The Best Places in Asia for a short getaway – Part One

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We have asked some travellers to tell us the best places in Asia to spend a few days. See where they chose.
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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.

Tokyo, Japan with Matilda from The Travel Sisters.

Tokyo is one of the best cities in the world for a short break. I love Tokyo for so many reasons including the food, the people, the culture and its efficiency. Not only is Tokyo a large cosmopolitan city with many attractions but it is mix of traditional and modern.

One of the best times to visit Tokyo is during the cherry blossom festival

From the celebrated sakura (cherry blossoms) in the spring to the delicious sushi to catching a sumo match to watching a kabuki performance, there is no shortage of unique things to do.

If you only have 2 or 3 days in Tokyo, walk across Shibuya Crossing (the world’s most famous intersection), people watch at Yoyogi Park and the surrounding Harajuku area and make an early morning visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market to watch the tuna auction and have fresh sushi for breakfast. Make sure to also visit one of Tokyo’s many cute and quirky cafes – there are robot cafes, maid cafes and various animal cafes to choose from.

Chiang Rai, Thailand with Diana from Czech Souls.

Chiang Rai, situated in the Golden Triangle in the North of Thailand is a small town full of harmony and beautiful sights. It’s most famous for White Temple which is breathtaking andt’s a perfect place for a short break away from busy cities.

Chiang Rai is a true hidden gem of Thailand

In the afternoon, you can sit down and enjoy your coffee in Cat ‘n’ a Cup Cat Café and relax with a cat in your lap. For the next day, head to Phu Chi Fa – a mountain not too far from Chiang Rai, where you can get some exercise while walking up.

Reward yourself by looking at both Laos and Thailand from above. Feel the calmness of this place and enjoy the sunrise and sunset in the mountains. Not a big fan of hiking? Take a bicycle and cycle to one of the Elephant Sanctuaries near the town!

Kodaikanal, India with Sandy and Vyjay from Voyager.

It was a long weekend and we thought it the ideal time to head out into the mountains to spend some time in the midst of nature. We had a couple of days and we wanted to use the time to rejuvenate and recharge our energies in some salubrious surroundings away from the ceaseless cacophony of our city.

The beautiful rural retreat of Kodaikanal in India

We headed out to a hill station called Kodaikanal which is at an altitude of about 2,000 metres above sea level and is situated approximately 463 kilometres from Bangalore, the capital of the southern state of Karnataka in India.

A heady fragrance of pine and eucalyptus assailed our nostrils as we drove into Kodaikanal, the landscape around was soothing to our senses and drew in large gulps of the fresh mountain air. Kodaikanal is a popular hill station and hordes of urban dwellers from the plains make a beeline to it during weekends.

This results in the place getting a bit crowded. However this time we were staying in a place which was outside Kodaikanal and plum in between the mountains in a picturesque valley that was surrounded by potato farms. We spent the couple of days doing activities which were off beat and we went to places that the normal travelers did not go to.

We went for an exhilarating hike up into the mountains, we saw clouds floating by and could almost touch them. We went deep into the jungles of Kodaikanal and spotted some wildlife. We spent some blissful moments at an ethereal lake where time seemed to stand still amidst the stillness of the forest, a silence which was broken only by the chirping of the birds. In short we spent our time very close to nature and returned revitalized, with memories that would remain evergreen in our minds and hearts.

Taipei, Taiwan with Mike from Live Travel Teach.

Taipei is a great place for a short break because it has awesome public transportation, is near the airport and has LOTS to see, do and eat. Many flights into mainland Asia have a layover in Taipei which is one of the reasons it’s so accessible for a short term visit.

A cultural feast will greet you when you visit Taipei

You can hop on a cheap airport bus to any number of destinations around the city or to the central Taipei station. The first time I went to Taiwan I spent a weekend in Taipei and I hope you get a chance to do the same!

Taipei’s night markets are famous throughout the world and the best part is they are all over the city so it doesn’t matter where you’re staying. Be sure to check out Wulai for a beautiful waterfall and natural hot spring to soak in by the river. There are dozens of hot springs in Beitou district if you want something a little closer to the city.

The Longshan temple is great for anyone looking for a cultural experience with some beautiful architecture. Hikers can head to the Elephant Mountain for a great view of the 101 building and everyone will enjoy Taipei’s delicious food! I highly recommend finding soup dumplings and adventurous eaters should try stinky tofu too.

As you can see Taipei is the perfect spot for a long layover or short getaway but it’ll probably just whet your appetite for all the other amazing places that Taiwan has to offer.

Melaka, Malaysia with Bron from Smith’s Holiday Road.

The historical UNESCO city of Malacca, Malaysia is just a 2 hour bus trip away from the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The UNESCO listed town of Melaka is a very different experience to the rest of Malaysia

It is the perfect city to explore for a few days as you take in the amazing architecture, colourful houses, river cruise and of course the food. Get lost in the small alleyways off the river and discover some beautiful street art, traditional Nonya food and chat with locals who have been living here there whole lives.

Follow the music and head to Little India to enjoy a meal served traditionally on a banana leaf served with a fresh mango lassi. Back on the main street jump in a trishaw for a town tour but be prepared for it to be decorated in Pokemon, Hello Kitty or Minions and bright lights and be sure to wave good night to everyone you pass.

Mindoro, Philippines with Katherine from Tara Lets Anywhere.

One of the best places for a short break for people in the busy capital of Manila in the Philippines is Mindoro. Mindoro is known for the beaches and loud parties in Puerto Galera, but only a few people know that on the other side of this province there is a perfect area for unwinding called Bulalacao.

The beautiful islands on the quiet side of Mindoro, Philippines

Bulalacao is a municipality featuring several beautiful islands. Here, you can have your accommodation in quiet beach resorts or one of those native huts facing the beach. You can swim and snorkel, visit a secret lagoon or explore a nature park-like island with winding stairs set on a mountain, which gives great views over the ocean.

I love Bulalacao because it’s very simplistic in beauty and that you can just rest all weekend or do a little bit of fun activity. Either way, it’s perfect for a short break.

Palau Kapas, Malaysia with Jub from Tiki Touring Kiwi.

Malaysia isn’t usually known for its beaches, but that’s a missed opportunity. While everyone heads to Thailand, I loved spending time on Kapas Island for a few days of snorkelling and lazing up and down the very good looking beaches.

Malaysia's beautiful Kapas Island is the perfect escape from a busy lifestyle

Located on the east coast of Malaysia, tourist numbers here do not come close to that of the Thai islands. The island life is simple, there are no cars so you have no choice but to walk along the pristine beaches to your restaurant of choice.

The laid back vibes are addictive and given there is very little wifi on the island, you can’t help but have deep insightful conversations with others on the island.

Hanoi, Vietnam with Gordon from Short Holidays and Getaways.

The capital city of Vietnam is Hanoi, and it is one of the most exciting cities to visit, even if just for a few days. Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a labyrinth of winding alleys and streets. The Old Quarter in Hanoi is the oldest and major commercial district.

The Vitnamese Capital of Hanoi is one of Asia's most exciting cities.

The irregular streets are named after the goods and services sold in the street, and these date back about 1,000 years. It is in these back streets that you get to eat traditional Vietnamese food, like Vietnamese BBQ and hotpot, try Vietnamese egg coffee, and where you can stop at a bia hoi corner, and have a beer for 20 cents with the locals. This also gives you a chance to stop and watch the frenetic pace of the city.

With a population of 7.588 million and over 4 million ‘legally registered’ motorbikes, there is an art form to crossing the road in Hanoi so stopping, and watching is a good idea. Hoàn Kiếm Lake is in the middle of the city and where you can see people practising tai chi every morning. It is also lovely to walk around the lake. On a more sombre note, you can pay your respects at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi. Hanoi in Vietnam is a perfect city to visit for a short break.

Dubai, UAE with Verushka from Spice Goddess.

This constantly buzzing city is perfect for a short break and I can vouch for that after doing a 48 hour stint in the city. And boy oh boy did I need more time with so much to see, do and eat.

Dubai is a city full of excitement, history and wonderful flavours

With Dubai being the hub of travel in the UAE it is often a stopover flight for many travellers heading off to other destinations. More travellers are now opting to spend a day or two taking in the sights and sounds of Dubai. I love the fact that Dubai is such a fast paced city with so many things to suit all traveller types from the shopping and culture to the new theme parks which now make it a great family holiday spot.

With late night shopping in a city that never sleeps Dubai is always happening. A shoppers paradise with several large malls and souks there are bargains to be found and haggling is a necessary skill.

One of the best ways to see as much of Dubai in a short space of time is doing one of the Hop On Hop Off Bus tours which is great value for money. Dubai is a perfect destination for a short break , so next time you are flying via Dubai do spend a few days taking in sights , sounds and flavour of Dubai.

Ko Lanta, Thailand with Tasha from Backpackers Wanderlust.

Ko Lanta is the perfect place for a short break when you are in Thailand. Allowing you to get away from touristic places likes Koh Phi Phi and Phuket without having to travel far. It is easily accessible by ferry and there is even a bridge now which connects this island with the mainland.

The Thai island of Ko Lanta is the perfect option for those wanting a less touristy destination

There are so many things to do in Ko Lanta. From exploring the picture perfect beaches, chasing waterfalls and watching the beautiful sunsets. If you are looking for monkey friends make sure to check out Mu Ko Lanta National Park. While there walk up to the old lighthouse for never ending ocean views from the cliffs which drop straight down into the ocean.

My all time favourite thing to do in Ko Lanta is hiring a scooter and exploring the Island. The road basically goes in a circle around the island so it is super easy to find your way around. There are some amazing restaurants perched on the top of cliffs with the most stunning views. You will constantly be pulling over and taking pictures. Make sure to set aside at least half a day for exploring the island by scooter.

A trip to Ko Lanta is perfect place for a short break with never ending views, amazing sunsets and picturesque beaches, what more could you want!

Varanasi, India with Miguel from Travelsauro.

Varanasi, also known as Benares, is a holy city and famous pilgrimage site in the north of India. As it is blessed by the mighty Ganga River, the Hindus believe that if you die there, you’ll free yourself from another cycle of reincarnation and go straight to Nirvana.

Varanasi is one of India's most interesting cities.

For tourists, it’s one of the most interesting, unique and intense destinations in India. It’s a great getaway for two or three days, during which you can stroll its alleys, visit several temples or just sit on the Ghats and watch the world go by.

You’ll see hundreds of gurus, sadhus and other characters around the Ghats. There are always ceremonies going on, as well as purification baths and cremations. Yes, there are several Ghats whose main function is to burn the dead. The show is open and anyone can watch. Although the ceremony is fascinating, keep in mind that it’s not for everyone’s taste.

I also recommend that you hire a boat and take a ride along the Ganga. Watching the city from the river is probably the best way to truly appreciate its chaos and beauty!

George Town, Malaysia with Melanie from Adventures in Overland.

George Town is a fantastic place for a short break. Whether you’re travelling through Malaysia or on a long haul flight and want a few days back down at sea level; it’s a great stopping off point. It’s easy to get to from larger cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore; and won’t disappoint.

George Town in Malaysia is the perfect mix of culture, history and food

Where to start describing it?! For me, George Town has it all. The older part of the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city has long been known as the food capital of Malaysia. What more could you want? Except maybe for it to not be so damn hot, but get up early and wander the streets in the cooler temperature of the morning.

You’ll constantly stumble across quirky street art AND the inner, older city is an architectural gem. Every street in the old part seems to offer you something different. Check out the Pinang Peranakan Mansion museum, take the Penang Hill railway and be rewarded with an aerial view of the city, do a food tour and end your day sipping cocktails from a roof-top bar. It really is a wonderful place and has it all. Oh, and it even has a cat cafe!

Want more great options for a short break in Asia? Part two is here. Or why not check on these great options in Europe, the Americas or Australia and New Zealand?

14 COMMENTS

  1. I lived in Melaka for a few months at my friends home. Good times. Enjoyed the food from Palau Kapas then a lot of times. It was my favorite place to be back in that period. Feeling nostalgic now. 🙂 Thanks, Dean.

    • I was supposed to go to Melaka a few times way back when I was in the Air Force but never got there. It is definitely a place I want to visit at some stage Steve.

  2. I loved George town and Melaka, and both are perfect for short breaks. Malaysia has lots of great places outside Kuala Lumpur that most people miss. I would be happy visiting any of these spots, but I think Taipei is at the top of my list right now.

    • We have done George Town but I have always liked the idea of Melaka as well but never visited. I have sent plenty of travel agents there to rave reviews so its about time we get there I suppose. Plenty of interesting places to come in part 2 so don’t book Taipei just yet Paula.

    • I know how you feel Gordon. We have been to a few of these places but the rest were not on the radar until now. It might become a long list for us by the time all 8 posts are published.

  3. Great collaboration Dean, you’ve put it together well. Like the idea of Bulalacao. Will no doubt be in Manila soon enough so will keep this in mind as a city escape.

    • Thanks Jub, we appreciate your participation. There is some more Philippines in Part 2 so keep an eye out for that as well. You might end up with a few short breaks from Manila.

    • It was our pleasure Bron. Such a great list and a few places I had never heard of but now want to see for myself. And to think I have a total of 90 places to get through before this series is done. Looks like a lot or travelling or a lot of wishing ahead.

  4. Thank you Dean for featuring our write-up on Kodaikanal, India. 🙂 This is one of the best-curated lists for getaways in Asia. Loved reading about each of them. Would love to personally experience the ones we have not visited yet from this list. Look forward to the second part.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and for your contribution. Like you I have experienced a couple of these places but would now love to have the chance to visit every one of them. There is not a single place that doesn’t have something captivating about it.

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