Asia is one of the most popular destinations. It’s an exciting, colorful, charming, beautiful and fun continent which offers travelers a little bit of everything. It’s difficult to not love Asia once you’re here.
Most people tend to do the so-called “Banana Pancake Trail” which is the most popular stops for backpackers in Asia. Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos are by far the most popular countries to travel to, but there’s a lot more to Asia than hitting Khao San Road in Bangkok. If you want to get off the beaten track in Asia, take a look at this list of 5 of the most overlooked places in Asia.
1. Phong Nha-Ke Bang, Vietnam
Vietnam is part of the famous “Banana Pancake Trail” but there are still places that are quite unexplored. Phong Nha is one of them. Although you’ll find hostels, bars and even clubs here, it’s still a small and sleepy town which many people overlooks. It’s one of Vietnam’s most beautiful hidden gems but it’s about to be discovered by many travelers soon, so make sure you head that way during your next trip to Vietnam. You can rent a motorbike there and drive along the national park, explore the fascinating and huge underground caves, go zip lining, enjoy a boat ride down the river, go swimming or just sit back and relax in one of the cozy cafés in the quaint little town.
2. Tainan, Taiwan
Taiwan in general is an overlooked country in Asia and unfortunately, not many travelers find their way here (which is a huge shame!). Taiwan has just as much to offer as many of the most popular countries, such as Thailand, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much there is to do and see in this charming country. Tainan especially is one of the prettiest cities in Taiwan. If you do decide to travel to Taiwan, make sure that you don’t just go to Taipei because there’s so much more to this small country. Not only is Tainan the fifth largest city in Taiwan, it’s also the oldest and used to be the capital during the Qing Dynasty. When in Tainan, head to the famous Xinmei Street which has a bit of a hipster feeling to it. There are little cafés, mini museums, bakeries, art galleries and much more. The historical streets are well-preserved as well and remains as one of the most beautiful areas in Taiwan. Every corner is beautiful to look at so don’t forget your camera when you walk here!
3. Java, Indonesia
Most people tend to skip the island of Java and go straight to Bali, but you’ll miss out on so much by doing so. Yes, Bali is worth going to and they have some incredible beaches, but Java has the landscape, the volcanoes and the mountains. In Java they practice Islam while in Bali they are Hindu, so there is a culture difference here, even though it’s in the same country. And that’s what makes Java so interesting as well. If you compare these two islands to each other, you’ll almost feel like you’ve entered another country. Java is much less touristic and perhaps even a bit more difficult to travel around in, but not impossible. The rise of travelers has made Java a bit more tourist friendly and you can find hostels or guest houses in the bigger tourist attractions. Some of the most popular places to visit in Java include Yogyakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, climbing Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen. If you miss the beach, you also have some good options in Java such as Batu Karas.
4. Zhangjiajie, China
Although it’s a bit of a hassle to get to Zhangjiajie (remember: China is massive!), it’s definitely worth it. The national park got famous after the movie Avatar was released. Why? Because the mountains in Zhangjiajie served as an inspiration for the floating mountains in Avatar. Even though that put this national park on the map, not many Western travelers make their way over here. That’s not to say that there’s no people here – quite the contrary! It’s one of the most popular spots for locals to go to and you’ll be far from alone at the top. If you want to avoid the crowd, don’t take the elevator (yes, there is one of those) up to the top. Take it slowly, hike in your own pace up and you’ll have the sense of being all alone in this massive national park.
5. Seoul, South Korea
“Cool” is the perfect word to describe Seoul. This city is the perfect place to go to if you want to combine fun, nature, party, culture, shopping and sightseeing. Oh, and let’s not forget about the delicious bibimbap meals that you can get here. Seoul has everything a big city should have – a lively atmosphere, tons of restaurants and cafés, a great nightlife and tons of shopping malls. You can also go for a hike in Bukhansan Mountain, which is a favorite amongst locals to do during the weekend. It’s the closest mountain to Seoul and makes for a great get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Even though Seoul has it all, you won’t find many backpackers here in this city. What you will find however, are expats. Don’t miss out on this exciting city when you’re in Asia, it’s about time that Seoul got the attention it deserves.