Best attractions in South Korea: Top 25

South Korea is a unique country where modern high-tech era is intertwined with ancient structures carefully preserved by the state. The sights of South Korea are ancient palaces, amazing nature and modern megacities. What to see in South Korea, if you find yourself in this country for the first time? Especially for you we selected the most interesting places of this colorful Asian country.

What to see in South Korea first

Those who like well-organized and informative excursions definitely need guides in South Korea to whom you can express your wishes and go to explore the sights at an agreed time. If you prefer to travel on your own, however, it is easy to choose from the list of places to visit.

1. Gyeongbokgung (Seoul)

Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul

Gyeongbokgung is the country’s main palace, which many rightfully call the Korean Kremlin. Travelers have no trouble finding it in the heart of Seoul. It is impossible to visit a tourist city and forget to look at this place. The palace itself was built back in the 14th century. For a number of reasons, it constantly changed its appearance. Most of the structures that make up Gyeongbokgung are made of wood.

On the way to this attraction in South Korea there are several monuments dedicated to a medieval admiral named Lee Sun-shin. It was he who at one time invented battleships. Also near the entrance to the palace you can see a monument that was erected in honor of the ruler of Szechoj, who created the Korean script. Behind this figure is the gate that opens the way to the landmark. The gate is three entrances at once. The main entrance is always closed, as it is reserved for the rightful ruler.

Tourists are surprised by the costumed guards of the palace, who have a beard glued on to give them solidity and stateliness. Every morning there is a change of guard. This procedure is accompanied by a colorful performance, which is always interesting to watch.

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2. Changdeokgung Palace (Seoul)

Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul

Many tours in Seoul include going to Changdeokgung Palace. It is one of the few that has managed to maintain its original appearance. The palace constantly had to be rebuilt and restored, but during the work the craftsmen tried to preserve the real look of the structure. The palace was the most important building of the Joseon Dynasty, and it is still in use today, thanks to which it is still the architectural style of the Joseon Dynasty. The palace was home to Emperor Sunjong, the last monarch in the history of the country, until his death. In 1955, the palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The territory of the palace turned out to be quite picturesque. Such a result was achieved because during the construction had to reckon with the irregular terrain.

Thousands of tourists come to the foot of Eagle Peak to admire the beauty of Changdeokgung. The locals continue to believe that there is a unique energy in the area that once filled the bodies of departed emperors with amazing power and knowledge. Because of this, they were able to rule an entire country wisely for many years.

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3. Soraksan National Park (Sokcho)

The bright colors of the mountain landscape of Soraksan Park in Sokcho

Soraksan National Park is a cozy corner of nature. Travelers who haven’t decided what to visit in South Korea can safely head here to enjoy the incredible scenery. The park is world famous for its waterfalls and geysers. Not neglected are the Buddhist temples, which are more than a century old. It is interesting that for this attraction in South Korea was allocated an area in four neighboring cities at once. The locals consider the park to be the country’s main asset.

The national park successfully combines jagged peaks, beautiful waterfalls, deep caves and dense forests. Walking around Soraksan, tourists may stumble upon the Shinhyngsa Temple, which is among the most ancient Buddhist structures of religious significance.

Many travelers come to the park to enjoy the wildlife. They are mesmerized by the amazing mountain slopes with irregular shapes and outlines. The forests of Soraksan look best in the fall, when the leaves of the trees begin to change color. On the mountain slopes, you can see many rare representatives of the world of flora, which can not be found anywhere else.

4. Hwaseong Fortress (Suwon City)

The watchtower and part of the wall of Hwaseong Fortress

When traveling in South Korea, be sure to set aside a whole day to visit the “blossoming castle” in the provincial capital of Gyeonggi-do. You will need exactly one day to be able to walk around the fortress to your heart’s content. After all, Hwaseong is so large in size that it could compete with the Moscow Kremlin.

On the territory of the “Diamond Fortress” (another name of the castle) there are numerous palace buildings and tall former watchtowers - a total of 40 structures. You can get inside by passing through the majestic gates, located on the perimeter of the castle to all four sides of the world. To explore on foot the walls of more than five kilometers long is still possible, but to go around them is not an easy task.

Some of the fortress buildings are located on the top, while others are on the steep hills. Though, a special streetcar can come to the aid of travelers.

The title “blossoming” was given to the castle for its picturesque panoramic views. The castle’s mighty stone walls rise proudly in a cluster of green gardens. If you haven’t seen Hwaseong, you haven’t seen the real sights of South Korea.

5. Hahoe Village (Andong)

Hahoe Village in Andong

There’s no other name for this picturesque place nestled on the banks of Naktongan. They call it a “folk” village or land on a “winding river,” and identify the village with a “lotus flower floating on water,” and even talk about Hahweh as a symbol of the unity of the two polar worlds. All these names and descriptions actually reflect the world that opens before the eyes of the tourist who finds himself in the atmosphere of the ancient era.

The number of objects of cultural heritage in the village pales in comparison to all other attractions in South Korea. There is also an authentic Confucianist school and architecture of the Joseon Dynasty. The air in Hahoe is steeped in tradition, so be sure to take a tour to learn about history on the spot.Another pride of the village is the wooden carnival masks. Locals know the craft of making them to perfection and practice it to this day. You can buy these works of art as a souvenir. The village of Hahweh gives every tourist the opportunity to take away a piece of history.

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Feel the atmosphere of South Korea in this beautiful video!

6. Jeju Island (Korean Strait)

Black basalt stone sculptures on Jeju Island

If you’re wondering what to see in South Korea, then you haven’t yet been to the “island of three abundances.” Countless Treasures Jeju are stones of volcanic origin that have absorbed the history of more than four hundred million years. There are several extinct volcanoes on the island, the most famous of which is called Hallasan.

Another natural peculiarity of Jeju is a true riot of the elements, when powerful gusts of wind roam freely among the rocks. The island is also famous for the distinctive national character of the locals. After all, the main earner here is the woman, and the man is engaged in housekeeping and raising children. And the islanders themselves are already like the peculiar sights of South Korea, with their curious local accent, which sometimes even the native Koreans do not understand.

Besides the breathtaking island nature, with its waterfalls and mountain caves, mandarin plantations, bonsai and orchids, you can admire the unusual stone sculptures - giant three-meter tall tolharubans, which are considered guardians of Jeju. The famous Seven Nymphs Bridge is also a must-see. All of this is a must-see!

7. Hedong Yeongunsa Temple (Busan)

Buddha statue at Hedongyongsa Temple in Busan

The sights in South Korea are quite varied: architectural monuments, natural parks, historical heritage and more. A good example is the Hedong Yeongunsa Temple located on the outskirts of Busan.

The Hedong Yeongunsa Buddhist Temple is considered one of the most beautiful among those to be seen in the south of the state. But that is not the only thing that makes it popular. There is an ancient belief that every sincere prayer or heartfelt wish within the walls of the temple is sure to come true. One can ask for anything: health, financial well-being, family happiness and much more.

Another feature of this sight is its unusual location. Most such structures occupy a place somewhere in the mountains. Hedong Yongunsa, on the other hand, is located a few meters from the sea. According to one legend, it was built here on the advice of the king of the sea, who appeared to the monk in a dream. The latter was desperate for help for a country that was suffering from severe drought, famine and crop failures. The sea king said that a temple built by the sea would make Korea happy forever. So in 1376, the foundation of Hedongyeongsa was laid.

There are many interesting things to see on the temple grounds: altars, pagodas, healing springs, sacred Buddha statues, etc.

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8. Namisom Island (Cheonpyeong Dam)

A colorful autumn landscape of Namisom Island

South Korea’s natural attractions begin with Namisom Island. It covers more than 450,000 square meters and is crescent-shaped. Namisom owes its appearance to the Cheongpyeong Dam.

The island has a lot of features and places of interest:

  • The burial site of General Nami, who lived from 1441 to 1468. He was responsible for suppressing a rebellion that took place in 1467 when King Sejo of the Joseon Dynasty ruled the country. By the way, the name of the island came from the name of this general.
  • An aerial ropeway that was installed to draw attention to eco-tourism. It is considered the largest road in all of Asia. Its height reaches 80 m.

Another distinctive feature of the island - the complete absence of telegraph poles. The wires are neatly conducted in the thickness of the ground. Thanks to this, Namisom looks very natural.

What to visit in South Korea on Namisom Island? In addition to sightseeing, tourists can do activities such as swimming in the pool, water-skiing or rides in the park. You can also walk through the forest to see with their own eyes the huts, the likeness of the dwellings of the ancient Koreans. And, of course, tourists have the opportunity to try the amazing Korean cuisine.

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9. Demilitarized Zone (4-kilometer zone between South and North Korea)

Demilitarized Zone Site

Another of South Korea’s must-see attractions are the sites located in the Demilitarized Zone. This is an area covering four kilometers. It is located between the two states - South and North Korea. The DMZ came into being in the summer of 1953, at a time when a temporary armistice was declared in the Korean War.

The DMZ consists of 7 cities. It is almost impossible to visit them all in one day because of the abundance of interesting places:

  • Imjingak Peace Park. It can accommodate over 20,000 people at a time. Contains a large number of all kinds of exhibits and artifacts relating to the Korean War.
  • Tunnel No. 3. Is a structure for crossing from North Korea to South Korea. It was first learned about it in 1978. The length of the tunnel is impressive - 1635 m.
  • Panmunjom. This village, formerly called Nolmuri, is located on the military demarcation line. There are two buildings within the village: one is white and the other is blue. The first is run by the UN military and the second by the North Korean army.

In deciding what to see in South Korea, the demilitarized zone should not be given the last place. It’s a reminder of how far war can take you.

10. Jeongmyo Temple, Seoul

Ancient Jeongmyo Temple in Seoul

If you’re sightseeing in South Korea, you have to start with the capital city. Seoul is a city that harmoniously combines history and modernity, religion, architecture, and beautiful nature. And one of the interesting and beautiful places is Jeongmyo Temple.

It is part of the world’s cultural heritage. According to scholars, Jeonmyo is the oldest Confucian temple that has survived to this day. It was built in 1394 by King Taejo. It was then that Seoul received the status of the capital of the state.

The Chongmyo was once the longest building in all of Asia. But it was destroyed during one of the wars. After it was rebuilt in 1601, only part of the buildings remained. This was despite the fact that the temple was always the first to be rebuilt.

Now Jongmyo consists of two large halls and several additional buildings that serve household functions. One of the halls is called Jongjeon. It is usually used for funeral ceremonies. The second hall is called Yeongyeongjeon or the Room of Tranquility and Peace. In front of the entrance is an amazingly beautiful park where tourists can rest and hide from the glaring sun.

Jeonmyo Temple is open to both tour groups and individual tourists.

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Sightseeing in South Korea: what else to visit while in South Korea

In addition to the well-known monuments and parks, there are many tourist sites in the country about which there is not much information. So that you can choose excursions in South Korea with all your preferences in mind, we offer descriptions and photos of really unusual places. You can visit them either on your own or with an experienced guide.

11. Seoul TV Tower (Seoul City)

Seoul TV Tower

What to visit in South Korea? Answering this question, every guide will mention the Seoul TV Tower. This structure is one of the ten most popular places in the Korean capital. Why is it noteworthy?

The Seoul TV Tower is a kind of observation deck. It is located on Mount Namsan at a height of over 240 meters. The tower is 236 meters high. So you can admire Seoul from a height of 479 meters.

Construction of the structure began in 1969. In just 2 years it was ready, and in another 4 years there opened a cafe, museum, observation deck, etc. The first visitors came here in 1980.

Visiting the Seoul TV Tower is an unforgettable experience. The view from it over the capital will amaze even the most sophisticated tourists. This explains the fact that every year it is visited by more than 8 million people.

The structure consists of 3 parts, each of which has its own characteristics. For example, Lobby N has a living museum and a souvenir store. Tower N has a unique Teddy Bear Museum, and Plaza N, which occupies 2 floors, you can relax on the terrace and have a bite to eat in the cafe.

All attractions in South Korea, including the Seoul TV Tower, help you get a closer look not only at the history of the state, but also at the life of modern people.

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12. Myeongdong Cathedral (Seoul)

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Seoul

What to see in South Korea in its capital city? A great option is Myeongdong Cathedral. Its middle name is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It belongs to the archdiocese of Seoul. The Virgin Mary is the patroness of the city, so the cathedral is the main shrine of Korean Catholics. The cathedral is also one of the most interesting examples of the Neo-Gothic style of architecture.

Myeongdong Cathedral has a lot of features:

  • The height of the structure is 23 meters. If we take into account the spire and the clock hanging from it, the height is 45 meters.
  • In the fall of 1977, the temple became part of the list of National Historic Landmarks, which includes many other places of interest in South Korea.
  • The window stained-glass windows are of particular interest to tourists. They represent the birth of Jesus, the Magi who brought the gifts, as well as Jesus and the 12 apostles.
  • The cathedral contains the remains of Christian martyrs who were martyred for their religious beliefs. These men were canonized by the Pope in 1984.

There are not many ancient artifacts on the grounds of Myeongdong Cathedral. It is still very young by the standards of the Christian religion. But as religious scholars say, its erection in nineteenth-century Korea is the real breakthrough.

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13. Pul Guksa Temple (Gyeongju)

Pul Guksa Temple in Gyeongju

Pul Guksa Temple was established during the prosperity of the United Kingdom of Silla. It became the embodiment of the concept of Buddhism. Like many other such religious buildings, the temple surprises with its exquisite forms and unique beauty.

The Pul Guksa Gate is guarded by perpetual guards - painted giants made of wood. Each of them faces one side of the world. Behind the gate is a stream, over which a bridge is spanned. It is said to be the path between reality and the world of Buddha. The stream itself has its source in a pond. There is a beautiful legend associated with it that has been around for centuries. It can be heard from the local people.

The monastery, which today can be seen by tourists, is a restored version of the temple. In the last century, the president issued a decree to reconstruct this landmark of South Korea, but only the main premises, which were a small part of the whole complex, could be restored. But even this restored part allows one to understand what beauty the Pul Guksa Temple had in its day. Visitors to the city still have a genuine admiration for it, as it allows you to plunge into the history of the place.

14. Olympic Park (Seoul)

Olympic Park in Seoul

To find out what to see in South Korea, you need to look in a travel guide. In it, the traveler is sure to find the Olympic Park in Seoul, causing great interest among visitors to the country.

In 1988, Korea was awarded the honor of hosting the next Olympic Games. It was on this occasion was built Olympic Park. It accommodates sports halls, health centers and rental facilities for various equipment. The park covers an area of no less than 1,000 hectares. Especially for visitors to Seoul, museums were built in this attraction of South Korea, so that its visit was not only interesting, but also informative.

Tourists with great pleasure take pictures near the architectural structures that are located throughout the territory of the Olympic Park. There are more than two hundred sculptures and other figures, which were created by the best masters of modern art.

In the center of the park square is a unique composition of a variety of stones. They vary in size and their origin. Each stone has the signature of one of the participants of the past Olympics. This composition has become for many the embodiment of sports spirit and record victories.

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15. Korean National Village (Yongyin)

Ethnographic Museum Korean National Village in Yongyin

The city of Yongyin is home to a unique attraction that is a must-see. The ethnographic museum, placed directly under the open sky, received a lot of positive reviews. It was called the Korean National Village.

A huge territory was allocated for this attraction in South Korea. It is noteworthy that not only tourists come here, but also local residents. For many, the village has become a place of family recreation. The purpose of creating the national village was to show visitors from other countries the life and culture of the people of Korea. It was possible to implement the idea, thanks to the placement in the tourist zone a huge number of exhibition items. In the village there are exact replicas of houses that belonged to people of different social circles. Masters have not forgotten about the market, where traders offer traditional treats and outfits for sale.

Talented dancers and performers are responsible for the entertainment part. All sorts of traditional ceremonies are often held in the national village, including weddings. They allow visitors to South Korea to learn more about the daily life of the indigenous people.

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16. Myeongdong Street (Seoul)

Seoul's central shopping street

South Korea has long positioned itself as a country of fashion and style. Tourists from all over the world flock to its capital not only for sightseeing, but also for grand shopping. Apart from the South Korea’s much talked-about cosmetics, there is so much to get your money’s worth here. Seoul’s largest shopping district, Myeongdong, is worth a visit. At an area of 0.91 square kilometers, there are a lot of boutiques and brand-name stores selling clothes, shoes and accessories of quality and famous brands, and you can buy them all at relatively affordable prices. Besides boutiques, here you can also see: the Chinese quarter, where national cosmetics, products and medicines are sold, numerous beauty salons, restaurants with national and European dishes, theaters, hotels and many other interesting things.

17. Rainbow Fountain Bridge (Seoul)

Rainbow Fountain Bridge in color in downtown Seoul

Few people can be surprised by fountains these days. But Korea’s masterpiece will surprise the most sophisticated tourist. The Rainbow Fountain Bridge is both a bridge and a fountain, combined into an original design and creating an ineffable beauty spectacle. The water flows out of the spigots installed on both sides of the Banpo Bridge along its length, which describe a huge arc and noisily descend into the Hangang River. This spectacle is completed by the illumination of water streams, which shimmer in different colors of the rainbow and create a truly enchanting spectacle. So it is especially beautiful in the evening and at night if you see it from the south bank of the river. The Banpo Bridge is a two-tiered bridge, and it is also interesting to be on its lower tier to feel as if you are inside a waterfall.

18. Doksugun Palace Complex (Seoul)

Traditional Korean building of the Doksugun Palace Complex in Seoul
Panorama of Doksugun Palace Complex in Seoul

Seoul is home to a palace complex that includes five royal palaces. The Toksugun is the smallest of them and the only one decorated in the European style. The rest of the buildings have traditional South Korean facades. It is also noteworthy that on the territory of Toksugun Palace there are several structures designed by a Russian architect at the beginning of the last century. In all, the castle complex once included 180 structures, but most of them were destroyed during the Japanese colonial period and in a fire in 1904. Today, a branch of the National Art Center can be visited in the west wing of the castle, and a collection of palace treasures can be viewed in the east wing.

Official website: http://www.deoksugung.

19. Pomosa Temple (Busan)

Colorful Buddhist statues at the Pomosa Temple
The Pomosa Buddhist temple complex on the edge of Geumjongsan Mountain in Busan City

Religion, like South Korean culture, is based on ancient traditions and customs that have their own unique history. Buddhism, the country’s main religion, has absorbed ancient interpretations of Confucianism. South Korea’s holy sites bear witness to the history of the Buddhist religion, which dates back more than 2,000 years. Among the five most important South Korean shrines is the Pomosa Temple in Pusan. The temple complex covers an area of about 8 square kilometers in which there are 160 different structures such as priests’ huts, huts for seclusion and other structures. There are also a number of valuable cultural relics such as the three-story pagoda, Ilchumun Gate, and the main building of Doencheon, which is an example of the beautiful wooden architecture of the Joseon era.

Official website: http://www.beomeo

20. Cheomseongdae (Gyeongju)

"Stargazing Tower" within Gyeongju National Park
The famous Cheomseongdae Observatory in the Wolseong area of Gyeongju National Park

Although Seoul is a veritable treasure trove of valuable historical, cultural, and natural monuments, other South Korean cities also deserve attention. For example, Gyeongju was the capital of the state for a millennium during the Silla dynasty. Among its attractions is the Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory, listed as a national treasure. It was built in the 7th century AD during the reign of Queen Seondeok of 362 granite blocks (366 according to another version) symbolizing the number of days in the lunar year. At one time the observatory was used not only to observe the stars but also to forecast the weather.

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21. Museum of Illusions (Busan)

Panorama of "Sea Monster" at the Trick Eye Optical Illusion Museum in Busan
Panorama "Unicorn" at Busan City Museum of Illusions

The Museum of Optical Illusions is a Busan attraction loved by locals and visitors alike. The institution, which opened in 2013, has gained enormous popularity in the short period of its existence. Because the museum’s exhibits are 3D paintings, which you can not just watch, but take part in the painted three-dimensional plots yourself. These paintings are all interesting and amusing in their own way, and the photos on their backgrounds are as realistic as possible, thanks to the authors’ skillful use of perspective. Both adults and children are delighted by the opportunity to become a hero of a scene with a sea monster, sit near the “real” Mona Lisa, shoot Angry Birds with a slingshot, feel like a prince on a white horse or be inside a soap bubble.

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22. Lotte World Amusement Park (Seoul)

Lotte World theme park in Seoul Ziggymaster
The largest ice rink in the indoor area of the underground floor of Lotte World theme park SJ Yang

Like a number of other unique facilities, the world’s largest indoor park is located in the capital city of Seoul. However, the company Lotte, which created the amusement park Lotte World, has not limited itself to the creation of an indoor area. Was built and open complex - a whole island with countless attractions. The total area of the park is 128,000 square meters, and every year new entertainment facilities, cafes and souvenir shops appear on its territory, so the complex continues to please even those who have been there dozens of times. The covered area includes four above-ground levels with attractions, food courts and restaurants and one underground level with an ice skating rink. The outdoor zone is a variety of rides and cafes, as well as the fabulous Aurora Castle, where you can just walk around and watch the show.

Official website: http://adventure.lotteworld

23. Bukhangsan National Park (Seoul)

Bukhangsan National Park is popular with nature lovers and tourists

At times, the attractions of North Korea and South Korea are so close that it would seem possible to cover both in one trip. But, alas, the political regimes of these countries make adjustments, and crossing the border, which is quite close, is very problematic. Not far from the border, in the north of Seoul, right in the city limits is the beautiful reserved park of Pukhasan. From the bustling city you can quickly take the subway to the picturesque mountain scenery, and you can climb to the heights on one of the many trails, all of which are so well thought out that you can do any of the trails without much preparation. The mountains reach a height of 1,000 meters and offer magnificent views of numerous gorges with crystalline streams and waterfalls.

Official website: http://english.knps

24. Chagalchi Fish Market (Busan)

Inside the largest Chagalchi Fish Market in South Korea Weli'mi'nakwan
Trading and cooking fish at Busan's Chagalchi Fish Market yeowatzup

One of the most colorful places in the Republic of Korea is the Chagalchi Market in Busan, one of the largest markets in all of Asia. Its area stretches for 11 kilometers and has become not only a shopping area but also a place of numerous entertainment, festivals, festivals and even rock concerts. As for the products, the stalls of this market offer a variety of seafood - the emphasis is mainly on trade with the freshest, most often alive sea creatures. It is here that Korean restaurateurs most often stock up on seafood in order to offer their visitors excellent national dishes. Any visitor can stock up on any delicacy here and hand it over to the restaurant, where the delicious dish is literally cooked before their eyes.

25. Cheonggyecheon (Seoul)

Cheonggyecheon Creek is a popular walking spot in downtown Seoul among locals and tourists

If you are visiting South Korea in spring and are looking for something to see in Seoul in May, it is worth mentioning that a beach vacation at this time is still early, but visiting beautiful parks and various natural monuments is the right time. The most comfortable weather of the year with the sun and the average daily temperature of 20-25 degrees promotes this. Cheonggyecheon Park is one of the most suitable places: a recreation area about 10 kilometers long is located right in the center of Seoul, along the stream with the same name. It is a real oasis among the stone jungle of the megapolis: there are alleys, benches, beautiful fountains along almost the whole length of the stream, and in the evening and at night this place becomes truly magical thanks to the elaborate illumination and flicker of the surrounding skyscrapers.

Official website: http://www.sisul

Next door to South Korea is the land of the sakura, Japan. While in Korea, consider visiting the land of the rising sun. Read about sights of Japan and get inspired for your next trip to Southeast Asia!