Nowhere is truly ‘hidden’ or ‘undiscovered’, but there are many places that typical travelers don’t know about. After all, on your first couple of trips to a country, you want to see the ‘must-see’ sites, and that keeps the vast majority of travelers on a similar path. On Ep. 116: Hidden Travel Gems in Asia, we not only shared some of our favorite spots but also restaurants and activities. On this episode we’ll dig deeper, focusing particularly on spots we enjoy but many travelers may not know about. Get ready to add a host of spots to your ‘must-see’ list.
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The great challenge of this topic is how quickly things typically change. Yesterday’s hidden gems are often today’s most popular venues. That said, not much has changed in the past few years except perhaps maybe some things remained hidden while others disappeared. My general rule of thumb is to avoid falling prey to LonelyPlanetivity: just explore, around the corner or farther afield. Hidden gems are everywhere if you look. That said, It’s been going on 5 years since I’ve been anywhere in Asia beyond Cambodia and Bangkok so I feel I really have nothing meaningful to contribute here as I have no idea how hidden most still are nor any new discoveries to share, but I’ll do my best, provided you allow me the leeway of steering you down the wrong back alley!
Reflections on a few of the items from Ep. 116: Hidden Gems in Asia, part 1:
- Don’t use your guidebook.
- Ask locals where they like to go.
- Driving up Phang Nga’s Andaman Coast.
- Yeak Laom lake – Ratanakiri, Cambodia
- Pura Mengening, Bali, Indonesia.
- Wander around by foot, check out alleys, and rent a motorbike if skilled and safe.
- Poll friends who have been living/working in an area for a while and let them know I’m looking for a gem.
- Circular train route in Yangon.
- Pak Putra Restaurant Pakistani restaurant in Malacca.
- Matsumoto, Japan.
So, we did some reflecting and came up with a host of destinations and some other ‘spots’ that are worth sharing and considering checking out when you’re next in the region. Here we go!
Bangkok – Food courts in shopping malls (top and bottom) for cheap good Thai food.
Salad bar at Emporium (Emquartier, Siam Paragon)
Bankara ramen, Sukhumvit 39.
Thailand – anywhere on our not-so-secret beaches episode: Ko Phra Thong, Koh Phayam, Ko Libong, etc
Angkor – Off the beaten path temples of Angkor. Banteay Thom, Trapaeng Pong, etc
Siem Reap – Banteay Chhmar day trip. I’ve been dying to go do this again, possibly combined with a day or two in Battambang, which is a bit too big and well known to be a hidden gem, but the far north is.
Cambodia – Veal Veng, O’saom. Won’t be hidden for long. Also, Ban Lung and day trips around Ratanakiri if you’ve got a car or solid rental motorbike. Andong Meas is your best bet.
Trevor (continued): Bali – places like Bali make you realize how quickly hidden gems become traffic jams: the Subak shortcut up to Echo Beach is the poster child for this or Dream Beach on Nusa Lembongan. From a recent blog post from former guest Stuart MacDonald of Travel Fish, however, I know this one is still hidden and a gem: Sideman. In fact, I recently put it on a one-week itinerary for Bali as a challenge to myself if a week in Bali was enough to hit all the main bases: surfing, trekking, temples, and snorkeling. Sideman is in a better location than Ubud to serve that need. Charming, cultural Balinese village (traditional) with charming guesthouses and rice trail trekking in the countryside not far from Keramas Candi Dasa, Tirta Gangga, and Mt. Batur.
- Kuching: Permai Rainforest Resort (treehouse along the South China Sea); good hiking right there, nice small beach, treehouse in the forest on the beach – and about 45min from the city – very cool!
- Galle (Sri Lanka): former Dutch, Portuguese, and British trading port; walled city; cool colonial buildings, a nice maritime museum, lots of activity atop the wall at night – super charming all around
- Thande Beach, Myanmar: Went in 2017 with my wife and parents; fly into a small airport, 6km long beach, quiet even then, relaxing as hell, nice seaside restaurant, even found a pizza, great runs along the beach
- Chhlong – Kratie: along the Mekong, a colonial house from 1916 built by a Chinese trader, paddling the Mekong to see dolphins, following the road along the river
- Armenia: again, is it in Asia? But what a country! Great monetary (second country in the world to follow the Catholic Church), reasonably tasty food, decent wine, a rich history, tragic in some respects – really impressed me; Orbelian Caravanserai was far out while driving to Noratus to see the graveyard; did a jog in the mountains
- Georgia: getting hot on travelers’ radar but well worth going; mountains (5,000m+) at Kazbegi and to the Gergeti Trinity Church, saw some cool cave dwellings at Uplistsikhe, along with many other sites; Tbilisi was a neat city, great food and it’s the first place in the world to make wine
- #116 – Hidden Travel Gems in Asia
- Tantalizing Travel Tales I
- Tantalizing Travel Tales II
- Tantalizing Travel Tales III
- Tantalizing Travel Tales IV
- #147: Most Memorable Hotel Experiences
- #145: High-Value Half- and Full-Day Experiences
- Trevor’s Blog
- Scott’s Blog
- Trevor’s book: National Geographic Cambodia
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