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Off the Beaten Path: 12 Destinations in Asia For the Not-So-Ordinary Traveller

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Luqman Hakim  •  Apr 18, 2019

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Forget touristy spots, this one is for the adventurous souls! Asia is the largest continent on the world map, and it is not only filled with amazing holiday destinations but also has its own fair share of hidden wonders. Hidden wonders so beautiful, you would go off the beaten path for a vacation there. 🤗 Credit: Giphy Here’s us listing down 12 awesome, amazing underrated Asian destinations (in no specific order) for the not-so-ordinary traveller. 1. Fukuoka, Japan Located along the western coast of Japan’s Kyushu district, Fukuoka is interestingly closer to South Korea than it is to Japan’s capital, Tokyo. It is for this reason that Fukuoka is a harbour city, "linking" Japan and Asia’s mainland via its proximity.
Credit: @a.ppetite on Instagram Hakata Ward is one of the main shopping districts in Fukuoka. You won’t run out of things to do in Hakata as there are many megamalls such as Canal City Hakata. The mall’s exquisite architecture is the main draw - there is even a canal running through the mall, thus its name. If you love fish roe, then Hakata is for you! Reason? Mentaiko (Pollock roe) is a local delicacy in Hakata. You can easily purchase them at affordable prices in supermarkets (or seafood markets), located all over Hakata 🤤 
Credit: @naniwasushi on Instagram If Mentaiko doesn’t favour your taste buds, do check out Naniwa Sushi, a Muslim-friendly establishment serving the freshest seafood straight from Hakata’s port. Alcohol is not added to the sushi rice and shoyu sauce, so sit back and enjoy delicious sushi and sashimi at this amazing establishment. Website Address: 4-6-21 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku Phone Number: 092-473-8448 Opening Hours: Daily, 5:00pm-12:00am.
Credit: Alex Lim on Facebook Fukuoka holds many festivals all year round. We recommend attending the Hojoya Festival, or Fukuoka’s own Autumn festival. The festival is held annually from 12th to 18th September at Hakozaki Shrine in the Higashi ward of Fukuoka. If you’re lucky, you may be able to witness locals perform their rituals in commemoration of the festival. Locals also set up stalls that sell Japanese products and street food for visitors to the shrine. #HHWT Tip: If you wondering what else to do in Fukuoka, we’ve rounded up the perfect guide just for you! Getting There A direct flight to Fukuoka from Asian countries may be a rare find as only a few non-Japanese airlines fly direct to Fukuoka’s main airport. The most ideal way to travel to Fukuoka is flying domestically via airports in Japan’s major cities such as Kansai and Itami Airports in Osaka and Narita and Haneda International Airports in Tokyo. You can also opt to take the Shinkansen (or bullet train) from various stations all over Japan 🚅 
#HHWTTip: Do purchase your rail pass and attraction tickets beforehand online, if possible. This helps you secure your tickets before your trip and saves you the hassle of getting them during your trip. 2. Pulau Mabul, Malaysia Everyone’s heard of Tioman and Langkawi Island off the coast of Malaysia, but have you heard of Mabul Island? This small island, which is just full of resorts, is located off the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysia and is perfect for those who yearn for an epic beach vacation. 😬
Credit: @mishythefishy_ on Instagram Given that Mabul Island is less well known than some of the other islands (like Tioman or Redang), it's perfect for an amazing retreat away from the crowds, but without the expense you'd incur at private islands with exclusive resorts 😉 Get your suntan lotion ready and get your tan on as you bum out at the comfort of your own resort. 
Credit: @joe580360 on Instagram Mabul Island has dive resorts too. These resorts provide diving packages, which include accommodation in their stunning resort. One such resort is Mabul Water Bungalows located east of Mabul Island. The resort is built on stilts in the ocean, giving you an amazing experience of living out at sea.
Credit: @yoycetot on Instagram Getting There To get to the island, you can take a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Tawau Airport. Head over to Semporna and hop on a ferry or speedboat there. The ferry (or boat) ride would take approximately 45 minutes to an hour. As this island is remote and geographically small, walking around shouldn’t be so much of a hassle. There are no distinct roads and it takes just 30 – 45 minutes to circle the island. #HHWT Tip: Stock up enough sunblock lotion with you for your trip. The last thing you want is getting sunburnt while having fun in the sun. 3. Koh Lanta, Thailand Looking for a great honeymoon spot or just feel like kicking back in the sand, sun and sea? Then, look no further than the remote island of Koh Lanta (or Ko Lanta), off the coast of Thailand. 
The island is full of hipster cafés (most of which are not halal-certified, do dine at your own discretion) and is surrounded by coral reefs and stunning views. Cool yourself down with delicious, creamy ice cream at Two Scoops Gelato and Desserts, located at Sala Dan in Koh Lanta. Do dine in at your own discretion, as a few of their flavours contain alcohol - we recommend to check with the staff on which flavours are suitable to eat.
Credit: @starofusa on Instagram Facebook Opening Hours: 11am - 6pm daily Contact no.: +66 89 724 2791 Address: 73/1 Moo 3, Khlong Dao, Ban Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand 81150 There are many things you can do in and around Koh Lanta including water activities such as snorkelling, diving or kayaking. 🏊‍♂️
Credit: @tipi2975 on Instagram Go shopping or just experience the simple life while strolling down the old town of Koh Lanta. If you have a chance, visit Koh Lanta’s night market in Baan Saladan on Wednesday evenings. Koh Lanta has a decent Muslim population and you can find many Muslim-owned stalls at the night market, selling all sorts of goodies for the hungry soul 😋  Credit: Giphy Getting There An island located along the western coast of Thailand, the only way to get to the island is by ferry, most ideally starting your ferry journey at Krabi ⛴ Scoot and AirAsia offer affordable direct flights from other Southeast Asian countries to Krabi’s main international airport. #HHWT Tip: There are two sections of Koh Lanta, the island’s old and new town. Both are on opposite ends of the island. Do plan your itinerary beforehand as the only way to get around is via “tuk-tuk” (or auto rickshaw) or by a motorbike, which you can rent. 4. Luang Prabang, Laos Located in the northern reaches of Laos, this quiet, ancient town is not only an underrated holiday destination, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you are looking for a relaxing vacation, this is the place to be.
Laotians living in Luang Prabang depend heavily on agriculture for income and self-sustenance. Because of this, you can see vast farmlands in Luang Prabang, perfect for photo opportunities. You can also experience life as a Laotian farmer if you head on over to Living Land Farm in Ban Phong Van. 👨‍🌾
 Credit: @magalieed on Instagram If you’re looking to cool off after a long walk, then head to Kuang Si Waterfalls for a rejuvenating dip and capture great photos of this stunning nature site. 😲
If this is not enough to tempt you to head to Luang Prabang, we hope this will make you consider. Getting There Scoot offers direct flights from other Southeast Asian countries to Luang Prabang International Airport. There are also many domestic flights connecting Laos’ capital, Vientiane and Luang Prabang. #HHWT Tip: As you would be spending most of your time in nature, we would recommend bringing along mosquito repellent patches or sprays. 5. Da Lat, Vietnam Here’s another entry from Southeast Asia. Amongst the hills and forests of South Vietnam lie the capital of Lam Dong Province, Da Lat. There is French colonial influence in Da Lat, evident in the architecture of its buildings. The town even has a radio tower shaped like the Eiffel Tower. 🗼
Due to the city’s high altitude, temperatures may hit as low as 10 degrees Celsius during its “winter” season from November to March. The cold temperatures allow various crops to grow in surrounding farms and agricultural sites. 🍓 #HHWTTip: Pack clothing for cold weathers, especially if you are travelling around Da Lat at night. 
One of Da Lat’s main attractions is Elephant Falls, approximately an hour's drive from Da Lat’s city centre. This nature attraction is named after a rock formation which locals claim to resemble an elephant’s head. Head over to the main waterfall as it makes for a great backdrop for epic photos.
Credit: @candicetzeng on Instagram Did we mention, locals living in Da Lat are extremely friendly? Language barriers aside, the locals are very welcoming to tourists. 😊
Credit: Stanislav Baranov on Flickr Getting There You can take a bus from Vietnam’s main cities including Ho Chi Minh City (7-hour bus ride). If you prefer flying, then grab a domestic flight from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Da Lat, arriving at Lien Khuong Airport. There are many direct flights that fly from Southeast Asian countries to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. 6. Kunming, China Located in the southern Yunnan province, Kunming is a modern metropolis, surrounded with awesome nature sites. One of which is its world-famous Stone Forest of Shilin. They are limestone formations protruding out of the ground, perfect for amazing photo opportunities. 📸 
Aside from the stone forest, there are plenty of temples and national parks to visit when you are in Kunming. Pay a visit to the most famous Buddhist temple in Kunming, Yuantong Temple or head to Tongwa Temple, home of the Taoist Taihe Palace on the top of Mingfeng Hill.
Credit: @anthrofam on Instagram Kunming is also known as the “Spring City” or to some, “The Flower City” and the best time to visit Kunming is between March and October. If you are lucky, you may be able to capture great shots of the spring blossoms. 🌸 #HHWTTip: Lighten your load as you travel, make full use of your smartphone camera to capture excellent shots of the spring blossoms. Click here for tips.
Credit: @mildsvencharlotte on Instagram There is a rather large Muslim community in Kunming, so you won’t have to go out of the way looking for halal local food. Looking for tips for your trip to Kunming? Click here. Getting There Direct flights fly from almost every international airport in Asia to Kunming Changshui International Airport all year round. You can also take the High-Speed Train from Shanghai to the newly-built Kunming South Railway Station 🚄
 7. Chengdu, China  The capital of Sichuan province of China, Chengdu is another underrated holiday destination. Considered by the Chinese as the panda capital of China, Chengdu’s key attraction is the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. 🐼
The breeding and research facility opened its doors in 1987, with its main goal being the conservation of endangered giant pandas. Visitors get to interact with the facility’s pandas and witness the conservation efforts set up to protect these vulnerable charmers 😍 Credit: Giphy Chengdu is also home to many temples and religious sites opened to tourists. Learn more about Chengdu’s history by visiting these historical landmarks. A must-visit is the Leshan Giant Buddha, located south of Chengdu. The giant statue is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the tallest stone sculpture of Buddha in the world.
If you are looking for more reasons to visit Chengdu, we’ve compiled a list for you here. #HHWTTip: Tourist sites such as the Leshan Giant Buddha can get extremely crowded during peak hours, weekends and school/public holidays. Try visiting these sites during off-peak hours or weekdays. Getting There Similar to Kunming, there are direct flights from Asian airports which fly into Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. The High-Speed Train also connects Shanghai and Chengdu, via Wuhan. 8. Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia Venture to the unknown at Raja Ampat Islands in East Indonesia and have an out-of-this-world experience with nature. Get your cameras ready as you go island hopping around Raja Ampat.
The magic of Raja Ampat, also known to divers as “the mecca of diving”, lies on the ocean floor with thousands of species of corals and aquatic life. Go snorkelling (or diving) in the oceans of Raja Ampat to have the perfect “Raja Ampat experience”.
Credit: @gippranubhda on Instagram If you are looking to spend your nights in an amazing resort in Raja Ampat, look no further than Papua Paradise Eco Resort located along the coast of Arefi Birie island. The resort is perfect if you’re looking for a resort fit for a honeymoon in Raja Ampat. 😃
Credit: @nonablesia on Instagram If you are looking for a luxurious, relaxing stay, then spend your nights in Meridian Adventure Marina Club and Dive Resort in Waisai. You may need deep pockets for this though. The resort also has various dive packages for those who wish to spend your trip diving around the oceans of Raja Ampat.  #HHWTTip:  Invest on a dry sack (or dry bag) for your valuables. This waterproof bag would be especially useful as you go island hopping around Raja Ampat. The last thing you want is getting your valuables, especially your phone, wet. Getting There Getting there would prove to be somewhat of a challenge, as there are no known direct international flights. You must fly domestically from the main cities in Indonesia to Domine Eduard Osok Airport in Sorong, West Papua. Upon arriving at Sorong, hop on a ferry at Sorong ferry harbour to Waisai, Raja Ampat. 9. Busan, South Korea Busan is another underrated holiday destination. Despite the town being the second most populous city after Seoul, tourists to South Korea would seldom travel down south and would more likely spend more time in Seoul due to the hype of Korean dramas and K-pop.
One of Busan’s key attractions is Busan Tower, which offers its visitors a jaw-dropping view of the entire town, including another tourist attraction, the colourful Gamcheon Culture Village.
Credit: @jess.aroundtheworld on Instagram Do check out Jagalchi Market, the largest seafood market in South Korea. The home to rather unique seafood and unorthodox seafood dishes (one of which still moves even on your plate 🐙), a visit to Jagalchi market surely is a must. 
Credit: @nnk_anemone on Instagram #HHWTTip: If you are getting something from the market, it might be useful to learn some basic conversational Korean as not all the shopkeepers speak English. Plan your Busan trip with this bucket list. Getting There Getting to Busan is relatively easy as there are many direct flights from Southeast-Asia, which fly into Gimhae International Airport, located west of Busan ✈️ You can also take a train (or domestic flight) from Seoul down south to Busan’s city centre 🚆 Good news for Singaporeans (or those transiting in Singapore) travelling to Busan as SilkAir will begin operating non-stop flights between Singapore and Busan from 1st of May 2019. Credit: Giphy Can’t decide on where to stay while you’re there? Do check this article out. 10. Amritsar, India Amritsar, in the north-western tip of India, is where you will find the holiest site of the Sikh religion. Learn more about Sikhism, as a religion and culture, when you visit this Punjab city. Amritsar is where you will find historical sites such as the Gobindgarh Fort. Built in the 18th century, it is now an entertainment hub where you can explore the culture and history of Amritsar. 
Credit: @varunsinghalarya on Instagram Your trip to Amritsar will not be complete without a visit to the Golden Temple. Also known to Sikhs as Harmandir Sahib (or Darbar Sahib), the golden temple is a pilgrimage site for Sikhs all around the world. 😮
There are many Halal and vegetarian options in Amritsar as India has a huge Muslim and vegetarian population. One such Muslim-friendly restaurant is Bubby Fish and Chicken Corner.
Credit: @mohiiit_siiingh on Instagram #HHWTTip: As Amritsar and the temples there are religious sites for Sikhs, do take note of the dos and don’ts when you’re visiting the city. We would recommend researching more on Sikhism and Amritsar’s culture before heading there. Getting There Airlines such as Scoot provides direct flights from all over Asia to Amritsar’s Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport. You can also travel via rail from India’s major cities but just a heads up, India’s trains can get extremely jam packed during peak hours and holidays. 😬 11. Kyrgyzstan Known to some as Kyrgyz Republic and the first of the two “stans” in this list, Kyrgyzstan is a perfect holiday destination for the not-so-ordinary traveller and is known for its nomadic culture and beautiful mountainscapes ⛰ 
Credit: Ninara on Flickr Spend a few nights in Kyrgyzstan’s capital and largest city, Bishkek, the launching pad for the many amazing, must-see sites in Kyrgyzstan. One of the must-see sights in Bishkek is the city’s main city square, Ala-Too Square. If you are there at the right time, you might be able to catch the changing of guards, which happens hourly.
Credit: @schum174 on Instagram The Silk Road connects China, Central Asia and Europe and Kyrgyzstan is just one of the countries in Central Asia which benefitted, economically speaking, from the construction of this trade route. The mountainous town of Tash Rabat is just one of the towns in Kyrgyzstan that falls along the Silk Road. Spend a couple of nights here, living the simple life and learning more about the history and culture of the locals. 😃
Credit: @will_lester86 on Instagram Getting There There are no known direct flights from Southeast Asian countries to Bishkek. To get to Bishkek (arriving at Manas International Airport), you have to transit at airports in the Middle East or Europe. 12. Uzbekistan The second “stan” in this list is extremely Muslim-friendly. Uzbekistan, located west of Kyrgyzstan, is known for its beautiful architecture, heritage-filled mosques and its link to the Silk Road. 
Uzbekistan is also safe for solo female travellers and its food is just out of this world, most of which are Muslim-friendly or Halal-certified (do check with the vendors before purchasing them). 🤤
Credit: @layoverss on Instagram Located along the Silk Road, Samarkand is one of the must-see cities in Uzbekistan. It is here where you will find Bibi-Khanym Mosque, one of the more prominent mosques in Uzbekistan.
Credit: @koh_17 on Instagram Located just next to the mosque is the city’s largest market, the Siyob Bazaar. You can find a plethora of raw and cooked food in this giant bazaar including freshly baked Lepeshka or Uzbek bread. Yummy! 😋
Credit: @makiko.3110 on Instagram #HHWTTip: Head out with an empty stomach. There’s a lot of good street food in Uzbekistan and most of which, are in rather large portions. Getting There There are many airports located all over Uzbekistan, including Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport in Tashkent and Samarkand International Airport. Most travellers to Uzbekistan will transit in airports all around the Middle East and Europe as there are not many direct flights to Uzbekistan, especially from East Asia. We hoped we have inspired you for your next holiday destination! If you are an adventurous one, then what are you waiting for? Book your next holiday to one of these amazing, underrated destinations. #YOLO  Credit: Giphy