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Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is one of the world's most popular travel destinations; its pleasant blend of tropical climate, rich cultures, gorgeous beaches and friendly locals makes it a favorite among many travellers.

Southeast Asia is the area located between the two giants of India and China. It consists of two geographic regions: the Asian mainland, and the island arcs and archipelagos to the east and southeast.Southeast Asia has a total area of approximately 4 million sq. km. (1.6 million sq. mi.) and a total population of more than 600 million; more than a fifth of them (125 million) live on the Indonesian island of Java, the most densely populated large island in the world. The mainland part of Southeast Asia consists of Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia) and Vietnam. The maritime section consists of Brunei, East Timor, Indonesia, Bornean Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Although most of these nations resemble each other, they offer variations on the same theme. Buddist culture dominates the northern countries of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Malaysia and Indonesia are Islamic nations. In the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, Christianity dominates. However in Southeast Asia religion rarely interferes with neighbourly relations.

Thailand lies at the heart of Southeast Asia and is the most popular destination in the region. It has world class beaches, many five star hotels and resorts, lots to see and do as well as a relaxed and friendly population. Surrounding the kingdom of Thailand and connected by the Mekong River are Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. Laos is slowly opening up to tourism. The former royal capital of Laos, Luang Prabang, a UNESCO site, is among the most magical places in Asia. Cambodia is in a similar condition, its main tourist attraction is the impressive temple complex of Angkor, but some very good seaside destinations have recently been developed. Myanmar is a military dictatorship open to the adventurous traveler, it has the potential to become an amazing destination if the military government is ever broken. Its ancient Buddist cities like Pagan and Mandalay is well worth a visit.

Malaysia and Indonesia are both fascinating blends of several ethnicities. Their relative lack of tourism makes them great places to explore. Natural wonders like rainforests, volcanoes and exotic wildlife await more adventurous travelers. Indonesia is the largest archipelagos country in the world, with more than 18,000 islands. Vietnam has now opened up for international tourists, and is rapidly becoming a popular destination in Southeast Asia. It has many attractions, among these the well preserved ancient trading port of Hoi An. Singapore is a clean and orderly island-city state. Among its attractions are the colorful ethnic districts of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam.

Southeast Asia's touristy countries (Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) do not require visas from most visitors. Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and East Timor offer visas at most points of entry. A visa must be obtained before arriving in Myanmar and Vietnam.

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