From the bustling streets of Hong Kong to laid-back ancient temples in Myanmar, Asia is a place where adventure is ripe for the picking at every corner.

First-time travelers can get easily overwhelmed by the thought of exploring this massively diverse region.

Fortunately, there are a lot of destinations that are perfect for the uninitiated while others just need more preparation & planning.

Get inspired to start your adventure in Asia with this list of the best countries to visit.

1. Hong Kong

Skyline viewed from The Peak – Sky Terrace 428 in Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

Why go — A gawk-worthy modern skyline and exciting urban attractions are the top reasons that got me on a plane to Hong Kong on my first trip abroad. It is so easy to plan an itinerary and travel here with so much travel information available online and popularity among other first-time international travelers.

 How to go

Most travelers arrive at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), which is well-connected by plane from all major cities across the globe. Frequent ferry services link Hong Kong to Macau (1 hour) and cities along the Pearl River Delta. By land, roadways, and trains connect Hong Kong to Mainland China via Guangdong & Guangzhou.

From the Philippines, frequent daily flights connect Manila to Hong Kong (2 hours). You may also fly from Cebu, Iloilo, Clark & Kalibo. Direct flights are operated by Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Cathay Pacific & TigerAir.

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2. Thailand

Wat Arun (temple) lit up at dusk along Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand. Click here to see more on Instagram.

Why go — Growing up in a place heavily influenced by Western culture, the exotic appeal of Thailand was irresistible on my first solo trip abroad. With so many places catered to budget travelers, it’s easy to travel cheaply around fascinating destinations in the country while enjoying the bliss that is Thai food.

 How to go

Bangkok is the primary international and domestic gateway to Thailand. Travelers either arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport located on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok and Don Mueang International Airport in the north.

Direct international flights also available in provincial tourist hotspots including Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Samui, Krabi & Pattaya. Alternatively, cross-border services are popular among travelers headed from Cambodia, Vietnam (via Cambodia), Laos & Malaysia.

From the Philippines, fly from Manila to Bangkok (3 hours and 30 minutes) or Phuket (4 hours) on Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific or Thai Airways. You may also go on a connecting flight via Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Another option is to arrive in Ho Chi Minh, Siem Reap, or Kuala Lumpur and continue your journey to Thailand by land or air.

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3. Cambodia

View of Angkor Wat (temple) from the lotus-filled reflecting pond, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Click here to see more on Instagram.

Why go — If you’re in-love with the idea of exploring ancient temple ruins, then Siem Reap, Cambodia has Southeast Asia’s grandest archaeological site (in my opinion, at least). Plus, locals are very friendly and most of them speak good English, which makes traveling around the country easy.

 How to go

The majority of temple-bound travelers arrive in Siem Reap, the main gateway to the ancient temples of Angkor, and less popularly in the capital, Phnom Penh. The country sits right in the middle of the Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam Indochina banana pancake trail making cross-border land travel very easy.

From the Philippines, Cebu Pacific operates weekly direct flights from Manila to Siem Reap (3 hours travel time). Alternatively, you can book a connecting flight via Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Or, travel by land/air from Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh to Cambodia.

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4. India

Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Why go — There’s no place on earth like India. This country is home to the world’s most spectacular architecture and colorful mix of cultures. It is like a continent of its own. Each place offers unique experiences catered to different types of travelers. Once you’ve arrived and fallen in love with India, you’ll want to keep coming back for more.

How to go

Arriving by air is the best way to get to India. Delhi and Kolkata airports are the primary flight hubs in north India. You can fly to Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore or Chennai if you’re bound for south India. Major airlines in the country include Air India, SpiceJet, Jet Airways, IndiGo, GoAir, AirAsia & Vistara.

From the Philippines, catch a connecting flight in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok or Hong Kong since there are no direct flights between Manila and Indian airports. Excluding time spent on transits, travel time from the Philippines to India should take 6–8 hours via Bangkok or 8–10 hours via Singapore/Kuala Lumpur.

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5. Vietnam

Mua Caves Viewpoint in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Why go — 1 US Dollar = 22,000+ Vietnamese Dong (as of the time of writing). To be a millionaire in Vietnam, you only need to have USD44 or PHP2100+! Try checking your ATM balance to get a good shock from all the digits. Purchasing power considered, your money still goes a long way in Vietnam. The country is also a great starting point to traverse the (Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand) Indochina trail.

 How to go

Travelers either arrive at Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in South Vietnam or Hanoi in North Vietnam. Da Nang in Central Vietnam is also a good option as it caters to a growing number of direct international flights. Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi are well-connected by flight (2 hours) as well as by train (33 hours with no stops), and overnight buses.

From the Philippines, fly directly to Ho Chi Minh from Manila on Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. Cebu Pacific also operates a direct route from Manila to Hanoi. You can also consider taking a connecting flight via Singapore, Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur.

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6. Singapore

Marina Bay Sands Sky Park in Singapore. Click here to see more on Instagram.

Why go — Arguably the easiest destination to travel in Southeast Asia, Singapore is perfect for beginners, especially those traveling with family. This ultra-modern city-state is a worthwhile jump-off point to more “exotic” places in Southeast Asia. And, a fitting last stop to indulge in urban comforts before the journey home.

 How to go

Singapore’s primary gateway is Changi International Airport, which is well-connected by air from nearly all corners of the globe especially major cities in Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Middle East and Australia. Land border crossings are also popular to/from Malaysia via Johor Bahru.

From the Philippines, travel time from Manila by flight takes around takes around 3 hours and 40 minutes. This route is served by Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Singapore Airlines, Jetstar Airways and Tigerair. Direct flights are also available from several provincial cities including Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo & Clark.

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7. Malaysia

Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Why go — Lying between Singapore and Thailand, literally and on the scale of how easy it is to travel, Malaysia is a great choice if you plan on visiting adventure-filled places but still want to travel with relative ease. It’s also hard not to miss it if you’re flying with AirAsia.

 How to go

Kuala Lumpur is the main gateway to Peninsular Malaysia while Kota Kinabalu serves East Malaysia. It’s also possible to fly directly to several international airports across the country including Penang, Melaka, Johor Bahru-Senai, Subang & Kuching.

Direct land and ferry connections are available from Singapore (via Johor Bahru), Indonesia (Kalimantan-East Malaysia) & Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan-Sabah).

From the Philippines, from Manila fly to Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Malaysia Airlines. Travel time takes nearly 4 hours. Direct flights to KL are also available from Clark, Cebu & Kalibo. East Malaysia bound travelers can take a direct flight from Manila to Kota Kinabalu (2 hours).

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8. Indonesia

Kelingking Beach in Nusa Penida Island, Klungklung, Bali, Indonesia. Click here to see more on Instagram.

Why go — Even thinking about adventures to be had in over 18,307 islands already makes me want to go aboard the next flight to Indonesia. You can skip “eat” and “pray,” and go straight to “love” in Bali. If you’re tired of beaches, there are ancient temples, volcanoes, waterfalls, and nature parks waiting for you in 18,306 more islands.

 How to go

Bali and Jakarta are the best entry points to Indonesia for most travelers as flights are aplenty. It’s also possible to fly direct to Medan, Surabaya or Yogyakarta from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

From the Philippines, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines operate direct flights to Jakarta and Bali. Travel time to both destinations should take around 4 hours. You might also be able to chance upon good deals by transiting through Singapore and Kuala Lumpur instead.

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9. Nepal

Sunrise view of the Annapurna Mountains from Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal

Why go — Nepal is the ultimate destination for mountain lovers. The Nepali Himalayas is the roof of the World, home to Mount Everest — the highest peak on earth. Travelers who venture to this country soon discover a lot more sights and experiences that are worth the long journey from home.

 How to go

Kathmandu International Airport is the primary gateway to Nepal. You can fly directly from major airports in South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia or the Middle East. Direct flights from other regions are very limited. The airport’s busiest destinations include Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi & Dubai.

From the Philippines, transit at Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong since there are no direct flights from Manila to Kathmandu. Excluding time spent on transits, travel time from the Philippines to Nepal should take around 7 hours via Bangkok.

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10. Myanmar

Sunset at Shwedagon Paya (Pagoda) in Central Yangon, Myanmar

Why go — If you’re already flirting with the idea of going on off-the-beaten-track adventures in Myanmar, go there now before tourism in the country grows too mainstream. Traveling in Myanmar is not the easiest in this list but there are already a lot of helpful information and itineraries available online.

 How to go

Yangon is the primary flight hub in Myanmar though Mandalay is also a viable option, especially if you’re planning to visit the ancient temples in North Central Myanmar. Consider a trip long enough to fly in Yangon, enjoy a stop over at Bagan, and fly out from Mandalay (or vice-versa).

From the Philippines, the best way to get to Myanmar is taking a transit flight via Bangkok, Singapore, or Kuala Lumpur since flights to the country are quite limited. You can fly on AirAsia the whole way or separate airlines on each leg.

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11. Philippines

El Nido in Palawan, Philippines. Click here to see more on Instagram.

Why go — If you’re planning to skip the Philippines entirely, then you’re missing out on a lot! The country has some of the best beaches in Asia and a lot of cultural encounters to offer. Bias aside, one of the best things I love about traveling in the Philippines is how easy it is to have interactions with locals. Getting around isn’t much of a problem since most Filipinos can understand English and are generally friendly. Breaking down the language barrier makes travel more fun in the Philippines.

How to go

Manila is the main flight hub in the Philippines. Manila-NAIA International Airport serves direct flights from major cities in Southeast Asia, East Asia, Middle East, Australia & North America West Coast as well as limited connections from Europe. An excellent alternative is to fly directly from Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan or Malaysia to international airports in Cebu, Clark, Iloilo, Kalibo & Davao.

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Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

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