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Kuta boasts the best beaches in Bali, a five-mile stretch of clean sand that is a magnet for surfers and sunbathers. When that golden sun goes down, the animals come out—the party animals, that is. Kuta nightlife is almost frantic, as global tourists bounce from restaurant to nightclub in an effort to soak up the Kuta experience like a well-dressed sponge.
Seminyak boasts some of the most glorious beaches in Bali. Be sure to catch the legendary sunsets and enjoy the tranquil beauty, and marvel at Balinese ceremonies on the beach, complete with gamelan players and offerings to the gods. Of course, don’t let the smooth sands and intricate cultural experiences distract you from spas and shopping! Sophisticated spas and high-end boutiques will entice you away from the waterfront—for a short time, anyway.
The postcard-perfect beaches of Sanur are truly idyllic, the realization of all those daydreams about Bali beach vacations. More laid-back than neighboring vacation destinations, Sanur is the type of place where hip Europeans who have outgrown the party scene come to recharge. Every year, the endless blue skies are peppered with flecks of vibrant color during the International Kite Festival.
Home to Bali International Airport, Denpasar is usually overlooked by visitors flocking to Bali’s beaches. For those who stick around, this culture-rich city serves up ornate temples and some of the island's most authentic Balinese food.
Home to ultra-cool vegan cafés, beach bars, and boutiques, Canggu is a hipster’s paradise. The black sand of Echo Beach contrasts starkly with turquoise Indian Ocean waters, which are invariably peppered with surfers enjoying some of Bali’s best waves.
The village cluster of Ubud is the ideal place to try a famed Balinese massage and soak up the ambiance of one of Asia’s top spa destinations. Acupressure, reflexology, stretching and aromatherapy star in the island's distinctively firm massage treatments. Ubud is also the vivacious centre of Bali’s arts scene, home to a small treasure trove of museums and galleries. Monkey around at nearby nature reserve Monkey Forest Park, home to hundreds of mischievous long-tailed macaques. Don’t miss the valley of tomb cloisters at Gunung Kawi.
Bali is a living postcard, an Indonesian paradise that feels like a fantasy. Soak up the sun on a stretch of fine white sand, or commune with the tropical creatures as you dive along coral ridges or the colorful wreck of a WWII war ship. On shore, the lush jungle shelters stone temples and mischievous monkeys. The “artistic capital” of Ubud is the perfect place to see a cultural dance performance, take a batik or silver-smithing workshop, or invigorate your mind and body in a yoga class.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The charming Vietnamese capital has aged well, preserving the Old Quarter, monuments and colonial architecture, while making room for modern developments alongside. Hanoi may have shrugged off several former names, including Thang Long, or "ascending dragon", but it hasn't forgotten its past, as sites such as Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison attest. Lakes, parks, shady boulevards and more than 600 temples and pagodas add to the appeal of this city, which is easily explored by taxi.
You could spend your whole Chiang Mai holiday exploring the famous Night Bazaar. Once you’ve exhausted the art of the cheerful haggle, however, there’s plenty more to explore. The National Museum and Botanic Garden are great places to soak up some local culture and to breathe in the delicate fragrance of Thai orchids. In the city’s centre, the remains of ancient walls embrace over 30 temples. Limber travellers can climb 300 stairs to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, an ornate Buddhist temple in the hills.
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.