Asia: Beyond the tourist hot spots
YOU may have climbed the Great Wall of China, lounged on the golden sands across Indonesia, dived with the tropical fish in the Philippines and stood in awe before the Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
But these experiences, awe-inspiring though they may be, are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all that Asia has to offer.
The region is expansive as it is humbling and despite all that’s been written about its many, many attractions, there’s always a new as-yet undiscovered gem just waiting to be explored by intrepid adventurers and culture seekers.
These are often off-the-beaten-path destinations that haven’t already been hashtagged a thousand times and remain relatively known to many.
They are the places travel agents want to keep secret but aren’t allowed to, destinations you can plaster all over your Instagram before anyone else does, or simply keep their magnificence to yourself as a tropical secret.
Curious? Feast your eyes on some of these hidden gems in Asia:
The Banaue Rice Terraces, Philippines
These stunning rice fields effortlessly follow the contours of the emerald mountains in the Cordillera region in Luzon, around 300 miles from Manila.
The outstanding natural beauty has existed here for millions of years with the addition of the rice fields around 2,000 years ago.
The upkeep of the fields is a family affair with knowledge being passed down through generations.
While the area is far from the luxury found in the Philippines’ El Nido Resort, the adventure and landscape are well worth the basic accommodation.
Hunan Province, China
Located in the southern central part of China, the natural beauty of Hunan Province inspired James Cameron’s ground-breaking film, Avatar.
Equally accessible on a short flight from either Beijing or Shanghai, the area boasts the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, which contains several national parks.
One of the most stunning parks is Zhangjiajie. The towering sandstone columns jut out of the flora-covered forest floor creating stepping stones in the sky.
The choice of four-star accommodation around the parks offers adventurous travelers the option of luxury too.
Taskent may be the capital city of Uzbekistan but it’s very different from other major cities.
Unlike London, Beijing, New York or New Delhi, Tashkent is relatively quiet but steeped in beauty.
History and architecture enthusiasts can enjoy incredible mosaic-styled buildings and learn more about the old charms of the Silk Road.
Despite its Soviet past, it’s far easier to get around Tashkent than you may think.
Visitors can find taxis and buses all over the city and a beautifully decorated metro runs efficiently.
Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia
Nestled between the southwest of Cambodia and Eastern Thailand, these stunning mountains are yet to register on tourist’s radars.
Cultural quirks such as 17th-century ceramic pots can be seen high up on rock ledges surrounded by lush forest.
The mountains were once home to fleeing Khmer Rouge soldiers, but now the area is preserved as a gleaming example of community-based ecotourism.
The Cardamom Mountains are perfect for animal lovers as the undisturbed rocky mountainsides and moist climate have allowed magnificent flora and fauna to thrive.
See if you can spot a clouded leopard, Indochinese tiger or dhole.
Think Mediterranean olive groves meets Balinese beaches and you get Shodoshima.
Also known as the Island of Little Beans, this hidden spot can be found between Kagawa and Okayama in the south main islands that make up the extensive Japanese archipelago.
While it is popular among domestic tourists looking for a slice of beach paradise, it’s certainly not on the checklists of international travelers just yet.
When you’re not tucking into fresh olives and relaxing in a natural hot spring, make your way up to Mount Hoshigajo-san, which translates to the Mount Kingdom of Stars, to take full advantage of mesmerizing landscape views.
Have you visited any off-the-radar gems in Asia you want to share with us? We won’t tell anyone… promise.