Have you been stuck in a traffic jam in Bangkok in a bike taxi, or marveled at the feat of engineering and longevity that is the Great Wall of China? If you've traveled to Asia, you know that these experiences are part of every adventure in this bustling continent. Asia’s beauty comes from its ability to transport you to ancient times while standing firmly in the modern era, making it one of the most visited continents in the world. As the world’s largest continent, it would take you many lifetimes to get the full experience. The bucket list travel suggestions may be endless, but there are a few places that will give you a glance into the past to help you better appreciate the present like no others.
From a distance, the Philippine rice terraces look like static sea waves outlined by stone. These cordilleras were carved by farmers who manually created stone walls as floodwater catchments for the cultivation of rice. About 70 percent of these terraces are still in use, and some of those are designated UNESCO Heritage Sites for their stunning presentation, engineering, and irrigation, which helped sustain generations of farmers for centuries.
Against a stunning, clear sky are branches blooming pinkish flowers. For centuries, the Japanese have celebrated Hanami—a simple but stunning cherry blossom viewing to experience with family, friends, food, and drinks. Enjoying the cherry blossoms is an unrivaled spectacle that can only be appreciated during the first few months of the year, depending on whether you’re in Okinawa in January or Hokkaido in May.
Located in northeast Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is a combination of towering stone pillars and islets for you to explore. Traveling across the calm blue-green waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, you can visit Hospital Cave, which used to be a fortified hospital and hideout for Viet Cong leaders. There is also Cat Ba National Park, home to the most critically endangered primate in the world, the golden-headed langur, of which there are fewer than 70 left.
Known as China’s Ice City, Harbin is no stranger to freezing temperatures, with the mercury dipping as low as -36 degrees Fahrenheit during winter. One of the reasons to brave those frigid temperatures is the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Visitors from all over the world stand in awe of enormous sculptures made with two- and three-foot thick blocks of ice depicting larger-than-life world-famous sites and figures lit up with multicolored lights.
While there are some stunning sights to see and experience in South Korea, the Boryeong Mud Festival is dirty fun. Boryeong is a small town on Korea’s west coast that comes alive for 10 days in July. Visitors from all over the world come slide, wrestle, and swim in the mineral-rich mud. In addition to that, there are concert performances, parades, sporting competitions, and fireworks, making it a well-rounded bonding experience.
The largest freshwater lake in Asia is Tonle Sap in Cambodia. There, you can visit the Prek Toal Biosphere Reserve, which is great for birdwatching. The major attractions of Tonle Sap, however, are its floating villages. These are completely self-sufficient neighborhoods with homes, schools, and even recreational facilities on the water. A visit to Kampong Phluk and Kompong Khleang floating villages will give you a taste of this truly unique, unforgettable experience.
While Everest is what many climbers dream about and plan for, at nearly 13,000 feet, Yushan is no small feat. Also known as Mount Jade, it is the highest mountain in Taiwan and one of the highest in the Pacific. On the way up, you get to enjoy views of deep valleys and the undulating landscapes. Yushan has a more than 100,000-hectare national park that’s home to ancient fossils and multiple climate zones that sustain biodiverse animal and plant species.
Originally built in the 9th century, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest Buddhist Temple in the world. Its ornate design has over 2,600 relief panels and more than 500 Buddha statues, helping it to cut an unmistakable and breathtaking image against the Indonesian skyline. The reliefs tell the stories of legendary people and are a historic treasure that’s a testament to Indonesia's multicultural identity.
Known as the Lion City, the island nation of Singapore is known for its pristine streets and surroundings. In contrast to Singapore's hipster style, Pulau Ubin island is a step back in time. It used to be a granite quarry but is now home to fewer than 100 people who appreciate an old-fashioned way of life. Haw Par Villa is an eclectic 8.5-hectare learning experience of traditional Chinese folklore told through detailed dioramas and ornate statues.
Located in Yangon City, the main gold-plated stupa of the Shwedagon Pagoda is surrounded by over 60 smaller stupas and various diamond-studded spires. When the rays of the sun hit the stupa in the right way, the mixture of reds and oranges give the structure an ethereal glow, according to some visitors. In addition to its mystical exterior, Shwedagon has four entrances that are guarded by mythical lions and lead to the treasured relics.