6 August, 2014

Sassy’s Asian Travel Bucket List

6 August, 2014

I doubt anywhere else in the world has such a communal sense of wanderlust as Hong Kong. With a large amount of transient expats desperate to make the most of their holidays whilst living in Asia, so many places on our doorstep and a generous amount of public holidays to boot, it seems as if holidaying has become something of a Hong Kong rite of passage.

But choosing where to go and what to do isn’t easy. With endless choices, each affected by your mood and desires, the decision making process can be the most strenuous bit. So, as ever, Sassy is here to help with our Asian Travel Bucket List. Our top places to go in Asia – whether they be specific hotels, regions or just country tips. Grab your passport and start working your way through…



Hong Kong may steal the jewel in Asia’s city crown but there are plenty of other cities worth a visit, most suitable for a brief weekend fling.

Centred around a lake, there is something mystical about this city merging delicious street food, colonial architecture and haunting memories of the Vietnam war. For a true experience stay at the Sofitel Legend Metropole (check out our review here!) and read our City Guide here.

Korean culture has come to global attention since K-Pop’s glory moment but there is so much more to be seen by diving into the Korean capital. Quirky fashion, vibrant boutique shopping areas, sacred temples and some of the friendliest city dwellers you ever will meet. It’s a maze of a city so go prepared – yet another handy city guide to ease your journey. Check out our City Guide here for more details!

The only city that can truly compete with Hong Kong for hustle and bustle. This sprawling metropolis will astound with its monumental modernity fused with traditional Japanese culture. Grab a drink at the famed Park Hyatt New York Bar, have sushi for breakfast at Tsukiji fish market and marvel at the serenity in the many parks. Read our City Guide here for more tips.

Ridiculously close, bafflingly cheap luxury hotels and best of all, astounding Thai food. Grab rooftop drinks at Moon Bar and also Sky Bar, spend a day lingering around Chatuchak market and dedicate some time towards a boat trip at the floating markets a bit further afield. Some more nifty tips here.

pudong skylineShanghai
Whether you prefer Shanghai or Beijing depends on taste. Shanghai definitely exaggerates the juxtaposition between new and old more. The wonderfully colonial Bund housing European style 19th Century buildings stands proudly opposite the space age looking Pudong on the other side of the river. Wander aimlessly around the French Concession, eat astoundingly good French and Shanghainese food and amble aimlessly up and down the Bund. See our city guide here.

China’s capital city manages to seamlessly merge its historic core with its aspirations of modernity. Alternate between the modern Sanlitun and the enchanting Forbidden City and hutongs. Book early to get a table at famed duck restaurant Da Dong and be sure to plan an excursion to the breath taking Great Wall. See our City Guide here. If you’re feeling indulgent stay at Aman at Summer Palace (check out our review here).



Some of the greatest cultural sights in the world can be found in this part of the globe, so broaden your horizons, grab a guide book and do some brain enriching holidaying.

DSC06395Siem Reap
The un-missable sight of Angkor Wat and other surrounding temples is one of life’s most dazzling sights. Amazingly restored following the damage wreaked by the Khmer Rouge, you will not fail to be entranced by these architectural wonders. Set off early every morning and find yourself a tuk tuk driver who can help you avoid the crowds. Some more info here and here.

Luang Prubang
This world heritage town is a remarkable contrast to the rest of Laos. An untouched French-esque high street sits seemingly in the middle of nowhere, flanked only by the magical Mekong River. Take a boat ride to visit some local villages, sip on French coffee in the main strip and be sure to pop into the Aman; housed in the former hospital. Plan your visit in advance.

Yes, it’s a whole country we’re suggesting, but having only just opened up to tourism the entire area is just waiting to be discovered. Schedule a 7-10 day trip with guided tours and be sure not to miss Bagan, Inle Lake and Kalaw. Check out our full review of the country!

Chiang Mai
Nestling up in Northern Thailand, it is actually the country’s second biggest city. Although the city itself is filled with sprawling markets and wonderful temples, the real delights are an excursion away with elephant treks through jungles, hillside temples with 360-degree views and a wealth of nature waiting to be explored. See some tips here.


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This Kingdom is unrivalled for the happiness of the people, the magnitude of nature and the wealth of explorations to be made. A trip here doesn’t come cheap and has to be organised as a tour but it will offer you an experience unlike any other.

Tiger Leaping Gorge
China’s rural areas are full of hidden treasures. One of the most memorable has to be the inspiringly named Gorge. Head there for some scenic hikes and whilst you’re in the area don’t forget to check out Lijiang and Shangri-La.


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Conjuring up images of geisha lined street, rose coloured cherry blossoms and centuries old ryokans, Kyoto is perhaps one of Japan’s more evocative destinations. Jump on a bullet train out of Tokyo and be prepared to spend big to get the most authentic ryokan experience. Check out these memorable accommodation options with The Ryokan Collection.



If you are an adrenalin seeker at heart then there are plenty of challenges waiting to be conquered and then deservedly boasted about.


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Horse Riding in Mongolia
With sweeping desserts, yurt living and a fondness for Yaks, Mongolia is a must visit destination. Best seen on a tour by horseback, forgo luxury and sleep in a yurt to make the most of your experience. There’s also some pretty extreme fishing to be found if that floats your boat.

The ultimate feat here is to climb Mount Kinabalu. It will take you two days and it will be hard graft but reward yourself with some paradise like pampering at one of the island’s picturesque beaches afterwards to aid your recovery. Be prepared though – it’s not as easy as experienced climbers may boast.


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Safari in Sri Lanka
With the civil war over, Sri Lanka is firmly on people’s travel radar. The beaches are great, the cities fascinating but the un-missable experience is a safari around the more inland regions where you can spot leopards and elephants before heading for some beachside pampering.

Run a Marathon
Somehow pounding the pavements of Hong Kong doesn’t quite cut it on the impressive scale. So book early to get a place on one of these popular scenic marathons. Some of the top challenges are the Angkor Wat halfThe Great Wall of China marathon, the Annupurna 100 in Nepal and for real enthusiasts some of Racing the Planet’s 250km epic adventures (check our our Top 9 Marathon picks here).

niseko-guide-dcgSkiing in Niseko
Incomparable with Western ski resorts, everyone who visits Niseko loves it. It’s famed for its powder but just as appealing is the incredible fresh Hokkaido farm and seafood on offer. Grab a group, don your skis and head to Japan for some of the world’s best skiing. Check out our guide here.

Diving in Malaysia
For the true dive enthusiast, you would happily shun the beaches for the underwater wonders. The ultimate dive location has to be Sipadan Island in Malaysia – 35km from Borneo it’s universally known as one of the best dive locations on the planet. Whilst you can’t stay on the island itself there are plenty of hotels nearby organising dive trips. For more info see this article.



Never before has indulgent relaxation been so close at hand. There is no shame in heading somewhere with the sole intention of doing nothing. But if you’re going to do it, do it in style at one of our top destinations.

Pulo_BeachSunset_hpThe Philippines
OK, so there are a lot of islands to choose from but wherever you go you will find smiling faces, turquoise waters and unspoilt white sand beaches. For a really convenient beach weekend head to the Shangri-La on either Cebu or Boracay, for the most picturesque island head to Palawan and for the ultimate luxury and a real splurge head to the Amanpulo, housed on its own private island.

Remote Thai islands
We can all see the appeal of Phuket and Koh Samui; a range of hotels, good restaurants and on the beaten track. But they won’t make any bucket list purely from being over commercialised and worn down in places. To really see Thailand – head to a less well-known island, grab a beach shack and embrace your inner Robinson Crusoe. See our round up here.

Bali’s beaches are famed around the world, and they’re great to head to if a simple beach break is all you’re after – or a livelier holiday can be found in Seminyak, but we think that the most unique experience can be found up in the hills of Ubud. Book into the Chedi Club and bed down amongst the paddy fields for the ultimate relaxing break.

If you prefer to mix your relaxation up with some activities then Lombok is for you. Often overlooked in favour for more popular neighbouring Bali, Lombok is a treasure trove of holiday wonderment. Either find a secluded beach and soak up the sun, spend three days hiking Mt Rinjani Volcano or head to the beautiful Gili islands for some fabulous diving.

Private-onsenOnsen in Japan
Part of exploring other cultures is embracing different approaches to relaxation. In Japan, it’s all about the restorative power of onsen. Find an authentic ryokan, don your traditional robes and soak in the sulphurous pools marvelling at the beautiful scenery beyond. Check out our Sassy onsen experience here.


So, there you have it. Our ultimate Asian Travel Bucket List. Think we’ve missed anything un-missable? Send us your suggestions…


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