Southeast Asia is usually defined as that part of Asia east of India and South of China, including the many islands between the mainland and Australia. Over half a billion people live in this region, which encompasses more than 3,000,000 square miles. As might be expected, a diversity of cultures can be found in Southeast Asia. Many of these have been heavily influenced by India, China, and, as a result of colonialism, Europe, but they also retain distinctive elements of their own. The most prominent religions are Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism, and travelers can visit countless beautiful mosques, cathedrals, and temples during their stay.
The following is a quick overview of Southeast Asia's most important countries, which will provide you with some ideas of the things to be seen there. There are many other excellent destinations as well.
Brunei, a small Islamic sultanate on the island of Borneo, has one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia and a high standard of living. Visitors should see: the sultan's residence, the Istana Nurul Iman, the largest occupied palace on earth; the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque; and the Royal Regalia Museum.
Cambodia, located on the eastern side of the Gulf of Thailand, is a kingdom with a small but rapidly expanding economy. Visitors should see: Angkor Archaeological Park, home of the Angkor Wat, considered one of the most beautiful structures ever built.
Indonesia is the most populous country in the region and fourth-most populous on earth. Visitors should see: the many beautiful volcanoes; the pristine beaches; and the famous dragons of Komodo Island.
Laos is a poor country, but possesses a large tourist industry. Visitors should see: the mountainous trekking spots such as those in Muang Xay; and the Lao National Museum in the capital, Vientiane.
Malaysia, one of the region's wealthiest countries, includes territory on the mainland, on Borneo, and on many smaller islands. Visitors should see: the natural beauty of Malaysia's natural parks; the City Centre of the capital, Kuala Lumpur; and the resort city of Miri.
The Philippines, a populous country consisting of over seven thousand islands, has a relatively healthy economy and many sights for tourists to enjoy. Visitors should see: the beautiful beaches; the San Sebastian Cathedral in Manila; and the MassKara Festival in Bacolod.
Singapore is a small city-state with one of the world's most highly developed economies, located on an island off the coast of the Malay Peninsula. Visitors should see: the Singapore Zoo; the beaches of Sentosa; the many skyscrapers; and the shopping district along Orchard Road.
Thailand, located along the northern and eastern coasts of the Gulf of Thailand, is a growing country with an emerging economy. Visitors should see: the three most popular temples in the capital of Bangkok, the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun; the National Museum, also in Bangkok; and some of the country's beautiful national parks.
Vietnam is located south of China along the coast of the South China Sea. After the turmoil of the mid-late twentieth century, it has recovered and become one of the world's fastest growing economies. Visitors should see: the museums of Hanoi; the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, also in Hanoi; and the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, built during the colonial period by the French.
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