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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.
Breathe deep in Genting Highlands where, unlike nearby Kuala Lumpur, the air is fresh and clean. Aside from its resort life, visitors flock to hill station to enjoy cooler temperatures, mountain scenery, strawberry farms, and a relatively undisturbed, natural rain forest.
Chaotic, crowded, and cosmopolitan, Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is a city of contrasts. Home to millions of people from around the world, the city is a mixture of languages and cultures, poverty and wealth. The city boasts some of the best nightlife in Asia and some of the worst traffic. Every holiday, the locals escape the pollution and the crowds to enjoy relaxing diversions like Ancol Dreamland, an amusement area featuring water parks, beaches, golf courses, and a SeaWorld.
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.
Hong Kong's a great city for an adventurous eater. Stop at a street vendor for fish balls on a stick or stinky tofu. Bakeries offer wife cake, pineapple buns and egg tarts. Or opt for as much dim sum as you can eat. If you're tired of local and regional Chinese specialties, check out upscale offerings from some of the world's top chefs, like Joel Robouchon and Alain Ducasse.
From modern skyscrapers and neon lights to Buddhist temples, palaces and pagodas, Seoul is a fascinating mix of old and new. A hub of business, culture and finance both within South Korea and internationally, Seoul houses the headquarters for some of the world's largest corporations. It also has one of the world's best subway systems the easiest way to get around in this densely populated area. For the best view of the city, go to the tower on Namsan, one of the mountains that encircle the city.
Home to nearly nine million and powering an economy that exceeds both Hong Kong's and Thailand's, Osaka packs quite a punch. The confident, stylish city is a shopping hub, with fabulous restaurants and nightlife. It's an ideal base for exploring the Kansai region: Kyoto's World Heritage Sites, Nara's temple and Koya-san's eerie graves are within 90 minutes by train. Top city attractions include the aquarium, Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan and the futuristic Floating Garden Observatory.
Tradition collides with pop culture in Tokyo, where you can reverently wander ancient temples before rocking out at a karaoke bar. Wake up before the sun to catch the lively fish auction at the Toyosu Market, then refresh with a walk beneath the cherry blossom trees that line the Sumida River. Spend some time in the beautiful East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, then brush up on your Japanese history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Don’t forget to eat as much sushi, udon noodles, and wagashi (Japanese sweets) as your belly can handle.