Asia is such a fascinating continent. It’s wildly diverse. It’s mountainous, tropical, rural, urban, populous, remote, affordable, expensive, naturally stunning and architecturally beautiful…all at once! I first visited Asia in 2005 when I traveled to India. I immediately overwhelmed by new sights, smells, tastes and sounds. And I also immediately in love with Asia. I traveled to Cambodia in 2009. And then in 2014, my husband and I began to consider a move to Asia, so we started traveling around the continent. We visited about 9 countries in 6 months. We moved to Indonesia in 2015, and it’s been home ever since. I’ve had the great privilege of seeing even more of Asia since living here, so I thought I’d share my top 10 list of places I’ve visited in Asia (so far!) Hopefully it inspires you to see a part of Asia that you haven’t seen yet!
#10 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Northern Thailand is delightful, and Chiang Mai is the major city in the region. It’s full of Buddhist temples and delicious street food. We spent 2 months in Chiang Mai in 2014, and even got to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year complete with giant water fight! We visited the mountains and rode elephants. It was a beautiful experience and Chiang Mai will always hold a special place in my heart.
#9 Kathmandu, Nepal
I’m not sure how I first became fascinated by Nepal. But I’d wanted to go for years. So being able to set foot in Kathmandu in 2014 was amazing. This tiny country sandwiched between mega China and mega India manages to maintain an identity all it’s own. We visited just months before the massive earthquake that devastated many parts of the city and countless lives were lost. I can’t imagine the extent of the impact on the beautiful people & culture of Kathmandu. Given the chance, I would surely return!
#8 Angkor Wat, Cambodia
I first traveled to the majestic ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia back in 2009. And then again in 2014. I will never stop being amazed by the scale, scope and wonder of it all. The temple complex is massive, unable to take in during just one day. Angkor Wat almost demands multiple visits. We were able to catch a sunrise at the iconic tiered tower temple, and it was magical.
#7 Shanghai, China
I was surprised by Shanghai. I had previously traveled through other large [and smaller] cities in China, and wasn’t sure how I would feel about Shanghai. But it was a beautiful city. We were blessed with stunning blue skies when we visited, which I recognize is pretty rare around cities in China. We walked the ancient streets, traveled to the top of the ultra modern Shanghai Tower, enjoyed the view of the river, and ate delicious dumplings. Shanghai is probably my favorite city in China, and would love to go back for a longer stay!
#6 Golden Triangle, Thailand
I love absolutely this northern corner of Thailand that borders Myanmar & Laos. The beautiful Mekong River runs right through here. The towns are small, but the culture is rich. We spent a few weeks here, traveling through villages and crossing the borders of neighboring countries. Recently, this area has been all over the news with the soccer boys trapped in the cave. My heart was filled with joy as they were rescued. As I read & watched the coverage, I was transported back to this place. I simply adore this area of Thailand!
#5 Lombok, Indonesia
This stunning tropical island often gets overlooked by the fame of Bali to the west. But Lombok is just as beautiful, and much less of a tourist hotspot. I’ve been here a couple of times, and every time I am captivated by a new aspect of this stunning island. Climb a volcano, discover gorgeous waterfalls, enjoy pristine beaches, eat delicious food and meet incredible people. That’s Lombok.
#4 Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
What a naturally stunning place on this planet. The limestone mountains of HaLong Bay are breathtaking to behold. Sure, it’s touristy. Sure, some parts have been overrun with the tourist industry. But even with all that, HaLong Bay is worth the trip. There’s so many ways to do HaLong Bay that you can find one that suits your travel style. Whether it’s cruising in luxury or rock climbing adventures, you can take it the views of the Bay. I’ve been here twice, and soaked in all the natural beauty to behold. And as many times as I can, I will go back to HaLong Bay.
This city nation is unlike anywhere else in Asia. It has such a cool blend of East meets West. The food you can find in Singapore is simply fabulous. It’s a cross cultural experience to dine in the famous hawker centers of the city. If you love any type of Asian food, you can find it in Singapore. From excellent shopping to incredible skylines, Singapore is not to be missed. I love wandering the city streets and admiring the stunning architecture. I’ve been to Singapore a few times, and each time I love it more!
#2 Hanoi, Vietnam
When I first visited Vietnam, I was skeptical. I didn’t know much about it, and had set my expectations pretty low. But every part of Vietnam surprised me…in the best way possible! The food was delicious! The architecture was unique and creative! The culture & people were beautiful. Especially Hanoi. This city just stole my heart. It’s a street photographer’s dream. It’s one of the most affordable places in all of Asia that we’ve visited. I’ve been twice, and would love to return!
#1 Bali, Indonesia
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Bali is my number one favorite place in all of Asia. We’ve called it home for over 3 years now. On the surface, Bali can look like the ultimate getaway. It has the reputation of escapism. But for me, it’s where I’ve put down roots. I’ve learned the language. I’m constantly learning the culture. I’m getting to know the people. I’m here to do life with them. I’ve been to their weddings, funerals, birthday parties and tooth filing ceremonies. The Balinese people are simply lovely. To only see the tourist destinations in Bali is to miss so much of what the island has to offer. Get off the beaten path. Ask locals for recommendations of what to see and do. Drink coffee together. Take selfies together. Experience one of the most beautiful places on our planet, both in nature and in people.
Have you been to any of these places in Asia? What did you like about them? Hopefully this list helps inspire you to come over to Asia and experience one of the most wonderful regions of the world!