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June 23, 2018

South East Asia offers a never ending choice of options of places to visit and fall in love with. From cosmopolitan cities to small ethnic villages, rice paddies to beaches, the region is teeming with must-see places. It’s no wonder that many of its landmarks were featured in popular films. Thanks to movies, these spots in particular have enjoyed a boost in tourism in recent years. 

For a movie-themed tour of South East Asia, consider including these places in your itinerary.

Bali, Indonesia 

Bali’s beautiful beaches, mystical temples, and ethereal rice paddies have made it a popular tourist destination. But it was the film Eat, Pray, Love, starring Julia Roberts, that gave the place a massive boost in tourism, inspiring many to visit Bali to seek their own sunshine and spirituality (and maybe a Brazilian hunk to boot). The town of Ubud in particular is where people flock to for achieving their wellness goals. Even with the area's popularity, The Week assures prospective visitors that Bali’s charm has not been lost on the surge of tourists.

For more on Bali read "Bali It's Been a long time between drinks"

Maya Bay, Thailand 

Maya Bay The Beach Phi Phi Islands ThailandThailand has an almost infinite number of picturesque beaches, with one of its small coves on Koh Phi Phi Leh made world famous by Danny Boyle’s The Beach. The film features the quest of one man to find the perfect, untouched beach — something that all of us travellers are bound to relate to. Maya Bay boasts pristine shores, white sands, colourful corals, and exotic fish. It is sheltered by 100-meter high cliffs on either side. However, due to too many tourists, the area’s marine environment has been under threat. Heartbreaking news is that Maya Bay has been temporarily closed down in order for its coral reef to recover. Before its closure, Maya Bay received an average of 5,000 visitors a day.

Banaue Rice Terraces, Philippines

Banaue Rice Terraces Phillipines

Image Credit: Wikipedia

It turns out that one of the biggest films of this year was filmed at one of the Philippines’ iconic tourist spots. In a key scene in Avengers: Infinity War, viewers will see Thanos overlooking the Banaue Rice Terraces. The film location was confirmed by Indochina Productions, a Bangkok-based production firm. Known as the Eighth Wonder of the World, these irrigated rice terraces in the mountains of North Central Luzon, Philppines, existed for over 2,000 years and were created by the ancient Ifugaos. To this day, the locals use the system of irrigated terraces to plant rice and vegetables. 

In 1995 various sections of the terraces were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, described as “a living cultural landscape of unparalleled beauty.”

Son Doong Cave, Vietnam

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Vietnam was heavily featured in Kong: Skull Island, and one of its film locations was set in Son Doong Cave. The largest known cave in the world, its limestone mountains are believed to be over 2 to 5 million years old. In fact, it is so huge that the cave reaches close to the Laos-Vietnam border. Here, visitors can go kayaking, trekking, or swimming. The place is also filled with butterflies come March, April, and May.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts travelled through Thailand, Cambodia and onto Vietnam looking for locations, but when they finally landed in Vietnam, the landscapes and rawness of the country won Vogt-Roberts over: “It was something that I just felt didn’t exist in any other place that we traveled." 

“It became my mission to put this country on screen and to let the world know how spectacular it is." credit www.travelandleisure.com

Angkor Wat, Cambodia 

2001’s Tomb Raider saw Lara Croft exploring an intricate temple in Angkor Wat. Ta Prohm, as it is called, is now one of the complex’s most popular temples, thanks to the movie.  As a tribute, many bars in Siem Reap offer the Tomb Raider cocktail, which is a blend of soda, lime, and Cointreau. 

When Angkor was rediscovered in the early 20th century by French archaeologists, all of the temples had become overgrown–but none so spectacularly as Ta Prohm. The twists and turns and dramatic shapes of the ancient trees have become as much a must-photograph site as the temple itself.

Of course, the Tomb Raider franchise itself has paid homage to many historical sites, such as Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza, and Queen Himiko’s tomb in Japan. It’s all about the adventures of an explorer, after all. Evident in its many forms is how Tomb Raider owes a lot to the temples, tombs, treasures, and other artefacts that the franchise features. Slingo’s Tomb Raider digital slot game is one great example of how the popular franchise puts ancient relics in the foreground of all its marketing efforts. As one can see from the gameplay, images of artefacts, tomb entrances, and treasures are prominently featured.

Angkor Wat was fortunate enough to experience the Tomb Raider effect, where it saw an increase in tourism after the movie was released. As a result of the movie and her affection for Cambodia, Angeline Jolie is credited by many in Cambodia for opening up this remarkable country to the world. For more information about Angkor Wat, check out Temples and Markets’ detailed blog post of its temples.


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