Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
Although threatened more and more by overdevelopment and huge number of tourists, these islands continue to provide some of the most beautiful seascapes in Asia. The islands feature beaches and clear water that have had their natural beauty protected by national park status.
Getting to this laidback town in the Shan province is half the experience. The train route connecting Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin, and Hsipaw was made famous by Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar, and today still runs through the incredible hill country of the Shan state and across the dramatic Gokteik Gorge. The viaduct that crosses the gorge was the largest railway trestle in the world upon its completion in 1901, and is still the highest bridge in Myanmar. The village of Hsipaw itself lies in a low valley, a jumping off point for excellent day hikes and nearby waterfalls.
Bai Xep, Vietnam
A tiny fishing village just south of Quy Nhon, this once isolated inlet has two coves, Bai Truoc, a bustling beachfront harbour used by Vietnamese traditional circular fishing boats, while Bai Sau offers a larger bay for swimming and relaxing on the white sandy beach. The area is gloriously devoid of cars or anything even suggestively cosmopolitan, with plenty of opportunities for cooking classes, hiking trails, and trekking to waterfalls.
Huanlong National Park, China
Between imposing mountains, stunning waterfalls and limestone terraces the Huanlong National Park is erected. It has many spectacular and turquoise water ponds formed by the impact of calcium carbonate on limestone. They seem like small pools where gods swim.
Furthermore, you can contribute to Mother Nature and your body by doing the walking tour. It takes two hours approximately but you need to be careful because the height could make you dizzy. There are zones where oxygen cylinders are sold. On your way, you will find a spectacular Buddhist monastery called Huanlong Si. You can also find fabulous animals like Sichuan giant panda, leopard, golden monkey and more. Do not miss the Guhuashi terrace and admire the numerous fossilized prehistoric animals and plants. Immerse yourself in the Feicui fountain which has healing properties and come back home younger.
The Red Lotus Sea, Thailand
Up in Udon Thani province is a 26 square mile lake that blooms with millions of pink lotus flowers during the cool months of November to February. This unique wonder is of special reverence to the Thai people, who consider the lotus to be the traditional flower of Buddhism, and along the river there are several small islands with Buddhist statues, shrines, and pagodas.
Mount Kelimutu, Indonesia
This volcano on the island of Flores has three crater lakes famous for their ever-changing colours. Local legend believes that the lakes are the resting place of departed souls – Tiwu Ata Bpau is the Lake of Old People, Tiwu K’o Fi Nuwa Muri is the Lake of Young Men and Maidens, and Tiwu Ata Polo is the Bewitched Lake and change colour according to the mood of the spirits. The lakes’ colours change independently of one another, as often as several times a month, caused by changes in the levels of elements like iron and manganese that interact with dissolved volcanic gas.
Referred to by Spanish colonists as the Isla del Fuego, or Island of Fire, Siquijor is entrenched in tradition of mysticism and witchcraft. The island gets its fiery name from the enormous swarms of fireflies within its molave trees that give the entire landscape of beaches, caves, and waterfalls a uniquely magical glow. While the majority of the population today practises Catholicism, a remnant of Spanish rule, the community still practises ancient healing rituals and incantations, and many of the island’s natural features are veiled with enchanted traditions.