Let’s have a look at five destinations you should consider exploring.
It’s always fun in Taipei. A trip here would be incomplete without admiring the entire city from the 509 metres-tall Taipei 101 Observatory on the 89th floor of the world’s tallest green building. The observatory, located 382 metres above ground, is spread over four floors where visitors can learn about the engineering marvel amid panoramic views of the urban landscape. If you think you have nerves of steel, head to the Outdoor Observatory by taking the stairs to the 91st floor. However, it is only accessible during clear weather.
While you can admire Taipei from atop the skyscraper, a 30-minute hike up Elephant Mountain stairs either in the morning or evening will give you a magnificent view of the city skyline. After the hike, head to the largest market in Taipei called Shilin Night Market to sample traditional fare like giant fried chicken steak, bubble tea, oyster omelette or the stinky tofu.
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Even without the zombie outbreak as portrayed by 2016 film Train to Busan, a trip to the seaside town of the second largest city in South Korea is as memorable, if not better, than the bustling capital Seoul. The laidback city boasts a plethora of attractions for all seasons like beaches, hot springs and more. Most Buddhist temples in South Korea are nestled on mountains. The 14th century Haedong Yonggung Temple in Busan, meanwhile, is one of few perched along the oceanfront. When the sun rises, visitors are blessed with scenery so amazing, it gives you divine feelings you can’t get elsewhere.
After basking in the glorious views, make your way to the nearby Haeundae Beach either for a bit of sunbathing or splashing watersport activities. Boasting a 1.5 kilometre stretch of fine sands and azure waters, Haeundae is also considered one of South Korea’s most beautiful beaches. Staying till sunset is a must!
The largest city in southern Japan’s island of Kyushu is steeped in samurai heritage. One of the landmarks you should visit for that “uniquely Fukuoka photo” is Futamigaura Beach. Look for a white torii (traditional Japanese gate) and twin monoliths named Izanagi and Izanami (affectionately known as ‘Wedded Rocks’). Wait for the sunset and you’ll see how stunning the place is.
If you’re travelling for a little R&R, you have to try the Japanese hot spring experience known as onsen. Here, you can visit the Hells of Beppu – a cluster of eight hot springs each with its own unique character. Alternatively, you can take a dip in Chinoike Jigoku’s massive pond of orange-red bubbling mud or Kamado Jigoku, known as the ‘Cooking Pot Hell’.
If that’s not enough, tap into a zen feeling amid more wonders of nature at Takachiho Gorge. Formed from Mount Aso’s erupting lava some 100,000 years ago, Takachiho Gorge today boasts high cliffs of volcanic basalt columns with the Manai Waterfalls falling into the Gokase River. You can enjoy the views from a platform or a boat to get up close and personal.
When in Osaka, Japan’s second largest metropolitan after Tokyo, visiting the Osaka Castle is one of the first things you should do. Built in 1583, the castle has survived centuries of battles. Although it had undergone several reconstructions, the original grand concept remains today with moats, walls, palace and keep. Other than fantastic sceneries especially in spring when the sakura flowers bloom, the castle also serves as a museum complete with modern facilities.
For that bustling Tokyo feel, a stroll around Dotonburi treats you with lively nightlife scenes as people flock the neon-lit cafes and bars along the Tonbori Riverwalk. This is also the best place to sample signature Osakan dishes like Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki and Kushikatsu.
It’s also worth going on a side trip to Arashiyama, just an hour away by train from Osaka. Here you can check out the real-life version of the iconic bamboo forest portrayed in historical anime films and series. Standing amid the soaring stalks of bamboo at the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove will definitely take you to another world.
5. Gold Coast
You can never go wrong with Gold Coast – one of Australia’s most famous holiday destinations. Amid the skyscrapers rising close to the beach, the lively three kilometre-strand of Surfers Paradise remains clean and beautiful. While the name may suggest massive swells only to be enjoyed by keen boardriders, there are several spots with gentle waves where you can work on a tan, enjoy a quick swim or even try local food at restaurants and cafes dotted along the beach.
If you want to take sightseeing to another level, join the SkyPoint Climb that starts from the 77th floor of a residential tower called Q1. From there, you will exit the building and hike up 298 stairs to an open-air platform 270 metres above the ground. While you do get to see the amazing cityscape, let’s see how you enjoy the sea breeze from such a high open-air platform. Once you’re back on the ground, get on a boat and head to deeper waters to cross something off your bucket list – whale watching.
From June to November, the Gold Coast boasts the longest whale watching season on the country’s east coast – to the point where the waters are referred to as the Humpback Highway. There are plenty of tour operators to choose from, but if it’s too expensive for your budget, just get a set of binoculars and try spotting the massive mammals from viewpoints like Southport Surf Club, Miami Hill, Burleigh Headland, Tumgun Lookout, Kirra Hill and Point Danger.