stray backpacker bus thailand laos buddha statue with little gilding left

Asia travel ideas and resources

When you’re staring at a map of Asia, it can be hard to decide where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do. Here’s some Asia travel ideas and resources to help you get past the map and onto the plane.

If you’re not satisfied with the best places in Asia, dig into this lot:

Cambodia

Angkor Wat dominates conversation around Cambodia — it’s on the flag, and on the label of the country’s most popular beer. Make sure to give yourself at least three days to enjoy Siem Reap and the Angkor historical park: there’s more than just one Wat, you know. Beyond Angkor is relaxing Battambang with day trips to temples, a winery, and more; Phnom Penh, the recovering capital; and the beaches of Sihanoukville.

China

Since it’s one of the world’s largest countries, it makes sense that most travellers focus on one part: the eastern seaboard and cities like Shanghai and Suzhou. Many also pop over to the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an. More-intrepid travellers might head west to Yunnan or Xinjiang; with less tourism infrastructure and a wider range of Chinese ethnic groups, it’s a fascinating look at another China.

India

Washing in the Ganges, Varanasi India

Another huge country, many first-time visitors to India have a visceral love-it or hate-it reaction, although travellers who have already been through busy parts of Asia might simply consider it a matter of scale. Agra and the Taj Mahal are big draws, as is Varanasi: the mystical northern city.

Indonesia

Largely unvisited by tourists — with the exception of Bali, of course — Indonesia is over 5,000km wide, contains at least 17,000 islands, and is home to hundreds of languages. If you want to try your hand at an Indiana Jones-style bushwhacking adventure, this might be your chance. But remember to always bushwhack in a responsible fashion.

Keep exploring

Japan

Japan’s rich cultural heritage has long fascinated the English-speaking world, with its watercolours, geishas, samurai warriors, and ninja assassins. More recently, Japan has called our attention with harajuku girls, crazy game shows, and a slew of late 20th- and early 21st-century literature.

Laos

The Southeast Asian backpacker paradise du jour has been described as “Goa in the sixties”, “Thailand in the eighties” and all sorts of other places in other ‘ties as well. Laos has recently ended its tourism lock-down and a solid infrastructure for visiting now exists to help you see glorious Luang Prabang in addition to rocky mountain valleys, riverside shrines, and a not-yet-westernised world.

Malaysia

Capital Kuala Lumpur serves as a great Southeast Asia air hub, with dozens of budget flights leaving each day. Make sure you budget some time in the rest of country though! Georgetown is famous for its coffee and colonial buildings, and across the sea on the island of Borneo, Malaysia continues with two more areas (Sabah and Sarawak), both prime for outdoor activities.

Keep exploring

Thailand

Sukhothai historical park, Thailand

The hottest property for backpackers, and a favourite for bootstrapping entrepreneurs, Thailand is known for island holidays, diving, and a healthy amount of debauchery. OK, maybe that’s not always healthy, but Thailand is more than Khao San Road and beach parties. Adding in a visit to the three capitals — Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Sukhothai — will reward those interested in digging deeper into Thai history, culture and religion, while northern Thailand’s mountainous region is gaining in popularity.

Vietnam

The war is well over: travellers lead the new invasion into Vietnam’s hotspots, but its recent history is always close to the surface. Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, and Sapa won’t disappoint; while beachgoers can get their fill of white sand at Mui Ne or Nga Trang.

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