For our Destination Series this week, we are staying in Asia. This is a continent of immense beauty, centuries old history and soul-warming Asian culture – three of the main reasons why travellers return to it over and over. Having visited the region a few times myself, I can certainly say the draw for me has been its calm and friendly people. You should consider visiting, if you haven’t already.
Asia consists of 48 countries, which makes it the largest and most populated continent in the world. Its five major regions are Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Western Asia.
Our Destination Series last week took us to The Land of the Rising Sun, Japan, in East Asia; a few weeks back I wrote about Israel, Western Asia, and we also visited Bangkok in Southeast Asia, and Singapore, the island city country in the Cities of the World essay.
This week we will highlight Thailand, and Bali, two of the most popular travel destinations in this continent of natural wonders. Sit back and enjoy!
Here’s why I think you will love Thailand. Aside from its unparalleled natural beauty, Thai people will charm you with their warm smiles and second to none hospitality. Its rich history dates back 1000’s of years, back to the 10th century AD and earlier, with numerous archeological sites spread throughout the country. And, most recently Bangkok has become a Michelin-star destination thanks to their capital city being initiated in this prestigious culinary guide, which has attracted foodies from around the world.
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
While Bangkok is the capital and financial center of the country, Chiang Mai in the North, is the cultural center, located some 700 km north of Bangkok on the banks of the Ping River. “The Rose of the North” as it is also known as, dates back to the late 13th century when it was established as the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Its Old City retains ruins of walls and moats from its rich past, and ornate Buddhist temples, 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, being two of them.
Like Bangkok, Chiang Mai has also become a paradise for foodies. Your culinary discovery of the city should include a “khan toke” dinner and dance, an absolute must.
This is a feast of the signature dish of Northern Thailand consisting of rich chicken curry, a Burmese style pork curry, fried chicken, sticky rice, vegetables with a spicy chilli dip and the northern delicacy of deep – fried pork skin. Couple these exotic delicacies with a performance of Traditional Thai dances on stage and you have an evening never to forget. I had attended such dinner and show event during my stay in Bangkok, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The south of Thailand boasts the tropical paradise retreat of Phuket. This emerald-coloured island has some of Thailand’s most popular beaches, mainly situated along the clear waters of the western shore, a majestic display of Thailand’s most beautiful, dramatic scenery.
Sunsets are very famous in Phuket. Kata Beach, Phromthep Beach, the Big Buddha, and Kao Rang Hill offer some of the best panoramic views on the island.
After you’ve had your day at the beach, head to the spa or explore the streets of busy Phuket Town, filled with busy markets. Or venture into one of the many Buddha temples for an experience of Thai’s Buddhist heritage.
And if you are an adventure seeker, head over to one of the many elephant camps for a tracking experience perched atop the back of an elephant.
No trip to Phuket would be complete without visiting James Bond Island! This iconic island is set in the Phang Nga Bay National Park where over 40 islands of towering karst create the unique and breath-taking scenery. I was in Phuket in 2019 but I missed seeing James Bond Island; the somewhat long day excursion discouraged me from this adventure, something I’d be sure to do on my next visit to Phuket next February 2022.
KO KUT, THAILAND
For a more relaxed vacation away from the crowds, consider visiting the island of Ko Kut. Located near the Cambodian border, Ko Kut is the fourth largest island in Thailand’s archipelago, a must visit for all beach goers. The deserted beaches are clearly the main attraction, but if you can make yourself leave this paradise like setting, head out to the hills where you can spot amazing wildlife and admire beautiful waterfalls.
From one amazing destination to another. Bali is Indonesia’s best-known island,
the most popular holiday destinations in Southeast Asia. It’s home to an ancient culture that’s known for its warm hospitality as well as thousands of exotic temples and palaces set against stunning natural backdrops.
Besakih, ‘Bali’s mother temple’, set against majestic Mount Agung, has an almost mystical quality. Several stairs lead up to the sacred mountainside, leading to temples that vary by type, status, and function.
The temple of Uluwatu against the golden sunset can be truly magical. It sits on a clifftop in Bali’s southwest, about 70 metres above the sea. ‘Pura Luhur Uluwatu’ as the locals call it, offers breathtaking seascapes.
Be sure to visit at dusk and attend an open-air performance of Bali’s traditional Kecak dance. My daughter took in the show when she visited Bali and she says it’s a must experience, although she warns – be wear of the mischievous monkeys!
TIRTA EMPUL TEMPLE
Tirta Empul temple is a Hindu Balinese water temple located near the town of Tampaksiring, near Ubud. During his holiday in Bali in 2017, former US President Barak Obama and his family made Tirta Empul one of their selected sites to visit and experience.
The temple compound consists of a bathing structure, famous for its holy spring water, where Balinese Hindus go to for ritual purification. Locals believe that the sacred water has the power to heal and cleanse their body and soul.
Located somewhat inland, Ubud is best known for its Tegallalang rice terraces and for its traditional art and culture scene. The terraces spread down the hill and to the far opposite side of the valley. Besides enjoying the view from the top, why not follow the trail through the rice fields and talk to the local farmers as they go about their day. Fans of Julia Robert’s movie Eat, Pray, Love may recognize Tegallalang terraces as one of the movie locations.
KUTA AND SEMINYAK
Bali’s most beautiful beaches can be found in Kuta and Seminyak where many of the finest hotels and villas are located. Bali’s lesser travelled eastern and northern regions also offer wonderful diving spots in calm bays, with coral gardens teeming with colourful marine biodiversity. My daughter and her friend (photo below) enjoyed a few relaxing days at Kuta Beach, great memories to last a lifetime.
Dining in Bali offers a variety of exotic, local cuisine and a fusion of local and international dishes. The island is an international vacation destination, so it’s no surprise to see a wide range of options to suit every palate. My daughter’s personal recommendation: a meal at the Jimbaran seafood cafes.
Once there, enjoy a small dish of salted nuts and/or kerupuk (shrimp crackers) served as accompaniments to your beer or drink of choice. These cafes are known as the birthplace of ikan bakar Jimbaran or ‘grilled snapper à la Jimbaran’ with the essential sambal, and offer selections of red snapper, crab, calamari, prawns and lobster. All are served with options of steamed rice and traditional side dishes of spicy plecing kangkung (stir-fried water spinach) and fresh fruit platters for dessert. Use your fingers as part of the experience – a bowl with water and lime slices comes as standard (for you to ‘rinse’ your fingers).
CHECK OUR BALI TO BANGKOK ALL-INCLUSIVE CRUISE
Feel free to share this information with friends and family
Watch for my next Destination Thursday report coming your way a week from today. No doubt it will highlight another bucket list destination for us to explore.
Cruise Holidays of Clarkson
Tel 1 866 919 2111