Asia: Why The Far East Is Far Out!

If you’re keen to get your wanderlust kicks this year and you want to experience some destinations that are wildly different to your homeland, that welcome you into their heart with joy, and that give you the opportunity to immerse yourself within their culture, then the Far East should be on your travel bucket list. With more cultural hotspots than you can shake a stick at, this part of the globe is a land less travelled for westerners. It can be expensive to reach, the flight time can cause untold jetlag misery, and you need at least three weeks or more to experience the awe-inspiring spectacles that this part of our planet has to offer. However, this is why the Far East is just so special. Much of it is still untouched, it doesn’t attract the same level of tourists as Europe or the Americas, and you can find yourself venturing off the beaten track while still feeling relatively safe and secure.

If you have often looked at pictures of Japan, China, and Malaysia in magazines or seen documentaries about the Terracotta Army or the Tiananmen Square Massacre on TV and thought that you’d love to venture to that side of the world to get a little more up close and personal to the history of these nations, then why not pack a bag and go? The Far East is the ideal place for backpackers and those on a tight travel budget. There are more hostels here than in any other part of the world. Take a look at the finest places to visit when taking a jaunt to the Far East.

Hiroshima, Japan

There is no city of greater modern historical significance in the whole of Asia than Hiroshima in Japan. Having experienced the horrors of the first atomic bomb it can be inspiring to venture to this coastal destination to see how the people have got back on their feet and thrived. Hiroshima is now a town of great diversity, full of hipster vegan cafes, noodle bars, amusements and karaoke haunts. This city is a financial hub and a city where many Tokyoites choose to have second homes.

Alongside the modern face of the city, the Atomic Dome stands untouched from 1945, as a reminder of the horrors of nuclear weapons. You can walk around this structure and let your mind wander to a more hellish time in this now buoyant city. With the museum and memorials, you can listen to first-hand accounts of that fateful day towards the end of World War II. Lives were ripped apart yet somehow Hiroshima was able to recover. If you feel the pull of historical sites on your travels, then you shouldn’t miss the iconic city of Hiroshima when planning your Far Eastern itinerary.

The Great Wall, China

The perfect base from which to get to the Great Wall is Beijing, the nation’s capital. Although arduous to get to, some of the best accessible spots to trek the Great Wall are those furthest away from Beijing as shown at Jinshanling, Simatai and Shuiguan all have fewer tourists than the overcrowded Badaling. Badaling, although easier to get to, is like a theme park, with touts, merchandise sellers and pickpockets adorning the crowded wall. If you think you’re heading out to rural China to trek one of the wonders of the world, then Badaling is not a good choice. You’ll be penned in like cattle and tiptoeing your way through the crowds of people invading your personal space.

Head to Jinshanling, where you can hike all the way to Simatai traversing between watchtowers and pausing to observe the breathtaking scenery around you. This part of the wall is restored and welcomes fewer visitors all year round so you know that you can find some peace and quiet while on your hike.

Shirakawago, Japan

Although you may find yourself city hopping throughout Japan, there are still plenty of opportunities to venture off the beaten track. One of the best excursions to take is a pre-bookable coach tour to Shirakawago, a world famous UNESCO heritage site. Deemed as having important historical significance, Shirakawago is like the land that time forget with its abundance of gassho houses like the ones seen at that once adorned ancient Japan. You can venture inside a couple of the houses now set up as museums and explore what it must have been like to live in more feudal times. You are free to wander around the village, partake in a green tea or two and taste the traditional red bean paste sweets that accompany any hot drink.

You’ll receive a map as you arrive and then the tour is self-guided. There are some ideal vantage points from which you can take in the majestic view of the entire village. This is not a museum village and people still live here, so it’s vital that you remain courteous and respectful at all times. You could even book to stay in one of the gassho houses overnight in a communal setting, sharing a meal and talking to like-minded people about your Far Eastern travels so far.

Petronas Towers, Malaysia

When heading to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, you cannot miss the iconic Petronas Towers taking up a prominent part of the night time vista. The skyline is dominated by two 1483 feet towers overlooking the city. The modern architecture is in stark contrast to the paradise-like Robinson Crusoe islands such as Pangkor and Tioman. Seeing the Far Eastern nation welcome modernity within its capital city shows just how far the nation has progressed with its architecture and infrastructure. You can venture up one tower and cross the palpitation inducing sky bridge to reach the second tower. While nerve-wracking, the feat of scaling such a height with nothing more than a reinforced perspex floor underneath you is a feat of engineering.

Malaysia is a country of contrasts, with the modern architecture tourist attractions mingling with rainforest treks in Borneo and the grand mosque of Putrajaya. If you’re planning on touring the country or staying for a little while to experience the variety of this island nation, it might be wise to stay in one of the many apartments listed at rather than spend a fortune on hotels.

Nara, Japan

The great ancient site of Nara has something to offer every traveller. If you love wildlife, you’ll be

in your element feeding the wild, yet tame(ish) deer within Nara park. The deer will happily take selfies with you if you feed them enough biscuits. Just be aware that the four-legged creatures have very little understanding of personal space and if they catch a whiff of food near you, they can launch themselves at you.

If you are more of a culture vulture, you can bask in the splendour of the Todaiji temple where an enormous Buddha sits proudly. Surrounded by lotus flowers and two armed warrior statues the Buddha is a marvel to behold. You can spend some time enjoying the ambience of the statue. If you are lucky, you may even witness a traditional Buddhist prayer ceremony at the foot of the grand Buddha.

Leshan, China

Speaking of Buddhas, there is another magnificent example of a Buddha carved into a mountainside in Leshan, China. Although a bit of a faff to get to, the buses will be worth it as you find yourself walking around the head of this statuesque half natural/half man-made wonder. You may even be able to get on the Yangtze River and see the wondrous Buddha from a boat or raft.

Miyajima Island, Japan

Situated on the west side of Japan, Miyajima Island is a magical place steeped in religious significance. With numerous temples and shrines including the floating Torii gates, the island is a culture vulture’s paradise. You can take a wander down the beach and watch as the tide comes in, creating the illusion of a floating shrine. Venture further inland and you will be able to scale Mount Misen and explore the flora and fauna of the island. Miyajima also has higher shrines and a summit temple to explore should you make it that far.

Miyajima is famous for its wonderful ryokans and for a very reasonable price you can stay overnight on the island and enjoy a sea view while wearing your traditional Japanese robe and enjoying a hot coffee from one of the many vending machines out on the street. Like Nara, you may come across the odd deer or two, but they tend to be a lot less aggressive than their mainland counterparts.

The Far East can be just that little less mythical to you if you take the plunge and visit. Once you have your flights booked and your visas sorted, you could be planning an itinerary that takes in many modern structures of the world, great historical sights, outstanding natural wonders and unbelievable vistas. A Far Eastern adventure could be your trip of a lifetime.