Southeast Asia is a real playground for adventurous eaters; from high-class hotel restaurants and power-lunch points to street-side stalls with local specialties, you'll find it all. The cuisine of each country is unique, and crossing borders often means a new course in manners, food, and culture. In this guide, we list the safest of options by and large, making sure to designate any dining that could be deemed "adventurous" -- but the adventurous in fact have lots of opportunities to try new foods, from oddities such as freshly killed snake to fried crickets and grubs. It's not all that funky, though, and much of the best local cuisine is not found in restaurants but in markets and street-side stalls, something that puts some people off. Our advice: Be adventurous. When eating in open-air joints, just be careful that things are cooked fresh and aren't sitting out, and be careful of raw ingredients such as vegetables or some fish pastes. If you find yourself playing charades to get your food, laughing, smiling, and squatting on a tiny plastic stool, talking to locals and eating a meal that costs pennies to the approving nods of your new friends, then you're in the right place. Wherever possible, ask locals what's good, and you'll be in store for a fun cultural adventure.
Try pho and the many regional specials throughout Vietnam; enjoy cover-the-table spreads in Thailand and Malaysia, where spices are fiery and a meal is always an event; and don't miss crispy duck or babi guling -- suckling pig -- in Bali. The choices are endless. The usual varieties of international fare can be found throughout the region -- in fact, every big city has its Chinese, Italian, sushi, and French. In parts of Indochina, Laos and Vietnam in particular, chefs carry on long traditions from colonial times, and the French cuisine is as good as you'll get anywhere. Chinese communities abound and, of course, so does good Chinese in its myriad forms -- from dim sum to Peking duck.
All but the fanciest restaurants are open early until late. Tipping is not expected but always appreciated, and just rounding up the bill to the next dollar amount is often more than enough.
For drinkers, there are few restrictive laws or cultural taboos -- in fact, drinking is a big part of most cultures in Southeast Asia. In Malaysia and much of Indonesia, however, Islamic rules do not permit the consumption of alcohol, but non-Muslim visitors are welcome to drink as long as they are respectful of their Muslim hosts. Local rice wines and whiskeys abound, and foreign guests are always invited. Sometimes the stuff is pretty potent -- toxic, even -- so be warned. European visitors left their mark on the region with brewing and distilling technologies, and each country produces its own local beers to go along with the many imports. Fresh fruit is falling off the trees in the tropical climes of Southeast Asia, so good fresh juices are available everywhere. Coffee is grown throughout the region, and though local roasting processes are a bit different, local brews are delicious. Tap water is not potable in most regions, but bottled water is available everywhere; and perhaps the best advice for travel in the region is to stay hydrated. If you're thirsty, then it's too late. Drink lots.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.