The Best Spots to Watch the Sunset in Southeast Asia
There’s something primal and ageless in seeing the sun rise or set. It’s one of the few connecting tissues that crosses all barriers – time, class, age, race, location. For as long as we’ve been here, humans have been staring at that huge ball of fire in the sky and going “Whoa.”
Don’t get us wrong – watching the sun rise is pretty awesome too, but if you’re anything like us, you’ve seen plenty more sunsets in your life than you have sunrises. With that in mind, here are a few of our favorite spots to kick back and watch day become night.
Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia
Yes, it’s overloaded with tourists, but they come for a reason – Kuta is a truly spectacular beach that just happens to face directly west. Come sunset, that ball o’ fire in the sky starts to dip toward the horizon, and if the conditions are just right, your entire field of view gets lit up as if the sunset is actually happening inside your eyes. Great photo ops too, especially the ol’ ‘silhouetted-people-walking-on-the-beach’ kind.
Did you know that in 1286 Kublai Khan – Genghis’ grandson – sent his Mongol forces into Myanmar and defeated the Bagan army? Perhaps they came for the sunsets. A few centuries later, the thousands of temples that remain scattered across the barren, grassy plain make for a superb backdrop as the sun drops behind the Arakan Mountain range, with each successive ‘layer’ of temples and hills fading into shadow the further away they get. Truly an amazing sight.
Ko Lanta, Thailand
Because most of Lanta’s best beaches are on the west side of the island, almost any place with a view gives you a superb sunset. Our favorite is the rocky outcropping at the northern end of Kantiang Bay, where you can stand on a cliff overlooking the ocean and watch as the sun turns the sky from blue to purple to orange to red. It also helps that there’s a bar right there. You know, for soda and juice and healthy thinks like that.
Vang Vieng, Laos
This popular backpacker town used to be like the Las Vegas of Laos, but after a social order crackdown, things have calmed down a bit. If you’re able to head up into the hills to the east of town, you’ll be rewarded with a superb view across houses and temples, over the Nam Xong River, and into to the Luang Prabang mountain range as the sun dips behind the limestone peaks. Just make sure you bring a flashlight for the trip back home.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Let’s be honest – this stunning, massive temple complex would be amazing even if you had to explore it by touch alone. But standing on top of a centuries-old temple looking across a thick jungle canopy to the setting sun is a pretty spectacular way to experience the end of the day. The bad news is that everyone knows it’s awesome and lines up with cameras ready. The good news is that Smiling Albino knows a few secret spots that the masses don’t…
Ngwe Saung Beach, Myanmar
It’s hard to find an awesome beach with a great sunset that allows you a people-free picture (see Bali, above), but when you do, oh mannnnn, it’s great. Whenever SA heads to Myanmar, we try to make it to Ngwe Saung Beach, which is in the southwest corner of the country. Only recently opened to tourism after decades of isolation, this part of the country has almost no development, thus, no buildings or huge crowds to cramp your style as you watch the sun set.
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
The endless, rolling tea plantations of Malaysia’s central highlands are a stunning place to watch the end of the day. If you manage to get to a place where there’s no traffic (which is fairly easy up here) you can enjoy the event in almost total silence as the light filters through clouds and casts mountain shadows across the tea leaves in striking, changing patterns.
Plan For the Perfect Sunset
Have someone on the ground plan the perfect trip and help with knowledge of the best spot and best time to watch the sunset. Contact Smiling Albino email@example.com.
Check out our upcoming Myanmar tour “Asia’s Golden Land” with founder and Adventurer-in-Chief Dan Fraser this November 2014.