The Very Best of Asia

25 July 2016
Read Time: 4.9 mins

Australian travellers can’t get enough of Asia.

It’s a paradise overflowing with food and culture, home to pristine beaches and bustling cities. It's the ideal destination for a relaxing escape or an action-packed adventure tour.

Australia’s proximity to this diverse continent means travellers can be walking on the white sandy beaches of the Philippines, devouring dim sum in Hong Kong or soaking up the culture of Japan after a relatively short flight and minimal jetlag.

To celebrate this great region that continues to surprise and mesmerise even the most seasoned traveller, Flight Centre has put together its pick of the Asian destinations that showcase the different sides of the continent.

 Young couple at Ao Nang beach in Krabi province walking into the ocean to long tail boats during low tide and holding their bags over their heads. A couple at Ao Nang beach in Krabi province walking into the ocean to long tail boats during low tide.

Best for Food: Hong Kong

Famous for its glittering high rises that flank the harbour and bustling city, Hong Kong is equally renowned as the food capital of Asia thanks to its stunning array of street food, Michelin Starred restaurants and everything in-between.

Speak to anyone who has visited Hong Kong and they will always mention the food first; whether it’s the delicious array of dim sum, dumplings and the soupy Xiao Long Bao, crispy roasted Peking Duck or the city’s ridiculously popular egg tarts. Though it’s not just local cuisine and Chinese food that’s on offer, Hong Kong is a city that overflows with culture and travellers can delight in cuisines from around the world including Korean, Indian, French and Italian as well as some of the best steakhouses in all of Asia.

Best for Culture: Japan

Japan is a fascinating country and its culture is unique and like that of another world. Japanese culture has been developed over thousands of years, is steeped in history and continues to evolve.

Geisha’s, samurai, Zen gardens and Japanese tea ceremonies often spring to mind when it comes to Japanese culture but it’s much more dynamic and distinct. Even the most jaded traveller can be overcome by the beauty of the country and its distinct culture, from the traditional to the evolving and contemporary. Japan’s juxtaposition of old and new works in perfect harmony; from Kyoto’s Gion district where Geisha’s practice traditional song and dance, to Tokyo’s Harajuku and electronic districts that have embraced a kind of pop-culture that has to be seen to be believed.

Best for Beaches: Philippines

With more than 7,000 islands and more beaches than you could ever dream of relaxing on, the Philippines has a beach to suit every taste and travellers who are craving pristine waters, white sand and tropical islands won’t want to look any further than the Philippines.

Whether it’s surfing, partying, diving, tanning, swimming or island hopping; the Philippines has you well and truly covered for beaches. For those who crave the party island life and don’t mind crowds of tourists then Boracay is your bet. If you’re keen to get back to nature and be one with the ocean and its creatures head to Palawan for an encounter with the majestic whale sharks. If you’re simply craving you’re own stretch of beach then Sipalay’s Sugar Beach offers Robinson Crusoe like isolation while Pagudpud offers travellers the whitest sand and bluest water after an exceptionally scenic drive.

A woman sea kayaking in Bacuit Bay,  Palawan, El Nido, The Philippines. The Philippines, Palawan, El Nido, sea kayaking in Bacuit Bay.

Best for City: Singapore

It’s the stopover destination that travellers have grown to love and over the years Singapore has reinvented itself as one of the best cities not just in Asia, but the world.

Spend any amount of time wandering through the city streets and travellers will find that there is not a place in the world more complex and addictive than Singapore. The city is a jungle of skyscrapers, luxury shopping malls and architectural masterpieces all backing onto actual jungle. Travellers can experience the cultures and cuisine of the world just by walking down its streets, shop in some of the world’s largest malls or hunt down dusty antiques or dive into electronic store heaven and marvel in the almost sci-fi architecture that has popped up over recent years. Singapore is Asia’s city with it all.

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Best for Relaxation: Thailand

There’s something comforting and relaxing about the smiles that adorns the faces of the Thais who they truly are the happiest people in the world with an ability to put travellers at ease which makes Thailand the best Asian destination for a spot of relaxation.

Abound with wellness and meditation retreats hidden away in tropical forests, among rice paddies or on isolated beaches; Thailand radiates a golden hue on all those who step foot on its shores. Thailand encourages travellers to refresh and relax not just through retreats and spas in the tropical surrounds but also through its deliciously fragrant, warm and refreshing cuisine. Whether it’s relaxing on a sun soaked beach, meditating in a sacred temple, devouring delicious Thai food at a wellness retreat or enjoying a quintessential Thai massage in the comforts of the resort spa; Thailand is the relaxation destination.

 A woman stands in the infinity pool of the Hilltop Reserve, a three-bedroom private pool villa overlooking Phang Nga Bay at Six Senses Hideaway Yao Noi. Thailand. A woman stands in the infinity pool overlooking Phang Nga Bay at Six Senses Hideaway Yao Noi. Thailand.

Best for Quick Break: Bali

It’s a hop, skip and a jump from many of Australia’s capital cities, and a mere hop from Perth or Darwin, so it’s no wonder that Bali is our pick as the best place in Asia for a quick holiday escape.

Just by uttering the word “Bali”, images of paradise automatically spring to mind and it’s a paradise that is right on Australia’s doorstep. It’s got beaches, surfing, diving, lush tropical forests, rice paddies, more resorts and private villas than you could poke a stick at and of course, the beautiful and smiling Balinese people. Travellers can lose themselves in the chaos of Kuta, soak up the sun amongst the designer luxury of Seminyak, escape to Uluwatu or experience tranquillity in Ubud. Whatever the Bali break, travellers always leave in a chilled out mood and an urge to return and do it all again.

Best for History: China

China is one of the world’s oldest continuously civilised countries, dating back more than 10,000 years. For travellers who are willing to pack their walking shoes and commit to some long-distance adventure, China’s history is there for all to see.

From the crumbling Great Wall, beautiful Buddhist statues, quaint villages and mountains topped with age-old temples; China has got oodles of. Decades of rapid and aggressive development may be beginning to take its toll in the likes of Beijing, Shanghai and Zhejiang, but selective travel through the country can uncover breathtaking countryside and unique culture as well as antiquities and artefacts that have long been forgotten by the 21st Century.

Best for Nature: Malaysia

You’re probably raising your eyebrows at this claim but we’re sticking to it, there’s more to Malaysia than the glittering skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has some serious flora and fauna on offer for nature loving travellers.

Travellers can go off the beaten track in Malaysian Borneo to discover wild jungles filled with mountainous peaks, remote tribes, orangutans and pygmy elephants as well as some spectacular diving. Head to Langkawi for its pristine beaches, bird-watching, jungle trekking, the oldest mountain on the Malay Peninsula or to swim under waterfalls. Or take a breath of fresh air in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands where travellers will be refreshed by tea plantations that seemingly roll into the distance and strawberries ripe for the picking.

 Elevated view of tea plantations with mist and morning sunlight at Cameron Highland, Malaysia. Elevated view of tea plantations with mist and morning sunlight at Cameron Highland, Malaysia.

Best for Tours: Vietnam

Vietnam is a destination that quickly becomes addictive for many travellers and there is surprisingly a lot of ground to cover, which is why Vietnam is our pick for the best Asian destination to join a tour.

A diverse country with astonishing beauty, Vietnam can be a sensory overload for first time travellers and even the most seasoned can become overwhelmed by it. Many of the places travellers want to visit are spread out across the country and with trains, planes and automobiles tricky to navigate; joining a tour makes sense. Tours allow travellers the opportunity to soak up the country that has plenty of old towns to explore, seemingly unlimited waters dotted with limestone islands to sail, rural adventures to be had and a deliciously distinct, fragrant and fresh cuisine while the logistics of travel and transport are already taken care of.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Asia.

Laura Carlin

Give me big cities and culture over nature and wide open spaces any day, with the exception of a white sandy beach of course. Consider me a traveller with champagne tastes on a beer budget; I'd love my time overseas to be more glamorous than it often is. When in a new city you'll find me exploring the back streets to discover hidden gems by day and chatting with the locals with a drink in hand by night.