10 Best Destinations in Asia, According to Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet has put together 10 best places to visit in Asia.
"The result is a varied hit list of classic destinations offering a fresh twist for travelers, regions packed full of action and edge-of-the-map places you may never [have] heard of," says Lonely Planet's Asia-Pacific spokesperson Chris Zeiher.
For the foodie, the adventurer, the sight-seer, and the relaxer, the experts at Lonely Planet have found the best vacation spots for every type of traveler.
1. Hokkaido, Japan
Hokkaidō's perfect powder snow put it on the international map, but it has also blinded visitors to the year-round charms of Japan's northernmost island: a wild, mountainous landscape that begs exploration on foot, bike or motorbike; alpine villages where you’ll stumble upon hidden onsen; and sumptuous seafood – including crab, sea urchin and scallops – pulled from rich, cold seas.
Hokkaidō has become a lot more accessible this year thanks to the new bullet train linking its southern port city, Hakodate, to Tokyo. The route is covered by the popular Japan Rail pass (which allows for unlimited bullet train rides), and the line will eventually extend all the way to dynamic Sapporo, the provincial capital and host of next year's Asian Winter Games.
2. Shànghǎi, China
Looking for the centre of the universe right now? It’s surely Shànghǎi, where it often seems as if all 24 million-odd residents are hell-bent on having a good time. So why not join them?
The booming cocktail and craft beer scenes amid the forest of neon-lit skyscrapers show how international the city has become, yet Old Shànghǎi is never far away: shikumen lanes bustle with life, while grand art deco buildings still line the Bund. This year’s a big one, with the first Disney resort in mainland China opening here, as well as the completion of the long-awaited Shànghǎi Tower, the world’s second tallest building.
3. Jeonju, South Korea
In the middle of Jeonju is one of Korea's best-preserved traditional villages – hundreds of wooden villas with gracefully upturned roofs housing an intriguing assortment of museums, teahouses and artisans’ workshops.
Unesco also crowned Jeonju as a City of Gastronomy in 2012, and the birthplace of Korea's most famous dish, bibimbap – an arrangement of vegetables on rice, topped Jeonju-style with bean sprouts, mung bean jelly and beef tartar – now lures a younger crowd thanks to its fast-emerging street food scene.
4. Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
The Con Dao Islands have moved from darkness into light: for decades the site of a brutal penal colony, this archipelago now ranks among Asia’s hottest emerging destinations. A national park since 1984, their appeal encompasses coral gardens that offer Vietnam’s best diving, rewarding hikes in wildlife-rich tropical forests, and a coastline studded with gorgeous white-sand coves.
With improved flight connections from Ho Chi Minh City, there is no better place right now to feast on fresh seafood, explore in search of a perfect beach and revel in a castaway vibe.
5. Hong Kong, China
This skyward-bound metropolis always beguiles with a blend of culture, cuisine and consumerism, but now Hong Kong is focusing on its natural heritage – specifically, the Unesco-designated geopark, a 50-sq km region to the northeast to Lai Chi Wo village.
This once semi-deserted village has a new lease of life, too – returning villagers are running eco-tours and cooking workshops. Back in the urban jungle, meanwhile, artists are brightening old neighbourhoods like Sham Shui Po, and top restaurants like Fish School and Kin’s Kitchen are turning to local produce for inspiration on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China.
6. Ipoh, Malaysia
Malaysia’s lesser-known food capital has new flair thanks to a crop of boutique cafes that have sprung up in its historic quarter. At the heart of Ipoh’s renaissance is otherworldly concept hotel Sekeping Kong Heng, replete with glass attic rooms and wall-free rooftop quarters.
But food pilgrims still clamour for Ipoh’s old favourites: Lou Wong’s chicken with crisp beansprouts, and tau fu fah (tofu pudding) at Funny Mountain. Wild escapes are close, like birdwatching by bicycle through Kinta Nature Park or whitewater rafting near Gopeng; and with clifftop temples and fragrant Gaharu Tea Valley nearby, Ipoh’s revival seems sure to tempt new crowds.
7. Pemuteran, Indonesia
As you float on the teal-hued waters off Menjangan Island in Bali's far northwest corner, the kaleidoscope of colours below you is suddenly obscured by a rising column of bubbles… yes, divers down there are gawping at one of Indonesia's best coral walls. This undersea wonderland is the prime – but far from the only – reason to stay in Pemuteran, a double bay of beaches near Menjangan (which is part of Bali's only national park).
Emerald-green rice terraces line the road en route from the bustling south of the island to everybody's next discovery... but don't wait until everybody arrives; catch the buzz now from this alluring mix of art-filled resorts, inventive new restaurants and the mellowest vibe around.
8. Trang Islands, Thailand
Thailand’s Trang Islands pack the same knockout punch as their more famous Andaman Coast neighbours, Phuket, Ko Phi-Phi and Ko Lanta; all they lack are the crowds. Blonde beaches glisten amid shards of jungle-topped karst; beachfront bungalows line crescents of squeaky sand; rainbows of fish flit through the aquamarine sea. Throw in ever-improving transport links and a sprinkling of development, and Trang’s laid-back isles look as irresistible as a steaming plate of pad thai.
9. Meghalaya, India
If ever there were a candidate for India’s Lost World, it would have to be Meghalaya, the lofty limestone plateau dividing Assam’s Brahmaputra Valley from the Bangladeshi plains.
So much rain falls here that it holds the title of wettest place on earth; but when the sky clears and the sun shines, it reveals raging waterfalls, tribal outposts and bridges woven from the living roots of jungle trees. Opportunities for hiking, climbing, caving and rafting abound.
After decades off the tourist map, people are starting to notice this backwater where Christianity is the main religion, archery is the favourite sport and farmers wear turtle shell-shaped baskets to keep dry during downpours. Meghalaya won’t stay this quiet for long; go before thrill seekers storm the Khāsi Hills.
10. Taitung, Taiwan
Bounded by green hills and the turquoise Pacific, Taitung is Taiwan’s secret wild card. This cradle of indigenous culture is the place to party after harvest with music festivals and sweet millet wine.
In the summer, the coast comes alive for the Taiwan Open of Surfing, while the sky fills with colour during the Taiwan International (Hot Air) Balloon Fiesta. Stay until September to wade knee-deep through fields of orange lilies, then feast on their spiced, deep-fried petals.
Source : Lonely Planet
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