Live it up in your very own ‘Eat Pray Love’ journey in Southeast Asia!
EAT – A Celebration of Flavours
Let’s start with one of the simplest pleasures in life– eating! Some say that food is the heart of every culture, a peek into the character of a certain place.
In the northern Malaysian state of Penang, offerings of Laksa, Char Kuey Teow, and Hainanese Chicken Chop make it a treasure trove for foodies. Spices and flavours dominate the essence of the cuisine here, which are derived from diverse heritage including Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Peranakan.
For health-conscious travellers, a visit to Da Nang is essential for a taste of Central Vietnam’s cuisine. The use of fresh greens and herbs is greatly emphasised in their dishes such as My Quang, Banh Mi, and the ubiquitous Vietnamese spring rolls.
As the first Southeast Asian country to have eateries and fine dining restaurants awarded with coveted Michelin stars, Singapore has proven itself a worthy player in the culinary fest around the region. Whilst prices are mostly not cheap, a satisfaction in the belly is pretty much guaranteed.
PRAY – A Conversation with the Universe
The evolution of religion in Southeast Asia is a very long and winding tale, resulting in a healthy flowering of Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu influences all over the region. Whilst spirituality is a highly personal journey, here are some of the most beautiful places of worship in Southeast Asia that are worth a visit, be it for history or aesthetics.
One of the most amazing Hindu temples is the Prambanan temple located 2 hours by drive from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This massive ancient complex built in the 9th century has three main temples dedicated to Brahman, Vishnu, and Shiva, the symbols of Trimurti in Hinduism. Meanwhile at Batu Caves temple in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, a huge gold-plated statue of Lord Murugan greets visitors and devotees at the foot of the hill, plus a steep 272 steps towards its massive cave complex.
A jewel at the heart of Myanmar’s Yangon is the 2500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda. This splendid gold-plated monument is believed to hold relics of the Buddha. For something more artistic than historic, Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai is worth a visit. Its contemporary Thai architecture infused with elements of Buddhist teachings, and coated in pristine white paint earned its nickname the ‘White Temple’.
The pretty detailing of golden domes and tall minarets adorn the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, an iconic building in Bandar Seri Begawan that is a symbol of Brunei. Travellers with a penchant for something unique may want to visit the Al-Irsyad Satya Mosque in Bandung, Indonesia. Built in symmetrical cubic style with bricks arranged by way of Islamic text, the absence of domes that are synonymous with mosques make it refreshingly stunning.
The largest Christian country in Asia, the Philippines is home to some of the most beautiful churches around the region. In Manila, the beautiful neo-gothic architecture of the San Sebastian church is a sight to behold, whilst Cebu welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors to its Basilica Santo Niño every year, especially in January for the exuberant Sinulog Festival.
LOVE – A Gratitude towards Life
Let’s appreciate the simple love for our home, this lovely sphere called Earth, the only known place in the entire universe that accommodates life (so far).
Pictures can never do a destination justice, especially when it comes to nature. Like the picturesque terraced rice fields in Banaue, only if you are willing to go through the journey to get there will you be able to appreciate its true beauty. In Indonesia, the surreal views of the craters and plains of Mount Bromo looks like it’s another realm altogether.
Whilst Cambodia is largely famous for Angkor Wat, its bountiful nature is not to be missed as well. A trip to the Kirirom National Park just 2 hours drive away from Phnom Penh is an amazing way to appreciate greenery. Meanwhile, the cascading turquoise-hued Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang, Laos is an outstanding example of nature’s intelligent evolution.
If the sand and the sea bring out the sunshine in you, the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia’s East Coast is a mix of fun and laidback, with truly gorgeous underwater scene. Or chill out in Gili Air, a petite island with pristine white beaches and turquoise waters off the coast from Lombok, said to be an alternative to Bali.
Without a doubt, Southeast Asia offers an abundance of delicious food, lush nature, as well as spiritual paths that you can carve out on your own. So go out and celebrate life, because life is indeed love. ♥ ♥ ♥
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