Beauty off the beaten path
Holidays in Asia have been pretty straight-forward. Go there, eat, shop and a little sight-seeing at the places recommended on Google – nothing much out of the ordinary. Travelling to “ang moh” countries where everything seemed more foreign and unique always excited the younger me.
But who knew that there are many beautiful parts of Asia that have yet to be discovered and explored? There’s so much more than shopping districts, theme parks, national museums and zoos – the typical travel itinerary for most destinations in Asia.
Here are 25 most beautiful spots you have to visit at least once in your life, before they get flooded by other tourists!
1. Fortune Island, Philippines
You’d think this is Ancient Greece, but nope, it’s in the Philippines! Right on the edge of Fortune Island, these ruins add mystery and historical charm to the island. Clearly inspired by the Greek Acropolis, these structures stand testament to glory days of the past.
With abandoned structures and even a rumoured shipwreck close by, this island is perfect for the ultimate authentic camping trip with your buddies. The waters are crystal clear and there’s little sign of waste in the ocean. We recommend cliff jumping and snorkelling – this is a place for adventurers for sure.
Be prepared to pitch your own tents, and create fires for your meals. Don’t expect hot baths, or toilets for that matter. On this island, you and your friends completely alone and free to explore.
Click here to find out how to get there from Manila!
Flight ticket to Manila: From $259 on Jetstar
2. Egawa, Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
From snow coated mountains to idyllic parks filled with cherry blossom trees, Japan is easily one of the world’s most photogenic countries. But if you’ve had enough of the usual scenery, leave Tokyo and Kyoto behind and visit Egawa for a change to soak in Japan’s beach atmosphere and skyline skyline from the coastal shores.
One hour away from Tokyo, Egawa will remind you of the scenery in Spirited Away. As night falls, the sea reflects beautiful colours from the sunset, creating a magical setting perfect for photographs. Visit before it’s too late – there are reports that their iconic telegraph poles might be removed in future due to corrosion.
Nearest Airport: Haneda Airport (26 min drive)
Flight ticket to Haneda: From $617 on Garuda Indonesia
3. Gamcheon Village, Busan, South Korea
A village bursting with colour, Gamcheon Cultural Village is a hidden gem in the city of Busan. Hop onto a bus (Bus 1-1, 2 or 2-1) at Tosung Station and watch the gradual narrowing of the roads until it arrives at this picturesque village of buildings in all sorts of solid colours.
Start your exploration by getting a scavenger hunt map (1000 won; ~S$1.20) from this shop, which will keep you from getting lost in this maze of colours. Following the walking route, collect 6 stamps from different locations along the way, and earn 2 free postcards at the end!
With many random paths and narrow alleys around, you’ll be tempted to stray off the guided route. But getting lost is all part of the experience, and the locals will be more than happy to get you back on track!
Look out for these wooden fishes as well! They’ll point you in the right direction of the walking route.
Nearest Airport: Gimhae International Airport (1hr 10min train+bus ride)
Flight ticket to Gimhae: From $501 on China Eastern
4. Hoi An, Vietnam
Being one of the few places still untouched by globalisation, Vietnam is a country you have to visit to appreciate the natural, unadulterated culture of the country. But don’t think you’re done after conquering Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh – there are many other cities of Vietnam that offer beautiful sights and eye-opening experiences as well.
Dating back to the 15th century, the trading port of Hoi An’s Ancient Town still stays well preserved and clean. Capture the vibrant riverside as buildings and lanterns light up at night, and boats float peacefully on the still river.
Leaning more towards a rich history and culture, there isn’t much shopping you can do in this city. Tailor shops and stores selling leather goods fill the streets, and locals will welcome you with open arms to have dinner at a streetside cafe.
Rent a bike (S$1-$2 per day) before exploring the city – there aren’t many cars around so it’s quite safe! Some hotels such as Ha An might also provide free bike rentals as a promotion – so check with them beforehand.
While you’re in Hoi An, drop by the Hidden Beach for a relaxing suntan session at the beach. If you prefer your skin to stay the same shade, lounge on beach chairs neatly lines in a row across the beach.
Read about our experiences in Central Vietnam here!
Nearest Airport: Da Nang International Airport (40 min drive)
Flight ticket to Da Nang: From $279 on Vietnam Airlines
5. Masbro Village, Melaka, Malaysia
From the neatly trimmed gardens to dainty street lamps to the pointy long roofs, Masbro Village in Melaka feels like it came right out of a children’s picture book. Without a single architectural flaw in sight – and perfectly symmetrical houses making for a picture-perfect shot – the OCD person in me is satisfied.
Each triangular house can accommodate up to 6 people, and its interior is perfect for a cosy party. Boutique and luxurious hotels are sooo 2015 – these cute, hipster abodes are waiting to be discovered, just a 2.5hr drive away from Singapore!
6. Panjin, China
Don’t expect to frolick in the waters or build sandcastles at Red Beach. Instead, you’ll be greeted by an endless sea of Sueda, a type of grass which thrives in alkaline grass that blooms into a magnificent and deep red.
Home to more than 600 types of animals, any visit to Red Beach won’t be as uneventful as you think – keep your eyes peeled. Best time to visit is October, as the grass turns from copper red to a vibrant shade of red during autumn.
How to get there: Train from Beijing to Panjin. Check out their schedule here!
Flight ticket to Beijing: From $447 on Air China
Ps: Nothing is certain while on the road. The unexpected can happen and transportation delays are a real concern. Better be safe than sorry – get travel insurance to alleviate your worries.
If you’re interested in getting travel insurance for an upcoming trip, MSIG has 50% off their single trip plans from now till 24 April 2016.
7. Lombok, Indonesia
White sandy beaches and impossibly clear waters can be found in other islands, but Lombok also has a big ocean swing – now that’s something new! Imagine looking into the horizon and watching the waves, all from a swing in the middle of the sea.
A quieter alternative to Bali, it’s easy to capture Lombok’s calm and serenity in a picture, and appreciate its beauty without the constant chatter of tourists.
Take the trip to the waterfalls of Lombok, and have a sip of the water which is said to have magical properties. Besides, this supposed fountain of youth is clear and clean, tasting like water from Evian – or maybe even better.
Read more about our exciting adventures at the undiscovered Lombok here!
Nearest Airport: Lombok International Airport
Flight ticket to Lombok: From $362 on Garuda Indonesia
8. Da Nang, Vietnam
Being a beautiful coastal town with a small population, there’s plenty of space in Da Nang to relax and catch a breather. Treat yourself to a luxurious stay at the Intercontinental Da Nang, where a cable car will bring you to your room – I kid you not.
If you decide to venture out of the beaches, explore Da Nang’s Thuan Phuoc Field which is just a 20 minute drive away from the Intercontinental hotel. Away from the tourist-y areas and the city, you’ll fall in love with the serenity and simplicity in the field.
Nearest Airport: Da Nang International Airport
Flight ticket to Da Nang: From $279 on Vietnam Airlines
9. Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
Hitachi Seaside park is home to many seasonal plants and flowers, such as the burning bush (kochia), which turns from a bright green colour to a beautiful red in Autumn. This reminds me of China’s Red Beach, but these plants look way fluffier and softer – almost like cotton balls. Unfortunately, we’ll never find such a beautiful never-ending field of “burning” bushes in Singapore.
If you’ve toured the whole park, get on the ferris wheel which will bring you 100m off the ground, to get a bird’s eye view of the various gardens sporting different colours in the park.
Check out how to get to Hitachi Seaside Park here!
Nearest Airport: Narita International Airport
Flight ticket to Narita: From $635 on China Eastern
10. Sai Wan Swimming Shed, Hong Kong
Although called a swimming shed, this gem in Hong Kong attracts more photographers than swimmers. Hidden right at the edge of Hong Kong’s shores, this place is an open secret among locals.
If you’re feeling adventurous enough, you can enter the sea to swim*. The danger and thrill of swimming in the open sea – you won’t get that from frolicking in Sentosa waters.
*Advanced swimmers only!
Nearest Airport: Hong Kong International Airport (33 min drive)
Flight ticket to Hong Kong: From $232 on Jetstar
11. Dong Hoi, Vietnam
In another undiscovered city of Vietnam, you’ll be surprised that the world’s largest cave can be found here – and it looks magical, nothing like an ordinary cave you’d see elsewhere. Visit the cave to see its beauty for yourself, but here’s a glimpse of how huge the cave is:
Hop onto a motorbike tour which guarantees an adventure, whizzing around Vietnam off the beaten path. Apart from showing you the hidden gems around their homeland, local tour guides will also immerse you in their culture – one that you’ll normally miss out on when traveling as a tourist.
Click here to find out more about the motorbike tour.
If you’re interested in getting travel insurance for an upcoming trip, MSIG has 50% off their single trip policies from now till 24 April 2016!
Nearest Airport: Dong Hoi Airport
Flight ticket to Dong Hoi: From $418 on Vietnam Airlines
12. Qingdao, China
Besides its beautiful city skyline, Qingdao is also home to the most beautiful colonial buildings- some of which have been here since the German occupation. Despite having an ancient charm, these buildings are well preserved and have a spectacular exterior.
Mount Lao – the highest coastal mountain in China, brings you above the clouds and has 12 different scenic points where the scenery is supposedly most beautiful. Mount Lao is also home to various temples, which you can spot if you choose the temple route. If hiking isn’t your thing, opt for the cable car that’ll bring you up the mountain instead!
There are many ways to get to Qingdao – plane, train, boat and even a ferry from Japan! Check out more about your traveling options here.
Nearest Airport: Qingdao Liuting International Airport
Flight ticket to Qingdao: From $542 on Xiamen Airlines
13. Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Say hello to Taiwan’s coolest and hipster-est architecture – these brightly coloured structures are screaming to be instagrammed. Surrounded by clear waters, Cijin Rainbow Church has a magical vibe with no two angles looking quite the same.
Being out in the open air, the two beautiful structures work their magic under the natural light, producing a refreshing yet minimal shot.
At a few hours drive away from Kaohsiung also lies Nanwan Beach, possibly be the world’s most photogenic beach. With candy coloured chairs and umbrellas scattered around the beach, this vibrant place is a unique change from the usual laidback beaches we see.
Nearest Airport: Kaohsiung International Airport
Flight ticket to Kaohsiung: From $392 on Vietnam Airlines
14. Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia
At first glance, you’ll know that Koh Rong Sanloem in Cambodia is no ordinary beach. With colourful hammocks in the open sea, huge swings hanging from trees and comfy beach chairs lined neatly at the shores, you’ll want to chill here whenever life gets too rushed. Especially when not many tourists are around to disrupt the tranquility.
Just a short boat ride away from Koh Rong Sanloem is Koh Rong (be sure not to mess them up!), where you can experience living in a treehouse. With tree house bungalows available for rent at S$45 – $65 per night, you can spend your holiday tucked away among the trees when you’re not chilling by the beach.
If being too chill isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of activities such as diving, scuba diving and trekking available on the island as well. Avoid visiting during the Cambodian national holidays – the locals love visiting this secret gem of theirs.
How to get there: Speed Ferry from Sihanoukville (45 min). Book your tickets here.
Flight ticket to Sihanoukville: From $956 on Vietnam Airlines and Cambodia Angkor Air
See Asia for yourself
It’s hard to find time to escape from the monotony of life and the high-rise buildings surrounding us, so when we get the chance to, don’t waste it on your usual travel spots.
Ditch that shopping trip to Chatuchak, or the 20th trip to your favourite ramen shop in Japan. It’s time to step out of your comfort zone, and discover the side of Asia you’ve never seen before.
Before you set off for your journey on the road less travelled, make sure you’re protected in case of accidents – one can never be too safe!
MSIG’s TravelEasy Insurance is one option you should consider. They offer coverage for various aspects such as travel postponement and flight diversions and for the Elite and Premier Plans, premium features such as coverage for adventurous activities.
Thought of bungee jumping or parasailing or even *gasp* – skydiving? Now you can do it with the thrill, and without the worry.
Exploring places off the beaten path has its risks, although the experience is often more than rewarding. But minimize those risks with TravelEasy Insurance and enjoy your skydiving, bungee jumping or parasailing activities.
Choose from 3 different plans covering up to 51 benefits to suit your adventure – be it an individual travel, a family holiday or a group travel with friends. Embark on a different journey and start your worry-free trip to undiscovered places now!
Enjoy 50% off Single Trip plans when you buy online from now till 24 April 2016.
Full details of the terms, conditions and exclusions of TravelEasy insurance policy can be found at www.msig.com.sg. Promotion terms and conditions apply.
This post is brought to you by MSIG Insurance (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.