Features // Asia

Better than Disneyland: the Ghibli Museum, Japan
Better than Disneyland: the Ghibli Museum, Japan

Move over Mickey Mouse: in Japan it’s a giant cuddly fur-ball called Totoro who commands national icon status. This adorable animated creature, star of My Neighbour Totoro, is among the pantheon of characters from the movies of celebrated director Miyazaki Hayao and his colleagues at Studio Ghibli – Japan’s equivalent of Disney. Just like Walt,…

Bedouin camping at Wadi Rum, Jordan
Bedouin camping at Wadi Rum, Jordan

This excerpt from Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth sees one intrepid Rough Guides writer experience a night to remember… My Bedouin guide settled forward over his ribaba, a simple traditional stringed instrument. As he drew the bow to and fro, the mournful, reedy music seemed to fill the cool night air, echoing…

Hanging out in Shinjuku
Hanging out in Shinjuku

Shinjuku isn’t for the faint-hearted. But if you’re new to Tokyo and want a crash course in crazy, it’s the first place you should come to. Sure, Asakusa has more history and Roppongi has better nightlife, but neither can compete when it comes to dealing out high-voltage culture shocks. On the west side of Shinjuku…

Things to do in Phnom Penh, the underrated capital
Things to do in Phnom Penh, the underrated capital

Many people seem to skip the Cambodian capital and head straight for Siem Reap, fearing Phnom Penh to be a dangerous and uninteresting city. However, on a recent trip to Southeast Asia’s “unpopular capital”, Meera Dattani discovered all that the city has to offer and has concluded that, while its underrated and understated, Phnom Penh…

The world’s most honest cities
The world’s most honest cities

Losing your wallet or purse while travelling is often a painstaking mistake. We keep so much of our lives in there: cash, plastic, drivers’ licence, ID cards. When all of those things go missing together, it can be a costly process to get them back. If you’re prone to losing your wallet, dropping things or…

A floral wave of cherry blossoms, Japan
A floral wave of cherry blossoms, Japan

The arrival of the sakura, or cherry blossom, has long been a profound yet simple Japanese lesson about the nature of human existence. For centuries, poets have fired off reams of haiku comparing the brief but blazing lives of the flowers to those of our own – a tragically fragile beauty to be treasured and contemplated. In Japan,…

Great rivers of the world – China’s Yellow River
Great rivers of the world – China’s Yellow River

The Yellow River, or Huang He, is the second longest river in China stretching almost 5500km through nine provinces, making it the sixth longest river in the world. Its nickname, the ”Mother River”, is apt as these snaking waters have sustained Chinese civilizations since ancient times. There is an abundance of sights, sounds and smells to experience along the Yellow River’s course, from the thousand-year-old Xiaoji mountainside statues in Bingling, to the collection of…

The best places to visit in October
The best places to visit in October

As autumn looms in the north and spring is blossoming in the south, October is a beautiful month around the world. From the last of that European sunshine, to the wacky festivities of Halloween in the USA, here are the best places to go for holidays in October. Browse and buy leading art, London, UK…

Snapshot: Myanmar (Burma) Highlights
Snapshot: Myanmar (Burma) Highlights

Myanmar (Burma) is a beautiful and culturally rich country, but has been cursed for decades with a brutally oppressive regime. Now, following the softening and then removal of the 15-year-long tourism boycott, tourist numbers have swollen. This is a fascinating time to discover Myanmar’s temples, rice fields, and mountains, and meet the people eager to…

Thoughtful travel – ten spots to remember the past
Thoughtful travel – ten spots to remember the past

There are some places in the world that you may not immediately think of visiting. Among all the favourite churches, museums and galleries lurk some more disturbing locations with morbid histories, places that represent the darker side of humanity. They may not be top of your itineraries, but they’re equally – if not more –…

Arrivals: a travel news round up (September 16)
Arrivals: a travel news round up (September 16)

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. Thousands apply for one-way trip to Mars More than 200,000 people have applied for the chance to help colonise Mars. Just four of the applicants will be picked for the first one-way mission being…

23 things you never knew about Japan
23 things you never knew about Japan

This collection of islands has fascinated travellers since Japan picked itself up from World War defeat, and became one of the leading economic and technological centres of the world. Ancient gods and traditional customs sit side by side with cutting edge technologies and trendy pop culture, and there is always something new to learn about…

The world’s only sun bear sanctuary, Borneo
The world’s only sun bear sanctuary, Borneo

On a visit to see orangutans Anna Kaminski is confronted with bears instead. With the world’s only sun bear sanctuary opening to the public next year, she joins an exclusive tour of the centre and meets some of the adorable creatures who have been rescued by the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Polar bears are renowned…

Great dates and temple ceremonies, Indonesia
Great dates and temple ceremonies, Indonesia

It’s mid-afternoon and you’re sitting in an outdoor café when suddenly the street is closed to traffic and a procession of villagers comes streaming by. Women with delicate frangipani blossoms woven into their hair balance lavish offerings of food, fruit and flowers on their heads and walk with grace and poise, while men march by…

Which weird foods have you tried?
Which weird foods have you tried?

From rotten eggs in China to Canadian jellied moose nose, we’ve found some of the weirdest foods of the world, and showcased them in a rather stomach-churning gallery for your viewing pleasure. But now we want to know what weird foods you love, hate or have been brave enough to sample on your travels. It seems our…

Ten things to do in Tokyo for free
Ten things to do in Tokyo for free

With sublime sushi, soaring skyscrapers and vending machines that churn out everything from eggs to ice cream, Tokyo is the planet’s most mind-boggling metropolis. Wandering its neon-lit streets can easily eat up your time, and put serious pressure on your wallet. But as this round up of the free things to do in Tokyo shows,…

Mr & Mrs in Hsipaw: bizarre Burmese formalities
Mr & Mrs in Hsipaw: bizarre Burmese formalities

Writing for the new Rough Guide Snapshot Myanmar (Burma), John Oates travelled to the town of Hsipaw – a small settlement, once unfamiliar to the Burmese tourist trail – to discover bizarre traditions in the formalities of names, in which Mr and Mrs are a prefix for everyone. So that’s “Mr John” to you. It…

The best places to visit in November
The best places to visit in November

As the Northern Hemisphere is getting colder in November, below the equator things are hotting up as spring gets ready to give way to summer. The cooling temperatures aren’t all bad however, as the temperature in Egypt and India becomes far more bearable, and autumn in South Korea is a sight to behold. Check out…

Wash an elephant in the Rapti River, Nepal
Wash an elephant in the Rapti River, Nepal

Each day, at around 11am, a strange combination of sounds – excited laughter, lots of splashing and the occasional burst of trumpeting – can be heard drifting through the village of Sauraha in southern Nepal. Elephant bath time has begun. This ritual takes place in the Rapti River, which separates Sauraha from Chitwan National Park,…

Meditating in the Himalayas, Nepal
Meditating in the Himalayas, Nepal

People have looked to the mountains for spiritual consolation for millennia. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,” say the Psalms, “from whence cometh my help.” For Nepalis, the link is especially powerful. The Himalayas are where the Hindu gods go to meditate and replenish their tapas, or spiritual “heat”, and the Buddhist…

The 20 best islands in Japan
The 20 best islands in Japan

Japan is a hugely diverse country, especially when it comes to its thousands of islands. There are approximately 6800 to choose from, so you don’t have to go far to find mountains, beaches, coral reefs and quaint little villages. Many of the islands are almost untouched by tourism so make for an exceptionally traditional experience.…

Everest: the hard way, Nepal
Everest: the hard way, Nepal

By the time you’re halfway up the notorious Lamjura Pass – which rises in one lung-busting, 2km-high staircase of green, terraced hillside from steamy river to airy ridge – you’ll be asking yourself why. Why did I ever think of walking to Everest Base Camp? Why did I carry so much stuff? And why did I not fly…

Arrivals: a travel news round-up
Arrivals: a travel news round-up

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. More tourists welcome, but heavy planes are not Climbers could soon be getting their crampons into five additional Nepalese peaks over 8,000m. Currently, just eight of the country’s highest mountains are accessible, but overcrowding…

The Taj by moonlight, India
The Taj by moonlight, India

When it comes to viewing the Taj Mahal, there isn’t really an unflattering angle or wrong kind of weather. Even the Dickensian smog that can roll off the Jamuna River in midwinter only serves to heighten the mystique of the mausoleum’s familiar contours. The monsoon rains and grey skies of August also cast their spell;…

Bollywood glamour at the Mumbai Metro, India
Bollywood glamour at the Mumbai Metro, India

If you’ve never seen a Bollywood movie before, think John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease, then pump up the colour saturation, quadruple the number of dancing extras, switch the soundtrack to an A.R. Rahman masala mix and imagine Indo-Western hybrid outfits that grow more extravagant with every change of camera angle. Like their classic…

An Arranged Marriage in Tajikistan – via MMS
An Arranged Marriage in Tajikistan – via MMS

Driving through the city of Panj, Tajikistan, Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere meets an ex-Soviet-soldier-turned-teacher who has discovered a new way of arranging a long-distance marriage. Our heavy-footed driver swerved to avoid a series of large rocks that had crumbled from the mountainside above. A muddy crimson river swept through the valley below: the Panj,…

Interactive Map: The world’s best street food
Interactive Map: The world’s best street food

One of our most popular galleries recently was our round-up of street food across the globe. From bunny chow to poutine, it had a variety of suggestions for hungry travellers. Here we’ve pinned those photos to one of our world maps so you can see where to go for your next foodie fix. Where would…

The 20 best islands in Thailand
The 20 best islands in Thailand

Thailand is home to an astonishing array of islands offering all manner of diving, swimming and sunbathing opportunities all year round. The hardest part for any visitor is singling out the best. Here are 20 of our favourites, taken from the Rough Guide to Thailand’s Beaches & Islands. Scroll down to see them placed geographically on…

Top ten gap year destinations
Top ten gap year destinations

It’s that fateful A-level results day again, when hundreds of thousands of hard-working students will be taking one last trip back to school to discover the outcome of those arduous and intense exams they took at the beginning of the summer. Essentially, two years of hard work will all culminate in one single letter today,…

Creepiest places around the world
Creepiest places around the world

There is something alluring about the eerie, macabre side of life (or death, for that matter), so it’s not surprising that plenty of sinister, chilling places in history have become popular tourist attractions. From Western Europe to Asia, there are some truly creepy places to visit around the world – here are a few that…

Great Rivers of the World – The Mekong
Great Rivers of the World – The Mekong

Over 4000km long, the Mekong – derived from the Khmer “Mae” meaning “big”, “mother”, or “boss” – is the 12th longest river in the world, flowing from Tibet, through China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Navigation remains tricky along the Mekong as many rapids and waterfalls pose a risk to those who choose…

Interactive Map: 20 best places to pitch your tent
Interactive Map: 20 best places to pitch your tent

Picking the best place to pitch up for the night is an art that requires precision. Rocky terrain makes for an uncomfortable sleep; hard ground means battling with those tent pegs; and soft spots mean you might fly away. Put all these concerns aside for a moment though, and imagine waking up in the shadow…

Your top packing tips
Your top packing tips

Packing: we all know the usual suspects – the sun cream, hand sanitizer, baby wipes and first aid kits – that are essential to a successful trip and a recent survey by Columbus Direct found that Brits cannot leave home without their smartphone, book or ebook reader, or sunglasses. But when we asked you what one…

Things not to miss in India
Things not to miss in India

From the white, snowy tops of the Himalayas, to the greenery of Kerala and then the sands of Goa, India is a hugely diverse, intense but addictive country. It has deserts, rainforests, rural settlements and big cosmopolitan cities – some will love it, and a few will hate it, but with such variety there is…

Go on a Dive Safari in The Red Sea, Egypt
Go on a Dive Safari in The Red Sea, Egypt

Packed with coral reefs, abundant tropical fish and an assortment of World War II wrecks, there is something for every diver in the Red Sea. Yet if you go to many of the popular offshore sites you can find them swamped with dive boats, while below water there can often be more divers than fish.…

Exploring Burma’s beaches on a budget
Exploring Burma’s beaches on a budget

As the tourism boycott has ended, Myanmar (Burma) is becoming a popular destination on the Southeast Asia trail. John Oates has been travelling across this untouched country for the upcoming Rough Guide Snapshot to Myanmar (Burma). Here he escapes the fast paced city of Yangon to relax on the sandy beaches of Myanmar. After several…

20 best beaches in Thailand
20 best beaches in Thailand

On the hundreds of islands on Thailand’s coast, there are thousands of fantastic beaches to choose from. Whether you want to party hard with a vodka bucket, or just relax in a beachside bungalow, Thailand has it all – so, taken from the latest guidebook, here’s our rundown of the best beaches in Thailand. Hat…

Hauling in dinner in Goa, India
Hauling in dinner in Goa, India

Though a cable winch (or a modern boat) would be more efficient, the Goan fishermen of Benaulim bring in their catch the old-fashioned way and, if you’re strolling by, they’ll probably wave you over to help. Two long ropes stretch all the way up the beach, with heavy branches attached at intervals; on the other end is their…

The least friendly countries for tourists?
The least friendly countries for tourists?

Whether you’re on a weekend away or a month-long adventure, being made to feel unwelcome by rude or unpleasant locals can make or break a holiday. So, if you don’t want to be shunned by waitresses and dismissed by taxi drivers, then Pakistan and Russia are apparently not for you. Following an HSBC poll on the…

Visit Xi’an’s Terracotta Army, China
Visit Xi’an’s Terracotta Army, China

Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, never did anything by halves. Not content with building the Great Wall, he spent his last years roaming the fringes of his empire, seeking a key to immortality. When (with inevitable irony) he died on his quest, his entourage returned to the capital near modern-day Xi’an and buried his…

Look down on the city of the future, China
Look down on the city of the future, China

Gaze at Shanghai’s avant-garde architecture, tangled flyovers and massive new shopping and housing districts, all of which seem to have sprung up with magical haste, like mushrooms after rain, and you can see the city of the twenty-first century emerging. The best place to see all this is from above – from very high above, on the observation deck…

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