Here on Talk Travel Asia podcast, we explore a variety of destinations across Asia, including the things to do and see, where to eat and shop, and even where to stay. Sometimes these are up-and-coming places, often they are off-the-beaten-track, and once in a while well-trodden, but almost always they are worth a look and certainly deserving of conversation. And then there are the many other places that are sometimes discovered by accident, perhaps on a fourth visit, or because a friend in-the-know put us on to it. These hidden gems are often the most memorable. While risking putting some of our favorite hidden gems on travelers’ radar, we’re willing to take the risk.
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Scott: For me, it’s usually something you would only know about if you lived in the area for quite a while. Then again, it can be something you stumble upon. It’s often not in a guidebook or on too many online travel sites. Some people may not like it. Can be a bit difficult to get to. At first glance, there might not be much there or to do. But if you slow down, take a closer look, the dust comes off and the gem is exposed. But the nature of gems is they can’t be shared or spoken about too much!
Trevor: I like this topic, although just as we did in Episode 11: Asia’s Somewhat Secret Beaches, it’s a slippery slope for me, this one is too: I don’t like to tell too many people about my favorite hidden gems because they may not stay hidden for too long.
That was one of the challenges I had as a travel writer: you want to tell people the best places to go, but you don’t want to spoil them by having everyone go there. Speaking of the hordes of guidebook readers ruining places, I’d like to point out that hidden gems are often just under your nose: Years ago I coined a phrase “Lonelyplanetivity” which is the force that draws guidebook readers only to the places LP tells them to go to, while just down the alley, around the corner is a place 100 times better than few people discover because it’s not in the guidebook. Sometimes a hidden gem is practically hidden in plain sight, which makes them even more special.
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Trevor: I’d like to begin by telling people how to find their own hidden gems!
- Explore the neighborhood around your hotel by foot. I usually do this on arrival day to stretch my legs. Do a loop around the block or a larger loop around a few blocks to look for interesting local bars or restaurants.
- Don’t be afraid to wander down little alleys (preferably in the daylight hours: Asia is pretty safe, but…). There are lots of little alleys in Asia and some of the coolest things are actually hidden.
- Rent a motorbike and explore outside of the town you’re staying in. Wear shoes and a helmet of course, but see what else is around that’s not automatically on the tourist maps.
- Ask locals where they like to go: not just favorite restaurant but favorite date place or picnic venue: could be a waterfall or a beach. Local people know what’s best. On that front you could also ask “Expats in Whereve” group on Facebook. Just join a month or two before you go and start asking for Hidden gems.
- Don’t use your guidebook (or Trip Advisor): these are the opposite of HIDDEN gems. Great if you want something tried and true but not for the secret spots.
- I like to pick something to see that’s about a one-hour walk from where I’m staying and stroll there, poking in and out of places along the way.
- Poll friends who have been living/working in an area for a while and let them know I’m looking for a gem.
- Ask people working at hotel bars and front desks, ensuring they understand I’m looking for a gem.
Trevor: Before we get into the list, realize that “hidden” doesn’t just mean hard to find. Some are impossible to find unless you know exactly where they are. Some I don’t even know the proper names of and many are not on Google maps. So I’ve left most of those out. These are the least hidden as you can probably find them… So we’re going to go through these by country and there are surely many, many we’re forgetting about at this moment, but these will get you going.
- Scott: Wat Puk Tok in Bueng Kan province.
- Trevor: Phang Nga’s Andaman Coast.
- Scott: Route 1148 between Phayao and Nan.
- Trevor: Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.
- Scott: Old Khlong San area, Tha Din Daeng Market, Bangkok
- Trevor: Sukhothai
- Scott: The Angkor Thom wall, Siem Reap
- Trevor: Yeak Laom lake – Rattanakiri. All of Rattanakiri really.
- Scott: Greenhouse in Kampot.
- Trevor: Angkor’s smaller temples.
- Scott: Circular train route in Yangon.
- Trevor: Unnamed steam room in Luang Prabang.
- Scott: A game of petanque in Luang Prabang.
- Trevor: Sticky rice risotto in Champasak and turkey green curry in Laos.
- Scott: A run along the Mekong River in Vientiane.
- Scott: Stay at La Folie Lodge and cycle around Don Daeng.
- Scott: Sek Yuen Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.
- Scott: Pak Putra Restaurant Pakastani restaurant in Malacca.
- Trevor: Rajan Jones guest house in Tasik Chini.
- Scott: Former royal capital of Nara.
- Trevor: Find your own hidden gems!
- Scott: Matsumoto.
- Trevor: Tabanan Market.
- Trevor: Sebatu.
- Trevor: Pura Mengening.
- Scott: Shivapuri Retreat, Tamang village.
- Scott: Newa Chen, Patan.
- Scott: People watching at Ason intersection, Kathmandu.
- Scott: Hananoie-A hotel, Astam.
Click on the image below to check out our Google Map of Hidden Gems in Asia
- Episode 11: Asia’s Somewhat Secret Beaches
- Episode 13: Tantalizing Travel Tales 1
- Episode 25: Tantalizing Travel Tales 2
- Episode 40: Tantalizing Travel Tales 3
- Rajan Jones Guesthouse, Tasik Chini, Malaysia
- Hananoie-A hotel, Astam, Nepal.
- Shivapuri Retreat, Tamnang, Nepal
- Green House, Kampot, Cambodia