You’ve got your heavyweights like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Delhi and Seoul – the big cities that first spring to mind when you’re thinking of travelling in Asia. Although there is plenty of enjoyment to be had in these thriving hot spots, Asia also offers a string of less-visited, equally amazing ‘second’ cities.
From the colours of Jaipur to the tranquillity of Luang Prabang, these overshadowed gems offer cultural experiences simply too good to pass up. They’re not quite off the beaten path, but these ‘second cities’ offer a middleground between the lively buzz of Asia’s top cities and the quiet local charm of its rural backyards. If you’re keen to travel somewhere new, here’s some great places to visit in Asia on your next trip out of Malaysia.
Hoi An is Vietnam’s most charming city. Having remained surprisingly immune to overpopulated streets, traffic and pollution, this historic port city offers the perfect place to soak in the country’s beautiful central coast region.
Walk the magical streets of Old Town, passing by historic Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese houses. Take a cooking class, learn to fish like a local, visit a temple or simply laze by the beach. For well under $5, you can also enjoy a delicious bowl of street pho and a local bia hơi.
Stroll down the colourful streets of Jaipur and you’ll realise why it’s nicknamed the ‘Pink City’. Each elaborately designed building reflects the city’s royal history, a bygone era of rich Indian rulers. Make sure you visit architectural attractions like the City Palace, Amber Fort, Palace of the Winds and Galta Monkey Temple.
You’ll also find gorgeous textiles, gems, cloths and jewellery in the city’s bustling bazaars.
Take a break from the chaotic streets of Bangkok and travel to Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai. This city revels in its laid-back atmosphere, combining ancient culture with natural wonders.
Spend your days exploring the historic temples and sites within the walled city, kicking back by the waterside and indulging in fresh, local cuisine.
For out-of-town adventures, explore the surrounding hill tribes, book a motorcycle tour or trek the rainforest canopy walks.
Next on our list of great places to visit in Asia, is Luang Prabang.
Despite being a popular south-east Asian tourist destination, Luang Prabang has managed to preserve its local charm and natural delights. Seemingly allergic to the modernisation felt by many Asian cities, Luang Prabang is the perfect place to get off the beaten track. Deservedly recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage city, be sure to fully soak in the stunning mixture of French colonial architecture, historic temples and monasteries.
No trip to Luang Prabang is complete without visiting the beautiful Kuang Si Falls, around 30km south of the city.
Skip Seoul and visit Busan, South Korea’s second largest city. Surrounded by mountains, lined with beaches and bursting at the seams with bars, boutique cafes and seafood restaurants, Busan offers something a little different to most Asian cities.
In the summer months, lap up the sun on the popular Haeundae Beach. When you’re feeling hungry, stroll up to the nearby street market for a handpicked meal of fresh lobster and octopus.
If you’re travelling in the fall, don’t miss the internationally recognised Busan International Film Festival.
From exquisite culinary refinement to museums of modern art, Kyoto is the cultural heartbeat of Japan. Simply strolling around the city offers a great introduction to its many highlights.
Visit Gion, Japan’s last remaining geisha district, and spend time in the many teahouses and exclusive Japanese restaurants. Gaze upon the unrivalled beauty of Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, visit the stunning Ryōan-ji Temple, the site of Japan’s most famous Zen garden or for a bit of fun, explore the Kyoto International Manga Museum.
Enjoying a mild climate all year round, Kunming has earned the title of China’s ‘Spring City’. It’s one of Asia’s best destinations to kick back and get away from the supersonic energy of Shanghai or Hong Kong. If kicking back isn’t your thing, there are plenty of historic temples, squares and national parks to explore.
Whatever you do, make sure you visit the nearby Stone Forest World Geopark, a jagged labyrinth of incredible karst scenery that will literally take your breath away.