Two wild elephants in green field at sunset in Sri Lanka

10 Top Eco-Activities to Do Throughout Southeast Asia

The Southeast Asian region of the world consists of eleven mainland and island countries that reach from eastern India to China. Known for their rugged, vast landscapes, rich cultural and spiritual spaces, urban adventures, and flavorful cuisine. The authenticity and beauty of Southeast Asia has made it one of the most popular tourist regions. In fact, in 2020 alone, the travel and tourism industry contributed about US$180 billion to the GDP; in comparison to over US$393 billion in 2019.

Typically, sustainable tourism aims to protect and conserve the natural environment, uplift the social and cultural landscape of the destination, and keep money within local economies. When traveling, it is important for tourists to spend their tourism dollars where it will make the most impact; typically local businesses with a mission-driven statement in place. Below you can find 10 recommendations of top ecotourism destinations in various countries across Southeast Asia. 

Source: MEDZ Creative

Indonesia - Hike and Sail around Komodo National Park

Named after the native Indonesian lizard, Komodo national park comprises three islands and 26 smaller islets. Located within the Lesser Sunda Islands, the volcanic islands that make up Komodo National Park consist of rugged hillsides of dry savannah and green vegetation, as well as white sandy beaches and blue waters. While exploring, travelers can choose to get as close as safely possible to Komodo dragons, hike the beautiful island landscape, or go underwater to view breathtaking coral reefs. 

Rocks in shallow beach
Source: Albie Patacsil

Philippines - Try Surfing in Siargao

Siargao is a small, teardrop-shaped island located at the northeastern coast of Mindanao, and is known for being the ‘surfing capital of the Philippines’. In fact, Cloud 9, one of the famous surfing spots on the island with barreling waves, is one of the main reasons that the destination has become so popular for international travelers. 

Even for those who choose not to surf, the island is still a great destination for that much-needed island getaway. The white sand beaches, crystal blue waters, waterfalls, lagoons, and caves are a clear indicator as to why Siargao was named the Best Island in the World by Condé Nast Traveler. 

Elephant sprayed by water
Source: Luca Iaconelli

Thailand - Get Up Close and Personal with Rehabilitated Elephants at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

Elephant Nature Park first opened in Chiang Mai during the 1990s, and is one of the only genuine elephant sanctuaries and rescue centers for mistreated elephants in all of Thailand. Unfortunately, due to tourist demand, elephants have overtime been widely exploited – forcing the gentle creatures to work for long hours and endure endless hours or elephant rides, which can injure the animals and shorten their lifespan. At the Elephant Nature Park, guests are invited to get up close and personal with these gentle giants and interact with them in a responsible way. 

*With the overwhelming success of their organization, franchise locations have now been opened in Phuket, Koh Samui, and Cambodia.

Hikers on top of mountain
Source: Ling Tang

Malaysia - Summit Mount Kinabalu on the Malaysian side of Borneo Island

For the adventurous traveler, one of the most popular tourist attractions is summiting Mount Kinabalu on the Malaysian side of Borneo island. Standing at 4,095 meters tall, Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain on the island, and the 20th most prominent peak in the world. The trek requires a local guide and takes 2 days and 1 night, typically reaching the peak during sunrise.  

For those who would rather view the mountain from afar, Mount Kinabalu sits in Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO in December 2000 for being one of the most important biological sites in the world. Here visitors can experience four climatic zones, view some of the 4,500 species of flora and fauna – including 326 bird species, an estimated 100 mammal species, and over 110 land snail species. Thousands of travelers each year flock to the park to bask in the beauty of the gorgeous peak. 

Boats in river along busy sidewalk
Source: Tam Nguyen

Vietnam - Take a Cooking Class in the Preserved Ancient Town of Hội An

Hội An is a city on Vietnam’s central coast that is known for its well-preserved Ancient Town, French colonial buildings, canals, temples and Chinese shophouses, as well as the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge. As the city was once a busy international commercial port in the 16th and 17th centuries, the melting-pot history can be reflected in its architecture; Hội An was even declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for the preservation of the trading ports. 

One of the most popular activities for travelers is to attend a cooking class, as this is a great way to learn more about Vietnamese culture. On these tours, a local guide will bring a small group throughout the colorful streets and into the bustling local market to shop. Once the ingredients are bought, the guide will bring you to a kitchen where visitors can learn how to make classic Vietnamese food, eat, and bring home the recipes. 

Source: Florian Hahn

Cambodia - Watch the Sunrise and Sunset at Angkor Wat Archaeological Park

More than one million tourists travel to visit the Angkor Wat Archaeological Site in Cambodia each year. The world’s largest religious site can be accessed from Siem Reap and allows visitors to explore hundreds of temples throughout the World Heritage-listed spot. One of the most popular times to visit is during sunrise or sunset, as gorgeous reflections and colors can be seen. Some of the most popular spots to gather during dusk and dawn include Phnom Bakheng, Bayon Temple, Pre Rup, Sarah Srang, Angkor Wat Moat, and Angkor Thom Moat.

Blue train on stone bridge through green jungle
Source: Yves Alarie

Sri Lanka - Take the World’s Most Beautiful Train Ride from Kandy to Ella

Travelers can find one of the world’s most scenic train trips in the heart of Sri Lanka by taking the journey from the town of Kandy to Ella. The 7-hour train ride brings locals and travelers through lush tea plantations, rolling rice fields, and vast mountain views – all for about 73 cents. The tracks were originally built by the colonial British in 1864 in order to transport tea from the hills to the capital city, and has since become a way to get around the country. Sri Lanka provides optimal growing conditions as tea needs a warm climate and sloping terrain to grow. Therefore, while on the journey, travelers will see a sea of green, what many describe as “one big tea plantation”.

Lit tree sculptures at night
Source: Kai

Singapore - Explore Modern Day Urban Gardens at Supertree Grove

During a visit to Singapore, travelers should not miss witnessing the 12 Supertrees up close at Supertree Grove, a part of Gardens by the Bay. Standing at 50 metres above the ground, the solar-powered iconic giants come alive at night with a light and musical show. During the day, the trees act as an observatory where visitors can view the city skyline and a bird’s eye view of Marina Bay. While a more urban and futuristic experience than the rest, visiting the Supertrees is a must-do when visiting the island nation!

Village on sandy beach near blue sea
Source: Ibrahim Mushan

Maldives - Dive off the Local Island Fulidhoo

Located just over an hour away from Male International Airport by speedboat, Fulidhoo is a local island in the Maldives that sits at the heart of channel diving territory. In peak diving season (November to April), travelers can view unique underwater wildlife and colorful reefs for miles. Highlights include reef sharks, tuna fish, groupers, nurse sharks, and various other species. 

Opting for a local island grants visitors a more genuine experience that leaves a more positive impact – connecting with local culture and contributing to the local economy.

Thatched roof treehouse in jungle
Source: The Gibbon Experience

Laos - Pretend You’re a Gibbon Monkey and Sleep in the Tallest Treehouses in the World at The Gibbon Experience

Located in Northern Laos, the Gibbon Experience is one of the most unique tourism conservation projects in the world. Travelers can take a 2-3 day trekking tour, zip-line through forest canopies, sleeping in the world’s highest tree houses, and keep an eye out to spot the endangered gibbon monkey. Since the start of the Gibbon Experience, the awareness for conservation of the forest and animals within has heightened. Hundreds of forest people now participate in their conservation projects, saving the native biodiversity and sustaining the livelihoods of surrounding communities.

Whichever activity chosen from above, travelers can be ensured that they will be supporting environmental conservation, community development, cultural preservation, and/or keeping money within the local economy. This way, visitors can have a much more authentic and genuine experience that also contributes positively to the local community and destination. 

Need help planning the trip of your dreams to Southeast Asia? Contact Asia Bespoke Tours here.

Group of young monks in orange robes at Ankor Wat Cambodia

Gems of Cambodia: 6 Things to See and Do in the ‘Off the Beaten Path’ Southeast Asian Country

Cambodia is a Southeast Asian country sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand. With low-lying plains, the Mekong Delta, mountains, and the Gulf of Thailand coastline, Cambodia is a destination that offers many different activities for locals and tourists alike. 

Aside from the beautiful outdoors, the country also has a rich culture and a complex historic past. The destination gained independence after 90 years of French colonial rule, and Khmer Rouge took over only two decades later between 1975 and 1979. During this time, the population suffered from mass executions. Although the country is now free and moving on, the victims are remembered through memorials and museums throughout. 

From the colossal temples of Angkor Wat, to the sunny beaches of Koh Rong, down to the buzzing capital of Phnom Penh, if you are venturing off the beaten path into the Kingdom of Wonder, discover Cambodia’s top attractions below.

Ancient temple with green palm trees
Source: Paul Szewczyk

Angkor Archaeological Park

Arguably the most popular tourist attraction in Cambodia is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Archaeological Park. Pre-pandemic, tens of thousands of tourists would flock daily to view the hundreds of ancient temples, religious structures, and cultural relics that make up the park. Dating back to the Khmer Empire, Angkor Wat is one of the world’s top sought-after ancient sites

The temple city was built between AD 802 and 1432 and was once the largest city in the world during the medieval age. Today, the city’s ruins are overgrown and immersed in the surrounding jungle and is accessible from Siem Reap. While viewing Angkor Wat usually takes around three days to see it in total, travelers short on time can view the highlights in one: Ta Prohm (made famous from the movie Tomb Raider), the Bayon Temple (216 stone-carved faces), Angkor Thom, and Preah Khan. Most popular visitor hours are during sunrise and sunset.

Cityscape with river running through
Source: Paul Szewczyk

Phnom Penh

Often referred to as the “heartbeat of the nation”, Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is a city full of organized chaos. Once deserted during the Khmer Rouge era, the city now is full of people, motorbikes, a buzzing restaurant scene, and traces of Cambodia’s modern and ancient history.

From the National Museum, to the Royal Palace, and the Tuol Sleng Museum and Choeung Ek, travelers can take in the nation’s history from the pre-Angkorian age, as well as learn about the brutal past under Khmer Rouge. For those who are lovers of art and theatre, the Apsara Show, or traditional Khmer performance, is one of the top rated things to do in Cambodia. The cultural dance takes inspiration from mythological courts of kings and Gods, telling a story through colorful attire, dance, and performance.

Boat dock to sand beach
Source: Paul Szewczyk

Koh Rong

Koh Rong is a sleepy island off the south coast of Cambodia; it is one of many island options, however, this particular island is noted for being one of the “most beautiful” due to the chance to experience bioluminescent planktons lighting up in the ocean at night, glowing to the movement of the water. 

Reasonably untouched, Koh Rong gives travelers an authentic taste of simple island life. Activities include scuba diving and snorkeling, boat rides, and relaxing at one of the few beach hut bars. The islands can be accessed from Sihanoukville, a coastal city in Cambodia.

River flowing through green jungle
Source: Conservation International

Cardamom Mountains

The Cardamom Mountains are Southeast Asia’s largest remaining rainforest – spanning more than 4.4 million hectares of rainforest with mountains, marshes, plains, and gushing rivers. Full of endangered flora and fauna, the Cardamom Mountains are the region’s most pristine expanses of wilderness. 

For adventurous travelers, it is important to be warned that the terrain is rugged, there are no hospitals nearby, and there is no shortage of insects, snakes, spiders, and mosquitoes within. Yet, even so, the Cardamom Mountains are home to about 25,000 people and endangered wildlife – elephants, tigers, sun bears, Siamese crocodiles, gibbons, and clouded leopards.   

Due to these natural treasures and rare wildlife, the forest has unfortunately been plagued by illegal loggers and poachers. However, community-led initiatives have been popping up where locals have been stepping in to ensure that the endangered and rare wildlife within the forest are safe, as well as the land that many depend on. These improvements have made the area much easier to navigate, and much more approachable to be visited by tourists. 

River at sunset
Source: Parker Hilton

Sail the Mekong River

From Tibet to Vietnam, the Mekong River is a Southeast Asian icon, passing through six countries. Throughout Cambodia, the river enters at the northeastern province of Stung Treng from Laos, and passes through Phnom Penh in order to reach Vietnam. 

A popular attraction for tourists and locals is to take the trans-country cruises, which can take passengers from Laos to Cambodia and onto Vietnam by boat. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the traveler’s chosen itinerary. Alternatively, for those who would rather spend most of their time on land, passengers can choose the daily sunset cruise along the Mekong while in Phnom Penh. Many boats now offer food and drink options, while sailing along the river and viewing the evening city lights and sunset water views.

City market street at night with tuks tuks and motorbikes
Source: ​​Vanna Phon

Sample Street Food & Shop at the Local Markets

Lastly, to truly get a taste of the Cambodian way of life, simply walking throughout the major hubs (Siem Reap and Phnom Penh), sampling foods and grabbing souvenirs from the local markets can teach and show visitors traditional customs within the country. As food is an intrinsic part of Southeast Asian culture, at all hours of the day, plastic tables and chairs fill the pavement while locals gather to feast on rice dishes, num banh chok or Khmer noodles and curries. 

As for shopping, some of the best things to buy in Cambodia include silver trinkets, precious gems and stones, betel nut boxes, rice paper prints, checkered Krama scarves, weaving silk, carved wooden items, and so on. The Angkor Night Market, Made in Cambodia Market, Angkor Handicraft Association, Old Market, and the Russian Market in Phnom Penh are some of the most popular options for travelers to shops for inexpensive handicraft products – bringing home and invaluable memento to remember their time in the unique destination.

Visiting Cambodia

When planning on visiting Cambodia, the best months are between November and April when there is very little rain. While from May to November, heavy rains and monsoon season are common throughout the country. Nonetheless, the country is warm and humid all year round, with temperatures peaking as high as 40°C in April.

Are you interested in booking a trip to the Kingdom of Wonder? Reach out to us at Asia Bespoke Tours and we will help you plan your custom trip!

women in traditional filipino costume

What’s New for Philippines Travel in 2022

Known for its pristine white sand beaches, delicious food, and always being greeted with a big smile by the locals, the Philippines looks to re-open its borders this year to international travelers. With the daily reported COVID-19 cases drastically reduced, the Philippines have done an outstanding job controlling the spread of the coronavirus. Tourism plays a huge role in the economy of the Philippines accounting for almost 15 percent of the nation’s revenue. Since the pandemic started almost 2 years ago tourism has been down 75 percent. But Philippines travel is looking bright for 2022. 

The Philippines has taken adequate measures to prepare for the return of international tourists such as targeted mass vaccinations for hospitality staff in the tourism industry and implementing new cleaning and sanitization processes to ensure utmost hygiene safety. There have also been talks of a green lane tourism initiative similar to other Southeast Asian nations that would provide vaccinated travelers a much easier and streamlined entry to the country.

While it is too soon to say when the international borders to the Philippines will fully reopen, what we do know is that the country has an exciting year ahead of them and have taken great strides to position themselves to welcome back travelers. Here’s what the country has going on in 2022 that tells us that the Philippines will open very soon.

WTTC comes to Manila

World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) comes to Philippines

One of the first major announcements of 2022 is that the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit will be held in Manila from April 20 – 22. This is critical for the Philippines because it will bring key representatives, executives, and other top tier level decision makers in the travel industry to witness the changes that have been implemented since borders were opened. If a reason to combine business and leisure travel in an exotic island isn’t enough, these delegates will also have the first hand opportunity to experience the safety measures being taken by the government and tourism sectors as whole. 

The Philippines was awarded the “Safe Travel Stamp” by the WTTC in September 2020 as an indication for travelers to recognize destinations and businesses around the world who have adopted health and hygiene protocols that meet the globalized standards. The list of the hotels that have received recognition in the Philippines can be found here.

By holding such an important summit in Manila, the Philippines will have the opportunity to show tens of thousands of people attending that the country has put the effective safety measures in place to reopen safely and aid its much needed recovery in the tourism sector.

two airline pilots in plane with cleaning staff
AirAsia ramps up service in Philippines

Expanded Domestic Flights with low-cost carrier AirAsia

Another change for the coming year is that Philippines low-cost carrier, AirAsia Philippines, has increased their market share to almost 20 percent in the country. Looking forward to January 2022, AirAsia Philippines is adding more domestic flights to handle the expected demand, especially to its popular tourist destinations such as Kalibo, Caticlan, and Puerto Princesa. This alone shows that AirAsia is ramping up its flight schedules to not only handle the increase of domestic travel among Philippine nationals, but also the increase of international passengers traveling amongst the islands. 

In January 2022 the scheduled flight frequency will be up over 40 percent, compared to previous years, to handle the increased travelers on top of the holiday traffic. Also, as 2021 came to an end, bookings were almost at capacity during the holiday season – a much different story than during the pandemic and a much more positive outlook. Bookings are also now being made months in advance compared to during the pandemic when the average booking window was 3 days in advance, and reserved primarily for essential travel only. This is a clear indicator that travel confidence is well underway and travelers have intentions of making future travel plans instead of booking last minute trips. 

To take advantage of the AirAsia expanded flights; check out some of the signature Asia Bespoke Tour guaranteed departures.

New Clark City is the city of the future

The New Clark City

The ground-breaking development started back in 2016, and this year will start the much anticipated project of creating a new, sustainable, and fully integrated city. New Clark City, previously known as Clark Green City, is located about 70 miles north of the capital, Manila and was the host site of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. With help from various investors and urban planners, this new city will provide its residents with fully sustainable and controlled utilities, transportation and environmental protection like none other in the Philippines. Electric vehicles, modern technologies, and lots of green space are just some of the things to look forward to in this new city. The city has also been geographically established in an area that is less prone to floods due to the elevation and earthquakes based on the location. This provides safer and more livable conditions making it an attractive relocation to those debating moving. 

The new city also comes with a new railway system that connects New Clark City to Manila as well as other cities along the way.  To date most travelers that visit the Philippines make use of privately hired car services, the rail system will be a major improvement to the commute times and provides a new and up to date rail system to travel amongst major cities.

Scuba diver shining flashlight on sea turtle in Philippines
The Philippines is know for its pristine reefs and rich marine life

Sustainability Efforts

For the third consecutive year, the Philippines has won the World’s Top Dive Destination in the World Travel Awards (WTA) in 2021. Honored for its magnificent Coral Triangle, home to 600 species, 2,000 reef fish species and six out of the world’s seven species of marine turtles, the country’s rich marine ecosystem is among the richest on the planet. For these reasons, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat says that it is, “ our great responsibility of protecting and conserving our underwater resources so that these will also be enjoyed and experienced in their pristine natural state by future generations.” 

The Philippines has been putting a great deal of effort into the sustainability efforts all throughout the country in the past years focusing on specific areas one at a time. Starting in Boracay back in 2018, the Philippines closed a major part of the island to major issues in correcting the waste management issues and implementing strict measures to avoid overtoursim. After the reopening of Boracay, hundreds of electric vehicles were donated to the island to reduce the carbon exhaust and strict waste disposal protocols were put in place to control the waste entering the sea. 

Another popular destination is El Nido, which has also gone through rehabilitation efforts to preserve its ecosystem and reduce the degradation of the island. Cleaning up waste, properly disposing of trash and understanding how the impact decisions today make on the future. These are some of the ways the Philippines has engaged to pave a brighter future for the nation as well as protect the islands and preserve the natural resources for greater periods of time.

Tourism promotion will increase in 2022

It is MORE Fun in the Philippines

The year 2022’s annual budget is over 10 percent greater than previous years, meaning more funding for the country and more funding for the recovery of the impact of the pandemic on travel. Funds are now being allocated towards reaching their targeted vaccinated population as well as expanding and upgrading their current hospital facilities and equipment. Implementing modern technology and processes will allow not only the country to thrive but also be prepared and capable of handling the return of travel. 

As of December 2021, roughly 50 percent of the target population was vaccinated and over 80 percent of the tourism sector workers were vaccinated. In the first quarter of 2022 there are several initiatives to reach their desired figures bringing the country closer to herd immunity greatly reducing the risk of spreading the virus. 

At the end of the day, while there is no set in stone date when this pandemic will be over, it is clear the Philippines is doing what is necessary to be prepared for tourism to resume. The new year looks promising as more people are vaccinated and initiatives are put in place by the government and tourism sectors to bring foreign travelers back into the country and to preserve the islands. With new and increased protocols when it comes to cleanliness, hygiene, vaccinations, and new cleaner and sustainable initiatives, Philippines will prevail in the coming year. 

 

Get ahead of the curve and learn how Asia Bespoke Tours can help create a unique travel experience in the Philippines in the future.  Contact us today and follow along on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn

Giant tree sculptures at night in Singapore

State of Travel to Southeast Asia in January 2022: A Country-by-Country Breakdown

Travel to Southeast Asia during the 2020-2021 years has been a rollercoaster. All the while, most sites and attractions remained open, as domestic and foreign visitors visited in waves. In 2022, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, different countries have adopted different policies at their borders. With the ASEAN Tourism Conference in Sihanoukville, Cambodia just around the corner, all eyes are on Southeast Asia’s tourism and travel recovery. Below is a country-by–country round-up as of January 8, 2022 on the status of travel to Southeast Asia.

White boats on secluded lagoon white sand beach rock formations Philippines

Philippines Travel Update

Recent News: In 2022, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat announced recently a push for two markets for the Philippines. The first, is sustainable tourism, where the Philippines would further invest in developing and marketing its many beautiful ecotourism and natural sites. The second is business combined with leisure or “workation” trips, where more and more business travelers will be able to come to the Philippines for longer stretches in time for work and weekend trips around the islands. There are some high points of Philippine tourism that show for major potential for lovers of the crystal-blue islands to come back at high volume in 2022: the roll-out of new tourism infrastructure projects in Metro Manila and beyond,  new and effective safe travel protocols by the Philippine government, and record visitor numbers traveling to destinations like Boracay in December 2021. There is a lot to look forward to as the situation develops in 2022.

Recent Travel Updates:

Beginning on February 16th, all travelers to the Philippines must be vaccinated. There are three lists:
  • Green List. There are 32 countries and regions on the green list, including China, India and Japan. Testing and quarantine requirements for green-list travelers is available here.
  • Red List. There are 14 countries and regions on the red list, including Canada, Saudi Arabia and Spain. Individuals who have been in or traveled through a red-list country within 14 days of intended arrival are now allowed to enter the country. Testing and quarantine requirements for red-list travelers is available here.
  • Yellow List. All countries and territories not listed on the green or red list are categorized as yellow. Testing and quarantine requirements for yellow-list travelers is available here.

As a Southeast Asia DMC focused on travel experiences, we have aggregated these travel requirements. For consistent information tailored to your point of origin, access your embassy or consulate website.

Farmer cultivating crop in the rain with buffalo in Laos

Laos Travel Update

Recent News: As a Southeast Asia DMC with operations across Laos, we are excited to see that the beautiful Laos, known for its adventure travel and beautiful mountains, is open for business. From the Great Stupa in Laos, regarded as the country’s most important landmark, to gems in Laos like the Phou Hin Poun region and its natural sites, Laos has something for everybody. 

Laos has spent much of the last two years investing in tourism infrastructure and safety and health standards. The new LaoSafe program includes a new series of health and safety standards for different sectors in the industry, including accommodation, food and beverage and airlines.  In addition, with the new launch of the China-Laos Railway connecting Boton and Vientiane, Laos has entered a new age as a land-linked country with increased infrastructure.

Recent Travel Updates: The Laos Travel Green Zone plan has opened up travel for fully vaccinated arrivals from 31 nations, including Australia the United Kingdom, and the United States. Eligible visitors looking to visit Laos will need to sign up for organized group group tours for travel operators in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Travelers to Laos must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arrival, have a current health insurance policy with a coverage of at least $50,000 (USD), have in possession a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours prior to departure, download the two official Laos travel apps prior to arrival and undergo a PCR test upon arrival and remain at their home or hotel until they receive the negative result.

As a Southeast Asia DMC focused on travel experiences, we have aggregated these travel requirements. For consistent information tailored to your point of origin, access your embassy or consulate website.

Colorful river boats on river in Hoi An Vietnam

Vietnam Travel Updates

Recent News: In recent months, the tourism industry in Vietnam has gone from strength to strength. IHG Hotels & Resorts has announced a four-hotel deal in Vietnam focused on expanding into Danang and other areas. During 2021, Vietnam’s beautiful natural sites were highlighted on many “Best of” lists, including the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, which was highlighted in the “52 places to love in 2021” list by the New York Times, and Phong Nha-Ke Bang, a UNESCO Heritage Site, chosen as the world’s 25 best national parks by TripAdvisor readers.

Recent Travel Updates: Vietnam welcomes international visitors and returning Vietnamese citizens who meet the following conditions:

  1. Visitors must be traveling from the following countries: China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, and the US
  2. Present proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, with the last dose at least 14 days and not more than 1 year prior to date of entry.  Or present a certificate of recovery from COVID-19. 
  3. Present a negative result from an RT-PCR/RT-LAMP-method test administered within 72 hours before boarding
  4. Have medical or travel insurance that covers COVID-19 treatment, with minimum liability at $50,000. 
  5. Present booking with an approved package tour program from a travel agency.

Travelers that are fully vaccinated must quarantine for 3 days at their accommodation, conducting two PCR tests (one on Day 1 and one on Day 3). Travelers that are not fully vaccinated must isolate for 7 days at their accommodation, conducting two PCR tests (one on Day 1 and one on Day 7.

As a Southeast Asia DMC focused on travel experiences, we have aggregated these travel requirements. For consistent information tailored to your point of origin, access your embassy or consulate website.

Tables set for dinner at Cambodian temple at night

Cambodia Travel Updates

Recent News: Nearly 190,000 tourists, most of them domestic, celebrated this past New Year’s Eve in Siem Reap. According to the Cambodia Ministry of Tourism, the number totalled 1,145,141, with 1,139,387 domestic tourists and 5,754 international foreign visitors visiting Cambodia during the New year holiday. As Cambodia continues in 2022, there is an emphasis to provide visitors the opportunity to explore areas outside of Siem Reap, including the beautiful beaches and natural wonders of the Coastal Zone (Kep, Kampot, Sihanoukville and Koh Kong), as well as stunning natural sites and rainforest areas in the Cardamom Mountains. 

Recent Travel Updates: At this point, Cambodia is fully open to vaccinated travelers. The requirements are: 1 negative PCR test result 72 hours prior to arrival in Cambodia and  1 negative Rapid Antigen test result on arrival. After that, travelers are free to travel anywhere in Cambodia with no quarantine requirements. Unvaccinated travelers must undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arriving in Cambodia in a government-sanctioned hotel at their own expense.

As a Southeast Asia DMC focused on travel experiences, we have aggregated these travel requirements. For consistent information tailored to your point of origin, access your embassy or consulate website.

Traditional Thai towers at sunset Grand Palace Bankok Thailand

Thailand Travel Updates

Recent News: Thailand’s quarantine and opening policies has seen a considerable amount of changes in the last two years. There are some positives notes to look forward to in 2022, however. Thailand’s famous Maya Bay beach on Ko Phi Phi Leh finally re-opened after three years of closure. Thailand has also launched the Entry Thailand website, which it plans to roll out in 2022 and helps streamline the visitor’s travel documents and experience prior to and during arrival to Thailand.

Recent Travel Updates: Thailand has announced that they will restart quarantine-free travel in February 2022. Until then, below are requirements to enter Thailand. Below are requirements to enter Thailand:

  •  A Thailand Pass, which can be applied via the Thai Consular website
  •  A Medical Certificate with an RT-PCR lab result indicating that COVID-19 is not detected issued no more than 72 hours before travelling.
  • Travellers under 6 years of age, travelling with parents, are exempt from this requirement.
  • An insurance policy with coverage no less than US$50,000.
  • A confirmed payment for an Alternative Quarantine (AQ) accommodation or similar government-approved facility. Foreign nationals must also have proof of payment for the required RT-PCR tests.
  •  In case of a 7-day or 10-day quarantine, 2 RT-PCR COVID-19 tests are required.
  • At least a 7-day quarantine for travellers who have a Certificate of Vaccination for have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 with an approved vaccine – or at least 1 dose for travellers under 18 years of age – at least 14 days before travelling to Thailand.
  •  At least a 10-day quarantine for travellers who do not have a Certificate of Vaccination.

As a Southeast Asia DMC focused on travel experiences, we have aggregated these travel requirements. For consistent information tailored to your point of origin, access your embassy or consulate website.

Skyscraper towers lit again orange and purple sunset Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia Travel Updates

Recent News: Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane has been relatively successful in initiating travel from Singapore to Malaysia. Discussions are still ongoing between Brunei and Malaysia to establish a vaccinated travel lane (VTL) that would begin to open up travel between these countries. Malaysian tourism gems including Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo have seen international attention through 2021 for their natural and eco-tourism sites, many of which invested in sustainable tourism development throughout the pandemic. Medical tourism to Malaysia is also expected to see an uptick in 2022.

Recent Travel Updates: Malaysia has relatively strict travel restrictions. All passengers must undergo COVID-19 screening test upon arrival.

  1.  All passengers arriving from overseas must provide a negative RT-PCR test result taken two (2) days before departing to Malaysia
  2.  All passengers must also observe a 7-day quarantine for fully vaccinated passengers* and a 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated

Then, there are differing policies based on the category of Passenger. For instance, travelers from currently high risk countries including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, India, Nigeria, Norway, Saudi Arabia, the USA, UK, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi have stricter testing policies and quarantine periods, as compared to travelers from Singapore who do not need to quarantine. The only exception is with travelers from Singapore, who are able to enter Malaysia without quarantining under a recently resumed (as of January 20th) vaccinated travel lane programme with Singapore.

As a Southeast Asia DMC focused on travel experiences, we have aggregated these travel requirements. For consistent information tailored to your point of origin, access your embassy or consulate website.

Water pond with tree sculptures and hotel in background Singapore

Singapore Travel Updates

Recent News: The well-known leisure and business travel destination Singapore has opened three new tourism attractions in 2021. These include the new Museum of Ice Cream (paralleling the museum of the same name in New York City), the freefall swing ride Slingshot in Clarke Quay, and the SkyHelix ride in Sentosa. The Singapore Tourism Board has new plans for the shopping center on Orchard Road, planning new leisure travel concepts to provide more and varied experiences for travelers.

Recent Travel Updates: For the first time in nearly half a year, in January 2022, Singapore reported more COVID infections among travelers than from local residents.The Singapore program has paused its Vaccinated Travel Lane program, which allows for travel by vaccinated travelers from certain countries without the need to quarantine upon arrival, for a month, starting on December 23, 2021. The VTL program is expected to come back at the end of January 2022. The VTL program is for vaccinated travelers from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Maldives, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

As a Southeast Asia DMC focused on travel experiences, we have aggregated these travel requirements. For consistent information tailored to your point of origin, access your embassy or consulate website.

Rock formation temple in the ocean Indo Tanah Bali

Indonesia Travel Updates

Recent News: According the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy (MoTCE), Indonesia will focus on quality, outdoors, natural and sustainable tourism in the pandemic aftermath, with a target of attracting between 1.8 and 3.6 million international visitors this year. Popular destination Bali has largely relied on domestic travel through 2020 and 2021. Other destinations in Indonesia have seen international attention this year for their unique experiences, including Komodo National Park, Bukit Lawang, Weh Island, and Raja Ampat Islands.

Recent Travel Updates:

As of Jan. 12, travelers from Angola, Botswana, Denmark, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Norway, South Africa, the U.K., Zambia and Zimbabwe can now enter the country.

To enter Indonesia, all travelers must:

  • Have a negative PCR test with a valid QR code taken within 72 hours of departure.
  • Have a digital or physical copy proving that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Enter seven-day quarantine upon arrival to Indonesia.
  • As of Jan. 12, foreign nationals must have a Single Entry Visit Visa or Limited Stay Visa to enter Indonesia; the Free Visa (Visa Exemption), Visa on Arrival and Multiple Entry Business Visa remain suspended until otherwise announced.

As a Southeast Asia DMC focused on travel experiences, we have aggregated these travel requirements. For consistent information tailored to your point of origin, access your embassy or consulate website.

There is a lot to look forward to in 2022 in Southeast Asia for travel enthusiasts and lovers of nature, unique experiences, and culture. Visit our Southeast Asia Diaries for more consistent information on Southeast Asian travel, and follow us on  Instagram, Linkedin, and Facebook.

Basket chair swinging from palm treen on white sand blue ocean beach in the Maldives

7 Ways to Experience Luxury Travel in Southeast Asia

Despite the state of travel the last two years, the luxury travel market is posed to stay strong into 2022. This means FIT, Group and MICE travel agents will need to be prepared to offer high-end, custom experiences for their clients who have pent up aspirations and budget for travel.  Asia Bespoke Tours offers accommodations, experiences and excursions that are at the peak of luxury in Southeast Asia.  Many of Asia Bespoke Tour’s luxury travel packages include all the elements required for a discerning guest to enjoy days or weeks of relaxation while participating in unique and creative activities that only they will experience.  Below are 7 ways to experience luxury travel in Southeast Asia.

Large white hotel building Raffles Hotel Singapore
Raffels Hotel Singapore

Luxury Hotels & Resorts

Luxury means 5-star hotels and resorts for the most discerning guests.  The cities of Southeast Asia are home to world-class hotels where guests can come after a long day of sightseeing to recharge.  With well-appointed guest rooms, city skyline views and storied histories, these accommodations are sure to wow.  But throughout the region the most spectacular resorts in the world are waiting to be visited.  Water cottages hovering above crystal waters or treetop villas that make one feel a world away, the luxury resorts of Southeast Asia are iconic.

The Peninsula Manila

The Peninsula Manila has been the “Jewel in the Capital’s Crown” for over four decades, known for its luxurious sophistication in the heart of the city.  Excellent service, fine cuisine and sumptuous rooms have made this hotel a favorite of locals and overseas visitors alike.  For the second year the Peninsula Manila has been awarded the coveted Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star rating – the only hotel in Makati and Bonifacio Global City to receive this coveted ranking.

Amankila 

Along the coastline of the Lombok Strait awaits Amakila, the breathtaking resort beneath sacred Mount Agung.  Stilted suites connected through walkways in the treetops offer views to the sea, while the three-tier infinity pool overlooks stunning views.  The Beach Club at Amakila is situated on a private black-sand beach, making it a magical luxury destination in Bali.

Rinjani Lodge 

For adventure enthusiasts, Rinjani Lodge in Senaru is located on the borders of the Rinjani National Park in North Lombok in Bali. With stunning panoramic views of Mount Rinjani and across the lush rice paddies of the volcanic foothills down to the ocean, Rinjani Lodge is the perfect place to stay to relax, unwind and explore the beautiful North Lombok region. With a small number of gorgeously appointed rooms and two infinity pools overlooking the surrounding area, this hotel is lodge luxury at its finest.

Raffles Hotel Singapore

This charming heritage hotel has a storied past but has recently undergone an extensive renovation to bring it to modern day. The ambience, service and special feeling of Raffles has been kept but newly opened bars, restaurants and boutiques make this hotel an exciting place to stay.  Beautiful courtyards and relaxing social spaces round out the feel of this historic hotel.  The striking, iconic architecture will make traveler feel they are somewhere special, all while being in the heart of the city.

Villas over blue water on small island in Maldives
Adaaran Club Rannalhi

Private Islands & Villas

There is a reason people dream of purchasing their own island; the ultimate expression of luxury is privacy.  In Southeast Asia private islands await guests who want to escape and feel removed from the world.

Amanpula 

Amanpula is located on private Pamalican island in the Cuyo Archipelago of northern Palawan in the Philippines.  The white sand beach, pristine coral reefs and luxurious comforts make this a private tropical paradise.  Deserted coves, jungle hikes, exhilarating water sports or quiet moments in your private villa are all available here.

Adaaran Club Rannalhi

Ranked among the best hotels in the Maldives, Adaaran Club Rannahli in the Maldives sits at the tip of the South Male atoll. Its unique island location offers perfect white sand beaches, excellent scuba diving and an easy-going atmosphere for complete relaxation.  The Water Bungalows hover above the gentle turquoise water, offering direct access to the ocean for a swim and a private sundeck where guests can bask in peace. 

Trisara

In the tropical hills of north-western Phuket, in a secluded private cove on the Andaman Sea is secret hideaway nestled in a verdant, tropical paradise. Trisara is a sanctuary for the senses offering a private retreat with harmonious experiences to revive the spirit. As Phuket’s most renowned and exclusive private pool resort, Trisara’s 14 hectares are cradled in a protected nature reserve with private access to a breath-taking beach on the Andaman Sea.  Its private luxury pool villas and residences enjoy panoramic sea views from a gently terraced hillside with space and privacy well considered. 

Diniview Villa Resort

With its eight villas is located on the hillside between Diniwid Beach and the world-famous White Beach, with a perfect view of the spectacular Boracay sunset. If you’re looking for your own private paradise away from the crowds, this location is perfect for you. The Villas are situated in splendid isolation surrounded by foliage, all with beautiful ocean views. In the centre of the resort, we have a swimming pool and sundeck. Take the stairs down from the Villas along our little path and you’re on Diniwid beach in less than five minutes. Once on the beach it is a ten- minute walk to the next cove which is the world-famous White Beach, with all it has to offer, including, water sports, shops, restaurants, and night life. But don’t underestimate the very quaint Diniwid Beach as it has its own charms including locally run restaurants and spots to relax and spend the day

swings over hot springs pool in jungle
Banjara Hot Springs

Wellness & Spas

What is more luxurious than treating the body and mind to holistic spa and wellness experiences?  In Southeast Asia traditional healing practices meet modern luxury offerings to rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit. Signature services are often aligned with spectacular outdoor views. The wellness programs pair healthy local food, exhilarating outdoor excursions and body and spirit services that leave guests recentered and recharged.

Banjara Hot Springs

Banjaran Hot Springs in Malaysia is a spectacular resort built into the landscape, surrounding guests with towering rock walls while they soak in the natural geothermal waters.  The villas include a private outdoor rain shower, natural geothermal hot-spring fed jacuzzi and private pool. Malaysia’s first luxury natural hot springs wellness retreat offers bespoke holistic experiences for the ultimate in relaxation and restoration.  The traditional Malay Urut Massage includes a distinctive massage oil recipe that has been passed down through generations and can’t be missed.

The Mangosteen Resort & Spa

Phuket’s best kept secret is the Mangosteen Resort & Spa.  Just 40 villas are surrounded by tropical gardens for private oasis that include beautiful sea views.  The resort features the first Ayurveda Spa in Phuket with a certified Ayurveda Doctor on site and available for free consultations. Finally, the saltwater pool complex is the perfect area to recharge and be inspired.

The Farm at San Benito

The Farm at San Benito is an eco-luxury holistic medical wellness resort located in Lipa, Batangas, a 90-minute drive south of Manila, Philippines. Its world-class facilities and services have made it a recipient of 61 prestigious international accolades, including ‘The Best Medical Wellness Resort in the World.” The Farm’s healing journey is focused around five pillars: Diagnose, Cleanse, Nourish, Repair and Sustain. The aim is for guests’ bodies to return to their ideal, balanced state and achieve holistic optimum wellness.

Golf course with jungle mountain in background
The Els Club Teluk Datai

Golf

For die-hard golfers, Southeast Asia is a premier destination with bucket-list courses across the region.  Championship courses hug white sand beaches and touch the edge of exotic jungles.  With the Asian Tour making stops in Southeast Asia, professional golfers are flocking to these courses for their innovative layouts and unique terrain.  These are truly unique golf experiences that players will remember for a lifetime, and Asia Bespoke Tours is able to create luxury travel packages with golf as a focus.

The Els Club Teluk Datai

This Ernie Els designed golf course is one of the world’s most unique golf projects. The course is built along a million-year-old rainforest and the waters of the Andaman Sea but the peaks of the Mat Chinchang Mountain range dominate the views. It is a golf experience unlike any other. 

Vattanac Golf Resort

Just a 45 min drive from the Phnom Penh city center two contrasting Sir Nick Faldo designed championship
courses await you. Both the East and West Course provide a spectacular setting around famous cultural
expressions that include scale models of Khmer historical architectural sites.

Bali National Golf Club

While one of the most challenging golf courses in Bali, it’s luxurious setting and service is what makes this golf experience memorable.  With three distinct playing environments on the lush Indonesian island, new and seasoned golfers alike will enjoy the play, the backdrop and the fabulous facilities.

Jeff's Cellar at Banjara Resort

Dining

Fine dining takes on a whole new meaning in Southeast Asia – unique locations paired with fabulous local ingredients create dining experiences like no other in this region. 

Jeff’s Cellar at Banjara Resort

Dine in the cave chamber at Jeff’s Cellar at Banjara Resort, where you can have an incredible meal inside a 260-milion-year-old candlelit cavern. While taking in the scene you can enjoy the sumptuous 7-course caviar delight alongside the highly curated wine menu.  This is one of the world’s truly unique dining experiences.

Meals in a local’s home

Luxury doesn’t always mean fancy; it can also mean an experience no one else has had. That’s why the special in-home meals that you can share with a local family can be the most special at all.  Recipes passed down for generations are shared in a real home, where stories can be shared and remembered for a lifetime.

Motor boat, kayakers and sailboats around a catamaran near green island
Douce France Catamaran

Yachting

Yachting: the ultimate luxury and symbol of status across the globe.  Who doesn’t have a vision of sailing a private yacht across turquoise waters, taking in majestic landscaped islands in the distance, while being served a relaxing beverage or first-class meal.  At Asia Bespoke Tours, we offer a variety of ways to experience this fantasy in real life.

Catamaran Douce France sailing out of Phuket

Otherwise known as ‘the gentle giant’, Douce France is one of the largest sailing catamarans in the world and her elegant profile and magnificent sails make for a truly unique yacht charter. Her vast, open deck area provides guests with the most wonderful views of exceptionally beautiful locations while they relax in sheer luxury.

A crew of 8 sail you through some of the world’s most beautiful islands and the diving instructor provides full equipment and guided diving experiences through the colourful underworld or enjoy endless fun on the full selection of water toys from wake boards to kayaks. Sailing out of Phuket a one week suggested itinerary would include the lesser visited islands of Ko Phak Bia, James Bond island, Koh Roi, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le.

Superyacht Ocean Emerald sailing in the Gulf of Thailand

A spectacular looking 41-metre superyacht for 12 guests, designed by architect Norman Foster and built by renowned Italian shipyard Rodriguez Yachts, this luxury motor yacht was conceived for smooth yachting, elegant living and modern comfort. Ideal for those looking for a fun-fueled charter, and the perfect vessel to explore the magical waters of Southeast Asia. From May to November Ocean Emerald sails out of the Gulf of Thailand and during December to April out of Phuket and Myanmar. 

Helicopter flying over Banaue Rice Terraces in Philippines
Helicopter tour of Philippine Cordielleras

Helicopter Tours

To cruise over terraced rice patties, jungle-covered mountains and remote villages dotted across the land from the air is a life-changing experience.  For those who want to see this part of the world from this unique point of view, a private helicopter tour is the way to go.

Touring into the Philippine Cordilleras

The remoteness of this region makes traveling difficult by traditional Jeepneys, but on a private helicopter tour it’s a little over an hour.  To see the majestic and rural rice terraces from above is a unique experience and far off the beaten path.  To also witness distinct Infugao traditional villages and their daily activities is a special moment to take in. 

Asia Bespoke Tours is the DMC of Southeast Asia for luxury travel experiences.  Contact us today to see how our team of local experts can put together luxury travel packages for your clients for an experience of a lifetime.