Asia has been the last region to reopen to tourism post-COVID, and now most countries there have lessened or entirely lifted restrictions for American travelers. Rich in ancient cultures, with spectacular architecture, natural wonders, exotic cuisine, and welcoming people, Asia ticks all the boxes for an unforgettable travel experience. Here are a few top choices to consider booking and some of the experiences travelers can have there…
Located in East Asia, South Korea dangles on the southernmost tip of the Korean Peninsula and is surrounded on three sides by the sea, just west of central Japan. The country balances tradition with modernization, has breathtaking landscapes, and an inspiring culture.
Among its treasures are the cosmopolitan city of Seoul, pulsating with attractions, street food markets, the iconic N Seoul Tower observation tower, and a theme park in the middle of downtown; and Busan, with its famous nightlife and beaches, and the European-style village of Gamecheon built on the cliffs. Nearby Jeju Island offers relaxing nature and beautiful beaches.
The historic city of Jeonju is home to many ancient temples and shrines, and was named an UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Andong City is the birthplace of Confucianism, with history galore. Gyeongju City offers a complex of royal palaces and tombs. Traditional Hanok Villages are also spread throughout the country, giving travelers an experience of daily life as it was lived hundreds of years ago. Some of the stand-out temples in South Korea are: Haeinsa Temple (Korea’s second-ranked jewel temple), Changdeokgung Palace (one of five grand palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty in the 15th century), and the must-see Buddhist temple of Bulguska.
South Korea is also known for its high-speed trains, kimchi, K-pop music (who doesn’t know the current chart-topping seven-member boy band BTS, and remember the global sensation of Gangnam Style?), Taekwondo, Korean barbecue, high-tech manufacturing, and the highest number of broadband internet users in the world (a nod to its vibrant high-tech economy).
Due south of South Korea, The Philippines sits in the Asiatic Mediterranean in the western Pacific Ocean. Dubbed as the “Pearl of the Orient Seas” by missionaries in the 1700s, this otherworldly place is an archipelago consisting of more than 7,000 islands and islets. The country also has a Spanish colonial past, giving it a slightly different flavor from its neighboring countries.
When one thinks of paradise, the picture one conjures may well be of The Philippines. It is most known for its exotic and pristine beaches with crystal-blue water, which include: White Beach on Boracay Island, Alona Beach of Panglao Island in Bohol, Coron and El Nido Islands of Palawan, Dumaguete and Camiguin Island, just to name a few.
Diving is top-notch in The Philippines, as the region has been considered the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity. For a total wellness experience, add to all that natural beauty a host of world-class spas and health centers.
The country’s cultural heritage includes: The Walled City of Intramuros in the heart of Manila, built starting in 1521 and the seat of power in the Philippines during the Spanish era; Corregidor Island with ruined buildings and tunnels, all reflections of the past; Vigan, Ilocos Sur, with well-preserved, Spanish-era cobblestone streets and houses; and the Tabon Cave exploration in Palawan, known as the Cradle of Philippine Civilization because of the significant archaeological artifacts found here.
The delectable Filipino food is a diverse blend of Oriental, European, and American culinary tastes. Fresh seafood is abundant. And some specialties to try are: calamansi juice (made of a citrus fruit), pancit (noodles with veggies and meat), sinigang (a tamarind-based sour soup), barbecue sticks of chicken or pork, and halo-halo (a delicious dessert made of milk, kidney beans, fruits, and ice cream).
Furthermore, this country is primarily English-speaking and the Filipinos are known for their hospitality and friendliness. There are joyful fiestas and festivals to join in with the locals throughout the year. Plus, this is a budget-friendly destination.
Located in the center of Southeast Asia, Thailand is bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, and to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia. A bucket-list destination, this “Land of Smiles” offers tranquil beaches, exotic cuisine, magnificent temples and scenery, archaeological sites, and welcoming people.
Again imagine paradise, and there one sees Thailand. It has over 1,500 miles of coastline and almost 1,000 islands. On the west coast, Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Phi Phi are famous for their well-developed facilities and plentiful activities; Koh Lipe and Koh Lanta have incredibly clear water with stunning coral reefs to snorkel over. On the east coast, islands like Ko Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan, and Ko Tao have stunning remote beaches where travelers can escape the crowds.
As for history, cities like Bangkok, Sukhothai, and Chiang Mai are home to many ancient ruins. And there are temples and shrines open to visitors throughout the country. Among the most famous Buddhist sanctuaries are: Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, the White Temple in Chiang Rai, and Wat Ratburana in Ayutthaya. There is also a rich culture around elephants, which has evoled in recent years from elephant riding experiences to visits to elephant sanctuaries where travelers can learn about them and feed or bathe them in the river.
Thailand is also a dreamland for foodies, with everything from world-class dining to mouth-watering street food. Specialties include tom yum goong (spicy shrimp soup), pad Thai (Thai fried noodles), and som tam (spicy papaya salad).
Other experiences that are not to be missed in this fascinating country are: shopping in its unique markets (including floating markets, nighttime street markets, and markets on the train tracks!), Thai dancing, Thai puppetry, Muay Thai (Thai boxing), Thai massage, and colorful festivals year-round amidst the friendly locals.
Beyond Thailand, The Philippines, and South Korea, other time-tested Asian gems to consider traveling to now are Bali, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan. With a mind-boggling total of 48 different countries to choose from in Asia, there is a diversity and a magical quality about visiting this captivating continent. Travelers can focus their time on a deep dive in one place, or country-hop the region for a taste of what can be wildly different cultures juxtaposed and easily accessible.
Regardless of the chosen destination(s), a smart way to explore these countries is with a customized package designed by an established tour operator. Travelers can take advantage of the expertise, local relationships, and negotiated pricing that the tour company provides, and still have free time to explore on their own. What better time than now, as the pent-up demand for international travel unleashes, for travel advisors to help their clients book a trip of a lifetime to Asia?
FROM THE SPONSOR:
Go beyond the ordinary with Avanti Destinations
Independent travel clients are adventurous people, eager to explore new and different destinations. Let Avanti Destinations help you create the perfect custom-tailored vacation to South Korea, Thailand, or The Philippines, three delightful countries. All have been open to American independent travelers since early 2022.
Working exclusively with travel advisors since 1981, Avanti offers private local guides and private transfers for any Asian vacation, so clients feel well cared for. Plus unique experiences in each country. There’s a wide selection of four- and five-star hotels and resorts to choose from to satisfy the most demanding clients. Now the only question – which country?
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To celebrate our 41st anniversary, we would like to share a $50 GIFT CARD for each new booking created October 1-31, 2022, totaling $4,100 or more - there’s no limit to the number of gift cards you can earn. Applies to bookings to any of the 65-plus destinations that Avanti offers in Europe, Central & South America, Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Click here for more details.