Candi Bentar in Indonesia

That’s Uniquely Southeast Asian! Must-Experience and Must-See in the Region

When you travel, the tendency is, you have a checklist of what to do, what to eat, what to see, and what to try or experience. If you’re budget-traveling across Southeast Asia, try a “uniquely Southeast Asian checklist.”

Here are some items to include in your list.

Thailand: Muay Thai

You’ll probably find a gym near you, but the teaching style may not be the same as what you can get in, say, Master Toddy’s in Bangkok. It may be quite difficult to get a trainer to teach you proper punching and kicking techniques.

That said, when you’re in Thailand, enroll in a multi-day course with a camp or gym that has a solid reputation. At the end of the class, you’ll walk out more confident, for sure.

Philippines: Jeepney

The jeepney is a remnant of military jeeps brought to the country by the Americans during WWII. It’s elongated and more colorful than the original. It’s the most popular public transport in the Philippines, and it’s a unique and cheap option to do some sightseeing.

On a side note, Vin Diesel was pictured on a jeepney checking out the streets of Manila.

Myanmar: Thanaka

Thanaka cream comes from the bark of the thanaka tree, and it is used for beauty purposes and for sun protection.

On your trip to see the temples of Bagan, stop by for a chat with the ladies selling this all-natural face mask. They might give you a free sample. To complete the experience, you might want to wear a lungi.

Thanaka Tree Into Thanaka Cream Bagan Myanmar

Indonesia: Candi Bentars

A candi bentar is a split gateway that’s unique in Bali. According to Wikipedia, it is an integral feature of a Balinese temple architecture. It serves as an entry way to the temple from the outside world.

When in Bali, check out the iconic Handara Gate in Pancasari Village Bedugul and the Gates of Heaven at Pura Lempuyang.

Vietnam: Ca Phe Sua Da

Vietnamese have a unique way of making delicious iced coffee.

When in Hanoi, go on a food tour and look forward to having ca phe sua da, a cup of iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Also try egg coffee (ca phe trung).

RELATED: Chilli Chicken at a Jollibee in Hanoi, Vietnam

Ca Phe Sua Da

Laos: Tak Bat

Tak bat is a sacred Buddhist ceremony that happens early in the morning. The monks line up to collect alms (food) given by the locals.

Tak bat is practiced in all of Laos, but Luang Prabang‘s is the most organized. If you’re in LP, wake up early so that you won’t miss this unique procession.

RELATED: Best Area to Stay in Luang Prabang for Tak Bat

Tak Bat in Luang Prabang

Singapore: Changi Airport

Changi is one of the best airports in the world, if not the best. If you’re too tired to check out the city during a long layover in Singapore, fret not because Changi has a number of things to do and see to pass the time.

Some of the attractions in Changi include the Sunflower Garden and the Rain Vortex at Jewel.

RELATED: A Brief Note on Singapore’s LGBTQ+ Culture for Travelers

Malaysia: Mt. Kinabalu

Mt. Kinabalu is one of the tallest mountains in Southeast Asia, towering at an elevation of 4,095 m (13,435 ft). Hikers and enthusiasts sign up for a 2D1N sunrise Kinabalu trek to witness the beautiful blanket of clouds and granite slabs at the peak.

You don’t have to be a seasoned climber to summit this mountain, but a certain level of physical fitness is required, so it’s best to prepare beforehand. Cardio-related exercises are recommended at least 4 weeks prior to the climb.

On the first day, tour operators would pick you up at your hotel. Check out the link to know the best area to stay in Kota Kinabalu.

Cambodia: Apsara Dance (Robam Tep Apsara)

The Apsara dance dates back to the 7th century, according to sources. It is both a cultural and religious tradition, performed to showcase the Khmer culture and to bring blessings to the king and his people.

Witness this one-of-a-kind dance when you visit Siem Reap. Hotels such as Bou Savy arrange a buffet dinner with a performance from Apsara dancers.

At the Bayon temple, find carvings of apsaras.

Apsara Dance in Cambodia Buffet Dinner

Brunei: Royal Regalia Museum

There was a time when the Sultan of Brunei was the richest in the world. When in Brunei, head over to the Royal Regalia Museum to see exhibits used during the Sultan’s coronation such as a huge gilded chariot at the entrance hall.

Timor Leste: Uma Lulik

An uma lulik is a sacred house found in East Timor villages. Its pyramidal roof and slender posts make it appear like it’s a house on stilts. It’s similar to a traditional Ifugao house, and to the traditional huts we saw during our Sagada-Besao walk in the Philippines.

According to this post, an uma lulik serves as a link between the past and present, the dead and the living.