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There are many different cultures and countries in North East Asia. There are also a number of destinations to choose from when visiting the region which include the countries China, India and Japan. If you’re after a world of incredible sights with exotic cuisines, endless market shopping and a bustling nightlife - North East Asia is your gateway to an affordable travel dream. Whether it's the snow-capped mountains on your trip to Tibet, the buzzing precinct of Hong Kong or the fluttering cherry blossoms of Japan, this is a landscape of endless possibilities.
It’s one of the largest countries in the world – and the most beautiful. Thousands of travellers each year flock to spend their holidays in China, whether to discover the bustling cities of Shanghai, Guilin, Hangzhou and Beijing or trek along the Great Wall. The Silk Road is a must for those who wish to embed themselves in history, as is visiting the Terracotta Warriors in Xian. No holiday in China is complete, however, without a cruise down the breathtaking Yangtze River, which winds through various provinces and offers tourists the chance to glimpse at incredible mountains, scenic valleys and riverside villages and temples.
Beijing, the capital of China, begins at the Forbidden City. Home to 14 Ming dynasty emperors and 10 Qing dynasty emperors over the course of 500 years, the Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to the world’s largest collection of preserved ancient wood structures.
Most of Beijing’s other highlights are within a radius of a few kilometres, so they are easy for vistors to navigate. Just south of the Forbidden City is Tainanmen Square, the biggest public square in the world. With towering Soviet-style buildings and monuments, it is a powerful echo of Chinese history, from traditional culture to the Mao years.
Beijing is the best departure point for visiting the Great Wall, which is approximately a 1-hour train trip from the city. The most-visited section of the Wall is Badaling but other recommended spots include Jinshanling, Huanghuacheng and Simatai.
The city of Shanghai is the glimmering, cosmopolitan star in China’s crown. It is split in two by the Huangpu River; Puxi is the area west of the river, and Pudong is the area east of the river.
One of the best things Shanghai has to offer is the everyday, yet no less captivating, tableaux of life in a multi-faceted city - and the best way to take all this in is by walking, an activity that isn’t as appetising in other Chinese cities. The French Concession was the area designated for the French living in Shanghai, and this charming area is brimming with leafy avenues, former official residences converted into curious museums, classic 1920s Western architecture and delightful gardens, namely Fuxing Park.
For city views, head to Oriental Pearl Tower in Lujiazui in the Pudong district. The TV tower has 15 observatory levels, and the highest of which sits at 350m. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, check out the Space Hotel, located between the two large spheres of the tower!
Treat your mind and eyes to 3,000 years of China’s history in Xian (Xi’an), which is home of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses, one of the oldest and best-preserved ancient Chinese city walls (built during the Ming dynasty) and many more historic sites. If you don’t shy away from encounters of the grisly kind, the Han Ying Ling Mausoleum makes for a fascinating visit – and a welcome reprieve from the crowds at the Terracotta Army!
The history of Islam in Xian is almost as old as the city itself, and the bustling and winding Muslim Quarter is testament to this. Vistors should explore the backstreets and mosques, and sample the delicious Muslim food.
Learn more about China over on our blog.
Hong Kong is an active, vibrant place, where you can shop til you drop and explore a brilliant melting pot of animated culture and picturesque landscapes. Holidays in Hong Kong mostly centre around Kowloon and the Mid-Levels, with Victoria Peak offering glorious, bird’s-eye views of Hong Kong.
Widely considered the shopping capital of Asia (and to some, the world), there are plenty of options, and Causeway Bay and Mong Kok are two areas with phenomenal shopping opportunities. In these areas, you’ll find some of the world’s biggest brands and huge flagship stores. For those who love the nightlife, Lam Kwai Fong, a small area in Central, is the place to be. With restaurants, nightclubs and more, this area actually gets closed off on New Year’s Eve due to the crowds it attracts.
To make the most of holidays in Hong Kong, travellers should also head to Lamma Island to indulge in exquisite seafood dining or for a cultural day-trip, explore the Big Buddha (an enormous 34 metre high statue) and Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island. Getting around is easy with the MTR, one of the most efficient public metro transport systems in the world. In fact, the transport system is so well-designed, cities around the world take inspiration from it!
The island of Taiwan is a medley of energetic cities surrounded by spectacular forests, rivers and coastlines. The capital, Taipei, is the heart of Taiwan, with a wealth of shopping, entertainment and dumplings to be had.
Travellers should head up Taipei 101 for stunning city views or visit the Beitou Hotsprings for a wonderfully relaxing experience. Further south, tourists can discover the marvellous sights of Taroko Gorge and Yushan Mountain, and discover dozens of temples and beaches along the way.
Often overlooked by international travellers, South Korea is filled with infinite options. Tourists will find much of the country’s action in Seoul, where popular past-times include the 10-block Dongdaemun Market, Bongeunsa Temple, and the Seolleung Park Royal Tombs. Shopaholics in Seoul will adore COEX Mall, an underground mall filled with shopping, restaurants, entertainment and even an aquarium! In fact, it’s the largest underground mall in all of Asia, and so absolutely a sight to see.
The enormous National Museum of Korea in Seoul is a sight to behold, with imposing architecture, and a comprehensive collection charting the history of the nation. Speaking of history, Gyeongbokgung Palace, also in the capital city, is a must-visit for every traveller - the enormous structure is over 600 years old, and was built during the Joseon Dynasty. It’s available for public tours six days a week.
While few travellers venture outside of Seoul, the countryside is decorated with splendid mountains, temples, villages and rice paddies. Dadohae Haesang National Park, Gyeongju and the Bamboo village of Damyang should also be on the must-see list.
There’s no place quite like Japan, with its futuristic cities, serene temples, late-night businessman and beautiful cherry blossoms. Travellers to Tokyo will love the craziness of Ginza and the tranquillity of the Imperial Gardens, while those in Osaka can indulge in delicious noodles and cuisines or visit Osaka Castle. Kyoto offers tourists the chance to explore the beautiful sakura-draped landscapes (many temples and geishas can also be seen here) and then get onboard the best ski trip and make the most of the ski season in Niseko.
Tokyo is the capital of Japan, and one of the most incredible cities for travellers to explore in all of Asia. Famous for both its ultra-modern style and historical architecture it’s a city of contrasts. For the traditional Japanese experience, the Meiji shrine is a must-visit, with its lush surrounding garden. There’s also Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple that is the oldest in the city and a sight to behold.
For travellers in search of the bright neon lights and storeys-high shopping, Shibuya is the destination to visit. A district of Tokyo dense with buildings and bright signage, it’s a place to explore over a matter of days. Famous for its electronics, Akihabara is another area of the city well worth visiting even for those who aren’t too interested in technology.
Kyoto is Japan’s former capital, and a historic city full of centuries old sites to visit, many of which have been preserved in remarkable condition, such as Nijo Castle and Sento Palace. Whether making a dedicated trip of just passing through, all visitors will be in awe of the Kyoto Station, a major transportation hub with sleek modern design. In a city of traditional architecture, it stands out in a wonderful way.
Food lovers must experience Nishiki Market, a long street with an almost overwhelming selection of street food and fresh ingredients. This is one of the best ways to get amongst local culture, and truly discover the heart of the city.
Cherry Blossoms are iconic part of the Japanese landscape, and well worth seeing. There are myriad locations in Kyoto to see the stunning trees in full bloom, including the Kyoto Botanical Garden. The bloom generally happens in late March and early April, and the trees are at their thickest and fullest.
Hiroshima was painfully brought to the world’s attention in 1945 when the first atomic bomb was dropped. The city was obliterated but in the time since it has been reconstructed to look just like any other Japanese city, almost. Going to Hiroshima without visiting the Peace Memorial Park is to do a disservice to the city and its history. Within and around the park are a number of different memorials and at its centre is the Peace Memorial Museum, a moving exhibition depicting the atomic bomb and its aftermath.
A local delicacy you must try is okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake/omelette cooked on a hotplate right in front of your eyes. Want a more hands on experience? Look for a “grill-it-yourself” restaurant.
The best times to visit are spring, April and May, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and October for the Sake Festival at the start of the month.
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A city with roots that go all the way back to 6BC, the Indian city of Delhi is about as ancient as they come. Located in northern India, it’s a major destination for travellers to the country and among the many magnificent ancient sights, the Lotus Temple is a modern marvel. Completed in 1986, this flower-shaped House of Worship for the Baha’i is awe-inspiring.
As you would expect, there is also plenty of scope for travellers to step back in time. Humayan’s Tomb is an exquisite architectural marvel, built as the final resting place for Mughal Emperor Humayan in the 16th century. Visitors can hire a guide for only a few dollars, but be aware that opening hours do change based on the season.
For travellers of India, Jaipur is a city well-worth visiting, with plenty to explore, see and do. Located in the northwest of India, it is a city of awe-inspiring architecture. Nearly 300 years old, the city is sometimes known as The Pink City, because of its painted buildings. Sightseers will adore the grandiose, majestic buildings, such as the Hawa Mahal which is an intricately designed building, home to a small museum. The enormous City Palace is well worth a visit, comprising of buildings created over a century by multiple architects.
Food lovers visiting Jaipur must try the famous lassis – a yoghurt-based beverage known for its creaminess, made in both sweet and savoury styles. History buffs and aspiring astronomers will enjoy the Jantar Mantar, an observatory that’s nearly as old as the city itself. It is filled with early astronomical instruments used by subjects of the King Jai Singh to study the universe.
The enormous Indian city of Mumbai (previously known as Bombay) is situated on the eastern shore of the country. Many elements of the city sit in stark contrast with each other; rich estates sit just near slums and the wealthy pass the poor on the streets. In spite of this, it’s an incredible place to visit.
The Gateway to India is a popular spot with tourists and locals. It is a monument built during the British rule, it’s just under 100 years old and is well worth seeing. Just east of the city are the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Elephanta Caves, which feature carvings that are more than a thousand years old! For some family fun, there’s also the EsselWorld amusement park, which is India’s largest and features roller coasters and thrill rides. Bollywood lovers will doubtless know that Mumbai is the centre of the Bollywood industry. Tours of the Bollywood filming locations are available and also serve as a great way to see the city.