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Asia’s “up and coming” destinations

Asia is a region of tremendous variety, with opportunities to explore bustling cities, ancient cultures and natural beauty; including places just beginning to open up to Western tourism.For Americans who have a trip to Asia on their wish list, Travel Leaders Group polled 1,226 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and front line agents on their up-and-coming destinations for the region as part of its annual Travel Trends survey. Vietnam (27.5 percent of those polled) is at the top of the list, as it was in 2014. Next is Thailand (22.8 percent), followed by Burma/Myanmar (11.2 percent), Maldives (9.3 percent), Cambodia (5.2 percent) and Philippines (5.2 percent).Vietnam is a growing draw for tourists, including Americans. While facilities can be basic in rural areas, they are increasingly well-established in cities, as well as resort areas such as Nha Trang, known for its beaches and scuba diving. Visitors to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, can walk along elegant boulevards and get a glimpse of Vietnamís French colonial past.Thailand unveiled a campaign for 2015 called ìDiscover Thainess.î Festivals are planned highlighting different aspects of Thai culture, focused on music, martial arts, food and fashion ó all designed to give visitors a deeper understanding of the country and its people.After a long period of isolation, Burma (today known as Myanmar) is starting to encourage visitors. Travelers will likely start their trip in Yangon (Rangoon), the capital. The magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda that dominates the skyline is a must-see. For a look at old Myanmar, take the road to Mandalay, the countryís cultural capital, where ancient traditions of music, art, dance and drama live on.With a sunny climate, white-sand beaches, turquoise reefs and deep blue water, the Maldives is a great spot for a vacation that combines relaxation and outdoor activities. Located in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is home to more than a thousand species of fish and other underwater creatures, with opportunities for diving, surfing and swimming.Cambodia today is a stable constitutional monarchy that has put out the welcome mat. In the capital, Phnom Penh, visitors can stroll along a river front lined with pubs, restaurants and boutiques. But it is the countryís Angkor Archaeological Park in the north that is the top draw. The park contains magnificent ruins of the Khmer empire, including the Angkor Wat temple complex. Annual celebrations include the Khmer New Year in April and the Water Festival in November.The Philippines highlights an array of events for every taste in 2015. In April, the Flavors of the Philippines Festival coincided with a gathering of some of the worldís greatest chefs for Madrid Fusion Manila. Also that month was the Aliwan Fiesta, bringing together representatives of many of the countryís colorful festivals for a three-day party. And the small island of Boracay, an increasingly popular destination, hosts an annual International Dragon Boat Festival.

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