Being the world’s most populous continent, Asia can present a real challenge for discerning travellers seeking truly authentic and pristine locales and experiences. So here I have selected my top five quintessentially Asian experiences that would take you completely off-the-beaten-track and give you an opportunity to experience the real beauty of the continent. I am thrilled to share these with you…
This is a true once-in-a-lifetime experience! If you are passionate about wildlife conservation and wish to see orangutans in the wild without any other tourists around, this raw and exclusive adventure in the remote parts of East Kalimantan in Indonesia offers an utterly extraordinary opportunity.
In partnership with Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation, it is possible for you to join one of the vets from the organization on an orangutan reintroduction programme deep inside the jungles of Borneo! Not only will you be able to witness the release of rescued and rehabilitated orangutans, you will also gain an unparalleled insight into orangutans’ life cycle, social structure and behavioural patterns.
Established in 1991, the BOS Foundation is an Indonesian non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Bornean orangutan and its habitat. The organisation works in cooperation with local communities, the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and international partner organisations.
The natural habitat of orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia is rapidly disappearing due to destruction of forests for palm oil plantations. The BOS Foundation has reclaimed and regenerated some of the lost habitat, which is now being used to protect the region’s flora and fauna.
Indonesia is one of the best diving and snorkeling destinations in the world and Aman’s luxury yachts Amanikan and Amandira offer the most convenient and luxurious way to access some of best locations around Raja Ampat and Komodo National Park – two of the best diving and snorkeling regions in the country.
Raja Ampat is located where the Pacific and Indian Oceans meet and this stunning area consists of more than 40,000 square kilometres of amazing marine life and thousands of islands, cays and shoals hidden in tropical jungle.
The UNESCO-protected region of Komodo National Park is home to the legendary Komodo dragon and other wildlife including wild monkeys, deer, wild horses, wild boar and many varieties of birds. Looking for the Komodo dragon on Komodo or Rinca islands, snorkeling with manta rays or watching thousands of bats flying from the island in search of food are some of the unforgettable highlights you would experience during the cruise.
Both Amandira and Amanikan are fitted with state-of-the-art equipment allowing for a variety of dives, as well as snorkeling and kayaking.
Stay in a traditional yak wool tent or log cabin and spend the days horseback riding or hiking in the vast undulating landscape or immerse yourself into the local culture; founded and staffed by the locals, Norden Camp in the remote Gansu region offers an extraordinary glimpse into the traditional Tibetan nomadic culture and lifestyle with a low-impact and highly sustainable camping experience.
Located along the legendary Silk Road and nestled between the high-altitude Tibetan and Loess plateaus, Gansu once served as an important junction between China and Central Asia. An extensive trip across Tibet is not everybody’s cup of tea, as it requires time and an appetite to bear with extremely basic infrastructure. Although Gansu region is only a short flight away from Beijing, it provides a complete contrast with pristine scenery and abundant wildlife.
The camp’s sister project the Norlha workshop offers the guests a very meaningful opportunity to support the locals in their endeavor to create a more sustainable livelihood. Under the project, the locals are trained to produce luxury textile products using yak wool, which are then sold all over the world through the platform created by the NGO. If interested, you can join them and try your hand at weaving!
Created as a “floating ryokan”, guntû beautifully combines the concepts of a traditional Japanese inn and a luxury yacht, offering the same level of exquisite service, food and amenities that you would normally expect at a historic ryokan. It is one of the most unique and luxurious ways to explore the serene Seto Inland Sea.
With only 19 suites, including the exclusive “guntû Suite”, the cabins offer ample room, with a main sleeping cabin, a cosy reading space, a separate bathroom with traditional wooden bathtub, as well as a spacious private balcony. The décor is very tasteful and minimalist, and the food is highly refined based on the freshest locally sourced ingredients.
The Seto Inland Sea spans around 250 miles and is surrounded by the islands of Honshu to the north, Shikoku to the south and Kyushu to the southwest. On a two or three-night cruise, you will have the opportunity to take in daily excursions by speedboats to the little islands scattered around the sea to experience the modest and unhurried way of life as well as the most fabulous scenery.
You can take gentle walks along the beautiful shorelines, stroll through little port towns, learn about traditional fishing methods from the local fishermen or experience the native cultural traditions and festivities.
The cruise operates from Onomichi, which is very conveniently located between Kyoto and Hiroshima and is ideal for those wanting to escape the frantic hustle and bustle of urban Japan.
The Naga people comprise of 16 proud regional tribes who were once fearsome warriors and head hunters. They have stuck to their traditional culture and rituals and the annual ten-day Hornbill Festival offers the best opportunity to come face-to-face with this mystic tribe in this utterly remote and fascinating part of northeastern India.
This is when the Nagas are at their vibrant best, in their elaborate costumes and ritual headdresses that incorporate bear skins, hornbill feathers and other symbolic accessories. The luxury tented camp in Kohima, with very comfortable and well-appointed luxury tents offers a unique glamping experience, creating the best base to experience the magical festival from.
At the festival, you can watch the local tribes show off their cultural displays including traditional dance and music, wrestling and archery as well as fun events such as chili eating contest (some of the hottest in India!) and greased bamboo pole climbing.
Beyond the festival, you can explore nearby local villages or visit the Kohima World War II Cemetery dedicated to the 2nd British Division of the Allied forces who laid down their lives fighting against the fearful and resilient Japanese army in April 1944. The Battle of Kohima was one of the most important battles during the Second World War.
These experiences which I have selected are all totally off the well-trodden path, exquisite experiences of the real Asia. If you would like more information please do feel free to contact me.
Images kindly provided courtesy of Aman Resorts, Wild China, guntû and The Ultimate Travelling Camps.