My Hidden Gems and Recommendations in Asia – Travels

Finishing university, I decided that before I got stuck into commitments such as a full-time job and a house, that it was time to see some of the world.

I’ve always been quite lucky with holidays, and my parents have taken me to amazing destinations growing up. However, there was something about Asia that had always intrigued my partner and I – and so a few months after the seed was planted – our 4 month adventure was booked and off we went.

Although I did keep a travel blog whilst I was away, trying to write whilst jet lagged, half drunk or mid-way through a curry, a lot of it was quite jumbled up. However if you wanted to take the time to read our adventures – I did pick the best bits and combine it into a blog if you’re interested.

In this post I wanted to pick the highlights, recommendations and hidden gems from each country we visited to share with you lovely lot.

Hong Kong

Although our stay in Hong Kong was short lived, therefore so are my recommendations. However, I would definitely suggest that Hong Kong is worth a visit.

Victoria Peak – If you want a way to see the wonders of Hong Kong in all its glory, then Victoria Peak is a must. Although being amongst the hustle and bustle (I’ll get onto that in my next point) is incredible, to really see what Hong Kong has to offer, you need to be at the top of it all. The peak is only a short tram ride up, and my god is it worth it.

Shopping – The word every girl wants to hear. On every corner you turn is all the designer shops you could ever imagine. If you’re more of a high street gal like me, you’ll be swayed by the ginormous H&M and Topshops. This place is every shoppers dream, however if you’re only wanting to window shop, you have to go visit the Ralph Lauren. Even if the brand isn’t to your taste, I’m sure the free bar inside will be! Upon entering, we were taken to the swanky bar area with giant TVs and leather sofas, and asked what our choice of drink was, without even purchasing anything. Trust me they don’t skimp either, a free whisky and glass of champagne was a brilliant start to our night out!

Sky Bar Restaurant – Now, as this was years ago and I never actually noted the name of the Sky Bar restaurant we visit, I’m afraid I can’t suggest one in particular – but don’t worry, there are loads. And I’m sure none will disappoint. A variety of sky high swanky restaurants overlook the bay, and it’s the perfect romantic spot for an evening meal. A local ferry runs across the bay, so I’d recommend hopping across for a ride on the Hong Kong eye.

Disneyland – Oh yes. No it’s not the biggest and the best one in the world, but when can you go wrong with a trip to Disneyland?! I hadn’t been to one since my trip to Florida when I was a child, so to relive the memories whilst we were here was incredible. Need I say anymore to convince you? It’s Disneyland!

Ocean Park – If you’re a fan of marine life, then this place is for you. We spent the day here, and it was fantastic. The park consisted of different sea life, rides, and a fantastic aerial tram ride – which ones again, gives you amazing views.

China

Travelling through China, we decided it was wise to book on with a tour guide to help with language barriers and to show us the true culture. We booked this through STA Travel, and they combined a tour guide, travel costs and arrangements whilst in china and hotels/hostels – the only thing we had to worry about was our spending money. I’d definitely recommend the Dragon Trip which took us from Hong Kong to China, we had the ability to travel with a group of people from all parts of the world and explore things we never would’ve been able to do before.

The Great Wall Of China – Camp on the great wall of china – Of course, if you go to China, you want to go see the Great Wall of China. But there’s nothing quite like setting up camp, cracking open a few beers (Wine in China was very limited, I had to adjust my taste buds) and watching the sun set.

Li River, Yangshuo – Yangshuo itself is worth a visit. When I envisioned China, it was the large, smokey cities, with the hustle and bustle. Yangshuo couldn’t of been any further away from this. A quiet, scenic town set amongst the mountains, filled with culture and unforgettable scenery. Don’t get me wrong, a night out here is fantastic also, but a peaceful bamboo ride down the Li River is a must. You’ll thank me later.

Food Markets – Now this is a weird one. I actually left the markets in tears from seeing the variety of meat supplied (Yes it’s true, the Chinese do eat cat and dog), so it’s weird that I’m recommending this. However, we chose China as we wanted a real culture shock, and although I don’t agree with this aspect of the culture, that’s exactly what it is. Culture. It’s worth a visit just to really get everything you can out of the country.

Chengdu Pandas – if you’re an animal lover like myself, which, let’s be honest – who isn’t?! Then you HAVE to go see the pandas at Chendu. This was defintely a highlight from our trip – I don’t really have much more to say on this recommendation to be fair. What’s not to love about Pandas?

Thailand

Thailand was the place I was most excited to visit, and with good reason. With this being the country that we were touring completely alone, this was the one that threw us the most surprises – and hidden gems.

Ko Phi Phi – I’ve gotta be honest. This island is known to be one of the most beautiful islands to visit in Thailand – and don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely stunning – however, it was so overcrowded with party go-ers that this once hidden gem has now become a more exotic version of Magaluf.

I know this sounds like another weird recommendation, but you’ve still got to go and experience it. All the photos you see on the internet of with the beautiful clear waters, and all the long wooden boats – that’s Phi Phi.

Go Scuba Diving, and not with the professionals – The other side of Ko Phi Phi is a lot more secluded, but also more peaceful. This is where we decided it would be a great place to try Scuba Diving for the first time. On the island, we came across a Padi scuba diving school, with steep prices and a long training session before you could even go into the sea.

We were about to call it quits, that was until we came across the locals. They took us straight out on their boat, provided us with all the correct equipment and were by our side every step of the way. We felt safe, reassured, and they knew exactly where the best marine life was. This trip was a fraction of the price of a Padi course, and a lot less hassle too!

Ko Lanta, Krabi – I can’t really comment much on the town itself here, as we arrived here in a very quiet season – so majority of the restaurants and bars were closed, and we were left to hire a bike and entertain ourselves. But this was the best thing we ever could’ve done.

You have, to and I mean HAVE to go the Sea Gypsies village if you can. Riding along the coast, we found this small village, and it was the most facinating place I’ve ever come across. I don’t want to encourage tourists bumbling in with big cameras and causing commotion, as let’s not forget, this is where people live. But after speaking to the locals, and hearing thier stories and culture, they were more than happy to let us walk around and take it all in. The little wooden houses hanging over the water, vibrant boats sitting underneath in the water, and local children running around playing with chickens. It was something else.

Koh Chang – With a last-minute change of plans from going to Koh Samui (it was predicted 2 weeks of rain), we changed course and after a quick 10 minute Google, we ended up on a ferry to Koh Chang – the true hidden gem of Thailand.

I can’t put my finger on what made this place so special. Whilst one side of the island where our hotel resided was very recluse, the other side of the island was a stunning pier with quirky market stalls hanging over the water, painted bright and beautiful colours. We stayed at the hotel Parama Koh Chang, which was surrounded by water filled with turtles and beautiful sea life. The hotels speedboat took you to the hotels private beach on request, where you could see the local kids playing, and feed the friendly deer roaming around. I would highly recommend!

Boat Avenue Night Market, Phuket – Another place we came across by accident, but it was fantastic. I’m not too certain on what night the market is held (I’m sorry!), but it’s defintely worth checking out if you’re in the area. This weekly night market is full of food and cocktail stalls, with live music and kareoke. (I say kareoke, a drunk Dave helped himself up onto to the stage to sing to me – not sure this is was encouraged). P.s – the flavoured mojiti buckets are da bomb.

India

Similar to China, we decided it would be best to book on with a guided tour round India. We chose the Uncover India – Delhi to Goa, another fantastic tour I would recommend.

Pushkar Camel markets – The town of Pushkar was scenic, cultural and crazy. Similar to my thoughts on China, there are the big cities such as Mumbai and Delhi which you need to go see, but a place like Pushkar just takes you away from all of that and you get to join in on the hustle and bustle of the narrow markets. Vibrant colours everywhere you look, querky rooftop bars overlooking the town – and yes, I said it, a camel market. Hundreds of camels are auctioned off in a giant plot of land, just imagine walking through a farmers field full of animals, except theres a ferris wheel there, and camels.

Udaipur – Udaipur, also known ‘venice of the east’ is said to be one of the most romantic cities in India, and that it was. The narrow, winding roads with beautiful artwork upon it, the stunning lake, just everything abougt this place is unreal. You really have to go to see it in all it’s glory (Trust me, Google images do this place no justice).

Mumbai Slums – Another upsetting part of culture, but a must-see. I know what you’re thinking, surely a group or tourists trecking through your ‘village’ and peering in your home is very invasive, but actually no. They’re extremely happy to have you there, and the money you pay to walk around contributes to a better life for them. It’s also not what it’s made out to be on documentaries, children are dancing in the street, schools are amongst them with ever growing training programmes – the slums are a real eye-opener, and it’s also reassuring to see that they aren’t as bad as the media portrays it to be!

I hope you enjoyed this post, and I would love love love if you could leave any comments with any recommendations you may have, or just comment for a general chat. I’m always on the look out for my next place to jet off to!

Sophie Amelia

x

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