Four East Asian Locations For A Magical Holiday

The Far East is an area of the world which has plenty of big-name destinations, from the bustling metropolis of Shanghai to the popular street markets of Hong Kong. Add Japan and its jarring but spectacular mix of technological wonderland with austere temples, and you’ve got a pretty deep list of worthwhile places to visit, before you even speak of Korea. And yet, some of the best Asian destinations in which to take a break aren’t even on that list.

As you move around the east of Asia, you’ll find a rich melange of cultural influences; Japan is nothing like China. Hong Kong and Malaysia are as different as night and day. And, of course, a fortnight in Seoul could not be more different from a visit to Pyongyang. That’s one of the many reasons why a holiday in this part of the world is so worthwhile; no matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find something to your liking – as the travel destinations listed below demonstrate only too well.

Vietnam: The remarkable beauty of Hoi An

That’s not a typo; while the capital city of Vietnam is named Hanoi (or Ha Noi) and is well worth a visit, its anagrammatic counterpart is perfect for tourists who are less keen on crowds. Hoi An is a world removed from the capital; where Ha Noi is bustling and chaotic, this coastal port city is modest and quiet. What’s more, it’s strikingly beautiful. The winding streets are filled with both traditional Vietnamese architecture, and nods to the French colonial history that threads throughout the country.

Once a month, around the time of the Full Moon, the center of Ha Noi becomes the site of a Lantern Festival that sees dozens of paper lanterns released, lighting up the night with beautiful color. The whole experience is made even more visually stunning as the lanterns reflect off the canals that line Hoi An. You’ll also want to spend some time wandering along the Japanese covered bridge built here in the 1700s. Plenty of visitors feel that Hoi An is the most beautiful city in Asia and stands comparison with better-known sites further afield. Wherever you choose to place it in your own hierarchy, it is without doubt a city worth dallying in.

Thailand: Pattaya’s seaside charms are worth a look

About 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of the capital Bangkok, Pattaya is an alternative destination that offers a more relaxed vibe than its famous near-neighbor. It’s a seaside resort that provides ample opportunities to let your hair down. Although it is at the heart of the Pattaya-Chonburi Metropolitan Area, a district with more than a million inhabitants, Pattaya never feels as rushed as many large cities; at the base of it all, it’s simply a lot of fun. Visitors can find a beachfront condo for rent and plan an itinerary for however long they wish. There will be more than enough to keep them occupied for a short or long stay.

The most stunning sight is the Wat Khao Phra Bat temple, which sits on a hill overlooking the bay. Both the temple and the view from outside it are remarkable, and more than justify the short hike. If you’re visiting with kids, then the range of waterparks is such that you could visit one each day and still have some left over at the end of a week. Perhaps the pick of the bunch is RamaYana, which will appeal to kids and parents alike with its 21 slides, a lazy river the length of six football fields, and free sun loungers to which you can have food delivered.

About 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of the capital Bangkok, Pattaya is an alternative destination that offers a more relaxed vibe than its famous near-neighbor. It’s a seaside resort that provides ample opportunities to let your hair down. Although it is at the heart of the Pattaya-Chonburi Metropolitan Area, a district with more than a million inhabitants, Pattaya never feels as rushed as many large cities; at the base of it all, it’s simply a lot of fun. Visitors can find a beachfront condo for rent and plan an itinerary for however long they wish. There will be more than enough to keep them occupied for a short or long stay.

The most stunning sight is the Wat Khao Phra Bat temple, which sits on a hill overlooking the bay. Both the temple and the view from outside it are remarkable, and more than justify the short hike. If you’re visiting with kids, then the range of waterparks is such that you could visit one each day and still have some left over at the end of a week. Perhaps the pick of the bunch is RamaYana, which will appeal to kids and parents alike with its 21 slides, a lazy river the length of six football fields, and free sun loungers to which you can have food delivered.

Cambodia: See the modest wonders of Siem Reap

Most visitors to Cambodia (or Kampuchea, depending on your preference) come to the mountainous nation for one primary reason – the spectacular temple complex at Angkor Wat. This was the seat of the ruling Khmer dynasty between the 9th and 15th centuries, and the site is still dumbfoundingly impressive to view. Nearby, though, you will find the charming resort city of Siem Reap, which offers tourist attractions both conventional and … much less conventional.

On the serene side of things, there are numerous restaurants and bars where you can eat well and drink even better for a very modest price (and you should – the city is overrun annually by tourists who have mostly come to see Angkor Wat; the cleanup job is substantial and the local economy deserves a boost). Relaxing massages are on offer at Lemongrass Garden, a professional spa where traditional Cambodian treatments will leave you feeling relaxed. This should probably be on your itinerary after a visit to the Cambodia Landmine Museum; it’s not an easy museum to visit, but very much worth the stop as a keen reminder of history.

Laos: Vientiane offers a biodiverse paradise

Tucked quietly away among the more well-known destinations, Laos is – even among this collection of off-the-beaten track wonders – a hidden gem that offers plenty for the discerning tourist. The capital, Vientiane, is the jewel in the crown here. There’s enough here for any visitor to enjoy several relaxing, nourishing days. Unlike most capitals, it isn’t thronged with tourists, although there is a decent-sized crowd of backpackers at most times of year. Vientiane is best-known for its temples; the shrine at Wat Si Saket is home to upwards of a thousand Buddha figures. Pha That Luang, nearby, is a 16th-century stupa that stands over 44m (144ft) high.

While you won’t quickly become tired of touring temples here, there is more to find along Vientiane’s broad, tree-thronged streets. As the sun sets, the city’s popular night market gets going, with stalls selling irresistible souvenirs, local textiles and clothes, and plenty of local delicacies including barbecued meats. On the outskirts of the capital, the National Ethnic Cultural Park offers models of the typical traditional houses inhabited by the city’s many different ethnic groups. In addition, the park also hosts a zoo and various model dinosaurs. It’s a charming, often surprising attraction to visit; in this respect, it’s very Laotian.

The wonders of East Asia extend beyond the region’s traditional powerhouses; any visitor to this part of the world will find plenty to interest them, and with this impressive mosaic of the weird and the wonderful, you’re sure to find a place you’ll keep coming back to.

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