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It’s not often that you find that the hype surrounding a major sight is true, but the Taj Mahal is as beautiful as the stories say. This is India’s most iconic building; a monument to love built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. It can be difficult to avoid the crowds, who can blame them, but visiting at dawn will give you a glimpse of the Taj Mahal in all its glory – the white marble reflecting the moods of the sky as the sun rises.
China’s most iconic sight, the Great Wall is the top of many people’s ‘must-see’ lists. Snaking its way 3915 miles from the western desert, over mountain and plain to the coast in the east, this magnificent structure no longer keeps the marauding hordes at bay, it invites them for a closer look! There are a number of sections in easy reach of Beijing – visit our dedicated Great Wall page for information on all the sections that we would recommend for your Great Wall visit.
Cruising the bay is the only way to truly enjoy it. Weave your way through the bay on an old style wooden junk boat – en route you’ll stop off at caves and islands, enjoying food freshly prepared on board. You have the option of a day trip from Hanoi but we would strongly recommend spending at least one night on the bay, to make sure you make the most of the fantastic scenery, and seeing it in a variety of different lights, from sunrise to sunset. With longer cruises there are plenty of additional activities that you can try – visiting fish farms and taking to the water yourself in a kayak or for a swim are just a few. For those with even more time, spend a night on an island and explore deeper into the bay, where you’ll come across empty sandy coves and national parks.
A colossal building draped over the hillside above the town of Amer, the Amer Fort is 11 kilometres from Jaipur. UNESCO-listed as one of the five great hill forts of Rajasthan Amer Fort was built in the late 16th century from yellow and pink sandstones and white marble. A wander through the opulent courtyards, halls and apartments admiring the intricate carvings and stained glass as you go gives a real taste of life as maharaja.
Though not exclusive to Kyoto, the city is considered the birthplace of geisha culture and is therefore the best place to experience, or at least spot a geisha (locally ‘geiko’). The district of Gion developed into a famous entertainment and geisha quarter in the 18th century, and whilst today it is thoroughly modern, there are still plenty of enclaves of the past. Dotted with old wooden teahouses, still exclusively used for geisha entertainment, it is at its most vibrant at night. Visit during the day though and you can also enjoy the historical buildings along the river front and plenty of bustling shops.
Let us organise an authentic Kyoto experience for you – afternoon tea at a typical teahouse in the company of a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha). As well as being able to talk to the geisha/maiko about her life, work and Japanese culture as a whole, you will also enjoy a traditional dance performance.
The epitome of the romance of the Silk Road, the mythical Samarkand is often referred to as the ‘crossroad of world cultures’. Founded in the 7th century BC it flourished thanks to its central position on the trade route, Samarkand’s long, rich history can be read in the evocative skyline of its old quarter. UNESCO World Heritage-listed there are many must see sights including Registan Mosque, Ulugh Beg Observatory and Shah-i-Zinda.
The 99 metre tall, gold leaf-encrusted Shwedagon Pagoda dominates Rangoon’s skyline from its perch atop Singuttara Hill. This is Burma’s most sacred landmark, said to enshrine 8 hairs of Buddha, its crown encrusted with diamonds and rubies. Whilst a pagoda has stood on this spot for hundreds of years it has had to be rebuilt on a number of occasions – the current incarnation is 17th century. For pure peace and tranquillity, visit the pagoda at dawn or admire the flaming red reflections of the setting sun in the evening.
The Giant Panda has taken it’s place in the hearts of both the Chinese and people around the world as everyone’s favourite bear. Native to a few of the mountain ranges of central China, particularly Sichuan, due to development and deforestation, pandas have become a conservation reliant endangered species. As much an emblem of China as the dragon, efforts have been stepped up to save the Panda and it’s habitats – something that you will be able to see for yourself, especially visiting the Giant Panda Base in Chengdu or the more remote Bifengxia breeding facilities.
Emerging from the jungle you are confronted with a great moat; follow it a little farther and your eyes find a bridge over the water, travel past the walls to land on Angkor Wat itself, huge and hazy in the jungle heat. This first glimpse for most is simply staggering, surpassed by very few manmade structures around the world. Angkor Wat is the Angkor complex’s most famous sight, and Cambodia’s pride and joy and national symbol. The world’s largest religious structure, the wat is an absolute must visit, and although busy, it is still possible to find a quiet spot to reflect on its extraordinary and intricate beauty. Sunrise, though bustling, is worth it.
Lhasa is not only Tibet’s capital but its heart and soul. Even with the rapid expansion of recent years the city has managed to retain its air of the mystical – whilst the new buildings go up around its edges, at its core you’ll come across a world that is still a million miles from the modern one. Join the traditionally dressed pilgrims on their circuit of the Barkhor, feel the devotion in the sacred Jokhang, explore one or two of the many major monasteries and admire the former residences of the Delhi Lama, the Potala Palace that watches over the city from its hilltop seat, and the Norbulingka.
Xian’s essential sight, the warriors of Qin Shi Huang’s terracotta army are one of the world’s greatest archaeological finds. Buried in battle formation for 2000 years, until, in 1974, a group of farmers stumbled across a chamber whilst digging a well, each of the warriors was crafted with different facial expressions, varying heights and are positioned according to rank. One of the most exciting things about the site is that it is still a working excavation – the majority of the warriors still remain undisturbed.
Why not view the enigmatic ranks in the company of an archaeologist who will be able to share unique insights and anecdotes about the excavations.
The Great Wall – Terracotta Warriors – Chengdu’s Pandas – Yangtze River – Shanghai’s Bund
Tokyo’s Senso-ji – Fuji views from Lake Kawaguchi – Kyoto’s extensive heritage – Tea with a geisha or meiko
Halong Bay – Sapa – Hoi An – Mekong Delta – Temple of Literature, Hanoi
Angkor Wat – Phnom Penh – Tonle Sap – Sihanoukville – Angkor Thom
Bagan – Rangoon – Inle Lake – Irrawaddy River – Mt Popa
Khongoryn Els – Ger Camp – Lake Khovsgol – Naadam Festival – Flaming Cliffs
The world’s most populous
Asia is home to a wealth of
people and cultures, each of them
offering their own
and delicious, cuisines. Whilst
food as a whole does share common
features – vibrant tastes, bright
colours and subtle flavours, and
ingredients – rice, ginger and
chillies (to name just a few),
be amazed by the huge variety of
things you can chow down on.
you like your food hot or not,
bustling street stall or in a
restaurant, prepare to blown
With a population of over four
billion people, Asia is an eclectic
mix of nationalities, societies and
ethnic groups. Examine its extensive
past and you’ll find little history
is shared between countries but
plenty of destinations are considered
innovative early civilisations and
important cultural crossroads so it’s
easy to see where the mystique of the
‘Orient’ of old began. Asian nations
do, however, share strong cultural
values and a love for expressing
their heritage through art, music and
food – experiencing these things for
yourself it a must.
Whether you are looking for
adrenaline adventure, culture or full
on relaxation, Asia is a traveller’s
paradise. From the skyscraping peak
of Mt Everest to the powder soft
sands of an Indian Ocean beach, the
range and depth of experiences on
offer is unsurpassed, whilst the
people you meet all have their own
unique stories they are more than
willing to share. With so much
diversity of culture, heritage,
natural and manmade landscapes, the
best thing you can do when travelling
in Asia is jump right in!
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Download the complete ASIA Inspirations brochure in PDF
The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.