After your ticket and passport, your camera comes a close third as a travel essential for visiting Southeast Asia. Whether you’re in laid-back Brunei or bustling Singapore, you can’t leave your hotel or hostel without taking snapshots of the region’s scenery and people – visiting Southeast Asia otherwise would be pointless!
For Instagrammers and serious photographers alike, the following places offer the best chances for beautiful travel photographs guaranteed to go viral with your friends.
In Brunei, hurry to the picturesque Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque (SOAS) in Bandar Seri Begawan and take several angles of the ornate mosque, its gold-coated main dome, the manicured gardens, and the lagoon with the replica royal barge afloat at its centre.
Sadly, the mosque’s interior is off limits to non-Muslims. Worshippers can see more of the ornate details within, including crystal chandeliers imported from England and a 3.5-million-piece Venetian mosaic that covers the main dome’s interior.
The SOAS Mosque stands within walking distance of Kampong Ayer, the world’s largest water village, where you can take shots of daily life on the riverbanks.
In Indonesia, the further off the beaten path you go, the better the shots you’ll take. Few landscapes in the world compare with that of Komodo National Park’s Padar Island in East Nusa Tenggara. You’ll need to struggle a bit to get the shot, though.
A dirt trail leads from the Padar Island beach landing up to the crest of the island and ultimately the peak. The challenging uphill hike leads you to magnificent views of the surrounding Komodo National Park and its waters, best captured during sunset.
The Padar Island hiking stop is normally undertaken as part of a longer Komodo Park itinerary, which starts with a visit to the Komodo Dragons on Rinca and a swim at the Komodo Island’s Pink Beach. Visitors to Komodo need to book a stay at Labuanbajo, the usual jumping-off point for a Komodo National Park adventure.
In the Philippines, the Ifugao Rice Terraces present an amazing backdrop for a hiking selfie: ancient rice terraces carved out of the northern Cordilleras’ mountainside over 2,000 years ago, and assiduously maintained by the Ifugao for generations since.
To see them up close, start your hike from the town of Banaue; go trekking through the concrete or dirt paths that wind through the paddies, and enjoy the sensation of being surrounded by a community’s centuries-old labor of love that now covers the mountainside as far as you can see.
In Myanmar, the former imperial capital of Bagan provides wonderful opportunities for photography. With over five thousand stupas covering the 42-square-kilometer Bagan Archaeological Zone, you’ll find a Buddhist temple getting ready for a closeup wherever you point your camera.
Many stupas allow visitors to climb up and capture the sunset from one of its upper levels. One of the most popular such stupas is Shwesandaw (pictured here); from high up Shwesandaw you can see just how many other temples cover the local landscape, their brick or golden surfaces burnished by the red-orange light of the sun descending over the Ayeyarwady River in the distance.
Another temple complex worth visiting is Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. This sprawling, 208-hectare temple is an absolute must-visit in Cambodia, with many visitors coming just before dawn to watch the sun rise over the temple’s five towers.
Everything about it just begs to be photographed, from the lithe apsara carvings on the walls to the long galleries depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. Be warned, though – due to recent occurrences of tourists taking topless snaps in the Angkor archaeological park, a strict dress code is now being enforced.
Get away from the temples and natural landscapes of Southeast Asia by capturing one of the region’s best nighttime cityscapes. Marina Bay in Singapore changes its character completely after dark; the lights and laser beams bouncing off of the Marina Bay Sands building allow visitors to feel as if they’ve just dropped into a scene from the future.
Marina Bay’s architecture, which is fronted by the Singapore River, looks just amazing in day or night, whether seen from far away or from within. take a selfie next to the Gardens by the Bay’s trees and greenhouses, spectacularly illuminated during the nightly light shows; the Singapore Flyer’s slowly revolving wheel; the Corinthian and Ionic columns of the newly opened National Gallery Singapore, showcasing the hybrid splendor of British colonial architecture and modern design; and the ArtScience Museum’s contemporary outline set against the backdrop of skyscrapers from the bustling central business district. All these sights make for great additions to your Facebook photo feed, and make you the envy of your architecturally-inclined friends.