The countries of Asia have rich cultures, complex histories and incredible landscapes, so travellers who have a nose for discovery are sure to find something fascinating to experience wherever they go. That said, there are some truly world-class things to do that deserve a place on every wish list and, hopefully, on your next itinerary. These are our picks of the best of the best.
Tiger spotting in Shere Khan territory
We’ve all at some point imagined The Jungle Book’s vivid, dreamy terrain and an Indian wildlife adventure is where you can live out those childhood fantasies. The legendary Bengal tiger, Kipling’s most fearsome character attracts wildlife lovers to India’s tiger reserves in central India from Pench National Park to Kanha Reserve. Game drives take you into the tall sal trees where you might spot anything from sitatunga deer prancing in the grass and a lumbering sloth bear or perhaps a flash of a tiger’s auburn hair. Staying in sustainably conscious lodges allows unique insight into the culture too with visits to local villages revealing the daily life of communities that once lived alongside tigers, jackals and wild dog.
Ride Japan’s iconic bullet train
A ride on the bullet train is essential when exploring a country of such great diversity. With speeds of up to 199mph the Nozomi Shinkansen whisks passengers to Hiroshima (220 miles away) in 95 minutes while connecting two of its wildly different cities, Kyoto and Tokyo in just over two hours. Slow-paced Osaka is also reachable in a flash, an easy ride to its neon-lit nightlife and Michelin-starred culinary culture. The sheer speed might seem hairy but it’s hardly noticeable save for the landscape flying by your window including glimpses of a majestic Mount Fuji. There’s no theme park ride anxiety or a disorderly queue in sight. Think polite embarkations and a bento box lunch as you soar through the country.
Stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan
One of the things that makes Japan such an enjoyable place to travel is the country’s incredible culture of hospitality. The word for it, omotenashi, means ‘to wholeheartedly look after guests’ and helps to explain the lack of tipping – because making the customer happy is reward enough. You’ll encounter it everywhere you go, whether you’re dining in an upmarket restaurant or just buying a train ticket and a snack to take with you. One of the best ways to experience it is to spend a few nights in a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan. You’ll discover some of the most atmospheric in Takayama, Yudanaka and, of course, Kyoto. Here, you’ll sleep on cosy futons – set out each evening by your nakai-san, your personal member of the hospitality team – in rooms simply furnished with paper screens and tatami matting, and sample the delights of a formal kaiseki dinner that’s as much a work of art as a meal.
Cooking classes in India
Where do we begin? India’s love of cooking has taken the world by storm with some of the standouts being biryani from Hyderabad, fish curry from Kerala and street food in Mumbai. Cooking classes area means to immersing yourself into the local culture and there’s something for everyone whether it involves being hosted in a family home or picking tamarind from a spice plantation; stories of Portuguese colonies sailing into shores, Nepalese harvesting in the Himalayas and the unique fusion of French and Tamil traditions that has forged Pondicherry’s identity and its rich Creole food. Every region has its own flavour but one thing you’ll learn is that they all harbour a love for and a form of humility in cooking.
Stay in a houseboat in Kerala
A ride on a houseboat in Kerala’s palm-fringed backwaters has become a rite of passage for anyone visiting. For those who haven’t been, the kettuvallam (rice barges made of local coir) once used by locals to transport rice and spices between villages now take visitors to explore the quintessential sleepy village life the region is so well known for. While there’s no avoiding other tourists, there are certain ways in which to explore the backwaters that are more authentic than most including hiring a two-man vessel that also comes with the ability to arrange private outings in smaller canoes to explore the hyacinth-laden canals and a private private chef so you can simply kick back, watch the palms roll by and the sun refracting off the water.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Malcolm, who's travelled extensively in your chosen destination. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - guides who can give you genuine insights into local life and culture, chefs who can teach you how to rustle up the local cuisine and safari rangers who'll ensure you'll spot the best wildlife.
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