Top 10 Reasons to Visit Southeast Asia


People often ask me about my favorite destinations.  For people photography, the countries of Southeast Asia are among my favorites. I have traveled around Southeast Asia numerous times in the last few years and each time I find more to photograph.  What attracts me?


1. People


If, like me, you want to photograph interesting people in their natural environment then the countries of Southeast Asia will be a photo rich environment for you.  With many different cultures, occupations and styles of dress, there is an endless supply of interesting people, from religious people like priests and monks, to everyday people like merchants and farmers.  And most are very willing to let you take their photo.


2. Intensity


The culture shock that you experience in parts of Southeast Asia propels you into a heightened sense of awareness.  You notice things you wouldn’t see in more relaxed environment.  And, if you’re there to take pictures, this helps your photography.  You don’t just observe these countries, you experience them.


3. History


Southeast Asia has a long history and many of its historical sites are still standing.  Every country has temples, pagodas, palaces and forts and you are able to visit and photograph most of them. Ankor Wat in Cambodia, the Grand Palace in Thailand and the temple city of Luang Prabang in Laos are but a few examples.


4. Festivals


It seems like there’s always a festival taking place somewhere in Southeast Asia.  Asian people are honored by foreign guests and always welcome you whenever an event is taking place.  These are great opportunities for photography because many people are dressed in their traditional best and many traditional ceremonies are taking place.


5. Markets


Markets in Southeast Asia have a life of their own and are very photogenic.  Some are small areas where vendors come to sell their crops.  Others are large areas where everything under the sun is sold.  Some are in crowded alleys.  Others require a boat to reach them.  One is even located on the train tracks.  While the market locations and their colorful merchandise will catch your eye, it is the interaction of the people, the vendors and their customers, that create the biggest appeal for photographers. 


6. Streets and Roads


The main roads in Southeast Asia are often crowded and vehicles are often loaded to the hilt.  The smaller streets are clogged with other form of transportation from pedestrians and bicycles to rickshaws and tuk tuks.  In the countryside, many forms of animal drawn carts are in the street too.  Southeast Asia has found a way to make organized chaos work and provide endless photo opportunities at the same time.


7. Rivers


The rivers in Southeast Asia offer many photo ops for they are used for many different things.  Every type of boat imaginable plies the rivers moving goods and people from one place to another.  But the rivers are used for fishing too with a variety of nets and traps.  Clothes are washed and people bathe here too.  A visit to a port or riverside dock of any kind is always a fascinating experience.


8. Diverse Cultures


Southeast Asia has many different ethnic minorities with their own unique dress and customs.  Minority villages and homes are accessible to photographers if you have a guide that speaks their language.  These villages offer an endless supply of photo ops as you observe their daily routines.


9. Monks and Nuns


The Buddhist monks and nuns living in the monasteries are usually willing to pose for pictures.  They also venture out to collect alms and make great models in their colorful robes.


10. Helping People In Need


Tourism naturally helps the economy but photo tourism tends to help ordinary citizens more.  When I take pictures in a village or school, I am usually providing them with something they need in return.  It’s a great feeling to help people that truly need it.


May your travel and your photography both be rewarding!


      Roger Nelson