Indonesia, Malaysia & Philippines
- Kuta, Indonesia1 of 9
- Bali, Indonesia2 of 9
- Gili Islands, Indonesia3 of 9
- Java, Indonesia4 of 9
- Komodo Island, Indonesia5 of 9
- Manila, Philippines6 of 9
- Visayan Islands, Philippines7 of 9
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia8 of 9
- Sabah, Malaysia9 of 9
Indonesia, Malaysia & Philippines
Indonesia is a country as devastatingly beautiful as it is dazzling diverse. A country made up of over 17,000 islands, with the fourth largest population in the world, Indonesia is more like a collection of countries, each of which go into making it one of the most stunning and beguiling paces to visit in the world. You will be seduced by sultry jungles, volcanic peaks, pristine beaches, bustling markets, buzzing cosmopolitan urban centers and legendary wildlife. Continue this wild adventure into a part of the world that still feels like it is being explored, rather than simply visited, with marvelous Malaysia and the fantastic Philippines, where you will have the opportunity to charge headlong into vibrant, spirited and eminently exciting cultures and countries.
A traveler’s dream, Bali is the place that those suffering from wanderlust often find themselves; a laid back wonderland of jungle, beach, surf and enticing culture, Bali has it all. Kuta is big, brash and bawdy, a tourist destination well aware of its reputation as a party town and has decided to revel in such a status. The good news is that it is extremely budget friendly, the beer flows freely and the beach is only ever a hop, skip and a jump away, however, all of this has combined to make it a haven for backpackers and friendly surfers so you may only want to spend a brief stop here before moving onto other parts of Bali. To escape the frantic hordes of Kuta head, quite literally to the hills to the Hindu-Buddhist temple of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, often seen shrouded in a mysterious mist and it revels in its serene solitude having been built on a series of small islands, making it completely surrounded by water. This is a truly stunning spot in which to catch your breath before heading back into the throngs of people who head to Ubud for the authentic Balinese culture and more specifically, cuisine. By far the best place to sample Bali’s epicurean offerings, Ubud is set on the slopes leading up towards the central mountains, making it a picturesque spot to spend time in. Pulsing with energy, Ubud offers you a veritable mountain of cultural opportunities, from fine restaurants to popular dance shows, tranquil temples and surrounded by ancient villages and seemingly never ending paddy fields. By far one of the most popular places in Bali is the island of Nusa Lembongan, renowned for its laid back lifestyle, enviable surf and perfect beaches this is the place to head when all you really want is a sandy paradise, complete with crystal clear azure surf and the possibility of a delectable cocktail or two. Lombok lures visitors with its laid back charm and refreshingly undiscovered atmosphere in comparison to the more built-up Bali. With lush vegetation ranging from miles of paddy fields, to volcanic Gunung Rinjani laced with brilliant hiking trails, there is a natural wonder here to delight anyone’s taste. As in Bali, the surf here is a huge draw here for those chasing the perfect wave and an endless summer, but there’s much more to Lombok than simply sun, sea, and sand although these are on excellent display in the idyllic Gili Islands. A tropical paradise which is far from the maddening crowds, quite literally as there is no motorized traffic here, the Gili Islands are instead populated by superlative diving opportunities with deep water coral reefs, a heady underwater population of sharks, turtles and rays as well as beachside bungalows, bars and restaurants all of which combines to make these islands so hard to leave.
Java, the home island of Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta is the heart of the country. Teeming with people, Jakarta and the island of Java are, together, one of the most densely populated places in the world but don’t let this fact put you off. Jakarta is something of an urban nightmare, positively pusling with people, sights, smells and sounds in the way that super metropolises do and there are few redeeming qualities, unless you are a seriously committed urbanite. It is far better to explore the rest of the island of Java with its ring of volcanoes, lush, fertile vegetation, serene temples and views of the Indian Ocean. The beaches at Pangandaran are the perfect place to experience this, and to revel in waterside tranquility and perfect beaches and for something even more calming and awe inspiring visit the iconic Buddhist temple of Borobudur, where watching a sunrise is in and of itself a religious and spiritual experience. Yogakarta forms the cultural heart of the island, where the fine balance between respect and honor for the city’s ancient past and the forward-looking approach to modernity which can be found in most Asian cities is struck just right. To top off the perfect trip to Indonesia, a visit to the legendary Komodo Island is a must. Famous not just for the Komodo Dragons, or giant lizards which hail from this island, but also for being one of only a handful of places in the world with a pink beach, Komodo Island is like something out of a picture book rather than real life.
The Philippines, much like Indonesia is a beguiling formation of multiple islands within which you can expect to find a vast array of diversity, beauty, a warm welcome and the vast, high-rise filled, Westernized metropolis of Manila. Manila is a great place to learn about the country’s colonial past, and where the Spanish influence of that colonization is most obvious. From beautiful stone churches, to Intramuros, arguably the Spanish heart of the city, and the educational Ayala Museum the country’s Spanish history is in evidence everywhere in the city and traditions continue elsewhere in the country as well, such as in the regular fiestas smaller towns hold annually. To escape the urbanity of Manila head to the Visayas which provide an idyllic retreat from the relentless pace of city life in Manila. As steeped in history as the capital the Visayas are also relentlessly beautiful, fulfilling even the pickiest of traveler’s ideal of what paradisiacal beachside living should look like. Islands are filled with lush, tropical interiors, palms fringe white sand beaches, which in turn lead down to perfect azure blue water and all are serviced by excellent beachside amenities. So, grab a pina colada, pick up a book, and settle down to life in paradise.
Like Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia is a country of multitudes which contains contradictions, but also the wild jungles of Borneo, the friendly cosmopolitan lights of Kuala Lumpur, vast tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands and blissful white beaches. K.L. as its known to its friends, fans, and locals is a truly 21st century Asian cosmopolis and as with many of the continent’s vast metropolises it is a city in which the ancient, modern and futuristic rub shoulders with one another. From the iconic twin Petronas Towers to the many mosques and temples which are scattered throughout the city, K.L. has one foot firmly in the past whilst the other paves the way towards a bright, vertiginous future. Take in the view from the skyscraper Menara KL and see for yourself just how dizzying diverse this city is in, then take yourself over to the stunning Islamic Art Museum, which houses one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of Islamic art in the world. After such excellent sightseeing, take a load off at one of the city’s mamak restaurants where you can sample the best of the country’s cuisine, which over the years has become a heady fusion of Asian influences from far across the continent, then wander in tranquil Lake Gardens Park where you can find some much needed peace and quiet from the fast paced hustle and bustle of 21st century cosmopolitan life. Visiting Sabah in Malaysian Borneo means only one thing and that’s orangutans. Oh, and Mount Kinabalu, and Kota Kinabalu, and the Danam Valley, and the Semporna Archipelago. There’s certainly a lot going on in this northern state and more than enough to keep any dedicated adventurer happy for quite some time. A visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, however, is an absolute must, as is a stop in the capital of Kota which is an enviable mix of culture, urbanity, beaches, bars and markets. Penang, an island off the northwest coast of the Malaysian peninsula is a veritable feast for all the senses and a culture lover’s dream. Known throughout Asia for its divine cuisine, there is also history and culture here a-plenty. Like K.L. Penang is a cultural melting pot with a wide variety of influences and cultures from all across Asia, although Chinese and Indian largely predominate along with the local Malaysian flavor. There are almost too many historically significant sites in Penang to count, but a good place to start is with Cheong Fatt’s Mansion, built in 1896 this ornate palace was built by a man often referred to as the Chinese Rockerfeller, which should give you some idea at least of the man’s wealth and economic empire. The mansion is an exercise in the ancient art of feng shui and serves to astound and amaze the various tourists and visitors who have since walked through its perfectly proportioned halls and rooms. The Penang Museum in the center of Georgetown is also a great way to get to know the cultural hot pot of the island, and a visit to the Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple will give you some idea about the various religious influences felt in Penang. It is also, in and of itself, an amazing architectural artifact.
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