Sat, 4 Aug, 2018
10 hotspots in Asia you must visit at least once in your lifetime
Dreaming of an Asia escape? As the largest continent in terms of sheer size and population, as well as being just a short plane trip from Australia, Asia has quickly become one of the top travel destinations for Aussies. In fact, Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals that 6 out of 10 of the most popular travel destinations in 2017 were in Asia. To help you choose from the plethora of exotic destinations, we’ve teamed up with Wendy Wu Tours, Australia’s leading travel experts to Asia, to narrow the list to 10 Bucket List places you must visit at least once in your lifetime.
1. Great Wall of China – China
Walking the ancient Great Wall of China is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the highlight of any tour of China. Hailed as one the greatest manmade wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China stretches from the Gobi Desert in the west to the Bohai Sea in the east, and spans a staggering 8,850km. From the capital Beijing, there are many accessible sections of the wall, the most popular being the best-preserved at Badaling, where guests of all ability levels can walk easily along its length. Visit early, it can get busy, especially during high season. To see the mighty wall further off-the-beaten path, head to Mutianyu and Juyongguan for a less-crowded and quieter experience. Beyond, huge swathes of crumbling Great Wall zigzag across the countryside.
Wherever you decide to see the Great Wall, one thing that’s certain is that as soon you step foot on the Wall that began life more than 2,000 years ago, you’ll be blown away by its sheer immensity and historical significance. A must on every traveller’s bucket list, make sure you visit this unbelievable feat of mankind at least once in your life.
2. Angkor Wat – Cambodia
The largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat was constructed in the 12th century BC for the Khmer Empire using sandstone rock from over 50km away. Discover the fascinating history of one of the largest hydraulic empires where farmlands, canals, villages and temples were connected by an enormous web of canals and irrigation systems.
You’ve likely seen countless images of the awe-inspiring temple, but as anyone who has visited Angkor Wat will attest, you just must see the incredible temple with your own eyes. Sunrise and sunset uncover the magnificent symmetry of the Temple complex, and a guide can uncover the history of this ancient civilisation. Only then will you be able to experience both the grand scale and the unique details and intricacies that make Angkor Wat one of the world’s greatest and most wondrous structures.
3. Terracotta Warriors – China
It’s hard to believe if it weren’t for a Chinese farmer fortuitously digging a well just north of Xian in 1974, the Terracotta Warriors might still be buried. But China’s best kept secret is definitely out – with the huge mausoleum now one of China's most popular sights. Ruling in the 3rd century BC, the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, ordered 700,000 workers to build a terracotta army to protect him in his afterlife. There’s thought to be 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in pits.
But there’s still plenty to marvel at and it’s only with a visit to the necropolis that you can truly appreciate the sheer scale of the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century and admire the thousands of life-sized soldiers, each with their own distinct stance, face and expressions. Full of superstition and mystique, it’s little wonder that the Terracotta Warriors is one of the most sought-after sights in the world.
4. Taj Mahal – India
For thousands of years, the enchanting Taj Mahal has lured tourists to India like moths to a flame, making it one of the most visited attractions in Asia. Inspiring poets and artists from across the world, the Taj Mahal has been described as a “teardrop on the cheek of eternity” by poet Rudyard Kipling. And with good reason – it is simply breathtaking to behold and certainly lives up to all the hype.
A monument to love, the immense mausoleum of white marble was built in 1631 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. Over 20,000 people worked on the building with specialists being brought in from Europe to produce the impeccable marble screens and decorations. It’s a striking image from a distance (as innumerable tourist photographs have shown) but it’s just as beautiful up close with its intricate carvings, semiprecious stones, and calligraphic verses from the Koran grace. A universally admired masterpiece, a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Taj Mahal is a must. You need to see this iconic monument with your own eyes.
5. Cherry Blossoms – Japan
Cherry blossom season is without a doubt the best time of year to visit the Land of the Rising Sun. From late March to mid-April, Japan’s famed sakura (cherry blossoms) blankets the country in a pastel splendour of pink and white blossoms and transforms both the city and countryside into a sweet-smelling bouquet. Attracting visitors from all around the globe, the cherry blossom is more than just a magnificent spectacle: the country’s national flower is a symbol for renewal and hope, and inextricably tied to Japan’s history, culture and identity.
Once the blossoms are in full bloom, it’s a time for celebration, and families and friends flock outdoors to appreciate the beauty of the fleeting phenomena. This tradition is so special and important that the Japanese even created a word “Hanami”, which translates to “looking at flower”, to mark the event. The blossoms typically bloom for two weeks every season and tours often book out up to 12 months in advance. With 28 cherry blossom departure dates across a range of tour styles, Wendy Wu Tours sends more Australians to see the Sakura than any other tour operator.
6. Giant Pandas – China
They’re one of the most-loved animals in the world, so it’s no surprise travellers trek from all over the world to see the iconic Giant Panda in their homeland, China. Once roaming the country freely, habitat destruction has endangered the species and there’s now less than 2,000 pandas living in the wild. However, there’s hope for these furry black and white bears, with numerous conservation projects in China slowly increasing their numbers – in fact, the Giant Panda was taken off the Endangered Species list in 2016!
The best place to meet China’s famous residents is at recognised research facilities. The most highly renowned facility is the Chengdu Panda Research Base, a frontrunner in conservation efforts. With over 80 pandas in residence, you’ll spend hours watching adorable pandas munching on bamboo, sleeping and playing with their siblings across a vast, world-class landscape of rivers, lakes, bamboo forests and caves. March to May is breeding season and there’s even a chance to see the Giant Pandas “falling in love”. Viewing the Giant Pandas in the flesh is a must-see highlight for anyone visiting China.
7. Mt Fuji – Japan
With its near-perfect symmetrical conical shape that’s always snow-capped, Mt Fuji is one of Japan’s most iconic images and holds a very special place in Japanese history and heritage. At a height of 3,776m, Mt Fuji can be seen from both Tokyo and Yokohama, and in 2013 was recognised for its physical and cultural contribution to Japanese society receiving UNESCO World Heritage status.
An active volcano (last erupting in 1708) and Japan’s highest mountain, Mt Fuji is surrounded by national parks and beautiful lakes. Its rare natural beauty has been revered since ancient times and the sacred mountain holds a near mythical status in Japanese culture. Alternatively, you can enjoy the mountain up close from the Fuji Five Lake Region, located at the northern foot of the mountain. This region is rich with attractions and things to do and is a popular holiday spot for Japanese locals. Don’t forget to bathe in the world famous hot springs, an invigorating experience like no other!
8. Yangtze River – China
See China from a whole new perspective by cruising the majestic Yangtze River. At 6,300km, the Yangtze River is Asia’s largest river and has been the lifeline of China for millennia. Flowing east across the entire width of China, the mighty Yangtze River is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
The highpoint of any cruise is the journey through the most fabled and famous region – the Three Gorges, a 200km stretch of river, which boasts incredible landscapes of misty mountains, immense gorges and sheer cliffs. From the narrow passes of the Qutang Gorge, to the mountainous vistas of Wu Gorge and the deep trenches of Xiling Gorge, each bend in the river offers a new breathtaking panorama. Witness the energetic determination of modern China via the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest Hydro Electric Power Station. A marvel of modern engineering the Three Gorges dam is said to generate up to 10 per cent of China’s required energy output. All you have to do is relax, admire and appreciate the history, heritage and continuity that defines the great Yangtze River.
9. Tea Plantations – Sri Lanka
Known as the “pearl of the Indian Ocean”, Sri Lanka is one of Asia’s best-kept secrets. Long overlooked by travellers, the island nation’s myriad of appeals has now firmly cemented Sri Lanka as the new must-visit destination. Since 2009 Sri Lanka has progressed at lightspeed with the addition of new infrastructure that makes it easier than ever for travellers to get around. A former British colony, Sri Lanka is known worldwide for its production of Ceylon Tea that was first brought here in the 1880s by the British.
Make sure you plan a visit to a tea estate – the striking sight of never-ending lush green fields of tea bushes will simply awe you. Stroll through the verdant plains surrounding Nuwara Eliya, affectionately known as ‘Little England’, where British colonialists selected the cool climate to harvest tea and recreate life back home. Tour a tea plantation in Nuwara Eliya and learn all about Sri Lanka’s 150-year-old tea industry, discover the process of tea making from fermenting to grading, and finally end with a delicious cuppa of freshly-plucked tea. Take a train through the lush, rolling, tea-lined hills, from Peradeniya to Nanu Oya. No stranger to accolades, the famous explorer Marco Polo christened Sri Lanka as the most beautiful island in the world!
10. Orangutans – Borneo
Fall in love with the orange-haired, pot-bellied jungle residents of Borneo. We’re talking, of course, about the orangutan (which in Malay means “man of the jungle”). Sadly, these magnificent creatures, which share remarkably similar DNA to humans, are under threat from habitat destruction. Borneo is one of only two places (the other Sumatra in Indonesia) left in the world where orangutans live in the wild.
No trip to Borneo would be complete without an encounter of some kind with the orangutan. Visit a respected rehabilitation centre, like Semmengoh Nature Reserve to get up close and personal with these remarkable animals. For over 20 years the wardens at Semmengoh have trained orphaned and rescued orangutans to survive in the wild. Home to over 28 orangutans, these glorious primates frequently stop by the park’s headquarters to feast on coconuts and bananas. Hour-long feeding sessions between the hours of 9am to 10 am and 3pm to 4pm are an unforgettable experience and one of the only ways to get up close to these colourful characters.
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your 2019 trip to Asia now and tick off that bucket list! And if you’re not sure where to start, the easiest way to see all the best sights in Asia is on an escorted tour with Wendy Wu Tours. Check out their Early Bird Sale to save up to $1800pp.