Asia is quickly becoming one of the most popular travel destinations, and for good reason! From stunning beaches in coastal areas to historically and spiritually significant temples to culturally rich cities with amazing cuisine, the countries in Asia have something to offer even the most discriminating travelers. Since Asia has so many unique and otherworldly experiences to offer travelers, we wanted to highlight some of our personal recommendations for unique experiences in Asia!
1. Take in the Temples of Thailand
Some of the world’s oldest, most historically significant, and most religiously meaningful temples lie in Asia. In Thailand, travelers can admire the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok and the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. Regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is located within the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It enshrines the Phra Kaew Morakot (Emerald Buddha), which was carved from a single block of jade and depicts a Buddha image in the meditating position. Overlooking Chiang Mai from its mountainous throne, the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which is regarded as the holiest temple in northern Thailand, was constructed in 1383 under King Keu Naone to enshrine Buddha’s relics. After a praying at the temple for luck, proceed to the terrace to soak up the panoramic views of Chiang Mai.
2. Loy Krathong
Loy Krathong is the incredibly magical full-moon festival which takes place during the twelfth month of the Thai calendar. After nightfall, locals launch candlelit and flower-strewn floats made of banana leaves (“krathongs”) down rivers to represent relinquishing negative emotions for the new year. Stunning paper lanterns are dispersed into the air, illuminating the night sky. In larger cities, fireworks complete the evening of festivities. The 137 Pillars House Resort allows guests to really enmesh themselves in the local traditions by hosting a market scene, serving delicious authentic Thai food, exhibiting contemporary Lanna dance and live traditional Thai music, and allowing guests to make their own Krathongs and floating it in the Ping River.
3. Feast in Bangkok’s Chinatown
The fantastic food is matched only by the incredible atmosphere as thousands of people seek out the perfect food vendor that is serving their favorite dish. The energy exuded by the endless rows of shops, dazzling lights, and vast advertisements along the one kilometer strip is unlike anything else you will ever experience.
Chinatown is also lovely to explore in the morning. Enjoy a morning stroll to see the infectious sights and sounds and sample a traditional Yum Cha early light lunch, which involves drinking Chinese tea, eating dim sum dishes, and sampling a variety of small dishes, including steamed buns, assorted dumplings, and rice noodle rolls.
This is a great opportunity to interact with the Chinese community in Thailand and should not be missed!
4. Homestays and Local Traditions in Vietnam
Vietnam’s capital is a must see for travelers to Asia. Boasting a quintessential old-fashioned feeling, visitors are enchanted by Hanoi’s lakes, parks, tree-lined boulevards, mansions and serene Old French Quarter. The grandeur of Ho Chi Minh’s monumental Mausoleum, rustic simplicity of the house where ‘Uncle Ho’ lived and beautiful Temple of Literature are all finely preserved in a microcosm of Vietnamese culture and heritage.
Learn about the fascinating Vietnamese heritage by traveling from Hanoi to Da Nang and Hoi An. There, you can stay in a unique homestay villa, meet with an ethnic minority community, and partake in local activities including a traditional gong performance and shopping in the nearby market.
Ho Chi Minh City is another must see in Vietnam. This city encompasses both the beauty of French rural life and the revolutionary Vietnamese spirit. Make the most of your time here by cruising on the back of a vintage Vespa, passing through downtown Ho Chi Minh City, and exploring the waterways and riverboat houses of the surrounding Mekong Delta region.
5. Explore Angkor Wat
Travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia to explore the world’s largest religious monument, the Angkor Wat temple complex. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu temple complex and later became Buddhist. Angkor Wat was built by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, and in a divergence from the tradition of previous kings, was dedicated to Vishnu, one of the three supreme Hindu deities. This temple complex sits on the Angkor Archaeological Park and includes ruins of a roughly one hundred temples and monuments from the former Khmer civilization, which are scattered across a 1,000 square mile region. Don’t miss sunrise over the Angkor Wat temple and sunset over the Srah Stang. Bats can sometimes swarm overhead during sunset hours, creating an unforgettable scene overhead.
6. Cruise Ha Long Bay
Located in Gulf of Tonkin in northeast Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is adorned with thousands of limestone karst landforms and isles in a wide array of shapes and sizes. “Ha long” appropriately translates as “where the dragon descends into the sea”, since, according to legend, the islands throughout Ha Long Bay were created by a massive dragon from the mountains who destroyed the valleys and crevasses while charging toward the coast, leaving only the pillars behind. The best way for a traveler to explore this magical bay is with a thorough cruise through its waters. Be sure to explore its caves and wave eroded grottoes.
7. Eat Your Way Through Hong Kong
Adorned with many incredible Michelin star restaurants, including five three Michelin star restaurants, Hong Kong is a food lover’s paradise. We especially recommend enjoying a meal at the Lung King Heen restaurant within the Four Seasons Hong Kong. This restaurant was the world’s first Chinese restaurant to earn three Michelin stars. The Caprice restaurant, also located in the Four Seasons Hong Kong, offers delicious French fare and has a particularly delicious cheese selection. This two Michelin star restaurant has an incredible cheese cellar in which the staff can explain the origins of the cheese and make fantastic wine pairings. Want to try the street food? Hong Kong is known for having delicious dim sum at every turn. Be sure to pack loose fitting pants for this gastronomic journey through Hong Kong.