Asia – a continent that is as diverse as it is large; as interesting as it is unforgettable. Simply put, magical. Ask anyone who has done any form of exploration across the continent and they’ll likely tell you that their trip to Asia “changed them.” No matter your travel style or preference, it has something for everyone. We’ve broken it down into some of Asia’s most awesome places to explore.
Laos and Cambodia
A lot of travellers explore these two countries in one trip, which is a pretty good idea considering how close they are to each other. That said, it’s best to break down why each is amazing, individually.
Laos is a landlocked country in the heart of the Indochinese peninsula of Mainland Southeast Asia, bordered by Myanmar (Burma) and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. The main attractions for tourists include: ancient temples, colonial architecture, Buddhist culture, trekking, visiting hill tribes – and so much more!
Cambodia is located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia, bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. Best-known for its incredibly inspiring temples, there are many other tourist attractions that add to the country’s appeal, including: the Angkor Wat historical park in Siem Reap province, the beaches in Sihanoukville and the capital city Phnom Penh.
Ah, Japan. A country that fuses traditional and modern oh so well. With so much to do, you’re forgiven for not knowing where to start. If you’re keen to explore the best of what Japan has to offer, add Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and Hakuba to your list. Osaka is located on the island of Honshu. History lovers could experience a slice of history at the 16th-century Osaka Castle – one of the city’s best-known landmarks. Those keen for a little slice of Shinto could experience Sumiyoshi-Taisha, one of the country’s oldest Shinto shrines. Kyoto will mesmerise you with its temples, gardens, shrines and world famous geisha girls, and will provide the best local delights of seaweed, sushi and sashimi in the Shirakawa area. Tokyo, where you can shop ‘til you drop, enjoy delicious soba noodles on a street corner, explore the Tsukiji Fish Markets or indulge in the traditional Japanese hot spring experience of Onsen. Adrenaline junkies rejoice, because, amongst the cultural whirlwind of the city, there’s also epic slopes in Japan. Hakuba, a village in the Japanese Alps, sees 12-14 metres of fresh snow every year, making it ideal to go snowboarding or skiing. Contiki has just launched a trip that covers all four of these hotspots in Japan and looks like one of the most epic city-to-slopes adventures you’re likely to experience.
Bangkok to Singapore
Another two destinations that travellers usually couple together on one trip to Asia. But, what most may not realise is that there are tons of many hidden gems along the route from Bangkok to Singapore. Interested to know more? Here we go. Start off in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city, known for ornate shrines, vibrant street life, and its shopping (read: affordable shopping.) Next, head off to Surat Thani before going on to embrace the outdoors of Khao Sok and the beauty (and beaches) that is Krabi. Next, venture on to experience incredible culture in Satun, Langkawi, Penang, Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur, before rounding off in Singapore. A jam packed itinerary if ever there was one to indulge in the best of Thailand and Malaysia.
Thailand – The Andaman Sea
There are two main “areas” in Thailand that are most popular among travellers looking for beach vibes. They are the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. We’re focusing on the Andaman Sea. Located on the west side of Thailand, the main destinations in the Andaman Sea that tourists tend to visit are: Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, and Krabi. Technically, only two of those are islands, as Krabi is part of the mainland. But Krabi is a good place to visit nonetheless owing to the awesome Tonsai Beach and limestone rocks for those wanting to try out some rock climbing.
- Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and easily accessible by plane. A great place to start any Thailand island trip. Patong Beach, located on the central west coast, is Phuket’s most popular (and often overcrowded) tourist area. Most of Phuket’s shopping and nightlife is found in Patong, an area that has seen substantial development recently.
- Koh Pi-Phi is a tiny group of islands which occupy about 12.25km². It is a great place to experience true island lifestyle as there isn’t much else to do here but swim, dive, drink cocktails and soak up the sun.
- Krabi is part of the mainland but is frequented just as much as the other islands. This is due to the famous Tonsai beach that is located just next to it. For the adventurous traveller, you can actually swim between these two beaches at high tide, using the slack-lines that are connected between two rocks over the ocean, or venture into the jungle for a bit of rock climbing with spectacular views.
Each of the above places is bound to inspire you and ignite a love affair with Asia you never dreamed possible.