For over a half-century, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has worked toward regional cooperation in a variety of sectors, including tourism.
To that end, each year tourism officials gather for the Asean Tourism Forum to discuss ways for countries to market cooperatively and for travelers to experience the region.
At the 21st Asean Tourism Forum, held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in January, officials discussed their individual marketing campaigns as well as new initiatives aimed at encouraging travelers to include more than one Asean country on their vacations.
Ahead of the forum, the Tourism Authority of Thailand published "Experience Thailand and More." The 258-page guide outlines four multicountry routes that showcase aspects of Southeast Asian tourism.
The guide lists length and distance for each itinerary and includes a "physical rating" from 1 to 5, from least to most strenuous. It also includes suggestions for restaurants and accommodations.
• Route 1, A Journey of Asean Ancient Kingdoms: For this six-night, 640-mile journey, travelers would visit Chiang Rai, Lamphun and Chiang Mai in Thailand before heading to Mandalay and Bagan in Myanmar. In Thailand, travelers would visit temples and other sites dating to the Hariphunchai Kingdom, which spanned the eighth to 13th centuries, as well as the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple complex in Chiang Mai, dating to the 14th century.
• Route 2, Asean Peranakan and Nature Trail: This five-night route, spanning about 450 miles, seeks to acquaint travelers with the culture of Chinese descendants whose ancestors settled throughout Southeast Asia. Starting in Phuket, the route continues through Thailand, stopping in Krabi, Trang and Satun, before heading to Malaysia to visit Langkawi Island and Penang. Highlights include a visit to northern Krabi's Baan Laem Sak, a village where architecture reflects Portuguese and Chinese roots.
• Route 3, Mekong Active Adventure Trail: This six-night, 540-mile trail begins in northeastern Thailand's Buriram province, where the guide suggests getting an introduction to muay thai kickboxing at the Buriram Be Boxing training center. The fifth day takes travelers to Champasak, Laos' southernmost province, home to Khone Phapheng Falls, "the Niagara of Asia."
Clarke Quay is recommended for chili crab and other signature Singaporean dishes. Photo Credit: TW photo by Eric Moya
• Route 4, Asean World-Class Culinary and Heritage Cities: This five-night, 1,130-mile itinerary suggests gastronomic exploration from Bangkok to Singapore. After cooking classes and tuk-tuk tours in Bangkok, the route heads to Samut Songkhram, home to the Maeklong Railway Market and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. The final two days take in the ethnic neighborhoods and other culinary gems of Malaysia and Singapore. In Singapore, for instance, the guide suggests a visit to Clarke Quay for chili crab and other signature dishes.
The "Experience Thailand and More" guide and other Thailand guides are available at www.tourismthailand.org/tourism product. Next year's Asean Tourism Forum will be held in Ha Long, Vietnam. See www.atfvietnam2019.com/atf.