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Burma has been locked for decades in a kind of time warp imposed by the Draconian rule of its military dictators, but with full democracy just around the corner, the country is fast setting out its store as one of the world’s must-see destinations, with attractions ranging from superb ruins to rival even those at Angkor, giant gilded pagodas and spellbinding tropical beaches.
Tropical beaches, tea stations, and former colonial outposts with histories dating back five centuries are the mainstay of tours around peninsula Malaysia, whose deep-rooted ethnic diversity has given rise to a fabulously eclectic architectural heritage – not to mention a cuisine that’s full of spice and surprises. Across South China Sea, Malaysian Borneo is an altogether wilder world of impenetrable jungles and sinuous tropical rivers.
Thailand has long served as a playground for sun-seeking foreigners, but the kingdom has a lot more to offer than its legendary beaches. Explore the fabulous lost cities of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya on the central plains, or the mountain regions and forests to the north, where visitors may experience the disappearing world of the country’s hill tribes on extended treks, elephant rides and river rafting adventures.
Clean, efficient and orderly, Singapore may lack the charisma of more traditional Asian cities, but it’s a fine place to catch your breath – and get stuck into some serious bargain hunting. Shopping is regarded as a national sport here, and you’ll be spoilt for choice, whether in the ritzy, air-con malls of Orchard Road, Boho enclave of Holland Village or street stalls of Chinatown.
The world’s largest archipelago, with a chain of over 17,000 islands stretching between Indochina and Australia, Indonesia offers limitless possibilities for travellers in search of magical beaches, charismatic ancient ruins, traditional arts, crafts, music and dance – as well as exotic wildlife, including the near-mythical Komodo dragon and, in the dense rainforests of Indonesian Borneo, the copper-haired, long-armed Orang-utan.