Half of the world’s population lives in the Asia-Pacific region, making it one of the most culturally diverse regions we have. That’s part of the reason why 37 per cent of international tourists travel there each year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. And the numbers are growing—the number of visitors was up by seven per cent last year. It can be hard to know where to start. Here, our 5 bucket list places in Asia you have to visit now.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Discovering the famous Bay of Descending Dragons can feel like sailing into an enchanted jungle. There, more than 2,000 limestone islets jut randomly out of the water, each covered in dense green vegetation. Cruise into one of the many natural harbours and explore, hike, climb or just enjoy the cool green ambiance. The ideal visiting time is from October to December to avoid the monsoon season. The myth around the creation of the place is as equally intriguing as the landscape.
Book Trafalgar’s “Highlights of Vietnam” Packages start from $3,577.90. Save $347.10 using Trip code CTVA
The Temples at Bagan, Myanmar
Sunsets are gorgeous anywhere, but some of the most beautiful shimmer on the thousands of temples that cover the Bagan plains. Once, 13,000 elaborate temples stood in Bagan, the capital city of the ancient Kingdom of Pagan, which sat on the plains next to the Irrawaddy River. They were built over the course of hundreds of years. Time and earthquakes have unfortunately taken their toll. Just more than 2,000 monuments of various sizes are still standing, in varying states of repair. Yet they still remain one of the most under-visited and underrated temple complexes in the world.
Explore Exodus Travels “Discover Myanmar” Packages starting at $3,249
Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia
The creation of generations of Khmer rulers, Angkor Wat has become one of the world’s biggest bucket-list destinations and is considered one of the most important archeological sites in Southeast Asia. Founded in the 9th century, it was abandoned to the jungle in the 15th century, perhaps because of a Thai invasion. While most tourists head for the well-known areas of Angkor Wat, Banyon and Ta Phrom, there are more than 400 square kilometres of jaw-droppingly beautiful temples to explore. You won’t see it all in a day; some dedicated visitors might spend a couple of weeks touring the place. Time your visit well; 3.5-million people visit each year.
Explore G Adventures “Ultimate Cambodian Adventure” starting at $1,177
Luang Prabang, Laos
Each morning in the UNESCO World Heritage site at Luang Prabang, a group of monks in flowing saffron robes perform the solemn alms procession, during which they gratefully accept donations of food from the faithful. Start your day there, in the quiet temples, then head for the jungles that surround the site to explore a stunning landscape of waterfalls, echoing caves and pools for bathing. Bangkok Airways has recently launched a direct flight here from Chiang Mai, Thailand, making it an ideal add-on to a Thai holiday
Get to know authentic Laos with Intrepid Travel’s “Real Laos” starting at $1,965
Those looking to hang with the cool kids will find them in Bali. Whether it’s for the surfing, with some of the world’s wildest waves, for lolling on the black sand beaches, for volcano trekking or even, for history buffs, exploring the incredible array of ancient temples, the “Island of the Gods” has many adventures to offer. Visiting during Nyepi, Balinese New Year—which in 2020 happens on March 25 and 26—can be a magical time. The demon parade is fantastic. But be forewarned; the day of silence that follows is taken very seriously. Visitors are not permitted to leave their hotels and loud noises are forbidden.
Kensington Tours offers the “Essential Bali” package starting at $3,681