15 Unconventional Travel Ideas in Asia

Wednesday February 22, 2017 | by Gladys Ang | In Asia

Are you bored of the typical street shopping scene in Myeongdong?

Visited all the theme parks in the Kanto region?

Too much Thai Milk Tea for your own good?

Want something more than teahouse hopping in Hong Kong for the best dimsum?

Covered most of the Night Markets in Taipei?

If you have answered yes to any of the questions, fret not because we have a list of unconventional travel ideas for you! On this week’s ZUJI Passport, we will uncover some of Asia’s best kept secrets. Apart from eating, shopping and sightseeing, there is a plethora of other activities to do!

1. Conquer the Bugaksan Seoul Fortress (Seoul)

Seoul Fortress

Source: Around the World in KT Days

Already conquered Bukhansan Mountain and Namsan at Seoul? Hike up the Seoul Fortress during your next Seoul trip! Reopened in 2006, Bugaksan Mountain promises a great view of the city, besides being a great opportunity to burn off those calories from all those street food at Myeongdong :P

Address: Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Getting There: Start from the Malbawi Information Center to the Changuimun Information Center for an easier hike; it takes approximately 2 to 2.5 hours to complete.

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2. Thrift/Vintage Shopping

Do you feel that you’re too cool for the rest of the crowd? Stand out by getting vintage pieces that are no longer retailing in stores! Who knows, you might be the next fashion icon and start a new trend. Start with these thrift shops that have an eclectic collection of clothes, you can be sure that you will find something to your liking. #thriftinisLife.

Neon Moon (Seoul)

Neon Moon

Source: Mutzine

Looking for something beyond Stylenanda, Chuu, ALand in Seoul? Visit Neon Moon instead! Neon Moon offers a selection of unique finds, ranging from ostentatious accessories to nostalgic childhood toys.

Neon Moon

Source: Mintyfrills

Recently, they have launched their own line of clothes that are inspired by Wes Anderson films. If you're into the quirky and kitsch style, Neon Moon is just about right for you.

Address: 194-11 Seongmisan-ro, Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Getting There: Alight at Hongik University Station, walk 4 minutes to Cheonggiwa Gas Station Bus Stop and take bus 7737. Alight after 2 stops at Yeonhui-dong Daewoo Apt. bus stop.

Rag Tag Harajuku (Tokyo)

Rag Tag

Source: Japankuru

Have a penchant for branded goods but can’t afford them at their original prices? Rag Tag has an assortment of local and international brands that have prices slashed up to 80% off! From the limited edition shoes to past season fashion pieces, you might be lucky enough to find that one pair of shoes that you have been eyeing for the longest time ;) The store features 2 levels of great thrift deals and the 3rd level is for the transaction between the sellers and the store.

Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tōkyō-to, Shibuya-ku, 渋谷区 Jingūmae, 6 Chome−6−14−2
Getting There: 5 min walk away from Meijijing-Mae Station

New York Joe Exchange (Tokyo)

NY Joe Exchange

Source: New York Joe Exchange

If you are not into branded goods, New York Joe Exchange would be perfect for your bargain hunt. Buyers and sellers have the option to swap but this is subjected to certain guidelines so do not bring your ragged old shirt unless you want to get judged. Keep a lookout for their sale every first Sunday of the month to get further discounts!  

Address: NEW YORK JOE 下北沢店, Japan, 〒155-0031 Tokyo, 世田谷区 Kitazawa, 3 Chome−26−4
Getting There: 5 min walk away from the South Gate exit of Shimokitazawa Station

Papaya Vintage Shop (Bangkok)

Papaya Vintage

Source: Design4Furniture

At first glance, Papaya Vintage may seem like a warehouse of cluttered goods but it is in fact, an organised mess. From vintage toys, to Vespas and even retro furniture, Papaya Vintage is almost like a treasure chest with an extensive collection for anything and everything. However, taking the size of the warehouse into consideration, you would have to snap a photo of the item (which usually has no price indicated) that you want to purchase and check the prices with the staff. An alternative way to make your way around the shop is to indulge in your own photo shoot within the 5000sqm space. *All for the Grams*

Address:  Lat Phrao 55 Alley, Khwaeng Saphansong, Khet Wang Thonglang, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10310, Thailand
Getting There: Alight at Lat Phrao Station, Exit 4. Board any bus (except for 151 and 156) from the bus stop on the right upon exiting. Lookout for the street sign, 55/2 and alight. The bus journey is about 10 minutes.


3. Visit the obscure Hokokuji Bamboo Garden (Kamakura)

Hokokuji Bamboo Garden

Source: G Ang

Tucked away in the back of Kamakura’s Hokokuji Temple’s main hall is one of Japan’s most beautiful bamboo gardens. Though it might seem small in comparison to the Arashiyama’s Bamboo Forest, the narrow pathway leads you a tea house where you can enjoy the serendipity of the lush greenery while sipping on a hot cup of Matcha.

Address: 2-7-4 Jomyoji, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0003, Japan
Getting There: Alight at JR Kamakura Station (Yokosuka Line) and take a 10-minute bus ride to Jomyoji (浄明寺)bus stop by bus 鎌23, 鎌24 or 鎌36).


4. Watch the sunset next to Mount Fuji at the Southern Coast(Enoshima)

Enoshima Southern Coast

Source: G Ang

At the west of Kamakura just off the Shonan Coast is Enoshima, a popular island retreat for the locals during summer as its beaches are some of the best surfing spots to catch a wave. The Southern Coast of this small island is one of the best Mount Fuji viewing sites, especially when the sun sets. For safety reasons, the coast may be closed when the tide rises, otherwise, it is a common sight to see the locals fishing.

Getting There: From Kamakura Station, take the Enoden to Enoshima Station. Cross the main bridge that connect the station and the island. Head towards Shotenjima Park and follow the right coastline of the small rock mountain.


5. Hike Up Mount Tsukuba for Panoramic View of Tokyo’s Skyline and Mount Fuji (Ibaraki)

Mt Tsukuba

Source: Ainiken

Like Korea, Japan is another mountainous country but Mount Tsukuba stands out from the rest with its double peak - Nyotai-san 877m and Nantai-san 871m. As much like other mountains, the view from Mount Tsukuba is breathtaking, where hikers can get a great view of the Kanto Plain and notably the panoramic views of the Tokyo Skyline and Mount Fuji. It is situated in the Ibaraki Prefecture that is near Tokyo and is a perfect day trip for hikers and mountain enthusiasts.

Address: Mount Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture 300-4352, Japan
Getting There: Take a 45-minute train ride from Akihabara Station to Tsukuba Station (Tsukuba Express Line), followed by a 40 minutes bus ride to the Tsukuba-san Shrine.

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6. Get the Ultimate Zen Experience - Do Yoga in a Temple (Tokyo)

Temple Yoga

Source: Savvy Tokyo

While Tokyo seems to be one of the busiest capitals in the world, a quaint temple in the suburbs of the Meguro neighbouhood offers an alternative Yoga experience - in a temple. Yes, you heard me right, yoga in a temple. The objective of the yoga classes conducted in the temple is to relax, especially for the citizens in Tokyo that are known to overwork a lot. Time to channel those Zen vibes for a better state of mind.

Address: Amida Do, Gohyaku-Rakan Temple, 3-20-11 Shimo-Meguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Getting There: Exit from Meguro Station Main Exit and walk 11 minutes.


7. Live in a Bookstore, literally (Tokyo)

Book and Bed Tokyo

Source: Suppose Design Office Co. Ltd.

Are you a bibliophile on a pilgrimage to discover the best bookstores that the world has to offer? Is your ideal trip one that allows you to live and breathe among books? At Book and Bed Tokyo, you’re in for a treat! It is an accommodation and bookstore concept where you can sleep right behind the bookstore.

Address: Japan, 〒171-0021 Tokyo, Toshima, Nishiikebukuro, 1−17−7, ルミエールビル
Getting There: 5 minute walk away from Ikebukuro Station (Yamanote Line, Tokyo Metro Line, Tobu Railway Line)


8. Catch a Spectacular View from Nei Lak Shan Country Trail, Lantau Island (Hong Kong)

Nei Lak Shan

Source: Instagram (@littlegreys)


While most people visit Lantau Island to see the Tian Tan Buddha statue and Po Lin Monastery, the locals visit there for another reason – the Nei Lak Shan County Trail. It is a relatively new 5km trail and that promises a spectacular view of Ngong Ping and the Buddha statue from another perspective.

Source: Webs of Significance

If you are in for a leisurely stroll, you can for the Southern Loop. Alternatively, the longer Northern Loop trail would appeal more to you if you are feeling more adventurous and energetic.

Getting There: Alight at Tung Chung MTR (approx. 25 minutes from Hong Kong station). Start and End at Dong Shan Fa Mun; it takes approximately 2 hours to complete the trail.


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9. Visit Cape D'Aguilar, the only Marine Reserve in (Hong Kong)

Source: Trover

This scenic coastal hike is probably one of the best nature view that Hong Kong has to offer. Who said that Hong Kong was just an (overly) congested concrete jungle?

Whoever said that Hong Kong is just an (overly) congested concrete jungle definitely have not discovered the real gem at Cape D'Aguilar. Look at those hues of blue, what a sight to behold!  

Getting There: Alight at Shau Kei Wan Station, Exit A3 and take Bus 9 from Shau Kei Wan Bus Terminal (towards Shek O)l; the Cape is about a 20 minutes walk away from the bus stop.


10. Discover Cheung Chau’s Secret Night Market (Hong Kong)

Source: CNN Travel

Cheung Chau island is one of the most idyllic island retreats for locals and tourists that want to get away from the bustling crowds in Hong Kong. But once night falls, a secret night market opens its stores and serves up fresh hawker street food like cheung fan and congee. An alternative experience that you can have if you miss (on purpose) the last ferry and experience for yourself the boisterous nightlife in Cheung Chau.

Getting There: Take the MTR to Central/Hong Kong station and take a ferry from Central Pier 5. 


11. Get Educated at Siriraj Medical Museum (Bangkok)

Source: Atlas Obscura

Are you a budding medicine student or simply have a morbid fascination with the human anatomy? Get educated at Bangkok’s Siriraj Medical Museum which have an extensive collection or organs. It also showcases bodies that are plagued with diseases and the corpses of Thailand’s most notorious killers. This is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Address: 2 Wanglung Road Khwaeng Siriraj, Khet Bangkok Noi, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10700, Thailand
Getting There:
Walk from Arun Amarin to Siriraj Hospital or Take a Boat Ride (Chao Praya Express) and alight at Wang Lang Pier. The museum is at Building 27.


12. Cruise along the Klongs (Bangkok)

Source: Ytravelblog

Here’s a little known fact about Bangkok, it was once known as the Venice of the East as they too have a long history and unique culture of floating houses. While Venice and Amsterdam have their own picturesque canals, the boat ride in the Klongs (canals) has less grandeur but you get to see a more laidback village life beyond the crazy traffic in the Bangkok's main streets.

Getting There: There are a number of boats available at the Chao Phraya River floating docks, prices range from 900 to 1800 baht for a private boat.


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13. Challenge Yourself at the Sathorn Unique ‘Ghost Tower’ (Bangkok)

Next up is for those thriller seekers that love to venture into the unknown and the eerie vibes from abandoned spaces. Challenge yourself to one of the world's highest abandoned buidling - the Sathorn Unique.

Source: Scariestwebsite.com

Intially constructed to be one of the most luxurious condominium buildings in Downtown Bangkok, it came to a halt after a twist of events and the 80% completed skyscraper was abandoned. Today, visitors can climb up the tower by paying the caretaker as the ground level a small fee.

Rumour has it that the building is haunted but the true horror is the drop to the streets below, so be very cautious when exploring the building.  

Getting there: Take the BTS to Saphan Taksin (on the Silom Line) and walk a few minutes to the building (visible upon exiting the station).


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14. Indulge in a Butcher Knife Massage (Taipei)

Source: Los Angeles Times

We all could definitely do with a massage after a long day out in Taipei. At this massage parlour in the underground shopping mall at Taipei Main Station, be prepared to be tenderized like a slab of meat before cooking.

This unique massage therapy has been around since 770BC with its origins from China. Today, there are more than 180 massage parlours in Taiwan, that's when you know that this massage therapy is definitely legal, not lethal.

You do not have to worry about a bloody mess, the masseurs will lay a towel on you before dealing the blows.

But seriously, the knives will not hurt you and are meant for healing purposes :P

Getting There: Keep a lookout for the massage parlour at Taipei Main Station Exit Y13


15. Visit the Abandoned Island of Gunkanjima (Nagasaki)

Source: Atlas Obscura

Gunkanjima, which literally translates to Battleship Island is an abandoned island just 15km off Nagasaki. Previously an island that houses coal mining facilities, the replacement of petroleum has left the island to no use and the island was closed back in 1974.

In the recent years, following the surging popularity of haikyo (ruins) tourism in Japan, the Japanese government reopened the island in 2009 and allowed visitors, under the supervision and guidance of licensed tour groups. However, be wary to not wander too far from the group; the dilapidated buildings are at the risk of crumbling down due to the harsh weather conditions that the island is exposed to.

Getting There: There are 3 licensed tour companies in Nagasaki that provides the tour:

  1. Gunkanjima Concierge Company,
  2. Gunkanjima Cruise
  3. Yamasa Shipping Co. Ltd

Each of them charges different fares and depart at different times so be sure to check out their website before heading to Nagasaki!

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Flights to your favourite Asia destinations on Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Thai Airways, EVA Air and All Nippon Airways from just $200 (tax inclusive)! Hurry before the seats are sold out.


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