Asia’s mighty metropolises heave with life. From the maze of market stalls and street food vendors, to colourful textiles and handcrafts spilling into the streets, ultra-modern shopping precincts and lavish international hotels. They may be quaint, creative and even considered, but calm they are not. Travelling through this fascinating continent, the presence of lush green spaces may be rare, but they do exist. Here are our picks of the best green spaces to escape the hustle and bustle of Asia’s biggest cities.
Yoyogi Park, Tokyo
Tokyo is lucky enough to have multiple parks spread between its busy city streets; the biggest though is Yoyogi Park, in Shibuya. Adjacent to the fashionable district of Harajuku, Yoyogi Park is home to the popular Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Beyond the shrine, there are hidden gardens, sporting fields, cycle paths and kiosk cafes to explore. But perhaps the best thing about Yoyogi Park is the people watching. Tokyo locals use the park for all manner of things, from practising music and play rehearsals to chess club meetings and picnics.
Dragon’s Back Ridge, Hong Kong
This is one of the most popular hikes in Hong Kong and it’s not difficult to see why. Fairly short (you can do it in a morning or afternoon), and not too difficult (there are stairs but not too many), Dragon’s Back Ridge provides views over Southern Hong Kong Island and out to the sea without too much effort. While you may not get away from the city crowds, you will certainly get a dose of fresh air and flora.
West Bali National Park, Bali
While everyone else is flocking inland to see the mountain temples and rice fields of Ubud, you should instead track north along the coast. Just over a three hour drive from Denpasar, the West Bali National Park covers 19,000 hectares of unbridled wilderness. With dense rainforests, savannahs, mangroves, and offshore, colourful coral reefs, this place is well worth the drive. There are a few hotels you can stay at nearby, or if you must, pack it into a day trip.
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Not so much an escape from the city, as its pride and joy, Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay are one of the world’s most celebrated city gardens. Spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in the heart of the city, these gardens are home to two main areas: Bay South Garden and Bay East Garden. Bay South Garden is where you’ll find the towering super-sized trees - vertical gardens standing 10 to 16 stories tall. Be sure to walk on the suspended walkway to take in the gardens from above. Another must-see is the Cloud Forest, an 35-metre tall mountain shrouded in mist, and where you’ll find the world’s largest indoor waterfall. Once you’ve had enough plant peeping, head to Bay East Garden for a picnic on the lawns.
Fenghuangling Nature Park, Beijing
Just over 30 kilometres from downtown Beijing, Fenghuangling is both a green lung for the city, and an incredibly beautiful place to visit. Covering about 18 square kilometres, it’s home to towering rocky peaks, thick forests and lakes. To make a full day of it, pack your walking or hiking shoes, a picnic and camera; you’re bound to find more than one spot you’ll want to explore!
While most tourists will be happy to see green at Lumphini Park in the city centre, the 45-minute journey to Phuttamonthon is worth it. A huge expanse of park, it’s home to cycle paths and bike rental stations, lawns perfect for picnicking, and large ponds. If you’re after a spot of culture while here, it’s also home to a 15- metre tall statue of Buddha, and has memorials to the four main events in Buddha’s life.
Tao Dan Park, Ho Chi Minh City
Tucked behind Saigon’s Reunification Palace, Tao Dan Park is one of the biggest green spaces in the heart of the city. You can expect to find plenty of towering trees and elaborate plant sculptures depicting animals like dragons. Head here early to join the locals in tai chi, picnic beneath the shady canopy of the trees or watch the sun disappear as the city comes to life.