Things to do in South-East Asia

Forget what you think you know about South-East Asia – it’s a region often banded together as one, yet each country is worlds apart in their cultural, historical and geographic diversity. What these countries do have in common, however, is their warmth of character, resilient people, unmatched landscapes and ability to welcome visitors with open arms.

Borneo has wildlife to rival any part of the world. Here are a few of its stars:
  • Orangutans We’ve got to start with these cheeky monkeys (well, apes), which are one of the world’s most loved creatures. Hanging out in a Borneo orangutan sanctuary is the definition of joy.
  • Sea turtles A sanctuary for these wonderful creatures lies off the coast of Borneo – the aptly named Turtle Islands. At different times of the year their laborious nesting process and the resulting eggs being hatched can be witnessed.
  • Sumatran rhinoceros Smaller than their African cousins, these rhinos have longish brown-red hair, wrinkles around their eyes and two horns (one large and one only around 10 cm long). Sadly, they are critically endangered.
  • Pigmy elephant Although you couldn’t really class them as small, these beautiful creatures differ from Asian elephants by being smaller, with relatively larger ears and straighter tusks.
  • Borneo hornbills There are eight species of these delightful birds who are easily recognisable by their weird and colourful beaks. They hold great cultural significance to the indigenous Dayak people and their image features prominently in their art.
  • Clouded leopards These beauties of the jungle are not always easy to spot, since they mostly hang out in trees and have intricate patterns to camouflage themselves.
Nearly ninety per cent of the Burmese population practice Theravada Buddhism, which means there are some incredible Buddhist temples scattered throughout the country. Here’s a taste:
  • Shwedagon Golden Temple Glittering gold and sitting high above Yangon, this sacred pagoda is an important pilgrimage site that contains relics of past Buddhas.
  • Shwesandaw Pagoda Dating back to 1057, Shwesandaw is an imposing pagoda with five terraces and a white, bell-shaped stupa.
  • Ananda Temple Known as the ‘Westminister Abbey of Burma’, this temple dates back to 1105 and contains a number of frescoes and four golden Buddhas.
  • Shwezigon Golden Temple With every single inch covered in gold, the 11th-century Shwezigon Temple is a jewel in Bagan’s hefty temple crown.
  • Mantara Gyi Pagoda Also known as Mingun Pahtodawgi, this dramatic-looking temple was built, but never finished, in the late 1700s. It was damaged in the 1839 earthquake and, as a result, has giant cracks carving through it.
  • Hsinbyume Pagoda Like the icing on the world’s most elaborate wedding cake, this striking pagoda (also known as Mya Thein Tan) was built in 1816 to represent the seven mountain ranges of mythical Mount Meru.

Only have a short amount of time? Experience the Pagodas on a day trip with Intrepid Travel 'Tradition & Culture in Yangon'8

When in the Philippines, do as the Filipinos do and sample some of these more intriguing local delicacies: • Tamilok It may look like a plate of raw worms, but this mollusk is a local favourite. Served either buttered or as ceviche, tamilok is said to be tastier than even the best oyster. • Crispy Pata Deep-fried pig trotters actually make for a delicious afternoon snack when served with a soy vinegar dipping sauce. • Sizzling Sisig Hailing from the culinary capital of Pampanga, sisig is a stirfry of pork cheek, head and liver, smothered in hot sauce. It’s crunchy and chewy, and great with a beer. • Kamaru A bowl of bugs has never been so tasty. This dish is a local specialty that involves the catching, boiling and sauteing of mole crickets. • Balut Arguably the most famous of Filipino delicacies, balut is a 17-day-old boiled duck embryo served with rock salt and spicy vinegar. • Kuhol sa gata Inspired by the French, these fresh snails in coconut milk are a real treat. Want to experience more than the food in the Philippines? Jump on our 'Off the Beaten Track Boracay' day tour.
There’s so much more than just swimming and sunbaking to be enjoyed when travelling through the islands of Indonesia: • Scuba diving Dive with manta rays off the coast of Nusa Penida or skim the shallow reef at Menjangan Island. With a plethora of first-class sites to explore, it’s hard to choose just one island. • White-water rafting Twist and turn with the river as you follow the swift current through Aceh’s Gunung Leuser National Park. • Surfing If waves are your friends, look no further than Indonesia for world-class swell. For the real professionals out there, the legendary Desert Point wave sits just off Lombok. • Snorkelling For some of the most diverse coral and marine life in the world, you can’t go past snorkelling the Raja Ampat reef. • Sea kayaking Imagine kayaking the epic archipelago that is the Komodo National Park. Float between primitive species of flora and fauna, and (hopefully) spy one of the great dragons on its home turf. • Sailing As you steer your vessel between palm-lined islands and through crystal-clear waters, keep an eye out for the local wildlife – the dolphins can be pretty friendly.
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