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For those readers planning on visiting Thailand, please read our “Is It Safe to Travel to Thailand?” post from earlier Tuesday.
As promised, this week’s edition of Talking Travel looks at four destinations to visit in 2014. Specifically, this list is a compilation of four international destinations located within reasonable distance of Beijing. They may not entirely be new or undiscovered, but all are worth a visit. This list was compiled specifically in light of issues with other popular Southeast Asian destinations, namely political protests in Thailand and recent damage caused to some parts of the Philippines by 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan.
1. Burma/Myanmar. Call it what you like, but there is probably no hotter travel spot in Asia right now. With a changing political situation there, it has (at least temporarily) lost its status as an international pariah and has thus become available as a travel destination. It’s been called “Thailand 10 (or 20 or 30) years ago,” with all the implied unspoiled and lesser traveled experiences. Read Lorie Karnath‘s new book Architecture in Burma as a bit of somewhat scholarly travel porn. For starters, there’s the capital Yangon, replete with Buddhist sites that are so integral to the country’s history, including the city’s centerpiece, the Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s also the political center of a nation in transition, which means there should be lots of new shops, restaurants, and cafes to check out. Further afield, there’s Bagan, described by one website as the architectural heart of ancient Burma. For beach lovers, there’s Ngapali and a host of other Andaman Sea-side spots ready to be enjoyed. Visas take a while, so be sure to apply early.
2. Taiwan. Taiwan continues to get rave reviews from travelers, and (famous last words) relations between the two neighbors look like they will remain sufficiently stable such that direct flights will stay unchanged. Taipei has a bit of a Los Angeles feel, a big city with a fair bit of nightlife, including night markets for food and shopping. History buffs will appreciate the National Museum, which contains numerous treasures, uh, transported from the Forbidden City and other imperial sites. Beyond, Taiwan is an outdoor sports lover‘s paradise, with numerous opportunities for mountain biking, hiking, and even scuba diving. At least in Taipei, English is more widely spoken than in a large city like Beijing or Shanghai, making it easier to explore for non-Chinese speakers.
3. Lombok. Known by monikers like “Backpacker Bali” or “Unspoiled Bali,” it would be most safe to say it’s “Less Touristy Bali.” Lombok, an island to the east of Bali in Indonesia, takes a bit more effort to reach once arrived, usually by air or boat. The island’s main attraction is its outdoor activities, including climbing Mount Rinjani, a semi-active volcano. There’s Pura Lingsar, Lombok’s largest Balinese Hindu temple, which dates back to 1714. There’s scuba diving on the Gili Islands, considered the “Ko Tao of Indonesia” for low-cost diving and scuba instruction. And then there’s also another option: doing nothing and just enjoying the beautiful sand, sun, and sea.
4. Laos. Another destination condescendingly described as being like the Thailand of old, Southeast Asia’s only landlocked nation offers the Buddhist charm of Burma/Myanmar (see above), amazing archaeological sites like the Valley of Jars, and a cool city, Luang Prabang. The best time to visit might be the end of the year in December when a trip can be organized around the Luang Prabang Film Festival, perhaps the best pure showcase of Southeast Asian film. Lonely Planet recommends a few things to do in the country that sound pretty amazing like kayaking on the Mekong River, rock climbing, and taking a seven-kilometer boat trip through a cave. How long is it until October 1 again?
Next week: four domestic destinations you should visit in 2014. Until then, “one road flat safe”.
Photo: Matador Network