Ever find yourself skipping past a destination because you’ve been there, done that, and gone to almost every touristy place possible? Perhaps in need for somewhere more adventurous for the #garang at heart or a quaint little town far away from the bustle? Here’s a few hidden gems you may have missed when travelling to your favourite top destinations!
Ginzan, Japan for some warmth amidst the winter cold
Located about 45 minutes from the Shinkansen stop at Oishida in Northern Yamagata, Ginzan is a postcard perfect Japanese village along a river with hot spring baths in almost every charming hotel. Wedged between hills and bridges with a small river gushing through – the attraction of the town is its physical beauty. The best way to experience Ginzan is to stay a night or two at a local ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) during winter where you’ll get to keep warm in a private onsen as you stargaze with snowflakes falling around you.
After a relaxing dip, treat yourself to a sumptuous meal of Sukiyaki. Don’t forget to look out for a little shop called Haikarasan dori, where fried buns are sold for 180 yen (SGD1.80) a piece. There’s nothing more comforting on a cold drizzling day than piping hot curry bread.
Chase frozen waterfalls at Chadar River, India
Find yourself literally threading on ice as you trek through the beautiful frozen river of Chadar. The Chadar Trek, is a winter trail in Zanskar region of Ladakh that connects villages in the Zanskar valley and has been used by the indigenous people for centuries. You’ll also walk past the many frozen waterfalls along the way and gaze at a star-filled majestic skyline as you set up camp for the day.
If you want to live like the locals, pass through the kingdom of Zanskar and stay in the small towns of Pishu, Pidmo, Stongde and Zangla. These towns though small are filled with many impressive gompas (a Tibetan monastery) and forts that you can venture to. The Chadar River is not merely a trek but a rejuvenation of a different kind and being a part of it requires preparation. While cold is surely a state of mind, prepare yourself mentally (more than physically) for this trek and you are good to go!
Surf away on sand dunes in Darwin, Australia
Deserts in Australia? You heard us right! The Simpson Desert is a large area of dry, red sandy plains and dunes that covers the southeast corner of the Northern Territory, and extends over the South Australia and Queensland borders. Many attractions located on its fringes can be accessed on a day trip from Alice Springs by touring around in a four-wheel drive – only in the Simpson Desert will you find some of the best four-wheel driving in Australia. You’ll also get a chance to run through the Binns Track from South Australia to Timber Creek where it connects with routes into Perth. Explore the ancient rock carvings and petroglyphs of the local aboriginal Arrernte tribe at Ewaninga Conservation Reserve.
What’s a trip to the desert without some sand boarding? Surf your way through Rainbow Valley, a spectacular sandstone bluff with bands of colours that are at their most spectacular in the early or late light of day. End your trip with a visit to Santa Theresa Art Centre – famous for the intricate and colourful works of local artists. More than 30 indigenous artists live and paint, carve or sculpt at the Titjikala community there and it’s open daily for all to admire. With so much to offer, it’s no surprise Australia’s always a hit on a traveller’s bucket list.
Sip on cocktails and dive into crystal clear waters of Borneo, Malaysia
Some call it the Great Barrier Reef of Malaysia, others call it the untouched diamond of the Celebes Sea. Call it what you want but Sipadan Island is an untouched piece of art. Consistently voted as one of the top diving sites in the world, Sipadan Island was also at the top of Rodale's Scuba Diving Magazine Gold List for 'The Top Dive Destination in the World'.
Dive or snorkel with over 3,000 species of fishes accompanied by hundreds of green hawksbill turtles together with barracudas, jack fishes, and even hammerhead sharks. This is definitely one holiday destination where you won’t see crowds on the beach, because the diversity and abundance of marine life beneath the water is so mesmerizing you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Alternatively, you can also scoot around in a jet ski to one of the many beautiful islands dotted across the Borneo Sea. Whilst many of the luxurious island resorts offer packages to watersports and sunset sails, why not join in on one of the many turtle conservation programs where you act as bodyguards for mother turtles laying their eggs on the beach. Sipadan is truly a hidden gem not to be missed.
Explore the fascinating alleyways of Charoen Krung Road in Bangkok, Thailand
From the King's palace to Little India and Chinatown, through the old European quarter and on to the beginnings of Bangkok's modern business district, a stroll down Charoen Krung Road touches nearly all of the historical cultural threads that weave this fascinating city together. Charoen Krung, also known as New Road, is a road in Bangkok that boasts eclectic and delectable food, bustling markets, and a diverse mix of attractions.
Walk through alleyways filled with Chinese bakeries, herb stores and open-fronted coffee shops where a roomful of old men in loose slacks sit on plastic stools sipping their morning brew, or explore the many antique art galleries, jewellery, and metal workshops on either side of the road. For a different experience at night, head down to Tep Bar where you get to enjoy different kinds of yadong (herbal Thai liquor) with traditional Thai music played with a ‘Ranad’ (Thai xylophone) in the background. What was once Bangkok's European quarter is now home to several riverside five-star hotels. While a handful of tourist-oriented travel offices and restaurants have now been established in the area, Charoen Krung will never relinquish its 'old Bangkok' atmosphere and is a definite place to visit.
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