Tuesday, 17 July 2018

SOUTH KOREA: Busan Is Best Destination In Asia 2018

The portside city of Busan, South Korea, has been named the best destination in Asia 2018 by the travel experts at Lonely Planet, who describe the bustling city as a confluence of culture and cuisine.

For the third edition of Lonely Planet's Best in Asia list, editors picked 10 destinations worth visiting over the next 12 months, which span East, South and Western Asia.

In May, Busan hosted an opening ceremony celebrating its title as East Asia's Culture City 2018, as part of a joint agreement between Japan, China and Korea.

Every year, three cities are selected to promote artistic and cultural development in the region.

Busan shares the title this year with Harbin, China and Kanazawa in Japan.The city also tops the "Best in Asia" list for offering travelers an eclectic offering of activities, from hikes up to Buddhist temples and hot springs to seafood feasts at the largest fish market in the country, editors say.

Busan is the second-biggest city in South Korea after Seoul.In second spot is Uzbekistan, with its dreamy mosaic clad mosques and Silk Road lore.

Last year, the country announced new visa-free schemes, and introduced new air routes and extensions to its high-speed rail line in an effort to boost international tourism and attract tourists to its jewelled sites and ancient ruins.

And rounding out the podium is Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, where vintage boutiques, independent coffee shops and innovative breweries are transforming the city into a buzzing Asian megalopolis.

Here are the top 10 destinations in their Best in Asia 2018 list:

1. Busan, South Korea

In repose between mountains and sea, Busan is a stunning confluence of scenery, culture and cuisine. It’s long been domestically lauded as the country’s best beach getaway, but South Korea’s second largest city packs an eclectic offering of activities to suit all travellers: hike hills to Buddhist temples, settle into sizzling hot springs and feast on seafood still a-wriggle at Jagalchi, the country’s largest fish market.

Bestowed the title of East Asia Culture City for 2018, Busan will be at its most vibrant this year with a medley of colourful events showcasing the country’s cultural heritage, from street art festivals to traditional dance shows.

Plus prestigious international film festival and it seems this second-city is poised to steal the spotlight.

2. Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has long held sway over travellers’ imaginations, with its dreamy mosaic-clad mosques and Silk Road lore. But the country has remained largely closed off to the wider world due to tight control following the end of the Soviet era. Thankfully, change finally appears to be afoot.

In late 2017, Uzbekistan took huge strides in opening up to tourism, announcing visa-free and e-visa schemes, new air routes and also extensions to its shiny high-speed rail network, making access to its collection of jewelled architecture and ancient cities easier than ever.

Whilst the country lags behind its neighbours in a few ways, particularly regarding human rights, there is a feeling of hope that, as Uzbekistan enjoys the benefits of being welcoming to all, positive change will follow.

3. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Though long heralded as hip, Vietnam's southern supercity somehow keeps getting cooler.

Aging apartment blocks are being colonised by vintage clothes stores and independent coffee shops, innovative breweries like Heart of Darkness and East West Brewing are fuelling one of the best craft beer scenes in Southeast Asia, and a selection of eclectic venues are strengthening the local music scene.

Add these recent developments to the city’s essential long-standing attractions like the War Remnants Museum, which details HCMC’s recent history in eye-opening displays.

A pioneering street food scene and accommodation suited to all standards not forgetting superb flight connections and it appears this buzzing Asian megalopolis is in no danger of going out of style.

4. Western Ghats, India

India’s steamy southern highlands have never garnered the same column inches as the hill stations and Himalayan heights of North India, but the Western Ghats offer an atmospheric mirror to Shimla and Darjeeling, with added jungle appeal.

Traversing Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, these rugged hills are Unesco listed as one of the top spots for biodiversity in the world.

Protecting everything from wild elephants and tigers to the neelakurinji flower, which blooms only once every 12 years and will be painting the hills in purple livery from August to October 2018.

Visit now and you’ll find coffee, tea and spice plantations, charmingly dated colonial outposts, thundering waterfalls, and even a steam-powered mountain railway, while evading the crowds who mob the northern uplands.

5. Nagasaki, Japan

For most international tourists, Nagasaki is synonymous with the tragic atomic bombing of August 1945. Remarkably, the city has converted the catastrophe into a concerted call for peace.

This exemplified by both the tranquil Nagasaki Peace Park , where a simple monolith marks the explosion's hypocentre, and the Atomic Bomb Museum, where hibakusha the atomic bomb survivors make poignant pleas for international nuclear disarmament.

But Nagasaki’s identity transcends one violent act; for centuries Japan’s main foreign trade occurred through Nagasaki's old port, bringing a distinctive East-meets-West character and, notably, Christianity to the city, the influence of which is documented in a new museum housed in Japan’s oldest church.

More leisurely tourist delights also abound, from the verdant harbour to the hiking routes that snake through the surrounding volcanic hills.

6. Chiang Mai, Thailand

With its legion of temples and grand, weather-worn city walls, the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom feels plucked from the pages of history, where visitors browse stalls of antique jewellery as the familiar scent of tilapia grilled in banana leaf fills the air.

A young, creative population has taken up residency in the city, bringing an exciting buzz to the archaic alleyways.

Now, alongside majestic, gold-painted chedis or stupas are caf├ęs known for their latte art, mural-walled restaurants specialising in experimental fusion cuisine.

And the newly-opened, award-winning MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, which, like Chiang Mai itself, draws plaudits for its masterful intertwining of traditional and modern influences.

7. Lumbini, Nepal

For decades, Lumbini was somewhere travellers flashed through en route from India to Nepal, often unaware that they had passed within yards of the birthplace of the historical Buddha.

Thanks to the efforts of the international Buddhist community, Lumbini is on the ascendancy, but despite its heritage, this sacred site remains a sleepy detour off the backpacker trail.

However, change is apace; a new international airport is under construction, offering a new, safer route into Nepal, and ever-more aweing temples are springing up.

While these developments may finally be the catalyst that brings Lumbini the attention it deserves, the town’s cardinal draw will remain its tranquillity – embodied by the rare sarus cranes that stalk the wetlands around the World Peace Pagoda.

8. Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Despite Sri Lanka emerging as one of the world’s hottest travel destinations, Arugam Bay, a surf town on the country’s east coast, has miraculously managed to retain its cool.

While holidaymakers swarm the country’s ancient citadels and hiker-strewn hill stations, here you’ll find barefooted boarders sprawled outside vegan cafes and scrawled signs on hotel doors reading - gone surfing, back soon.

Renowned as a long-time surf haven, the town boasts breaks to satisfy all levels, along with a number of schools to get everyone hanging 10.

If the turquoise swells can’t tug you in, Arugam has authentically grown its on land offering, with an increase in beachside bars and makeshift music festivals; plus a handy proximity to Kumana National Park, home to leopards, elephants and crocodiles.

9. Sichuan Province, China

Far-flung villages, towering skylines, giant pandas and fiery cuisine; Sichuan province is a microcosm of modern China, and 2018 is bursting with reasons to go.

Cosmopolitan Chengdu has become one of the country's design and tech hubs, which also means a mushrooming of luring brewpubs and boutique hotels.

Starting in 2018, travellers will be able to ride the first section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway which will eventually link Chengdu to Lhasa in just 15 hours, west to visit time-frozen Tibetan villages dwarfed by dramatic mountain scenery.

Up north, the exceptional Jiuzhaigou National Park has reopened to limited numbers of visitors after the 2017 quake, while down south spiritual experiences reign supreme: gain perspective surveying the Le Shan Grand Buddha or climb Emei Shan to absolve a lifetime’s sins.

10. Komodo National Park, Indonesia

ome to the fascinating and formidable Komodo dragon, Komodo National Park is a nature enthusiast’s nirvana. Aside from laying eyes on the illustrious lizard.

Visitors to this cerulean silhouetted archipelago in Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands can hike to hallowed viewpoints on Padar, sample laid-back beachside living on Kanawa and dive with a mind-boggling array of marine life in the reefs off Komodo.

New flight connections and liveaboards to gateway Labuanbajo have made the park more accessible than ever, prompting local authorities to examine ways to protect the Komodo species.

Visitor caps and park fee rises are likely in 2018, but travellers should play their part by joining small, responsible boat trips to avoid overwhelming the park's guides and resources.

Tourism Observer

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