Fisherman of Guilin, Li River and Karst mountains during the blue hour of dawn, China

Top Natural Beauty Spots to See on an Asian Vacation

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Our world is an attractive place to experience. Here are my choices of 5 special scenic locations on an Asian vacation, offered in Goway’s world. Each one consists of natural beauty and is exceptional.

I am well aware that my choices will not be the next person’s. However, I challenge anyone to disagree with the merits of the following (restricted to 5).

Hong Kong Skyline

The skyline of Hong Kong is like no other. It may be made up of a huge number of skyscrapers strung along the harbour front, but with Hong Kong Island’s mountain backdrop, it has a unique charm. On a Hong Kong vacation, I never get tired of being surrounded by this amazing backdrop. There are several ways of truly experiencing this skyline. One is to take the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour which runs between Kowloon (Tsim Sha Tsui) and Hong Kong Island (Central), the two principal parts that make up a large chunk of the city.  You get spectacular views of the skyline of Hong Kong and a glimpse of the harbour activity all in one during the 15-minute journey. If you want a slightly longer ride, you can catch a ferry between Kowloon and Wan Chai, further along Hong Kong Island. If you are really looking for a longer, more leisurely experience, there is a harbour cruise.

Another way to enjoy Hong Kong’s skyline on an Asian vacation is to head to Victoria Peak, the island’s highest peak which can be seen from the harbour and almost everywhere else. There are several ways to reach the summit – by road or bus, also via the Peak Tramway. The main attraction of the mountain is the view from the top looking down on both the skyline and the harbour. One other experience connected with the Hong Kong skyline is at night, when the Symphony of Lights takes place. This is a fantastic multimedia light show which lights up 44 buildings around the harbour, starting nightly at 8 pm and lasting 15 minutes. One convenient place to see this is on the Kowloon waterfront. Others are on the Star Ferry and from places on Hong Kong Island. You can hear a live narration with music at certain venues.

Hong Kong city skyline from Victoria Peak
Hong Kong city skyline from Victoria Peak

Li River, Guilin, China

I have seen much of the world, but the amazing and special scenery along this stretch of the Li River in China is some of the most spectacular I have ever experienced on an Asian vacation. To describe it in words is inadequate. It is almost like sailing past a painted landscape. Pinnacles of karst rock rise dramatically out of the ground one after the other on the banks of the river. This type of scenery can also be found in Thailand in Phang Nga Bay near Phuket. The best way to view the scenery is to take a Li River cruise from Guilin, passing by not only this majestic scenery but also rice paddies and rural life. Cruises leave first thing in the morning from Guilin. There are various types of cruises ranging from very basic to luxury cruise boats, and often, lunch or snacks are included. The boat excursion follows an 83 kilometre/52 mile stretch down the Li River. As you sail, you can also watch fishermen float by on bamboo rafts and see water buffalo working in the fields. Occasionally, you will come across a small riverside village.

You arrive eventually in the small, lovely town of Yangshuo where you have time to wander around before being brought back to Guilin by road. Yangshuo is a beautiful mountain city surrounded by 18 peaks and looks like a lotus flower in full bloom.

Spectacular karst landforms in Yangshuo, Guilin, China
Spectacular karst landforms in Yangshuo, China

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Not to be missed on trips to Vietnam is Halong Bay, a beautiful natural wonder dotted with 1600 limestone islands and islets which covers a large area. It is located in northern Vietnam 170 kilometres/105 miles east of Hanoi. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is breathtakingly beautiful, with pristine beaches, limestone caves, inland lakes and floating villages. It is enhanced by towering limestone pillars and tiny islets on top of which is forest. The backdrop dramatically rises from the emerald lake water. The name Ha Long means “descending dragon,” and refers to a legend about a family of dragons sent by the gods to defend a developing Vietnam. The dragons spat out jewels and jade which turned into islands and islets dotting the bay, all linking together to form a great wall against invaders.

One of the best ways to enjoy Halong Bay on an Asian vacation is on board a cruise vessel which can be for half a day or a cruise with accommodation for as long as 2 nights. You will sail by amazing caves and grottoes with stalactites and stalagmites. Some of these caves can be visited. Dau Go Cave is one of the most visited caves in the bay with formations in shapes of people, animals, and objects. You can explore Halong Bay on a Chinese-style junk or a high-speed boat. No matter which way you view it on a Vietnam vacation, you will marvel at the emerald waters, the impressive rock formations, and the majestic beauty of Halong Bay.

Karst landforms in Halong Bay, Vietnam
Karst landforms in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Phi Phi Island, Thailand

Phi Phi Island was the venue for the filming of the movie, The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, in 2000. It was reported that Phi Phi had a large increase in tourists wanting to visit this piece of paradise on their Thailand vacation after the movie was released. They will have found one of the most naturally beautiful islands, not only in Thailand but anywhere. Why? It could be the abundance of coral, long white sandy beaches, and backdrop of limestone mountains with sheer cliffs. Phi Phi Island is easily accessible from Phuket as it is only 50 kilometres/31 miles south-east in the Andaman Sea and conveniently reached by ferry. It should be noted that there is no public transportation in Phi Phi. It is actually made up of several islands but only 2 are of any significance, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. The former is where all the accommodation is to be found and is the only island that is populated. Laem Thong, also known as Golden Bay, on the north-east coast of Phi Phi, is a former fishing village and a good place to stay if you are looking for a quiet location to relax on your Asian vacation. It offers beach and marine activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, and pleasant walks along the coastal path, with its coconut trees overlooking a turquoise sea. Another quiet beach area is Long Beach, also known as Yao Beach. This is a good choice for those who like tranquility and offers visitors some fantastic views and scenery, plus coral reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Totally uninhabited except for visitors during the daytime, Phi Phi Leh lies 1.5 kilometres/1 mile off the southernmost tip of Phi Phi Don. It offers a wonderful combination of small sandy beaches, coral reefs, and vertical cliffs capped with green foliage. Maya Bay here has arguably Phi Phi’s most fantastic beach and was the exact location for the aforementioned film.

Tropical island with resorts on Phi Phi Island, Krabi Province, Thailand
Resorts on Phi Phi Island, Krabi Province, Thailand

Mount Everest

We all know Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. The majority of us have no desire to actually climb it. However, most of us would probably like to have a glimpse of it. So where can we do that? One place is Nepal (Mount Everest also belongs to Tibet geographically), where it can be viewed in two different ways. If you find yourself in Kathmandu, a destination well worth visiting in its own right on a Nepal vacation, just outside of the city is a village called Nagarkot, 32 kilometres/20 miles away. It has a reputation for being the best place to view the Himalayas around Kathmandu. You can stay in one of the hotels from whose balconies you can take in the wonderful mountain vistas. A visit to Nagarkot is best between October and March when you will nearly always be rewarded with mountain views including Mount Everest. However be warned, the mountains are notorious for suddenly disappearing behind clouds at any time.

The other way to view Mount Everest is to take the 45-minute flight excursion from Kathmandu airport. You will experience breathtaking views of not only this mountain peak, but of the surrounding Himalayan range. You depart by bus from Kathmandu to the airport to join a small plane. You literally fly over the 29,029-foot/8,848-metre high Mount Everest. A pilot provides a narration during the flight about the significance and the names of the various summits. You can take amazing photos from the plane of this viewpoint.

Panorama of the Himalayas from the village of Nagarkot, Nepal
Panorama of the Himalayas from the village of Nagarkot, Nepal
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Robert Glazier
Robert Glazier

Contributing Writer - With over 40 years experience in the travel industry, and working for Goway for the last 19 years, British-born Robert Glazier has travelled to over 80 countries. “I have never met a destination which didn’t have something to interest me,” he says. His first foray abroad was from England to Switzerland on a school trip at the age of 14, and that was the start of a long journey. An avid runner, Robert’s favourite way of exploring a destination, is to don his running shoes and really get to know it on foot, even if it means sometimes getting lost! His advice to other travellers? Always wonder what is around the next corner!

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