Tired of city living? Here are 12 travel experiences unique to Asia

If you're tired of the usual cityscape and itineraries filled with designer boutiques, put these locations on your travel bucket list

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The world is certainly full of wonders. But Asia is home to a wealth of unique experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. Get ready to book your next flight.


1. Celebrate Songkran in Thailand

Photo: Gayatri Bhaumik

Traditionally, Songkran is about seeking blessings from your elders and performing Buddhist merit-making rituals. These days, the Thai New Year has morphed into a fun-filled festival celebrated with spirited water fights. Join the action at Bangkok’s Kao Sahn Road or Chiang Mai’s Thapae Gate.


2. See Komodo Dragons in the wild

Photo: Gayatri Bhaumik

See the world’s biggest lizards in their natural habitat at Indonesia’s Komodo Island. As well as seeing these impressive reptiles, you’ll visit Komodo National Park, and hop on sailing cruises to explore the area’s volcanic islands and marine life.


3. Climb the world’s largest mountain

Photo: Gayatri Bhaumik

Everest hardly needs an introduction. While an attempt to ascend to its peak would be foolish for most of us, getting up to Everest Base Camp is achievable for most. You could hike to this legendary spot – which sits at 5,364 metres above sea level, but flying is also an option. Either way, you’ll get views of jaw-dropping panoramas of the Himalayas.


4. Stay in traditional Japanese accommodation

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Ryokans have been part of Japan’s hospitality scene since the eighth century. At these traditional Japanese inns, guests sleep on mattresses laid out on tatami mats and feast on homey Japanese meals. Many even have access to onsens. Popular favourites include Yoshimatsu, Gora Kadan and Kayotei.


5. Go hot-air ballooning over temples

Photo: Gayatri Bhaumik

Yes, you can go hot-air ballooning in many parts of the world. But only in Bagan, Myanmar, can you balloon over more than 2,000 temples dating from the 9th to the 13th A sunrise flight over these ancient structures becomes a truly unique spiritual experience.


6. Visit the Terracotta Army

Photo: Gayatri Bhaumik

In the southern Chinese town of Xi’an lies one of the world’s most unique attractions. The Terracotta Army is a vast collection of some 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, and 670 horses (at last count), all created in the late third century BC and guarding the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Qin Emperor.


7. See authentic sumo-wrestling

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To truly understand the history and traditions around sumo wrestling, head straight to Tokyo. The traditional home of the sport is Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium in Sumida, where you’ll join a crowd of 13,000 spectators, all there to watch authentic matches. For the full experience, visit in the morning to catch the wrestlers’ training sessions at their ‘stables’.


8. Visit the world’s happiest – and first carbon-neutral – country

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Bhutan is now a hot travel destination, and gained serious exposure when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited in 2016. There’s plenty to love here, including Himalayan hiking trails, iconic ‘dzong’ temples, snow-capped mountains, and surprising local cuisine. But this is also one of the world’s happiest countries, and the world’s first carbon-neutral country.


9. See the Golden Triangle

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At the crossroads of Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam is this surprising spot known as the Golden Triangle. Yes, it can be very touristy – and yes, it’s the world centre of opium. But skip the traps and drugs to go trekking the green hills and explore the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers. The Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle resorts here also offer the change to engage with elephants in an ethical manner.


10. Explore the world’s largest cave

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Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong is said to be the largest cave system in the world. Hidden in Phang Nha Ke Beng National Park, this cave was discovered in 1990, and visits are strictly limited for preservation. Local company Oxalis runs sustainable expeditions where you’ll embark on a tough two-day trek through dense jungle – overnighting at Hang En, the world’s third-largest cave – before spending two nights exploring Hang Son Doong.


12. Follow ancient tea caravan routes

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There are plenty of epic train journeys around the world. But only in Asia can you ride from China to Russia, tracing the ancient caravan routes that used to transport tea to Europe. From Beijing, a Trans-Mongolian trip will take you past the Gobi Desert, Lake Baikal, and the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. With its range of landscapes and activities, the Trans-Mongolian is a train trip like no other.


13. Monkey around with orangutans

Photo: Gayatri Bhaumik

The island of Borneo is the natural habitat of these orange-furred primates, so there’s no better place to see them. Orangutans are endangered, but you can visit them by travelling to the Bornean jungles and staying at rainforests lodges, or going to one of its rehabilitation centres, like Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. In Gunung Leuser National Park, the village of Bukit Lawang offers visitors the change to embark on treks to see these creatures in the wild.