Up and spirited cities, atmospheric temples, prolific rice grounds, lively but remote hill tribes, fuming volcanoes, wide blue lakes, adventurous trips through noisy rainforests, and slow boating down the Mekong River, there is a lifetime of magical escapade to be discovered in Asia.
If you live in the southern ends of the west, you would know the real deal with scraping off ice from windscreens before driving off to work. Wearing 18 layers just to nip to the shops through the harsh cold winds is no easy feat either. It is during this time of the year when Asia’s dreamy weather, the palm fringed beaches hold the most allure for adventurers.
Asia might hold special appeal to the gap-year traveller but also offers high-end options for those looking for a more ‘grown up’ affair. The tour, if escorted, is the best way to take in the region’s major highlights. While marrying stays at the beachside resorts and luxury lodges, the city tours are led by guides who know the areas like the back of their hands.
Where to begin: a good problem
With Asia being full of exciting destinations, deciding where to go can indeed be difficult; however, that’s a good problem to have. Don’t worry, there are cheap budget flights available between all major hubs in Asia, which you can easily grab to tempting top-spots on a single trip. Regardless of where you begin, you will have access to UNESCO sites, nature, exciting culinary treats, and region’s predominant culture. In case you’re planning your first big trip to Asia, consider landing in one these top 5 vacation spots of the largest continent in the world!
- Penang, Malaysia: The Pearl of the Orient
Famously known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Penang is the right place to have delicious food to the brink, relax your mind and soul, and appreciate Malaysia’s authenticity in a new way. Malaysians are surely proud of their large island, and why shouldn’t they be?
Penang’s greatest legacy of colonization and immigration has produced some of the best cuisines in Southeast Asia. Penang hawker food is famous for combining the best of Malay influences from Indian and Chinese immigrants to produce palatable creations.
Soul satisfying food is not the only indulgence on the island. Along with plenty of other interesting things to do in Penang, you will find many hip museums and art galleries. Georgetown may have some sharp edges, but it is not just charming, it’s downright groovy!
Penang is easy to reach, standing amongst the top destinations in Malaysia. Penang Bayan Lepas International Airport has been recently refurbished, becoming one of Malaysia’s larger, better-equipped airports operated by the region.
- Malaysian Borneo
Malaysia’s Bornean stance is considered to be the third-largest island in the world, shared between Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Undoubtedly, Borneo in Southeast Asia is a natural paradise, with plentiful, green rainforests indigenous cultures and endangered orangutans.
With the region surrounded by two states, Sarawak and Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, the latter capital, has become a happening tourist city under the shadow of towering Mount Kinabalu. Moreover, Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, has a pleasing-to-the-eye waterfront that helped the city earn ‘cleanest in Asia’ for many years.
When you have finally experienced enough shopping and the region’s scrumptious sea food, trade the concrete for the pristine beaches and national parks nearby, providing you with plentiful opportunities to absorb the pure essence of Southeast Asia. It’s certainly worth grabbing a flight from Kuala Lumpur under the cheap deals to Borneo for US $20 or less!
- Angor Wat – archaeological site in Cambodia
The main gateway, Siem Reap, links travellers directly to one of Southeast Asia’s most fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Angkor Wat. The temples of Ankgor, over 900 years old, are spread across 600 square miles of concrete jungle; reclaiming the ancient worship places as break apart bricks and vines strangle ruins.
Even though the site suffered from years of looting and unregulated tourism, an eventual international collaborative effort helped restore the sites and prevent further deterioration of unstable structures.
The mesmerizing Angkor temples are usually used as movie sets, bringing the inner archaeologist back to life in over a million visitors each year. Siem Reap is a tourist destination all on its own, if not solely at the temples. You could have the jungle temples all to yourselves if you visit the lace during the shoulder seasons. A short, three-day pass to the Ankgor temples costs around 40 USD, while a weeklong visit can be purchased for 60 USD.
- Kyoto, Japan
Being a wandering soul, with the truest passion for travel, what do you think makes a city rise above the rest in the hearts of people: the distinctive culture, the iconic landmarks, or the mind-boggling range of munching options?
Katherine Christenson, a Travel + Leisure reader who voted in the magazine’s World’s Best Awards survey, has positive things to say about Kyoto’s food experiences. ‘The food in Kyoto is truly exceptional. A kaiseki meal is one of the highlights.’ For her, the city is an essence of peace and serenity – the intangible part of Japanese goodness.
Plenty of other travel and leisure magazine-readers feel the same way about Kyoto, scoring it highly amongst the global cities for its landmarks, art scenes, shopping, good value, and most importantly, romantic potential.
- The colourful sites of Rajasthan, India
From the ancient monuments of Delhi to the beautiful cities of Rajasthan, you can experience a few weeks’ vacation in India at its best. Before you journey into the desert for an overnight safari, the famous mud fortress at Jaisalmer and Bikaner’s unique temple will leave you in awe of the region’s heritage brilliance. Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims, making your way slowly to the Ganges River at the famous Varanasi.
India is no doubt a home to great food and highly fascinating culture, alluring sights, and hospitable people. With a trip to Rajasthan, you can discover the charms and mystery that make up this amazing country.
While Goa grabs majority of the tourist attention because of its intricate beaches, intrepid voyagers head towards the west of India’s desert state of Rajasthan. Rich with stories of romance, camels, history, impressive forts, Rajasthan is truly an unforgettable destination.
Make the better choice
Whether you’re the type to explore underwater wrecks, relax on a deserted beach or the one to immerse herself amongst a region’s rich culture and history then Asia, especially southeast, will satisfy your every desire.