Southeast Asia is a vast subregion of Asia, roughly described as geographically situated east of the Indian subcontinent, south of China, and northwest of Australia. The region is bounded by the Bay of Bengal in the west, the Indian Ocean in the south, the South China Sea in the center, and the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean in the east.
Regions in Southeast Asia
The area consists of two separate geographic regions. The northern portion is known as Mainland Southeast Asia, or Indochina, situated on the Indochinese peninsula; it comprises the countries of Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, West Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia), Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
The second region is known as the Malay Archipelago or Maritime Southeast Asia. It comprises the two huge archipelagos of Indonesia and the Philippines. East Malaysia (Sabah) and Brunei share the island of Borneo with Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the island. Also part of the Malay Archipelago is Singapore, the city-state just south of Peninsular Malaysia, and East Timor (Timor-Leste on the island of Timor).
There are more than 25,000 islands and islets in Southeast Asia. The largest islands in Southeast Asia are New Guinea, which is shared by Indonesia and Papua New Guinea; and Borneo, shared by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. Sumatra, Sulawesi, Java, Sumbawa, and Flores are the largest islands of Indonesia. Luzon and Mindanao are the largest islands of the Philippines. Other major Filipino islands are Negros, Samar, Palawan, Panay, and Mindoro.
MARITIME MEANS “CONNECTED WITH THE SEA,” and maritime Southeast Asia is a belt of thousands of islands strung out across a vast expanse of ocean.
Here, sandwiched between mainland Southeast Asia and Australia, are four countries: the eastern part of Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines. This is one of the world’s most volcanic regions, and the monsoon climate makes some areas among the wettest places on Earth. A huge variety of animals and plants live here, because the environment is slightly different on each island. There are many different peoples, too. More than 250 languages are spoken on the islands of Indonesia alone.
In this island region, boats have traditionally provided the main method of getting from place to place. Small boats, such as this outrigger canoe, are ideal for navigating the waterways between clusters of islands.