The diverse landscapes and cultures of Asia ensure that the continent never runs out of experiences for the discerning traveller. From artsy villages to colossal caverns, underwater wineries to theatrical dinners, abandoned towns to private islands, we have curated the rarest of the rare for your next adventure. By Shikha Pushpan and Radhika Sikaria
Spend the night in the world’s largest cave
Fewer people have seen the inside of Hang Son Đoòng than stood atop the Mount Everest. Located in the UNESCO- listed Phong Nha-Ke Bàng National Park, it is so large that a Boeing 747 could fly through its largest cavern. Book a package with Oxalis —the only operator permitted to take travellers inside—and explore enormous stalagmites as clouds envelop the jungle inside.
Bioluminescence features on many a bucket list today. But not many know that the pristine waters of the Andamans feature this phenomenon too. Tanaz K Noble, an independent kayaker, takes intrepid travellers on night- kayaking tours around the mangrove forests of Havelock. Bioluminescent plankton can be seen lining the kayaks and the paddle blades, while the sea reflects the starlit sky above.
Glamping in Central Bhutan
The Black Mountains in central Bhutan provide numerous sites off the tourism grid for great glamping opportunities. With little infrastructure, the best way to explore the area is on a 4X4. Set up camps to interact with locals, and arrange a trek to the southwest of the Black Mountains ending at Trongsa Dzong—an impressive dzong that overlooks a gorge of the Mangde River. The Himalayan Adventures is a reliable tour operator.
Photograph a Mural Village
Sitting pretty atop Mount Naksan is the Ihwa Mural Village, where everything from schools to homes, underpasses to stairways, walls to fences and even rooftops are covered with colourful murals. A 10-minute walk uphill along the Seoul city wall, the village was set to be demolished a decade ago but got a new lease of life with the government’s ‘Art in the City’ initiative. Take a walking tour of the area in the evening, and follow illustrated maps to find iconic installations and murals.
Watch Sumo Wrestlers Train
Ever wondered what it takes for a sumo wrestler to ‘stay in shape’? Get to know the athletes during asa-geiko (morning practice) at a beya (sumo stable) where they live, eat, and train. Tokyo’s Ryōgoku and Kiyosumi neighbourhoods are home to stables, such as Kasugano Beya, that are open to public. Getting access to a morning session can take upto a year. Approach a local agent, such as Voyagin.
Explore Tibet on world’s highest railway
Sure, Tibet has its share of airports, but nothing beats the charm of gazing at the dramatic landscapes through the windows of a cosy cabin on the world’s highest railway. The Qinghai-Lhasa Railway connecting mainland China to Tibet reaches an altitude of over 5,000 metres. Book a seat on the Lhasa Express and enjoy dramatic views of Kunlun Mountains, Qarhan Salt Bridge, Namtso, Qiangtang Prairie, Gobi Desert, and Kekexili Nature Reserve. The oxygen levels drop by nearly 60 per cent when the train crosses the Tanggula Glacier. Fret not, the train regulates oxygen supply, temperature, and pressure in its cabins.
Watch theatre that goes underwater
Directed by Franco Dragone, The House of Dancing Water is unlike any show you’ve ever watched. Reserve front-row seats to see gymnasts, circus artists, dancers, divers, actors, and motorcyclists narrate the love story of a fisherman and a princess on a set that is part water. The water splashes as far as the fourth row.
Meditate in a sound pyramid
Two pyramids set amid swaying paddy fields, just outside of Ubud, are a portal to the ancient art of sound healing. The Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, at The Pyramids of Chi, are said to be built over major energy points and use ancient instruments, such as gongs, powwow drums, singing bowls, and didgeridoo, to awaken the chakras.
Explore reefs on a submarine
Want to experience marine life up close, but too afraid to dive? In a first, DeepFlight Adventures has launched a three-person, high-performance submarine at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. The Super Falcon 3S is an environment-friendly, battery-operated submersible that offers a sub-aquatic experience upto a depth of 37 metres in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa Atoll.
Feast on a theatrical meal
Inspired by the underground dining sub- culture in London, theatrical dinner involves pop-up restaurants. On feast day, diners are informed about the venue, where an interactive performance and gourmet journey await. For instance, The Karl Experience paid tribute to fashion icons with actors walking the ramp while the chefs played with molecular mixology.
Live responsibly on a private isle
The Big Bamboo Island, located 30 km south of Coron, was ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan a few years ago. Now, the private island is once again up and running with a refurbished zero-carbon tropical resort that follows a farm-to-table approach. Wake up to stunning views of turquoise-green waters and mountainscapes with not a person in sight, harvest vegetables for a farm-fresh lunch, take a boat to Coron Bay in the evening to explore underwater shipwrecks from World War II, and return to the open-air beach pavilion for a late dinner served by a personal chef.
Cruise through Myanmar’s culture
The best way to experience Myanmar’s culture and landscapes is to go on a cruise on the Chindwin, a tributary of the Irrawaddy River. The Sanctuary Ananda is a 21-suite luxurious ship that takes guests on a journey through temples, pagodas, palaces, and monasteries. While on the ship, soak in some views from the sundeck, read a book in the library, or just unwind with a traditional Thai massage. There are seven itinerary options ranging from three nights to 11.
Hop on a mountain bike in Pokhara Valley
One of the loveliest and eco-friendly boutique resorts in Nepal’s Pokhara, The Pavilions Himalayas, offers mountain-biking tours of the Himalayan region with professional guides. There are five circuits you can choose from, depending on your stamina. A 55-km route from the resort to Ramadi, via Mattikhan, crisscrosses villages and kisses paddy fields to make for a beautiful outing.
Try Zodiac Therapy
Bangkok-based Athenee Spa shot to fame some years ago when it introduced treatments based on one’s blood type. Now, the spa has launched birth month- inspired, oil-based treatments. The practice is based on several modern theories that relate a person’s birth month with their health. The June special is a 115-minute Siamese Courtly Spa & Beauty treatment.
Get acquainted to ancient teapots
The Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware houses the world’s oldest known teapot. Book a seat at one of its famed tea gatherings, where the tea ware dates back to the 11th century. Spend half a day learning about the different types of traditional Chinese teas. During the visit, you can also meet a handful of young artists who are trying to keep the art of ceramic tea ware alive.
Stroll through a rainbow village
In Taichung, ask anyone for directions to the Rainbow Village and you’ll be guided with a smile. Tucked away in Nantun district, the entire length and breadth of this village is covered in art. This is courtesy of Grandpa Rainbow, a 94-year- old former soldier whose real name is Huang Yung-Fu. In an effort to protect his village from demolition, Grandpa Rainbow picked up his paintbrush 10 years ago and began to create his colourful art, which now draws tourists from around the world.
Dine in the dark
When you can’t see, all your other senses get heightened. Imagine walking into a pitch- dark restaurant and sampling a specially curated menu. Kuala Lumpur-based Dining in the Dark KL offers this unique experience, sure to put your taste buds into a sensory overload. The menu serves comfort food that factors in the limitations of an all-dark dining experience. All the while, you’re guided by the staffers, who are all visually impaired.
- Ride the steepest cable car to a grotto
The Rosh HaNikra Grottoes were created by the effect of rainwater and crashing sea waves on the northern tip of Israel, where the sea meets the mountains. The cavernous formations were accessible only to swimmers and divers for a long time. Today, you can take a cable car—operating at a gradient of 60 degrees—to reach the site. Once there, spot rock hyraxes that live in the crevices.
Sip tarantula wine in Skuon
What started as a desperate measure during the dark times of the Khmer Rouge, has now become a delicacy in Skuon, 55 km north of Phnom Penh. Popularly known as ‘spider town’, Skuon is famous for its deep-fried tarantulas, served with a pinch of herbs on a bed of noodles or rice. If you have the stomach for something more unconventional, taste the local rice wine that’s fermented in a jar filled with 30 tarantulas.
Watch the jungle come alive at night
The jungle reveals its best secrets at night. Operators like The Naturalist offer night safaris in the Yala buffer zone, close to the Nimalawa Sanctuary. Armed with night-vision goggles, spot crocodiles, wild boar, elephants, black-naped hares, bats, nightjar, and owls at watering holes. If you’re lucky, civet cats and leopards may make appearances.
For the entire list of 51 Epic Experiences in Asia, grab our June Edition today, or find us on Magzter.