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From the mist-clad stupas of Bagan, Myanmar, to the iconic outline of India’s Taj Mahal at sunrise, Asia is full of unmissable travel experiences. Vibrant and colourful, its cities, landscapes and villages are a photographer’s dream and have drawn creative minds from across the world for centuries. While it’s relatively easy to take in the classic highlights, getting off the beaten track and gaining some authenticity can be a lot more challenging. With that in mind, TravelLocal’s experts have shared their knowledge of the most culturally immersive and unique experiences in their country. From nomadic island-hopping to yoga with locals, here is our shortlist of Asia’s ultimate off the beaten track encounters…
With white sand, azure waters and spectacular sunsets, the islands of the Mergui Archipelago are a photographer’s dream. Although usually celebrated for their stunning landscapes and wildlife, the islands of Mergui are also home to an ancient and fascinating indigenous culture. Known as ‘sea nomads’, the Mokens spend their lives almost entirely on water, learning to swim before they can walk. For unforgettable memories of Mergui, take some time out of your itinerary to spend with the Moken people. Observe their fishing and hunting techniques, unchanged for centuries, and gain an insight into Myanmar’s ancient nautical traditions.
One of Sri Lanka’s most artistic cities, Kandy is a colourful treat for the senses. To get a slice of its rich culture for yourself, head to its rural outskirts and take part in an artistic retreat. Surrounded by towering mountains and rolling green hills, you’ll have no shortage of inspiration! Learn watercolour painting techniques and still life sketching, before heading out into the city to try out your new skills under the watchful eye of your tutor. With evenings spent preparing local delicacies and taking part in writing workshops, this local-led experience offers an insight into the reality of creative, rural life in Sri Lanka.
With such deep cultural roots, it’s hard to imagine a better place to practice yoga than among the stunning landscapes of India. Take a class overlooking the Taj Mahal, far from the crowds but still picture perfect; or lay your mat on the bank of the Ganges and let your mind drift away. This local-led excursion is the perfect way to become absorbed in India’s ancient culture while also embracing its cosmopolitan must-sees. Spend your days trekking through mountain surrounds and exploring iconic Indian sites before winding down for an evening of practice and guided meditation with local teachers.
With the likes of Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm stealing all the limelight, the further afield temples of the Siem Reap province are easy to overlook. Two such examples are Beng Mealea and Koh Ker, lost for centuries and almost entirely reclaimed by the forest around them. Further from the average tourist track, you are less likely to have to share these temples with heaving crowds. They also make for an idyllic sunset spot, ideal for budding photographers and nature lovers. Once the sun’s gone down, head back to Siem Reap and take in a Phare circus show – a taste of local culture to top off a day of exploration!
Make it Happen
To lose yourself in Asia’s sensational cultural offerings, click on the links above or head over to TravelLocal’s destination pages.