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One of the highlights of spending extended time in Southeast Asia was that I got to see so much beauty, and so many different kinds of beauty.
Here are the most beautiful places in Southeast Asia:
Thailand’s Andaman Coast
Clear turquoise water, limestone cliffs, white sand, longtail boats — this is the Thailand of postcards, and that alone is the reason why you should visit.
And there are so many places. Koh Phi Phi has its famous cliffs and beautiful views from the top of the island. Koh Lanta is more rugged and less visited, with lots of hidden, deserted beaches. But for the absolute perfect shots, go to Phranang Beach on Railay.
Laos’s Bolaven Plateau
There aren’t a lot of tourists on the Bolaven Plateau yet, and there are very few traversing the area on their own by motorbike (which I highly recommend). You’ll reach a land of lush greenery, waterfalls, and homes on stilts (with large satellite dishes pointing out).
Don’t expect luxury accommodation on the Bolaven Plateau. But you can get your very own bungalow in Tat Lo with a balcony overlooking the most stunning mirror-like lake for about $3.50 USD.
The Countryside Surrounding Pai, Thailand
When motorbiking through the mountains of Pai, I literally had to stop every five minutes just to get another picture. The beauty of this place is almost otherworldly.
At times, it feels like you’re riding through a bright green jungle. Then, low valleys like the one pictured above appear, giving way to bright blue mountains. And that’s not all — there are hot springs, canyons, waterfalls, each more beautiful than the last!
Hoi An, Vietnam
Of all the small towns in Southeast Asia, I found Hoi An to be the most beautiful, especially in the evening, when the city lit up. The red lanterns are set perfectly against the yellow buildings, and the river floats with paper lanterns each night.
We were in Hoi An for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, and the fireworks display blew us away — we couldn’t believe how good the 20-minute show was!
While Bali is perhaps most famous for its beaches, I found the villages of inland Bali — specifically, Ubud and the surrounding area — to be the most beautiful places on the island.
It’s mostly the architecture here that will stay in your memory — the buildings, the carved wooden doors, the statues guarding each entrance, all while the jungle slowly grows around them. And if you can get out to see the rice paddies, that’s even better.
The Road from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang
This is not an easy journey — six hours of jostling around on a minibus, veering close to the edge of the cliff far too many times, and most of the bathroom breaks are, well, off the aforementioned cliff. I still can’t believe I did it twice.
But you get to do that while driving through some of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen. For some people, that’s not worth it, but for me, it definitely was.