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5 unexpectedly awesome cities in Asia

Published November 30th, 2012

Home to great cities, great food and a great wall, Asia is a region that will assault your senses only to leave you wanting more. From tiger cities to exotic beaches, Asia has plenty of well-travelled hot spots, but what about the lesser-known places? The ones that allow you travel back in time, discover something new and experience Asia at its most authentic. Here we list five of our unexpected favourites:

 

The Yangtze River in China The Yangtze River in China

Chongqing, China

For a taste of new and old, the mountain city of Chongqing in China is quickly becoming a stand out for travellers. Home to numerous ethnic groups and a fascinating history dating back 3000 years, today, despite being a modern city, Chongqing has still managed to maintain its charming history and exquisite natural beauty. Located at the meeting point of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers, the city is also home to dense forests, water reserves and the spectacular Yangtze Three Gorges Dam.

 

Luang Prabang, Laos

Colourful, fragrant and innately peaceful, Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in north central Laos. Surrounded by mountains and at the meeting point of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, the picturesque city is home to numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. As such, Luang Prabang is a serene paradise, despite being a major trade city with Thailand and China. The highways are sealed and purposefully positioned away from the city itself, allowing Luang Prabang to maintain its peaceful ambience.

 

Kep, Cambodia

Slowly but surely, the resort town of Kep is rising as the next hotspot to visit in Cambodia. Located 144 kilometres south of Sihanoukville, Kep’s biggest draw cards are its sunset and seafood. The history of the town is also a fascinating part of Kep, with old colonial French villas that were tarnished during the Khmer Rougue ruling still standing, resembling post-apocalyptic times. Despite the town’s tumultuous past, it has a bright future and has been labelled the ‘Côte d’Azur of the tropics.’

 

Historic Beauty in Takayama, Japan Historic Beauty in Takayama, Japan

Takayama, Japan

While we all love the Harajuku-craziness of Tokyo, Japan’s charming old side is also one worth experiencing. One of our favourite places to do so is Takayama, a charming city located in Central Honshu near the northern Japan Alps. Though technology hasn’t left Takayama alone completely, the city has beautifully preserved its history, with the old-town featuring tradition Edo-style streets and numerous museums such as the Hida Folk Village which displays a recreated traditional mountain village. Time your visit to the city during April or October for the Takayama Festival, lauded to be one of Japan’s best festivals.

 

Banaue, Philippines

Travellers who have ventured to Banaue in the Ifugao province of Philippines will be all too aware of the beauty of this town. It’s most famous attraction being the Ifagao rice terraces. Referred to by locals as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ the breathtaking terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage site, having been carved and set up over 2000 years ago. Despite being such a popular attraction, the city itself offers fantastic value, with cheap accommodation and transport easily found.

 

Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.