After visiting 46 cities and towns in seven Southeast Asian and European countries, Anne Xuan Clark really knows her way around. The International Examiner is proud to feature Anne’s top 10 travel destinations, practical traveling tips as well as a few of her best-kept secrets.
1. Luang Prabang, Laos
Best for: Events, food, culture
This small town straddles two rivers and is jam-packed with charm. The morning market features exotic produce and the evening market includes beautiful textiles. Luang Prabang provides a great base for day trips to nearby waterfalls and elephant sanctuaries.
Tip: Wake up early for morning alms ceremony with monks.
2. Siem Riep, Cambodia
Best for: Culture, activities, food
Be warned: after visiting the world’s largest religious monument, you will find other temples modern and boring in comparison! Angkor Wat and the surrounding complexes were constructed in the 12th century. This archeological treasure fell into disrepair and was rediscovered in the 20th century.
Tip: Buy a three-day pass, go to sunrise at Angkor Wat and try a bicycle tour.
3. Koh Mook, Thailand
Best for: Off the beaten track, adventure
This small island in Southern Thailand seems very far from the crowds in Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. There are only a few lodging and dining options, lending to the undiscovered and quaint atmosphere. You can pass endless days on the beach, snorkeling/scuba diving at the neighboring islands or visiting caves.
Tip: Get a $6 Thai massage on the beach.
4. Hoi An, Vietnam
Best for: Food, shopping, activities
Vietnam cities are loud, and Hoi An’s town center is an oasis as a pedestrian-only zone. Low-slung French-inspired buildings abut a river, with a thriving wet market and many cooking classes. There are hundreds of tailors hawking their customized clothes, and scores of galleries with great deals on artwork.
Tip: Rent a bicycle and pedal through the rice paddy fields to the quieter An Bang Beach.
5. Ubud, Bali
Best for: Culture, shopping, activities
Nestled in the heart of Bali, Ubud is the island’s cultural epicenter. In recent years, the town has become a hub for yoga, healing and spas. The surrounding artisan villages feature specialty crafts such as wood carving, masks, silversmiths and stone work. Bargaining is a must!
Tip: Walk through the rice fields in the morning before it gets too hot, and treat yourself to a massage and a flower-filled bath.
6. Gili Air, Indonesia
Best for: Off the beaten track, family
A short ferry ride from Bali, Gili Air has no cars or motorbikes, only horse-drawn carriages and bicycles. The island still has an undiscovered feeling, and includes white, sandy beaches, delicious restaurants and a yoga studio. The island is so small, you can walk around the entire perimeter in only 90 minutes.
Tip: Go on the $8 three-island day tour to see turtles!
7. San Sebastian, Spain
Best for: Food, shopping
Can you say “tapas”? San Sebastian is a beach town on the Northern Coast of Spain in the heart of Basque country. The food is to die for, and the old quarter has narrow winding lanes peppered with endless restaurants.
Tip: Take the funicular to Monte Igueldo for a postcard-picture view.
8. Naxos, Greece
Best for: Family, activities, food
There are so many islands in Greece, it’s hard to choose a favorite, but Naxos tops the list. Gorgeous beaches, delightful tavernas with scrumptious food, white-washed buildings with blue doors, what more could you want? You can take trips to neighboring Paros, Santorini and Mykonos.
Tip: Rent a car and discover the temples, ruins, Byzantine towers and landscapes.
9. Sirolo, Italy
Best for: Family, food, shopping
In August, Italy shuts down and the Milanese head to the beaches. Sirolo is a favorite for Italians and located on the Adriatic Coast. The coastline features stunning, crystalline blue waters and pebbly white beaches. The town has narrow, charming streets spilling out onto a town square overlooking the beach. The seafood is particularly delicious, and there are many amazing trattorias and ristorantes.
Tip: Avoid the parking madness and take the bus to the beach.
10. Florence, Italy
Best for: Food, shopping, culture
Located in the rolling hills of Tuscany, Florence was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Home to many of the masters, Michelangelo’s “David” is perhaps the most world’s most famous statue. The streets are lined with Prada and Valentino (even a Gucci Museum!), but discounts can be found at the outdoor markets, especially for leather goods.
Tip: Cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge, get lost in the maze of streets and try some artisan gelato.