11 countries squeezed between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, home to over 641 million people, this is Southeast Asia or SEA for short. The world’s third most populous geological region is culturally and ethnically diverse, with hundreds of languages spoken here. No wonder SEA has long been one of the globetrotting backpacker’s favourite playgrounds. We, in Singapore, are a fortunate lot to be within SEA. An adventure of a lifetime doesn’t need to be somewhere far away.

Read on to discover everything you need to do & see at least once in SEA! We have included easy-to-save checklists you can use on your next adventure.


1. Brunei & East Timor

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Brunei is a small but oil-rich SEA country strategically located on the South China Sea in Borneo. On the other hand, East Timor is one of the world’s youngest and poorest states with abundant natural resources. These 2 countries may not rank high on the tourist picklist, but that doesn’t mean we should skip them. In fact, Brunei and East Timor are perfect destinations for your off-the-beaten-tourist-path adventure!

Visit the most iconic landmark in Brunei, the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Surrounded by an artificial lagoon that serves as a reflecting pool, this majestic structure is an Insta-worthy destination be it day or night.

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Marvel at Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, the largest mosque in the sultanate. Adorned with 29 golden domes and four terrazzo-tiled minarets, the complex is a sight to behold.

Thereafter, take a river-taxi cruise along the banks of Brunei River, where the sultan’s official residence, the Istana Nurul Iman, is located. The palace was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest residential palace with about 1,800 rooms!

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Traverse along the crooked wooden boardwalks through the world’s largest floating village – Kampong Ayer. The original “Venice of the East” is still home to about 10% of Brunei’s population. Finally, complete your Brunei adventure with an unforgettable virgin rainforest hike through Ulu Temburong National Park, the “Green Jewel of Brunei”.

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In case you didn’t know, East Timor is one of the most Christian countries in the world. You must not miss a hike up the 570 steps leading to the Cristo Rei statue in Dili, 7 kilometres east of town. It is a massive Jesus statue, in fact, the second largest in the world!

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Another must-do activity for hikers is to ascend to the country’s highest peak, Mount Ramelau. Catch breathtaking views of the sun rising from about 3,000 metres above sea level!

Thereafter, snorkel and swim with the abundant marine life at Atauro Island. The small island just off Dili’s coast is an exciting and relaxing destination with sublime beaches and fascinating natural landscapes.

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Don’t feel like doing anything? Head to Jaco Island to relish the serenity of this pristine white-sand beach.

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For a memorable retreat, make your way down a bumpy dirt road to the idyllic Marobo Hot Springs. Why pay for expensive Japanese onsens when you can get a rejuvenating and out-of-this-world experience in this remote part of the world?

 

 


2. Cambodia

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Mention Cambodia and the first thing that comes to people’s minds is undoubtedly the famous Temple of Angkor Wat. However, there is much more to do and see in the bygone Khmer empire.

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3. Indonesia

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With over 18,000 islands spanning three time zones, Indonesia is a wonderful destination with too much to do and see. But here’s the best you gotta check out at least once in your life!

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4. Laos

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As the only landlocked country in SEA, Laos is a peaceful country often forgotten by the typical traveller. That is probably the reason for its appeal to the adventurous backpacker. Check this bucket list to unveil the mountainous country’s charms before the mainstream crowds do!

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5. Malaysia

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So you think you know Malaysia, our closest neighbour very well. Shopping, dining and cheap massages across the causeway in Johor Bahru, food-hunting in Malacca’s Jonker Street, heritage trail in Penang and so on. That’s not all the multicultural country has to offer. Try ticking off these activities on the Malaysia travel bucket list!

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6. Myanmar

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It was barely 2 years ago before Singaporeans could enjoy visa-free travel to ancient Myanmar. Formerly known as Burma, the mystical country steep in culture and diverse landscapes only opened up to tourism in recent years. Now is the best time to visit Myanmar before it becomes too developed.

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7. Philippines

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Known for its rich biodiversity with over 7,000 tropical islands, the Philippines is home to hospitable and friendly locals. The interesting fusion of Asian traditions with Spanish colonial influence has also created an appealing unique culture that is hard to find elsewhere. Discover the top bucket list spots to do and see at least once on this archipelago in this section.

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8. Singapore

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Singapore may be a tiny red dot on the world map, but you will be surprised by the exciting list of things we get to do and see in this urban city. Don’t say you are a local till you have checked these off your bucket list!

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9. Thailand

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Thailand is SEA’s most popular tourist destination. The Land of Smiles has something to offer for everyone, be it mountains in the north, the high-life in Bangkok and Pattaya, or the serene beaches in the south. Read on to find out if you have done it all in amazing Thailand.

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10. Vietnam

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Finally, Vietnam may be the last SEA country to be featured in this article, but it is certainly worth your attention. Reputed for its picturesque natural landscapes and hospitable locals, Vietnam is a popular tourist destination on the backpacker trail. Discover the bucket list to travel like a local in the Land of the Blue Dragon.

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