Features // Asia

Tokyo or Kyoto: where to visit first
Tokyo or Kyoto: where to visit first

Where first, Tokyo or Kyoto – it should be an easy choice, right? They’re polar opposites, after all: Tokyo is a land of neon and skyscrapers, the archetypal metropolis; Kyoto is full of kimono-clad geisha, temples and tea ceremonies. So just decide whether you want your first glimpse of Japan to be cutting-edge modernity or high-brow…

Bali travel tips: 10 things to know before you go
Bali travel tips: 10 things to know before you go

With its coral-speckled beaches, luscious green rice terraces and blissful azure seas, Bali has long been a haven for surfers, sun worshippers and yoga junkies alike. Whether you’re planning the adventure of a lifetime or a week of relaxation, here are 10 Bali travel tips to help you make the most of your visit. 1.…

Sapporo: Japan’s unsung city
Sapporo: Japan’s unsung city

Japan is a country that lives up to your expectations. Tokyo is as frenetic and exciting as you’d hope; Kyoto is full of historic shrines and temples; Ōsaka is brash, bright and foodie. But the problem with visiting world-famous cities whose reputations precede them is that… well, their reputations have preceded them. If you really want…

Everything you need to know about Japan’s bullet trains
Everything you need to know about Japan’s bullet trains

Surely one of Japan’s most iconic images is an impossibly fast bullet train (or “shinkansen”) speeding past snow-capped Mount Fuji – you know the photo. Clichéd as it is, it captures that most Japanese of phenomena, the seamless blending of the ancient and the modern. Beautiful views aside, the bullet train really is one of those must-do…

Avoid the crowds: 6 ways to get off the tourist trail in northern Japan
Avoid the crowds: 6 ways to get off the tourist trail in northern Japan

Japan is a country full of incredible sights: the ancient temples of Kyoto and Nara; Tokyo’s glittering streets; the floating shrine gate at Miyajima; Beppu’s red, steaming hot springs. The only problem with this list of alluring sights? It completely ignores half the country. So it’s time to look a little further up on the…

9 tips for backpacking Vietnam
9 tips for backpacking Vietnam

With striking landscapes, large stretches of lovely coastline, intriguing cities and excellent food, it’s no wonder the number of tourists in Vietnam has more than doubled in the last decade or so. The country is changing at lightning speed, and with roads being improved, comfortable long-distance buses and a decent train network, it’s easy to…

10 Sri Lankan foods you need to try
10 Sri Lankan foods you need to try

The tear-shaped Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka is a true culinary treat. Through years of colonisation and trade, many cultures have influenced its cuisine, creating a spice-filled fusion of Dutch, Portuguese, English, Malay, Indian and indigenous flavours to tantalise the taste buds. There’s certainly no shortage of fish, seafood, vegetables and spices to turn…

A taste of Kolkata: the foodie capital of India
A taste of Kolkata: the foodie capital of India

India’s most underrated city, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is a far cry from its negative stereotypes: it’s friendly, attractive and home to some of the best – and most diverse – food in the country. Shafik Meghji picks out seven essential foodie experiences. 1. Pick up a kati roll Kolkata’s ultimate street food is the kati…

On the trail of Sri Lanka’s famous film locations
On the trail of Sri Lanka’s famous film locations

Ever since the 1950s glory days of the silver screen, film producers and directors such as Don Boyd (Elephant Rock, 1977) have raved about how the beauty, light and variety of the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka make it a perfect outdoor film set. It was acclaimed author Arthur C Clarke who said the…

Stunning documentary on Nepal shows restoration of the country’s sites
Stunning documentary on Nepal shows restoration of the country’s sites

“The only thing you could focus on was the fact that the earth was moving from side to side by about eight to ten metres.” These are the words of Kathmandu resident Amritman Buddhachari as he describes the huge earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015, destroying many of the important historical Buddhist sites throughout the country.…

Living the good life in Borneo
Living the good life in Borneo

Life in the beautiful region of Sapulot is relaxed and uncomplicated, and the communities who live here want to keep it that way. They are inviting visitors to this remote part of Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, to show them the Murut way of life. Ros Walford went to find out…

Travel writing competition 2016: the winner!
Travel writing competition 2016: the winner!

After more than 800 entries and weeks of deliberation, we are pleased to announce that Olivia Toye is the winner of the Rough Guides and GapYear.com travel writing competition. Congratulations Olivia! The judges were particularly impressed with her skilful storytelling, carrying the reader through her piece with detailed observations alongside depictions of the region’s majestic landscapes.  You can read her full entry…

These six European-style towns are actually in Shanghai
These six European-style towns are actually in Shanghai

Wherever you go in downtown Shanghai, you’ll be struck by international influence both past and present. From the leafy avenues of the former French Concession to the modern malls on Nanjing West Road, this is a city that grew up with globalisation. For a different – and less crowded – take on cosmopolitanism, head to…

Photos: China’s record-breaking glass bridge is nearly complete
Photos: China’s record-breaking glass bridge is nearly complete

In another update on China‘s record-breaking bridge over the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon – which we’re promised is “almost finished” – new photographs have emerged of the near-complete construction. But they don’t exactly inspire confidence in any prospective visitors… This enormous feat in engineering will be the world’s longest glass-bottom bridge at 430m-long, and the highest of its kind, sitting…

Okinawa: Japan’s best-kept secret
Okinawa: Japan’s best-kept secret

Snow-white beaches, giant coconut-eating crabs and karate-loving grannies: Okinawa is Japan but not as we know it. This alluring chain of sun-kissed, hibiscus-draped islands offers a blend of Southeast Asian heat, unique ‘un-Japanese’ culture and delicious, life-extending food. Andy Turner explores how to make the most of a trip to Japan’s subtropical paradise. Find the…

9 tips for backpacking Myanmar (Burma)
9 tips for backpacking Myanmar (Burma)

In 2011, after 15 years of a tourism boycott to avoid aiding the oppressive military junta, Myanmar opened its doors to visitors. The country, now with a democratically elected government, is improving its tourism infrastructure but still struggles to cope with the huge influx of visitors. If you’re thinking of backpacking Myanmar, these tips will…

21 beautiful pictures of China to get your wanderlust going
21 beautiful pictures of China to get your wanderlust going

Vast, densely populated and brilliantly diverse, China is undoubtedly beguiling. With a population of over 1.3 billion people, it can feel as if the whole world is crammed into its busy cities. Yet there are mountains and plains so empty you’d think you were the only person on Earth. We’ve chosen 21 pictures of China by…

Chinese restaurant etiquette: a step-by-step guide
Chinese restaurant etiquette: a step-by-step guide

You’ve heard the one about not sticking your chopsticks straight up in rice, right? (It resembles funerary incense sticks). Honestly? Don’t fret. Because let’s face it; you’ve got bigger problems than antiquated cultural faux-pas. Like how to actually order and eat a table-full of delicious Chinese food in a regular, everyday, non-touristy Chinese restaurant –…

Video: The essence of Japan in 4 minutes
Video: The essence of Japan in 4 minutes

This is not your average travel montage. With jaw-dropping shots, expert composition and an undeniable sense of cool, filmmakers Vincent Urban, Alex Schiller and Alex Tank seem to capture the essence of Japan in this four-minute video. Click play and prepare to be hurled into a whole new world. Get swallowed by Tokyo’s onslaught of…

9 essential tips for backpacking Thailand
9 essential tips for backpacking Thailand

Backpacking Thailand can mean staying in fun-packed hostels and idyllic beach bungalows, eating noodles so tasty and so cheap you’ll swear off all other food groups and climbing aboard everything from an overnight train to a lolloping elephant. But it also means following a well-worn route – one that has sprouted an entire industry to…

A Rough Guide to drinking Japanese sake
A Rough Guide to drinking Japanese sake

I say “sake”, you say… The lowest form of wit? No, not “sarcy” – as in sarcastic – but sake, as in the Japanese drink. So actually, you say “cheers,” or “kanpai!” This Japanese drink is the traditional alcoholic accompaniment to food in Japan, and it’s something you’ll come across wherever you go in the…

The 7 most beautiful places in Southeast Asia – chosen by you
The 7 most beautiful places in Southeast Asia – chosen by you

It’s not just appearance that makes up the beauty of a place. Often, travellers will cite the people as the most beautiful thing about a country or culture. In Southeast Asia, there’s no doubt there is beauty in every form – and now our readers have voted to decide which countries are the most beautiful. Here…

Painting the town red, pink, green and yellow: Holi Festival 2016 in pictures
Painting the town red, pink, green and yellow: Holi Festival 2016 in pictures

Every year, Hindus around the world celebrate Holi Festival: the festival of colours. The event attracts many non-Hindus to take part, too, with hundreds of people gathering to throw coloured powder at one another – a tradition supposedly started by Krishna as a young boy when he used to throw paint over the gopis (milkmaids). The result, of…

Video: a 1 minute guide to Japan
Video: a 1 minute guide to Japan

Japan has long captivated the imaginations of travellers around the globe, seeming to both baffle and beguile all who venture there. Between language barriers and Japan’s rather deceiving size (roughly stretching the length of Miami to Montreal) it’s all too easy to miss out on Japan’s best spots during the trip planning process. From countryside…

13 tips for backpacking India
13 tips for backpacking India

Whether you’re hurtling along in a rickshaw, eating fantastic curries, kicking back on the backwaters or hiking in the mountains, backpacking India will always be an adventure. You’ll need your wits about you, and preparation is key – here are our top tips to making your journey as smooth as possible. 1. Eat where the locals eat Restaurant…

These amazing photos of Thailand will intensify your wanderlust
These amazing photos of Thailand will intensify your wanderlust

Professional photographer Ian Barin shares some of his favourite pictures of Thailand.  Thailand. It’s everything you’ve heard; a beautifully complex country filled with big temples, mouthwatering foods, gorgeous coastlines, modern cities, mountainous jungles, and fascinating history and people to go along with it. Although Thailand is a very established travel destination in Southeast Asia, one…

Video: top 5 things to do in Kerala
Video: top 5 things to do in Kerala

We sent Rough Guides editor Rachel Mills to the southernmost tip of the Indian Subcontinent to research Kerala for the upcoming Rough Guide to India. From tea estates in lush green hills to sultry palm-fringed backwaters, plus a host of deserted beaches, she dove beneath the surface and immersed herself in the region’s natural wonders, lavish festivals and heavenly South Indian…

20 brilliantly colourful pictures of India
20 brilliantly colourful pictures of India

Professional photographer Tim Bird shares some of his incredible pictures of India.  I’ve been fascinated by everything to do with India from about the age of 13 when I first heard the sitar being played on Beatles records. These days I’m an India addict. I’m involved with a small Finnish-based NGO, Tikau Share, which focuses…

7 reasons why Langkawi is Malaysia’s ultimate island escape
7 reasons why Langkawi is Malaysia’s ultimate island escape

Looking to unwind on a tropical island somewhere in Southeast Asia? Then head to the island of Langkawi, Malaysia’s ultimate escape from the country’s frenetic cities. From trekking into the rainforest to wildlife-watching – all between spells of relaxing on a wide, sandy beach – here are a few reasons why you should escape to Langkawi. 1.…

16 captivating pictures of hill tribes in Laos
16 captivating pictures of hill tribes in Laos

Professional travel photographer Tim Draper has shot images for 24 Rough Guides guidebooks, visiting far-flung corners around the world. Here he shares some of his stunning shots taken in northern Laos, where he spent time with the Akha people. I‘d been trudging steadily uphill through dense jungle in heavy rain for over seven hours when I caught…

Seoul food: the transformation of a neighbourhood
Seoul food: the transformation of a neighbourhood

Itaewon, a neighbourhood in the South Korean capital Seoul, is on the up and food is at the forefront of its renaissance. Here Amy Guttman explores a district undergoing an exciting edible regeneration. For decades, Itaewon has largely been known for two things: the US Army stationed there since the Korean War, and seedy bars where…

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City: where should you visit first?
Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City: where should you visit first?

Situated at the northern and southern extremes of this long, thin country, Vietnam’s two main cities lie over a thousand kilometres apart. Southern Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly Saigon, was the US base during the Vietnam War and since the country’s unification has transformed into a thoroughly modern, thriving metropolis. The somewhat less modern…

11 gorgeous pictures of Cambodia
11 gorgeous pictures of Cambodia

This beguiling country in Southeast Asia has captured the hearts and imaginations of travellers from all over the world. Travel photographer Fiona Campbell is one of many entranced by its magic; here she shares 11 of her favourite photos.  What makes Cambodia extraordinary is its cheerful, smiling people. Despite the fragility of this country, these are broadly…

An insider’s guide to Thailand: 9 tips from our author
An insider’s guide to Thailand: 9 tips from our author

Having finally settled down in Thailand after twenty years of toing and froing, our author, Paul, has plenty to write home about. Here are some of his favourite experiences from the new Rough Guide to Thailand. 1. Get a traditional massage in Bangkok A good pummelling at the massage pavilions amid the historic, kaleidoscopic architecture…

Hyderabad: India’s most up-and-coming city
Hyderabad: India’s most up-and-coming city

A fascinating, fast-developing city in southern India, Hyderabad is one of India’s up-and-coming tourist destinations. Co-author of the Rough Guide to India, Nick Edwards, gives us an insider’s guide. The rapidly growing metropolis of Hyderabad and its twin city Secunderabad occupy a fascinating place somewhere between India’s past and future. The old town is by far…

Undiscovered India: 7 places to get off the tourist trail
Undiscovered India: 7 places to get off the tourist trail

Despite India’s vastness, foreign travellers tend to clump together in a relatively small number of well-known regions or cities, leaving plenty of destinations to the more intrepid few who are willing to take the challenge of escaping the tourist trail. Here’s a selection of our favourites: 1. Climb to spiritual highs in Palitana, Gujarat Gujarat…

Andhra Pradesh: India’s unknown backwaters destination
Andhra Pradesh: India’s unknown backwaters destination

In search of somewhere a little more adventurous and lot less travelled than the famous backwaters of Kerala? Head to the Godavari Delta on the eastern coast of Andhra Pradesh, where you’ll find a rich area for exploration says Nick Edwards, co-author of The Rough Guide to India. The mighty Godavari, second only in length to the Ganges,…

The stunning Philippines in pictures
The stunning Philippines in pictures

Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere shares some of her best photographs of the Philippines from her latest trip to Southeast Asia.  Comprising 7107 islands, the Philippines boasts some of the world’s most incredibly diverse landscapes – nowhere more so than Luzon, the country’s largest island. Northern Luzon is home to the country’s remotest wildernesses, a…

Discover Indonesia: our film of the week
Discover Indonesia: our film of the week

Searching for that daily dose of travel inspiration? Look no further, but don’t be surprised if your feet start to itch for Indonesia. This archipelago nation is vast and complex: the world’s fourth most populous country, home to roughly 700 living languages and 300 ethnicities. Its massive size is still an enigma – even in the age…

Trekking in Thailand: the best routes
Trekking in Thailand: the best routes

Thailand is ripe for trekking. From its dripping, pristine rainforests to its towering, mist-enveloped mountains, there is a landscape that just begs you to get out on two feet and explore. But the real joy of trekking in Thailand here is nothing to do with the scenery, it’s the people that make every step count, from…

Where to stay in Bangkok: an area by area guide
Where to stay in Bangkok: an area by area guide

Bangkok is vast. There’s a population of 11 million people within its 1500 square kilometres and towering high-rise buildings of up to 304m-high. It’s a modern metropolis with frenetic markets, traditional temples and a brilliant nightlife. But where should you base yourself? Whatever kind of trip you’re planning, here’s the lowdown on where to stay…

19 pictures of Hong Kong that’ll have you reaching for your camera
19 pictures of Hong Kong that’ll have you reaching for your camera

Named one of the most photogenic destinations by Rough Guides photographer Tim Draper, Hong Kong in undeniably striking. Whether it’s the brilliant skyline lit up at night, the colourful street scenes or even the surrounding countryside, there’s a picture to be taken at every turn. Here are 19 gorgeous Hong Kong pictures from Picfair‘s best photographers…

7 of the best places to go hiking in Japan
7 of the best places to go hiking in Japan

Few countries in Asia boasts such dramatic natural diversity and such a range of hiking opportunities as Japan. Mountains make up two thirds of the country, with beaches fringing the coast and the balmy southern islands. There are active volcanoes to tackle, epic long-distance pilgrimage routes once smoothed by the feet of emperors, and steep…

Go it alone: solo travel in Thailand
Go it alone: solo travel in Thailand

Thailand is the quintessential backpacker destination. Here you can make the first footprints on secluded sands, dance shoeless under a full moon and swim beneath cascading waterfalls. Running through Thailand’s rainforests and temples and looping around its islands and beaches is the so-called “banana pancake trail”, a well-worn, tried and tested backpacker route that has…

The other Bali: an alternative guide to the Island of Gods
The other Bali: an alternative guide to the Island of Gods

Beyond the mystical sounds of gamelan and the intricate craft of batik, Bali boasts a world of subcultures often overlooked by visitors. The art makes bold statements, nightlife sometimes involves a new tattoo, and music is anything but serene. On an island where locals are often denied entry from bars and clubs, an experience off…

Sri Lanka: 10 tips for first-time visitors
Sri Lanka: 10 tips for first-time visitors

A country in the throes of massive change, Sri Lanka’s heady mix of British colonial heritage, beautiful landscapes and incredibly friendly locals make it a beguiling destination. But the tropical isle has only cropped up on travellers’ radars in recent years, following the end of the country’s 26-year-long civil war in 2009. With more tourists…

10 street foods you need to try in Taiwan
10 street foods you need to try in Taiwan

Taiwanese xiǎochī, or “small eats”, are justly famed, and no trip would be complete without several street food feasts. Night markets are among the best – and cheapest – places to try a selection, and you’ll want to leave plenty of time to go from stall to stall to seek out the best. To whet…

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