Nowadays, where everything is totally commercialized, overcrowded, polluted and noisy, it's no more easy to find places where to feel relaxed. To some places we have to go to arrange some duties, or we just arrive there by a mean of transport and have to sleep there for a night, like them or not. Other places are of interest, but in a certain way spoiled - nevertheless it's worth to go there for a particular purpose. Very few places nowadays give a traveller a bit distance to the contemporary, omnipresent economic terror. Here is a variety of places in Southeast Asia listed and an introduction to them is given.
Alor Setar / Malaysia
The city of Alor Setar lies in the northwest of peninsular Malaysia. It's the capital of the federal state Kedah. Having a short history, the place is a modernist Malaysian town, coined by business.
This sad place consists mainly of concrete and din. It's seldom that there is so little to say about a place, insofar this is the only remarkable remark I can do on it. Amnat Charoen is embeddet into the plains of the Khorat Plateau in Isan.
Don't waste your time to click on Amnat Charoen, for there are far better places to inspect on this page...
Anlong Veng / Cambodia
The central and only roundabout in this godforsaken place. Image by Asienreisender, 10/2015
The kingdom of Ayutthaya was one of the great empires of Southeast Asia in the late middle-ages until early modern times. It was the successor of the huge empire of Angkor. An army from Ayutthaya besieged and sacked Angkor's capital in 1431/32 CE. From then on Angkor fell into meaninglessness and it's huge hydraulic city almost into oblivion for centuries. Therefore were many skilled specialists brought from Cambodia to Ayutthaya, influencing the new great Indochinese power deeply. Ayutthaya was in the 17th century described by Asian as well as Western visitors as one of the most meaningful places in the world. French envoys as Simon de la Loubere (1687/88) compared Ayutthaya with the contemporary Paris in wealth, political power and cultural influence.
For verymost visitors from overseas to Southeast Asia, Bangkok's international airport is the main entrance gate. From here, most of the arrivals spread out after spending a rather shorter time in Khao San District. But Bangkok is by far not only partying and prostitution, as it has a notorious recommendation for. Thailand has a developed civil society and it's capital is worth to be explored, for it has a lot of interesting sights worth to be visited.
Bangkok's skyline, seen from the Golden Mount over to downtown. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Bang Saphan / Thailand
Bang Saphan is a small place, not much more than a village in the south of Thailand. It's near the coast of the Gulf of Thailand and a rural place without any mass tourism. Bang Saphan is a great place to relax in quiet coast restaurants and to explore the surroundings on a motorbike.
Image: The train station of Bang Saphan, Asienreisender, 2010
Ban Pak Beng / Laos
Ban Pak Beng at nightfall. Image by Asienreisender, 2013
The little place at the banks of the Mekong River was a few years ago merely a mosquito infested hamlet without electricity.
In the last years it more and more developed into a tourist trap. Due to the fact that every day a number of tourist boats are commuting between Luang Prabang and Houayxay/Chiang Khong, having a one-night stopover here, a fast growing number of guesthouses spread up in the place, accompanied by restaurants and street vendors.
Originally founded in the time of the Angkorean empire, Battambang is one of the older places in Cambodia. It became the second biggest town in the country when the French built an European settlement west of the Sangkae River together with a modern infrastructure and a railway connection to the capital. In the last years, Battambang is rapidly developing and grows. There is a number of sights around the place who all are not spectacular, but defenitely worth to be visited.
The case of 'Golden Boten City Ltd.' is exemplarily for land grabbing practices of big foreign investors, for the passion for gambling and, last but not least, for the bancrupcy of a multi million dollar project. Chinese companies lease a part of Laos and built a whole new casino city in the rainforest, which, after violent trouble appeared too apparently, was shut down due to pressure from the Chinese authorities. Now the brandnew ruins are forsaken and awaiting either a new investment or the comeback of the jungle.
Boun Neua, a tiny village in the very north of Laos (Phongsali Province) is for most travellers merely a bus stop on the way between Phongsali and Oudomxai. However, it's worth to stay here for a day or two to experience village life and to do some trekking in the mountainous surroundings.
Orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park. Image by Asienreisender, 1995
Bukit Lawang / Sumatra
Bukit Lawang is an absolutely unique village with it's head in the tropical rainforest of Gunung Leuser National Park and it's feet in palmoil and rubber plantations. Bukit Lawang is famous for it's orangutan rehabilitation center, where orangs who were hold in captivity get a chance to readapt to the wilderness. Bukit Lawang is a place for jungle trekking as well, with or without guides. Nearby majestic bat cave, already in the jungle, can easily be visited without a guide. It's one of the really impressing caves with hundreds or thousands of bats inside. Bukit Lawang's people also got coined by a catastrophe in 2003, when a flash flood out of the jungle wiped out the village at the banks of Bohorok River within ten minutes...
Buriram is an insignificant, although not too small province capital (and province) in Thailand's northeastern region Isan. It's an educational center with universities and hundreds of schools, and gains some popular fame due to it's football club (Buriram FC) and it's large football stadium together with a formular 1 car race circuit.
Buriram has a railway connection since the 1920s along the northeastern railway line, linking Bangkok with Ubon Ratchathani. Image by Asienreisender, 10/2015
Chanthaburi / Thailand
Night foodstalls in Chanthaburi. Image by Asienreisender, 8/2015
Thailand's southeastern provincial capital Chanthaburi is a compact town with about 30,000 inhabitants. Though, it does not look so small, in fact it looks much bigger. There is considerable traffic on the roads and the peripherie of Chanthaburi is meanwhile quite developed and still rapidly growing.
From here it's possible to cross the Cambodian border at Ban Pakkad towards Pailin and Battambang. Chanthaburi serves also as a spring board to Koh Chang (island) in neighbouring Trat Province.
Chiang Dao is a small nest along road 107 between Chiang Mai and Chiang Chan in north Thailand. It lies in a picturesque mountain valley and gained a tourist reputation particularly among Thai People from nearby Chiang Mai. Bird watching and visiting tribal villages when mountain trekking are options here.
Chiang Mai is Thailand's second biggest city and sometimes seen as a second capital. In the past, Chiang Mai was indeed the capital of a former Thai state, that of Lanna. The northern people are clearly different from those in central Thailand. Besides, the large province of Chiang Mai is tribal territory. However, the fast growing city is also a major tourist destination and has many cultural highlights to offer.
Chiang Rai is the biggest town and central hub in the very north of Thailand. It's also a mountainous province which borders Laos at the Mekong River in the east and north. Years ago it was a sleepy, charming town inmiddle of nowhere, but in the last years it became more and more a vibrant place with far too much traffic. Although it played a long and important role in the history of the kingdom of Lanna, there are practically no historical remains of great significance left in town. Therefore it's an important educational center for Thailand's high north.
Chum Phae is a concrete ulcer in Khon Kaen Province, Isan. It grew as a trade point at the intersection of two big roads, and is insofar comparable to another notorious example of the kind, that is Nang Rong.
Chumpon is a Thai province capital at the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Landscapes and people are inviting, although most tourists stay here just one night after arrival, just to disappear on the next ferry to Ko Tao... However, it's worth to have a closer look for this interesting Thai place.
The Gulf of Thailand has hundreds of kilometers of sand beach, much of it is completely untouched by tourism. The beaches of Chumpon Province are just typical for that. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Fang / Thailand
Fang is an old Lannanese town in the north of Chiang Mai Province. Situated in a fertile valley, there is much plantation economy in the surroundings, where particularly fruits like oranges are produced. West of town stretches the Daen Lao Mountain Range over the border deep into Burma/Myanmar. Here are many tribal villages and Thailand's second highest mountain, Doi Phahom Pok, lies here as well and grants from it's peak (2,285m) a magnificent view over the wilderness in Burma/ Myanmar.
The small town of Ha Tien lies at the Gulf of Thailand in the Mekong Delta of south Vietnam. It's a proper town which profits much from the fresh air coming from the open sea. Many people use it as a holiday destination on weekends or as a port to reach the island Phu Quoc. Ha Tien has a long history which dates back to the empire of Funan. Also the Funanese place of Oc Eo is not too far from Ha Tien.
Hat Yai is the fourth largest city in Thailand and a turntable for the traffic in Thailand's deep south. It's also a business center and tourist destination for people from the neighbouring countries as Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
One of the lively market places in Hat Yai. Image: Asienreisender, 2012
Hongsa / Laos
The little place of Hongsa in north Laos is all but a tourist magnet. Few people come here, and the only attraction here is an annual elephant roundup. Another peculiarity is the new coal power plant, which brings much money for a few and a lot of pollution for many.
Houayxai is the capital of Bokeo Province in Laos. It's a sleepy nest situated at the banks of the Mekong River. In the last years it became a booming town like all the provincial capitals in Laos, due to massive investment from neighbouring countries. Particularly the improvement of route no. 3 and the construction of the new Thailand/Laos Friendship Bridge No. 4 (opened in December 2013) gave the place more importance.
Hua Hin is one of the most favoured seaside resorts in Thailand. It became popular among Thais when the royal family let built a palace here, after the establishment of the southern railway line in the early 1920s. Hua Hin is a mass-tourist destination. The most charming building, in my opinion, is the graceful railway station.
Kalasin is a province capital and province in Isan. The town itself is by no means anyhow particular and has no long history. Remarkabable are some sites in the province, namely the wordsworth dinosaur museum which lies close to a finding place of more than 700 dinosaur remains, some of them relatively complete. The other site is an ancient city of the Dvaravati Culture, Mueang Fadaet, with a significant chedi as a remainder.
Image: A Siamotyrannus isanensis who lived in Kalasin Province about 130 million years ago. Asienreisender, 11/2015
Kamphaeng Phet was a medieval Siamese outpost for the empires of Sukothai and Ayutthaya. As a fortified place at the northwestern edge of the central plain of Thailand, it gained significance as a trade post as well. The great temple remains inside the walled historical place are clearly of Sukothai style. Kamphaeng Phet is UNESCO World Cultural Heritage together with Sukothai and Si Satchanalai.
The old colonial city of Kampong Cham is placed 125km southeast of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on the right banks of the Mekong River. It's the fourth biggest city in Cambodia (about 120,000 inhabitants), what does not mean much.
The province of Kampot in south Cambodia might be the most picturesque and versatile in the whole country. There is the coast of the South China Sea, the southern Elephant Mountains with Bokor National Park, the Teuk Chhou (a river, also: Prek Thom River), a number of limestone mountains and plains. East of Kampot follows the seaside resort of Kep and not far from that the border to Vietnam.
The Teuk Chhou River north of Kampot. Image by Asienreisender, 2013
Kanchanaburi is a place and province in west central Thailand, bordering Burma. It stretches into the Tennasserim Mountain Chain, into areas who are still covered with tropical rainforests. Famous became the place after the Second World War because of the construction of the Death Railway by the Japanese Army. Since the end of the war until today many Westerners come here to visit the place where so many people suffered or died under the horrific working conditions. The 1957 movie 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' popularized the events here.
As a Burmese outpost the spot is quite cut off from main Burma. There is a long landbridge along the coast, but it's a long way up to Rangoon (Yangon) - some 1000 kilometers. There are only smaller settlements, the roads are bad and, what I heared, part of the population is in a state of Guerilla fight with the Burmese Government.
Kep is a seaside resort east of Kampot in Cambodia, at the Gulf of Thailand. In the old, colonial times it was a relexation place for French officials and businesmen; nowadays it's a quiet, relaxed, remote place in rural Cambodia.
Left: The view from Kep Mountain (Phnom Kep) over the plains towards the Vietnamese border. Image by Asienreisender, 2013
Khemarat is a small place at the river banks of the Mekong River in Isan. It has some history, but not too much. The attraction is the river, and nothing else. The old town slowly disappeares, for the old buildings are replaced by new ones, made of concrete. The new part of the town looks pity. However, Khemarat is connected to the neighbouring towns of Ubon Ratchathani, Amnat Charoen and Mukdahan by big, new roads.
Khon Kaen is a traffic and business hub in Isan. It's one of the four big cities in the northeastern part of Thailand. Since the town is not old, it has not much to offer except a lot of traffic, noise, commerce and concrete. However, when travelling in this part of Isan chances are high one has at least to pass by here.
In the garden of Khon Kaen National Museum are five stone circles rearranged. They belong to the medieval Dvaravati Culture, which was widespread in Isan and nowadays Khon Kaen Province before the Angkorean empire conquered the Khorat Plateau. Image by Asienreisender, 1/2016
Ko Chang / Thailand
A really quiet and green place for people who are fed up with civilization is Ko Chang in Thailand. The American naturalist Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) might have enjoyed it to spend some time here. Only a few people live here, and there are no real roads on the island; it's rather small concrete pavements.
Long stretches of mangrove swamps surround the island of Ko Chang in Thailand's southern Ranong Province. It's a really relaxed place with few people and almost no traffic. Particularly in the long monsoon season there are almost no tourists and only few villagers still on the island. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Koh Kong / Cambodia
The little Cambodian border town of Koh Kong is for most travellers a transit point to or fro Thailand. The place is situated at the offshoots of the Cardamom Mountains, and 20km south of it lies Koh Kong Island.
One of Ranong's offshore islands is Ko Phayam, the only touristic destination in the province. It lost already it's untouched charme and gives the visitor an impression of the impact of tourism into a remote, rural community.
Slash and burn is a traditional method to clear land from rainforest and jungle for agricultural purposes. Ko Phayam is like Ko Chang kind of an economic colony of outer Thailand. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Krabi / Thailand
Krabi town is a place in south Thailand, at the shores of the Andaman Sea. Although the provincial capital of Krabi itself is not anyhow distinctive itself but merely a place of arrival in the transport system, the surroundings of Krabi are stunning. The beaches, islands and landscapes of Krabi are a major touristic destination in Thailand.
The province town of Kratie is also the province capital of Kratie Province. It's placed on the easter banks of the Mekong River in east Cambodia. Some 60,000 people are living in the town. Kratie is famous for the nearby Irrawaddy River Dolphins.
The one-dimensional crazieness of buying and selling as the only content of life reaches a boiling point in Kuala Lumpur. Malayan, Indian and above all Chinese traders push any potential customer to buy, buy, buy...
Kuala Lumpur's old city, close to the confluence of Gombak and Klang River. Old colonial buildings and a park coin this part of the megacity. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Lampang / Thailand
Lampang is the third biggest city in north Thailand. It's a Dvaravati foundation from the 7th century and was later overtaken by Angkor, Lanna, the kingdom of Ava (Burma) and eventually incorporated into Bangkok Siam at the end of the 19th century. All the different cultures left their traces in Lampang.
The photo shows the main chedi of Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, Lanna style. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2007
Loei / Thailand
A small province capital in Isan, Loei is off the beaten track and has not many visitors. Nevertheless, although the place lacks any architectonical charme, the province's landscapes are pretty nice. Impressing is also the Mekong, who marks the border between Loei Province and Laos.
Lopburi is known for it's monkeys, to who it owns it's second name 'monkey city'. In fact has the population of the long-tailed macaques, who are around Prang Sam Yod and the wider circle around, reached a number into the thousands, and they are like a plague over the place. But, more than that, Lopburi is one of Thailand's oldest cities and has a very long history. Two of the early high cultures of Southeast Asia, the Dvaravati Culture and the classical Khmer empire of Angkor left their traces in Lopburi, before it became a Siamese and Thai city. It's a fascinating place to just walk around and discover by one's own all the sites who are scattered around within a small area in the old city. The best piece is certainly the old Royal Palace, which also houses now the National Museum of Lopburi.
Luang Namtha is a small place in the northwest of Laos. It's as well a town as a province. The province borders both China and Burma. The area is rapidly developing, means loosing it's natural resources and falling under the curse of the building industries. The population consists by the far majority of hill people.
Mae Chan is a small place in the very north of Thailand. It's a traffic hub between Chiang Rai and Mae Sai along route no. 1 (Thanon Phahonyothin) and situated inmiddle between Chiang Saen and Tha Ton. Actually, it's a meaningless place with no particular attraction at all.
Mae Hong Son is a town in Thailand's northwestern province, which has the same name. It's mountainous surroundings are mostly covered with forests. Many rivers source here and the province is mostly tribal territory. A considerable Burmese influence is apparent, and due to the closeness to the Burmese border, drug smuggling is a source of income for some people here.
Mae Malai is a small, meaningless nest along road 107 from Chiang Mai northwards. It's here where road 1095 turns west to Pai, Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang, the so called 'loop'. The place lies in a long mountain valley, close to Ping River.
Mae Sai is situated at Thailand's northernmost geographical point. It's a trade place for cheap goods from Burma/Myanmar. Not being interesting as a destination, it's possible to cross the border here to neighbouring Tachileik. It was always (at least until 2016) a possibility to make the notorious 'visa run' for those foreigners who have to refresh their Thai visa.
The northernmost endpoint of Phahonyothin Road, Thailand's highway no. 1. The building at the end with the blue roof is the Thai customs house at the Burmese border. Image by Asienreisender, 10/2011
Mae Salong | Santikhiri / Thailand
Mae Salong, renamed into Santikhiri, is a Chinese village in the very north of Thailand. It was founded by national Chinese soldiers who once fled Yunnan / south China in 1950 towards Burma and came over the border in 1961 to settle down here. Mae Salong then became a major center of drug production and a battlefield in the fight between the Thai army and communist fighters. In the 1980s the region became pacified, and in the 1990s the people here ceased opium cultivation and turned to tea and other crops. Nowadays, the place is rather a tourist attraction. Mae Salong is surrounded by many tribal villages.
Right: A nice teak building, a guesthouse and restaurant close to Yuam River in Mae Sariang. Image by Asienreisender, 2007
Mae Sot / Thailand
The town of Mae Sot is a trade post between Burma and Thailand since at least the middle ages. In the last years it grew even more rapidly as we see it anyway in Southeast Asia. That's due to a large immigration from impoverished and war ridden Burma. The Thai government wants to make Mae Sot a Special Economic Zone; besides it's an important border crossing along Asian Highway No 1, connecting not only the two countries but also the larger regions behind like India with China and Vietnam.
Malacca, an old Chinese trade port at the western coast of Malaya, is the most historical place in Malaysia. In 450 years of colonial history the Portuguese, Dutch and British succeeded one another. The traces of all these different influences over the centuries are still vivid in Malacca.
Medan is the main entrance gate for travellers to Sumatra. One get's here a first impression of how Sumatra's cities, towns and villages look in general: neglected, dirty, overcrowded and there is too much traffic. Usually the touristic arrivals try to leave Medan as quick as possible to head further to Lake Toba, Bukit Lawang or Berastagi.
Muang Sing is a place in the northwest of Laos, close to China and Burma/Myanmar. Situated on a plain and surrounded by higher mountains, it's an ideal place for trekking. The inhabitants of Muang Sing are mostly Tai Lue people, the surrounding villages are populated by a number of different hill tribes. In the past Muang Sing was a center of opium production, and the old market buildig from the French colonial time was once the largest opium market in Indochina.
Mukdahan, a busy province capital in Isan, would be of absolutely no thrill if there weren't the long river promenade along the magnificent Mekong River. Another attraction is Phu Phan Thoep National Park, about 16km south of town, with a number of bizarre stone formations and a great forest. However, the place's economy is boosted by the '2nd Thai/Laos Friendship Bridge' over the Mekong, which connects Mukdahan with Savannaketh in Laos.
Nakhon Pathom is actually not a particularly remarkable place as a contemporary city. However, it may be the oldest town in Thailand, for some historical indications point to the establishment of an early Indian sanctuary here already in the 3rd century. Even if it is of a younger date, the history of Phra Pathom Chedi, who dominates the modern city's center, is strongly linked to the Dvaravati Culture and worth a closer look at.
Phra Pathom Chedi might be, in it's origins, the oldest building in Thailand. Image by Asienreisender, 8/2010
Nakhon Phanom / Thailand
The city and province of Nakhon Phanom are situated at the banks of the Mekong River's middle section, in Isan. It's a busy border town with a vivid trade connection to neighbouring Laos and nearby Vietnam. The trade was boosted by the opening of the '3rd Thai/Laos Friendship Bridge' in 2011. Nakhon Phanom is a city with a great view on a long chain of mountain ridges east of the Mekong in Laos, who were namegiving for the place. It has a kilometers long promenade where it is a pleasure to walk along and enjoy the mountain views and the fresh breeze coming from the water. And there is more...
Grand view over the Mekong River into the Laotian mountains. The small place on the river's east side is Thakek. Not far behind the mountains get higher and the peaks mark the border to Vietnam. Image by Asienreisender, 12/2015
Nakhon Ratchasima | Khorat / Thailand
Nakhon Ratchasiam, or also Khorat, is the biggest city in Isan. For that reason it's also one of the ugliest, and there is not much reason to spend time here. The biggest attraction seems to be a legendary heroine who led a resistance against the Laotian army who occupied Khorat in 1826... Well, there is still more to see around here. For example Khao Yai National Park or Phimai, probably the most important Angkorean temple site in Isan. Khorat is also namegiving for a very nice cat race, the Khorat Cat.
The city and province capital Nakhon Si Thammarat is one of Thailand's oldest places with a long history. Although it's not a touristic place, Nakhon has what to offer for an interested visitor. The old main temple Wat Mahathat is one of the oldest buildings on the Malay Peninsula; Nakhon's city wall is partially well preserved. Also the surrounding of the place is worth to travel, particularly Khao Luang National Park with a majestic mountain and tropical rainforest. North of the city are even some fine beaches at the shores of the Gulf of Thailand.
Nan is a very peculiar town (and province) for Thailand. That is due to it's isolated remoteness in the northern mountains who don't give many access ways to the place. In the high middle ages, Nan became a principality. Despite the fact that various neighbours made it their vassal over times, it was again and again an autonomous unit. Particularly remarkable is the fact that it joined modern Siam/Thailand not before 1931. Many of the provincial people here are tribal mountain people.
The concrete ulcer of Nang Rong is a Thai town in the south of Isan. It's absolutely insignificant, except as a springboard to a couple of Angkorean temple sites around, namely Phanom Rung, probably Thailand's best piece of the kind, and Prasat Muang Tam, another pearl of medieval architecture.
If you have to stay in Nang Rong for a night or two, click the link...
Nong Bua Lamphu / Thailand
Nong Bua Lamphu is a smaller Thai town in Isan. Unusually for Isan, it's situated in the mountains at the western border of the Khorat Plateau. This mountainous setting kept the place in an isolated state, and it is really somewhat peculiar here. It's also completely off the tourist routes and doesn't appear in the common travel guides.
Image right: Isan is dinosaur territory. Almost all of the findings of dinosaurs in Southeast Asia have been made in Isan. In the Phu Chan Mountains near Nong Bua Lamphu is a Shell Fossil Museum; in the surroundings have been found also fossils of dinosaurs who lived here in the time about 140 to 150 million years ago. Image by Asienreisender, 1/2016
The Thai outpost Nong Khai at the Mekong River, only 24km away from the Laotian capital Vientiane, is a popular place for western expatriates to settle down here. It's also a popular tourist place for visitors from many countries, Asian as well as Western. Due to it's touristic popularity and it's function as an economic bridgehead for the trade with Laos, China and Vietnam, Nong Khai has become a trade town of growing importance since the mid 1990s.
Morning fog over the Nam Ou River at Muang Ngoi. Image by Asienreisender, 2006
Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi Neua / Laos
Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi Neua are two of the places in Laos with a bombastic mountain scenery around. The attraction to come here is the village life and the many possible hikes around here. Even if one only want's to spend a time in peace here, merely enjoying the surroundings and reading some good books, it's a great place to do that undisturbed.
The O'Smach / Chong Chom border. Image by Asienreisender, 12/2015
A little dot on the map, O'Smach is a village at a border checkpoint in the Dangrek Mountains. Apart from the import/export activities here it's completely meaningless and sparsely inhabited. The largest buildings are two of the unavoidable casinos who dot all the borders of Thailand and Cambodia for the gamblers who are not allowed to try their luck in 'their own' country. There is no tourism here at all and the local hotels and guesthouses are merely for gamblers respectively travelling salesmen. The remoteness and quietness of the place and the surrounding landscapes of the Dangrek Mountains make O'Smach nevertheless an attractive place to spend some time.
Oudomxay is a province in north Laos as well as to it's capital (actually: Muang Xay). It's a central traffic hub for all who head north from Luang Prabang. Oudomxay is not a tourist destination, but it's typical for Laos' mountainous north and the rural life of a great number of tribal people. One of the province's tribal towns is Muang La, some 25km north of Muang Xay on the road up to Phongsali.
Ou Soum is a small nest in the tropical rainforest of the Cardamom Mountain Massive. It must be a brandnew place, founded by squatters who came here only in the verylast years to settle down at the shores of the new Stung Atai Lake. There are a few guesthouses who make it possible to stay here overnight. There is not much to do here, though, for the forest is widely impassable and walking along the dirt road turns quickly boring. The surroundings are coined by the destruction of the forests.
Tropical Rainforest at Ou Soum
A glance into the virgin forest near Ou Soum. It's highly threatened and will certainly fall soon. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2016
Pai is a village in Thailand's mountainous north. It's remote situation in the forests and the many here living tribal people made it from the 1970s on a place on the hippie trail. Since the 1980s tourism is developing more and more, and the place is getting pretty spoilt. Nevertheless, it's still worth to visit Pai for it's magnificent surroundings.
Pailin is a small and remote province capital in west Cambodia. It's close to the Thai/Cambodian border at Ban Pakkad/Psar Pruhm and a calm and easy alternative to the notorious border crossing further north at Poipet. Few travellers use the good opportunity, and one finds extremely few Westerners in Pailin town. It's delayed in development and on the brink of a building boom. Not an old town, probably only dating back to the 1870s, it enjoys some fame for it's gem mines, who produce rubies and sapphires.
Little Pak Chom is a place in Isan, surrounded by the river landscapes of the magnificent Mekong, at the border to Laos. It's completely off the beaten track, and there is practically not much to do here. It's a fine place, though, and represents a typical rural Thai town.
In these days Pakse is undergoing a thorough transformation. The town get's a facelifting so deep that travellers who know the place from a few years ago barely would recognice anything anymore. Everything is new here, few old buildings are left, and great parts of the city including some main roads are under construction. Therefore it's noisy, dirty, busy, faceless, unfriendly, hot and after all just another place better to be avoided.
Pakse's fresh market and around. Image by Asienreisender, 2013
Pangandaran, actually a town at the South coast of Java, also covers a peninsula with a pretty tourist beach on it's Western coast. It's white sand and invites for longer walks along the coastline, and the open air restaurants make it a pleasant place to have some food or a cool drink.
angkor Island is or was a great place to enjoy the tropical nature and the seaside. However, things are changing as everywhere, and since Pangkor is actually the nicest place along Malaysia's west coast, tourism is booming.
Walking around the island's ringroad was a good thing in the last years. Here as everywhere traffic is increasing; meanwhile there are so many cars, lorries and motorbikes on the island, that it is a strain to walk the southern half of the ringroad. The northern part is still okay - but not save, as I had soon to recognize.
Pangkor Island is situated at the Strait of Malacca. A great deal of the worlds trade is passing by here (it's about 25% of the global trade, a great deal of goods who come from China and sources who go there). Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Pattaya / Thailand
Pattaya is a sea resort at the Gulf of Thailand. It's also the center of Thailand's notorious sex-industries. A lot of excessive partying goes on here, and the debaucheries are an invitation for scams of all kind. The place is rich and dirty, and that attracts all sorts of criminality, small and big. However, despite the shadow sides of Pattaya, it's also a destination for normal mass-tourism including family-tourism, and the place has a considerable number of attractions who may be worth a visit.
Right: Inside a bar in Pattaya. Image by Asienreisender, 1/2007
Penang and George Town / Malaysia
Penang Island, particularly George Town is a major Tourist destination in Malaysia. There is much to see of British colonial history; Chinese and Indian architecture and all-day-life are in very few places to watch so colourful and lively. Though, it's defenitely a totally commercialized place in which many local people are rude and show a good deal of aggression.
Phattalung is an old, historical town with Malay roots in the south of Thailand. Nowadays it's a province capital, close to the Thale Songkhla/Thale Sap/Thale Noi Lake chain. Besides it's surrounded by the bizarrely shaped Nakhon Si Thammarat Mountain Range, of which Phu Khao Ok Thalu, the town's symbol, is a part of. Very vew Westerners come here. Phattalung is one of the smaller towns in Thailand who are a bit laid-back and quieter than most of the other places nowadays. Therefore it represents kind of a reminiscence to the old times...
Phetchaburi is a province capital at the northern border of the Malay Peninsula. It is an old, historical Thai town with Mon roots and was for a time an outpost of the medieval Khmer empire of Angkor. Some Angkorean laterite ruins are still to visit at Wat Khamphaeng Laeng. 19th century Thai king Mongkut let built a royal palace on Khao Wang Mountain near to town. The palace and it's side buildings represent an interesting mix of different architectonical styles. There is even an observatory on the mountain.
The royal palace on top of Khao Wang (mountain) in Phetchaburi. Image by Asienreisender, 2006
Phiang / Laos
This small hamlet lies inmiddle of rice paddies in the green Mekong Valley between the Luang Prabang Mountain Range and an eastern mountain range, which divides it from the Nam Song Valley where Vang Vieng lies. Phiang belongs to remote Sainyabuli Province.
Have a look for this little almost nothing Phiang...
Rice paddies around Phiang. Image by Asienreisender, 7/2011
Phitsanulok / Thailand
Phitsanulok is a traffic hub in the north of central Thailand. It's particularly a hub for the traffic between the north of Thailand and Thailand's northeastern region Isan. The place is actually not really much worth a visit; it's just a stopover for heading further to Sukothai, Si Satchanalai and Kampheng Phet.
Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, was once considered as the 'Pearl of Asia', a small Paris in Southeast Asia, due to the efforts of the French colonialists to make the place a representative center for it's administration. Before it was merely a wooden village at the swampy banks of the Tonle Sap River. Sadly, the former elegance of the city has faded away with it's cruelsome history in the 20th century and the reconstruction since the 1980s in a cheap, ugly, postmodern manner. Nevertheless, when visiting Phnom Penh one can experience some reminiscences of the old times. For many visitors the megacity is nowadays attractive also as the business center of Cambodia and alluring for it's notorious nightlife.
Phongsali is Laos' northernmost province and a province capital as well. Situated in a mountainous surrounding it's very similar to the landscapes of the neighbouring Chinese province Yunnan. The people of Phongsali are mostly hill tribes and their architecture is unique and luckily wasn't destroyed in the American Vietnam War. Since Phongsali is a 'dead end' in travelling, means there is no borderpassing for foreigners to China possible, few international tourists take the exertions to come here...
Mountainous Phongsali, seen from Phou Fa (Fa Mountain, 1,626m).
Image by Asienreisender, 12/2010
Phrae / Thailand
Phrae is a charming little place in north Thailand. The local culture is clearly different from that in central Thailand. Phrae was for long times part of the northern kingdom of Lanna and later a Burmese conquest. The very nice old town is pretty well conserved with many particular teak wood buildings.
The image shows contemporary Phrae, closely west to the old town. As everywhere in north Thailand, the annual haze tints the air reddish. Image by Asienreisender, 4/2011
Prachuap Khiri Khan is a Thai provincial capital at the Gulf of Thailand on the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. It's for me one of the nicest places in south Thailand, because it's a rather quiet place with much nature around and a number of attractions, although they are not spectacular compared to the very visited sights in Southeast Asia. Prachuap Khiri Khan is the much more attractive alternative to spend time compared to it's northern neighbour, touristic Hua Hin.
The province capital of Pursat is a smaller place situated about 20km west of Southeast Asia's great lake, the Tonle Sap. The town itself lies in a plain at the banks of the Pursat River. Several kilometers west of town rise the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia's largest mountain massive. Pursat is a good base for exploring both, the mountains and the lake, as for example the floating village of Kampung Luong.
Thailand's notorious rain province is rich in natural habitats and mountainous surroundings. With it's huge mangrove forests all along the long coastline of the Andaman Sea it's a very different environment than the closeby eastern coast of the Malay Peninsula, where thousands of kilometers of white sand beaches dominate.
Ratchaburi is a smaller town at the northern end of the Malay Peninsula. It's one of the oldest places in Thailand, but nowadays of no particular importance anymore.
Check nevertheless the short article on Ratchaburi...
Roi Et / Thailand
Roi Et is a province and province capital in Isan, northeast Thailand. It's, apart from the main routes, a relative quiet place with a larger, green heart in the city center and an artificial lake. A nice municipality aquarium is worth a visit. In the closer surroundings of town is Prasat Nong Ku, one of the 102 Angkorean hospitals, a fine place to visit.
Right: The gate to Phalan Chai Island as a painting in one of the old temples in Roi Et. Image by Asienreisender, 11/2015
Sainyabuli / Laos
The province of Sainyabuli is an isolated region in northwest Laos. Situated into the large Mekong River valley, it's bordered to the west and the east by high mountain chains. There is only one asphalt road crossing the province. It's capital of the same name is a sleepy place. However, Sainyabuli (also: Sanyabury) became famous for about 30km from town a controversial megadam on the Mekong River is under construction.
Sakon Nakhon, with a compact inner town as ugly as any other Thai city. The weired building left is a branch of Kasikorn Bank. Image by Asienreisender, 11/2015
Sakon Nakhon is a Thai city and province in Isan, not too far from the border to Laos at the Mekong River. It's absolutely not touristic, for there are no remarkable sights in or around town. The only inner-town sight is Wat Phra That Choeng Chum, a beautiful Thai temple with Laotian roots which has a 400 years long history. Remarkable is the huge Nong Ham Lake who borders the town and is the largest lake in whole northeastern Thailand.
Actually a remote, unknown village, Samraong has only recently been promoted to the province capital of Oddar Meanchey Province. The upgrade is accompanied by a rampant real-estate speculation and an already ongoing building boom. Still it gives a glance into rural Cambodian life.
A small place in northwest Laos at the banks of the Mekong River. The surroundings are mosly coined by rice paddies. South of the border lies Thailand's hilly Loei Province. The wider surroundings of Sanakham have also these wild looking limestone mountains.
Sangkhlaburi is a small Thai border post at the western frontier to Burma/Myanmar. It is a remote place in the Tennasserim Mountains, surrounded by tropical rainforests. Remarkable are the Three Pagodas Pass, a link between Burma and Siam/Thailand since many centuries, for both countries are separated by a natural border of mountain chains over thousands of kilometers. In direct neighbourhood to Sangkhlaburi lies Khao Laem Lake, an artificial water reservoir queued by Vajiralongkorn Dam. Thailand's largest handmade, wooden bridge, Saphan Mon, links Sangkhlaburi with the Mon village Wang Kla. Not far behind Wang Kla lies Wat Wang Wiwekaram inmiddle of the green. It's a Buddhist temple very different to other Thai temples, build after the model of a temple construction in north India.
Satun is Thailand's southernmost province at the Andaman Sea coast. Tourism plays almost no role in Satun's economy, only a few tourists on the way to Langkawi/Malaysia are passing through. But recently sleepy Satun got woken up by the pulse beat of modernization...
A painting of Satun in the national museum of Satun Province Capital. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Siem Reap / Cambodia
This crowded town is certainly the most touristic place in Cambodia. It's the base for all the trips to the most visited sight in Southeast Asia, Angkor Wat. With all the tourist money coming in in the last twenty years, Siem Reap is growing fat and fatter. The surroundings, minted by the temples of the medieval Angkorean empire, are presented as a multitude of tourist traps.
Sihanoukville is a Cambodian city, province and seaside resort at the Gulf of Thailand. It's an important touristic destination with a developed tourist infrastructure and a number of beaches. Foreigners from various countries settled down here and started either their businesses or spend their pensions in Sihanoukville.
Singapore gives quite a contrast to all the other Southeast Asian countries. It's the only state which is considered a 'first world country' in the world region. Living standard is high, as the living costs are. The corruption level is low, and the authoritarian system is well known for it's draconic punishments also for minor offences.
The skyline of downtown Singapore. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Si Saket / Thailand
Si Saket is a smaller and widely unknown town in Thailand's Isan region. It's bordering Cambodia and, although the town itself has nothing particular to offer for a visitor, there are several minor sights in the province. Si Saket would be famous for the impressing sight of Preah Vihear, if that place wouldn't be politically belonging to Cambodia - geographically it does clearly belong to Thailand.
Image right: A typical old shophouse between newer concrete buildings who mint Thai cities so much. Image by Asienreisender, 10/2015
Sisophon / Cambodia
An 'Ecole d'Art et de Culture Khmers' in Sisophon. Image by Asienreisender, 1/2016
Sisophon is a rapidly growing boomtown in northwest Cambodia. It's a traffic hub between Thailand and Siem Reap (Angkor Archaeological Park) and Phnom Penh. Although it's a town with some history, belonging to Siam and French Indochina for a time, there is almost any construction new, built within the last ten or so years. Only a very few colonial buildings remind somewhat to the past.
Songkhla, one of the oldest places in Thailand, is situated in the very south of the country, at the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Songkhla has kilometers of long, nice sand beaches. Samila Beach is a place where one can sit over hours on long, hot afternoons, having splendid seafood. Another attraction of Songkhla is the zoo, a greater park with a large number of animals of Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, as practically all places in Thailand nowadays, Songkhla grew over decades and becomes more and more an ugly concrete and asphalt monster, stretching out into all directions.
Sre Ambel is a meaningless nest placed at a riverside in south Cambodia. It's on the way between Koh Kong on one side and Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville on the other side. Buses make always a stop here at contract restaurants. In the past there was a ferry service over the river, but since 2008 there is a big bridge installed.
However, the place must be many centuries old, because there is an old Angkorian temple site in ruins here. Certainly there was a sheltering harbour here already in the old times in the river mouth.
Sre Ambel is a base for visiting hidden Stung Phong Roul Waterfall in the nearby mountains, one of the most impressing waterfalls in Southeast Asia.
The actual village of Sre Ambel is a kilometer or two south of the NH48 and Sre Ambel Bridge. The part of it which lies directly at the riverside is coined by these stilt houses, built where formerly was mangrove forest growing. Image by Asienreisender, 4/2015
Stung Treng / Cambodia
One of the small province capitals in Cambodia is Stung Treng, southeast Cambodia. It's barely noticed by tourism, most tourists who come along here have just a glance on Stung Treng through the bus window on the way between the 4000 Islands and Kratie or Ratanakiri.
What is to say about Stung Treng town? At the first glance it's a bleak place, where nothing is to do and to see. On the second glance, after a two or three hours walk all around Stung Treng the first glance is confirmed. There is no vehicle needed for exploring the small town.
Boring, little Stung Treng in northeast Cambodia, here a view on the market place. Image by Asienreisender, 2013
If you are already bored by Stung Treng, then don't click the link for more...
Sukhothai / Thailand
Sukhothai is fundamental for the Thai national self-concept. It's stressed that cultural foundations like Thai script and Theravada Buddhism were introduced in the reign of king Ramkhamhaeng (inscription no. 1). But, apart from national ideology, Sukhothai was defenitely a cultural and powerful center in the 13th and 14th century, and Sukhothai's Historical Park is very well worth a visit.
The surrounding of Sukothai's Historical Park is rural countryside and mostly plains; some smaller mountains appear a few kilometers to the west. It's worth to make a bicycle trip around, to discover also some smaller temples around and at the slopes.
New Sukothai, the actual place, is a vibrant and new town with no own history and too much traffic. Though, it's the base for the trip to the necropolis, for almost all the guesthouses and hotels are placed there.
Risk a look on the cultural riches of Sukhothai...
Surin / Thailand
The Thai city of Surin lies in the country's northwestern region, the Isan. It's embedded in large plains and famous for it's annual elephant roundup in the third week of November. In the province of the same name are a number of low-rate sights to visit.
Right: The main road in Surin towards the railway station. Image by Asienreisender, 10/2015
Mae Sai is the northernmost Thai town. There is one of the rare border crossing points to Burma / Myanmar at Tachileik. It's a possibility to make a 'Thai Visa Run' or a shopping trip - some of the stuff there one barely gets in Thailand. One can even cross Burma and travel further to China...
Takeo (also: Ta Kaeo) is a capital town as well as a province in southeast Cambodia. Takeo town is not extending 50.000 inhabitants. It's a small place without any significant attractions. Though, it can be a pretty nice place to spend a time just because it represents Cambodian town life without much tourism, it's relatively quiet for there is not too much traffic and the climate is fine in the rainy season, because there is almost always a refreshing breeze coming from the neighbouring lake. Besides it's a starting point for a short trip to Angkor Borei.
Thakhek is a small town at the banks of the Mekong River. In the early 20th century it was made up as an outpost of the French colonial empire and has still some colonial buildings from that time. There is not much to do here, but the landscapes are phantastic, particularly the Annamite Mountain Range east of town.
Tha Ton is a small place along road 107 from Chiang Mai up to Mae Chan. It's situated in picturesque landscapes along the Kok River. It's quiet and moderately touristic. A few Western expats chose to live here.
The haystacks around Tha Ton look like simple shacks, but they are not. They are a unique peculiarity of the region here. Image by Asienreisender, 2007
That Phanom / Thailand
That Phanom is a small place at the banks of the Mekong River in Isan. It's an older place with a history which dates back to the Dvaravati Culture, but there is little information about it. However, That Phanom was centuries ago a trade hub for the Mekong Region and in connection with places along the Vietnamese coast. Most remarkable is an old chedi in the center of the place, which is said dates back in it's origins to Buddha's time and houses a bone fragment of the 'enlightened'.
Trang is a province capital in south Thailand close to the Andaman Sea coast. There are some stunning beaches like Hat Yao, Hat Samran or Pak Meng, who receive few tourist visitors. Little known but worth to visit is the 'Peninsular Botanic Garden' (Thung Khai). The province's shores are also home for a small, remaining population of dugongs.
Traditional wooden Thai houses in Trat. Image by Asienreisender, 2014
Trat is a province capital and province in the southeast of Thailand, some 70km from the Thai/Cambodian border and some 300km from Bangkok. There is practically little or no reason for a tourist to visit Trat, for it has nothing particular to see. Nevertheless it's a stopover for some who want to go to the islands of Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park, who's most famous tourist destination is Ko Chang.
Have a look for the Trat Page, which provides a city map and some illustrations...
Ubon, as the place is usually called, is situated in the southeast of Isan. It's also one of the 'four big' cities on the Khorat Plateau. Although it's not an old city, it's significance grew with the completion of the northeastern railway line from Bangkok to here in 1930.
Image right: A bamboo bridge on the Mun River at Ubon Ratchathani, connecting the city with a river isle. Asienreisender, 1/2010
Udon Thani / Thailand
Udon Thani is one of the 'big four' cities in Thailand's northeast, the Isan. It's not only big, but ugly, dirty, bustling and coined by prostitution. That makes it a magnet for a great deal of Westerners. In fact, there is little reason to visit Udon Thani.
Umphang is one of Thailand's remotest places. There is only one road coming from Mae Sot, following the the serpentines of mountainous Highway 1090 up into the small village which is the district capital of Umphang.
Uttaradit is a province capital and province at the border between the north of Thailand's central plain and the mountains of north Thailand. It's placed at the banks of the Nan River into fertile plains. To the east, the province borders to Isan and Laos.
Vang Vieng is like 'The Beach', but without beach. Take the river banks of the Nam Song (River) for it. Vang Vieng has magnetic power for people of the kind you see in the movie 'The Beach'. Young, superficially, hedonistic, politically uninterested people, looking for the kick they call freedom, ending up in booze and drug debaucheries. Busloads of backpackers arrive here every day, on the way from Vientiane to Luang Prabang or vice versa, having a stop here for a couple of days, or, changing their mind, for the rest of their trip.
Vang Vieng's mountainous surroundings to the west. Image by Asienreisender, 2006
Veal Veng is a village in the Cardamom Mountain Massive. The village is no attraction at all, rather a place better to be avoided. The attraction is the countryside around. A high mountain ridge stretches northwest of town and is a great target for hiking. There are many tracks who allow one to enter the nature and to see the dying tropical rainforests, the last in Cambodia, before they disappear forever.
The Cardamom Mountains at Veal Veng
Human encroachment is reaching the steep slopes of the higher peaks of the Cardamom Mountains. Not long before here was everywhere tropical rainforest, and the chared stumps of the trees are still everywhere around. Image by Asienreiender, 2/2016
Pay a visit to Veal Veng and it's sourroundings...
Vientiane / Laos
Vientiane is Laos capital city. Just a few years ago it was a sleepy, laid-back place at the banks of the Mekong River opposite Thailand. In the last years, due to massive investment from abroad (namely Chinese), the city is booming representatively for the whole country. Vientiane's development is mirroring the rapid changes which goes on in whole Southeast Asia. As a touristic destination it is of minor interest. There are few sights to visit, and none of them is of any greater significance. However, many Westerners who live in neighbouring Thailand are doomed to do their 'visa-runs' to the Thai consulate in Vientiane.
Xieng Kok is a border town situated at the left banks of the Mekong River in north Laos. It's a remote place and kind of a dead end when approaching it per road. Though, in the rainy season there is much boat traffic on the river, who is the traditional travel route. However, the place's surroundings are not fully save. It is drug gang territory and much smuggling is going on to and fro the border to Burma/Myanmar.
The small Isan town of Yasothon is a charming place at the banks of the Chi River. It's pretty quiet and no tourists come here. Although the new, inner town looks absolutely similar to any other Thai town, the old town around the historical center has a very pleasant atmosphere.
Image right: Yasothon Town Hall, Asienreisender, 12/2015
Yogyakarta / Java
Becak drivers waiting in front of a hotel in Yogyakarta.
Yogyakarta is for many Indonesians as well as foreign tourists anyhow a bright name and seen as the 'cultural heart of Java'. Anyway, as any Javanese city it is overcrowded with the notorious traffic tin flood and has not much more to offer than shops, shops and more shops, and a number of markets (among them silver and batik markets). The city's cultural highlights, the kraton and the water palace, are neglected and rather boring sights.