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5 Hot Spots in Southeast Asia to Visit in 2016

Discover lush jungles, unspoiled beaches and architectural treasures in these must-see destinations.

U.S. News & World Report

5 Hot Spots in Southeast Asia to Visit in 2016

Golden Schwedagon paya

Gilded temples, bustling open-air markets and old-world charm flourish in these can't-miss spots.

(Getty Images)

There's something enchanting about Southeast Asia. With ancient temples, unspoiled beaches and breathtaking backdrops, this culturally rich region beckons to travelers of all kinds. While honeymooners seeking a romantic retreat have already discovered popular spots like Bali in Indonesia, off-the-grid destinations like Chiang Rai Province in Thailand offer fewer tourists and plenty of tucked-away temples and architectural gems. Best of all, many less-visited corners of Asia welcome a fraction of the visitors of metropolises like Tokyo, Beijing and Hong Kong, translating to lower rates and greater availability. If you're ready to discover the best of Southeast Asia, start 2016 off right with a trip to these must-visit destinations.

Vietnam

In Vietnam, you'll find a diverse topography and varied climate, with snow in the north and warm sands in the south.  And Vietnam's unique cultural influences are just as versatile as its landscapes. In Ho Chi Minh City – or Saigon, as the locals say – you can admire French colonial architecture at the Notre-Dame Basilica before making your way to the vibrant Ben Thanh Market. This sprawling indoor market is crammed with a hodgepodge of food stalls containing signature Vietnamese dishes such as Phở and Bánh mì at a reasonable price. For a less chaotic but equally vibrant atmosphere, head to Nha Trang City in Ninh Van Bay, which was central to the Vietnamese culture at the time of Angkor Wat. And for a memorable stay in the lap of luxury, retreat to the opulent Six Senses Ninh Van Vay, where lavish villas equipped with private plunge pools overlook the East Vietnam Sea. Daytime activities at the resort can include anything from scenic boat rides along the Cai River followed by soaking in mineral-filled hot springs to exploring the lush paddy fields of Hon Ba Park.

Thailand

If you're visiting Southeast Asia for the first time, Bangkok, Thailand's dynamic capital is an ideal place to start. Home to ornate temples, a 150-foot glimmering Buddha statue and a vibrant open-air market selling everything from mouthwatering pad thai to miniature tuk-tuks (oversized motorbikes that dominate the city streets), Bangkok offers plenty of allures. And should you tire of savoring Bangkok's authentic, affordable and tasty street food, Jack's Bar along the banks of the Chao Phraya River offers traditional dishes at a low price. After exploring Bangkok, head to Phuket to experience some of Thailand's most pristine beaches. For exceptional views along the beach, consider splurging for a stay at the ultra-luxurious Sri Panwa Phuket, where you can take in panoramic views of the southeastern Phuket from a well-appointed villa, outfitted with private infinity pool.

Myanmar

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is slowly transforming from an untouched frontier to a rapidly developing tourist destination, making now a prime time to visit. Home to thousands of well-preserved, gilded pagodas, fascinating religious sites and well-preserved colonial structures, Myanmar offers plentiful charms – at an affordable price. While you shouldn't expect to find English-speaking locals, five-star resorts or Michelin-starred restaurants, you can enjoy lush, jungles, picturesque lakes and unspoiled sites filled with plenty of old-world charm that haven't been commercialized yet. Consider planning your trip with a reliable tour operator through a trusted agency such as Virtuoso to enhance your experience and ensure you hit must-see sites like the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar's capital city.

Singapore

With glittering skyscapers, world-class shopping and a mix of urban and natural splendors, Singapore has long been attracted cosmopolitan visitors. Luxury hotels and acclaimed restaurants dot the heart of Singapore, while Marina Bay Sands and the gorgeous flora in the Gardens by the Bay offer a blend of contemporary allures and outdoor charms. After soaking up the Singapore's cultural sites and cherished parks, make your way to Sentosa, to unwind along the island's lovely beach. Or, if you’re looking to pick up a few souvenirs, make your way to Orchard Road's bustling thoroughfare before taking in spectacular views from the Singapore Flyer, which boasts panoramic views over Marina Bay.

Cambodia

Rife with tranquil beaches, verdant jungles and archeological gems like Angkor Wat, Cambodia is a must-see for every worldly traveler. The most fascinating of the Khmer temples and the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat is quite a marvel to behold. After taking in the well-preserved complex, make your way to the numerous ruins in the area or explore the scenic countryside, which boasts rice paddies and authentic stilted homes. The tranquil Song Saa Private Island in Sihanouk, which is more reminiscent of the Maldives than Cambodia, is also worth visiting.

Corrected on Dec. 10, 2015: A previous version of this story misstated the capital of Vietnam. The capital is Hanoi.

Tags: travel, Asia

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Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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