Fancy an Asian vacation with a difference? Then sit tight and check out this curated list of 4 lesser-known Asian destinations you may want to visit next!
By Callum Brown, General Manager of Flight Centre Asia
One of the best things about being a travel-phile based in Asia is the sheer number of destinations that are within easy reach and yet, despite their geographical proximity, each one is a world away from the next when it comes to culture, language and topography. While there is nothing wrong with craving for a touch of romance in Paris, savouring delectable cuisine in Rome or partying all night long in Ibiza, one of the best advice I can offer to travellers who are fortunate enough to call Asia their home is to look nearer, rather than farther, for their next big adventure.
There’s so much more to discover beyond the well-traversed cities of Hong Kong, Bangkok, Taipei or Tokyo. As we approach another new year, consider adding these offbeat locales to your travel bucket list.
1. Luang Prabang, Laos
During the next long weekend, wow your Instagram followers with the untouched beauty of Luang Prabang. The UNESCO world heritage site is just five hours away (inclusive of transit) with connecting flights from Lao Airlines and SilkAir via Vientiane, Lao’s capital. Alternatively, you can stop-over in Bangkok for a plate of pad thai and some shopping before jumping on a connecting flight on Bangkok Airways.
Start your adventure with a calming cruise along the Mekong River before disembarking at the sacred Pak Ou Buddha Caves, a dramatic limestone cliff lined with over 4,000 Buddha icons. Plan a day trip to the Kuang Si Falls, a 45-minute tuk tuk ride away from the city centre, where you can take a dip in the middle of a lush tropical jungle and unwind with the soothing sound of the cascading waterfalls. After a leisurely afternoon nap, head over to the Luang Prabang Night Market (opens nightly from 5pm – 10pm) to sample some local street food and purchase ethnic handicrafts.
Tip! Starting at daybreak, devotees line the streets for the alms-giving ritual where they offer food to Buddhist monks in orange saffron robes. This ritual is the source of their only meal. As this is a sacred Buddhist tradition of Laos, observe the ritual from a distance and use non-flash photography when taking photos of the ceremony.
With the happiness of its citizens taking precedence over material wealth, the Bhutan government is known to regulate its tourist numbers, implementing a “High Value, Low Impact Tourism” policy to minimise the negative effects associated with tourism. Visitors must spend a minimum of USD200 – 250 per day on a pre-determined itinerary led by a licensed Bhutanese tour operator.
The most convenient gateway city to Paro Airport, Bhutan’s only international airport, is via Bangkok. After touching down onto this untouched paradise, most tourists begin their journey at the mystical Tiger’s Nest Monastery, also known as Paro Takstang. Perched on a cliff 2,000 feet above the Paro Valley, the 4 – 5 hour round-trip hike and tour of the sacred monastery will easily take up a full day.
Tip! The best time to visit Bhutan is during the period from October to December, as the weather is nice and cool with sunny skies. To get the best photo of Tiger’s Nest, arrive after 11am when the temple is out of the shadow of the mountain.
Nepal is a dream come true for travellers seeking adrenaline and adventure. Put on your track shoes and start exploring the countless temples, shrines, and palaces nestled right in the heart of Himalayas. When you’re there, make sure to go on an expedition and take on a personal challenge to trek the Everest Base Camp. Along the way, consider hiking to Tengboche Monastery through the Dudh Kosi gorge, a spiritual centre perched atop the hill offering the first clear view of Mount Everest.
It’s best to visit in late February or early March, as you’ll be able to experience one of Nepal’s most lively and colourful festivals. During Holi, streets are covered in colours as people sing and dance, and playfully spray coloured water and powder on each other.
Tip! Look for a reliable travel agent to help in the planning of your medical insurance. Healthcare is poor in places outside Kathmandu Valley and Pokhar, and medical treatments can be costly.
For most of its history, Mongolia was sealed off to the world, with many knowing the country through the tales of Genghis Khan’s legendary rule. With connecting flights from Hong Kong, Beijing and Seoul, travellers will get to experience the diverse land of rich, cinematic vistas in under 10 hours.
One of the last few remaining places in the world where nomadic life is still a living tradition, experience Mongolian herders’ way of living at the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Stay in a traditional ger as your host family offers you a cup of “Suutei tsai” (mare’s milk) and show you how they take care of their livestock. Over the next few days, learn how to saddle a horse, prepare an oxcart, or challenge your host family to a friendly archery match with traditional Mongolian bow and arrows.
Tip! We often think that the human voice can only produce one note at a time. Change your perception and arrange a Tuvan throat singing performance with your travel agency to see how performers produce multiple notes simultaneously through specialized vocalization techniques.