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cheap the north face 25 of Asia’s most overlooked destinations

25 of Asia’s most overlooked destinations

Despite the extreme climes, Hoh Xil, or Kekexili, supports up to 21 endangered wildlife species, including the Tibetan antelope, the wild yak, and the Tibetan wild donkey. The Chinese government lifted a ban on visitors to the ecologically fraught area last year, and now explorers can apply for five to six day eco tours to Hoh Xil. We’re expecting queues as the amount is limited to under 1,000 every year.

2. An Bang Beach, Vietnam

Coastal old town Hoi An in Central Vietnam is best known for its bespoke tailors’ shops, excellent beaches and fresh seafood. Most tourists head to Cua Dai beach at the end of Cua Dai road, some four kilometers out of town.

Although it’s a lovely spot, it can become crowded and is prone to police surveillance.

An Bang, a beach at the end of Hai Bai Trung street outside town, is a great alternative. It’s mostly a hangout for local holiday makers but recently foreigners have opened a few beach shack bars. There’s good food, hammocks a plenty and the odd film night at these locations.

The watering holes can get blown away during the violent storm season, but rest assured they’re usually rebuilt in a flash.

Find out about the intoxicating world of Vietnam’s rice wine culture

3. Shodoshima, Japan

Shodoshima, or the Island of Little Beans, is Japan’s take on Mediterranean sensibilities.

Although you’d be hard pressed to find a foreign traveler who knows about the island, it’s famous among Japanese domestic tourists for its verdant olive groves, hot springs and wild monkeys. The 817 meter Mount Hoshigajo san, which translates as "Mount Kingdom of Stars," is an excellent vantage point for Shodoshima’s scenic landscape, including the famous Kankakei and Choshi kei valleys.

The island’s many hot springs provides reprieve for tired feet after a long day of country rambling.

4. The Wild Wall, China

The Great Wall of China might have kept out barbarian hordes, but is futile against Chinese kitsch. The Wall’s most popular areas Badaling and Mutianyu are often overrun with tourists and hawkers.

Hiking and camping on the Wild Wall the unrestored bits, often in ruins and overgrown is the best way to experience its true majesty. There are some 640 km of wall north of Beijing, much more in bordering Hebei province and beyond, and it’s remarkably easy to find a section to yourself. At sections of the Wild Wall you can hike for hours without seeing another traveler. Bring a sleeping bag, spend the night in a crumbling watchtower and imagine you’re a Ming sentry waiting for an encroaching Mongol army.

A 10 km stretch of Wild Wall between Jinshanling and Simatai is a popular section for hiking, and Huanghuacheng also has well preserved sections. Beijing taxis will take you to the wall for about US$70 round trip.

Discover Shanghai’s Muslim market: A friendly, foodie bazaar

5. Garden of Dreams, Nepal

After spending a few days in Nepal’s chaotic capital of Kathmandu, head straight to Garden of Dreams for sanctuary.

The Garden of Dreams, also known as Keshar Mahal, is just inside the entrance to Thamel on the right, across from Fire and Ice Pizzeria. While Thamel is usually a traveler’s first stop in Kathmandu, many tourists and residents pass by thedeservingGarden of Dreams without a blink.

With exotic plants and distinctly European influenced Nepali pavilions and gardens, along with the restaurant and bar operated by the prestigious Dwarika’s Hotel, Garden of Dreams is a great place to relax.

Walk through the small exhibit showcasing the renovations the garden went through from royal decay to Austrian led restorations, or read a book next to the fountains and doze off for a light nap. It’s best to visit in the early evening, so you can view the grounds in daylight and dine in the romantically lit pavilions later. Entry fee is Rs 160.

6. Ratu Boko, Indonesia

The Yogyakarta region is practically a museum of Indonesia’s dynastic history. The famed Buddhist temple Borobodur and its Hindu counterpart Prambanan typically lures crowds for its detailed relief.

Nearby, however, the oft overlooked palace complex of Ratu Bokoprovides an even more imaginative glimpse of the region’s cultural and religious origins.

Set on a ridge called the Thousand Hills, Ratu Boko offers expansive views of Prambanan as well as Java’s most active volcano, Mt Merapi. Only the foundation of the palace remains, as do former bathing pools. A mysterious well near the complex’s cremation site is a place of pilgrimage for the region’s Hindus, who say the water has sacred properties.

7. Rua da Tercena, Macau

Amid Macau’s casino boom, the antiquated Rua da Tercena remains an overlooked part of town.

A drastic departure from the overdone tourist kitsch that’s invaded the other parts of Macau, Rua da Tercena reminds visitors of what the old Macau was like before the multinational corps moved in. Craftsmen crouch in the street making Chinese furniture and cluttered antique stores don’t open until late in the afternoon. Street food stalls in street corners sells sumptuous local delicacies such as stewed cow offal and coconut ice cream.

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