture smack in the centre of the city. Or cat cafes and even a cat museum.
Nature junkie? The city is uniquely charming in that field, too – explore the Fairy Caves or take the waterfall trail up Kubah National Park
NEXT: Manila, Philippines →
Manila is one of Phlippine’s oldest cities, and you’ll be able to tell through its most well-loved landmarks. The Intramuros (“the Walled City”) is the oldest part of Manila, still standing after making it through many wars. It’s visibly damaged, but that’s the whole charm of it!
Nearby, the Club Intramuros public golf course and driving range is great for some mid-afternoon golfing, or even lounging over tea.
NEXT: Palembang, Indonesia →
This city on Sumatra Island doesn’t get nearly as much attention as a tourist destination as it deserves.
While you’re here, try traditional foods that can be found in every restaurant or cafeteria (or even street vendors). Look out for Tekwan, a noodle soup dish made of fish and sago served with rice noodles, and Pempek, a savoury fishcake delicacy made with fish and tapioca.
Come nightfall, the Ampera Bridge (pictured), the landmark of the city, puts up some spectacularly dazzling lights, making a perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll by the riverbank.
NEXT: Phnom Penh, Cambodia →
What we love about Phnom Penh: the seamless blend of old and new is incredibly charming – turn the corner of what looks like a traditional street and you’ll see a towering five-star hotel.
This means once you’re done browsing the street markets, a short drive past the magnificent Independence Monument (pictured) will bring you to an upscale The Teppanyaki for stellar Japanese cuisine.
Bringing the little ones along? They’ll love Kids City, with ten floors of play, from foam playgrounds to ice-skating to laser tag.
NEXT: Jakarta, Indonesia →
Sure, the traffic is insane, but once you get to your restaurant (possibly 20 minutes late), it’ll be all worth it. Food in Jakarta is amazing and also amazingly cheap. From snazzy steakhouses to the freshest seafood houses. Don’t miss Bebek Bengil for their crispy duck, a Balinese specialty.
Prefer to avoid the traffic? You’ll have no problem spending all day in the whopping Grand Indonesia Shopping Town. It may actually be a mall, but we can definitely see why they call themselves a town.
NEXT: Vientiane, Philippines →
By Pinky Chng, October 2016