Features // Asia

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…

Top cooking breaks
Top cooking breaks

Some say that the best way to discover a country is through its food. For the epicurious, cooking vacations give you the chance to delve deeper into a country’s cuisine beyond its restaurants and markets. You’ll get a crash course in local produce at a food market then dive straight into the kitchen with a…

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…

Exploring Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula
Exploring Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

For most travellers, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula means one thing: the coast. Package tourists flock to the bold and brash resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and neighbouring Na’ama Bay, while backpackers and independent travellers favour the more laid-back charms of Dahab and Nuweiba. The inviting Red Sea, sandy beaches and seemingly endless diving and snorkelling opportunities mean…

Meeting Shiva on Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka
Meeting Shiva on Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka

Sacred sites are easily accessible in Sri Lanka; you can barely move a step without tripping over giant Buddha statues, temples and rock paintings. But the most rewarding of all requires a night-time expedition to a pilgrim’s mountain. At 2243m, Adam’s Peak is far from the highest place on the island, but as the holiest…

Puzzles at the plain of Jars, Laos
Puzzles at the plain of Jars, Laos

After three hours trudging along steep forest paths, you come to a surreal sight. Hundreds of megalithic stone jars, large enough for someone to a crouch inside, are strewn all around. This group of 416 jars is the largest at the aptly named Plain of Jars, whose current tally stands at 1900 jars in 52…

Discovering the delights of a ryokan in Japan
Discovering the delights of a ryokan in Japan

Sofia Levin discovers tradition and tranquility in rural Japan Lush rice paddies morphed into a thick forest of bamboo and cedar trees as our train climbed steeper. Plants clung desperately to the side of the mountain and small waterfalls trickled down every crevice. At the end of the line, a funicular heaved us up the…

Five top isolated retreats
Five top isolated retreats

Whether we dwell in city centre or suburb, we nearly all dream of escaping the humdrum and finding somewhere truly off the grid. As the world shrinks, more and more places that promise isolation find their offerings increasingly crowded. Here’s five destinations, drawn from Rough Guides’ Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, that…

Take a dawn laughter yoga session in Mumbai, India
Take a dawn laughter yoga session in Mumbai, India

As dawn breaks in India’s largest and noisiest city, there’s a hubbub on Chowpatty beach that sounds altogether stranger than the car horns, bus engines and tinny radios that provide the usual rush-hour soundtrack. Standing in a circle on the pale yellow sands of the beach, a group of men and women are twirling their…

Living with the locals in rural Myanmar
Living with the locals in rural Myanmar

As tourists start flooding into Myanmar (Burma), Melanie Kramers dives into the deep countryside to live like a local and discovers a beguiling mix of past and present. Hand-rolled cheroot clamped between her teeth, the elderly woman stares hard at us and issues a guttural grunt. While it sounds like the kind of grumpy growl…

The thrill of travel in Nepal
The thrill of travel in Nepal

The thrill of travelling in Nepal isn’t about all the things it might very easily be about for me. It isn’t about those impossible boiling masses of white mountains and the moment when, searching through the clouds for a glimpse of them, I realize I’m not looking high enough. The moment when I tip my…

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…

18 facts you didn’t know about Thailand
18 facts you didn’t know about Thailand

Sixteen million tourists fly into Thailand each year, and despite the influx of visitors, this country’s cultural integrity remains relatively intact. From the idyllic islands to the bustling cities, there are 77 provinces housing 63 million people across mountains – so if you’re thinking about visiting, why not clue up on a few of these…

Travel bargains for 2012
Travel bargains for 2012

This article was originally posted in February 2012 Tourism is a lifeline for so many countries, but economic crisis, civil unrest or natural disasters can suddenly pull the plug on visitor numbers. And this can be a great time to experience these countries: often many areas are still safe, locals will usually be delighted to…

Five top shopping holidays
Five top shopping holidays

If you’re the kind of traveller who saves extra space for holiday purchases – or even dumps old clothes and toiletries to make room for impulse buys – you’ll want to check out some of these unique shopping experiences from around the world. From carpets in Turkmenistan to jewelry in Dubai, we’ve rounded up some of the…

Feeling fruity in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Feeling fruity in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

If you’re looking for a classic Southeast Asian scene, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, south of Ho Chi Minh City, will do the trick. This is an area of vivid green rice paddies, conical-hatted farmers and lumbering water buffaloes, of floating markets and villages built on stilts. Lush orchards overflow with mangoes, papayas and dragonfruit; plantations brim…

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…

A night in the rainforest, Malaysia
A night in the rainforest, Malaysia

You probably won’t get much sleep on your first night in Taman Negara National Park – not because there’s an elephant on your chalet doorstep or the rain’s dripping through your tent, but because the rainforest is unexpectedly noisy after dark. High-volume insects whirr and beep at an ear-splitting pitch, branches creak and swish menacingly,…

Twenty places to make you feel insignificant
Twenty places to make you feel insignificant

French novelist Gustave Flaubert once said: “Travelling makes one modest – you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”. With this in mind, here are twenty daunting and spectacular places around the world that might make you feel a little small. Easter Island, Chile A trip to see Easter Island’s moai lined up on…

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…

What’s the best festival you’ve been to?
What’s the best festival you’ve been to?

While February might not spring to mind as a time of celebration, some of the world’s greatest festivals are going on this month – not least the Kumbh Mela, rumoured to be the largest gathering on earth, and the infamous Rio Carnaval. Elsewhere, with ten days until Chinese New Year, cities across China and the…

Five essential treks in the Himalayas
Five essential treks in the Himalayas

They may cross six countries and contain many colossal mountains such as Everest and K2, but journeying through the Himalayas isn’t just about making it to the top. The following five treks will give you more than just sore feet and lots of photos of snow-capped peaks. Meet the three sisters, Nepal Lucky, Nicky and…

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;…

Blazing a trail at Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan
Blazing a trail at Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan

When you think of eco-friendly travel, the Middle East might not immediately spring to mind. In environmental terms, the region is a disaster, characterized by a general lack of awareness of the issues and poor – if any – legislative safeguards. But Jordan is quietly working wonders, and the impact in recent years of the…

Responsible travel – a green stay in Laos
Responsible travel – a green stay in Laos

Minimise your footprint in Luang Prabang with our green guide to the city, taken from travel bible Great Escapes. Enjoy a puppet show Every Thursday and Saturday at 7.30pm the kids at Children’s Cultural Centre, a project developed with Unicef, put on a traditional Lao puppet show. Throughout the year the CCC members (aged between…

Catching the Loy Krathong Festival of Light, Thailand
Catching the Loy Krathong Festival of Light, Thailand

In the days leading up to Thailand’s annual Loy Krathong Festival of Light, pretty little baskets fashioned from banana leaves and filled with orchids and marigolds begin to appear at market stalls across the country. On festival night everyone gathers at the nearest body of water – beside the riverbank or neighbourhood canal, on the…

10 essential dolphin and whale-watching trips
10 essential dolphin and whale-watching trips

From whales in Iceland to the pink penguins of Hong Kong harbour, here’s ten of our favourite holidays for seeing whales and dolphins, taken from the pages of travel bible Great Escapes. Let us know your own below. Whale-watching off the coast of Iceland Iceland’s waters are blessed with large numbers of almost every kind…

A film guide to the Philippines
A film guide to the Philippines

For anyone planning a trip to the Philippines, Stephen Keeling has picked out ten top films that showcase the country’s landscapes, history and culture. 1: Oro, Plata, Mata (Gold, Silver, Death, Peque Gallaga, 1982) Make sure you watch the extraordinary restored and re-mastered version in high definition – it’s hard to believe this classic is…

The revolting kings of Komodo Island, Indonesia
The revolting kings of Komodo Island, Indonesia

There are few expeditions more disquieting than visiting Indonesia’s Komodo Island. Approaching by boat, it appears staggeringly beautiful – the archetypal tropical hideaway. But doubts about the wisdom of what you’re about to do surface as soon as you step ashore and discover that you’re sharing the beach with the local deer population: if they’re…

Taiwan: A Traveller’s Movie Guide
Taiwan: A Traveller’s Movie Guide

Taiwan’s small but creative movie industry has been experiencing something of a renaissance in recent years. This selection – mostly recent films – should help you get under the skin of the island’s dynamic and complex culture. Aficionados should also check out the movies of two Taiwan legends: Hou Hsaio-Hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. Groundbreaker Hou…

Sand and spice on Ko Samui, Thailand
Sand and spice on Ko Samui, Thailand

Ko Samui is perhaps an unlikely spot to learn the art of Thai cooking. Given the choice between lapping up rays on a patch of sand, palms and waterfalls in the Gulf of Thailand or arming yourself with a sharp cleaver to take on a mound of raw pork and fiery chilies, most people will…

Fire festivals around the world
Fire festivals around the world

A great fire festival should be on everybody’s bucket list. Here we rundown some of the greats… Guy Fawkes Night, UK “Remember, remember the fifth of November – gunpowder, treason and plot” – a rhyme Brits have grown up reciting in the run-up to Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night).…

Alternative travel in Southeast Asia
Alternative travel in Southeast Asia

From canoeing the lakes of Vietnam to riding an elephant through the jungles of Indonesia, enjoy the journey as much as the destination with our pick of some of the most amazing alternative travel experiences in Southeast Asia. Catch a Biodiesel bus around Cambodia Visits to the temples of Angkor Wat, the Killing Fields around…

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…

Fight night in Bangkok, Thailand
Fight night in Bangkok, Thailand

The Thai people are predominately Buddhist, and through much of their country Siddhartha’s spirit is palpable. Even in the noisy and overcrowded capital city, hard-faced nationals will soften their features and treat visitors with a respect given all living creatures. The exception that proves the rule is the brutal national sport of muay thai or Thai boxing – where…

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 best places to visit in April
The best places to visit in April

April is a fantastic month to travel. Spring in the northern hemisphere brings warmer weather, making it an excellent time to soak up the early sun in Marrakesh or take in the rhododendron displays in Sikkim. Over in Australia you can visit Uluru without the crowds, while California’s Coachella festival and Austria’s Snowbombing  provide partying aplenty.…

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…

Getting the inside track on Hanoi
Getting the inside track on Hanoi

The best way to explore Vietnam’s beguiling capital is to get a local to give you the inside track, says Alex Whittleton. I arrived at my hotel in Hanoi’s brash and beautiful old town in a state of bleary-eyed excitement. My flight had been long and sleepless, but I’d just had one of the most entertaining taxi rides of…

11 loos with great views
11 loos with great views

White, sometimes stained floor tiles and a plain, usually graffitied grey door: I think we can all agree, this is an accurate description of your average toilet – pretty boring, no? Have you ever been having a tinkle, twiddling your thumbs and thought to yourself: “You know what this toilet needs? A good view!” Well,…

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…

Travel news: the rise of virtual tourism?
Travel news: the rise of virtual tourism?

Rough Guides author Steve Vickers takes a look at the latest travel news and weirdness, including a new, Ferrari-branded theme park and the rise of virtual tourism. No more battling to see the Terracotta Army In 1974, farmers discovered thousands of life-sized soldier statues buried in the dirt near Xi’an, in central China. Forty years…

Finding the corpse flower, Indonesia
Finding the corpse flower, Indonesia

When the English naturalist Joseph Arnold smelt rotting flesh during an 1821 expedition to the steamy jungles of Sumatra, he must have feared the worst. Back then, this was cannibal country. Blood-thirsty local tribes were known to capture their most hated enemies, tie them to a stake, and start feasting on their roasted body parts.…

Five essential homestays around the world
Five essential homestays around the world

One of the best ways to truly get to know a destination is to chat to the locals, and one sure fire way to become an instant expert on a place is to go a step further and spend a night or two with them. So leave behind the comfort zone of the international hotel…

Stay with the locals in Kerala
Stay with the locals in Kerala

For a real sense of a country and its inhabitants, it’s always best to stay with the locals and meet as many residents as possible. The population of Kerala are particularly friendly and welcoming, and these experiences will leave you with a unique understanding of the Indian state. Learn to cook Keralan style Whether it’s…

Get blown away by the Great Wall, China
Get blown away by the Great Wall, China

The Great Wall is one of those sights that you’ve seen and heard so much about that you know reality is going to have a tough time living up to the hype. But having made it all the way to Beijing, it seems perverse to ignore this overblown landmark, so arm yourself with a thermos…

Browsing English veg in the Asian hills, Sri Lanka
Browsing English veg in the Asian hills, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has many unexpected sights, but few are as surreal as early morning in Haputale. As dawn breaks, the mists that blanket the town for much of the year slowly dissipate, revealing the huddled shapes of dark-skinned Tamils, insulated against the cold in woolly hats and padded jackets, hawking great bundles of English vegetables…

Ten top places to eat Korean food
Ten top places to eat Korean food

The wonderful food keeps dragging Martin Zatko back to Korea. Here are some of his favourite eating spots from around the country. 1) Buddhist temple food at Balwoo Gongyang, Seoul It’s impossible to believe that Buddhist monks really eat this well – even at Jogyesa, Seoul’s most important temple, which sits just across the road from this highly attractive restaurant.…

Jungle boogie in Sarawak, Malaysia
Jungle boogie in Sarawak, Malaysia

In this excerpt from Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, one Rough Guides writer experiences a memorable three-day music festival. Afternoon, the first day of Sarawak’s Rainforest Music festival. People are mingling ahead of show time when the famous Malagasy band Tarika will perform. For now though, a local Melinau musician with a hat…

Moonlit manoeuvres through Hoi An, Vietnam
Moonlit manoeuvres through Hoi An, Vietnam

Once a month, on the eve of the full moon, downtown Hoi An turns off all its street lights and basks in the mellow glow of silk lanterns. Shopkeepers don traditional outfits; parades, folk opera and martial arts demonstrations flood the cobbled streets; and the riverside fills with stalls selling crabmeat parcels, beanpaste cakes and noodle soup. It’s all…

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