East Asia is truly bursting with dynamism, development, and diversity. Economically, this is a region that has risen very fast, and now boasts some of the healthiest economies in Asia, also known as the “Asian Tigers”. This has meant that they have become increasingly internationalized and accessible to much of the Western world. But it also boasts amazing, culture, cuisine, and breathtaking landscapes!
Regardless of where you are in life, there is something for you in East Asia. Thailand (Koh Samui, Phuket, Koh Phangan), Malaysia (Langkawi, Penang) and Indonesia (Bali) will enchant you with their exotic islands, white-sand beaches, and see-through turquoise waters. Whilst if you hop over to Vietnam you’ll enjoy all of this plus fascinating history – at a very cheap price too! If you’re energized by cities and booming metropolises, give Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore a try. They will not fail to impress you, especially with Singapore and Tokyo’s unrivaled sophistication. If cuisine is your thing, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are the places to head to. But we can’t forget China, a vast country where you can truly experience it all, and a bit more. In this article, I will delve into two of my favourites, Hong Kong and Indonesia!
Hong Kong is a city of interesting juxtapositions, of cultures, civilizations, histories, and people. It is too easy to notice remnants of its colonial past. The narrow roads and signage make it appear like you’re visiting an Asian “twin” of London. The local population is also more proficient in English than the Mainland Chinese population. I could see the difference alone from just the airports of Beijing and Hong Kong. In Beijing, I had to queue in the “foreigners” queue, whilst in Hong Kong, I queued up in the “visitors” queue. But it’s what I experienced in Hong Kong that really made it unforgettable. The view from Victoria Peak, of the biggest skyline in the world, was breath-taking. Simply walking around, roaming the bookstores, sitting in the coffee shops and watching the life rattle on was an adventure. To escape Hong Kong’s urban-scape, I visited Lantau Island. Lantau Island is where you can explore some beautiful fishing villages, made of nothing more than a special type of sturdy wood! Tai O is a fishing village with lots of varieties of fish on offer, but I couldn’t resist filling myself with the Tai O Doughnut and waffles! Later in the tour, I climbed a whopping 120 stairs to say hello to Big Buddha. (P.S. “Big” is an understatement here!). Lantau was also a great place for hillwalking and boat-trips, and yes, the views were just stunning. Hong Kong is a very energizing city, with so much to see and do, and experience. It represents the height of civilization, and it is hard not to notice the many challenges the local population has to face off, like the rampant inequality and shortage of housing. These are humbling reminders of the privileges we still enjoy and the effort that is still needed to make the world a better place. Notwithstanding the challenges, Hong Kong is bound to fill you with unforgettable memories.
I had heard so many good stories about Bali, so decided to give it a try. I ended up spending six weeks in Bali, with a short trip to East Java too. Bali offered something very authentic, which in my opinion, means I still echo much of the positive comments that I first heard about it. Kuta, Seminyak and the Gili Islands had some awesome beaches, snorkeling and surfing schools. A typical afternoon was filled with snorkeling and exploring the marine life, whilst later in the evening, you could retreat into a beach resort, enjoy some good music, food, and cocktails over a gorgeous sunset! Further inland were some enjoyable walks over endless rice fields and terraces, creating a perfect setting for a good chat with some fellow tourists from other parts of the world! A visit to the big cities in East Java showed another, economically booming and developed, side of Indonesia, with numerous skyscrapers under construction, and shopping malls rivaling the standards of Dubai or Singapore. Indonesia, with its increasing popularity and variety, is not surprisingly an incredible country with amazing food, people, and landscapes you’ll find nowhere else.
I still have much more of East Asia to still discover, but so far it has never failed to impress, and therefore still occupies the highest positions on my bucket list!