Winter Escape: 25 Places to Warm Up in Southeast Asia

Hate the cold? Visit tropical Southeast Asia during its best season. Here are 25 must-visit cities, sites and islands.

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Kampot, Cambodia

Known throughout Cambodia as the coveted weekend getaway destination, Kampot is a much needed reprieve from the chaos of Phnom Penh. Eco resorts like Ganesha and Eden Eco Village line the river while secret lakes and waterfalls abound for early morning canoeing and swimming. Rent a moto and take a drive up the winding roads of Bokor Mountain or over to La Plantation’s organic pepper farm and sample some of the world’s best.

Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia

Just off the coast of Cambodia near the border of Thailand, Kong Rong Sanloem sits unaffected by the worries of mainland and city life. A stay at either Lazy Beach hotel or Saracen Bay Resort delivers white sand beaches and an uninhibited view of the Gulf of Thailand. Sunset cocktails are recommended for full vacation mode.

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Take the dirt roads back into the forest of Mondulkiri and experience a Cambodia most tourists never know exists. Full of hikes, waterfalls and winding paths for moto riding, this oasis is one of Cambodia’s best kept secrets—until now. The Worldwide Fund for Nature protects a significant amount of the area and there are eco-accommodations like Nature Lodge that make the environment a priority.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Known best for the 12th century temples of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap has quickly developed into a bustling city. The famous pub street attracts all sorts of characters with its competing street parties—between Angkor Wat and Temple Bar—while the edges of town are host to more docile retreats. Artisans Angkor, a silk farm with free tours and a socially minded business concept, and Bees Unlimited, an educational guide to protecting local bees and honey, provide a way to explore modern Cambodia.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A wave of youthful enthusiasm is driving a country rocked by genocide into a new era. Gain your historical bearings at the Royal Palace and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, but transport back to the present with a cultural evening at the Meta House and a sunset dinner by the Mekong River. Fully embrace the daily lives of these smiling people at Russian Market and sample a traditional Khmer meal at the hip Eleven One Kitchen.

Chiang Rai, Thailand

Away from the famed sandy beaches of Thailand’s coast, the northern city of Chiang Rai acts as the perfect stopping point for Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle between Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. Travelers are given more than one reason to get off the beaten path, from finding the best khao soi soup at Phor Jai restaurant, stunning landscapes and ornate temples — the intricate White Temple is a bucket list staple.

Bangkok, Thailand

Stick to temples and food for the daytime experience while nighttime is definitely for the parties. The Grand Palace is a must, while taste-testing the city with Bangkok Food Tours should be on every foodie's list. The popular backpacker nightlife is on Khao San Road, but for those looking to avoid this type of crowd, the more local scene is at Sukhumvit Soi 11.

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Bordering Myanmar in Northern Thailand, Kanchanaburi proves to be more than just a stopover destination. For the outdoor adventurer, Erawan National Park and quieter Sai Yok National Park provide some of Thailand’s best waterfalls, hikes and cave exploration. Check out the laidback lifestyle scene on the River Kwai and its infamous bridge.

Krabi Province, Thailand

Krabi Province is all about the coastal life. Full moon parties, white sand beaches and overwater cliff climbing have been summoning travelers from all over the world for more than 20 years. Go swimming at Phra Nang Beach, paint yourself neon for a rave on Koh Phi Phi or catch a sunset in Kantiang Bay.

Phetchaburi, Thailand

Get outside of Bangkok and off the heels of tourists in the working town of Phetchaburi. Its rich history, ancient temples and mystical caves attract people from around the world. Don’t miss Wat Kamphaeng Laeng dating back to 12th Century Khmer architecture and the Tham Khao Luang cave.

Legian, Indonesia

On the famous Bali Island coast, Legian is the “just right” spot as it’s sandwiched between the high end Seminyak and backpacker Kuta beaches. Accommodations and entertainment come in mid-range prices, while the surf and scenery are priceless. Catch the sunset at TAO Rooftop Bar and dance the night away at Eikon.

Ubud, Indonesia

Eat, Pray, Love readers will recognize Ubud as the setting for the conclusion of Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey, and this part of Bali truly is as romantic as she makes it seem. Whether it’s a spiritual quest or simply getting in touch with nature, Ubud has a little something for everyone. Plan to see the iconic rice terraces and venture over to White Lotus for a yoga class.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

The incredible topography of Ha Long Bay makes this an iconic destination of Vietnam. Massive land structures shoot straight out of the blue-green ocean and provide an otherworldly view while cruising through by boat — Dragon Legend tours are one of the best in deals and name. Kick back for a luxe overnight trip exploring caves and feasting on fresh seafood.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Busy streets packed with food stalls and revving scooters let you know you’ve arrived in Vietnam. The Gustave Eiffel designed Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral and the Jade Emperor Pagoda let you know you’re in Ho Chi Minh City. Still frequently referred to as Saigon, this city with a controversial past is now a vibrant, modern destination.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Though Hanoi is another bustling city in northern Vietnam, it’s easy to access much needed greenery at the nearby Hoan Kiem Lake and a little further away Ba Vi National Park. For a look at an authentic downtown experience, walk the streets of Hanoi Old Quarter to admire the colonial architecture and grab the best bowl of traditional beef pho at Pho 49 Bat Dan.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, a transitory town on the coast, between north and south Vietnam, is known for its tailor-made clothing and relaxing environment. This is a good place to kick back and have a drink or two. Don’t be fooled by the chilled out vibes. The town turns it up every lunar cycle for a vibrant full moon party filling the quiet streets with music, colorful lanterns and traditional plays. Book early as the event draws quite a crowd.

Sapa, Vietnam

For a bit more of a perspective on rural life, head north to Sapa. Although this northern region can get cool in the winter, Sapa shouldn’t be missed when visiting Vietnam. The impressive mountains surrounding this town offer a perspective on rural living as they are home to indigenous tribes and a traditional way of life. Head into the hills with the local guide group Sapa Sisters—a social enterprise run entirely by local women—or discover the Sapa Square for colorful handicrafts.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, or simply KL as most travelers call it, is quickly becoming a destination hot spot. Since the public transportation system is cheap and easy, touring this bustling metropolis is a walk in the park. After checking off the obligatory view of the Petronas Towers, move on to the real reason people visit: taste testing the hawker stalls. Head to Chinatown and Little India to experience this cultural amalgamation with hole-in-the-wall eateries serving up authentic, savory cuisine.

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan is known for having more than 2,000 Buddhist temples, which are currently being restored to UNESCO standards. The recent increase in tourism is bringing more reasons to visit this rich, historical city. The location has catered to foodie travelers as cuisine from regions near and far have settled here. Most notable is the recent opening of Sharky’s restaurant, an artisan eatery focusing on locally grown produce and, surprisingly, expertly produced cheeses.

Irrawaddy River, Myanmar

Experience Myanmar like an old school explorer by cruising down the massive Irrawaddy River. It runs north to south, bisecting the entire country and connects major cities Mandalay and Bagan. Luxury line Sanctuary Ananda has cruise options for up to 11 nights of slowly watching the world go by. There are ships for any budget, though — most taking day trips into river towns and glimpsing impressive cultural pieces like the Maya Tha Lun Pagoda.


Being nicknamed the cleanest place in Asia doesn’t come cheap, but splurging in Singapore is well worth the accompanying price tag. About half the size of Hong Kong, this equally modern island off the southern coast of Malaysia has everything from an impressive skyline, Ferris wheel included, to world-renowned fine dining experiences like famous Restaurant ANDRE. “Since 2010, Restaurant ANDRE has been listed in World’s 50 Best Restaurants Award for six consecutive years and the Best Restaurant in Singapore,” said Marketing and Communication Manager Wendy Huang.

Si Phan Don, Laos

As a landlocked country next to the more popular Thailand and Vietnam, Laos falls under the radar of most travelers. It’s left places like the 4,000 Islands, or Si Phan Don, on the famous Mekong River seemingly untouched. Humble roads for riding bikes, porches for simply watching the sun rise and set and a host of natural beauties like curious dolphins and flowing waterfalls call to adventurers searching for authenticity. 

Vientiane, Laos

Contrasting sharply to cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is the chronically laid back Laos capital, Vientiane. Though the hustle and bustle is starting to make its way into development projects and construction, the bulk of tourism here still revolves around drinking Beerlao at sunset on the bank of the Mekong and slow paced visits of cultural sites like the Laos National Museum or Buddha Park. Accommodations are still fairly traditional, however there are some homier options, like Mandala Boutique Hotel that combine budget comfort and Laos culture.

Luang Prabong, Laos

Go to where the rivers converge, the Nam Khan and Mekong, to find Luang Prabong. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this Laotian city has gracefully combined traditional urban design with 19th and 20th century colonial architecture. The location provides access to nearby mountains, Kuang Si waterfalls and, of course, ample temples. To immerse yourself in the slow, quiet vibe of Laos, visit the Vipassana Temple and Park to try the meditation technique of the local monks.

Vang Vieng, Laos

Long established as a devil-may-care backpacker destination, this town actually shut out these types of travelers in 2012 by closing down the drug-induced partying and reckless river tubing. Since then, it has returned to the reason people flocked here in the first place: the serene river and peaceful environment. Going back to the basics, the Organic Mulberry Farm Restaurant is not to be missed as well as a lazy afternoon floating down the river.

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