Features // Asia

Disappearing cultures: 20 years of photography from China
Disappearing cultures: 20 years of photography from China

One of the world’s leading photographers on disappearing cultural practices, Jo Farrell has spent the past ten years documenting the last known women in China with bound feet. Rough Guides travel editor Greg Dickinson caught up with Jo to discuss her archive of experiences travelling around China with a camera. When did your fascination with China…

Check in with a dinosaur at Japan’s first robot hotel
Check in with a dinosaur at Japan’s first robot hotel

Often the “weird Japan” trope seems like just another tired travel cliché – but then someone opens a robot hotel. In this case, hotel owner Hideo Sawada beat international journalists to the punch by straightforwardly calling it Henn-na Hotel, meaning “Strange Hotel”.  The idea behind it isn’t actually that weird, though. Sawada’s aims are eminently reasonable:…

This magical film will make you fall in love with Hong Kong
This magical film will make you fall in love with Hong Kong

Think of Hong Kong and what image comes to mind? Crowded streets? Skyscrapers? A forest of neon signs? Filmmaker Stephane Ma wants to challenge your preconceptions. In this beautiful three-minute film he uses drones to put the city in perspective, sweeping above the central high-rises and out over the beaches and mountains in a series of…

The story of Beijing’s contemporary art hub
The story of Beijing’s contemporary art hub

In a country where censorship rules, few people gave the idea much of a chance. In little more than a decade, however, the 798 Art District, which occupies a former military zone on the northeastern edge of Beijing, has grown to become a genuine creative hub for contemporary art. The story begins in the 1950s,…

Gorgeous video explores the Philippines from above
Gorgeous video explores the Philippines from above

The Philippines is beautiful from the ground, but from above it’s even better. This video soars hundreds of metres into the air to give you a bird’s-eye view – and it’s awesome. From White Beach on Boracay to the little town of El Nido, Frédéric Bussière’s drone camera captures the stunning scenery of this southeast-Asian archipelago. As…

8 of the weirdest things you’ll see in Vietnam
8 of the weirdest things you’ll see in Vietnam

Governed by Chinese dynasties for over a thousand years, ruled by the French for a century and occupied by American troops for over a decade, Vietnam has – remarkably – managed to uphold a vast array of cultural practices. To the rest of the world, some of these traditional customs seem pretty strange, but they’re still prevalent throughout this…

Would you get down and dirty at South Korea’s Mud Festival?
Would you get down and dirty at South Korea’s Mud Festival?

What once began as a marketing ploy for a therapeutic mud found near Boryeong, a small city on South Korea’s sandy west coast, has since transformed into a unique festival that draws millions every year. But this is no spa day. Mud Fest 2008 by Hypnotica Studios Infinite (license) The annual Boryeong Mud Festival is where people…

The best Japanese foods (that aren’t sushi)
The best Japanese foods (that aren’t sushi)

Everyone speaks a little Japanese now – nigiri, maki, sashimi, nori, toro… The only problem is that sushi, delicious as it may be, is only one tiny facet of Japan’s varied cuisine. Here are a few other things worth looking out for when you’re there. Shojin-ryori Eating meat was banned in Japan for a long…

15 gorgeous photos of Japan
15 gorgeous photos of Japan

Professional landscape & wildlife photographer Nick Jackson shares some of his most beautiful pictures of Japan.  “Japan is a country I always wanted to travel to. I wanted to learn more about the culture, visit the ancient temples and see the beautiful cherry blossom first hand. What I encountered over my two week stay blew…

15 things everyone learns travelling in India
15 things everyone learns travelling in India

India varies greatly between its 29 states. Yet there are some things you’ll discover no matter where you are or how long you stay in the vast Subcontinent. If you’ve been to India at least once, you’ll relate to a few of these lessons we’ve learned over the years… 1. The street food is incredible…

Quiz: can you locate these national parks?
Quiz: can you locate these national parks?

National parks are some of the world’s most awe-inspiring natural places, taking in mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and forests (sometimes all in the same one), but how much do you know about them? Can you tell these national parks apart? Compare flights, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

11 things every gaijin learns in Japan
11 things every gaijin learns in Japan

Japan is one of those countries you can’t really prepare for – the famously impenetrable etiquette, complex traditions and bitingly modern pop culture combine to make a place which could wrongfoot the most experienced traveller. Here are just a few of the things which any gaijin (foreigner) can expect to find out on their first…

1650km of Vietnam in 3 minutes of stunning videography
1650km of Vietnam in 3 minutes of stunning videography

If a trip to Vietnam is on your bucket list, you might want to look away now. This video will definitely give you wanderlust. Filmmaker Oliver Atrologo spent two weeks travelling around Vietnam earlier this year and captured the whole trip on camera. He travelled 1650km, from the karst rock formations of Ha Long Bay in the north,…

Tokyo’s tiniest drinking dens: a guide to Golden Gai
Tokyo’s tiniest drinking dens: a guide to Golden Gai

Shinjuku, Tokyo, is known for skyscrapers, seedy nightlife, suited businessmen and a time-warped tumble of bars called Golden Gai. This perennial haunt of Tokyo’s salarymen has been getting a lot more international attention lately – and for good reason. While the city offers an endless range of flashy, neon-drenched clubs, bars and lounges, arguably only…

How to see Angkor Wat without the crowds
How to see Angkor Wat without the crowds

The sky is lightening. Squint and you can just about make out a change in the colour of it, a shift from inky-black to blue-black. As the sun rises further it changes more, until it pales enough behind the stonework that you can begin to make out a hulk on the horizon. You breathe in…

18 evocative pictures of the happiest place on Earth
18 evocative pictures of the happiest place on Earth

Freelance travel and wildlife photographer Margot Raggett shares her beautiful photographs of the fascinating kingdom of Bhutan.  “Whenever anyone asks me what Bhutan is like, I find the best way to describe it is like Narnia: it is so remote and unlike anywhere else on Earth that I’ve visited. And then I implore them to visit…

Batanes: off the radar on The Philippines’ remotest islands
Batanes: off the radar on The Philippines’ remotest islands

Kiki Deere, co-author of the Rough Guide to the Philippines, heads off the tourist trail to Batanes. This cluster of islands, located almost 150km off the northernmost tip of Luzon in the Philippines, sees just thirty or so foreign visitors a year. “Batanes? Batanes? Up there?” was the reaction of most Filipinos when I told…

Myanmar as you’ve never seen it before
Myanmar as you’ve never seen it before

Tourism in Myanmar is still in its infancy, yet this fascinating nation enthralls like no other in Southeast Asia. There’s no wonder why. With its glittering stupas, placid rivers, temple-studded plains and – above all – warm, welcoming people, this is a country that it’s hard to forget in a hurry. We’ve just published our first ever guide to Myanmar,…

Would you attempt the world’s highest bungee jump in the dark?
Would you attempt the world’s highest bungee jump in the dark?

With summer on the way, the landmark 338m-high Macau Tower has launched a new season of its Night Bungy experience. Yes, you read that right. You can plunge 233 metres off the side of a building at speeds of 200km/h – in the dark. The frankly terrifying free-fall lasts five seconds, offering a adrenalin-inducing hit of terror sure to put this Guinness…

The best beaches in Bali
The best beaches in Bali

From dramatically rugged coastline scenery, to great sweeps of golden sand and lovely white coves, Bali’s beaches have long drawn visitors to its shores. The beaches here tick all boxes, whether you’re after world-class waves to surf, crystal clear waters for diving, or simply days digging your toes into fine sand and lazy evenings watching the…

A Godzilla-themed hotel has just opened in Tokyo
A Godzilla-themed hotel has just opened in Tokyo

Because robot restaurants and themed cafés aren’t enough: Tokyo is now home to a Godzilla-themed hotel. Towering thirty storeys above Shinjuku in the Japanese capital, the Gracery Hotel revealed a new permanent resident last Friday – an enormous Godzilla head that menacingly overlooks the streets below. In a bid to cash in on the Godzilla hype…

9 of the world’s best white­water rafting spots
9 of the world’s best white­water rafting spots

Rough Guides’ adventure sports expert Helen Abramson gives us her top tips on some of the world’s best adrenalin­-pumping whitewater rafting. Rapids are classified from I–VI, where grade VI is “un-runnable”, so the Grade V rivers listed here are essentially as thrilling as it gets. 1. Zambezi River, Zimbabwe Africa’s most exhilarating rafting is found on…

14 magical sunrises that prove it’s worth getting up early
14 magical sunrises that prove it’s worth getting up early

Looking through the Rough Guides photography archive, one kind of shot stands out again and again: pictures captured at sunrise. Sure, there’s nothing more tempting than sleeping in until noon while you’re on holiday. But if you can bring yourself to brave the odd early morning, you’ll discover a magical world as dawn breaks. From…

Passport to write: travel writing competition
Passport to write: travel writing competition

** This competition is now closed ** Do you want to become a travel writer? Have you always dreamed about getting paid to travel the world? We’re on the lookout for talented new authors for our online features section, and have teamed up with Journeys are made @ gapyear.com to give someone the chance to write for…

10 Vietnamese foods you need to try
10 Vietnamese foods you need to try

Vietnamese food is distinct and unforgettable. The cuisine relies on a balance of salty, sweet, sour and hot flavours, achieved through use of nuoc mam, a fermented fish sauce, cane sugar, the juice of kalamansi citrus fruit or tamarind and chilli peppers. Dishes use plenty of fresh herbs but tend not to be overly spicy, as chilli…

Quiz: can you name these famous sights?
Quiz: can you name these famous sights?

Do postcards and travel posters paper your walls? Do you pride yourself on your travel knowledge? We’ve selected ten of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring sights around the world to put you to the test. Can you identify the famous sight from the picture? Be warned, sometimes places can look surprisingly similar…

14 essential Burmese experiences
14 essential Burmese experiences

Wherever your itinerary takes you, travel in Myanmar (Burma) is sure to provide a wealth of new experiences – whether you’re air-kissing at your waiter in a city teahouse or witnessing your first nat ceremony. To mark the release of our first guide to the country, co-author Jo James shares fourteen of her essential things…

Going it alone on the Annapurna Base Camp trek
Going it alone on the Annapurna Base Camp trek

Rough Guides writer Helen Abramson discovers the ups and downs of the Annapurna Base Camp trek in Nepal – all without the help of a porter or guide.  Something wasn’t right. I generally like to think of myself as physically fit. In fact, a doctor told me that was the case. I was convinced. Yet…

These are the world’s most bizarre spa treatments
These are the world’s most bizarre spa treatments

If you’re after some rejuvenation on your next break but still fancy a bit of an adventure, there are a whole host of alternative therapies offered around the world. From snail facials to a spot of sauna whipping, you can invigorate your body and soul with a smorgasbord of weird but wonderful wellness treatments. Here…

5 reasons why Ladakh offers the best trekking in India
5 reasons why Ladakh offers the best trekking in India

Co-author of the Rough Guide to India, Nick Edwards, explains why the trekking in Ladakh is among India’s finest. Ladakh is quite unlike any other region of India, both geographically and culturally. A rugged and arid high-altitude desert, set between the mighty Karakoram and Great Himalaya ranges, its very name means “the land of high…

In pictures: Holi Festival 2015
In pictures: Holi Festival 2015

Last week saw India celebrate Holi Festival, one of the most well known and colourful festivals in the annual Hindu calendar. Powdered paint of all colours was hurled between friends, families and worshippers across the country as they celebrated the beginning of spring. We’ve scoured GettyImages for the best shots to show you Holi Festival 2015 in pictures. View image…

An introduction to Nepal: 9 things to do in Kathmandu
An introduction to Nepal: 9 things to do in Kathmandu

Nepal’s energetic capital is the entry point for most travellers who come to this mountainous and culture rich country. Foreigners tend to apply a “get in and get out” policy to the sometimes overwhelmingly chaotic city, sunk in the basin of the Kathmandu Valley. There are, however, plenty of remarkable sights in the metropolis to…

Quiz: can you identify the country from its outline?
Quiz: can you identify the country from its outline?

Are you a cartographic clever-clogs or due a geography refresher course? We’ve compiled the outlines of ten different countries – large and small – without any rivers, seas, mountains or cities to help you. Can you deduce the country from its shape alone? Take the quiz to find out…

A titillating tour of the world’s finest sex museums
A titillating tour of the world’s finest sex museums

Sex museums are nothing new. Dozens were erected across Europe during the Swinging Sixties when the sexual revolution was in full swing. These days the orgy of sex museums has slowed to a mere mouthful, though they have been stimulated by a new breed of ‘erotic’ museum that aims to steer more towards art than…

Northern Thailand: the railroad less travelled
Northern Thailand: the railroad less travelled

Tourists are visiting Thailand in increasing numbers, but some communities remain stuck in a time long passed. In pursuit of the “old Thailand”, Alex Robinson shuns the tour buses and takes local’s route, the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We’re waiting on the road, huddled together with locals who’ve risen in the pre-dawn dark.…

Video: 13 things not to miss in Cambodia
Video: 13 things not to miss in Cambodia

It’s not just temples and tuk tuks, Cambodia has so much to offer travellers. From the delicious cuisine to floating villages, here are the top things not to miss on your trip to Cambodia. For more inspirational travel videos, subscribe to the Rough Guides Youtube channel >

Baba-Nyonya cuisine: 6 dishes you need to try in Malaysia
Baba-Nyonya cuisine: 6 dishes you need to try in Malaysia

Rough Guides author Kiki Deere delves into Malaysia‘s unique Baba-Nyonya (Peranakan) community and introduces us to their unforgettable cuisine. The delicious hybrid cuisine of Malaysia’s Baba-Nyonya is one of southeast Asia’s finest. Like the community from which it takes its name, the cooking style is a unique hybrid of Chinese and Malay culture – a…

Video: 17 things not to miss in Singapore
Video: 17 things not to miss in Singapore

Singapore has many sides. You can take in Little India, Arab Street and Chinatown before heading for a cosmopolitan night out hosted by some of the world’s top DJs, or delve into the wild at a rainforest nature reserve and search for inner peace at holy temples. These are the top things not to miss…

The Andaman Islands: India’s far flung string of pearls
The Andaman Islands: India’s far flung string of pearls

Longstanding author of the Rough Guide to India, Nick Edwards, explains how the remote Andaman Islands have been slowly increasing their tourist profile but still reward the adventurous traveller with natural splendour unlike anywhere on the mainland.  The long emerald necklace of the Andaman Islands – an archipelago lying over a thousand kilometres out in the Bay of…

Video: things not to miss in Malaysia
Video: things not to miss in Malaysia

From its tea plantations to its pristine beaches, and from its mountains to its modern cities, Malaysia has a wealth of natural beauty, distinctive art and delicious food. These are the top 18 things not to miss in this exciting southeast Asian destination. We’ve picked Malaysia as one of the top countries to visit in…

Nagaland: 15 pictures of India’s most fascinating tribes
Nagaland: 15 pictures of India’s most fascinating tribes

Last year our roaming photographer Diana Jarvis took some time away from her usual stomping grounds in Europe and headed to the far northeastern Indian state of Nagaland to witness the annual Hornbill Festival. Here, she shares 15 pictures of the region’s fascinating tribes. “I’d visited India on several other occasions but my trip to…

7 reasons to visit Battambang, Cambodia
7 reasons to visit Battambang, Cambodia

Olivia Rawes tells us why the city of Battambang, Cambodia, should be an essential stop on any southeast Asian itinerary. Battambang is often overlooked. It lacks the obvious Cambodian trump cards: no golden beaches, no capital city buzz, no Angkor Wat. But then neither does it suffer from congested traffic, coach loads of tourists, or…

9 new tourist attractions to visit in 2015
9 new tourist attractions to visit in 2015

With a whole host of new attractions opening this year, from world-record-beating skyscrapers to whacky amusement parks, there’s plenty to get your teeth into. To help you decide where to visit, we’ve picked the top 9 new tourist attractions around the world.  Shanghai Tower, China A better symbol of China’s continuing march forward would be harder to…

Thailand: 10 tips for first-time travellers
Thailand: 10 tips for first-time travellers

Thailand remains one of the first ports of call for first-time backpackers. But don’t be fooled – though travelling here means following a well-beaten tourist trail, there’s no denying that this beguiling country can take a while to get to grips with. To make sure you hit the ground running on your first visit, follow…

Quirky Tokyo: the top 10 things to do
Quirky Tokyo: the top 10 things to do

With its sushi and sumo, pop culture and age-old tradition, serene gardens and traffic hell, Tokyo bombards the senses like no other city. Ordered yet bewildering, Japan’s pulsating capital will lead you a merry dance – but being lost has never been so much fun. The planet’s largest metropolis is Asia at its weirdest, straightest,…

6 special places to stay in Laos
6 special places to stay in Laos

Until the 1990s, Laos remained shut off from the outside world, and largely unknown to Western travellers. Since then, more and more visitors have come to discover that this landlocked country offers some of Southeast Asia’s most enchanting natural landscapes and a fascinating diversity of cultures. Although Laos still much less developed than neighbouring Thailand,…

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