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Singapore is known as a bustling metropolis that also happens to be one of the cleanest and safest cities of its size in the world. (Just make sure you heed the local laws—something like spitting in the street might merely be considered rude in your hometown, but here, it carries a severe penalty.) You'll find historic sites like the Thian Hock Keng temple, superlative shopping (including gargantuan malls) and numerous beaches.
Johor Bahru is the second-largest city in Malaysia and, with the opening of two major amusement parks in 2012, it is poised to become a major tourist destination. TripAdvisor travellers also recommend visiting the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple, a unique Hindu temple decorated with brilliant glass mosaics.
Just a speedboat ride from Singapore, Batam’s beaches and bars tempt visitors with dishes of chili crab, grilled lobster, and freshly caught fish. While travellers golf, snorkel, and spa-hop, the island’s traditional culture thrives in fishing villages built on wooden stilts.
A popular destination for golfers looking for better rates and more accessible courses, Bintan is also a nice way to escape the bustle of Singapore. A ferry ride takes between one and two hours, depending on where you’re headed. From there you can relax on one of the beaches or head inland for hiking and ATV rides or take a ride at the elephant park. There are a couple of towns on Bintan, but the island’s natural beauty is what draws visitors.
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The cultural hub of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is visually defined by the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which, at 88 stories high, are the tallest twin buildings in the world and a vision of modern architecture. On the flip side, the Sri Mahamariamman is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia, its façade a colorful totem pole of iconography. Shopping at the Central Market is a joyful experience that involves haggling, handicrafts, and happiness.
Forested hills, romantic white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters greet visitors to tropical Palau Langkawi, the largest of the 99 islands in Langkawi archipelago. Known mysteriously as "Legendary Island" because of myths associated with its ancient geological formations, it drifts serenely alongside Malaysia in the azure Andaman Sea. Sample local cuisine at the night markets, hike to dramatic waterfalls or dive into an underwater marine park to take a guided glimpse at life beneath the sea.
Phuket offers a rainbow spectrum of spectacular holiday sights from blue lagoons and pink sunsets to orange-robed monks. Three wheeled-Tuk Tuks, taxis, buses and long tailed boats transport visitors between these marvels. Phuket's south coast offers its most popular beaches. The north is more tranquil. Koh Phi Phi, Phang Nga Bay and Patong Beach are popular spots. Diving, snorkeling, wind surfing and sailing are just a few active options. Inland, forested hills, mountains and cliffs wait to be explored.
Vietnam's bustling largest city sets the cultural and economic pace for the country. The former Saigon boasts charming French colonial architecture and wide boulevards, usually thronged and choked with traffic. Taxis are an option for seeing the sprawling city. The War Remnants Museum shows the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes. Don't miss the impressive Jade Emperor Pagoda. Go to the frenetic Ben Thanh Market for food, flowers or frogs. Tour through the Mekong Delta, past rice paddies and houseboats.
Bangkok is full of exquisitely decorated Buddhist temples—as you go from one to the next you’ll be continually blown away by the craftsmanship and elabourate details. But if you’d rather seek enlightenment in a gourmet meal, or dance the night away, you’ll also enjoy Bangkok—the restaurant and nightclub scenes here are among the best in the world.
Bali is a living postcard, an Indonesian paradise that feels like a fantasy. Soak up the sun on a stretch of fine white sand, or commune with the tropical creatures as you dive along coral ridges or the colorful wreck of a WWII war ship. On shore, the lush jungle shelters stone temples and mischievous monkeys. The “artistic capital” of Ubud is the perfect place to see a cultural dance performance, take a batik or silver-smithing workshop, or invigorate your mind and body in a yoga class.
The village cluster of Ubud is the ideal place to try a famed Balinese massage and soak up the ambiance of one of Asia’s top spa destinations. Acupressure, reflexology, stretching and aromatherapy star in the island's distinctively firm massage treatments. Ubud is also the vivacious centre of Bali’s arts scene, home to a small treasure trove of museums and galleries. Monkey around at nearby nature reserve Monkey Forest Park, home to hundreds of mischievous long-tailed macaques. Don’t miss the valley of tomb cloisters at Gunung Kawi.
Da Nang is laid-back and friendly, maybe because everyone you meet has just finished an amazing meal. Culinary tours are a hugely popular way to experience literal local flavor. After you’ve stuffed yourself with bold noodle soups and savory street foods, walk it off by exploring the limestone caves and Buddhist grottos of the Marble Mountains.
The charming Vietnamese capital has aged well, preserving the Old Quarter, monuments and colonial architecture, while making room for modern developments alongside. Hanoi may have shrugged off several former names, including Thang Long, or "ascending dragon", but it hasn't forgotten its past, as sites such as Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison attest. Lakes, parks, shady boulevards and more than 600 temples and pagodas add to the appeal of this city, which is easily explored by taxi.