Written By: D’Artangnan Johnson
Looking to jazz up your next vacation with something a little more exotic, then take a trip through the Orient–“Crazy Rich Asian” style! Whether you want to take in some culture, relax on the beach, hike the trails, or shop ‘til you drop many countries that make up the mysterious Orient can offer you all that and more. We’ve decided to offer four hot spots and the reason they should be tops on your list of places to get away from it all!
If you’re a Millennial you probably grew up watching “The Fabulous Life” in which case you’ve probably heard talk of the Sultan of Brunei and his many golden toilets, and with good reason, the country is super in black gold, Texas tea or as the lay folks like to say oil. The capital Bandar Seri Begawan is known as one of the most opulent cities in the world, with the crown jewel being the golden tipped Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. The mosque has marble minarets and golden domes, courtyard and is surrounded by several trees and floral gardens. The mosque’s most recognizable feature, the main dome, is covered in pure gold. The main minaret is its tallest feature, it mixes Renaissance and Italian architectural styles. The minaret has an elevator to the top, where a visitor can enjoy a panoramic view of the city. The interior of the mosque is for prayer only. You can also check out Istana Nural Iman the largest governmental building on Earth, home of the Legislature of Brunei.
If prayer temples and parliamentary procedure isn’t your idea of a good time, then you can take a hike along the rope bridges and canopies of the Ulu Temburong National Park which is a state sponsored conservation effort that a natural rainforest ecosystem. After you’ve hiked the trails, you can rest your weary legs on the beaches of Kuala Belait which is on the western edge of the Sultanate.
The archipelago known as Indonesia is made up of over 13,000 islands so you’ll never be short on catching some shore time. The most popular amongst these being Bali. The blue water and white sands of Bali are must for those who just need to get away from it all. Grass huts built out over open waters that offer ocean views for miles on end have become a standard in advertisements for the island nation. Interested in someplace a little less crowded try Kuta which offers the same amenities as Bali, but with less people.
If you’re more of the adventurous type, then you can find your way to the Gill Islands for diving and snorkeling near the turtle sanctuary. Once you’ve taken in the ocean breezes and swam amongst the aquatic life you can meditate the Borobudur Buddhists temple. Built during the 8th century Borobudur is a UNESCO world heritage site. You can light torches at sunrise and walk to the center of the temple for prayers and meditation. Lastly, but certainly not least you can hop over to Java, which sits in the Ring of Fire, a circlet of islands that boast the worlds most active volcanoes. The most popular of these is Most Bromo which can be found in Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park.
As you’re walking through the Narita International Airport to the baggage claim you’ll most likely hear Nihon e Yokoso. Welcome to Japan. Japan has long been one of Asia’s most visited countries, with everything from the latest in technology and historical culture that and art to rival that of Europe there is no shortage of things to do, places to see and people to watch. Start your trip by taking in the Imperial Palace. Originally built during the 17th century it is surrounded by walls and moats. Much of the palace is closed off to the public, due to the royal family still being in residence.
Next you can hop a train to Mount Fuji and hike the trail to watch the “Sunrise in the East”. More experience hikers start at the base of the mountain, where as those who are less inclined can start from Station 5 which is bout halfway up the peak. After you’ve elevated yourself you can Zen out by walking through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove of Kyoto, which boast some of the worlds tallest bamboo. Kyoto was Japan’s most important cultural center, a legacy that continues with its many museums and art galleries, each bursting with important sculptures, paintings, and other art forms. Another noteworthy spot is the Kyoto Imperial Palace which is where the royal family resided before moving to Tokyo. A little-known fact is that there are over one hundred castles in Japan built during the Shogun Era, it is believed that at one point in history there may have been more than five thousand.
Thailand is in Southeast Asian. Mainly known for tropical beaches, decadent royal palaces, ancient ruins and grand temples displaying figures of Buddha. In Bangkok, the capital, a metropolitan cityscape coexists next to quiet canal communities and the iconic temples of Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Emerald Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Kaew). Nearby beach resorts include bustling Pattaya and fashionable Hua Hin. If you really want to drown out the world you can do so on the Phi Phi Islands, Koh Phi Phi, is the only one that is inhabited and host to dozens of resorts that offer all the amenities you’ll need while “ruffing it” along the beach. There are many tour companies available that offer day trips to other well-known tourist spots such as Phuket, Koh Chang, and Maya Bay.
Back in Bangkok you can tour The Grand Palace which was once the residence of the King of Siam. The palace isn’t just a royal residence there is also the Emerald Temple which is said to hold a relic from Buddha himself. There are also dozens of guesthouses and government buildings enclosed by courtyards and gardens. Tour guides recommend giving a full day over to exploring all the grounds. A visit to one of the floating markets is a fun way to do some shopping and eating while supporting local vendors. The long wooden boats offer fruits, vegetables, spices, and local cuisine meant to tantalize the palette. There are several floating markets near Bangkok, Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak being among the most popular. Round out your trip by visit any of the hundreds of wats (monasteries or temples) dedicated to Buddha. The most historically significant spots include Ankur Wat, Sukhothai Old City (the ancient capital), and Ayutthaya (the former capital). Ayutthaya is just a short train or bus ride away from Bangkok and can be done as a day trip.