Four Must-See Hidden Gems in Cambodia for the 2022 Traveler

The Cambodian Ministry of Tourism recently laid out a target of at least one million foreign tourist arrivals in 2022, prioritizing the main tourist markets in ASEAN, Southeast Asia, USA, France and the UK. This projection was developed based on performance during the first four months of the year, which saw the Kingdom receiving a recorded 241,485 tourists and five million domestic tourists, increasing by 191 percent and 161 percent, respectively.

Cambodia is now fully open to foreign travelers although there are still quarantine requirements for travelers who are not fully vaccinated. This border relaxation is a boost to Cambodia’s tourism industry which represents a large share – at over 12 percent – of GDP. COVID-19 saw international travel numbers decrease by 80% from 6.6 million visitors to 1.3 million in 2020.

Recently, Cambodia hosted a roadshow in the Philippines where the Ministry of Tourism underscored new COVID-19 health and safety protocols as well as Cambodia’s recovery program as the country ramps up its inbound arrivals of international tourists for leisure, business and MICE travel. The Kingdom of Cambodia has invested in new tourism developments in the last few months especially in the Southern Coastal Zone including the provinces of Kep, Kampot, Koh Kong and Sihanoukville. Cambodia has developed new experiences for travelers, providing more natural sites, foodie havens, and historical sites for travelers looking to spend 4-7 days exploring.

At Asia Bespoke Tours, luxury Southeast Asian destination management company (DMC), we are excited about these prospects and to continue to be the leading Cambodian DMC focusing on luxury experiences. Based on our expertise, here are four “gems’ of Cambodia to look forward to when traveling to Cambodia in 2022:

National Parks:

Cambodia’s hidden gem is its national parks. They are unique, beautiful and attract travelers looking for an exciting outdoor experience. During 2021, nature tourism to Asia increased in demand, and Cambodia has beautiful parks with the ability to attract these travelers. For example, sprawling 4104 sq km (1584 sq miles), Southern Cardamom National Park is the largest natural “protected area” in Cambodia. It forms the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape, which includes 11 contiguous reserves covering more than 20,000 sq km of green forest.
Other national parks that have incredible wilderness, nature and wildlife include Phnom Kulen National Park near Siem Reap, Bokor National Park near Kampot, and Kep National Park near Kep. Many Cambodians have taken the opportunity to get back to nature during the COVID-19 pandemic, and trekking and camping in the national parks have really taken off, particularly in Kirirom National Park and the Cardamom Mountains.
One of Cambodia’s smallest protected areas, Kep National Park, is situated in the seaside town in the Coastal Zone of Cambodia – Kep. This offers easy access to nature. In addition, the Kep National Park is in the popular seaside town of the same name, offering easy access to nature. The park includes a bike trail, hiking trail and the Veranda Natural Resort. In addition, the “Stairway to Heaven” trail has beautiful views and attractions.

Hidden Islands:

Most travelers that come to Cambodia know about Koh Rong, the beautiful island off the Cambodian coast which is very popular with visitors. However, few know that Cambodia has hidden islands that are tucked away behind towns. These are gems that are not in any main guidebook but these are the journeys that we focus on at Asia Bespoke Tours, luxury DMC. For example, Rabbit Island in Cambodia is a remote and gorgeous island behind the Coastal town Kep. Rabbit Island is peaceful during the day with remote areas where visitors can relax and unwind, and at night, the island enlivens with fun restaurants and bars sprawled across the naturally beautiful land. Rabbit Island can be reached via two and a half hour boat ride from Sihanoukville.

Lesser Crowded Temples:

The Angkor Wat is a very famous attraction in Siem Reap and is a landmark in Southeast Asia. There are Angkor temples that are more hidden and off the beaten track. Banteay Chhmar, for example, is two hours from Siem Reap but surrounded by jungle and natural beauty. Few know that it is the fourth largest Angkorian temple in Cambodia, providing the perfect balance between history, architecture, natural beauty and remoteness. Many travelers that have witnessed Banteay Chhmar have spoken about the remoteness and lack of crowds of people. Many even had the area for themselves! There is no lodging or dining in the area so most make it a day trip from Siem Reap.  The temple complex is surrounded by a moat. 12 Km away is Prasat Samnang tasok, another temple which is embedded in the jungle as well. This is a must-see attraction that we often include in our destination tours of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Wellness Retreats:

According toForbes, the wellness tourism sector has bounced back in 2022 as the world re-opens. After falling quite significantly between 2019 and 2020, the trends of wellness, spas, exercise, outdoor therapy, and other forms of health-based tourism are increasing in demand around the world. Cambodia has invested time and capital in responding to that demand with new resorts. One of these resorts is the Anantara Angkor Resort, which launched “Cambodian Wellness Experiences.” Situated in main city Siem Reap, Anantara Angkor Resort has revolutionized the wellness tourism industry in Cambodia by launching a new range of wellness retreats based on local Khmer healing principles. The Resort offers seven wellness programs, each handpicked to represent seven distinct pillars including Sati (Mindfulness), Dhamma Vijaya (Investigation), Virya (Energy), Piti (Rapture), Passadhi (Tranquility), Samadhi (Concentration), and Upekkha (Equanimity). Retreats can be for one day up to seven days. Each program suits the specific traveler’s behaviors, moods, preferences, and activity levels and is the perfect experience to make a visit to Siem Reap more unique. The wellness treatments include floral foot rituals, Chi Nei Tsang massages, Himalayan pink salt scrubs, Golden Cocoon silk facials, Tibetan praying wheel meditations, incense stick making and many others.

We offer departure tours to Cambodia to explore all of these gems and more. We also customize experiences for travelers to Cambodia and have brought in hundreds of groups looking for luxury, different and unique journeys through the Kingdom. For more information, contact us.

Maldives: The New Destination for MICE

Few of us can imagine traveling to the Maldives to experience the magnificent beauty of the islands surrounded by the Indian Ocean. The tiny nation is often known as one of the top leisure and luxury destinations that may be on our Pinterest boards.
In recent years, the country has been striving to set itself apart from strictly a beach destination and instead transition into a unique MICE destination.

At our destination management company (DMC), Asia Bespoke Tours, we are laser-focused on bringing authentic experiences to MICE groups coming to a destination for the first time. We are experts in the Maldives and are excited about the destination re-launching itself as a meeting, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) destination.

In October 2021, the Maldives launched a new Global campaign called “Redefining MICE” to showcase the country as a preferred MICE destination. We imagine a typical MICE destination in a bustling city with massive hotels and enormous conference venues. The Maldives is changing that narrative of MICE and taking their twist on what it means to combine business and leisure. The approach re-invents the classic boardroom and stuffy meeting mentality. The goal is to step away from the plain and repetitive MICE experiences that we’ve known up until now.

Here are some reasons we think the Maldives should be your next “workcation”

A new method of business meetings:

The Maldives offers exclusive and one-of-a-kind workspaces for your next business trip, steering away from a traditional MICE setting (ex: big conference rooms, business casual, mundane atmosphere). The Maldives MICE offerings are aimed at smaller groups to inspire and nurture the minds while discussing business prospects and deals in an idealistic location.

● Seclusive and tranquil meeting locations such as o can offer a unique and personalized experience for your company and guests to be in a relaxed environment.
● Hop on a Liveaboards for an adventure out to sea for team bonding activities on the islands.
● A private beach dinner can be arranged for a dazzling evening under the stars.
● Private island? Say less; your expert destination management can set that up!
● Local vendors such as musicians can spice up your entertainment during gatherings.
● Have you got an adventurous group? The Maldives has an array of unique excursions and customized travel packages for your South Asia adventure.

Maldives sustainability efforts:

The Maldives is an idealistic location, but climate change threatens the islands due to the rising ocean waters. The nation is dedicated to the preservation of both land and culture. Numerous resorts on the islands have committed fully to sustainability efforts and initiatives that benefit the local communities. Tour operators have been offering more educational and volunteer-based exclusions, such as planting coral reefs or releasing turtle hatchlings.

Choosing a location that cares about its environmental impact could positively reflect how your company decides to do business in the future.

Staff loyalty

A big problem these days is finding and retaining Talent. The majority of today’s workforce comprises millennials (aged in the late 20s to early 40s). They have been shaping a new work landscape, and some companies are now trying to accommodate their wants and needs. Recognition in the workplace is one of the top priorities of a millennial employee, and it doesn’t always have to include something tangible. Rewarding employees with an incentive business trip can rely on the company seeing their hard work as a method to reward top earners and reduce staff turnover. 

Increased performance and motivation

The enticement of going on a business trip- especially to a destination like the Maldives – creates the sense of something to look forward to. Why not make it a reality? The Maldives in and of itself is a destination that, due to new airlift and tour experiences, is easier to reach than ever. This unique ability to access the Maldives is a workforce motivator with its beautiful nature. The islands are covered in white sands, aligned with palm trees, and surrounded by crystal blue waters. The Maldives is also just as beautiful underwater as it is above due to the country being home to 5% of the planet’s coral reefs. In the Maldives, travelers are welcomed by the sunshine, and friendly locals, where unique culture and traditions are discovered while relaxing in one of the world’s most beautiful and sought-after destinations.

Attracting new Talent

In the day of social media, employers and employees can easily share updates, events, and even their business travel experiences. Potential employees or admirers can view a MICE trip, such as one to the Maldives, as something they want to be a part of. Engagement on social media may increase, broadening company awareness in the industry.  

Location, Location, Location!

Many companies are experiencing video call fatigue due to the Pandemic. Some workplaces have moved back into the office or have set up a hybrid model; some employees have never even met in person! The Maldives is the perfect way to connect with your employees after these few difficult years. One of the 1,200 islands in the Maldives is bound to revive employees’ minds and promote mental well-being. Who wouldn’t want to brainstorm a marketing plan surrounded by crystal blue waters, powder-like sand beaches, and daily eating locally sourced fresh food?

Direct flights to the Maldives are available from many European countries, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. Connecting flights would be required for those traveling from North or South America. The accessibility to travel to the Maldives has grown due to popularity, and airlines have been providing more flights in recent years.

Maldives' new developments

Although the nation is relatively small, they are still growing and expanding space for tourists along their hundreds of islands. Most recently, hotel giant Hilton is opening a new resort in addition to the three other locations they have.

Suppose your company is looking for someplace eco-friendly. In that case, your DMC partner in south Asia should check out the newly awarded Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences, given the ‘Considerate Collection’ Green Status. This is the only hotel in the Maldives to achieve this recognition.

With the distinctive effects of the Pandemic and new shocks linked to global conflict, and economic diversification, the Maldives has not fallen short of adaptation; the tremendous growth has shown their commitment to being a leisure and business destination for all. They are achieving this through their digital technologies from high-speed internet and supporting local entrepreneurs. Recently they have introduced Barefoot boardrooms – who doesn’t want to sit under lush palm trees and stick their feet in the warm, soft sand rather than in a cold meeting room? The Maldives has been ramping up its unique MICE accommodations to attract all industries to visit the tiny nation for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions. It also doesn’t hurt to know that the country has been awarded the World’s Leading Destination for two years (even during the Pandemic).

“The Maldives is unparalleled in offering that quintessential ‘laid-back’ atmosphere for thought-provoking and stimulating discussions,” said Thoyyib Mohamed, managing director of Visit Maldives, in October 2021. The ease of transitioning from a morning meeting to an afternoon diving lesson to an evening award ceremony emphasizes how easy it is to have multiple experiences in one place in a matter of hours.

Asia Bespoke is here to guide you for a unique MICE experience in the Maldives. Our expert destination management staff are here to help with the planning process.

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

Southeast Asia Tourism Updates

Travel to our Asia Bespoke Tours Southeast Asian destinations has seen many shifts during the year of 2021. In 2022, however, travel guidelines have become much more stable. We have launched a series of experiences across Southeast Asia to help travelers journey through the region without any hassle or complications. As a destination management company that works exclusively in South and Southeast Asia, we are very intimate with and closely involved with travel updates, news, and national investments in the region. With this year’s World Travel and Tourism Conference (WTTC) conference having just been completed last month in Manila, Philippines, our home base, the region is ripe for new leisure and corporate business, inbound travel for sustainable and luxury destinations, and new experiences. In this May destination-by-destination breakdown, we provide a round-up as of May 18, 2022 on the status of travel to Southeast Asia.

Philippines Travel Update

The islands of the Philippines re-opened to fully vaccinated international tourists from visa-free countries on February 10, 2022. This has shown major benefit across the islands of the Philippines, with travelers beginning to visit the natural beauties and wonders of regions like Boracay, Cebu, Baguio and Palawan again. Visa-free travel is possible if you are staying for less than 30 days. All travelers must provide either a negative RT-PCR or negative antigen test, administered and certified by a healthcare professional to enter the Philippines. If you are fully vaccinated you can enter the Philippines without a visa and without quarantine.

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.

Laos Travel Update

On May 9, 2022, Laos officially reopened to international travel after more than two years of border restrictions due to the pandemic. Visitors with Asia Bespoke Tours will be able to visit sites like the waterfalls of Luang Prabang, the historical sites of Vientiane, or the hidden natural and water gems across the country. We are excited to see that the beautiful Laos, known for its natural tourism sites, is open for tourism again. Visitors from across the globe can now enter Laos but they must apply for a Laos visa unless they are from a visa-exempt country. Those who can enter Laos must have one of the following documents: COVID-19 vaccine certificate showing full vaccination OR Negative rapid ATK COVID-19 test result.  All arrivals must present a health declaration form.

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.

Vietnam Travel Update

There is much to see in Vietnam outside of Halong Bay, and throughout the last two years, the tourism authority of Vietnam has put more and more emphasis on travel to remote areas, the astonishingly diverse cuisine, and the natural sites of the country. Now one of the most relaxed destinations in Southeast Asia in regards to inbound travel restrictions, Vietnam on May 15th removed its Covid testing requirement for all travelers. This means that for all international travelers, there are no COVID-related entry requirement (this includes vaccine requirements).  Any visitors entering Vietnam are not required to show a vaccination certificate, COVID-19 PCR test or Antigen test result prior to arrival.

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.

Cambodia Travel Update

The Kingdom of Cambodia has invested in new tourism developments in the last few months especially in the Southern Coastal Zone including the provinces of Kep, Kampot, Koh Kong and Sihanoukville. Cambodia has developed new experiences for travelers, providing more natural sites, foodie havens, and historical sites for travelers looking to spend 4-7 days exploring. In addition, in an effort to boost the re-opening process, the Kingdom reopened its land border crossing with Thailand early last week. Cambodia was one of the first countries to completely drop all travel restrictions for the fully vaccinated. If you are fully vaccinated, you are exempted from pre-departure and on-arrival tests, as well as quarantine. For travelers that are not fully vaccinated, there are restrictions. Unvaccinated travelers must take a PCR test for COVID-19 at least 72 hours before arriving and they must also quarantine for seven days.

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.

Thailand Travel Updates

As of this week, Thailand proposed to declare COVID-19 “endemic” in three major tourist  hotspots – Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Chang in order to allow for more travel to these destinations. This guidance allows entertainment venues, for example, to re-open with very few limitations and tourist attractions and restaurants to operate at near full capacity. Thailand fully opened to foreign visitors from May 1, 2022. For fully vaccinated travelers, Thailand requires no quarantine or testing requirements, but all travelers must possess a COVID-19 insurance coverage document showing coverage of at least $10,000 (USD) and must have registered for a Thailand Pass. For unvaccinated travelers, all guidelines are the same however travelers must produce a negative PCR COVID-19 test result that was produced within 72 hours of departure to Thailand.

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.

Malaysia Travel Updates

The beautiful country of Malaysia has been seeing major growth in its tourism development, with new flight agreements with Emirates Airlines, new travel marketing campaigns around nature-based tourism, and new product offerings across regions like Sabah, Sarawak and Penang.

From May 1, 2022 on, Malaysia no longer requires COVID insurance. In addition, travelers that are fully vaccinated are exempted from pre-departure or on-arrival tests. For travelers who are not fully vaccinated, a quarantine of five days is required in addition to a pre-departure and on-arrival COVID test. Prior to this, Malaysia, although open, was complicated in terms of its entry policies. In April, the Southeast Asian country started the transition into the endemic phase of COVID-19, completely relaxing all protocols for the first time since its stringent lockdown and restrictive procedures after two years. At the time, to curb the rise of COVID-19 in the country, foreign travelers were barred from entry, while returning nationals, permanent residents and select diplomats went through quarantine and other extensive measures before returning to their (home) country.

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.

Singapore Travel Updates

The beautiful country of Malaysia has been seeing major growth in its tourism development, with new flight agreements with Emirates Airlines, new travel marketing campaigns around nature-based tourism, and new product offerings across regions like Sabah, Sarawak and Penang.

From May 1, 2022 on, Malaysia no longer requires COVID insurance. In addition, travelers that are fully vaccinated are exempted from pre-departure or on-arrival tests. For travelers who are not fully vaccinated, a quarantine of five days is required in addition to a pre-departure and on-arrival COVID test. Prior to this, Malaysia, although open, was complicated in terms of its entry policies. In April, the Southeast Asian country started the transition into the endemic phase of COVID-19, completely relaxing all protocols for the first time since its stringent lockdown and restrictive procedures after two years. At the time, to curb the rise of COVID-19 in the country, foreign travelers were barred from entry, while returning nationals, permanent residents and select diplomats went through quarantine and other extensive measures before returning to their (home) country.

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.

Indonesia Travel Updates

Indonesia lifted quarantine requirements for international travelers in March 2022 in hopes of boosting foreign tourist arrivals to over 3 million in 2022. Indonesia saw major tourism arrivals during the Eid holiday, with a significant number of people flocking to various tourist sites of the world’s largest Muslim nation during May’s Eid holiday. Fully vaccinated travellers with negative PCR test results are not required to quarantine. All international travelers to Indonesia must present a negative PCR test issued a maximum of 48 hours prior to departure as well as a fully completed Electronic Health Alert Card (eHAC).

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.

We have launched a series of experiences across Southeast Asia to help travelers journey through the region without any hassle or complications. Check out our new Experiences and contact us for an itinerary.

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!