Langkawi - The Oriental Village, a shoppers' paradise.
Langkawi - The Oriental Village, a shoppers' paradise.
The historic village of Hoi An is known as the Venice of Vietnam.
The historic village of Hoi An is known as the Venice of Vietnam.
The islands off Malaysia offer some of the best scuba diving in the world.
The islands off Malaysia offer some of the best scuba diving in the world.

With Europe and America becoming more expensive for SA travellers, going east gives you more bang for your bucks and an exciting choice of destinations.

Increasingly popular with foreign tourists, Vietnam offers innate beauty, lush green rice fields, small fishing villages, markets and, of course, its history and ancient traditions, not to mention great food.

This land has many historic attractions, temples, tunnels and war museums for tourists to get lost in.

“The tourist attraction in Vietnam has grown so much over the past years, as visitors crave to see the many war memorials, markets and the beautiful secluded beaches,” said Thamanoon Kuprasert, general manager of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa for Thai Airways International.

“Vietnam is also one of the friendliest countries in the world and has a different festival for visitors to enjoy every month.”

Beach lovers will love Nha Trang, which is one of the most popular beaches in the city, due to its calming blue waves and sandy shoreline.

“This beach is also the best spot in Vietnam for scuba diving as the water is so clear, you will be sure to see all the unusual and wonderful underwater creatures. If you feel you have had enough fun in the sun, then take a stroll down the promenade and treat yourself to authentic Vietnamese food.”

The Cu Chi Tunnels are perfect for history buffs who will know that these tunnels were used by the Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding spots during the Vietnam War. These tunnels are situated about 40km north-west of Ho Chi Minh City. This spot has become a huge tourist attraction over the years and visitors are invited to crawl around the tunnels and experience what the soldiers felt during the war.

As Vietnam is so rich in history and traditions, there are festivals organised all year round.

Tet holiday is one of the most famous festivals in Vietnam and allows the locals to express their love for each other. This festival is very similar to the Lunar New Year, but with a touch of Vietnamese tradition.

Even public holidays in Vietnam are worth participating in; an extremely popular holiday is on September 2, when you will see a nationwide parade. All the streets are lit up with red flags and there is a spectacular fireworks display to end the day.

Take a drive to Hoi An, which is located on the coast of the South China Sea. This little fishing village has been turned into one of the biggest tourist attractions in Vietnam. It is filled with many winding streets and quaint Chinese-style shops. Due to the narrow canals that cut through part of the town, locals refer to this village as the “Venice of Vietnam”.

Malaysia is another destination which offers everything from over-the-top shopping to some of the best scuba diving spots in the world. Tourists can also enjoy interesting architecture, mysterious caves, busy markets and dazzling beaches.

One of the top tourist destinations to visit in Malaysia is the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, which were the tallest buildings in the world when they were built in 1998. The architecture was Islamic-inspired and both towers are joined at the 41st and 42nd floors by a 58m double-decker Sky Bridge.

For a late-afternoon shopping spree, try KL’s sparkling, air-conditioned shopping malls. One of them is the Suria KLCC, which is right next to the Petronas Towers. You name the luxury brand name, and the KLCC will have a shop for it, from Gucci to Prada, and Calvin Klein to Hugo Boss.

To truly explore Malaysia’s beauty, make your way to the Mula Caves, which are on the eastern side of the country. These beautiful caves contain many stalactites, stalagmites and wonderful examples of cave sediments, making you feel like you are entering a whole new world.

Be careful where you walk though, as the caves are home to a number of different creatures, bats being among them. And then end your day by taking a dip in one of the many pools, such as the Garden of Eden.

To get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life, take a drive to Pentai Cenang in Langkawi. This is Malaysia’s most developed west-coast beach and it has a mixture of stunning, crystal-blue water and tall swaying palm trees filled with coconuts.

Bathers can take advantage of jet skies, canoeing, sailing or diving.

When the sun goes down, the street lights come on and you can explore the many markets, restaurants and bars.

For the adventurous type, head to Sunway Lagoon Theme Park.

This park is divided into three sections: the Wild Wild West, World of Adventure and Water of Africa. This park is suitable for all ages and is a great way to spend a day with your family. There is also a massive shopping mall right next to it. - The Mercury

* Thai Airways is running a special on travel to Thailand and Asia Pacific destinations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, China, Indochina, Australia and New Zealand until September 30.