Features // Asia

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…

Six essential Korean directors
Six essential Korean directors

Despite the best efforts of Psy, K-pop seems destined to remain a niche market in the western world. The South Korean film industry, on the other hand, has had a strong international reputation for several years now. As with most global cinema, interest in South Korean films has been skewed towards directors rather than actors, and some have…

Eat the original: five places for authentic food
Eat the original: five places for authentic food

After a long time on the road, menus – especially on the budget end – start to blur together into a mix of familiar fast-food staples, whether you’re in France or the Philippines. It’s easy to forget that some of the foods people the world over eat with gusto are actually based on a single…

Visiting the imperial mausoleums of Hué
Visiting the imperial mausoleums of Hué

The broad, peaceful outer courtyard sweeps you past an honorary guard of immaculate stone mandarins towards the first of a series of elegantly roofed gateways, through whose triple doorways you get a perfectly framed view of Emperor Minh Mang’s mausoleum complex. Archways look wistful in peeling ochre paint; slatted lacquer-red shutters offer tantalizing angles on…

Spellbound in Laos
Spellbound in Laos

The pace of life is deliciously slow in Luang Prabang, but if you opt for a lie-in you’ll miss the perfect start to the day. As dawn breaks over this most languorous of Buddhist towns, saffron-robed monks emerge from their temple-monasteries to collect alms from their neighbours, the riverbanks begin to come alive and the…

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…

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…

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…

10 unusual types of transport
10 unusual types of transport

Getting around abroad doesn’t have to be all about cars, trains, buses and bikes. From cruising Peru’s Lake Titicaca on a boat made of reeds to flying down the streets of Madeira in a wicker toboggan or taking an odd horse-drawn carriage in Pakistan, there are so many unusual types of travel to be tried.…

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…

Secret beaches in Europe and around the world
Secret beaches in Europe and around the world

If you’re looking for your own secret piece of  paradise, take a look at our recommendations for the best secluded beaches to visit in Europe and around the world. But you’d better hurry; they won’t stay secret for long… Plage de Saleccia, Corsica, France Plage de Saleccia is a kilometre-long sweep of soft sand with…

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,…

Top holiday ideas for thrill seekers
Top holiday ideas for thrill seekers

If you like your holidays with a pinch – or even liberal lashings – of adrenalin, then you may want to check one of these life-changing experiences out. Taken from the pages of Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, here’s ten ultimate trips for thrill seekers. Sand-skiing in the dunes, Qatar Launching yourself…

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…

Pick a papaya in Sri Lanka
Pick a papaya in Sri Lanka

If, along with rest and relaxation, your idea of the perfect holiday hideaway involves cooking up your own meals with fresh ingredients, then a self-catering stay at Samakanda Guesthouse might be just what you’re looking for. Tucked away in the hills above the town of Galle, Samakanda comprises two comfortable, solar-powered cottages: one a restored…

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…

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…

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…

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 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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

24 striking pictures of Pakistan
24 striking pictures of Pakistan

Professional photographer Ghulam Rasool has spent his life documenting nature, culture and landscapes throughout his home country Pakistan. Here are a selection of his incredible pictures of Pakistan:  An ox race, Lahore Shandur Lake, 12,000 feet above sea level A villager and his yaks, Khaplu Town Tawar Chacha & his wife in their traditional Wakhi home,…

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…

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).…

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…

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;…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Shopping in the City of Gold, United Arab Emirates
Shopping in the City of Gold, United Arab Emirates

Dubai’s nickname, the “City of Gold”, is well earned: gold jewellery is sold here at some of the world’s most competitive prices, and shopping among the constant flow of customers, many here for their marriage dowries, is an exceptional experience. The Gold Souk is a fascinating warren of tiny shops and stalls clustered together in the old quarter…

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.…

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…

Eating snake every which way in Hanoi, Vietnam
Eating snake every which way in Hanoi, Vietnam

When the man bringing your meal to the table is missing most of his fingers and the main ingredient is not only still alive but also long and writhing and – hang on, is that a cobra? Well, that’s when you know this is no ordinary dining experience. Eating at one of Hanoi’s snake restaurants…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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