In a matter of one week
two weeks, the month of November will come to a close. After that, work slows down, schools are closed and people get into the party mood. December is typically a time for parties (lots of feasting and drinking) and holidays, and speaking of holidays, have you planned your trips for December?
Perhaps you are seeking sunny days by the beach to escape from the freezing winter. Or if you are living in the tropics, you are seeking cooler climate, giving you the chance to show off that nice-looking jacket hanging in your wardrobe 😉
Well, come to Southeast Asia, a diverse region of different types of landscape, cultures, food, languages…and weather as well. And here are the best places to travel in Southeast Asia in December:
Vietnam, Timeless Charm
Vietnam is a long, narrow country neighbouring China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west. Because of the size of the country, its climate varies as well. The weather in North Vietnam is subtropical, thus you will get warm sunny days but you might need a light jacket in Hanoi or dressed layers in Halong Bay. Conversely, the weather in South Vietnam is tropical all year-round.
Hanoi is a city of lakes, parks, tree-lined boulevards, temples and pagodas, therefore it became no surprise when the city won the 2016 Travelers’ Choice Destination Awards. Some of the city’s highlights are Hoan Kiem Lake and the Tortoise Tower, and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum houses the embalmed body of “Uncle Ho” (Ho Chi Minh) protected by military honour guards. The mausoleum was inspired by Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow and overlooks Ba Dinh Square, the site where Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence in 1945.
Just an hour and a half drive from Hanoi is Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its emerald green waters, limestone mountains and caves. Go on a Halong Bay cruise (preferably stay a night on a boat) and visit the Dau Go Caves, the biggest limestone cave in Halong Bay with incredible grotto of stalactites and stalagmites.
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is the largest city in Vietnam. HCMC is a metropolitan city and has no shortage of places for you to explore within and outside the city. You can shop and sample delicious street food in Ben Thanh area, visit the War Remnants Museum, sign up for a day trip to Cu Chi Tunnels or go on a Mekong River Cruise.
Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonder
The months of December and January are the best times to travel in Cambodia because the temperatures are pleasant in the high 20s in Celsius – warm but not too hot and humid.
The number of visitors discovering Cambodia is increasing. There’s the capital city, Phnom Penh where the French influence still lives on via its parks and ornate villas; the ancient wonders of the Khmer kingdom in Siem Reap and gateway to Angkor; and the upcoming beach destination Sihanoukville.
If you like to explore the ancient ruins at your own pace without the throngs of tour-bus crowds, visit Bayon and Angkor Thom in the morning as most tourists head to Angkor Wat first thing. It is best to explore Angkor Wat around 3pm when most tourists would have left by then by which time, you will enjoy the galleries of bas-reliefs and the afternoon light casting shadows on the stones, a perfect setting for photography.
Also, do venture out of the tourist circuit in Siem Reap to explore ancient ruins of Beng Melea and Preah Khan, and discover the One Thousand Lingas in Kbal Spean.
Thailand draws in travellers from all around the world on a daily basis. What’s amazing about this Land of Smiles is its food, shopping, islands and beaches, tropical rainforest, mountains and wildlife, and magnificent Buddhist temples.
In December, the weather is generally warm especially in the islands on the west coast of Thailand. However, in other parts of the country, the weather cools down in, for instance, Bangkok, but temperatures can dip in places like Chiang Mai in the northern Thailand.
The city that has something for everyone – Bangkok – the Grand Palace and grandiose temples, river cruises on the Chao Phraya and through its canals, plenty of markets and shopping malls, variety of street food and vibrant nightlife.
From Bangkok, you can go on a day trip to visit the famous railway market in Mae Klong for only 140 Thai Baht!
Or if you prefer to get away from the bright lights of the cosmopolitan city, then head up north to Chiang Mai, the “Rose of the North”. Smaller than Bangkok, Chiang Mai city is surrounded by the countryside and mountains – the city is greener, cleaner and quieter.
Undoubtedly, Thailand is famous for its islands and beaches, and what better way for you to get a tan while your friends back home are wrapped up in layers. However, December is peak season particularly during the last week of the year i.e. Christmas and New Year, therefore I’d suggest you start to plan your travels NOW!
Discover Hong Kong
Here’s something for those of us who come from the tropics and longing for “cold weather” – Hong Kong is the best place to be in December. The weather is cool with temperatures ranging from 20 to 24 degrees Celsius during the day but fall to 16 degrees at night. Time to show off that jacket or scarf!
Because it’s the holiday season, HK will be brightly lit with Christmas decorations and lights, and there will be numerous shops offering great discounts and offers, much to the delight of shoppers. But if you’re not a shopping kind of person, how about going on a self-guided heritage walk? You can explore the historical and yet modernised areas of Central and Sheung Wan on foot where traditions of the past juxtaposed with modern metropolis.
Some of the attractions in HK are Victoria Harbour and The Peak. The Peak is THE place to have spectacular views of the city’s skyline and harbours, and the views are more impressive at night when the high-rise buildings are lit.
If you wish to take a break from the concrete jungle, take a ferry to Lamma Island that has an abundance of nature and scenery – beaches and hiking trails. The atmosphere on the island is laid-back and peaceful, a complete opposite to the stressful pace in the city. The buildings are less than 3 storeys high and vehicles are nowhere to be found on Lamma.
Malaysia, Truly Asia
In December, the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia might experience some rains but it’s only a downpour for an hour or two in the afternoon, thus when that happens, why not chill out at a cafe to have tea/coffee?
Visit the famous landmark of Malaysia – the Petronas Twin Towers – in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur (KL). Formerly the tallest building in the world from 1998 to 2004, the building remains the tallest twin towers in the world.
Explore the heritage landmarks of KL such as the Independence Square, Central Market and Chinatown. Or if you go on the hop-on hop-off bus, do stop at the KL Bird Park which is the largest walk-in free-flight aviary in the world!
Penang is an island on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, and is linked to the mainland via the Penang Bridge. Its state capital, Georgetown, is popular for its UNESCO World Heritage Area where you can explore to check out street art, museums (do visit the Blue Mansion), galleries, cafes and restaurants.
Another UNESCO World Heritage City is the historical city of Malacca (or Melaka), steeped in history and rich in cultures blending Peranakan, Portuguese, Dutch and British elements. Formerly a sleepy town, Malacca is now popular among travellers for its quaint town square of Dutch influence, the Portuguese fort, churches and the night market Jonker Walk.
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