Five Good National Parks in Southeast Asia

phnom-kulenVacationing in Southeast Asia is about more than the cities, the museums and the food. Indeed, no vacation to the region is complete without a trip to a few of the region’s many pristine national parks. One of the first parks on the list of important national parks is Kinabalu National Park in Malaysia. Located on the island of Borneo, Kinabalu Park is dominated by Mount Kinabalu, a popular destination for mountain climbers and hikers.

The park is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites for its unique ecology and natural beauty. This includes a variety of orchids and carnivorous plants. The park spans four climate zones. It’s possible to arrange for a guide through the park administration but whether you’re seeking a guided climb up the mountain or simply a leisurely hike through the grounds of the park, it’s a beautiful natural landscape that attracts thousands of tourists each year.

Another important national park is Phnom Kulen National Park in Cambodia. The site is of national and religious importance in the region and has played a role in everything from the founding of the Khmer Empire in 802 AD to the end of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The water is sacred to Hindus and underneath the water are hundreds of ornate stone carvings depicting Hindu religious scenes. The site is also notable for its two waterfalls and an eight-meter long Buddha statue.

Gunung Mulu National Park in Indonesia is important not because of its history but because of its caves. The park is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the largest cavern in the world. Many of the caves are uncharted and the aforementioned largest chamber in the world (named the Sarawak Chamber) was only discovered in 1981. Today, the park can be reached by helicopter and there are a variety of ecotourism activities on offer for visitors.

Ba Be National Park in Vietnam is also home to a cave but the focus of this park is more on its freshwater lake. Surrounded by forests and limestone cliffs, Ba Be Lake is home to a variety of wildlife including King Cobras and European Otters. It’s visually arresting and its biodiversity makes it the perfect place for ecotourist activities such as hiking, bird watching and boating.

Khao Sok National Park is the final park on my list. Located in Thailand, Khao Sok is notable as a rainforest with more biodiversity than the Amazon. The park also includes a reservoir and is known for a variety of flowers and animal life that make it an important ecological preserve. Perfect for hiking and photography, the Khao Sok Park sounds somewhat more tame than the other parks on the list but with water, forests and wildlife, it’s a good place to get away form the urban bustle of modern Thailand. Indeed, these parks are all great getaways from the modern economies and urban centers that often define Southeast Asian tourism today. Hiking may be much simpler than touring a modern city but it’s equally enjoyable and important in an Asian vacation.

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