Hidden gems in Southeast Asia

Most of us have probably conquered the usual haunts when travelling around Southeast Asia, from unique cafes in Bangkok to the sandy beaches of Bali. While these places have proven popular amongst Singaporeans, there are plenty of other underrated hidden gems in Southeast Asia we’ve yet to explore. 

If you’re looking for destinations that are off the beaten path, you’ve come to the right place. We’re talking a mini Europe, Asia’s “Grand Canyon”, and a 130 million-year-old rainforest. Scroll on to find out more:

1. Chonburi, Thailand – Asia’s Grand Canyon

Chonburi, Thailand
Image adapted from: @trangnpq & @mynameisfusrodah via Instagram

Just 1-hour away from Bangkok, Chonburi is a charming seaside town with lots to explore. For one, the drive up to Grand Canyon of Chonburi is definitely worth bookmarking. This old mining quarry was carved years ago, and has since turned into a stunning rock formation with a shimmering pool in the middle. 

Chonburi, Thailand
Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden.
Image credit: @solies_soul via Instagram

Bang Saen beach is also right around the corner, where you can rent beach chairs with umbrellas to relax on. Or, for something slightly out of the ordinary, swing by the Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden. It’s a similar concept to Singapore’s Hell’s Museum at Haw Par Villa – you’ll see statues depicting the various punishments inflicted in hell. Creepy, but worth a visit. 

Getting there: Take a flight to Bangkok, then drive 1 hour or a 3-hour train ride to Chonburi.
Estimated flight cost: $148

2. Zambales, Philippines – Nearer alternative to Mount Cook, NZ

Zambales, Philippines
Image credit: @ronnathexplorer via Instagram

Mount Cook, who? Instead of flying all the way to New Zealand, head over to Zambales instead. The city is a 2-hour drive from Manila and home to the magnificent Mount Pinatubo. Short history lesson here: the volcano erupted back in 1991, leaving a big crater in its wake. There’s now a lake in the middle, and some have even camped along the shores. 

Zambales, Philippines
Resting area at Alvin and Angie Bognot.
Image credit: CC L via Google Maps

If camping isn’t your cup of tea, there are accommodations nearby which you can opt for. Alvin and Angie Bognot and Mount Pinatubo Base Camp are both affordable options, and suitable for families with young children. It’s recommended to plan your visit during the dryer seasons from January to May to avoid typhoons and heavy rain. 

Getting there: Take a flight to Manila, then drive 2 hours to Zambales.
Estimated flight cost: $171

3. Ayutthaya, Thailand – Historic ruins & ancient temples

Ayutthaya, Thailand
Wat Mahathat.
Image adapted from: @yuuu_bkk & @kelly.0307 via Instagram 

Another gem that’s found in Thailand is Ayutthaya. This historical town has a slew of impressive temples and monasteries, making it a great destination for architecture fiends. 

Ayutthaya, Thailand
Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
Image credit: @kocinec.pavol via Instagram

Have your pick of which temples to visit, but some must-sees include the Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Mahathat. If the latter sounds familiar, that’s because the place is famous for the Buddha head figure that’s been enshrined in a tree. Then, swing by Wat Phra Si Sanphet, a temple that houses the ashes of late kings. 

Getting there: Take a flight to Bangkok, then drive 1 hour to Ayutthaya.
Estimated flight cost: $148

4. Gopeng, Malaysia – 130 million-year-old rainforest

Gopeng, Malaysia
The Belum-Temenggor rainforest is home to the indigenous Jahai people too.
Image credit: @belum_temenggor via Instagram

We’ve all heard of the Amazon rainforest – but Gopeng is where you’ll find a rainforest that’s even older than the Amazon. Belum-Temenggor rainforest is estimated to be over 130 million years old, where you can catch sight of rare animals including the rhinoceros hornbill, Malayan tapir, and Asian elephant.

Gopeng, Malaysia
Image credit: @dayaghaz via Instagram

Another feast for your eyes would be Gua Tempurung, a limestone cave in Gopeng. It’s known to be one of the largest caves in Malaysia, with giant rock formations and chambers to explore. You don’t have to be an experienced spelunker to visit – there are safety handrails and lights installed along the walkways. Just watch your step, and you’ll be good to go.

Getting there: Take a flight to Kuala Lumpur, then drive 2 hours to Gopeng.
Estimated flight cost: $114

5.  Koh Kong, Cambodia – Scenic mountains with wildlife

Koh Kong, Cambodia
Image credit: @stepphensloth via Instagram

Nature lovers, take note – Koh Kong will fulfil your daily dose of vitamin C. The Cardamom Mountains are an unmissable landmark, playing host to rare wildlife such as Malayan sun bears, Sunda pangolins, and Asian elephants. Clock in some miles while you’re here and hike up Cambodia’s highest peak, Phnom Aural – the view will be worth your muscle aches. 

Koh Kong, Cambodia
Image credit: Canvas & Orchids Retreat

Once you’re done marvelling at the sights, unwind at the local lodgings like Kravanh Camping And Restaurant, a glamping resort; or Canvas & Orchids Retreat, a tented hotel that’s floating on the Tatai River. 

Getting there: Take a flight to Phnom Penh, then drive 4 hours to Koh Kong.
Estimated flight cost: $216

6. Pronojiwo, Indonesia – Massive waterfall with Jurassic World vibes

Pronojiwo, Indonesia
Image credit: @iverp via Instagram

If you haven’t already been, Pronojiwo has ridiculously picturesque trails for you to uncover. For example, you’ve got Tumpak Sewu Waterfall – a humongous, tiered waterfall that looks straight out of Jurassic World. It’s an easy hike to the top, and you can view Mount Semeru in the background. Just remember to bring a dry bag for your belongings and wear covered shoes. 

Pronojiwo, Indonesia
Image credit: @fiki_muzaki via Instagram

Another incredible waterfall down the road from Tumpak Sewu Waterfall is Goa Tetes. There are some tricky spots along the way, including wooden planks and uneven floors, so take your time when navigating this terrain. It’s also best if you visit during the day, so there’s plenty of sunlight to guide you.

Getting there: Take a flight to Surabaya, then drive 3 hours to Pronojiwo.
Estimated flight cost: $132

7. Bogor, Indonesia – Mini Europe with landmarks like the Eiffel Tower

Bogor, Indonesia
Image adapted from: @aycahya & @nw_suci via Instagram

Who knew that Italy, London, and Paris were all hidden in Indonesia? Okay, technically, they aren’t. But you can find miniature replicas of famed European landmarks in Devoyage Bogor in the city of Bogor. Fill your camera rolls with images of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, and even the iconic red phone booths from London. 

You can also rent traditional European clothing like the Klederdracht, the traditional Dutch dress,  or British royal guard uniform to go with your photos. Canoes are up for rent too, and you can paddle along the streams with your pals. 

Bogor, Indonesia
Image adapted from: @risaalsdiynti & @ayycahaya_ via Instagram

Another spot to bring the fam would be Taman Safari Indonesia. It’s reminiscent of the parks in Mandai Wildlife Reserve, but most of the animals here are free-roaming. Except the fearsome predators, of course. There are animal shows, feeding sessions, and photo-taking opportunities too. 

Getting there: Take a flight to Jakarta, then drive 1 hour to Bogor.
Estimated flight cost: $108

Fly to these hidden gems in Southeast Asia with Jetstar

It isn’t necessary to fly 9,834,381 miles to escape the touristy crowds – and to avoid hearing Singlish spoken in your vicinity. Southeast Asia is home to a throng of under-the-radar places waiting to be uncovered.  

Once you’ve selected your destination, it’s time to book your tickets. Jetstar is currently having a promotion from now till 31st January 2024, where you can score flights to countries including Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Manila, Okinawa, Phnom Penh, and Jakarta from as low as $67/pax

All you have to do is head to their website for the sale prices and book away. Safe travels and make your adventures count, my friend! 

Book your flights with Jetstar

This post was brought to you by Jetstar.
Cover image adapted from: @ronnathexplorer, @nw_suci & @iverp via Instagram

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