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Singapore is known as a bustling metropolis that also happens to be one of the cleanest and safest cities of its size in the world. (Just make sure you heed the local laws—something like spitting in the street might merely be considered rude in your hometown, but here, it carries a severe penalty.) You'll find historic sites like the Thian Hock Keng temple, superlative shopping (including gargantuan malls) and numerous beaches.
Sentosa is Singapore’s premier island resort getaway. This 500-hectare resort island is home to an exciting array of themed attractions, award-winning spa retreats, and resort accommodations alongside lush rainforests and golden sandy beaches. Popular attractions among business and leisure visitors include Wings of Time – an award winning night show, the iconic Sentosa Merlion, as well as Madame Tussauds Singapore.
A popular destination for golfers looking for better rates and more accessible courses, Bintan is also a nice way to escape the bustle of Singapore. A ferry ride takes between one and two hours, depending on where you’re headed. From there you can relax on one of the beaches or head inland for hiking and ATV rides or take a ride at the elephant park. There are a couple of towns on Bintan, but the island’s natural beauty is what draws visitors.
A bargain shopper’s delight is just across the causeway in Malaysia, with numerous bus and train services available to ferry travelers across the border. The largest and most popular malls are easily accessible from the checkpoint and offer a blend of name-brand and knockoff shopping. Dig deeper and you’ll appreciate the city’s differences, good and bad, from Singapore, though rumors of rampant crime are overblown. Museums and places of worship abound, along with good dining for any budget. A new premium outlet mall opened just outside the city in December 2011, and keep an eye on the new Legoland Malaysia, slated to open at the end of 2012.
Johor Bahru is the second-largest city in Malaysia and, with the opening of two major amusement parks in 2012, it is poised to become a major tourist destination. TripAdvisor travellers also recommend visiting the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple, a unique Hindu temple decorated with brilliant glass mosaics.
The cultural hub of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is visually defined by the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which, at 88 stories high, are the tallest twin buildings in the world and a vision of modern architecture. On the flip side, the Sri Mahamariamman is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia, its façade a colorful totem pole of iconography. Shopping at the Central Market is a joyful experience that involves haggling, handicrafts, and happiness.
Chaotic, crowded, and cosmopolitan, Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is a city of contrasts. Home to millions of people from around the world, the city is a mixture of languages and cultures, poverty and wealth. The city boasts some of the best nightlife in Asia and some of the worst traffic. Every holiday, the locals escape the pollution and the crowds to enjoy relaxing diversions like Ancol Dreamland, an amusement area featuring water parks, beaches, golf courses, and a SeaWorld.
The southern Thailand town of Krabi serves as base camp for exploring the province of the same name, a lush region of jungles, limestone cliffs and idyllic isles floating just offshore in the Andaman Sea. Buddhist shrines still used by local monks are tucked into the chambers of the town's top attraction, Tiger Cave. The riverside pier links travellers with ferries and longboats to the best scuba diving, rock climbing and white sand beaches on the coast.
Phuket offers a rainbow spectrum of spectacular holiday sights from blue lagoons and pink sunsets to orange-robed monks. Three wheeled-Tuk Tuks, taxis, buses and long tailed boats transport visitors between these marvels. Phuket's south coast offers its most popular beaches. The north is more tranquil. Koh Phi Phi, Phang Nga Bay and Patong Beach are popular spots. Diving, snorkeling, wind surfing and sailing are just a few active options. Inland, forested hills, mountains and cliffs wait to be explored.
Vietnam's bustling largest city sets the cultural and economic pace for the country. The former Saigon boasts charming French colonial architecture and wide boulevards, usually thronged and choked with traffic. Taxis are an option for seeing the sprawling city. The War Remnants Museum shows the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes. Don't miss the impressive Jade Emperor Pagoda. Go to the frenetic Ben Thanh Market for food, flowers or frogs. Tour through the Mekong Delta, past rice paddies and houseboats.
Bangkok is full of exquisitely decorated Buddhist temples—as you go from one to the next you’ll be continually blown away by the craftsmanship and elabourate details. But if you’d rather seek enlightenment in a gourmet meal, or dance the night away, you’ll also enjoy Bangkok—the restaurant and nightclub scenes here are among the best in the world.
Hong Kong's a great city for an adventurous eater. Stop at a street vendor for fish balls on a stick or stinky tofu. Bakeries offer wife cake, pineapple buns and egg tarts. Or opt for as much dim sum as you can eat. If you're tired of local and regional Chinese specialties, check out upscale offerings from some of the world's top chefs, like Joel Robouchon and Alain Ducasse.
You can eat very well—and very cheaply—in Taipei. The restaurants may not look posh, but the quality of the food is superlative. And there’s a huge variety of restaurants—in addition to local Taiwanese specialties, you’ll find regional cuisines from all over China, as well as great Indian, Japanese and even Italian options. Just make sure to leave some room for snacks—street-vendor food here is addictive.
Home to nearly nine million and powering an economy that exceeds both Hong Kong's and Thailand's, Osaka packs quite a punch. The confident, stylish city is a shopping hub, with fabulous restaurants and nightlife. It's an ideal base for exploring the Kansai region: Kyoto's World Heritage Sites, Nara's temple and Koya-san's eerie graves are within 90 minutes by train. Top city attractions include the aquarium, Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan and the futuristic Floating Garden Observatory.
Tradition collides with pop culture in Tokyo, where you can reverently wander ancient temples before rocking out at a karaoke bar. Wake up before the sun to catch the lively fish auction at the Toyosu Market, then refresh with a walk beneath the cherry blossom trees that line the Sumida River. Spend some time in the beautiful East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, then brush up on your Japanese history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Don’t forget to eat as much sushi, udon noodles, and wagashi (Japanese sweets) as your belly can handle.