From the Mughal palaces of India to Japan’s ancient Shinto shrines; from the elegant temples of Angkor Wat to the incredible expanse of China’s Great Wall – Asia is a continent filled with wonders. Throw in natural attractions such as volcanic lakes and spectacular river gorges, not to mention fabulous food – from the fresh flavours of Japanese dishes to Vietnam’s flavour-packed cuisine – and you have an unbeatable destination. Whether you speed between cities on a bullet train, or take it slow on a river cruise, there is much to explore.
WHY WE LOVE IT Vietnam excels at the unexpected. From the high-octane atmosphere of Ho Chi Minh City to a cruise through tranquil Ha Long Bay, studded with thousands of islands, every day brings a different adventure. You may choose to head into the countryside to explore the picturesque towns and villages of the Mekong Delta, such as Cai Be, with its crumbling colonial buildings. Alternatively, you may head underground to explore the Cu Chi Tunnels, the subterranean network used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War to transport weapons and fighters across the country.
DON’T MISS A motorbike tour is an adrenaline-charged way to explore Vietnam’s big cities. Hang on tight as your skilful driver weaves in and out of the traffic.
INSIDER TIP One of the best things about Vietnam is its food. In Ho Chi Minh City, sign up for a cooking class at GRAIN, the brainchild of acclaimed Vietnamese-Australian chef and APT Ambassador, Luke Nguyen.
WHY WE LOVE IT Colourful, chaotic and beguiling, India is a dazzling destination. From the big-city buzz of Delhi to the serene beauty of the Taj Mahal, this country is filled with memorable sights. Make sure your itinerary includes Udaipur, the City of Lakes, famous for its temples, haveli mansions and its impressive City Palace. Another must-visit is the royal city of Jaipur, known for the lively bazaars of the Pink City and for remarkable Amber Fort located nearby.
DON’T MISS Rajasthan’s Ranthambore National Park is a great place to go wildlife spotting. Keep your eyes open for leopards, hyenas and, if you are really lucky, one of the rare Bengal tigers.
INSIDER TIP The labyrinthine lanes of Old Delhi are full of fascinating sights; the best way to navigate this crowded quarter is aboard a cycle-rickshaw.
WHY WE LOVE IT It is Japan’s contradictions that make it such a fascinating destination, a place where soaring skyscrapers and neon streetscapes rub shoulders with centuries-old shrines. The ever-efficient bullet trains make it easy to explore the country; make sure your itinerary includes Kyoto, Japan’s capital for a thousand years and the home of its ancient geisha traditions; Hiroshima, site of one of the 20th century’s great tragedies; and sacred Mount Fuji. Along the way, explore the many delights of Japanese cuisine, from elegant kaiseki meals to yakitori skewers grabbed from a street stall.
DON’T MISS Japan’s historic water towns are among its best kept secrets. The town of Kurashiki, where stone bridges cross canals lined with weeping willows, is one of the loveliest.
INSIDER TIP Ever wanted to cruise on a lake contained within a volcanic caldera? Head to Lake Ashinoko to enjoy the extraordinary experience.
WHY WE LOVE IT Cambodia is best known for the temples at Siem Reap: striking structures left behind by the Angkor empire which once ruled over large swathes of South-East Asia. As striking as the temples of Angkor, Bayon and Ta Prohm are, however, they are far from being the only attractions of this beautiful country. Whether you cruise along its waterways or follow the winding country roads, you’ll be enchanted by the scenic countryside, the traditional stilted villages and, above all, the warm welcome of the locals.
DON’T MISS Enjoy a glass of champagne whilst taking in the sunrise at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.
INSIDER TIP A visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, commemorating the victims of the Khmer Rouge, is a confronting but revealing look at Cambodia’s recent past.
WHY WE LOVE IT The most challenging part of any trip to China is deciding what to leave out. No visitor should miss the former imperial capital of Beijing, with World Heritage listed sites such as the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City and the astonishing Great Wall of China. Shanghai, with its colourful history and ultra-modern skyline, is also a must. However, some of China’s most remarkable sights still fly under the radar, such as the city of Kunming and its Stone Forest, a striking collection of rock pillars that soar into the sky.
DON’T MISS A cruise along the Yangtze takes you past verdant rice paddies and through dramatic gorges.
INSIDER TIP Don’t forget to try the local specialties wherever you go, from the roast duck of Yiliang, believed to be the best in China, to Shanghai’s famous dumplings.
WHY WE LOVE IT After being shut off from the world for six decades, Myanmar is finally opening up. A cruise along the Irrawaddy River is a must: highlights include the elegant former capital of Mandalay and traditional villages such as Aing Ta Loke. The country’s many Buddhist temples and monasteries also enchant visitors. Among the most striking are the hundreds of beautiful Buddhist monasteries and pagodas at Sagaing, and the Shwedagon Pagoda, encrusted with gold leaf and diamonds.
DON’T MISS Instagram alert: the U Bein Bridge is the world’s longest, and oldest teak wood bridge, stretching more than a kilometre across Taungthaman Lake. Come at sunrise or sunset to capture the best pics.
INSIDER TIP The plain of Bagan, studded with more than 2000 temples, is one of Asia’s great sights, so don’t rush your visit. With so much to see, you can easily spend a whole day here.
Luke Nguyen, Chef
Luke Nguyen’s popular TV shows, such as Street Food Asia, have helped shine the spotlight on some of Asia’s most tempting cuisines. But the acclaimed Australian chef has plenty happening off screen as well. In addition to his Sydney restaurant, Red Lantern, and his cooking school in Ho Chi Minh City, GRAIN, Luke is an APT Ambassador, deeply involved in many of APT’s Asia itineraries.
This article is produced in association with APT. From ever-expanding cities to rural wonders, explore the spiritual heart of Asia on an unforgettable luxury journey by river and land with APT. For more information visit aptouring.com.au/traveller, call 1300 290 669 or contact your local travel agent.
This article brought to you by APT.