ASIAN FUSION’S TOP 8 ASIAN TRAVEL
DESTINATIONS FOR FALL
By Lisa Crawford
Sure, summer is over. But it isn’t written anywhere that “vacation mode” is gone. Fall can be a great time to grab your family, some friends, or your significant other and head to a far off land. And here at Asian Fusion Magazine, we’ve chosen 8 unique, fun, and exciting Asian travel destinations that could quite possibly have you on the phone booking your flight!!
Tanah Lot Temple is one of Bali’s most important landmarks, famous for its stunning offshore setting and sunset backdrops. An ancient Hindu shrine perched on top of an outcrop amidst constantly crashing waves, Tanah Lot Temple is definitely one of Bali’s not-to-be-missed icons. The onshore site is dotted with smaller shrines and visitors’ leisure facilities that comprise restaurants, shops and a cultural park that presents cultural dance performances on a pretty regular basis.
Another temple, Uluwatu Temple, or Pura Luhur Uluwatu, is one of six key temples believed to be Bali’s spiritual pillars, and is renowned for its magnificent location, perched on top of a steep cliff approximately 70 meters above sea level. Uluwatu Temple is also a location known for its splendid sunset backdrops. Pura Luhur Uluwatu is definitely one of the top places on the island to go to for sunset delights, with direct views overlooking the beautiful Indian Ocean and daily Kecak dance performances. Balinese architecture, traditionally-designed gateways, and ancient sculptures add to Uluwatu Temple’s appeal.
Rice is one of Indonesia’s major economic drivers. But rice is so much more than that. Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud is famous for its beautiful scenes of rice paddies involving the subak (traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system), which, according to history, was passed down by a revered holy man named Rsi Markandeya in the eighth century. Tegallalang forms the three most splendid terraced landscapes in Ubud’s shared region, with the others being in the villages of Pejeng and Campuhan. Tegallang alone has a landscape that spreads down before you and on out to the rice terraces on the slopes across the valley. This high roadside location is both cool and breezy, and it is a well-known spot for visitors to stop and take photos. Artists and nature lovers also enjoy visiting this spot, and there are numerous art kiosks and cafes near the ledge offering their colorful wares. And speaking of wares…
No trip to Bali is complete without a visit to the Ubud Art Market, locally referred to as ‘Pasar Seni Ubud’ is located opposite the the Puri Saren Royal Ubud Palace and is open daily. Here you can find beautiful silk scarves, lightweight shirts, handmade woven bags, baskets or hats; statues, kites and many other hand-crafted goods.
As the capital of Yunnan, Kunming is known as the City of Perpetual Spring for its pleasant all-year-round spring climate. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China. Kunming has a history spanning more than 2,400 years and features numerous must-see attractions such as Dianchi Lake and Yunnan Ethnic Village. The wide variety of its historical and natural beauty makes it one of the top 10 most popular tourist cities in China. Kunming has a large ethnic minority population, giving it a varied and rather exotic minority culture. Kunming is also noted for its many local delicacies, including “Across the Bridge Rice Noodles (Guoqiao Mixian).”
Considered “One of the World’s Natural Wonders,” Kunming’s “Stone Forest” features natural karst stone formations that resemble a forest; some are elegant, some are rugged, but each has its own distinguishing characteristics that make them seem lifelike. The tall rocks protrude from the ground much like stalagmites or even petrified trees, creating the illusion of a forest completely carved out of stone.
Yuantong Mountain, located in the northeast corner of Kunming, is a popular urban park which draws in a large number of tourists every year. The most well-known features of the mountain are its cherry blossoms, animals and the ancient temple. Cherry trees in Kunming bloom earlier every spring than those in Japan, due to its warm weather and low latitude. Strolling around in this “sea of flowers” is a romantic experience for many visitors. The mountain also boasts a zoo, which is home to 500 varieties of animals, including elephants, tigers, peacocks, pandas, red-crowned cranes, giraffes, African zebras and Australian kangaroos.
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is a huge metropolis where modern skyscrapers, high-tech subways and pop culture meet Buddhist temples, palaces and street markets. It is truly one of the more culturally diverse international destinations. This bustling city has a lot to offer the first-time visitor, so when you visit the South Korean peninsula (which is technically an island because of the closed border with North Korea) make sure to hit some of the top tourist sites as well as places that are a bit more unorthodox.
Gyeongbok Palace is probably Korea’s most famous royal palace. It’s tough to miss given its location at the northern end of Seoul’s main boulevard, Sejongro, a stone’s throw from the Blue House (the President’s residence) and the U.S embassy. Gyeongbok Palace was built in the late 1300s, and has been destroyed and reconstructed numerous times.
It is all about fashion, fashion & fashion in Myeongdong, Seoul’s primary and most famous shopping district. If it’s variety that you’re after, there’s no better place to shop than Myeong-dong where you’ll find everything from internationally-recognized name brands to unique items. Myeongdong also features a variety of family restaurants, fast food, plus Korean, Western and Japanese dining options. Many restaurants in Myeongdong specialize in pork cutlet (donkas) and kalguksu (thick noodles). Here’s our shopping tip: Myeongdong is the place where everyone shops for famous Korean cosmetic brands such as Etude House, Skin Food, Laneige, The Face Shop, and Missha!
Bukchon Hanok Village is irrefutably the most beautiful historical district in the city, a place where visitors wander through tiny streets and peer over the gabled walls to view old hanok (traditional Korean houses) of various shapes and sizes.
Ko Samui, Thailand
Koh Samui’s repertoire of things to see and do is both varied and interesting. Ko Samui hosts a great deal of splendid natural and man-made attractions; from mummified monks to the famous grandma and grandpa rocks (Hin Ta & Hin Yai) to attractive waterfalls and plenty more. There’s nothing to stop you from having a blast on Samui Island. For those interested in religious imagery and architecture, the Big Buddha will definitely impress – especially at sunset. Nature lovers can visit Ang Thong Marine National Park on a day trip to enjoy a genuine ‘get away from it all’ feel in the splendid tropical islands it hosts.
On the northern coast of Koh Samui is the famous Big Buddha shrine. This is undoubtedly Samui’s most well known landmark. The 12 metre high golden Buddha can be seen from several milees away. Inside the surrounding temple are many different shrines along with other smaller ornate Buddhas. There is also a small market selling a wide range of lucky charms and other souvenirs, alongside numerous food stalls.
Koh Samui’s Mummified Monk at Wat Khunaram is an unusual sight yet it offers a unique insight into Buddhist and Thai culture. The monk Luong Pordaeng died in 1973 in a seated meditative position, and ever since his body has been on display in an upright glass case at the temple. Remarkably, even more than 30 years on the monk’s body shows little sign of decay. Loung Pordang is said to have told his followers shortly before his death that if his body were to decompose he should be cremated, but if not then he wanted to be put on display as a visual reminder of the Buddha’s teachings.
The Secret Buddha Garden is hidden away high in the hills in Koh Samui’s interior, offering majestic views and an unusual collection of statues amid lush jungle surroundings. The gardens are a creation of an old Samui fruit farmer, Nim Thongsuk, who in 1976 began erecting several statues and temples around his family’s verdant land. The statues depict a number of animals, deities and humans in various poses, including one of Khun Nim himself, in a relaxed position sitting on a rock. It is interesting to note Khun Nim continued to work developing his garden until his death at the age of 91.
Osaka is a large port city and commercial center on the Japanese island of Honshu. Osaka is known for its modern architecture, nightlife and hearty street food. The 16th-century shogunate Osaka Castle, which has undergone several restorations, is its main historical landmark. Osaka Castle was completed in 1586 in just three years, ordered built by famed Japanese warrior and politician Toyotomi Hideyoshi and at the time was the largest castle in Japan. After Hideyoshi’s defeat in 1615, the castle was destroyed, only to be rebuilt by the Tokugawa shoguns for reasons of prestige. Again destroyed after the fall of the Shogunate, the castle was reconstructed in its present form in 1931. Highlights include the five-story, 42-meter-tall main tower containing exhibits on the history of the castle and the city, as well as superb views over Osaka from its upper floors.
Osaka’s best-known temple, Shitennō-ji, traces its roots back to AD 59 and was Japan’s first Buddhist temple. Although rebuilt numerous times through the centuries (the most recent reconstruction took place in the 1960s), this lovely temple remains the oldest such religious site to be officially administered. Highlights of a tour of Shitennō-ji includes the site’s five-story pagoda along with a number of other exquisitely decorated buildings including the Golden Pavilion (Kondō) with its fine statues and paintings, the Lecture Hall (Kōdō), and a lovely covered corridor linking three of the site’s gates.
Osaka’s National Museum of Art, is a unique underground art museum just a few minutes from the city center on Nakanoshima, a small island between the Tosabori and Dōjima rivers. Opened in 1977, the gallery contains a large collection from some of the leading international artists of the post-war period, including examples by Picasso and Cézanne, and Japanese artists Kuniyoshi and Foujita, along with many important relics and statues. Even if art isn’t your thing, it’s worth visiting for the spectacular steel structure outside the museum, a massive installation designed to look like reeds bending under a breeze.
In addition to the stunning architecture associated with its museums and art galleries, you will find many other fine examples of modern architecture in Osaka. In particular, is the aptly named Umeda Sky Building (Umeda Sukai Biru), a stunning landmark consisting of two office towers joined at the top by a large platform-like structure. It’s this rooftop structure that draws visitors, due largely to the network of bridges and an escalator that join the two towers, providing views of 170-plus meters straight down. The views from this rooftop observatory with its garden are simply stunning.
Goa is a state in western India with coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea. Its long history as a Portuguese colony prior to 1961 is evident in its preserved 17th-century churches and the area’s tropical spice plantations. Goa is also known for its beaches, ranging from popular stretches at Baga and Palolem to those in laid-back fishing villages such as Agonda.
Goa isn’t known for specific products of any sort, but tourism lures market traders from all over India. While this means that you’re unlikely to take home much that is genuinely Goan – apart from bottles of feni (liquor distilled from coconut milk or cashews) and packets of locally grown spices – it also means that you can find almost anything from Kashmiri carpets to Karnatakan carvings. Goa’s markets are either aimed specifically at visitors or specifically at locals. For local shopping, try the municipal markets in Panaji and Margao, with plenty of colour and a broad assortment of spices, bangles and posters of Indian gods, or head to Mapusa, whose massive market is most active on Fridays.
Situated in the far southeastern corner of the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa’s most impressive waterfall splashes down just west of the border with Karnataka state, and at 603 meters. This is the second highest in India after Jog Falls. The falls are best visited as soon after monsoon as possible (October is perfect), when the water levels are at their highest and the cascades earn their misty nomenclature, Dudhsagar, meaning, in Konkani, ‘Sea of Milk.’
At over 76m long and 55m wide, the cavenerous Sé Cathedral is the largest church in Asia. Building work commenced in 1562, on the orders of King Dom Sebastiao of Portugal, and the finishing touches where finally made some 90 years later. The exterior of the cathedral is notable for its plain style, in the Tuscan tradition. Also of note is its rather lopsided look resulting from the loss of one of its bell towers, which collapsed in 1776 after being struck by lightning. The remaining tower houses the famous Sino de Ouro (Golden Bell), the largest in Asia and renowned for its rich tone, which once tolled to accompany the Inquisition’s notoriously cruel autos-da-fé (trials of faith), held out the front of the cathedral on what was then the market square.
Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea known for its beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities. Hanoi, the capital, pays homage to the nation’s iconic Communist-era leader, Ho Chi Minh, via a huge marble mausoleum. You will never be stuck for something to do in Hanoi, where ancient and proudly preserved Vietnamese culture is felt most keenly by visitors, and progress wrestles with tradition in different districts of the city. Hanoi is actually over 1,000 years old so the wealth of history here is mind boggling: temples, ancient citadels, unique theatre and stunning wilderness just outside the city all offer fun-filled days in Vietnam’s capital.
One of Hanoi’s most common sights is that of streets packed with scooters, bicycles and cars that seem to swarm around pedestrians like a school of fish. There’s the many sidewalk vendors and people simply out for a stroll. One of the best places to take a stroll is in the Old Quarter. Visitors to the Old Quarter have no choice but to face the traffic as the locals do, but the experience of exploring the historical area is a must-do and truly well worth it.
Packed with charming colonial architecture, Buddhist temples and pagodas, the Old Quarter is Hanoi’s major commercial district. Its heart and soul is exposed in the ancient commercial streets which are named after their original businesses dating back about 1,000 years. The preserved shop-houses that lie along these roads were built a little over a century ago and were constructed in their long and narrow style to avoid being hit by high taxes. Each has a street-facing façade and multiple courtyards inside. The front part of the buildings is where trading takes place while the family occupies the rest. Though one shop-house was meant to be for one family (with many generations in it), nowadays it is more common to see quite a few families jammed in under one roof. Expect to find plenty of hip cafés, bars, a variety of restaurants, bakeries, boutique shops and art galleries in this historical area.
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history and, signifying its historical and cultural importance, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing 40 metres high, the central flag tower is the most recognizable feature of the Imperial Citadel and is often used as a symbol of Hanoi. This was the centre of ancient Hanoi and served as the political centre for eight centuries.
The ancient art form of water puppetry has a long association with Hanoi and there are several theatres where guests can enjoy this uniquely Vietnamese take on Asia’s puppet tradition. The original – and widely regarded as the best – theatre in town is the Thang Long Puppet Theatre. Puppets dance and slide elegantly over the liquid stage, controlled by a whole troupe of puppet masters hiding behind a screen.
Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a modern metropolis with Japanese colonial lanes, busy shopping streets and contemporary buildings. The skyline is crowned by the 509m-tall, bamboo-shaped Taipei 101 skyscraper, with upscale shops at the base and a rapid elevator to whisk you to an observatory near the top. Taipei is also known for its lively street-food scene and many night markets. Here a just a few of the sights not to be missed in Taipe.
Start your visit to taipei with a nice dose of culture at the National Palace Museum. The National Palace Museum (MRT Shilin Station Exit 2, Red Line, tel: [886-2] 2881-2021,www.npm.gov.tw) has one of the largest collections of ancient Chinese artefacts and artworks in the world, and many are high-quality treasures once owned by Chinese emperors. If you’re short on time, just take a peek at the star of the museum – the Jadeite Cabbage. The Chinese cabbage is carved from a piece of jadeite with colours naturally going from white to green; look for the camouflaged grasshopper.
Taiwanese style breakfast is a must-have without a doubt. The typical Taiwanese breakfast combo people order is a deep-fried strip of dough known as “youtiao” with rice congee, a baked sesame flatbread with rice milk, or an egg pancake with soy milk. You can easily find breakfast vendors in the morning all over the city, but there are also many in town that serve breakfast 24 hours a day. Which is perfect since this is a city that never sleeps!
When in Taiwan, eat the way the locals do! You absolutely should not leave the island without trying a bowl of thick soupy vermicelli noodles with oysters and/or braised pork intestines, topped with black vinegar, minced garlic and coriander. This classic Taiwanese dish can be found in night markets all over the country, but we highly recommend Ay-chung, which is located in Ximending.
Taipei 101 is both a Taiwan landmark and a Taipei celebrity that was once the world’s tallest building, placing the city firmly in the international spotlight. Designed like a bamboo (although it may take some stretch of imagination to visualise it thus) with eight sections of eight floors each, the building represents growth – the bamboo – and double prosperity – the two number eights. Go up to the observatory on the 89th floor from the fifth floor via the world’s fastest elevator. It only takes 38 seconds, and they’re very safe. When you’re up there, you’ll be embraced by a 360-degree view of the entire city.