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Famed throughout Asia for its heady mix of eastern cultures, Penang Island is Malaysia’s prime melting pot. Roadside vendors serve some of the world’s best street food; its national parks offer white-sand beaches and wildlife; and UNESCO-listed George Town is full of colorful heritage houses.
The beaches are a huge draw, but there’s so much more to do in this Malaysian hotspot. Frolic with the delicate residents of a butterfly farm, then explore the fragrant landscape of tropical spice garden and fruit farms. The massive collection of dolls, games and models at the Toy Museum brings joy to kids and kids at heart. Save some energy for the Night Market, a lively scene of stalls where good-natured bargaining skills come in handy.
Forested hills, romantic white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters greet visitors to tropical Palau Langkawi, the largest of the 99 islands in Langkawi archipelago. Known mysteriously as "Legendary Island" because of myths associated with its ancient geological formations, it drifts serenely alongside Malaysia in the azure Andaman Sea. Sample local cuisine at the night markets, hike to dramatic waterfalls or dive into an underwater marine park to take a guided glimpse at life beneath the sea.
The cultural hub of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is visually defined by the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which, at 88 stories high, are the tallest twin buildings in the world and a vision of modern architecture. On the flip side, the Sri Mahamariamman is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia, its façade a colorful totem pole of iconography. Shopping at the Central Market is a joyful experience that involves haggling, handicrafts, and happiness.
The southern Thailand town of Krabi serves as base camp for exploring the province of the same name, a lush region of jungles, limestone cliffs and idyllic isles floating just offshore in the Andaman Sea. Buddhist shrines still used by local monks are tucked into the chambers of the town's top attraction, Tiger Cave. The riverside pier links travellers with ferries and longboats to the best scuba diving, rock climbing and white sand beaches on the coast.
Party-hoppers flock to the wide and whimsical sands of Patong Beach. Mere minutes from the glittery chaos of Patong's many nightclubs, bars and discos, the golden beach is ideal for sunbathing, jet skiing, kayaking and parasailing. Lovers of leisure can spend the day relaxing on a sunbed under a colorful umbrella, lingering over treats from one of the vendors who stroll the sands.
Soak up the sun and some Vietnamese culture on Phu Quoc Island, where white sands and tropical waters entice beachgoers from all over the globe. Snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing are the most popular water sports here, though jet-skiing, wind sailing and squid fishing—yes, squid fishing—are also at your holiday-making fingertips. Check out the early-morning Duong Dong Market for an authentic local experience.
Kuching is a fine choice for an enriching vacation that's as packed with learning as it is leisure. Its many museums and impressive planetarium will enthrall even the tiniest travelers, and a quick climb to the top of the Kuching Civic Center will reward you with jaw-dropping 360-degree views. Grab a snack from a stall on the bustling waterfront, and don't miss the absolutely massive Sunday market, which is an electric experience for shoppers, vendors, and observers.
Chaotic, crowded, and cosmopolitan, Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is a city of contrasts. Home to millions of people from around the world, the city is a mixture of languages and cultures, poverty and wealth. The city boasts some of the best nightlife in Asia and some of the worst traffic. Every holiday, the locals escape the pollution and the crowds to enjoy relaxing diversions like Ancol Dreamland, an amusement area featuring water parks, beaches, golf courses, and a SeaWorld.
Bali is a living postcard, an Indonesian paradise that feels like a fantasy. Soak up the sun on a stretch of fine white sand, or commune with the tropical creatures as you dive along coral ridges or the colorful wreck of a WWII war ship. On shore, the lush jungle shelters stone temples and mischievous monkeys. The “artistic capital” of Ubud is the perfect place to see a cultural dance performance, take a batik or silver-smithing workshop, or invigorate your mind and body in a yoga class.
China’s third-largest city is the capital of Guangdong Province and a thriving commercial centre. Its location on the Pearl River and proximity to Hong Kong has made Guangzhou a strategic port for centuries. Glimpse old temples and gleaming steel towers on an architectural tour. Visit one of four Chimelong theme parks for thrills and chills. Once called Canton, Guangzhou is considered the home of traditional (read Cantonese) “Chinese food.” Foodies will find more restaurants per capita here than anywhere else in China.