The city island of Singapore is one of the most densely populated countries in the world but somehow manages to combine its huge population with areas of natural beauty. Nature reserves and parks fill the island making this vibrant and lively destination stand out amongst the crowd; the unique melting pot of cultures that have made their mark on this tropical island have all influenced how this fantastic modern city looks today.
Luxury and gastronomy are the trademarks of the city of Singapore, the iconic Raffles Hotel summing up all that is decadent about this glorious destination; the well run public transport will ease your travel around this clean city, the lack of crime and poverty adding to the sense of wellbeing that the islands inhabitants enjoy – this is a place to enjoy the wealth and to soak up the very best that Asia has to offer.
Bangkok couldn’t offer much more of a contrast to the almost sanitised city of Singapore, the capital of Thailand is brash and loud with streets that are snarled with traffic, but this is of no detriment to this amazing city that will astound you with its lust for life. The food culture is more street food than top class restaurants but until you have experienced the hot, sweet and sour flavours on the crazed streets, you haven’t experienced the very heart of Thai cuisine.
Bangkok is a city for exploring, open your mind to the possibility that anything could happen and head wherever your senses take you, this is when you will find the real Bangkok, the one where monks converse freely as you pass by or street performance happen with a moment’s notice, this is the Bangkok that every traveller should be craving and the one that will win your heart.
If any island deserves the title of ‘paradise’ it is the Indonesian island of Bali, everywhere you go you are surrounded by flowers, not just growing amid the tropical setting, but colourful petals strewn across shrines as offerings to honour their Gods and their ancestors; bright colours are the very essence of your stay in Bali, everywhere you look there is a joyful vibrant atmosphere filled with people who have a genuine joy in their existence.
Bali is well known for its amazing beach resorts, the crystal clear waters providing a haven for snorkelling and diving with just enough movement to give windsurfers something to get their teeth into, but travel inland to the heart of this small island to really appreciate the warmth and the humour of the locals and the dramatic volcanic landscape that perfectly contrasts with the serene temples that dot the hillsides – Bali is every bit as amazing as it sounds and is definitely one not to miss.
4. The Cities of China
China is such a huge and diverse land that it is almost impossible to choose one definitive destination. The cities throughout this amazing country all have attributes that make them special, and each has their own appeal. Beijing as the capital has to be a starting point, a great city in its own right, this is where you will find the dynamic China, one brimming with unexpected modernity and a vibrant nightlife; those wanting something a little more traditional should visit Chengde just to the north of Beijing, this is the home of some of the finest imperial buildings, created as a summer retreat for the emperors of old.
Shanghai on the East coast offers a glimpse of the world of mass export, the bustling port and modern commercial centres showing the China of the future; whilst for a complete contrast visit the Northwest of the country and the fortress town of Jiayuguan, this was literally the last piece of ancient Chinese civilisation before the wilderness and remains hauntingly bleak and wild. Whichever China you choose to see, you are guaranteed to be amazed by this unique and special land.
If you want tropical rainforests filled with a diversity of plants and wildlife in a country that has fantastic beaches, lively cities and exciting cuisine then look no further than the unique country of Malaysia; split across two landmasses Malaysia is divided by the South China Sea, part cosmopolitan peninsula and part island wilderness this is one destination that you won’t forget in a hurry.
The capital Kuala Lumpur is a triumph of modern architecture, the skyline is bold and brash, the hotels are luxurious and the lifestyle is frantic, heading out of the city leads down to the beautiful peninsular beaches that boast beautiful resorts; the island in contrast is filled with little more than dense jungle and a network of rivers, this is the wild Malaysia that is famed for its amazing wildlife and spectacular landscapes.
No list would be complete without mentioning the great city of Tokyo, Japan has some amazing places to visit but nowhere else is quite like this – the world’s largest city; neon signs dominate the streets that are filled with a variety of architectural styles, buildings that care not one jot about fitting in – the ethos of the city is one of excess, if you like it, then just do it.
This is truly the city where every dream can come true, yet step away from the frantic city and wander down the myriad of side streets to experience a completely different Tokyo, one of streets filled with charming traditional houses complete with topiary and paper shutters, and shrines filled with the heady aroma of incense – Tokyo, where everything is available, accessible and most importantly filled with a lust for life.
7. The Mekong Delta
The images of rural Vietnam that grace the covers of travel guides are no myth, travel to the Mekong Delta where rice production is the main industry and where villages appear lost in the mists of time, allow yourself to truly experience the Vietnam that keeps itself tucked away, the Vietnam that maintains a lifestyle that has sustained it for much of its history.
The Mekong River itself is the very lifeblood of the rice fields, and a trip along its peaceful waters is a must for any visitor to this agricultural hub of the country, the villagers go about their daily lives as the boats sail by; children riding water buffalo, workers farming the rice, and monks with their colourful robes taking an evening stroll – all part of the rich tapestry of this beautiful yet remote part of the world.
8. Sri Lanka
Sat in the Indian Ocean in the south of Asia is the island of Sri Lanka, an island paradise that is enclosed by masses of glorious sandy beaches with a tropical climate that guarantees the beach holiday of a lifetime; once the allure of the beaches has passed, then Sri Lanka has more than one trick up its sleeve to keep your interest, and to show that it isn’t just any beach resort.
Head inland to the national parks that are home to elephants, jaguars, primates and birds of impossible plumage – these leafy jungles are perfect for the safari tours that offer the opportunity to get close to these wondrous creatures; even further into the heart of Sri Lanka are the leafy tree plantations that nestle into the hillsides, just another string to the bow of this diverse destination.
The Southern Asian country of Nepal may be remote, located between Tibet and India but if you want a mountain adventure then there is nowhere else quite like it on earth, home to the greatest mountain of all, Mount Everest, this is the gateway to the Himalayas and the great trekking that they offer; the Sherpa guides look after your every need as they lead you from lodge to lodge, along the great Himalayan ridges.
There is more to Nepal than the breathtaking mountains though, the south of the country is home to tigers and rhinos, jungle expeditions on the back of elephants are becoming increasingly popular in the quest to spot these rare creatures – Nepal is wild and untamed, there is no disputing that, and that is just how it should be.
Taiwan is known as ‘the beautiful isle’ for a reason, the sandy beaches, deep ravines, tropical rainforests and wooded mountains all give a natural and spectacular beauty to this unique island destination; like much of Asia the wild beauty contains a truly modern capital, Taipei is not only a centre for industry and commerce but is filled with culture and entertainment, making this bustling city a great place to start your Taiwan experience.
You cannot talk about Taiwan without referencing its spiritual roots, the ancient religions are truly celebrated here, and the traditions that have been passed down through the generations are always respected and maintained, even if not always strictly accurate; those seeking the path to enlightenment have thousands of temples to choose from, so even the most cynical of travellers should find the peace that they crave in this idyllic Asian destination.