Asia — the largest continent on Earth. Spanning the uninhabited wilderness of Siberia to the lush tropical rainforests of Indonesia, Asia is a hotspot for nature lovers as it has a climate as diverse as its geographic features. It houses some of the most stunning natural phenomenons of the world, including one of the seven natural wonders — Mount Everest.
With no dearth of natural destinations to visit, it can be hard to decide on just one. We rounded up some of the best places to kick back and relax in within the expansive continent.
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
With powder soft beaches and clear, turquoise waters, Phu Quoc (pronounced ‘foo-kwok’) is a gorgeous tropical paradise. Comprising 28 uninhabited islands, Phu Quoc offers unspoilt, secluded stretches of quiet and calm, a welcome reprieve from the crowds at more popular beach destinations like Phuket, Thailand.
Marine enthusiasts would enjoy Phu Quoc for the diverse wildlife it offers in its crystalline waters, while avid hikers can look forward to silken waterfalls within the larger UNESCO-listed Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve. Eclectic bars and cafes line the beachfront alongside luxurious resorts and private guesthouses, catering to all kinds of budget preferences for each type of traveller.
Perhaps best known as the place where Elizabeth Gilbert gained spiritual self-actualisation in Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud is a popular cultural and natural hotspot in Indonesia. Perched on the remote highlands, Ubud is especially iconic for its cascade of emerald green rice terraces (Tegalalang Rice Terrace) and showcase of the very best of traditional Balinese culture.
With an easygoing and laidback atmosphere, Ubud is a place where it’s easy to lose track of time — a few days can easily turn into weeks and months, even years. For the ultimate experience, get on the mat at one of Ubud’s yoga retreats — you’ll leave feeling re-energized and rejuvenated in mind, body, and soul.
Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka
If you didn’t already know, Sri Lanka has a trove of secluded, sandy beaches, and Arugam Bay is one of them. Located on the East Coast, it’s far enough from the capital and other tourist attractions to be less popular with visiting travellers. With just a single main road running parallel to the beach, there’s not much to the village itself, other than lots of chilling.
Featuring a famed point break, Arugam Bay is a surfer’s paradise, and is regarded as the best surf spot in the country. If you’re not into surfing, you can laze on the beach like the rest of the sun-seekers, or chill at one of the beachside restaurants offering fresh-from-the-ocean seafood.
Koh Kood, Thailand
Just five hours from Bangkok lies this stunning island getaway — Koh Kood. As reported by The Guardian in 2014, it is “Thailand’s last unspoilt islands”. Because of its remoteness, it is the perfect escape from a bustling lifestyle, instead offering tranquility amid the most idyllic of beaches.
Home to a population of less than 2,000, coconut plantations, and sleepy fishing villages, you can expect the pace of life at Koh Kood to be slow and unassuming. Under the lull of waves lapping against the shore and the hypnotic swing of beachside hammocks, it provides the rare opportunity to gently unwind, and temporarily disconnect from the world.
While the spiritual side of Siquijor continues to draw tourists in, nowadays, it is best known for its beautiful corals, white beaches and sparkling waterfalls.
Every night, hundreds of green luminous fireflies light up the island, giving evidence to its name ‘Isla del Fuego’ (or ‘Island of Fire’). When these mystical creatures come out to play, it gives the tiny island a magical, almost eerie glow that lends to Siquijor’s reputation among many Filipinos as an ‘island of witchcraft’. As a wise philosopher once said, “Nature itself is the best physician”.
Finally, the pearl of South Asia. Maldives is beach luxury personified, and features the Indian Ocean in brilliant shades of blue, turquoise, and aquamarine. Colourful coral reefs host a diverse variety of marine wildlife, from striped clownfish to genteel sea turtles. Islands rimmed with the softest of pure white sand make for serene sanctuaries to luxuriate in, and let the worries of yesterday slip away.
While the Maldives comprises a whopping 1192 islands, only 200 are inhabited. At this nation of islands, island hopping is a way of life, and the best means to go about uncovering the hidden gems of the region.