From safaris and ancient sites to sprawling cities and vibrant nightlife, Asia offers something for every traveler, no matter what they may seek. With a relatively low cost of living in many countries, Asia has established an international reputation not just for its fascinating sites and endless natural beauty, but also its affordability. For those seeking something a little more exciting than a conventional vacation, we explore three unique Asian adventures.
1. Tagong, China
Located in China’s Sichuan Province, this tiny traditional Tibetan town enables visitors to experience a flavor of Tibetan culture without leaving the Chinese mainland. Although situated in China, Tagong’s friendly, welcoming inhabitants do not consider themselves Chinese or even accept that they live there, telling new arrivals, “Welcome to Tibet.”
With its monasteries and temples, travelers seeking a taste of the Tibetan way of life will not be disappointed with Tagong. Cycling, hiking, horseback riding, and even nomad homestays are all available.
Meanwhile, the Tagong Horse Festival, staged every summer on the hillside stretching in front of the town, draws visitors from all over. The valley echoes with the sound of thundering hooves and spectators’ cheers while daring horse-back riders perform deft acrobatics, including bending backward off their horses to pluck colorful scarves from the ground, snatching themselves up again just in time to steer away from the crowd.
Plus, each Tagong family sets up a tent at the event and prepares a variety of traditional fare, including yak cheese and meat, momos (dumplings), and fresh fruit, accompanied by assorted beverages such as tea and beer.
This Tibetan equivalent of the Superbowl is run by locals for locals. The Tagong Horse Festival is a celebration of ancient Tibetan culture, a nomadic way of life that relies heavily on horsepower.
2. Kamikochi, Japan
Surrounded by imposing mountains and found 1,500 meters above sea level, the valley of Kamikochi is famed throughout Japan for its beauty. The region was shaped by glacial activity over many thousands of years. Today, Kamikochi hosts a variety of events throughout the summer months, including the annual boat festival, where locals stage a parade of boat-shaped floats to celebrate the Azumi people, a seafaring tribe of people who fished.
Kamikochi is accessible only by bus. The valley effectively closes down for six months each year as vast snowfalls shut local roads from mid-November to mid-April. During the summertime, however, Kamikochi draws visitors from near and far.
The Kappa Bridge, located in the center of Kamikochi, is popular among travelers. This feat of engineering traverses the Azusa River and boasts impressive views of Mount Myojindake and the Hotaka Peaks, making it a popular spot for taking photos.
The Kappa Bridge also offers excellent views of Mount Yakedake, an extremely active volcano with a smoking crater. Following a local trail, visitors can try the strenuous hike to the 2,455-meter-high summit.
Taisho Pond, created when Mount Yakedake erupted in 1915, is speckled with stark tree skeletons, serving as a haunting reminder of the volcano’s ferocity. Encircled by lush green woodland and with Mount Yakedake reflected in its glassy surface, Taisho Pond is an area of immense natural beauty in the summertime.
3. Kirirom National Park, Cambodia
Situated in the Phnom Sruoch District of Kampong Speu Province, Kirirom National Park covers more than 35,000 hectares (approx. 135 square miles) of the Elephant Mountains.
Meaning “Mountain of Joy,” Kirirom was named by a Cambodian king. Located several hundred meters above sea level, the park is on a plateau that comprises an unusually high elevation pine forest that forms the headwaters of several streams, providing the town of Kampong Speu with life-giving water.
Part of the Southwest Cluster Protected Areas, Kirirom National Park is famous for its breathtaking waterfalls as well as being home to an impressive array of endangered species. Taking a traditional ox-ride, visitors can see a variety of exciting wildlife, including sun bears, pileated gibbons, and elephants, with the occasional tiger.
Travelers are invited to take part in a variety of local activities, including foraging, orchid spotting, jungle trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, and swimming. Those interested in conservation can even join local park rangers on anti-poaching expeditions.
Situated adjacent to Kirirom National Park, the Chambok ecotourism site hosts travelers from all over the world, providing them with an unforgettable taste of local life. Here, travelers can enjoy lunch beside a waterfall, sampling traditional Khmer dishes prepared by local cooks using locally sourced produce.
Once the royal retreat of King Sihanouk, Kirirom National Park borders the Cardamon Mountains, its foot trails winding through the elevated pine forest, leading to cascading waterfalls, hilltop shrines, and cliffs for breathtaking views. A playground for the nation’s elite before the civil war, despite many lavish villas being destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, Kirirom is currently undergoing something of a revival, with new villas popping up and attracting wealthy individuals from across the globe.