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The Indonesian island of Bali is a favourite destination for both adventurers and those in need of a little relaxation. The waters off the coast of Bali's white beaches are an ideal spot for diving, while the dense jungles, teeming with monkeys and hidden stone temples, call out for exploration. Hike the rugged path to the summit of Mount Batur, and your effort will be rewarded with a stunning view. Then coax your sore muscles back into action with a massage at one of Bali's many luxury spas.
Siem Reap is a fast-growing city with plenty of new hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. But chances are, you’re here not because of the city itself, but for what’s nearby: amazingly well-preserved ancient temples. Even if you have the worst jet lag ever, drag yourself out of bed to be at Angkor archaeological Park when it opens—sunrise over Angkor Wat is worth losing sleep over.
Phuket offers a rainbow spectrum of spectacular holiday sights from blue lagoons and pink sunsets to orange-robed monks. Three wheeled-Tuk Tuks, taxis, buses and long tailed boats transport visitors between these marvels. Phuket's south coast offers its most popular beaches. The north is more tranquil. Koh Phi Phi, Phang Nga Bay and Patong Beach are popular spots. Diving, snorkeling, wind surfing and sailing are just a few active options. Inland, forested hills, mountains and cliffs wait to be explored.
This city on the central Vietnamese coast is a well-preserved example of the important Southeast Asian trading port it was from the 15th-19th centuries. Already a common stop for backpackers, it is becoming better known to tourists. On the 14th day of each lunar month, the town trades its electric lights for traditional coloured lanterns. Sights include the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Quan Cong Temple. Let the town’s expert tailors make you some bespoke clothing.
Nepal's capital is situated in a valley full of historic sites, ancient temples and shrines, golden pagodas and fascinating villages. Hotels, bars and restaurants cater to all budgets. Shops offer handicrafts, carpets and Nepali paper prints. Bus services, taxis and bicycles open up the city. Trek to see the Monkey Temple, the valley's oldest and most sacred shrine. Mingle with locals and animals amid Durbar Square's monuments and temples, or join mountain trekkers in the bustling Thamel District.
The charming Vietnamese capital has aged well, preserving the Old Quarter, monuments and colonial architecture, while making room for modern developments alongside. Hanoi may have shrugged off several former names, including Thang Long, or "ascending dragon", but it hasn't forgotten its past, as sites such as Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison attest. Lakes, parks, shady boulevards and more than 600 temples and pagodas add to the appeal of this city, which is easily explored by taxi.
You’re on a gorgeous island off the coast of Thailand—it doesn’t get much better than this. Spend the day on a lively, popular beach, or explore the Ang Thong National Marine Park’s secluded lagoons. Looking for romance? Choose a luxurious five-star resort, a simple, secluded bungalow or pretty much anything in between.
Bangkok is full of exquisitely decorated Buddhist temples—as you go from one to the next you’ll be continually blown away by the craftsmanship and elabourate details. But if you’d rather seek enlightenment in a gourmet meal, or dance the night away, you’ll also enjoy Bangkok—the restaurant and nightclub scenes here are among the best in the world.
Tokyo can't be judged from the outside, since those expecting ancient monuments will instead be greeted with modern drabness. The Imperial Palace, still home to the Emperor, shouldn't be missed, and the Edo-Tokyo Museum details the city's history. Sensoji Temple is the city's oldest, and the Tokyo National Museum holds the largest collection of Japanese art in the world.
East meets West in this sun-soaked state, where Indian culture intertwines with Portuguese influences left over from a 500-year occupation. The beaches have long served as a magnet for serene hedonists. To the north, the tourist-centric scene is prevalent, with an international flair that is now skewing more hip than hippie. Travel south for stretches of unspoiled sand and an escape from large resorts. Temples, mosques and wildlife sanctuaries provide diversions from the beach.
Chiang Mai is a study in vibrant contrasts—here, ancient temples (over 300) are as much of a draw as trendy bars, hotels and restaurants. You’ll also find adventure activities (like white-water rafting tours) and a wide range of spas.
Laid out by British architect Edwin Lutyens, the Indian capital is a striking modern metropolis. A gracious contrast to Old Delhi's winding streets, the grand avenues and stately buildings of New Delhi are rich with history and culture, from Gandhi's Delhi home (and the site of his assassination) to the tomb of Humayun, a complex of Mughal buildings reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. Chaotic traffic is best left to the locals. Negotiate a good price for taxis or travel on the new Delhi Metro.
Hong Kong's a great city for an adventurous eater. Stop at a street vendor for fish balls on a stick or stinky tofu. Bakeries offer wife cake, pineapple buns and egg tarts. Or opt for as much dim sum as you can eat. If you're tired of local and regional Chinese specialties, check out upscale offerings from some of the world's top chefs, like Joel Robouchon and Alain Ducasse.
Drifting serenely in the Gulf of Thailand, the palm-fringed island of Ko Tao takes its name from the abundant sea turtles that reside on its shores. White sand beaches sheltered by steep hills – some only accessible with four-wheel drive vehicles – and 300 days of sun per year invite long afternoons of lounging.
Singapore is known as a bustling metropolis that also happens to be one of the cleanest and safest cities of its size in the world. (Just make sure you heed the local laws—something like spitting in the street might merely be considered rude in your hometown, but here, it carries a severe penalty.) You'll find historic sites like the Thian Hock Keng temple, superlative shopping (including gargantuan malls) and numerous beaches.
Move over, Haussmann and l'Enfant. Beijing's urban planner beat you by a couple of centuries. His name is Kublai Khan. Here, you'll find a wealth of history, both ancient (the Hall of Preserving Harmony, Summer Palace, Forbidden City) and more recent (Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, Tienanmen Square). For the best market experience, choose the Dirt Market over the touristy Silk Market.
If you take one look at the glorious stucco buildings that line Jaipur's wide streets, you'll understand why this is nicknamed "The Pink City." Spend your days exploring City Palace, Hawa Mahal, and Amber and Jaigarh forts. And if you're looking for a unique souvenir, head to one of the bazaars, where you can pick up a pair of camel-leather slippers.
Where better to go for a romantic holiday than to the great testament of love, the Taj Mahal? Built by the grieving Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal’s unrivaled beauty explains why it’s regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world. A visit to India wouldn’t be complete without it. Other must-experience destinations in Agra are two other UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the sandstone Red Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
Regardless of season, it's hard not to succumb to romance as you wander Kyoto's atmospheric streets, gaze at the glimmering Kinkaku-ji Pavilion, enjoy the traditional dances of the geisha or feast at restaurants over the Kamo River. Only Rome has more World Heritage Sites than the former Japanese capital. But happily unlike Rome, Kyoto maintains its calmness and romance even among throngs of summer tourists. (Editor's note: Our list was compiled before Japan's devastating earthquake of March 11, 2011. Kyoto did not sustain major damage, but we encourage all travellers to Japan to monitor travel alerts from their government.)
Vietnam's bustling largest city sets the cultural and economic pace for the country. The former Saigon boasts charming French colonial architecture and wide boulevards, usually thronged and choked with traffic. Taxis are an option for seeing the sprawling city. The War Remnants Museum shows the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes. Don't miss the impressive Jade Emperor Pagoda. Go to the frenetic Ben Thanh Market for food, flowers or frogs. Take a tour through the Mekong Delta, past rice paddies and houseboats.
Palawan is a slice of heaven, a sliver of an island that teems with exotic wildlife, quaint fishing villages, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Wave hello to endangered animals at the Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary or explore the Japanese shipwrecks of Coron Island, regarded as one of the best dive sites in the world. A guided boat tour of the Puerto Princesa Underground River will take your breath away.
Most visitors to Pokhara stop here before starting or after finishing the "Round Annapurana" trekking route. Because of its popularity with travellers, the city itself has relatively modern hotels and restaurants, but you’ll also find ancient lakes, waterfalls and gorges, and, of course, majestic views of the Himalayan Mountains.
From modern skyscrapers and neon lights to Buddhist temples, palaces and pagodas, Seoul is a fascinating mix of old and new. A hub of business, culture and finance both within South Korea and internationally, Seoul houses the headquarters for some of the world's largest corporations. It also has one of the world's best subway systems the easiest way to get around in this densely populated area. For the best view of the city, go to the tower on Namsan, one of the mountains that encircle the city.