Riverside, Hoi An, Vietnam

The Most Popular Places of 2017 on Grantourismo – From Siem Reap to the Isaan

Our 10 Most Popular Places of 2017 on Grantourismo included the Southeast Asian destinations we love and frequently cover – Cambodia’s main cities and towns, Thailand’s capital and most off the beaten track region, Vietnam’s key destinations, and lovely Luang Prabang in Laos.

As 2017 came to a close, we took some time to reflect on the year that was on Grantourismo, looking at what brought you to our site, what you searched for, and where you spent most of your time.

After the recipe posts, you browsed our travel pages, reading our stories, guides, itineraries, and tips on dozens of countries, regions (Isaan in Thailand), cities, towns, islands (Phuket was popular), and even a river (the mighty Mekong).

Of the 65 destinations that we have covered in depth on Grantourismo – and that number will increase significantly in 2018 – you spent most of your time in 2017 on the ten places below. The next ten destinations were also interesting.

While we expected to see you here poking around our posts on Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, places we live in, have lived in or have thoroughly travelled, we were pleased to see you reading posts on our favourite European cities, Venice and Barcelona, and pleasantly surprised to see Kotor in Montenegro and Alberobello in Puglia placing so high.

So here are our 10 most popular places of 2017 on Grantourismo. We can’t wait to see what you read – and where you go – in 2018. Happy new year!

10 Most Popular Places of 2017 on Grantourismo

1. Siem Reap, Cambodia

You spent most of your time on Grantourismo browsing our stories on Siem Reap, the launching pad for exploring UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Wat and Angkor Archaeological Park, and also our home. Considering a trip to Siem Reap? Start with our guide to the best boutique hotels and our One Day in Siem Reap itinerary, covering sunrise at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap’s best breakfasts, liveliest markets, most authentic Cambodian meals, best bars, and the wonderful Phare Cambodian Circus (no animals, just incredibly talented performers). For a deeper experience of the temples, see our Insider’s Guide to Angkor Wat and Angkor Archaeological Park, an archaeologist’s guide to Angkor Archaeological Park, and tips to how to get more out of your visit to Angkor Archaeological Park. Also check out our Guide to Things to Do in Siem Reap, Siem Reap for Families Guide, our Siem Reap Angkor Wat FAQs and, if visiting in monsoon, our ideas for Things to Do in Siem Reap When it Rains. (If you are visiting, don’t forget that I also craft bespoke itineraries and we host Cambodia Culinary Tours and Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreats in Siem Reap.)

2. Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is Asia’s, and indeed, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, so it was probably no surprise that it was the second most popular place visited on our site. It was also our home for some time so we have an abundance of stories, guides and itineraries on the site. Planning a visit? Start with our guide to Bangkok hotels for foodies. See our 48 hours in Bangkok itinerary. Get a taste of the best Thai street food dishes. Learn where to eat on Yaowarat Road, Chinatown. Find out why you need to sign up for Bangkok Food Tours’ walk through Bangrak. Discover where David Thompson eats in Bangkok and read Chef Ton of Le Du’s guide to eating and drinking in Bangkok. And note down Bangkok’s best parks and gardens for when you need a walk to work up your appetite again. (If you are considering a trip, I’m also hosting a small group culinary adventure in Thailand this year.)

3. Phnom Penh, Cambodia

It was great to see searches for Phnom Penh increase this year and I’m wondering if it’s a result of Emirates Airlines now offering direct flights to Cambodia’s capital. We moved there from Bangkok some years ago and while we ended up settling in Siem Reap, we still love ‘The Pearl of the East’ as Phnom Penh was called during its heyday in the Sixties and early Seventies, where it was famed for is modernist architecture and Cambodian rock’n’roll. Need trip inspiration? Begin with our guides to Where to Stay in Phnom Penh and Phnom Penh’s best boutique hotels. Follow our Weekend in Phnom Penh itinerary if you only have 48 hours. Consult our Phnom Penh shopping itinerary, this local guide to Phnom Penh lively bar scene, and, when you need to get out of the city (and you will), these Phnom Penh Day Trips.

4. Battambang, Cambodia

We have to admit that we were gobsmacked that so many of you landed on the site looking for stories on Battambang but we were thrilled to bits that it’s increasingly on travellers’ radar. We have asoft spot for lovely Battambang, Cambodia’s second largest city, which feels more like a big country town. Located in a fertile agricultural area, Battambang is home to some of Cambodia’s most delicious food and street snacks. Considering a visit? See our guides to where to stay in Battambang, the best eating and drinking, things to do in Battambang, and the arts and architecture in Battambang. Unfortunately Battambang’s beloved Bamboo Train ceased operating in October 2017, as a new railway service will run on that line. A new purpose-built tourist-driven line has just opened near Wat Banan to replace it. (By the way, our Cambodia Culinary Tours and Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreats include a three-day foodie adventure in Battambang.)

5. Hanoi, Vietnam

Home to an atmospheric old quarter and fantastic street food, Hanoi is our favourite city in Vietnam so we were pleased to see that you like it, too. Haven’t been yet? Maybe these beautiful lakeside luxury hotels and lodgings with lake views will inspire a Hanoi trip. Then, take a look at our Weekend in Hanoi itinerary, which is guaranteed to show you a great time, especially when combined with our guides to Hanoi Bia Hoithe Hanoi art scene, Vietnamese street food specialties, and this glimpse into lively Tong Duy Tan AKA ‘Food Street’. Hanoi is a brilliant launching pad for excursions to Sapa (find out why you need to get to Sapa now and where you should stay) and Halong Bay (see our guide to Halong Bay cruise boats and how to choose the right Halong Bay cruise boat). (By the way, I will be hosting another Vietnam food tour in 2018; dates coming soon.)

6. Bali, Indonesia

You spent a lot of time browsing our stories on Indonesia’s Hindu island of Bali, too. Considering a Bali holiday in 2018? See our suggestions for stylish Seminyak stays and our eating and drinking guide. For laidback Canggu, chef Geoff Lindsay, who owns one of our favourite Canggu spots, Salumeria Tanah Barak a Spuntini and Campari Bar has shared a delicious local guide to eating and drinking in Canggu. If you’re eager to get even more off the beaten track, take a peek at the serene villa we stayed at in the village of Tumbak Bayuh. Don’t miss the sea temple of Tanah Lot and if you’re an experiential traveller, you’ll want to get to Ubud, where you can learn everything from playing the gamelan (as Terence did) to learning how to make offerings (as I did). Follow our One Day in Ubud Itinerary and you’ll have an enriching time.

7. Hoi An, Vietnam

Charming Hoi An, pictured above, on the Central Vietnam coast seemed to enchant many of you as much as it does us. The riverside town has a cosmopolitan trading history that has resulted in distinctive culinary specialties such as Hoi An’s legendary dish, cao lau, these wonderful turmeric tinted noodles mì Quảng and this celebrated chili sauce. See this itinerary for two delicious days and nights in Hoi An and this self-guided Hoi An street food tour and see if they don’t make you want to set some dates. Lara takes participants to UNESCO-World Heritage-listed Hoi An on her epic Vietnam food adventure, where you’ll learn how to make these fresh pho noodles from scratch and sample this delicious banh mi and banh mi op pla. If you need further inspiration see these luxurious Central Vietnam stays.

8. Saigon, Vietnam

You seem to love Saigon (officially called Ho Chi Minh City) as much as we do. Vietnam’s southern city is a compelling destination famed for its fantastic street food, restaurants and bars, local markets, leafy parks, and impressive sights – from French-colonial architectural gems to fascinating museums. Inspired? See our picks of the best Ho Chi Minh City boutique hotels,  our 48 hours in Ho Chi Minh City itinerary, which will give you a taste of this rapidly evolving metropolis, and prepare yourself for the feasting ahead with our guide to the must-try Vietnamese street food dishes. Tantalised? Why not join us on our next Vietnam culinary tour?

9. Luang Prabang, Laos

We’ve been smitten with languid Luang Prabang, Laos,  since our first visit six years ago. Towering palms and shady streets dotted with gilded Buddhist pagodas and grand French colonial mansions make this one of Southeast Asia’s most spellbinding destinations. Persuaded? See our story on our temple tour to gawk at the glittering temples and tips to participating respectfully in the early morning alms-giving procession. Food lovers can learn about Laos cuisine on a market walk and cooking class with Joy Ngeuamboupha of Tamarind restaurant and seek out Luang Prabang’s best khao soi place.  Don’t miss a visit to the lovely Ock Pop Tock Weaving Centre on the banks of the Mekong River.

10. Isaan, Thailand

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Thailand’s most off the beaten track region, the north-eastern Isaan was one of the most popular places of 2017 on Grantourismo. Once part of Cambodia’s Khmer Empire, the Isaan is home to spectacular temple ruins, including Prasat Phanom Rung and Prasat Muang Tam, a two-hour drive east of Nakhon Ratchasima, more commonly known as Korat, and Prasat Hin Phimai, 60km north of the city. With views of bucolic countryside – especially on the backroads to Loie – and fascinating stops such as the silk weaving village of Chonnabot and Dan Sai, famous for its mask-making for Phi Ta Kon, a boisterous three-day rainmaking festival, the region is made for road tripping. Isaan is also home to lively university cities, such as Khon Kaen, with fantastic food marketsfiery cuisine and delicious dishes like som tam and gai yang Isaan (chicken and salad, essentially).

We’d love to know if any of the most popular places of 2017 are on your 2018 travel lists. Where are you planning to go this year?

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