Southeast Asia is full of romance - and you don't have to go far to find it. It all depends on what the imaginative, amorous traveling couple requires from their trip. A magical backdrop to a wedding proposal? A quiet corner for some alone-time? A thrilling common adventure to cement a romantic bond? It's all in here.
The places listed here comprise some of the region's most magical spots for traveling couples. Some of them draw their enchantment from history - Hoan Kiem Lake in Vietnam (pictured above) and Cambodia's temples in Angkor come to mind. Others are brand-new (think of the Singapore Flyer) but retain an avant-garde appeal for adventurous couples. Others still draw on native island charms, such as El Nido in the Philippines and the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia.
Singapore Flyer, Singapore
It takes thirty minutes to make one revolution in the Singapore Flyer, but for a growing number of couples, that’s all they need to say their “I dos” and swap rings. Even if you don’t get the Singapore Flyer’s solemnization package, you can use your time in the Singapore Flyer to take the first step to the wedding altar: There’s nothing like getting on your knees in front of your loved one to propose, while in a capsule soaring five hundred feet over Singapore.
At that height, you get an eyeful of the surrounding Marina Bay District: The futuristic lines of the Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay remind you that this is very much a city in the midst of remaking itself.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
The city's French colonial atmosphere is largely preserved, particularly around Sivutha Street and the Old Market area. You can buy presents for your love at Psar Leu's jewelry and woodcraft shops, or enjoy a candle-lit dinner at one of the many restaurants now proliferating in the city.
Of course, a trip to Siem Reap just isn't complete without boarding a tuk-tuk to visit Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples. For many couples, watching the sunrise from Angkor Wat serves as the highlight of the trip. You can also bring your significant other to ride the balloon that gives you a birds' eye view of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the structures scattered over hundreds of square miles.
Tanah Lot, Bali, Indonesia
Most of the island of Bali is perfect for any romantic couple looking for a getaway, but Tanah Lot is a perfect highlight for an already amorous vacation.
The Tanah Lot temple complex is perched at the edge of the sea, rising out of a rocky beach in Tabanan Regency. The two temple buildings here are especially sacred to the Balinese, who respect the water deities honored within.
The modest dress code required of visitors is a small price to pay for the magnificent sunset view from the rocky shores. Watching the sun sink beneath the waves, framed by the temples looming behind, make for a uniquely spiritual experience that is best shared with someone you love.
Other cultural activities include the Kecak dance at the nearby Surya Mandala Cultural Park and the ritual ceremonies performed at Tanah Lot four days after Kuningan.
Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
The Perhentian Islands are some of Malaysia’s finest beach islands. Relatively underdeveloped, the Perhentians allow romantics to pretend they’re cast-away in paradise, with an easy-going island vibe surrounding the many activities in the area.
The two most popular islands in the group are Perhentian Kecil, a smaller island that appeals to the younger backpacker, party-harder crowd; and Perhentian Besar, a larger island that attracts a more mature following.
Although tourism is the lifeblood of Pulau Perhentian, the islands have not lost their rough-and-tumble, jungle appeal. There are no structures over two stories tall, no motorized vehicles, and electricity is provided by temperamental generators which could leave you in the dark with no notice.
There’s very little infrastructure on the islands; life on the islands seems chill and ad hoc. The lack of motorized vehicles and any significant modern amenity makes the Perhentians an ideal rustic honeymoon getaway.
El Nido, Philippines
The protected nature reserve making up the majority of Bacuit Bay and El Nido has helped make these weathered limestone islands in the Philippines into the ultimate island honeymoon getaway.
El Nido is sufficiently secluded to prevent any large influx of visitors (you either endure an eight-hour drive from the closest major airport in Puerto Princesa, or you ride a chartered aircraft onto a tiny nearby airstrip), and the islands are gifted with white-sand beaches, hiking trails, dive spots, mangrove forests, caves, and a range of resorts from inexpensive to five-star.
Take on all these natural endowments as a couple – whether you’re kayaking into a hidden cove on Bacuit Bay on a boat built for two, or enjoying an intimate dinner on the beach, you can make plenty of romantic memories in El Nido.
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Malaysia's Cameron Highlands is a cool getaway from the region’s usual humidity – a cool, hilly and sleepy area filled with tea plantations and hiking trails. You can enjoy your romantic travels in the wild, by camping out in the middle of a jungle trek, or more ideally, you can check into one of the many hotels catering to romance-seekers in the Highlands.
Hoi An, Vietnam
To visit Hoi An in Vietnam is to go back in time - back to an era when Hoi An Old Town was a bustling trade center, and when ancient traditions still held sway. You see the old ways in the well-preserved buildings in the old town. You feel the old ways in the clan houses and in the old-style lanterns that light the way when darkness sets in over Hoi An.
Hoi An is a great experience to share with a loved one – there’s no small amount of romance in the cozy hotels in the backpacker area and in the restaurants and shops clustered by the riverside.
Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam
Hoan Kiem Lake is the wet, beating heart of the city of Hanoi in Vietnam. The part of the city surrounding the lake is shaded by trees and endowed with a wide path, which is often used by Vietnam’s post-war, marriageable-age baby boomers for their pre-wedding shots.
And Hoan Kiem Lake is such a no-brainer for romantics who want to immortalize their love: The view is just perfect, weather permitting. The tree branches dipping into the water, the sight of the island-bound Ngoc Son Temple at Hoan Kiem Lake's north end and the bright red The Huc Bridge connecting it to the city, seen at a distance… picture-perfect.
If you want a break from walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake, just look for the Hapro Coffee Kiosk on Pho Le Thai To, opposite the bridge, for a coffee al fresco with the love of your life. If budget and time permit, you can go shopping at the Old Quarter just a few minutes’ walk away, or check out the city's other must-see sights.