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Hidden Gems of Asia

3rd July 2023

Asia has an impressive list of stars on its cast list, but the understudies are making their way into the spotlight too.


Hong Kong's Great Outdoors

It might come as a surprise to know that more than 40 per cent of Hong Kong is green fields, mountains, protected nature reserves and thriving marine parks, as well as over 260 islands, many of them uninhabited. The islands are easy to get to by ferry and offer an array of outdoor adventures. Visit Lantau Island and take the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car to hike up the 268 steps to the magnificent Big Buddha, or take a surf or stand-up paddle boarding lesson on Pui O beach. Admire the idyllic landscapes, ancient carvings, and peaceful atmosphere on Po Toi Island, or go windsurfing on the island of Cheung Chau. Back on Hong Kong Island, try the four-hour hike up the challenging Dragon’s Back – the views are incredible.


Stay in a temple in South Korea

Staying in a Buddhist temple would be an unforgettable experience. See what life is like, practice meditation, participate in Buddhist ceremonies and cultural activities at one of the many Buddhist temples offering temple stays throughout the country. One of the best is Gogulsa Temple, located in beautiful surrounds on Hamwolsan Mountain near Gyeongju. Apart from tea ceremonies, Buddhist chanting and meditation, you can learn the Buddhist martial art of sunmudo, a form of moving meditation and martial art.


A Singapore spin


The 'Singapore Spin' on a vintage Vespa

One of the coolest ways to explore the colourful areas of Kampong Gelam, Telok Ayer, Little India and Chinatown is in the sidecar of a vintage Vespa! These 45 minute tours showcase amazing street art, Victorian buildings in the Civic District and great views of the truly spectacular Marina Bay Sands buildings. This is a world first tour, with several different options depending on your interests. There are even some tour options to locations from the smash hit movie Crazy Rich Asians.


Naked Bali

You might think that staying somewhere with no walls or doors is sleeping under the stars, but at Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape, it is far more than that. It is a ‘naked’ stay in a luxury, boutique resort for adults only that has no walls, no doors, but opens the door to a culturally rewarding, sustainable and luxurious experience that sees guests disconnect from the norm and connect with the land, people, and self. Banyan Tree’s first Escape property, there are just 16 bales (villas) embedded into idyllic jungle north of Ubud, with views looking out across the verdant canopy to Bali’s seven mountain peaks. Choose a Riverside Jungle Pool bale, a Buahan Valley Pool bale, or a Rainforest Pool bale, all open to the view – and we mean open – with no walls or doors, just strategically placed veils of fabric.


Orangutan spotting

The word orangutan means ‘person of the forest’ in Malaysia which is extremely apt as these primates share a whopping 96.4 per cent of our genes and are extremely intelligent. To be sure of seeing them visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan, Borneo. This incredible place protects, rescues and releases orangutans back into the wild, with visitors able to watch them swinging through the forest on vines and ropes. You might spot wild orangutan in Kinabatangan River, as well as pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, gibbons, and a whole lot more.


More than Angkor Wat

When visiting Cambodia for the first time, one of the first places to go on the itinerary is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor Wat, a mesmerising ancient temple complex that is equally as beautiful at sunrise or sunset. Make sure you add some of the other temples to your list, with the famous Bayon Temple one of the most important at Angkor Tom – which means ‘big city’. There are 216 faces carved into Bayon Temple. A short tuk tuk ride from Angkor Tom or Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm is a photographer’s dream with its ancient structures becoming as one with twisting tree roots.


Hidden treasure in Thailand

After huffing and puffing up hundreds of stairs, descend into a cavern to see the most spectacular sight … an exquisite sala (pavilion) built on the sandy floor, rays of sunlight bathing the gold building as if in a Hollywood spotlight. The sala, in Phraya Nakhon Cave, is located in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park about an hour south of Hua Hin. Built by King Chulalongkorn in 1890, even just getting there is fun, involving a boat, a stilted fishing village, a beautiful beach, and not forgetting those steps. The cave and its intricate hidden gem are worth every step.


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