Davis: Do you want to chat about Southeast Asia?

General View

Southeast Asia is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, and for a reason. Some of the countries here have it all; a tropical climate, warm (or hot) all year around, rich culture, gorgeous beaches, wonderful food and last but not least, low prices.. While its history and modern day politics are complex, most of it is also quite safe and easy to travel around in. The region is also a very popular destination for retiring abroad, and several governments in the region offer special long term visas specifically for retirees..

Pre historic Southeast Asia was largely underpopulated. A process of immigration from India across the Bay of Bengal is referred to as the process of Indianization. Exactly how and when it happened is contested; however, the population of the mainland region largely happened through immigration from India.. The Sanskrit script still used as the basis for modern Thai, Lao, Burmese and Khmer has its roots from this process.. On the other hand, population of the archipelagos of East Timor, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as Malaysia on the mainland is thought to have come about through immigration from Taiwan and southern China..

Before the arrival of the Europeans, Southeast Asia was home to several powerful kingdoms. Some of the more notable ones were the Funan and the Khmer Empire in the Indochinese peninsula, as well as the Srivijaya, the Majapahit Kingdom and the Melaka Sultanate in the Malay Archipelago.. Southeast Asian history is very diverse and often tumultuous, and has to an important extent been shaped by European colonialism. The very term Southeast Asia was invented by American Naval strategists around 1940..

Prior to WWII, Southeast Asia was referenced in terms of their colonial powers; farther India for Burma and Thailand, with reference to the main British colony of India, although Thailand itself was never formally colonised; Indochina referred to the French colonies of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, while Indonesia and parts of maritime Southeast Asia were called the Dutch East Indies.. Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore were known as British Malaya, while Sabah was known as British North Borneo. Sarawak, on the other hand, was the Kingdom of Sarawak, ruled by a British family known as the White Rajahs..

Brunei was also made into a British protectorate, with the British taking charge of its defence and foreign affairs.. The Philippines was named the Spanish East Indies during the initial period of Spanish colonial rule, and later came to be known by its current name in honour of King Philip II of Spain, a name which stuck even after the islands were transferred from Spanish to American colonial rule.. East Timor was colonized by Portugal for 273 years, then occupied by Indonesia for 27 years before becoming the first nation to gain independence in the 21st century..

This massive colonisation effort was fueled by the lucrative spice trade, which in turn encouraged heavy immigration of workers to support the harvest and sale of plantation crops like nutmeg, rubber and tea.. World War II was disastrous to Southeast Asia, and also saw the beginning of the end of European colonialism, as the European powers surrendered to Japan one by one in disgrace.. By the end of 1942, the Japanese had conquered virtually the whole of Southeast Asia, with only Thailand remaining unconquered, as the Thais signed a treaty of friendship with the Japanese which allowed the Japanese to establish military bases in Thailand, and allowed Japanese troops free passage through Thailand..

The Japanese occupation was a time of great hardship for many of the natives, as the Japanese took all the resources for themselves, and exploited many of the locals for their own gain.. They were also very brutal, especially to people under occupation, especially ethnic Chinese. However, the Japanese occupation convinced many locals that the European powers were not invincible after all, and thereby had the effect of helping the independence movements to gain pace after the end of the war.. After the war, the decolonisation process started in Southeast Asia, with the Americans granting independence to the Philippines in 1946, while the British granted independence to Burma in 1948, followed by Malaya in 1957 and eventually Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo in 1963, which federated with Malaya to form Malaysia..

After some ideological conflicts, Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in 1965 and became a sovereign state. In contrast to the relatively peaceful withdrawals by the British and Americans, the Dutch and the French fought bloody wars in an effort to hold on to their colonies, and earned humiliating defeats.. Indonesia gained independence from the Dutch in 1949, and Indochina forced the French military to withdraw and separated into the three countries of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in 1954. European colonialism came to an end in Southeast Asia in 1984, when Brunei was granted full independence by the British..

Indonesia occupied East Timor in 1975 after it declared independence from the Portuguese following a coup in Portugal, and only left in 1999 following a United Nations referendum. East Timor was then occupied by a United Nations peacekeeping force, before finally becoming independent in 2002.. In recent years, Southeast Asia is acknowledged as having a relatively high rate of economic growth, with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand often being called the " New Asian Tigers ", and Vietnam also recording double digit growth rates..

Nevertheless, despite being one of the most resource rich regions in the world (all Southeast Asian countries except Singapore are considered to be resource rich), widespread corruption means that poverty is still an issue in many countries, with much of the wealth concentrated in the hands of an elite few.. Southeast Asia's culture is dominantly influenced by the Indians and Chinese as well as its colonizers, and also natives of the Malay archipelago. For at least two thousand years (and to this day), Southeast Asia has acted as a conduit for trade between India and China..

Large scale immigration, however, only began with the advent of the colonial era. In Singapore, the Chinese form a majority of the population, but there are substantial Chinese, Indian and other minorities, assimilated to varying degrees, across all countries in the region.. Thai, Burmese, Cambodian and Lao culture is heavily Indianized as well as Chinese influenced in areas such as faith, folklore, language and writing. Malaysia and Indonesia are also influenced by the Indians, Malays and Chinese with a touch of Arab culture due to the large Muslim populations..

Vietnam is the most Chinese influenced country while Brunei's culture is Malay influenced. East Timor's culture is influenced notably by the Portuguese and the Malays.. Singaporean and Filipino cultures are the most diverse; Singapore's is a mix of Malay, Indian, Peranakan, British, American and Chinese cultures while the Philippines is heavily influenced by American, Spanish, Malay, Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese influences with less coming from India, Mexico and non Iberian parts of Europe, making it perhaps the most Westernized nation in the region..

Southeast Asia is religiously diverse. Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei are predominantly Sunni Muslim, while East Timor and the Philippines are predominantly Roman Catholic.. Buddhism is the dominant religion in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, with Mahayana Buddhism being the dominant form in Vietnam, and Theravada Buddhism being the dominant form in the other countries.. However, religious minorities exist in every country. The ethnic Chinese minorities in the various countries practice a mix of different religions, including Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism..

Hinduism is still observed in parts of Indonesia, most notably Bali, as well as by a sizeable proportion of the ethnic Indian community in Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar.. The southern parts of Thailand are home to ethnic Malays who mostly practice Islam, while the island of Mindanao in the Philippines is also home to a sizable Muslim community.. Christian minorities also exist in Indonesia, most notably in Papua, East Nusa Tenggara and North Sulawesi, as well as in East Malaysia, and in the border area of Thailand and Myanmar..

In East Malaysia as well as more remote parts of various countries, various traditional tribal religions are widely practiced.. Southeast Asia is tropical; the weather hovers around the 30 C mark throughout the year, humidity is high and it rains often.. The equatorial parts of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines, have only two seasons, wet and dry, with the dry season somewhat hotter (up to 35 C) and the wet season somewhat cooler (down to 25 C)..

The wet season usually occurs in winter, and the hot season in summer, although there are significant local variations.. In Indochina (north / central Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar), the seasons can be broken down into hot, wet and dry, with the relatively cool dry season from November to February or so being the most popular with tourists.. The scorching hot season that follows can see temperatures climb above 40 C in April, cooling down as the rains start around July.. However, even in the " wet " season, the typical pattern is sunny mornings with a short (but torrential) shower in the afternoon, not all day drizzle, so this alone should not discourage you from travel..

Southeast Asia is also home to many mountains, and conditions are generally cooler in the highlands.. In equatorial Southeast Asia, highland temperatures generally range from about 15-25 C Some of the highest mountains in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Myanmar are so high that snow falls every year, and Indonesia and Myanmar are even home to permanent glaciers.. In Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and parts of Indonesia (notably Sumatra and Borneo) and the Philippines (notably Palawan), haze from forest fires (usually set intentionally to clear land) is a frequent phenomenon in the dry season from May to October..

Haze comes and goes rapidly with the wind, but Singapore's National Environmental Agency has useful on line maps of the current situation in the entire region..

General Info

Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies near the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic and volcanic activity.. Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions. The major religions are Islam, and Buddhism, followed by Christianity. However, a wide variety of religions are found throughout the region, including Hinduism and many animist influenced practices..

What To See

It's difficult to choose favourites from a region as varied as Southeast Asia, but picking one representative sight per country;. The awe inspiring temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The eerie, continually erupting volcanoes of Mount Bromo in Indonesia. The laid back former royal capital of Luang Prabang in Laos. The surreal mix of modernity and tradition in Malaysia's capital to be Putrajaya. The literally thousands of ancient temples and stupas which make up the cityscape of Bagan, Myanmar. The 2000 year old rice terraces of Banaue, built onto the mountains of Ifugao in the Philippines by ancestors of the Batad indigenous people.

The colourful ethnic districts of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam in Singapore. The limestone cliffs, azure waters, and perfect beaches of Krabi in Thailand. The delightfully well preserved ancient trading port of Hoi An in Vietnam. Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City overland.

What To Do

Scuba diving is a major draw for visitors to Southeast Asia, with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand all boasting world class diving locations.. Surfing is also an increasing popular sport especially in Indonesia (with Nias and Bali the top draws) and the Philippines.. Sailing is popular, especially in Southern Thailand. Try wake boarding at Southeast Asia's largest wake boarding centre in Camarines Sur, Philippines.. Explore one of the world's longest underground rivers in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park located in Palawan, Philippines..

Southeast Asia, in particular Indonesia and Thailand, is well known throughout the world for its traditional massages. While the conditions of massage parlours vary, those in major hotels in touristy areas are usually clean, though you would generally pay a premium for them.. Nevertheless, prices remain much lower than in most Western countries, with 1 hour massages starting from around USD5 20..

How To Get In

Southeast Asia's most visited countries, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, do not require visas obtained before arrival from most visitors. Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and East Timor offer visas on arrival at most points of entry.. Vietnam and Myanmar require advance paperwork for most visitors.. Travellers to ASEAN nations (all nations covered in this article except East Timor) may need to be aware of the effects on visas. ASEAN citizens are entitled to visa free tourist travel to other ASEAN countries, and agreements are in place with nearby nations such as China which affect visas in either direction..

Visa free travel may be for a shorter period than travel with a visa, limited to as little as 14 days. A common ASEAN travel area, similar to the Schengen Agreement for Europe, is planned but has not yet been implemented.. Visitors from outside the ASEAN area still need to consult the specific visa requirements for the countries they are visiting. Business travellers may wish to take advantage of tariff reductions and other economic measures between the nations.. For visitors, however, normal duty free limits on cigarettes, alcohol, perfume and the like, apply when travelling between them..

The main international gateways to Southeast Asia are Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), and Jakarta (Indonesia). Manila (Philippines) also offers relatively good connections to other cities outside the region, particularly North America.. Hong Kong also makes a good springboard into the region, with many low cost carriers flying into Southeast Asian destinations.. Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways are all known for their great service and safety records. Philippine Airlines is the oldest airline in this part of the world still flying under the original name..

Rapidly expanding AirAsia flies out of its Kuala Lumpur hub and getting from one Southeast Asian city to another is often as easy as booking two separate AirAsia tickets and transiting through their Kuala Lumpur hub.. AirAsia also operates several secondary hubs in Jakarta and Bangkok. In addition, budget flights can be booked through the Jetstar, Silk Air, Scoot and Tiger Airways hubs in Singapore.. Travellers to ASEAN nations are starting to benefit from the ASEAN Single Aviation Market policy, a gradual process of opening up the markets which is expected to be complete by 2015. See Low cost airlines in Asia for some of the effects..

The only railway line into Southeast Asia is between Vietnam and China, and on to Russia and even Europe. There are no connections between Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries yet, although there are plans for links through both Cambodia and Myanmar onward to the existing Thailand Malaysia network.. Southeast Asia is a popular destination for round the world cruises, and many of them make several stops in Southeast Asia with the option to go for shore excursions.. Popular ports of call include Singapore, Langkawi, Penang, Tioman, Redang, Phuket, Nha Trang, Ha Long Bay, Ho Chi Minh City and Ko Samui..

In addition, Star Cruises also operates cruises from Hong Kong and Taiwan to various destinations in Southeast Asia..

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What To Do

Scuba diving is a major draw for visitors to Southeast Asia, with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand all boasting world class diving locations.. Surfing is also an increasing popular sport especially in Indonesia (with Nias and Bali the top draws) and the Philippines.. Sailing is popular, especially in Southern Thailand. Try wake boarding at Southeast Asia's largest wake boarding centre in Camarines Sur, Philippines.. Explore one of the world's longest underground rivers in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park located in Palawan, Philippines..

Southeast Asia, in particular Indonesia and Thailand, is well known throughout the world for its traditional massages. While the conditions of massage parlours vary, those in major hotels in touristy areas are usually clean, though you would generally pay a premium for them.. Nevertheless, prices remain much lower than in most Western countries, with 1 hour massages starting from around USD5 20..

How To Get In

Southeast Asia's most visited countries, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, do not require visas obtained before arrival from most visitors. Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and East Timor offer visas on arrival at most points of entry.. Vietnam and Myanmar require advance paperwork for most visitors.. Travellers to ASEAN nations (all nations covered in this article except East Timor) may need to be aware of the effects on visas. ASEAN citizens are entitled to visa free tourist travel to other ASEAN countries, and agreements are in place with nearby nations such as China which affect visas in either direction..

Visa free travel may be for a shorter period than travel with a visa, limited to as little as 14 days. A common ASEAN travel area, similar to the Schengen Agreement for Europe, is planned but has not yet been implemented.. Visitors from outside the ASEAN area still need to consult the specific visa requirements for the countries they are visiting. Business travellers may wish to take advantage of tariff reductions and other economic measures between the nations.. For visitors, however, normal duty free limits on cigarettes, alcohol, perfume and the like, apply when travelling between them..

The main international gateways to Southeast Asia are Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), and Jakarta (Indonesia). Manila (Philippines) also offers relatively good connections to other cities outside the region, particularly North America.. Hong Kong also makes a good springboard into the region, with many low cost carriers flying into Southeast Asian destinations.. Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways are all known for their great service and safety records. Philippine Airlines is the oldest airline in this part of the world still flying under the original name..

Rapidly expanding AirAsia flies out of its Kuala Lumpur hub and getting from one Southeast Asian city to another is often as easy as booking two separate AirAsia tickets and transiting through their Kuala Lumpur hub.. AirAsia also operates several secondary hubs in Jakarta and Bangkok. In addition, budget flights can be booked through the Jetstar, Silk Air, Scoot and Tiger Airways hubs in Singapore.. Travellers to ASEAN nations are starting to benefit from the ASEAN Single Aviation Market policy, a gradual process of opening up the markets which is expected to be complete by 2015. See Low cost airlines in Asia for some of the effects..

The only railway line into Southeast Asia is between Vietnam and China, and on to Russia and even Europe. There are no connections between Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries yet, although there are plans for links through both Cambodia and Myanmar onward to the existing Thailand Malaysia network.. Southeast Asia is a popular destination for round the world cruises, and many of them make several stops in Southeast Asia with the option to go for shore excursions.. Popular ports of call include Singapore, Langkawi, Penang, Tioman, Redang, Phuket, Nha Trang, Ha Long Bay, Ho Chi Minh City and Ko Samui..

In addition, Star Cruises also operates cruises from Hong Kong and Taiwan to various destinations in Southeast Asia..

How To Get Around

With the exception of Singapore, public transport networks in Southeast Asia tend to be underdeveloped. However, due to reckless driving habits, driving is also usually not for the faint hearted. Most of the time, plane, bus or rail travel tends to be the best way to get around.. Much of Southeast Asia is now covered by a dense web of low cost carriers, making this a fast and affordable way of getting around. Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are the main hubs for budget airlines in the area..

The larger multinational budget airlines and most national carriers are respectable, but some of the smaller airlines have questionable safety records, especially on domestic flights using older planes. Do some research before you buy.. Services along the main Singapore Kuala Lumpur Bangkok business corridor are extremely frequent, with frequencies almost like a bus service in the daytime, meaning that competition is stiff and prices are low if you book in advance.. Thailand has the most extensive network, with relatively frequent and economical (albeit slow, compared to most buses) and generally reliable services..

The main lines from Bangkok are north to Chiang Mai; northeast via Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) to Nong Khai and also east to Ubon Ratchathani; east via Chachoengsao to Aranyaprathet and also southeast via Pattaya to Sattahip; and south via Surat Thani (province) to Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao and Hat Yai, through Malaysia via Butterworth, Kuala Lumpur, and Johor Bahru, to Singapore.. The networks in Indonesia and Myanmar are more limited and decrepit and perhaps best experienced for their nostalgic value. Cambodia's railways were badly hit by the civil war and have been going downhill ever since..

The only remaining passenger service connects the capital Phnom Penh with the next largest town Battambang, and takes longer to arrive than a reasonably determined cyclist. It is no longer possible to go all the way through Cambodia to Thailand by rail.. International ferry links are surprisingly limited, but it's possible to cross over from Malaysia to Sumatra (Indonesia) and from Singapore to the Riau Islands (Indonesia) and Johor (Malaysia).. Star Cruises also operates a fleet of cruise ferries between Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, occasionally venturing as far as Cambodia, Vietnam, and even Hong Kong..

Domestic passenger ferries link various islands in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and the Philippines, but safety regulations are often ignored, boats overloaded and sinkings are not uncommon. Be sure to inspect the boat before you agree to get on, and avoid boats that look overcrowded or too run down.. Getting around continental Southeast Asia as well as intra island travel in the various islands of Southeast Asia by car is possible, but definitely not for weenies.. While you can drive yourself around Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei without any major problems after giving yourself some time to get used to the relative lack of road courtesy, traffic conditions elsewhere range from just bad to total chaos..

As such, it is advisable to rent a car with a driver, and not try to drive yourself around.. Traffic moves on the left in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, East Timor and Singapore, and moves on the right elsewhere..

What To Buy

Every Southeast Asian country has its own currency except for East Timor. The US dollar is the official currency of East Timor, the unofficial currency of Cambodia and Laos, and (for larger payments) is widely accepted in some Southeast Asian cities.. Euros are also widely accepted in the major cities, although rates are rarely as good as for dollars. Thai baht are widely accepted in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.. As Singapore is considered to be the main financial centre of Southeast Asia, Singapore dollars would generally be accepted in major tourist areas if you're in a pinch (and are legal tender in Brunei), though the conversion rate might not be very favourable..

Exchange rates for Southeast Asian currencies tend to be very poor outside the region, so it's best to exchange (or use the ATM) only after arrival.. Alternatively, Singapore and Hong Kong have many money changers who offer competitive rates for Southeast Asian currencies, so you might plan to spend a night or two in transit for you to get your money changed.. Southeast Asia is cheap, so much so that it is among the cheapest travel destinations on the planet. USD20 is a perfectly serviceable daily backpacker budget in most countries in the region, while the savvy traveller can eat well, drink a lot and stay in luxury hotels for USD100 per day..

Some exceptions do stand out. The rich city states of Singapore and Brunei are about twice as expensive as their neighbours, while at the other end of the spectrum, the difficulty of getting into and around underdeveloped places like Myanmar, East Timor and the backwoods of Indonesia drives up prices there too.. In Singapore in particular, the sheer scarcity of land drives accommodation rates up and you would be looking at more than USD100 per night for a four star hotel.. Southeast Asia is a shopping haven, with both high end branded goods and dirt cheap street goods. The most popular city for shopping in Southeast Asia is Bangkok, although Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore all have extensive arrays of exclusive shopping malls stocked with haute couture labels..

On the other end of the spectrum, street markets remain a part of daily life (except in Singapore) and are the place to go for dirt cheap or counterfeit items.. Some towns like Chiang Mai in Thailand and Ubud in Bali, Indonesia are well known for enormous markets selling traditional artworks, and it's often possible to buy directly from local artists or have dresses, jewellery, furniture, etc, made to order.. Bargain in public markets and flea markets where prices aren't fixed. Southeast Asians actually will give you a bargain if you make them laugh and smile while naming your price; if they don't, try saying bye bye and smile and maybe the vendor might change his mind and give you a discount..

When bargaining for simple things like watches, sunglasses, and shoes remember that these are often marked up hugely and, given some bargaining skill, can often be brought down to something like 20% of the asking price.. If you can't seem to get them down to a reasonable price, then you're doing it wrong. See Bargaining for more tips.. As a general rule of thumb, if a price is not explicitly posted, you need to haggle for it. However even posted prices can often be haggled down as well..

What To Eat

Southeast Asian cuisine reflects their diverse history and culture. It can be roughly split into continental Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar) and maritime (Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, East Timor), and even then still differs from area to area depending on cultural influences.. The Philippines' food culture is the most varied due to their additional influences from Spain and America.. Street vendors or hawkers are a culinary cornerstone of the region, offering wonderful food at a very inexpensive cost; if you're scrupulous about hygiene, go for the char grilled, deep fried or boiled silly options..

Thai and Vietnamese dishes like the ubiquitous pad Thai and beef pho have been widely exported around the world after the Vietnam War, followed closely by Malaysian restaurants, but a common refrain is that they simply cannot compare with a fresh bowl served by the roadside.. Singapore probably serves as the easiest introduction to street food, though Bangkok and Penang have the better hawkers, with Ho Chi Minh City not far behind.. Rice is the main Southeast Asian staple, with noodles of all sorts an important second option. It's common to take a rich soupy bowl of noodles or some congee (rice porridge) for breakfast..

Roti canai in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia is based on the Indian paratha (flatbread) while Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos have a fondness for French bread courtesy of their colonial history, epitomised by banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich).. Love of the spicy chilli is also shared throughout the region, and many of its most famous dishes incorporate chilli whether as a core ingredient or as a separate garnishing, from Thai curries and tom yum soup to the Indonesian beef rendang to Malaysia's assam laksa to Cambodia's amok..

The unsuspecting diner may end up downing glass after glass of water to try and quench the burning sensation, but the local advice is to drink hot tea instead.. Asking the cook to tone down the spiciness will not always work, and often your eyes will water when eating an adjusted version even as nearby locals happily slurp down their meals.. Chilli is just one of the many spices used in Southeast Asian cooking, with lemongrass, tamarind and cloves popular choices to lend strong aromatic flavours to dishes..

Living next to seas and rivers, seafood is a crowd favourite. Fish and prawns feature prominently, with fermented fish sauce and shrimp paste frequently used in everyday cooking, although shellfish such as Singapore chilli crab is much more expensive and usually saved for special occasions or enjoyed by the well off.. Fruit is available everywhere in all shapes and sizes, and pretty much all year round thanks to the tropical weather. Mangoes are a firm favourite among travellers.. The giant spiky durian, perhaps the only unifying factor between Southeast Asia's countries, is infamous for its pungent smell and has been likened to eating garlic ice cream next to an open sewer..

Other distinctive Southeast Asian fruits are the purple mangosteen, the hairy rambutan and the jackfruit like cempedak, whose exteriors hide juicy fleshy insides..

Divisions

Definitions of " Southeast Asia " vary, but most definitions include the area represented by the countries and territories listed below. All of the countries excluding East Timor are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.. The area, together with part of South Asia, was widely known as the East Indies or simply the Indies until the 20th century. Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands are considered part of Southeast Asia though they are governed by Australia.. Sovereignty issues exist over some islands in the South China Sea. Papua New Guinea has stated that it might join ASEAN, and is currently an observer..

Southeast Asia is geographically divided into two subregions, namely Mainland Southeast Asia and Maritime Southeast Asia.. Mainland Southeast Asia includes. Maritime Southeast Asia includes. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India are geographically considered part of Southeast Asia. The rest of New Guinea is sometimes included; so are Palau, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, which were all part of the Spanish East Indies.. The eastern half of Indonesia and East Timor are considered to be biogeographically part of Oceania..

Options For Drink

Rice based alcoholic drinks — Thai whisky, Tuba, lao, tuak, arak and so on — are ubiquitous and potent, if rarely tasty. As a rule of thumb, local booze is cheap, but most countries levy very high taxes on imported stuff.. Beers are a must try in Southeast Asia, and are often very inexpensive.. Check out San Miguel (Philippines), Singha, Chang beer (Thailand), Bir Bintang, Angker Beer (Indonesia), Tiger Beer (Singapore and Malaysia), Beerlao (Laos), Angkor and Angkor Stout (Cambodia).. Lager is by far the most popular style, although stout (especially Guinness) is also popular and the larger cities have plenty of microbreweries and imported brews. Beer in SE Asia is primarily consumed by locals to simply get drunk, and not for taste..

As such, by Western standards, most locally produced SE Asian beers are often of comparable quality to a low end Western beers.. Don't be surprised by the local habit of adding ice to your beer; not only does it help keep it cool, but it dilutes the often high alcohol content (6% is typical) as well.. Hampered by heavy taxation and a mostly unsuitable climate, wine is only slowly making inroads, although you can find a few wineries in central and northern Thailand, Bali, and Vietnam.. Don't buy wine in a restaurant unless you're sure it's been kept properly, since a bottle left to simmer in the tropical heat will turn to vinegar within months..

The exception is the former French colonies of Laos and Cambodia which have a respectable collection of vintages available in the larger cities of Vientiane and Phnom Penh.. Nearby Australia exports a good deal of wine to this region; it will be found mainly in high end hotels or restaurants, though places catering to the budget / backpacker part of the tourist trade may have some as well.. The cheap local restaurants generally will not have any..

How To Stay Safe

Virtually all of the traveller trail in Southeast Asia is perfectly safe, but there are low level insurgencies in the remote areas of Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and East Timor.. Violent crime is a rarity in Southeast Asia, but opportunistic theft is more common. Watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas and keep a close eye on your bags when travelling, particularly on overnight buses and trains..

History

Homo sapiens reached the region by around 45,000 years ago, having moved eastwards from the Indian subcontinent. Homo floresiensis also lived in the area up until 12,000 years ago, when they became extinct.. Austronesian people, who form the majority of the modern population in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, East Timor, and the Philippines, may have migrated to Southeast Asia from Taiwan.. They arrived in Indonesia around 2000 BC, and as they spread through the archipelago, they often settled along coastal areas and confined indigenous peoples such as Negritos of the Philippines or Papuans of New Guinea to inland regions..

Studies presented by HUGO through genetic studies of the Asian races, scientifically points out to another Asian migration from Southeast Asia travelling northwards slowly populating southern parts of East Asia and then East Asia itself instead of the other way around.. Solheim and others have shown evidence for a Nusantao maritime trading network ranging from Vietnam to the rest of the archipelago as early as 5000 BC to 1 AD. The peoples of Southeast Asia, especially those of Austronesian descent, have been seafarers for thousands of years, some reaching the island of Madagascar..

Their vessels, such as the vinta, were ocean worthy. Magellan's voyage records how much more manoeuvrable their vessels were, as compared to the European ships.. Passage through the Indian Ocean aided the colonisation of Madagascar by the Austronesian people, as well as commerce between West Asia and Southeast Asia. Gold from Sumatra is thought to have reached as far west as Rome, while a slave from the Sulu Sea was believed to have been used in Magellan's voyage as a translator.. Originally most people were animist. This was later replaced by Hinduism. Theravada Buddhism soon followed in 525. In the 15th century, Islamic influences began to enter. This forced the last Hindu court in Indonesia to retreat to Bali..

In Mainland Southeast Asia, Burma, Cambodia and Thailand retained the Theravada form of Buddhism, brought to them from Sri Lanka. This type of Buddhism was fused with the Hindu influenced Khmer culture.. Very little is known about Southeast Asian religious beliefs and practices before the advent of Indian merchants and religious influences from the 2nd century BCE onwards. Prior to the 13th century CE, Hinduism and Buddhism were the main religions in Southeast Asia.. The Jawa Dwipa Hindu kingdom in Java and Sumatra existed around 200 BCE. The history of the Malay speaking world began with the advent of Indian influence, which dates back to at least the 3rd century BCE..

Indian traders came to the archipelago both for its abundant forest and maritime products and to trade with merchants from China, who also discovered the Malay world at an early date.. Both Hinduism and Buddhism were well established in the Malay Peninsula by the beginning of the 1st century CE, and from there spread across the archipelago.. Cambodia was first influenced by Hinduism during the beginning of the Funan kingdom. Hinduism was one of the Khmer Empire's official religions. Cambodia is the home to one of the only two temples dedicated to Brahma in the world..

Angkor Wat is also a famous Hindu temple of Cambodia.. The Champa civilisation was located in what is today central Vietnam, and was a highly Indianised Hindu Kingdom. The Vietnamese committed genocide against the Cham people during the 1471 Vietnamese invasion of Champa, ransacking and burning Champa, slaughtering thousands of Cham people, and forcibly assimilating them into Vietnamese culture.. The Majapahit Empire was an Indianised kingdom based in eastern Java from 1293 to around 1500. Its greatest ruler was Hayam Wuruk, whose reign from 1350 to 1389 marked the empire's peak when it dominated other kingdoms in the southern Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, and Bali..

Various sources such as the Nagarakertagama also mention that its influence spanned over parts of Sulawesi, Maluku, and some areas of western New Guinea and the Philippines, making it the largest empire to ever exist in Southeast Asian history.. The Cholas excelled in maritime activity in both military and the mercantile fields. Their raids of Kedah and the Srivijaya, and their continued commercial contacts with the Chinese Empire, enabled them to influence the local cultures.. Many of the surviving examples of the Hindu cultural influence found today throughout Southeast Asia are the result of the Chola expeditions..

In the 11th century, a turbulent period occurred in the history of Maritime Southeast Asia. The Indian Chola navy crossed the ocean and attacked the Srivijaya kingdom of Sangrama Vijayatungavarman in Kadaram, the capital of the powerful maritime kingdom was sacked and the king was taken captive.. Along with Kadaram, Pannai in present day Sumatra and Malaiyur and the Malayan peninsula were attacked too. Soon after that, the king of Kedah Phra Ong Mahawangsa became the first ruler to abandon the traditional Hindu faith, and converted to Islam with the Sultanate of Kedah established in year 1136..

Samudera Pasai converted to Islam in the year 1267, the King of Malacca Parameswara married the princess of Pasai, and the son became the first sultan of Malacca. Soon, Malacca became the center of Islamic study and maritime trade, and other rulers followed suit.. Indonesian religious leader and Islamic scholar Hamka wrote in 1961 " The development of Islam in Indonesia and Malaya is intimately related to a Chinese Muslim, Admiral Zheng He. ". There are several theories to the Islamisation process in Southeast Asia. Another theory is trade. The expansion of trade among West Asia, India and Southeast Asia helped the spread of the religion as Muslim traders from Southern Yemen brought Islam to the region with their large volume of trade..

Many settled in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. This is evident in the Arab Indonesian, Arab Singaporean, and Arab Malay populations who were at one time very prominent in each of their countries.. The second theory is the role of missionaries or Sufis. The Sufi missionaries played a significant role in spreading the faith by introducing Islamic ideas to the region. Finally, the ruling classes embraced Islam and that further aided the permeation of the religion throughout the region.. The ruler of the region's most important port, Malacca Sultanate, embraced Islam in the 15th century, heralding a period of accelerated conversion of Islam throughout the region as Islam provided a positive discriminatory force among the ruling and trading classes..

Economy

Even prior to the penetration of European interests, Southeast Asia was a critical part of the world trading system. A wide range of commodities originated in the region, but especially important were spices such as pepper, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.. The spice trade initially was developed by Indian and Arab merchants, but it also brought Europeans to the region. First Spaniards and Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British and French became involved in this enterprise in various countries..

The penetration of European commercial interests gradually evolved into annexation of territories, as traders lobbied for an extension of control to protect and expand their activities. As a result, the Dutch moved into Indonesia, the British into Malaya, the French into Indochina, and the Spanish and the US into the Philippines.. The overseas Chinese community has played a large role in the development of the economies in the region. These business communities are connected through the bamboo network, a network of overseas Chinese businesses operating in the markets of Southeast Asia that share common family and cultural ties..

The origins of Chinese influence can be traced to the 16th century, when Chinese migrants from southern China settled in Indonesia, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries. Chinese populations in the region saw a rapid increase following the Communist Revolution in 1949, which forced many refugees to emigrate outside of China.. The region's economy greatly depends on agriculture; rice and rubber have long been prominent exports. Manufacturing and services are becoming more important. An emerging market, Indonesia is the largest economy in this region..

Newly industrialised countries include Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, while Singapore and Brunei are affluent developed economies. The rest of Southeast Asia is still heavily dependent on agriculture, but Vietnam is notably making steady progress in developing its industrial sectors.. The region notably manufactures textiles, electronic high tech goods such as microprocessors and heavy industrial products such as automobiles. Oil reserves in Southeast Asia are plentiful.. Seventeen telecommunications companies contracted to build the Asia America Gateway submarine cable to connect Southeast Asia to the US This is to avoid disruption of the kind recently caused by the cutting of the undersea cable from Taiwan to the US in the 2006 Hengchun earthquake..

Tourism has been a key factor in economic development for many Southeast Asian countries, especially Cambodia. According to UNESCO, tourism, if correctly conceived, can be a tremendous development tool and an effective means of preserving the cultural diversity of our planet.. Since the early 1990s, even the non ASEAN nations such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Burma, where the income derived from tourism is low, are attempting to expand their own tourism industries.. In 1995, Singapore was the regional leader in tourism receipts relative to GDP at over 8 By 1998, those receipts had dropped to less than 6 of GDP while Thailand and Lao PDR increased receipts to over 7 Since 2000, Cambodia has surpassed all other ASEAN countries and generated almost 15 of its GDP from tourism in 2006..

Indonesia is the only member of G 20 major economies and is the largest economy in the region. Indonesia's estimated gross domestic product for 2008 was US511.7 billion with estimated nominal per capita GDP was US2,246, and per capita GDP PPP was US3,979.. Stock markets in Southeast Asia have performed better than other bourses in the Asia Pacific region in 2010, with the Philippines' PSE leading the way with 22 percent growth, followed by Thailand's SET with 21 percent and Indonesia's JKSE with 19 percent..

Culture

The culture in Southeast Asia is very diverse on mainland Southeast Asia, the culture is a real mix of Indian and Chinese. While in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, the culture is a mix of Chinese, Indian, Western and the indigenous Austronesian culture. Also Brunei shows a strong influence from Arabia. Vietnam and Singapore show more Chinese influence in that Vietnam was in China's sphere of influence for much of its history and Singapore, although being a Southeast Asian nation, is home to a large Chinese majority..

Indian influence in Singapore is only evident through the Tamil migrants, which influenced, to some extent, the cuisine of Singapore. Throughout Vietnam's history, it has had no direct influence from India - only through contact with the Thai, Khmer and Cham peoples.. Rice paddy agriculture has existed in Southeast Asia for thousands of years, ranging across the subregion. Some dramatic examples of these rice paddies populate the Banaue Rice Terraces in the mountains of Luzon in the Philippines..

Maintenance of these paddies is very labour intensive. The rice paddies are well suited to the monsoon climate of the region.. Stilt houses can be found all over Southeast Asia, from Thailand and Laos, to Borneo, to Luzon in the Philippines, to Papua New Guinea. The region has diverse metalworking, especially in Indonesia.. This include weaponry, such as the distinctive kris, and musical instruments, such as the gamelan.. The region's chief cultural influences have been from either China or India or both. Diverse culture influence is most pronounced in the Philippines, derived particularly from the period of the Spanish and American rule and the Chinese trading era..

The Filipinos have a majority of Indian, Malay, and Chinese blood.. As a rule, the peoples who ate with their fingers were more likely influenced by the culture of India, for example, than the culture of China, where the peoples first ate with chopsticks; tea, as a beverage, can be found across the region.. The fish sauces distinctive to the region tend to vary.. The arts of Southeast Asia have no affinity with the arts of other areas. Dance in much of Southeast Asia also includes movement of the hands as well as the feet, to express the dance's emotion and meaning of the story that the ballerina is going to tell the audience..

Most of Southeast Asian introduced dance into their court; in particular, Cambodian royal ballet represented them in the early 7th century before the Khmer Empire, which was highly influenced by Indian Hinduism.. Apsara Dance, famous for strong hand and feet movement, is a great example of Hindu symbolic dance. Puppetry and shadow plays were also a favoured form of entertainment in past centuries as the famous one known as Wayang from Indonesia.. The arts and literature in some of Southeast Asia is quite influenced by Hinduism brought to them centuries ago..

The Tai, coming late into Southeast Asia, brought with them some Chinese artistic traditions, but they soon shed them in favour of the Khmer and Mon traditions, and the only indications of their earlier contact with Chinese arts were in the style of their temples, especially the tapering roof, and in their lacquerware.. Indonesia, despite conversion to Islam which opposes certain forms of art, has retained many forms of Hindu influenced practices, culture, art and literature. An example is the Wayang Kulit and literature like the Ramayana..

This is also true for mainland Southeast Asia. Dance movements, Hindu gods, and arts were also fused into Thai, Khmer, Lao and Burmese cultures.. It has been pointed out that Khmer and Indonesian classical arts were concerned with depicting the life of the gods, but to the Southeast Asian mind the life of the gods was the life of the peoples themselvesjoyous, earthy, yet divine.. Traditional music in Southeast Asia is as varied as its many ethnic and cultural divisions. Main styles of traditional music can be seen Court music, folk music, music styles of smaller ethnic groups, and music influenced by genres outside the geographic region..

Of the court and folk genres, gong chime ensembles and orchestras make up the majority.. Gamelan orchestras from Indonesia, Piphat Pinpeat ensembles of Thailand and Cambodia and the Kulintang ensembles of the southern Philippines, Borneo, Sulawesi and Timor are the three main distinct styles of musical genres that have influenced other traditional musical styles in the region.. String instruments also are popular in the region.. The history of Southeast Asia has led to a wealth of different authors, from both within and without writing about the region..

Originally, Indians were the ones who taught the native inhabitants about writing. This is shown through Brahmic forms of writing present in the region such as the Balinese script shown on split palm leaf called lontar.. The antiquity of this form of writing extends before the invention of paper around the year 100 in China. Note each palm leaf section was only several lines, written longitudinally across the leaf, and bound by twine to the other sections.. The outer portion was decorated. The alphabets of Southeast Asia tended to be abugidas, until the arrival of the Europeans, who used words that also ended in consonants, not just vowels..

Other forms of official documents, which did not use paper, included Javanese copperplate scrolls. This material would have been more durable than paper in the tropical climate of Southeast Asia.. In Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore, the Malay language is now generally written in the Latin script. The same phenomenon is present in Indonesian, although different spelling standards are utilised.. The use of Chinese characters, in the past and present, is only evident in Vietnam and more recently, Singapore and Malaysia. The adoption of Chinese characters in Vietnam dates back to around 111BC, when it was occupied by the Chinese..

A Vietnamese script called Chu nom used modified Chinese characters to express the Vietnamese language. Both classical Chinese and Chu Nom were used up until the early 20th century..

Geography

Geologically, the Malay archipelago is one of the most volcanically active regions in the world.. Geological uplifts in the region have also produced some impressive mountains, culminating in Puncak Jaya in Papua, Indonesia at 5,030 metres, on the island of New Guinea; it is the only place where ice glaciers can be found in Southeast Asia.. The second tallest peak is Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo with a height of 4,095 metres. The highest mountain in Southeast Asia is Hkakabo Razi at 5,967 meters and can be found in northern Burma sharing the same range of its parent peak, Mount Everest..

The largest archipelago in the world by size is Indonesia.. Mayon Volcano, despite being dangerously active, holds the record of the world's most perfect cone which is built from past and continuous eruption.. Southeast Asia is bounded to the southeast by the Australian continent, a boundary which runs through Indonesia. But a cultural touch point lies between Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian region of the Papua and West Papua, which shares the island of New Guinea with Papua New Guinea.. The climate in Southeast Asia is mainly tropicalhot and humid all year round with plentiful rainfall. Northern Vietnam and the Myanmar Himalayas are the only regions in Southeast Asia that features a subtropical climate, which has a cold winter with snow..

Majority of Southeast Asia has a wet and dry season caused by seasonal shift in winds or monsoon. The tropical rain belt causes additional rainfall during the monsoon season. The rain forest is the second largest on earth.. An exception to this type of climate and vegetation is the mountain areas in the northern region, where high altitudes lead to milder temperatures and drier landscape. Other parts fall out of this climate because they are desert like.. The vast majority of Southeast Asia falls within the warm, humid tropics, and its climate generally can be characterised as monsoonal..

The animals of Southeast Asia are diverse; on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, the orangutan, the Asian elephant, the Malayan tapir, the Sumatran rhinoceros and the Bornean clouded leopard can be also found.. Six subspecies of the binturong or bearcat exist in the region, though the one endemic to the island of Palawan is now classed as vulnerable.. Tigers of three different subspecies are found on the island of Sumatra, in peninsular Malaysia, and in Indochina; all of which are endangered species..

The Komodo dragon is the largest living species of lizard and inhabits the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang in Indonesia.. The Philippine eagle is the national bird of the Philippines. It is considered by scientists as the largest eagle in the world, and is endemic to the Philippines' forests.. The wild Asian water buffalo, and on various islands related dwarf species of Bubalus such as anoa were once widespread in Southeast Asia; nowadays the domestic Asian water buffalo is common across the region, but its remaining relatives are rare and endangered..

The mouse deer, a small tusked deer as large as a toy dog or cat, can be found on Sumatra, Borneo and Palawan Islands. The gaur, a gigantic wild ox larger than even wild water buffalo, is found mainly in Indochina.. There is very little scientific information available regarding Southeast Asian amphibians.. Birds such as the peafowl and drongo live in this subregion as far east as Indonesia. The babirusa, a four tusked pig, can be found in Indonesia as well. The hornbill was prized for its beak and used in trade with China..

The horn of the rhinoceros, not part of its skull, was prized in China as well.. The Malay Archipelago is split by the Wallace Line. This line runs along what is now known to be a tectonic plate boundary, and separates Asian species from Australasian species. The islands between JavaBorneo and Papua form a mixed zone, where both types occur, known as Wallacea.. As the pace of development accelerates and populations continue to expand in Southeast Asia, concern has increased regarding the impact of human activity on the region's environment. A significant portion of Southeast Asia, however, has not changed greatly and remains an unaltered home to wildlife..

The nations of the region, with only few exceptions, have become aware of the need to maintain forest cover not only to prevent soil erosion but to preserve the diversity of flora and fauna.. Indonesia, for example, has created an extensive system of national parks and preserves for this purpose. Even so, such species as the Javan rhinoceros face extinction, with only a handful of the animals remaining in western Java.. The shallow waters of the Southeast Asian coral reefs have the highest levels of biodiversity for the world's marine ecosystems, where coral, fish and molluscs abound. According to Conservation International, marine surveys suggest that the marine life diversity in the Raja Ampat area is the highest recorded on Earth..

Diversity is considerably greater than any other area sampled in the Coral Triangle composed of Indonesia, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea. The Coral Triangle is the heart of the world's coral reef biodiversity, making Raja Ampat quite possibly the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world.. The whale shark, the world's largest species of fish and 6 species of sea turtles can also be found in the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean territories of the Philippines.. The trees and other plants of the region are tropical; in some countries where the mountains are tall enough, temperate climate vegetation can be found. These rainforest areas are currently being logged over, especially in Borneo..

While Southeast Asia is rich in flora and fauna, Southeast Asia is facing severe deforestation which causes habitat loss for various endangered species such as orangutan and the Sumatran tiger. Predictions have been made that more than 40 of the animal and plant species in Southeast Asia could be wiped out in the 21st century.. At the same time, haze has been a regular occurrence. The two worst regional hazes were in 1997 and 2006 in which multiple countries were covered with thick haze, mostly caused by " slash and burn " activities in Indonesia..

In reaction, several countries in Southeast Asia signed the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution to combat haze pollution.. The 2013 Southeast Asian Haze saw API levels reach a hazardous level in some countries. Muar experienced the highest API level of 746 on 23 June 2013 at around 7 am..

Demographics

Southeast Asia has an area of approximately 4,000,000 km2. As of 2007, more than 593 million people lived in the region, more than a fifth of them on the Indonesian island of Java, the most densely populated large island in the world.. Indonesia is the most populous country with 230 million people and also the 4th most populous country in the world. The distribution of the religions and people is diverse in Southeast Asia and varies by country.. Some 30 million overseas Chinese also live in Southeast Asia, most prominently in Christmas Island, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, and also, as the Hoa, in Vietnam..

In modern times, the Javanese are the largest ethnic group in Southeast Asia, with more than 86 million people, mostly concentrated in Java, Indonesia.. In Burma, the Burmese account for more than two thirds of the ethnic stock in this country, while ethnic Thais and Vietnamese account for about four fifths of the respective populations of those countries.. Indonesia is clearly dominated by the Javanese and Sundanese ethnic groups, while Malaysia is split between half Malays and one quarter Chinese. Within the Philippines, the Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, and Hiligaynon groups are significant..

Islam is the most widely practised religion in Southeast Asia, numbering approximately 240 million adherents which translate to about 40 of the entire population, with majorities in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and in Southern Philippines.. Countries in Southeast Asia practice many different religions. Buddhism is predominant in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Vietnam and Singapore. Ancestor worship and Confucianism are also widely practised in Vietnam and Singapore.. Christianity is predominant in the Philippines, eastern Indonesia, East Malaysia and East Timor. The Philippines has the largest Roman Catholic population in Asia. East Timor is also predominantly Roman Catholic due to a history of Portuguese rule..

The religious composition for each country is as follows Some values are taken from the CIA World Factbook. Religions and peoples are diverse in Southeast Asia and not one country is homogeneous. In the world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, Hinduism is dominant on islands such as Bali. Christianity also predominates in Philippines, New Guinea and Timor.. Pockets of Hindu population can also be found around Southeast Asia in Singapore, Malaysia etc Garuda, the phoenix who is the mount of Vishnu, is a national symbol in both Thailand and Indonesia; in the Philippines, gold images of Garuda have been found on Palawan; gold images of other Hindu gods and goddesses have also been found on Mindanao..

Balinese Hinduism is somewhat different from Hinduism practised elsewhere, as Animism and local culture is incorporated into it. Christians can also be found throughout Southeast Asia; they are in the majority in East Timor and the Philippines, Asia's largest Christian nation.. In addition, there are also older tribal religious practices in remote areas of Sarawak in East Malaysia, Highland Philippines and Papua in eastern Indonesia. In Burma, Sakka is revered as a nat.. In Vietnam, Mahayana Buddhism is practised, which is influenced by native animism but with strong emphasis on Ancestor Worship..

Each of the languages have been influenced by cultural pressures due to trade, immigration, and historical colonisation as well.. The language composition for each country is as follows.

Cities

These are the nine of the most prominent cities in Southeast Asia;. Bangkok — Thailand's bustling, cosmopolitan capital with nightlife and fervour. Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) — The bustling metropolis that has become Vietnam's largest city and the economic centre of the south. Jakarta — The largest metropolitan city in southeast Asia, and beautiful life in the evening. Kuala Lumpur — grown from a small sleepy Chinese tin mining village to a bustling metropolis. Luang Prabang — a UNESCO World Heritage City known for its numerous temples, colonial era architecture, and vibrant night market.

Manila — a crowded, historic, and bustling city known for its unique blend of cultures and flavors with many places to see and experience. Phnom Penh — a city striving to retain the name of " The Pearl of Asia ", as it was known before 1970. Singapore — modern, affluent city with a medley of Chinese, Indian and Malay influences. Yangon (formerly Rangoon) — the commercial capital of Myanmar, known for its pagodas and colonial architecture.

Other Destinations

Outside of major cities here are some of the most rewarding destinations;. Angkor Archaeological Park — magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire. Bali — unique Hindu culture, beaches and mountains on the " Island of the Gods ". Borobudur — one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world. Gunung Mulu National Park — fantastic limestones caves and karst formations. Ha Long Bay — literally translated as " Bay of Descending Dragons ", famous for its scenic rock formations. Komodo National Park — the only home of the komodo, the biggest reptile in the world.

Krabi Province — beach and water sports mecca, includes Ao Nang, Rai Leh, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta. Palawan — an ecologically diverse and relatively unlogged island at the western fringe of the Philippines with some of the most rewarding diving and swimming sites in the world. Preah Vihear — cliff top temple pre dating Angkor Wat.

Countries

Disputed territories in the region are;. Most nations in the area are members of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. So is Papua New Guinea, which is covered under the Oceania region..