If you are a seasoned traveler, scratching that wanderlust itch can become ever more difficult as you venture to more exotic, far-flung and untouched places. You want to be able to immerse yourself in new cultures, experience life as a local, enjoy wonderful new climates and take in stunningly beautiful vistas all over the globe.
One section of the planet that is a well-trodden path for the ardent backpacker is Asia. The idyllic beaches of Thailand, the spice-laden streets of India and the jungles of Vietnam have attracted twenty-something bohemian backpackers for decades. Asia is a magical place for Western travelers as the hot pot of cultures is so different, the climate is hot, balmy and sticky and there are more landmarks and sites of religious significance than you can imagine. While you might be keen on taking a jaunt to Asia, you might be eager to steer clear of the backpacking trail. Instead of hot-footing it to Koh Samui like every other nomad, why not venture to Japan, Singapore or China. Heading further east can open up a whole new world of Shintoism, geographical wonders, and gastronomic delights. Read on to discover an ultimate guide to hitting three of the most incredible countries in Asia.
The Land of the Rising Sun is synonymous with the dizzying business of Tokyo, the temple hopping opportunities of Kyoto and the contemplative city of Hiroshima. While monocultural in its demographic, Japan is still a nation of tolerance, peace and welcoming people who love showing off their nation with pride. Meet a Japanese family on a bullet train, and they will be keen to teach you some of the basics of their language, their customs and they’ll tell you the best places to get a top quality sake.
Tokyo- must see city
If you are a massive culture vulture, you could put a pin in a map of Japan and end up in a temple, a geisha house or amongst a range of Torii gates. Tokyo is a must-see city. While it is the capital of Japan, it is also a sprawling urban metropolis with a juxtaposition of modern architecture, old Shinto shrines and the most well-coiffed water gardens in Japan. If you love exploring the nightlife of a city, head to Shibuya after dark and partake in a spot of karaoke. Or you might fancy popping to the infamous robot restaurant. Kitch, futuristic and a little over expensive, you will be served food and drinks by robots whilst enjoying a laser light, metallic and robotic cabaret.
Explore off the beaten tracks
Venture away from the capital, and you could enjoy the delights of Kanazawa. North of Japan, this is a fantastic base if you want to head off the beaten track to explore a traditional grassho house town like Shirakawago. The village is set in the hills and still maintains the traditions of centuries ago. There’s plenty of tea houses and red bean paste sweets to enjoy as you wander around the village. You could even choose to stay overnight and enjoy the traditional food and bedding of a traditional grassho house host.
Touring Japan is easy with bullet trains being super comfortable and running on time. The major cities are well connected, and you can easily venture to any part of the nation. For a more casual and relaxing excursion, head to the island of Miyajima after exploring the museum and atomic dome at Hiroshima. Climb Mount Misen, feed some wild deer and enjoy discovering the temples and shrines that this near-mythical island has to offer.
This unassuming island off Malaysia is vastly different to Japan. There is more of a melting pot of cultures, greater diversity within the population and more of a cosmopolitan vibe within the country. The skyline and cityscapes look like something out of a sci-fi novel with more modernist skyscrapers, futuristic looking towers and shiny spires than you have ever had the opportunity to marvel at.
Head down to Orchard Road to experience a retail phenomenon like never before. You can head to the main drag for larger fashion houses and designer stores, but don’t forget the smaller side streets that hark back to a forgotten era. Here you will find odd little art galleries, small museums, traditional herbal medicine stalls and the finest street food.
If you adore getting into the culinary belly of a nation, then venture Joo Chiat Road for the most incredible da dong prawn noodles. This seemingly simple soup is a heady broth that allows the flavors of the sea to linger on your pallet. If you prefer a meatier dish, the bah kut tea or pork rib tea is a mind-blowing gastronomic experience. Flavored with cinnamon and pepper, the tea bathes the most tender pork rib. Odd and unique, this is a taste sensation not to be missed.
As an island city, Singapore lends itself to finding a long-term base especially if you plan on spending longer than a couple of weeks exploring. You might want to check out the hdb rental price 2018 before you succumb to the hotel deals on offer. Renting can prove more economical in the long run, can allow you more freedom to cook your own food, and you can treat your accommodation as your home away from home.
Singapore really has something to offer everyone, from the tourist hotspot of Universal Studios to the more tranquil gardens by the bay. It doesn’t matter if you adore culture, you’re a retail junkie or you want to enjoy a gastronomic delight, Singapore has it all.
The largest of the three countries in Asia that we are exploring, China is a nation that you will barely touch while on your travels. Even if you made the journey from Beijing to Shanghai with a stop in Xi’an and Chengdu, you still won’t have explored barely a tenth of the country. It is that enourmous. The ancient Tibetan borders are relatively untouched by Western travelers yet still prove trickier to get to. Instead, you might want to stick to the tried and tested sights of the Giant Buddha at Leshan, the Terracotta Warriors near Xi’an and the Great Wall of China just outside Beijing.
Something for everyone
China is a country that is proud of its tradition and heritage. Scaling the Great Wall at Badaling, you will develop a newfound appreciation for awe-inspiring vistas. Do your research and head to the part of the wall that suits your requirements. Some sections are steep and a more challenging hike, whereas others cater for tourists with the usual souvenir tat on ever bend. You could venture to the water towns surrounding Suzhou and visit the panda sanctuary at Chengdu. There really is something to offer everyone. With China, you will struggle to find time to breathe if you aren’t careful, so it’s important to pace yourself. Don’t try to do too much as you could end up with most of your days taken up with internal flights or train rides.
At the very least, follow the locals and head to where they eat. Noodle bars in Beijing and the Hu cuisine of Shanghai is popular fayre. Don’t head to the international restaurants when you have the finest traditional eateries to explore.
If you fancy heading to Asia for your next jaunt abroad, steer clear of the usual backpacking haunts. Venture to the Far East and explore a feast for the senses in terms of the friendly locals you will meet, the cultures you can immerse yourself in, the food you can sample and the vistas you can take in. Use this guide to inspire your next foray into Asia.