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Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 12:51 am
by topofthebellcurve
Hi BH,

I've got a week off at the start of October (Chinese National Day -- I live in Shanghai), and I'm looking for a fun place to go with the wife. I'd like to stay in Asia, broadly defined. We're in our early 30s and pretty active / adventure-seeking.

Any recommendations?

We've been to (and have quite enjoyed):
-Cambodia
-Vietnam
-Laos
-Thailand
-Burma
-Northern India
-Nepal
-Hong Kong
-Japan

We're thinking SE Asia (Sri Lanka?) but I don't think October is the best time to go. Malaysia? Philippines? Mongolia?

Thanks for the advice!

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 12:52 am
by Bacchus01
Gold Coast Australia.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 1:00 am
by topofthebellcurve
Bacchus01 wrote:Gold Coast Australia.
Thanks, I'll look into it. Sadly, Australia is a surprisingly long flight from China (11+ hrs). I always thought it was closer....

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 1:07 am
by harikaried
What languages do you know? Taiwan could be simple enough for reading and speaking Chinese. Japan can be doable with the shared kanji characters.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 1:09 am
by topofthebellcurve
My wife and I both speak/read Chinese (Mandarin). Taiwan uses Traditional characters which is a bit confusing, but speaking is fine -- I think the Taiwanese accent is the clearest form of Chinese.

Have you been to Taiwan on vacation?

Japan is amazing (!!!) but I've taken the wife there 3 times and go there frequently for work, so I expect she wants somewhere else.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 2:47 am
by Ari
Taiwan is pretty nice. I was there for a few days. October should be a pretty nice time to go, I suspect. It's famous for its great street food, and there are some nice attractions, too. Unfortunately, when I was there the weather was terrible, and the people I was with mostly wanted to go shopping. When we did the Taipei 101, it was so cloudy and foggy that it was like a grey wall outside the windows ...

I find the Taiwanese accent less clear (the s/sh blending confuses me), but I had to do a lot of translating when I was there (I was there with people from Hong Kong, whose Mandarin was pretty basic) and we got around pretty well. It probably helped that we all knew how to read traditional characters well. For me, the book shops were the main attraction, since Hong Kong has terrible book shops, but if you don't read traditional, that might be less interesting to you. It's not that hard to get used to, though, and there are a lot of interesting books in Taiwan that are not availible in the mainland due to censorship.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 5:17 am
by dbltrbl
India in October should be fine. Monsoon over and cooler weather/pleasant during days and brisk at night. Language should not be an issue with English in most urban centers and tourist areas.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 5:55 am
by bluejello
+1 Taiwan. Great food and hot springs in Taipei, all relatively inexpensive. Visiting the museums will be quite interesting for you if you live in China, as you can see the stark contrast between the way history is presented in Taiwan vs. China. I also recommend going to the little seaside town of Jiufen (about 1.5 to 2 hours from Taipei), beautiful teahouses there that look over the ocean. If you have a week, definitely add in Taroko Gorge for some stunning hiking and mountain vistas.

If you like nature, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia is also quite nice. Snorkeling, scuba diving, river tours in a small boat where you look for wildlife, seeing orangutans, and even climbing KK (highest peak in Asia) if you are very adventurous.

I've also heard wonderful things about Myanmar though I haven't been myself. October is supposed to be the best time to go there.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:50 am
by corner559
I've traveled all over both East Asia and SE Asia. My favorite places are Indonesia and China. Would HIGHLY recommend Bali and Java (Yogyakarta area to be specific).

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:59 am
by simplesimon
Very nice list of places you've been to and I was surprised Taiwan wasn't on the list. I also recommend Taiwan for the reasons other have stated and since you mentioned you're active and adventurous. Visit a different night market every night!

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:03 am
by KlingKlang
Singapore. English and Mandarin universally spoken. Possibly the best selection of food in the world. Look around for hotel bargains, it doesn't matter where you stay as their world class public transportation system will get you anywhere on the island within minutes.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:25 am
by topofthebellcurve
corner559 wrote:I've traveled all over both East Asia and SE Asia. My favorite places are Indonesia and China. Would HIGHLY recommend Bali and Java (Yogyakarta area to be specific).


I was just reading up on Java and Borneo. Was thinking to skip Bali -- since it's a famous tourist destination, it's likely to be overrun with Mainland Chinese. Will definitely look up Yogyakarta area. Were there any specific activties that stood out (e.g. visiting the rainforest)?
KlingKlang wrote:Singapore. English and Mandarin universally spoken. Possibly the best selection of food in the world. Look around for hotel bargains, it doesn't matter where you stay as their world class public transportation system will get you anywhere on the island within minutes.
Interesting idea! I went to Singapore on work once -- honestly felt pretty sterile (though the curried crab was phenomenal).
simplesimon wrote:Very nice list of places you've been to and I was surprised Taiwan wasn't on the list. I also recommend Taiwan for the reasons other have stated and since you mentioned you're active and adventurous. Visit a different night market every night!
I'm honestly a bit ashamed I haven't been to Taiwan, since I love traditional Chinese tea and culture, and everyone tells me that the "real" Chinese culture was largely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (on the Mainland) and is preserved in Taiwan. Also, professionally the largest investment deal I've done was in Taiwan, though I was just a spreadsheet monkey and didn't get to visit.

Where are your favorite parts of Taiwan, aside from Taipei?
bluejello wrote:+1 Taiwan. Great food and hot springs in Taipei, all relatively inexpensive. Visiting the museums will be quite interesting for you if you live in China, as you can see the stark contrast between the way history is presented in Taiwan vs. China. I also recommend going to the little seaside town of Jiufen (about 1.5 to 2 hours from Taipei), beautiful teahouses there that look over the ocean. If you have a week, definitely add in Taroko Gorge for some stunning hiking and mountain vistas.

If you like nature, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia is also quite nice. Snorkeling, scuba diving, river tours in a small boat where you look for wildlife, seeing orangutans, and even climbing KK (highest peak in Asia) if you are very adventurous.

I've also heard wonderful things about Myanmar though I haven't been myself. October is supposed to be the best time to go there.
Thanks for the recommendation! I was in Myanmar last December and am happy to talk with you about that trip if you're curious to go. Fascinating place. Ngapali Beach was as nice of a beach as I've ever seen, but with "free" food/drink and almost empty. If you like the culture, go to Mrauk-U, which was the seat of power in the 1500s. The only way to get there is by a ~5 hr boat ride, so it's much less touristy. You'll see about 1.2 bazillion Buddhas. When I went, it was right before "the Lady" took power -- I'm curious to see how the country has changed since.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:33 am
by jodydavis
Of the places you haven't been, I would vote either Malaysia/Singapore or Indonesia.

Malaysia/Singapore - wonderful street food, interesting mix of islamic/chinese/indian cultures and cuisines. You mentioned you are active, and there are nice beaches in parts, snorkeling/diving, and also adventures in East Malaysia, climbing Kinabalu, lots of interesting animals, etc. Also two very interesting cities in KL and Singapore.

Indonesia - I've only been to Bali, but it was very nice. Beaches, surfing, good food, and really interesting culture, especially in Ubud. Very spiritual-feeling. Yes, it's a bit overrun, but still worth visiting.

Taiwan is also very nice, but may not be as different from the parts of China that you are accustomed to. Food is terrific, people are very nice, and there is far less pollution than in China. Wonderful place to visit, just not as different or as adventurous as the other two above.

J.D.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:37 am
by Isabelle77
My parents, who are serious world travelers, loved Burma, Laos, and Vietnam. They also liked Borneo. While they appreciated aspects of Cambodia, overall they didn't love it. Also loved India. Felt like Singapore, Bali, and most of Thailand were too "done" but that's my parents, I would probably love those places.

They are spending the winter in Sri Lanka so I can let you know :) Also planning to spend 3 months following the Silk Road in 2018, which also sounds cool.

Edited to add: I have spent some time in Kazakhstan near Mongolia and there isn't much to see. Because the local people were nomads the culture feels very Soviet. Would love to really explore Mongolia further but I'm not sure there's that much to do.

Editing again sorry! Depending on how crazy you are, Uzbekistan would be cool, I'd love to see Tashkent. Obviously a way different trip than to Bali.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:39 am
by Dulocracy
We LOVED Japan. As a young couple (I was a little older than you are and she was a little younger), we were able to enjoy some of the night life in Tokyo. We enjoyed the great history that the country had to offer. Kyoto was amazing, and Gion square is a must if you go to Kyoto, as it is a great place to see traditional art of Japan (music, the dance of the Maiko geisha, and Kabuki theater.

If you can travel to the Nagano prefecture, I cannot recommend enough a particular onsen ryokan (Hotspring hotel). This traditional hotel has a gentleman from Seattle that will help you to navigate the customs and the local area in English. It was so very helpful, and it allowed us to experience the traditional side: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserRev ... Chubu.html

You will note the wonderful reviews. It is not that far from the Hokusai museum in Obuse is close enough for a day trip. Japan in October is perfect. The weather is good. There is a great festival and parade in Kyoto. Obuse has its chestnut festival. Tokyo is comfortable for parties at night (Halloween is surprisingly wild in Tokyo.) There are clubs in Shibuya and Roppongi, but we prefered the ones in Shibuya. Also, do not go to Tokyo without setting aside a day for Akihabara. Look it up. It is an experience.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 2:02 pm
by cfs
Wow

Traveling during the Western Pacific's typhoon season, but your can check Singapore or possibly Manila. Good luck with your travel plans.

Thanks for reading. ~cfs~

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 3:14 pm
by fareastwarriors
Why not S. Korea? I enjoyed my time there a lot.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:42 pm
by hmw
I would choose Taiwan over Singapore if you have never been to Taiwan. We spent 4 days in Singapore this summer. Singapore feels a little sterile too me.

Would also recommend El Nido in the Philippines, if you want a beach experience.

http://www.elnidoresorts.com/pangulasian-island/. We stayed at this resort a few years ago and had a great time.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:57 pm
by harrychan
Okinawa!

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:02 pm
by navyasw02
I'd do a split trip between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Also spent a few days at Pangkor Laut resort in Malaysia, beautiful place if you're into beach lounging.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:07 pm
by tedclu
Hong Kong
Tokyo
South Korea - dmz
Thailand- Chiang Mai

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:07 pm
by BUBear29
I've traveled through Japan, China, Singapore and Vietnam. Favorite place by far was Phú Quốc, Vietnam. A gorgeous little island about an hour flight from Saigon. We rented motorbikes and rode around the island everyday, exploring new roads, beaches and markets. Our resort was about $50 USD a night for a nice little cottage right on the beach with free breakfast on the beach included each morning. Also got a free massage. Such amazing, pristine beaches and definitely an unforgettable experience.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:00 pm
by Pacific
1. South Island of New Zealand

2. Bali

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Tue Aug 23, 2016 12:31 am
by Cyclone
I'm partial to the Philippines, because I met my wife there (in Cebu). I think Travel and Leisure magazine recently named Palawan as the best island in the world to visit, or very highly ranked anyway. Boracay would also be a good choice. People will automatically speak English to foreigners, so communication is not a problem.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Tue Aug 23, 2016 12:44 am
by Ari
Another down vote on Singapore. Maybe I'm biased because of my political distaste for Singapore, but my short stay there did not make me like the place. No heart, not like Hong Kong, which, to be fair, is pretty much my favorite place in the world.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Tue Aug 23, 2016 4:23 am
by GMan82
You've been to Northern India. Have you tried Southern India? Different cuisine, climate, people, languages. More traditional in the sense that you can see some exquisite temples. The state of Kerala is also quite beautiful to visit.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Tue Aug 23, 2016 8:20 pm
by topofthebellcurve
GMan82 wrote:You've been to Northern India. Have you tried Southern India? Different cuisine, climate, people, languages. More traditional in the sense that you can see some exquisite temples. The state of Kerala is also quite beautiful to visit.
I have not! Thanks for the recommendation! Have you been to Sri Lanka by any chance? Not India but nearby.
Cyclone wrote:I'm partial to the Philippines, because I met my wife there (in Cebu). I think Travel and Leisure magazine recently named Palawan as the best island in the world to visit, or very highly ranked anyway. Boracay would also be a good choice. People will automatically speak English to foreigners, so communication is not a problem.
I'll check out Palawan and Boracay, thanks!
BUBear29 wrote:I've traveled through Japan, China, Singapore and Vietnam. Favorite place by far was Phú Quốc, Vietnam. A gorgeous little island about an hour flight from Saigon. We rented motorbikes and rode around the island everyday, exploring new roads, beaches and markets. Our resort was about $50 USD a night for a nice little cottage right on the beach with free breakfast on the beach included each morning. Also got a free massage. Such amazing, pristine beaches and definitely an unforgettable experience.
That does sound extraordinary. We spent about two weeks in Vietnam a couple of years back and loved it. Will have to keep Phú Quốc in mind. As you say, it's hard to be the value.
fareastwarriors wrote:Why not S. Korea? I enjoyed my time there a lot.
Great question -- need to add that to the list. Where did you go that you particularly enjoyed?
Isabelle77 wrote:My parents, who are serious world travelers, loved Burma, Laos, and Vietnam. They also liked Borneo. While they appreciated aspects of Cambodia, overall they didn't love it. Also loved India. Felt like Singapore, Bali, and most of Thailand were too "done" but that's my parents, I would probably love those places.

They are spending the winter in Sri Lanka so I can let you know :) Also planning to spend 3 months following the Silk Road in 2018, which also sounds cool.

Edited to add: I have spent some time in Kazakhstan near Mongolia and there isn't much to see. Because the local people were nomads the culture feels very Soviet. Would love to really explore Mongolia further but I'm not sure there's that much to do.

Editing again sorry! Depending on how crazy you are, Uzbekistan would be cool, I'd love to see Tashkent. Obviously a way different trip than to Bali.
I also loved Burma, Laos, and Vietnam (and also Cambodia). I have to agree on Singapore and Thailand (at least Phuket), thought I've never been to Bali. For Mongolia, I've heard it can be profoundly beautiful at the right time of year, though I wouldn't expect much in the way of nightlife aside from chilling in a yurt.
Dulocracy wrote:We LOVED Japan. As a young couple (I was a little older than you are and she was a little younger), we were able to enjoy some of the night life in Tokyo. We enjoyed the great history that the country had to offer. Kyoto was amazing, and Gion square is a must if you go to Kyoto, as it is a great place to see traditional art of Japan (music, the dance of the Maiko geisha, and Kabuki theater.

If you can travel to the Nagano prefecture, I cannot recommend enough a particular onsen ryokan (Hotspring hotel). This traditional hotel has a gentleman from Seattle that will help you to navigate the customs and the local area in English. It was so very helpful, and it allowed us to experience the traditional side: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserRev ... Chubu.html

You will note the wonderful reviews. It is not that far from the Hokusai museum in Obuse is close enough for a day trip. Japan in October is perfect. The weather is good. There is a great festival and parade in Kyoto. Obuse has its chestnut festival. Tokyo is comfortable for parties at night (Halloween is surprisingly wild in Tokyo.) There are clubs in Shibuya and Roppongi, but we prefered the ones in Shibuya. Also, do not go to Tokyo without setting aside a day for Akihabara. Look it up. It is an experience.
We also love Japan. I go there a lot for work (flying to Tokyo on Monday). As you say, Akihabara is an experience. If you like Akihabara and end up back in Tokyo, check out Nakano Broadway. I think it's where the "real" otaku culture is centered in Tokyo, plus it's home to the best ramen I've had in my life (Chuka Soba Aoba Nakano). I have never been to Nagano prefecture (looks great!), and will be sure to check out that ryokan you mentioned.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 6:59 am
by canga
topofthebellcurve wrote:My wife and I both speak/read Chinese (Mandarin). Taiwan uses Traditional characters which is a bit confusing, but speaking is fine -- I think the Taiwanese accent is the clearest form of Chinese.

Have you been to Taiwan on vacation?

Japan is amazing (!!!) but I've taken the wife there 3 times and go there frequently for work, so I expect she wants somewhere else.
Have you ever been to Okinawa? It's like Japan but everyone wears Hawaiian shirts, and is a 2 hour flight from Hong Kong. You could also extend your layover in Hong Kong to see the city (and outside the city). October is one of the best times of the year in this area because the humidity is lower.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 7:02 am
by canga
tedclu wrote:Hong Kong
Tokyo
South Korea - dmz
Thailand- Chiang Mai
I will second a trip to Chiang Mai. No beaches, but my favorite city in Thailand. Stay in or on the border of the old city. The North-west corner has more new and hip areas. A lot nicer (and even cheaper) than the rest of Thailand.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 8:16 am
by MikeZ
I would consider Jakarta if you are looking for value shopping. Amazing prices on clothing and art. Downside is that it has the worst traffic in the world.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 8:23 am
by lthenderson
I'm pretty partial to the Philippines. Because it was US occupied for many decades and until recent decades had military bases there, it is very US friendly. It is also very cheap to travel on the dollar.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 10:55 am
by WhiteMaxima
My favorite Asian destination is Thailand. Peaceful people and nice beach. It is very affordable and food is delicious. My next favorite stop is Hong Kong, western and tradition mixed. A very modern city with Chinese tradition. Fly between Thailand and Hongkong is cheap and frequent.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 3:45 pm
by GMan82
I have been to Sri Lanka, but ages ago. It's a lot like southern India, more Buddhist, though. But there are lots of nice areas on the island to visit. I haven't been there in about 15 years though.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 11:30 pm
by mcrunyan
You've already got a great list of places visited. Will have to go +1 for Malaysia.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Thu Aug 25, 2016 4:04 am
by topofthebellcurve
Thanks to everyone for their advice!

We're going to Taiwan. Now the question is whether to go to the north (Taipei) or the south (Kaohsiung). We'd love to get out of the city, so that's a mark against Taipei, but I hear there are a lot of beautiful, scenic places within a few hours by bus. I hear that Kaohsiung is more laid back and surrounded by some beautiful beaches, but it would be a shame to go to Taiwan and skip the capital. Perhaps we can fit both into a week =)

Thanks again! Next trip will have to be Indonesia and/or Malaysia -- they both sound phenomenal.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Thu Aug 25, 2016 12:58 pm
by harikaried
topofthebellcurve wrote:I hear that Kaohsiung is more laid back and surrounded by some beautiful beaches, but it would be a shame to go to Taiwan and skip the capital. Perhaps we can fit both into a week =)
You can take the Taiwan High Speed Rail (台灣[湾]高鐵[铁]) to get from Taipei to Kaohsiung in less than 2 hours.

I suppose from Kaohsiung, you're not too far from the south tip Kenting National Park where Cape No. 7 (海角七號[号]) filmed at the Chateau Beach Resort if that interests you.

There'll probably be night markets in most places you go, but the ones in Taipei probably have the most variety. It might be easier to get around in Taipei with the Metro (台北捷運[运]) connecting quite a bit of the city, e.g., some of the larger night markets at Shihlin (士林) and Raohe Street (饒[饶]河街). The National Palace Museum (國[国]立故宫博物院) is close to the Shihlin stop, but you'll probably want to take a bus or taxi over.

There's plenty of tea places, hot springs, old streets, temples, mountains/volcano, rivers, markets to see and experience.

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Thu Aug 25, 2016 4:23 pm
by Pranav
GMan82 wrote:You've been to Northern India. Have you tried Southern India? Different cuisine, climate, people, languages. More traditional in the sense that you can see some exquisite temples. The state of Kerala is also quite beautiful to visit.
+1 for the state of Kerala in Southern India. We had our honeymoon trip there. The picturesque township of Munnar was our favorite. https://www.keralatourism.org/

Re: Favorite Asian Vacation?

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 3:13 pm
by Dulocracy
topofthebellcurve wrote:
We also love Japan. I go there a lot for work (flying to Tokyo on Monday). As you say, Akihabara is an experience. If you like Akihabara and end up back in Tokyo, check out Nakano Broadway. I think it's where the "real" otaku culture is centered in Tokyo, plus it's home to the best ramen I've had in my life (Chuka Soba Aoba Nakano). I have never been to Nagano prefecture (looks great!), and will be sure to check out that ryokan you mentioned.
I cannot claim to be a part of otaku culture, but I do enjoy some nerdy things. We actually were able to check out Nakano Broadway, where we bought several things, including my wife spending way too much on animation cells from Slayers, Sailor Moon, Ranma, and a shibari cell that was well done. (My wife loved Harajuku and purchased so many clothes that we had to 1) buy another carryon bag and 2) THROW OUT most of my clothes. My wife DOES count as otaku, I think.)

Anyway, it was a trip to remember. The traditional style onsen ryokan remains our favorite part of the trip, although it was the shortest.