Myanmar - Vietnam - Cambodia - Laos - Thailand
China (including Tibet) - Japan - Mongolia - North Korea
With its long history and incredibly diverse culture, combined with superlative service and old world charm,
it’s the Far East is a ideal destination for the experienced adventurer or the first time traveller alike.
Japans’ unique civilisation, isolated history and traditional society make it a truly amazing destination. Famous for Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Kyoto and the Geisha (not to mention the cuisine!) Japan is a genuinely astounding destination. Probably our favourite memories of Japan stem from wandering the cities and exploring all the unique and unusual sites that we stumbled upon. Experiencing traditional Japanese hospitality at a Ryokan is without a doubt a highlight of any Journey to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Not many countries evoke such a sense of mystery as Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Referred to as the jewel of South East Asia and immortalised in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Road To Mandalay”, it remains one of the most sought after destinations in world travel. With truly iconic sites such as the thousands of temples and pagodas of Bagan and the culturally fascinating Inle Lake it really does represent a window into the South East Asia of old. There is nothing quite like floating down the Irrawaddy River on one of the new luxury cruisers however (and sipping a sundowner of course!)
No trip to SE Asia is complete without a visit to the stunning Angkor Wat where over 100 temples are spread out over 3,000 square kilometres. Watching the early morning sunrise over Angkor is truly a sight to behold, but we always recommend getting out into the lesser-known spots nice and early too. Cambodia is, sadly, well known for the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, and Phnom Penh, has a number of incredibly moving memorials, museums and burial grounds as reminders of this horrendous time. However, regardless of its recent history, we will always remember Cambodia for its welcoming people, enduring traditions and scenic beauty.
Laos is one of the lesser know destinations in Asia and one of our favourites as it hasn’t been developed as much as some of its better-known neighbours. Those in the know compare it to Thailand thirty years ago - which is quite a compliment indeed! Every trip needs to include time at the UNESCO world heritage city of Luang Prabang. There’s nowhere better to see saffron-robed monks, ancient temples and beautiful colonial architecture. We loved hiking in the distant rice paddies and the authentic homestay opportunities that Laos has on offer but another highlight was the gentle cruise down the Mekong towards Cambodia.
CHINA (including Tibet)
China with its three millennia of history provides a plethora of bucket list sites such as the Terracotta Warriors, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and are certainly not to be missed. However, what we remember most fondly were the off the beaten track areas of Yunnan Province by the Tibet border and the minority tribes we met there. One of our favourite experiences was the train Journey to Lhasa at the beginning of a truly unforgettable trip to Tibet. There’s certainly no shortage of choice here…
Vietnam is a country of exquisite beauty and astounding culture. With its combination of ancient kingdoms, colonial past and more recent communist rule it has something for everyone. Although the highlands of Sapa and the World Heritage Site of Halong Bay remain top of our list, nothing quite compares to sipping an ice cold Bia Hoi at a roadside corner after a day in the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.
There aren’t too many places of such vast beauty left on the planet like Mongolia. Although Ulaanbaatar has become a large modern city, as soon as you head out into the countryside you’re in for a much more rustic experience. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mongolia is a perfect destination for the outdoorsman – with the Alpine region to the North (including the pristine Lake Hovsgol), the snow-capped Altai Mountains to the West and the startlingly beautiful Gobi Desert to the South, there’s an incredibly diverse range of activities and experiences to be enjoyed. Highlights for us included sitting outside our Yurt in the Gobi desert and watching the sky darken only to fill with an immeasurable number of stars and spending time with the nomadic herders and trying (pretty unsuccessfully) to round up sheep from horseback.
One of our more interesting trips over the years was to North Korea. Obviously it’s a divisive destination but the Hermit Kingdom remains one of the most unique places to visit in the world. A trip to the DPRK includes a decent amount of sightseeing to government approved sites like the Victorious Fatherland Liberation Museum (War Museum) the USS Pueblo and the Arch of Triumph - and yes you have to travel everywhere with a state sanctioned guide. However, being able to experience some of the more random sites like the Pyongyang metro system, riding a rollercoaster at the amusement park or having a few beers at a micro brewery were unexpected highlights as we got to rub shoulders with the locals. Deserving of a special mention is viewing the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. To be just a few meters away from one of the most talked about strips of land in the world is quite something. Often unusual but always surprising, North Korea is certainly one for the more intrepid traveller.