MODERN DAY TRAVELERS seeking off the beaten path attractions and experiences at their destinations like a true local will appreciate TakeMeTour.
Created by robotics engineering graduate Taro Amornched, the online platform aims to match travelers with locals – but not in the sleazy Tinder kind of way.
Bali’s ‘Airbnb Experiences’ second most popular in Asia Specifically, it matches travelers with locals who can show them around.
So whether it’s a gastronomical tour of Bangkok’s Chinatown, a hiking trip along Japan’s nature trails, or a dance in a sunflower field your heart desires, TakeMeTour will connect you with the experts with all the know-how.
“On our website, a traveler can browse tours, itineraries, and experiences that are offered by locals. Currently, we have more than 20,000 local experts from 55 different cities. It’s like having a friend, some people you can trust, to show you around,” Amornched said in an interview with The Jay Kim Show.
Let’s get started Log in to the website and select a city you’d like to visit.
Then, choose from the list of one-day tours and experiences available. Once you find what you like, pick a date on the calendar or chat with said local for availability.
When all details are confirmed, book with them directly. Bookings will only be valid once the payments are made through Take Me Tour with a valid credit card.
It’s like making one new local friend with every booking.
“All the local experts speak Thai and English. We have been focusing on English-speaking travelers in the past two years, but starting this year, we will start focusing on a third language. That means you would see local experts who can speak Japanese, Chinese, and French as a starting point,” Amornched added.
About safety and security Is it okay to throw caution to the wind and simply follow a local around in a foreign country?
How safe is it, really?
A post shared by TakeMeTour (@takemetour_thailand) on Mar 23, 2018 at 10:30pm PDT
“We have very strict security measures. We check the ID, bank account, criminal record, and the like to make sure these local experts are actually legitimate. We also make sure we know how to find them,” Amornched explained.
Newly-listed tours will go through stages of approvals by both TakeMeTour as well as its network of bloggers to assure they’re meeting quality standards.
What if things go bad?
“If something bad happens, we can still make refunds. We also provide accident insurance for both travelers and local experts,” Amornched said.
Every listing also includes reviews from previous guests so travelers can gauge if the experience is something that they’d like.
Healing on a holiday: Cheap rehabs boost Thailand’s medical tourism Currently, the Asian countries that TakeMeTour covers are Thailand, Cambodia, and Japan. The platform is looking to expand to Myanmar next month.
Check it out here.
The post This Thailand-based platform will match travelers with locals appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.
MODERN DAY TRAVELERS seeking off the beaten path attractions and experiences at their destinations like a true local will appreciate TakeMeTour.
IF BEING STUCK inside your hotel or Airbnb while on holiday because it’s pouring outside sounds like a bad idea, it probably is.
In fact, for some places in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Laos, Singapore Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam), the monsoon season (the wet, rainy months from May to October) is considered an “off” season due to the lack of activity and people.
Nobody likes a soggy beach: The best times to go to Asia’s top 11 beaches You could’ve been hankering for a sunny, beach vacation only to discover that you’re walking right into an afternoon downpour as soon as you step out of the airport. Or, you could’ve been planning to shop till you drop in Singapore only to find that you’ll need to lug a dripping wet umbrella with you everywhere you go.
There are two things you can do in that situation: sulk about your ruined holiday or embrace it. Hopefully, it’s the latter.
But so as to avoid from having to make such decisions, here are some things you need to know about traveling during monsoon season.
Things are cheaper Most Southeast Asians would know better than to travel during the monsoon season, and because there are not many tourists as well, merchants and hotels would usually do everything in their power to attract visitors.
So expect amazing discounts and mind-bogglingly low prices for rentals, accommodations, and even food and drinks.
Feel the cool breeze on your face Southeast Asia’s peak travel season is during its dry season, during which the region is relatively free of rain. But that is also when it’s ridiculously humid and hot, thanks to its tropical climate.
Rain or overcast skies on the daily during the monsoon season makes for a more cooling travel so pack a poncho (because that’s easier to lug around than an umbrella) and make the best out of it.
“Sorry, we’re closed” In bigger and more populated cities, businesses will experience a slowdown during monsoon season. But in smaller towns and on quieter islands, some businesses will decide to close altogether until the dark clouds go away. This affects you as a visitor as you will be left with slim pickings on places to eat and things to do.
Make sure you do your research (Google is your best friend) and get your itinerary done right down to the most minute detail to avoid inconveniences.
Beach, please Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t torrential-rain down on people 24 hours a day.
So as soon as the rain slows to a light drizzle and the sun decides to make an appearance for a little while, put on your swimsuit and head to the beach.
Steer clear of the current Although you’re at the beach, it’s best not to risk swimming, surfing, or diving. Some places, such as Phuket and Koh Chang in Thailand, experience deadly rip currents (powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water) that are capable of pulling you in and under.
Sink your toes in the sand, not the sea.
Flash flooding ahead Being out and about in a city may prove to be a challenge, but nothing undoable. Some countries, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, are prone to flash floods.
So maybe lay off Ubers or cabs (in case you get stranded in a flash flood) and walk it instead. Do leave your expensive kicks behind and pack a good, trusty pair of non-slip sandals or thongs.
Stay safe and happy monsoon holidaying!
The post What you should know about traveling during monsoon season appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.
Arriving in new city, in a country you have never been to before, can be an overwhelming experience. You may have all the right plans to discover ‘the real’ Bangkok, for example, but once on the ground, uncovering the spots beyond the tourist traps can be extremely difficult.
If you are smart, you sign up for a tour that goes beyond the more obvious landmarks and circumvents the restaurants with their special tourist prices. However, if you are really smart, you can you sign up with Very Local Trip.
Specialising in expertly curated, customised and flexible local experiences, Very Local Trip puts the travellers at the centre of the action, exactly where they should be – a concept described by founder Maxime Besnier as the Airbnb of tourism.
I spoke to Besnier, a French expat based in Bangkok, to find out more about the concept, how it developed and what he wants from a local friend.
Maxime Besnier How does Very Local Trip differ from standard guided tours?
95% of our audience is B2B. The clients explain their interests to the travel designer in the agency – ‘we like shopping, art galleries’ – so we know the client’s profile as it has been sent by our B2B partners.
Travellers don’t often tell us anything about the kind of day they have in mind, so, when the ‘local friend’ meets the traveller in the lobby of the hotel for the first time they have a five or ten minute chat where the local friend will ask “How are you feeling?”, “Are you jetlagged?” that kind of thing.
“I don’t want to feel like a tourist, I want to feel like a local”
The local friend will, of course, have an idea sketched out for the day according to the location and length of the tour but they are also able to then take the feelings of the traveller, on the day into account and incorporate that into the trip. For example, maybe they need to mend a broken heal on a shoe before they start and the local friend can incorporate that into the trip. It’s a completely flexible programme built around the needs of the traveller.
Usually the traveller needs to adapt the tour: ‘It starts at this time, and we will visit this number of places over this period of time’. Very Local Trip adapts to the traveller – if they don’t have any expectations, it’s a case of ‘follow me, I will show you’.
Feeding time for fishes. Bangkok style. Where did the idea come from?
I didn’t start out in the travel industry. I have a master’s degree in genetics – for another person in another life maybe. I used to work for pharmaceutical companies in France and did a lot of travelling.
Then in 2014, as an expat living in Thailand, people, friends and friends of friends kept saying to me, “Hey Max, I am coming to Bangkok. It’s is my first time; what do you recommend as place to visit off the beaten track for local markets and street food?”
The message I got from this was “I don’t want to feel like a tourist, I want to feel like a local”.
“I thought it would be better to focus on Thailand first where I know and trust a group of local people”
I am city explorer and I know my many spots which I have discovered. I also know many people who are knowledgeable about the city, are friendly and passionate and have time – so why not connect these two groups of people, the traveller and the local.
At the end of 2014 I submitted an application and was accepted on to a start-up accelerator programme. Nine companies were selected – though I just found out from those nine, we are the only company still going.
Related Posts Neither a night market or a vintage market for hipsters, this is a local market for local people What were the major challenges you encountered?
The idea was to set up an Airbnb of tourism, by bringing connecting travellers with informed local people. The plan was to raise USD500,000 and build a massive platform, with lots of content from all over the world. However after three months, my business partners returned to France and left the project. I was suddenly alone, no partners and no website.
I was contacted by one of France’s biggest travel companies. They liked the concept of showing a city to travellers with someone who lives there, and wanted to work with me.
But I still really believed in the idea. So I regrouped and focused on building the quality of the experience and not the its the reach of the website so much. I thought it would be better to focus on Thailand first as this is where I know and trust a group of local people, who could make the concept successful.
What happened next?
After I launched a new version of the website in April 2015, there was suddenly interest from French expat community magazines here in Bangkok, who were producing articles about Very Local Trip and how this French guy was starting to do something different.
Subsequently I was contacted by one of France’s biggest travel companies. They liked the concept of showing a city to travellers with someone who lives there, and wanted to work with me.
That’s what we want – a small, exceptional team to provide a persona, quality driven service.
This company [who Maxime has requested remain nameless] had even tried themselves to build the concept in Sydney. It had gone well and people liked the informal approach of just meeting someone without a fixed, formal programme. This changed operations a lot as I was now able to concentrate on building the network of local friends and experiences without having to be so concerned with where the next client would come from.
What do you look for in person when choosing ‘local friends’?
We need to work with reliable local people who are very knowledgeable. It creates an idea that a trip is your day, and is different from anyone else’s experience.
It is a freelance job for the local friends and I have a lot of creative people involved – in Thailand one guy is a photographer, another a journalist and one is a start-up developer – people with the time but also the passion for showing off their city.
Local Friend making a unique memory for the client Mostly I find them through word of mouth from other local friends. I also have partnerships with a few, small independent local agencies who understand our vision and approach. It can be hard to find a person with all the right criteria – friendly passionate communicative and available. But that’s what we want – a small, exceptional team to provide a personal quality driven service.
You have a presence in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Laos and Cambodia; future plans?
We cover a big part of the French market and we work B2B with two major French companies. But, now, I have reached a point where I am cautious about selling our services to another big player in France.
So now I am trying to focus on the English speaking market – Australia for example.I am busy researching how the Australian traveller may differ from the French travellers. I am also on my way to Cairo to get the lay of the land there.
For more information visit verylocaltrip.com
LAST week, a “rooftop” swimming pool in a Vietnamese hotel went viral for all the wrong reasons.
Traveler Jenny Kershaw took to Twitter to share her disappointment over the hotel’s false advertising. She had made her booking via hotel reservation platform Booking.com.
Our hotel pool in Vietnam…booking.com VS reality we’ve been done there pic.twitter.com/lElDjxzFwd
— Jenny Kershaw (@jennykershawx) May 12, 2018
The tweet picked up traction and netizens soon jumped on the “expectation vs. reality” bandwagon.
What ensued was a series of tweets from other travelers showcasing similar swimming pool disasters.
— rein (@enigma8128) May 14, 2018
At least your pool had water in it! pic.twitter.com/jQ33w29XNf
— Michael Brown (@mbrownboy) May 17, 2018
Thankfully for Booking.com and the hotel involved, Jenny and her friends saw the funnier side of it and decided not to complain.
But it still doesn’t change the fact that what you expect can turn out to be disappointingly different.
It’s not just hotel pools that can result in frowns and underwhelming reactions. Some of the world’s most loved, visited and iconic landmarks can also offer up bitter realities.
Social media has undoubtedly created unrealistic expectations of these iconic places.
What they don’t tell you about traveling during Ramadhan Platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook have contributed to false representations of the beauty, grandeur, history or culture of these places.
When people do manage to take an outstanding photograph of a destination – edited, filtered and enhanced – many people would want to see that specific place.
This only fuels a #FOMO (fear of missing out) among eager travelers, which then creates a mass exodus of people to a destination.
Here are some examples of well-planned, impeccably-timed photos in comparison to what the average traveler will experience.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia Expectation
A post shared by Paula & Borja ⋆ Travel couple↞ (@unviajede2) on May 17, 2018 at 12:42pm PDT
A post shared by Edü Denali (@edu.denali) on Apr 22, 2018 at 11:38am PDT
Taj Mahal, India Expectation
A post shared by Glo | TheBlogAbroad.com (@glographics) on May 20, 2018 at 5:52pm PDT
A post shared by Georgia Bateman (@georgialbateman) on May 20, 2018 at 7:42pm PDT
Phi Phi Islands, Thailand Expectation
A post shared by Quiero Tailandia (@quierotailandia) on May 19, 2018 at 12:54pm PDT
A post shared by (@traveljetone) on Feb 1, 2018 at 4:03am PST
Forbidden City, China Expectation
A post shared by godianogodsi (@godianogodsi) on May 21, 2018 at 12:12am PDT
A post shared by Eduardo Brethauer (@eduardo_brethauer) on May 20, 2018 at 6:06am PDT
Great Wall of China, China Expectation
A post shared by Rob the Traveler (@mysticalvoyage) on Dec 22, 2017 at 5:56am PST
A post shared by B e c c a (@beccabikes) on May 20, 2018 at 5:07am PDT
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Expectation
A post shared by Gardens by the Bay (@gardensbythebay) on May 17, 2018 at 5:30pm PDT
A post shared by Ryan Poloway (@ryanpoloway) on May 20, 2018 at 11:36am PDT
Fushimi Inari-Taisha, Japan Expectation
A post shared by Andy To (@andyto) on May 20, 2018 at 8:49pm PDT
A post shared by Kate (@krw7454) on May 20, 2018 at 11:53pm PDT
Kuta, Indonesia Expectation
A post shared by XIAO (@shadow_of_eris) on May 21, 2018 at 1:22am PDT
A post shared by Imade Agus Yudana (@bali_best_driver) on May 21, 2018 at 1:32am PDT
The post Expectation vs. reality: Asia’s hottest tourist spots appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.
LAST WEEK, American teenager Keziah Daum was harangued on Twitter for what they deemed to be cultural appropriation.
She had uploaded a picture of herself wearing a traditional Chinese dress, the qipao (otherwise colloquially known as the cheongsam), to her prom.
‘Venice of the East’: Charming water villages in China What’s a qipao? It’s a body-hugging one-piece Chinese dress for women that originated from the Manchu0-ruled China back in the 17th century. It literally means “banner dress”.
Most of them are made of embroidered silk, with a high mandarin collar and thick laces trimmed at the collar, sleeves, and edges. It represents a woman’s modesty, softness, and beauty.
Although the style of the qipao has evolved over several thousand years, it’s still worn today. In Asia, it’s reserved for important occasions such as Chinese New Year, special dinners and events, and weddings.
The qipao or cheongsam literally means “banner dress”. Source: Shutterstock
Thousands of “social justice warriors” took to their Twitter to accuse the 18-year-old Utah high school senior, who has no Chinese heritage, of her apparent “fashion crime”.
“My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress,” wrote the now infamous Twitter user American Chinese Jeremy Lam, which led to an all-out eruption on the social media platform.
Throngs of people rallied behind him, backing his tweet up with more flak than necessary. “All you need now to finish off this pose is to tug the corner of your eyes and do a buck tooth smile. Not cool,” Twitter user press_yellow wrote.
— Keziah (@daumkeziah) April 22, 2018
“I don’t see the big deal of me wearing a gorgeous dress I found for my last prom. If anything, I’m showing my appreciation to other cultures and I didn’t intend to make anyone think that I’m trying to be racist. It’s just a dress,” Daum posted in response to the negativity.
Daum has also appeared on local Utah paper Deseret News, FOX News, and Good4Utah to address the controversy.
Halfway across the world, South Morning China Post (SCMP), a news website headquartered in Hong Kong, described Chinese commenters as complimenting Daum’s prom dress.
“It is not cultural theft,” one person commented on an article by Wenxue City News. “It is cultural appreciation and cultural respect.”
It represents a woman’s modesty, softness, and beauty. Source: Shutterstock.
Some countries in the Asian region can’t wait to teach you all about their culture.
Here are destinations in Asia where you can get your dose of judgment-free, cultural-appreciating fashion.
Cambodia The sampot is a long, rectangular cloth that’s wrapped around the lower body, length to foot, and tied securely on the waist. There are many variations of the garment and each is worn according to social class.
It dates back to the Funan era when a Cambodian king allegedly ordered the people of his kingdom to wear the sampot at the request of Chinese envoys.
In some parts of Cambodia, such as Battambang, tourists can take part in a photoshoot wearing the sampot.
For as low as US$2 per photo (for a minimum of four or five photos), travelers can don the traditional costume and take part in a photoshoot, a common pre-wedding activity in Cambodia.
Japan To fully immerse yourself in the Japanese culture, you need to play dress up in the traditional kimono.
A kimono, which means a “thing to wear”, is a full-length T-shaped robe with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. It’s wrapped around the body and secured by a sash called an obi at the back.
From as low as JPY2,700 (US$24.78) in some places in Japan, you’ll get to take a stroll in a kimono and snap some pictures for the ‘gram.
You can even opt for a “kimono and tea ceremony” package, as well as other add-ons or upgrade options such as a rickshaw ride. If you’d like to take one home with you, some stores sell new and secondhand ones.
Thailand The Southeast Asian country’s chut thai, which means “Thai outfit”, consists of a pha nung (a cloth that resembles a long skirt) or a chong kraben (loincloth wrap), a blouse, and a sabai (a shawl-like garment or breast cloth).
It can be worn by men, women, and children.
Thai Style Studio at MBK Center in Bangkok, Thailand provides services where tourists can rent traditional Thai costumes (including wedding regalia), get their hair and make-up done, and have a professional photographer take their pictures for a fee.
“They offer different packages and the cheapest one for couples cost THB5,700 (US$178.90),” Teesh of Adventures of Cupcake Girl wrote.
Taiwan Said to be China’s “breakaway province”, Taiwan and China shares many similarities in terms of language, writing, and culture.
As such, there are boutiques in Taiwan at which travelers can rent an elegant qipao.
For TWD800 (US$26.86), you can experience a bit of the Chinese culture when you put on a beautiful qipao.
You can also opt for a full day package which includes a day-long hire and ample time to take pictures with the amazing Jiufen town as a backdrop.
South Korea Hanbok-wearing is one of the most popular activities for tourists in South Korea. Hanbok, which means “Korean clothing”, consists of jeogori (a blouse shirt or a jacket) and chima (a wrap-around skirt) for women, and jeogori and loose-fitting baji (pants) for men.
It’s characterized by vibrant colors and simple lines without pockets and usually worn as semi-formal or formal wear during traditional festivals and celebrations.
Hanbok rentals cost anywhere between KRW13,000 (US$12) to KRW15,000 (US$14) and usually run for four hours. Accessories are included in the rental price.
Play dress up in a hanbok and admission to Gyeongbokgung Palace, the home of Kings of the Joseon dynasty and the largest palace in South Korea, is free of charge.
The post Cultural appreciation: Traditional wear rental places in Asia appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.
DISASTER TOURISM, also known as dark tourism, is the act of traveling to a disaster area. For thrillseekers, it’s pleasure. For others, it’s out of curiosity in a very honest way.
Although it’s not a new phenomenon, there have been debates about whether or not it’s ethical. But there are always two sides to the story.
Creepiest ‘Dark Tourism’ sites around Asia As tourists, of course, there are always rules. Travelers should always go in as people who genuinely want to learn about war and destruction. It’s like stepping inside a history book.
Thus, actions that lack sensitivity is what makes disaster tourism questionable. For example, you wouldn’t play Pokemon Go at a Holocaust museum or make inappropriate poses while taking countless selfies at Pearl Harbor, where 1,177 lives were lost, making it essentially a grave site.
Furthermore, locals visit the same places to learn about their country’s history and to make sure they avoid repeating the mistake. Tourists need to be respectful and not trivialize a tragedy and the destination’s dark past.
Disaster/dark tourism continues to draw tourists from all over the world. Source: Shutterstock.
There’s a burgeoning demand for disaster/dark tourism, with places becoming more and more accessible to visitors.
The Chernobyl exclusion zone saw 50,000 people touring the area last year, a 35 percent increase from 2016. And 70 percent of those visitors were foreigners.
For the uninitiated, the Chernobyl disaster was a catastrophic nuclear accident that happened 32 years ago. Although nearly 350,000 people were evacuated from within a 30-kilometer radius around the plant, the explosion exposed thousands of people to high levels of radiation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) previously reported that a total of 4,000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure in years to come.
Tourists are usually screened before and after they visit the exclusion zone.
Sun, sea, sand, surgery: Top medical tourism destinations in Asia That having said, with so many Chernobyl tour companies to choose from, the tourism numbers are set to increase.
Closer to home, these are the formidable disaster/dark tourism destinations that continue to lure tourists.
Here’s what you need to know about them.
Cambodia: Anlong Veng Peace Centre Cambodia is home to many grim sites left over from the Khmer Rouge years, during which a regime was responsible for one of the worst mass killings of the 20th Century.
From 1975 to 1979, 1.7 million people (a quarter of the population back then) died from either execution or illness or were worked and starved to death.
Anlong Veng was one of the main strongholds of the Khmer Rouge after their regime was toppled in January 1979.
The Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), a non-governmental organization, has been working on the Anlong Veng Peace Centre located on the Thai-Cambodian border to tell a story about the country’s dark past.
It’s home to 14 Khmer Rouge-related landmarks, including Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot’s cremation site and Khmer Rouge commander Ta Mok’s home.
Tip: Read up on its past and study its sensitivities beforehand.
Nepal In April 2015, a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Nepal, killing almost 9,000 people.
Buildings, temples, and ancient structures were destroyed. Till this day, more than 50 percent of its people still live in temporary shelters or live in traumatic conditions.
Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal which was severely damaged after the major earthquake. Source: Shutterstock.
While the recovery has been slow, Nepal is getting back on its feet thanks to volunteers, mercenaries, worldwide aid, and tourism.
Tour operator Royal Mountain Travel offers “adventure and local experience” to curious travelers. Tourists can opt for the company’s 17-day earthquake programme which will take them to Nuwakot, a badly hit village.
Tip: Be sensitive to the locals. Don’t stick your camera into their shelters or damaged homes.
Japan: Hiroshima Peace Museum Japan’s Hiroshima story is perhaps the most important moment in warfare history.
Only twice did the US ever use nuclear weapons and that was in Japan. In 1945, Japanese cities Nagasaki and Hiroshima were obliterated three days apart by atomic bombs.
The bombings left death and destruction in its wake, killing at least 129,000 people, most of whom were civilians. Many others perished due to radiation and illness.
Japan’s dark secret: Why are locals traveling to share heartbreaking stories? Modern-day Hiroshima may be far from the destruction that the bomb left in its wake, but the trauma that hangs in the air is hard to extinguish.
Located in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the Hiroshima Peace Museum exhibits belongings left behind by the victims, photos, and other materials that convey the horror of the event.
Tip: Remember to pay your respects at the various monuments and memorials dedicated to the victims and survivors of the bombing.
South Korea: DMZ Although South Korea’s demilitarized zone (DMZ) didn’t suffer physical damage or destruction, it’s still reminiscent of the war that tore the Korean Peninsula apart, killed more than a million people and left thousands more unaccounted for, and separated family, friends, and loved ones for decades.
The 250km-long border barrier was created in 1953 by North Korea, China, and the United Nations, and is guarded by heavily armed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers.
A post shared by lainey ツ (@laineyyyx) on Nov 6, 2017 at 7:39pm PST
Tours need to be booked via companies that operate DMZ tours.
As there have been incidents of military and civilian casualties in the past, tours to the Joint Security Area (JSA) are irregular and infrequent, and highly dependent on the often tense political situation between the two countries.
Other destinations along the border include the DMZ tunnel, Imjingak park, the Freedom bridge, and Dorasan station, just to name a few.
Tip: Rules are strictly enforced for tourists, right down to the dress code and picture-taking etiquette.
The post Disaster tourism: Does tragedy like company? appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.
YOU may have climbed the great wall of China, lounged on the golden sands across Indonesia, dived with the tropical fish in the Philippines and gazed at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
But these are just the beginning of your Asian adventure, and to be honest, the beginning of everyone else’s too.
Asia has so many more spectacular destinations waiting to be explored by intrepid adventurers and culture seekers.
Could Hainan be Asia’s next paradise island destination? Destinations which haven’t already been hash-tagged a thousand times and remain relatively known to many.
These are the places travel agents want to keep a secret but aren’t allowed to.
They are destinations that you can plaster over your Instagram before anyone else does, or simply keep their magnificence to yourself as tropical secret.
Feast your eyes on some of Asia’s hidden gems.
The Banaue Rice Terraces, Philippines A post shared by jurn33 (@jurn33) on Apr 24, 2018 at 3:36am PDT
These stunning rice fields effortlessly follow the contours of the emerald mountains in the Cordillera region in Luzon, around 300 miles from Manila.
The outstanding natural beauty has existed here for millions of years with the addition of the rice fields around 2000 years ago.
A post shared by Dina & Chris (@myunbucketlist) on Apr 17, 2018 at 8:01pm PDT
The upkeep of the fields is a family affair with knowledge being passed down through generations.
While the area is far from the luxury found in the Philippines’ El Nido Resort, the adventure and landscape are well worth the basic accommodation.
Hunan Province, China A post shared by BudgetTravel (@budgettravel) on Oct 20, 2015 at 9:36pm PDT
Located in the southern central part of China, the natural beauty of Hunan Province inspired James Cameron’s ground-breaking film, Avatar.
Equally accessible on a short flight from either Beijing or Shanghai, the area boasts Wulingyuan Scenic Area which contains several national parks.
A post shared by Elaine Li | Sydney (@lielaine) on Apr 13, 2018 at 6:06am PDT
One of the most stunning parks is Zhangjiajie. The towering sandstone columns jut out of the flora-covered forest floor creating stepping stones in the sky.
The choice of four-star accommodation around the parks offers adventurous travelers the option of luxury too.
Tashkent, Uzbekistan A post shared by Mᴀʀɪɴᴀ Bʀᴀᴜɴ ↝ Fᴀsʜɪᴏɴ Tʀᴀᴠᴇʟs (@marinabraunnn) on Apr 23, 2018 at 12:57pm PDT
Taskent may be the capital city of Uzbekistan but it’s very different from other major cities.
Unlike London, Beijing, New York or New Delhi, Tashkent is relativelly quiet but steeped in beauty.
History and architecture enthusiasts can enjoy incredible mosaic styled buildings and learn more about the old charms of the Silk Road.
A post shared by Bronwynn Bradley (@bwynnb) on Apr 23, 2018 at 9:47am PDT
Despite its Soviet past, it’s far easier to get around Tashkent than you may think.
Visitors can find taxis and buses all over the city and a beautifully decorated metro runs efficiently.
Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia A post shared by Elephant Family (@elephantfamily) on Jun 26, 2017 at 4:36am PDT
Nestled between the southwest of Cambodia and Eastern Thailand, these stunning mountains are yet to register on tourist’s radars.
Cultural quirks such as 17th-century ceramic pots can be seen high up on rock ledges surrounded by lush forest.
The mountains were once home to fleeing Khmer Rouge soldiers, but now the area is preserved as a gleaming example of community-based ecotourism.
A post shared by Anja (@anjamanuela) on Mar 30, 2018 at 11:36pm PDT
The Cardamom Mountains are perfect for animal lovers as the undisturbed rocky mountainsides and moist climate have allowed magnificent flora and fauna to thrive.
See if you can spot a clouded leopard, Indochinese tiger or dhole.
What’s in a: traditional Thai massage? Shodoshima, Japan A post shared by Japonismo.com (@japonismo) on Apr 23, 2018 at 12:07pm PDT
Think Mediterranean olive grows meets Balinese beaches and you get Shodoshima.
Also known as the Island of Little Beans, this hidden spot can be found between Kagawa and Okayama in the south main islands that make up the extensive Japanese archipelago.
While it is popular among domestic tourist looking for a slice of beach paradise, it’s certainly not on the checklists of international travelers just yet.
A post shared by Eri Qumbar (@e_nico19) on Apr 23, 2018 at 3:16am PDT
When you’re not tucking into fresh olives and relaxing in a natural hot spring, make your way up to Mount Hoshigajo-san, Mount Kingdom of Stars, to take full advantage of mesmerizing landscape views.
Have you visited any off-the-radar gems in Asia you want to share with us? We won’t tell anyone… promise.
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Boutique hotels offer a unique intimacy and wonderful idiosyncrasy that you just can’t get in bigger, faceless hotels. They have a beating heart and an eccentric personality that charms you while making you feel whole heartedly welcome, and Asia is home to some of the world’s finest, most endearing, quirky and incredibly serviced boutique hotels.
These hotels are easy to find if you know where to look and are difficult to leave because you’ll undoubtedly fall in love with them.
Here are a few boutique hotels from across Asia that offer individuality, quirky design, real character, fantastic location, tantalizing gastronomy and a superb level of service.
Editor’s pick: Belmond
The wonderful world of Belmond welcomes guests into 47 extraordinary hotels, luxury railway journeys, and tranquil river cruise experiences.
For the last 40 years, Belmond has constantly been adding to its distinctive portfolio, offering guests unique experiences.
Belmond La Residence D’Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia is a leafy retreat set on the river, just moments from the mystifying temple complexes and close to the town centre.
The enchanting traditional Khmer architecture, hand-woven silks, local artefacts and bespoke artworks give the five-star hotel a genuine sense of place.
Belmond La Residence D’Angkor’s award-winning Kong Kea Spa offers a unique sensory experience taking traditional Cambodian-style healing techniques and combining them with contemporary methods to deliver utter relaxation of body and mind.
If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life you can travel to Laos or Myanmar. You’ll find Belmond La Residence Phou Vao, set in Luang Prabang’s secluded heritage zone atop Phou Vao Hill, or Belmond Governor’s Residence, in the quiet diplomatic district of Yangon, the perfect boutique hotels for you.
Immerse in an enchanting world of culture and adventure at Belmond La Residence Phou Vao where guests recline around a freshwater infinity pool looking towards spectacular mountain vistas. Let the fresh scent of frangipani transport you back to simpler times.
Meanwhile, Belmond Governor’s Residence is a colonial-style mansion where old world elegance mingles with rich Burmese beauty, providing guests with a classic pinch of Myanmar magic. Relax beside the large fan-shaped pool before discovering the city sites. After all, Shwedagon Temple is just 10 minutes away. Then return to the Governor’s Residence for signature cocktails and alfresco delectable dinner featuring the finest and freshest seafood.
Or perhaps you’re looking for a beach-side paradise for your vacation? Belmond Napasai on Koh Samui, southern Thailand, and Belmond Jimbaran Puri on Bali Island, Indonesia, will fulfil your dreams of golden sand, crystal clear water and fantastic flora.
Belmond Jimbaran Puri offers delightful stand-alone villas and cottages embraced by lush jungle and enjoying perfect privacy. Each villa is designed to reflect true Balinese style with alang-alang thatched roofs and bamboo interiors complemented with stunning ocean views.
Soak up the atmosphere around the beachfront pool carved from Javanese stone. Then dash across the golden sand to the glistening ocean. At Belmond Jimbaran Puri, you’ll feel a million miles from anywhere.
Last not least among Belmond’s brilliant collection of boutique hotels across Asia is Belmond Napasai on the paradise island of Koh Samui.
Here you’ll find some 17 acres of beachfront tropical gardens and accommodations offering an authentic Thai tropical island feel. The stylish split-level multi-bedroom residences, providing direct access to the glimmering ocean, are entirely unique to this Belmond property.
When you’ve finished admiring this slice of perfect paradise nestled between cashew and coconut groves, enjoy the botanical secrets of Asia at Napasai Spa. Then feast on the finest regional cuisine and enjoy further flavours of Koh Samui mixed in a cocktail while ensconced in this beachside haven.
If you’re looking for a unique tailor-made experience in Australia, stay at one of Lancemore Group’s properties where each of the award-winning boutique hotels are as individual as you are.
Mansion Hotel and Spa by Lancemore at Werribee Park in Victoria is one of the grandest hotels in Australia and perfect for those who have an interest in history.
Guest will experience a cosmopolitan haven of tranquillity and charm through luxurious guest rooms paired effortlessly with exquisitely kept 19th century estate gardens.
Indulge in the spa treatments and take a walk through the English gardens, full of flora and bumbling bees.
Enjoy a delicious meal and fine wine and forget the bustling outside world.
Step outside of the old English style of life and into a world of swimming, snorkelling and diving at Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore in Queensland.
Set against a backdrop of endless turquoise waters and golden sand beaches lined with coconut palms, this boutique hotel is perfect for romantic escapes and family holidays.
Each of the huge rooms reflect the serenity of the hotel’s surroundings and the brilliant staff at Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore will undoubtedly provide you with a perfect holiday.
Back in city life, Larmont Sydney by Lancemore offers a boutique hotel in one of Sydney’s avant-garde hubs, Potts Point.
The unrivalled location of the hotel looks out over spectacular harbour views from gorgeous rooms full of bespoke amenities for the well-traveled guest who wants more than a standard hotel room.
China may not be your first port of call for boutique hotels, but there are some stunning properties waiting to be discovered.
One of these is Rosewood Beijing. The hotel presents contemporary, warm, refined and serene surroundings which give guests the impression of luxury apartment living.
The 282 spacious rooms and suites have walk-in closets, top of the range immaculate bathrooms, chic furniture, beautiful fine art prints, floor-to-ceiling windows and touches of individuality to evoke a home-like atmosphere.
Rosewood Beijing is set in the prestigious Chaoyang District surrounded by urban skyscrapers and high-end shopping.
Guests here are in the perfect place to discover all the culture and history the packed capital has to offer, safe in the knowledge they can stroll through the elegant doors at the end of a busy day and dine at one of the six onsite restaurants offering everything from fine pastries to local cuisine and tapas to French bistro.
There is no doubt boutique hotels are the only way to stay, travel and play.
Why stay anywhere else in Asia when you could have a personalized piece of paradise at any one of these featured properties?
*Some of the properties featured in this article are commercial partners of Travel Wire Asia
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Marble Temple of Bangkok, part of Back-Roads Touring’s ‘Temples of Thailand and Cambodia’ itinerary British based group-tour specialists Back-Roads Touring has started a new chapter in its 25-year history by branching out from its traditional stamping grounds in the United Kingdom and Europe, with the announcement of its expansion into Asia.
Taking its experience of small group and custom made tours of the highways byways, and of course, back roads of Europe – as well as canal excursions and boutique accommodations – and applied it to eight itineraries:
Bangkok & The River Kwai (five days), Temples of Thailand and Cambodia (eight days), Wonders of Thailand (13 days), Hanoi & Halong Highlights, Vietnam Adventure (five days), Vietnam and Cambodia Discovery (12 days) and Flavours of Vietnam (12 days).
“Exploring South-East Asia in a small group is something that we know travellers are seeking and with our new Asia tours, they can do that with a company they know and trust” said Daryl Raven, Back-Roads Touring general manager.
“A balance of guided experiences and to be able to explore destinations at their own leisure”
“We are committed to keeping up with market demands and customer feedback, and have always taken this on board when we develop any of our new product ranges. We know that our customers are looking for a balance of guided experiences and to be able to explore destinations at their own leisure.”
“In South-East Asia, some of our amazing highlights include experiences such as exploring Angkor Wat with a stone conservation expert, visiting rescued elephants in a rehabilitation facility in Chiang Mai, or even showing you where to experience the best sunset over a deserted beach. With our experienced guides, a Back-Roads tour in Asia is simply extraordinary”.
Raven went on to say: “We’ve seen triple digit growth from UK agents in the last few years with the majority of our business coming this way so they’re incredibly important to us. We believe that the launch of Asia will complement our Europe & UK Small Group Touring programme perfectly so we’re looking forward to working even closer with our existing trade partners and developing new partnerships off the back of this release.”
Back-Roads Touring specialises in authentic, off-the-beaten-track travel and small group tours, capped at 18 in Europe and 14 in Asia, aimed at mature and experienced travellers.
WORLD HERITAGE DAY (otherwise known as the International Day for Monuments and Sites) is held on April 18 each year around the world. The day celebrates cultural heritage, brings awareness to important cultural monuments and sites, and promotes efforts for protection and conservation of the world’s cultures.
It was first proposed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) on April 18, 1982, and approved by Unesco in 1983. The events that take place on World Heritage Day includes visits to monuments and heritage sites, conferences, round-table discussions, and more.
Destinations in Asia you might want to avoid in 2018 As of July 2017, there are a total of 1,073 World Heritage Sites: 832 are cultural, 206 are natural, and 35 are mixed properties. 55 of these are in danger, such as the 2.5 million-hectare Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra in Indonesia.
Comprising of three national parks – Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park,, and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park – the site was listed as endangered since 2011 due to poaching, illegal logging, agricultural encroachment, and plans to build roads.
Other sites in Asia that were previously listed as being in danger include the majestic Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It was de-listed in 2004 thanks to the restoration activities coordinated by Unesco since 1993.
Here are some lesser-known, enthralling Unesco heritage sites in Asia that are worth visiting:
China: Wudang Mountains Located in the northwestern part of Hubei, the Wudang Mountains consists of a small mountain range that’s home to a famous complex of Taoist temples and monasteries associated with the god Xuanwu. The mountains, one of the “Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism” in China, are renowned for the practice of tai chi and Taoism as the Taoist counterpart to the Shaolin Monastery.
There’s no place quite like the Wudang Mountains for connecting with Taoist history. Source: Shutterstock.
An important center of Taoism, the mountains are popular for Taoist pilgrimages. Its monasteries, such as the Wudang Garden, were made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1994.
The Philippines: Vigan Town On the west coast of Luzon island in the Philippines is the quiet and quaint Vigan town. Established in the 16th century, Vigan town was once the capital of Spanish conqueror Juan de Salcedo’s Ilocos. It’s known for its well preserved Spanish colonial and Asian architecture. Visitors will be drawn to its cobblestone footpaths, horse-drawn carriages, rustic mansions, and the white baroque Vigan Cathedral.
Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Source: Shutterstock.
In 1999, Vigan was listed by Unesco as the best-preserved example of Spanish colonial towns in Asia. In 2014, it was also named as one of the New7Wonders Cities.
Cambodia: The Temple of Preah Vihear Built during the period of the Khmer Empire, the Temple of Preah Vihear is an ancient Hindu temple located atop a 525-meter Dangrek Mountains cliff in Cambodia. It has the most spectacular setting of all temples built during the empire, with a panoramic view that span kilometers-long. An outstanding example of Khmer architecture, it was supported and modified by successive kings since the 11th century, with several architectural styles.
The Temple of Preah Vihear is a stunning ancient Hindu temple surrounded by a beautiful Cambodian countryside. Source: Shutterstock.
Due to its remote location, the site has remained relatively untouched. In 2008, the Temple of Preah Vihear was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Japan: Sacred Shrines in the Kii Mountain Range About two hours south of Osaka lies Koyasan (Mount Koya), one of the endpoints in the pilgrimage routes of the Kii mountain range. The route goes through Mie, Nara, and Wakayama prefectures, and is full of beautiful forest trails going over and next to waterfalls, shrines, temples, streams, and rivers. Located in the dense forests are three sacred sites: Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, and Koyasan. They’re still very much part of the Japan culture, often visited for ritual purposes and hiking, raking in up to 15 million visitors annually.
This vast natural area with its formidable mountains, rugged coastline, gigantic old growth trees, an abundance of waterfalls and scenic rivers, has been revered and worshiped since ancient times. Source: Shutterstock.
The sacred shrines were listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site back in 2004.
Vietnam: Hoi An Known as Vietnam’s “well-preserved ancient town,” Hoi An is a former port city located on Vietnam’s central coast. Unesco praises it for being an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. In fact, this is reflected in the mix of eras and styles in its architecture: wooden Chinese shop-houses and temples, colorful French colonial houses, elaborately decorated Vietnamese tube houses, and the Cau Nhat Ban aka the Japanese covered bridge with a pagoda.
The iconic Japanese covered bridge dates back to the 18th century and is a beautiful historical piece of Japanese architecture. Source: Shutterstock.
In 1999, Hoi An was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
China: Mount Emei and the Leshan Giant Buddha Classified as one of the “Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains” in China, Mount Emei is located in the Sichuan Province. It’s home to the first Buddhist temple in China, built in the 1st century in the beautiful surroundings of the mountain. The site also boasts the Giant Buddha of Leshan, the largest stone Buddha in the world. At 71 meters tall, the towering statue was carved out of a hillside in the 8th century and looks down on the confluence of three rivers.
The Mount Emei area, including the Leshan Giant Buddha, comprises the place where Buddhism was first established in China. Source: Shutterstock.
Mount Emei and the Leshan Giant Buddha were listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1996.
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