5 Asian Countries That Should Be on Your Bucket List
By: Sonia Sudjana
What comes to your mind when you think of Asia? For my non-Asian friends, your perception of Asia might only consist of a particular country like China, Korea, or Japan. Maybe it’s that of a film you saw that was shot somewhere in Asia or you might think of the Asian food you’ve had in your city.
When I think of Asia, I see diversity. 50 beautiful countries with their own unique cultures that have lived on for centuries. Countries and islands so distinct, yet alike, each made up of beautiful landscapes and sights that you’re guaranteed to remember for a lifetime.
A continent made up of metropolitan cities, archipelagos, sacred landmarks and sites, and bits and pieces of history since the beginning of civilization. In reality, there’s not enough time in the world to explore just how beautiful Asia really is. To immerse yourself in its rich cultures, diverse cuisine, and explore the hundreds of hidden gems that are truly a sight for sore eyes. It’s every traveler’s dream.
Here are some of my favorite Asian countries that should be on your travel bucket list:
Indonesia is where you’ll find sights straight out of an Instagram travel page, the kind of pictures that make you think: “there’s no way that’s real.” Well, it is, and I can bet that it’s in Indonesia.
In this one country alone, there’s a place for everyone. There’s the bustling city of Jakarta with exciting nightlife, the white sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs in Raja Ampat, thrilling hikes in the mountains of Java, or the journey of healing and self-discovery in Bali. This country I’m proud to call home hosts some of the world’s finest beaches, forests, and mountains. There isn’t enough time in the world to explore every inch of this majestic place, but you can sure get pretty close.
And the best part? The food! With dishes that have been on the top of CNN’s list of “The World’s Best 50 Foods,” nothing beats Indonesian cuisine. The array of dishes that make up Indonesian cuisine has its roots in hundreds of diverse cultural backgrounds, which is what makes Indonesia so special. For a country home to so many herbs and spices, you can bet that our food will taste just as good as it looks.
Thailand has some of the world’s best-hidden gems. From lush tropical jungles and clear blue waters to sacred temples, Thailand is every traveler’s paradise. Just like Indonesia, there’s something for everyone. Enjoy the busy nightlife in Bangkok, the religious sites in Chiang Mai, or go paddleboarding in the crystal clear waters of its islands, there’s so much to do in the “Land of Smiles.”
Aside from this, Thailand also boasts some of Asia’s finest cuisine. No matter how good the food at your favorite Thai restaurant is, nothing beats the real thing. You can find your favorite Thai dishes all over the streets of Thailand. From a local uncle grilling meat skewers on the side of the road to an auntie sautéing a plate of fried rice in her wok, Thailand is street food heaven. From tourist attractions to meals, everything in Thailand is super affordable!
If you’re someone who loves getting a history and culture lesson every time you travel, then Vietnam is the perfect destination for you. Its rich culture that has lived on for millenniums comes alive in its temples, monuments, and other architectural sites visited by thousands of tourists every year. Here, you can learn about the locals’ culture in one of their traditional, yet picturesque temples.
Aside from just its history, Vietnam is arguably one of the most beautiful countries in Asia, boasting breathtaking sceneries in its many lakes, mountains, waterfalls, caves, and even sand dunes! And did I mention Vietnam has some of the world’s best food? Enjoy a bowl of your favorite Phở right by the side of the road! Feast your eyes on the vendors filling up the local streets, serving delicious delicacies like spring rolls, papaya salads, and mouth-watering desserts.
On to one of my favorite go-to destinations in Asia, Singapore! Despite being one of the smallest countries in Asia, Singapore has the most to offer. Here, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Spend the entire day at a century-old temple, or head off to explore its diverse culture in the streets of Chinatown or Little India. When nighttime comes, spend it inside one of Singapore’s many luxurious shopping malls, dining with world-class chefs, or even partying in one of Asia’s most popular bars and clubs. Whatever it is, you’re guaranteed to find it in Singapore. You only need about ten dollars to hop on an MRT and go wherever it takes you!
And my favorite part of visiting Singapore – the food! It’s insane how much food so little money can get you, and I’m not talking about mediocre food, too. You can enjoy a Michelin star meal for only two Singaporean dollars! Enjoy Singapore’s mouth-watering delicacies in their hawker centers with over 100 food stalls serving your favorites like fried carrot cake, chicken rice, kaya toast, laksa, and so much more!
Japan has been an increasingly popular tourist attraction in Asia over the past few years, one that indeed deserves all the hype it has received! Similar to Singapore, Japan also offers a little bit of everything for their tourists. Japan boasts some of the most beautiful temples, castles, and historical landmarks in Asia, perfect for anyone looking to embark on a cultural getaway. Take a bath in an onsen, a Japanese hot spring, spend the day at a kyomachiya, and even attend a Japanese tea ceremony!
Aside from embracing its rich culture and history, Japan also offers modernity to its visitors. Visit Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, where thousands of people visit to enjoy delicious meals in many of its restaurants or to splurge in one of their many shopping malls. Here, you can enjoy an authentic bowl of ramen, world-class wagyu beef, and undoubtedly the best sushi you’ll ever have.