There is so much more to Asia than cheap beach towns like Phuket or Bali, more than congested megacities with death defying traffic and it is more than just a stopover point for a quick refuel on your way to somewhere else.
Because the major cities in Asia have so many flights connecting to the rest of the world it can be quite cheap to get there from wherever you may be. And once you arrive the possibilities for a short stay are endless.
The peace and quite of a rural retreat or tiny fishing village, the excitement of a city filled with food and history or an island escape, Asia offers it all.
To help you find somewhere new to explore or relax, or even for a new opinion on a place you are considering, we invited some amazing travel bloggers around the world to tell us where they would spend a few days in Asia. And in case you missed it, you can find another dozen great suggestions in Part One.
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan with Joan from Against the Compass.
Most people in the world know very little about Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. However, what I am going to tell you will, definitely, leave you beyond surprised. After some hectic travels around Central Asia and the Indian sub-continent, the day I got into Bishkek, I could not believe what I saw.
The streets were filled with life, joy, restaurants and all type of bars, as it turns out that, this Central Asian capital is home to a modern and Westernized society, as well as a big expat community. From sushi stalls to underground pubs and restaurants serving delicious Georgian food, Bishkek is the best place where to have a short break after some long travels.
Moreover, if you like to enjoy the local life, Bishkek is also home to many bazaars and local eateries, where you can get a taste of how to local life in Central Asia is. Would you believe if I told you that, I planned to stay in Bishkek for just a couple of days but, in the end, I stayed there for nearly four weeks? Bishkek will not disappoint you.
Hoi An, Vietnam with Gordon from Short Holidays and Getaways.
Hoi An is one of the most picturesque cities to have a short break or getaway. It is located in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Nam, and the nearest international airport is at Da Nang, just 40 minutes away.
Hoi An is known as the Yellow city, because many of the buildings in this old shipping port are painted yellow giving it a golden glow, particularly in the UNESCO heritage listed Old Town. It is also known as the city of lanterns, as these adorn many of the streets in the town.
It is also known as the tailoring capital of Vietnam, and most people will leave with at least one item of clothing that has been made in the city. Hoi An is also well known for its food, and it would be remiss not to try a bahn mi at least once.
Tioman Island, Malaysia with Callan from Singapore N Beyond.
As I am based in Singapore, things do tend to get slightly claustrophobic from time to time. That’s why I love island escapes for a bit of vitamin sea. Tioman Island is based off the East Coast of Malaysia and is a few hours ride (both bus and ferry) from Changi, Sultan Ahmad Shah (Kuantan) or Kuala Lumpur Airports.
Tioman is jam packed with activities, from golf to snorkeling and diving, trekking or just catching some rays by the pool. The tropical crystalline waters are gorgeous, the white/orange sandy beaches are calming and as a tax free island, the food and drinks are cheap and tasty.
I loved the fact that I could hire snorkeling gear on the beach and within minutes was among beautiful coral and a wide variety of fish. Nemo was found almost instantly! For those who prefer a resort with all the amenities there is Berjaya or you could try one of the isolated bungalows in the north-west, away from the tour groups, my preference.
Kerala, India with Sudipto from Salt and Sandals.
Kerala is truly known as God’s own country. With lush green hills and crystal sparkling backwaters, Kerala offers something for everyone.
But between all the hustle, we take a break to escape to the cool environs of Munnar. This hill station houses some of the best tea gardens in India and offers some beautiful and picturesque locations. Best time to visit is from February to March.
Batanes, Philippines with Aaron from Aaron Teoh.
Tucked in the northernmost corner of the Philippines is a magical, almost surreal island paradise. With friendly locals, just a handful of visitors, and stunning landscapes carved out by the elements over time, Batanes is a perfect place to get away from the crowds and be blown away by nature (figuratively, though the winds can get really strong too).
My friends and I took a 3 day tour of the islands (can be done in 2), and while the sights were amazing, the duration felt just about right. From the graceful naturally formed Nakabuang Arch set on the white sandy Morong beach, to the undulating pastures at Vayang Rolling Hills, to witnessing powerful waves from the Pacific Ocean crashing high up against the rocky cliffs at Chawa View Deck, beauty is around every corner in Batanes.
Beyond jaw-dropping views, experiences such as having a traditional Ivatan meal or the simple joy watching flying fish skim across the Pacific ocean completes the out of this world experience. After all of this, Manila, capital of the Philippines, is less than a 2 hour flight back to civilisation.
Koh Lan, Thailand with Steffi from Beach Bum Adventure.
One of my favourite Bangkok escapes is to the island of Koh Lan. It has quiet, white sand beaches and clear warm water and is a great place to get away for the weekend as it is only about 2 hours from Bangkok.
The accommodation on the island is reasonably priced and you can hire a scooter or take a motorbike taxi to visit off the beaten path beaches with barely anyone on them. I’ve eaten some really good local Thai food here and about five minutes walk from the pier you can find great fruit smoothies in the little market, fresh mango smoothies are my personal favourite.
For many people Bangkok feels a long way from the famous well-known islands but once you do some research, it’s great to know you can visit nearby beaches cheaply and without a long overnight journey.
Xi’an, China with Claire from Claire’s Footsteps.
If you’re looking for a getaway from Beijing, why not try one of China’s most significant yet lesser talked about cities, Xi’an? Even though Xi’an, like all Chinese cities, is pretty large; it can easily be explored in just two or three days.
Highlights of a trip to Xi’an include walking or biking the city walls, eating some tasty street food in the Muslim Quarter, enjoying the range of cultures and religions by wandering around the Mosque and various temples and of course, enjoying the spectacle of the Terracotta Warriors.
The warriors are what makes Xi’an special; they are an underground army built to protect the first emperor of China in its afterlife, and are certainly a spectacle to behold. But what made Xi’an the perfect short break trip for me was the city’s spirit, the range of different cultures and the way Central Asia has influenced this relatively Western part of China.
Xi’an is reachable by train from Beijing, taking 13 hours on regular rail and as little as 4 hours for high speed rail. Shanghai also services Xi’an, with regular trains taking 19 hours and high speed rail journeys being just 6 hours long. Internal flights are fairly cheap, and take just over 2 hours from Beijing and just under 3 from Shanghai.
Abu Dhabi, UAE with Alexis and Bertaut from World Travel Adventurers.
Abu Dhabi is a great city to spend a few days and get a taste of the Middle East. It is less flashy than nearby Dubai and deserves a visit. We stopped there on our way to the Maldives.
Etihad Airways offers free stopovers in Abu Dhabi so we definitely recommend taking advantage of that opportunity if you fly with them. There’s so much to love about this beautiful capital city of the U.A.E, from its gorgeous beaches to elaborate Arabian palaces. You must visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is a mind-blowing architectural masterpiece.
We stood in awe at the beauty of the mosque and recommend taking the last guided tour and staying for sunset to see the mosque illuminated at night. You also cannot miss Emirates Palace, which is the second most expensive hotel ever built. Go there for an elegant afternoon tea, a cappuccino sprinkled with edible 24 carat gold, or a camel burger. For some history and culture, visit Heritage Village to see a reconstructed desert oasis town.
You can also take a desert safari for dune bashing, sand boarding, falconry, camel rides, belly dancing, and a barbecue around a campfire. Abu Dhabi is perfect for a short visit because there’s enough to keep you entertained but not so much that you feel pressured to squeeze in everything.
Hpa-an, Myanmar with Ferna from Everywhere With Ferna.
Hpa-an is such a natural beauty in the South Eastern part of Myanmar, which is a 5 hours drive from Myawaddy (a border town in Myanmar). It is a good location for a quick visit, staying overnight seeking for a little stopover before traveling another 15 hours to Inle Lake or to anywhere in the country.
Since traveling by bus will take a longer time to my main destination-Inle Lake, an immigration officer I met upon entering Myanmar, gleefully recommending Hpa-an for a short stay. II decided to pull all things that can be done on this small, non-touristy place for 24 hours. Arriving at this town surrounded by amazing picturesque landscape had given me an abundance introduction about the country.
They have various caves, like the Kawt Goon Cave or Kawgoon Cave which has a thousand tiny Buddhas carved on the roof and its ceiling. Aside from Kawt Goon, the largest cave in town which is Saddan cave was really interesting. One of the best experience I had was the moment the thousands of bat comes out from their cave at 6 PM during sunset.
Above all, the interaction with the local was beyond my expectation, they are the kindest human being I met. I would recommend taking a visit to Hpa-an when in Myanmar for an authentic experience.
Hong Kong, China with Nathan from Foodie Flashpacker.
While living in Chiang Mai many people chose to take visa runs to the surrounding countries. I chose to instead twice visit Hong Kong.
The city has so much to see and do but because of the sky high prices a short break is a great way to spend a bit of time getting to know the city.
The famous skyline, the incredible foods, the interesting history, the insane nightlife– all of these factors make Hong Kong a great choice for a short break and will leave you wanting to plan your next visit.
Pokhara, Nepal with Natalia from My Trip Hack.
Pokhara is a unique destination that combines fantastic landscapes, trekking getaways, cultural experiences and adventurous activities. I’ve stayed in Pokhara for a few days as a part of my Nepal trip. I loved it so much that I came back for a longer stay after a few years. There is something mesmerizing about the atmosphere of this place!
The city is built around a big lake (Phewa) and surrounded by the mountains. Whether you go in the non-touristy part of the city or spend time at the lakeside, you are ensured with some great views around. At the dawn you can see the snowy peaks of Annapurna range. They look so majestic! There are numerous cute themed cafes serving cuisines from the different parts of the globe.
Pokhara is also a budget and backpacker friendly destination, where you can get your way around starting with 10 USD a day in a less touristy area of the city. I’ve worked from the several cafes and guest houses – the internet was just great.
This city has fascinated me by the quality of experience it offers and the value for money. In my opinion, Pokhara is a great destination whether you are looking for an adventurous or a relaxed stay!
Langkawi, Malaysia with Erin from Traveling Thru History.
One of the best places I’ve had a short break is Langkawi. When we lived in Malaysia my boyfriend was working and I was a full-time online college student. Any time he had time off from work we’d go somewhere, cram as much in as we could, and then come home.
During a break between terms for me we went to Langkawi to relax and unwind because we were both just so stressed out and needed a short break of something fun. The island is small enough to not be super crowded, yet large enough to offer a variety of activities.
We tend to do a lot of different things in a short span of time, which can sometimes be exhausting, but the nice thing about Langkawi is that there’s a lot to do, but not so much that you can’t take your time and enjoy a little bit of everything over a few days. We visited some cultural/historic sites, did a snorkel tour, rented a scooter to explore the island, ate at fun restaurants, hit the tourist market, checked out several beaches, and saw some amazing sunsets.
Even though I’m normally a history nerd who loves all the historic sites best, one of my favorite parts about our time in Langkawi was snorkeling with black-tipped reef sharks and hearing all the fascinating legends about the islands while out on the snorkel tour. I loved learning more about the island while doing something relaxing at the same time. That’s pretty much what Langkawi feels like: having a relaxing time doing a lot of great stuff.
Kuching, Malaysia with Us.
While most people head to Borneo in the north for their chance to experience Orangutans and other amazing wildlife in the wild, there is an alternative that is on the radar of very few western travellers.
Kuching is in the south of the island and the capital of the state of Sarawak. As well as opportunities to see the aforementioned wildlife you will also find a slower paced way of life, cultural experiences and some of the cheapest and best food in Malaysia.
We found very few western tourists during our visit which suited us perfectly. It gave us a chance to watch and interact with another culture as the people go about their daily lives without having to “play it up” for the tourist dollars. It is a fantastic spot for something different in Malaysia.