Fresh Asian Cities to Visit in 2015
Many people take advantage of the long Easter break as a time to revisit beloved destinations and discover new ones. Are you looking for new ideas on where to go, not just for Easter break but for summer vacation and other weekend getaways as well?
For the last five years, Agoda.com, an Asia-based, online accommodation reservations company which specializes in offering discounts on favorite hotels worldwide, has come up with a destination list based on booking trends of the previous year, customer review ratings as well as editorial standards of the company.
Gypsetters find that traveling to new discoveries warms the soul and this list certainly emanates much wanderlust from us. Having never heard of these places, it makes one realize how big our world is and no matter how well-traveled one is there is so much more to explore.
I personally have been dreaming of a snowboard and snowmobiling vacation in Japan complete with a soak in the hot springs and delicious ramen and sushi to boot. Yufuin sounds like a perfect place for me! Where do you think you might visit in 2015?
What is it? An island archipelago about 43km off Taiwan’s west coast.
Why go? Interest in Penghu has jumped in recent years, thanks to increased coverage of its annual fireworks festival and inclusion in several ‘best of’ travel lists. Luckily, its isolation has given it a reprieve from the tour buses and flag-waving guides – for now. Check out fishing villages, temples, and lovingly restored walking streets, as well as some really unique historic and geological sites. Foodies regularly commented on the quality and quantity – especially fresh seafood.
When to go? Strong wind in spring is great for windsurfers. The summer offers the best weather, and includes the annual Ocean Fireworks Festival.
How to go? Flights from several Taiwanese and Chinese cities leave regularly, or catch the ferry from Kaohsiung.
Chitwan National Park, Nepal
What is it? Nepal’s first national park, located a four hour bus ride southwest of Kathmandu.
Why go? As Nepal’s oldest national park, it’s a diverse collection of jungle, grassland, and rivers that’s home to some of the world’s most unique and endangered animals. This includes rhinos, elephants, monkeys, crocodiles, birds, and even the exceedingly uncommon Bengal Tiger.
When to go? October to February, when the monsoon retreats, although in December you can see the annual Chitwan Elephant Festival.
How to go? Buses, taxis, and minivans come from Kathmandu, Pokhara, or Bharatpur (where there is a small airport).
What is it? A town-sized fishing village on the Indonesian island of Java, 200km southeast of Bandung City.
Why go? “Been to Bali. Now what?” is an oft heard comment among the South East Asian traveler set. Pangandaran is west of Bali, a bit further off the beaten path and a whole lot less developed – in a good way. The big draw here is the surprisingly great surfing off the broad isthmus of sand that juts south from the town. This ends in a large bead that is Pangandaran National Park, which offers hiking and rafting – most notably through the Green Canyon, a sharp slice of a gorge with emerald water that looks like something Indiana Jones might discover. The sleepy villages and swaying palms trees that populate the bucolic countryside surrounding the town are also a favorite for exploring on a rented bicycle.
When to go? Between April-September, when the weather is hot and the rains are minimal. This is also when the annual Kite Festival is held.
How to go? Nusawiru Airport is nearby, and buses come in from all nearby travel hubs.
What is it? A small town known for its hot springs and surrounding mountains on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu.
Why go? Hot springs are big business in Japan, and Yufuin has remained somewhat off the radar while bigger towns nearby, such as Beppu, get (most of) the crowds. Three of its hot springs are well known: Yufuin Hot Springs has a stunning location with views over the town and the hills beyond, as well and the second highest water flow in Japan; Yunohira Hot Springs is said to be effective at treating gastrointestinal afflictions; and Tsukahara Hot Springs, with its high acidity, is said to be the perfect remedy for skin conditions. Travelers regularly comment on the opportunities for a post-soak shopping trip through the stores that line the narrow streets followed by a coffee overlooking Lake Kinrinko. If you’re up for a challenge, hike up Mount Yufu for a superb view of the whole town.
When to go? Winter brings some heavy snowfall (best experienced while sitting in a hot spring, of course), and spring/summer are great for hiking (although that’s when the crowds come). If you can, check out the Yufuin Screaming Festival in October; it’s just what it sounds like.
How to go? Buses and trains deliver visitors from pretty much anywhere in the country.
Coorg (Kodagu), India
What is it? A hilly, forested area dotted with rice, spice, and coffee plantations in India’s southwest Karnataka state.
Why go? Coorg is one of Asia’s premier locations for spotting wildlife, period. One can see peacocks, tigers, jackals, porcupines, elephants, leopards…the list goes on. Hiking trails take you past ancient forts, royal tombs, over peaks, and even to the amazing Namdroling Monastery, the largest Nyingma Buddhism teaching center in the world. Fans of coffee should enjoy it too – the region produces a full 30% of India’s beans, and there are mornings when it seems that every molecule of oxygen you inhale has been infused with the rich scent of coffee.
When to go? November to April guarantees verdant scenery and crisp, comfortable weather. There are also a variety of festivals throughout the year, all uniquely interesting.
How to go? The nearest airport or train station are each about 100km away. Better to take buses from the surrounding area, which are plentiful and cheap.
(as seen in our cover photo)
What is it? A city about 400km northeast of Bangkok, in Thailand’s vast Isaan region.
Why go? Buriram is a fairly standard Thai city in many respects, but one of the main reasons it’s worth a visit is the spectacular 10th century ruins of Phanom Rung. Once part of the powerful Khmer Empire, this is one of the best preserved temples of its kind in the world. Sure, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat is bigger, but it’s also far more crowded. Here, the pink sandstone bricks, relatively low visitor numbers, and isolated location on the edge of an extinct volcano make for a superbly photo-friendly destination.
When to go? November to February in Thailand generally sees cooler weather and no rain. November hosts exciting Long Boat Races, where teams race absurdly narrow slivers of wood for the top prize.
How to go? There are regular flights from Bangkok, as well as buses from around the region.
Mount Emei, China
What is it? A lush, mountainous UNESCO World Heritage Site in China’s Sichuan province.
Why go? This is the stuff that photographers dream of – endless vistas of steep cliffs, ancient temples, and misty valleys. It’s said the first Buddhist temple in China was built here nearly 2,000 years ago, and now there are over 100 of varying size and importance that you can visit. Hikes range from moderate to strenuous, and there are cable cars for those who prefer shortcuts. Highlights include the Grand Buddha of Leshan, Liu Lao Cave, and the Cloud Sea, which is pretty much the coolest thing you can see with two feet on the ground.
When to go? April to October, though in the middle of summer it can get very hot at lower altitudes. In May there is an international Buddhist festival where monks from around the world come to celebrate.
How to go? Trains come from Kunming and Chengdu, while buses arrive from most bigger cities nearby.
Sokcho, South Korea
What is it? A city of about 90,000 in South Korea’s northeast, about 40km from the North Korean border.
Why go? Sokcho is a quiet little city, the perfect base for exploring the sprawling Seoraksan National Park, which starts as soon as you leave town. With the amount of hiking trails, gorges, waterfalls, and fresh grassland, it has earned its place on the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve list. In town, visitors can fill up on just-caught seafood, notably soondae, a unique type of squid sausage. Add a bit of intrigue to the trip and make a trip to the Goseong Unification Observatory, where you can peer over the DMZ into the North.
When to go? Summer is great for exploring Seoraksan Park, and October offers stunning fall colors, as well as the annual Seorak Cultural Festival.
How to go? It’s best to arrive by air from Seoul, but the adventurous can also get in and out via a ferry to Zarubino, Russia.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.