Where to Escape the Heat in Southeast Asia

Time to bring the temperature down a notch! The lower temperature is not the only reason why these places are cool.

1. Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar

Modelled after hill stations of British colonial time, the town that was also known as Maymyo once looked more like Darjeeling in India or even an English countryside than Myanmar. Today, the city with an altitude of 1,070 metres (3510 ft) above sea level is a bustling place with an abundance of fresh fruits and flowers, mainly for the enjoyment of well-to-do locals. The mercury drops under 10 °C (50 °F) in winter, freezing by tropical standards. Travellers come for the refreshing air, beautiful scenery, and what remains of the Old World charm.

Pyin Oo Lwin CC BY 2.0 Wunna Phyoe
Pyin Oo Lwin CC BY 2.0 Wunna Phyoe

How to get there: Mandalay → Pyin Oo Lwin (2 hours by bus)

2. Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa lies in Northern Vietnam near the Chinese border, making it a sensitive area to guard under the colonial government of olden times. It helped that it has a lovely view and with a mean annual temperature of 15.4 °C (59.7 °F), making it favourite summer getaway spot for wealthy businessmen and an ideal place to build a sanatorium for military personnel. Today, “the Tonkinese Alps” is still worth visiting for its rich culture of Hill Tribe minorities and breathtaking views of lush mountains and rice fields.

Sapa CC BY 2.0 Jorge Cancela
Sapa CC BY 2.0 Jorge Cancela

How to get there: Hanoi → Sapa (5-7 hours by bus OR 9-10 hours by train)

SEE ALSO: 7 Spots in Asia for Viewing the Sea of Clouds

3. Xam Neua, Laos

Xam Neua is one of the most remote places in Laos, and in order to reach it you have to go through a long and winding road to the mountains. There’s an understated sense of order in the capital city of Houaphan Province as it is considered as the birthplace of Lao PDR, but there aren’t many facilities geared toward foreign tourists. The real reason why travellers come to this quiet town tucked away in the northeast corner of the country is to use it as a jumping point for waterfalls and caves near Vieng Xai, Hintang Archaelogical Park, as well as other ecotourism sites in the province.

Xam Neua River CC BY 2.0 Prince Roy
Xam Neua River CC BY 2.0 Prince Roy

How to get there: Luang Prabang → Xam Neua (15-20 hours by bus)

4. Loei, Thailand

For a local experience in Thailand, look no further than Loei. The whole province in general has a cooler temperature compared to the rest of Thailand, which makes it downright enthralling for local Thai tourists who fancy spending their leisure time at the kitschy riverside town of Chiang Khan and relish the chance to wear their winter clothing at Phu Ruea National Park, said to be the coldest place in the country (Mt Phu Ruea is 1,365 m or 4,478 ft tall). Once a year, Loei goes all out for the Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival, the only time in the year you get to see a considerable number of foreigners stumbling about.

Kaeng Kood Koo - Chiang khan, Loei
Kaeng Kood Koo – Chiang Khan, Loei CC BY 2.0 Thanate Tan

How to get there: Loei is the gateway to the attractions around the province

SEE ALSO: A Dreamy Sunrise at the Phu Tok Sea of Clouds

5. Lake Sebu, Philippines

While Baguio is the go-to cool destination in Northern Philippines, Lake Sebu is dubbed the Summer Capital of the Southern Philippines. Situated on an elevation of approximately 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level, the temperature here rarely rises over the 25 °C (77 °F) mark. Aside from the eponymous lake and the legendary dreamweavers, there is also the famous Seven Falls which makes for a great location for the zipline, which claims to be the highest in Southeast Asia at roughly 300 metres above the ground.

Cool places in Southeast Asia. Philippines, Davao, Lake Sebu
Boating at Lake Sebu CC BY 2.0 I Travel Philippines

How to get there: Davao → General Santos (2 hours by bus); General Santos → Koronadal (1 hour by bus); Koronadal → Surallah (30 minutes by bus); Surallah → Lake Sebu (45 minutes by habal-habal)

SEE ALSO: How to Get to Lake Sebu from Davao

6. Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Among other spots that we have on the list, Cameron Highlands has to be the most convenient one to visit. Local tourists flock to the former British hill station to pick plump strawberries, shop for fresh produce, sip cups of hot brews, as well as scarf down piles of scones. If these things are not your cup of tea, there are enough hikes, places of worship and plant nurseries to keep you busy, all with the usual trappings of a modern tourism spot. There’s also Mt Batu Brinchang, the highest point in Malaysia accessible by car at 2,032 metres (6,667 ft) above sea level.

Tea plantation in Cameron Highlands CC BY-SA 2.0 rusticus80
Tea plantation in Cameron Highlands CC BY-SA 2.0 rusticus80

How to get there: Kuala Lumpur → Cameron Highlands (5 hours by bus)

7. Bokor Hill Station, Cambodia

Situated at 1,048 meters (3,438 ft) above sea level, Bokor Hill Station is blessed with stunning views of Kampot Town, the Sihanoukville coastline, the Gulf of Thailand, and an all-year-round cooling mountain climate ranging from 15 to 25 °C. The main pull of this former hill station built by the French colonialist, however, is the eerie charm courtesy of the abandoned ruins dotting the area.

Bokor Hill Station CC BY 2.0 Barry Rogge
Bokor Hill Station CC BY 2.0 Barry Rogge

How to get there: Phnom Penh → Kampot (3-5 hours by bus) → Bokor Hill Station (1.5 hours by private taxi/motorbike taxi)

8. Dieng Plateau, Indonesia

With scenes of misty hills, colourful lakes, volcanic craters, and 8th century Hindu temples, the caldera complex which sits at 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above sea level really lives up to its name (“Dieng” means “the Abode of Gods”). The plateau has an average annual temperature of 14 °C (57.2 °F) making it ideal for planting tea and mountain papaya (Carica pubescens), a must-buy when you’re in town.

Telaga Warna Dieng Plateau CC BY-SA 2.0 Jimmy McIntyre
Telaga Warna Dieng Plateau CC BY-SA 2.0 Jimmy McIntyre

How to get there: Semarang → Wonosobo (3.5 hours by bus) → Dieng (1.5 hours by minibus)

SEE ALSO: Top 5 Indonesian Mountains for BeginnersGETTING THERE AirAsia flies to Mandalay, Hanoi, Luang Prabang, Loei, Davao, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, and Semarang from various destinations. For flight info and lowest fares, visit airasia.com.

About the Author

Ari Vanuaranu

Albeit claiming to be a vegetarian, this self-professed culture vulture says that he’s willing to make an exception every time he is in an exotic place, as trying the local food is essential to widening a traveller’s horizon. But then each and every single place in the world outside of his hometown in Indonesia’s South Borneo counts as an ‘exotic place’...

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