If you're feeling restless to travel and dreaming about all the places you want to go next - you're not alone. But since I'm grounded for the moment, I've been looking back at previous trips, reliving some fun memories. In doing so, I've compiled a list of memorable activities from my travels around Asia that I'd recommend for visitors. If you're already thinking about your next trip to Asia, perhaps you'll be inspired to add some of these memorable activities to your bucket list for future travels!
As I started looking back at over ten years of traveling in Asia, a few categories naturally emerged from my long list of memorable activities. Using the Quick Navigation below, you can skip to a particular section or activity that interests you the most.
Since I've written longer articles on many of these activities, you'll find links to the detailed articles below these snippets.
Memorable Hiking Experiences
Over the past couple months, I've been doing a lot of hiking in Hong Kong. So I think it's only fair to kick off my list of memorable activities with a few of my favorite hiking experiences in Asia.
Great Wall of China
An incredible experience that should be at the top of everyone's bucket list, hiking the Great Wall of China is one of my all-time favorite travel memories.
The Great Wall is an easy day trip from Beijing which is where we were staying (~2-2.5-hour drive one-way). We began our hike at Simatai West and finished at Jinshanling. This hike included both rugged and restored sections of the wall.
Since the Great Wall sits atop the mountain ridge, the hike includes lots of stairs as the wall undulates. Be prepared for soreness afterwards!
If hiking isn't accessible to you, you can still visit the Great Wall. The Badaling section has a cable car to transport visitors up to the Wall, but I've heard it gets quite crowded.
**Read the full article on Hiking the Great Wall of China.
Jaunbong Peak Hike in Bukhansan National Park in Seoul
Located just north of downtown Seoul, Bukhansan National Park covers an area of ~80 km and is a popular spot for hiking in Korea. Several entrances of the park are accessible by the Seoul Metro so getting to the trails is easy!
The trail that we hiked - Jaunbong Peak - is one of the steeper, more challenging hikes in the Bukhansan National Park. But there are many trails from which to choose in the park, so you can pick one to fit your level.
If you hike up to Jaunbong Peak, you'll climb roughly 700 m (~2,300 ft) in ~3.0 km (1.8 mi). Along the way, you'll encounter various temples - and temple kitties, if you're lucky - and rock scrambles. In certain areas, you'll need to hold fast to railings to help you climb.
But since it's the highest peak in that part of the park, the views from the top are stunning!
**Read the full article on the Jaunbong Peak Hike in Bukhansan National Park.
Country Park Trails in Hong Kong
Did you know that thirty-eight percent of land in Hong Kong is designated for country parks and special areas to protect the natural flora and fauna? How amazing that a city like Hong Kong - known for being a dense urban jungle - has a wealth of natural beauty as well!
These country parks are spread out across Hong Kong and have numerous hiking trails, BBQ sites, beaches, and viewpoints that are incredible. Since we've been unable to travel for most of 2020, I've been hiking much more in Hong Kong. And I just keep discovering beautiful places!
Whether you live in Hong Kong or are just visiting, I highly recommend getting out on some of these trails to explore the magnificent views and greenery that Hong Kong has to offer!
**Visit the Hiking page to find several guides for hikes in Hong Kong's Country Parks!
Sunset Hike on Namsan Hill
Right in the heart of Seoul, Namsan Hill is a beautiful park with hiking trails that lead up to a great place to watch a beautiful sunset. I decided to hike up one afternoon on a whim and was so glad that I did!
To get to Namsan Hill, I wandered up through the Hoehyeon-dong neighborhood towards the park. From that entrance, it's easy to follow the path up the hill towards the N Seoul Tower.
Along the way, you'll have beautiful views over the city. Several spots along the hike are perfect for watching the sunset.
**Check out what else you can do in Seoul in my article - Guide to Seoul (and Why You Should Visit in Autumn).
Other Memorable Outdoor Activities
Since these two memorable activities do not really fit into any of the other categories, they got their own!
Exploring Caves in Laos
When traveling around Laos, you'll find many beautiful caves to explore. Some of my favorites have been in Vang Vieng (central Laos) and Nong Khiaw (northern Laos).
Tham Phu Kham Cave in Vang Vieng
Although Vang Vieng has several lovely caves, Tham Phu Kham cave stands out for me. To reach it, you'll have to hike up ~200 m so be sure to wear hiking sandals or sneakers to avoid slipping.
When you climb down into the cave, you'll find a reclining Buddha statue where Buddhists come to pay their respects. The way the sunlight enters the cave gives it a mystical appearance.
Pha Kuang Cave in Nong Khiaw
Whereas in Vang Vieng, we stayed primarily in the mouth of the cave, in Nong Khiaw we got more adventurous. Armed with our rented headlamp and a puppy for a guide, we crawled back into the Pha Kuang cave to explore.
During the Indochina War in the 1960s, Lao people used the Pha Kuang cave as a shelter from the bombs. Although we made it part-way into the cave, we turned around before the narrowest part as I succumbed to my claustrophobia.
**Find out more about our cave exploration or to find other things to do in Nong Khiaw in 2 Days Relaxing in Nong Khiaw.
Encountering an Orangutan in Sepilok
Sometimes you just get lucky with perfect timing. Encountering orangutans on the boardwalk of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was just such a time.
Since the rehabilitation centre does not have fences, orangutans are able to come and go as they please. Although one or two usually show up for the two daily scheduled feedings, sightings are not guaranteed.
On the day we visited, we got incredibly lucky. As we strolled along the boardwalk, scanning the trees. We saw one climbing the tree. As Jeremy took a photo, I looked at the path ahead of us and who did I see?
Another orangutan! Completely relaxed and perhaps smirking over how excited we were to see his friend in the tree while he was watching us take photos.
**Read more about our trip to Sepilok in Visiting Sepilok, Borneo: Orangutans, Sun Bears, and Conservation.
Memorable Water Activities
Did you know that I was born in March and my astrological sign is Pisces? Naturally, this means I love being in the water! Here are a few of my favorite water activities from my travels through Asia.
Snorkeling Day Trip in Cebu
The Philippines has so many gorgeous island beaches to discover - it's paradise for someone who loves water as much as I do. Additionally, the clear water and abundant sea life make it the perfect place for snorkeling adventures!
During a trip to Cebu with our friends, we decided to go on a snorkeling day trip. Snorkeling trips are incredibly popular in the Philippines so you should be able to arrange one no matter where you are staying.
Our 6-hour private snorkeling trip cost ~US $100 for 4 people and included:
Learning to Scuba Dive in Borneo
When I was younger, I wanted to be a mermaid (Pisces, remember?). It fascinated me that another world existed beneath the ocean's surface. Learning to scuba dive in Borneo finally granted me access to that world. Though admittedly, I never feel like a mermaid with all that equipment on!
Since I had several fears about diving, learning to dive was a mental challenge for me. Overcoming those fears was a point of pride and the actual experience of diving and seeing marine life is wonderful.
Many diving resorts throughout Asia offer PADI scuba diving courses. What better place to learn to dive than at a beautiful beach?
**Read more about my experience Learning to Scuba Dive in Borneo.
Diving with Thresher Sharks near Malapascua Island
Speaking of those scuba diving fears... I've always been afraid of sharks. And yet, somehow Jeremy convinced me to go diving with them on our holiday in Malapascua Island. Talk about a memorable experience!
Malapascua Island is known for its thresher shark dives. At Monad Shoal - roughly 50 minutes by boat from Malapascua Island - thresher sharks come almost daily to clean themselves, so sightings are almost guaranteed.
I highly recommend this experience to any diver visiting the Philippines! Check out the video below to see them swimming by as we watch them from a viewpoint.
**Read more about my experience Diving with Thresher Sharks and also how to holiday on Malapascua Island.
Swimming in a Pristine Turquoise Pool at Kuang Si Waterfall
For a more low-key water activity, how about a relaxing dip in a gorgeous turquoise pool at the base of a beautiful waterfall? Kuang Si Waterfall outside of Luang Prabang, Laos is the perfect spot!
Even if you don't plan to swim, visiting Kuang Si Waterfall is a must-do activity in Luang Prabang. This beautiful hillside of cascading falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Asia!
**Before you visit Laos, check out these Tips for Visiting Kuang Si Watefall in Luang Prabang.
Memorable Boat Trips
Although I love being in water, sailing on it is a close second. Whether I'm slow traveling or just on a day excursion, boat trips are the epitome of relaxation! Here are a few of the most memorable boat trips that we've taken through Asia.
Junk Boat Outing in Hong Kong
Summers in Hong Kong are HOT and MUGGY! A junk trip gets you out on the water enjoying those lovely sea breezes for the day. Plus, you'll usually have a chance to swim once the boat anchors offshore.
What exactly is a junk? Though it may seem like I'm talking about garbage boat... a junk is a traditional Chinese sailing vessel that is an iconic symbol in Hong Kong. Although some junk companies use the traditional boat with the red sails, the junks I've been on were on modern yachts.
The junk day trip usually lasts 6-7 hours. The itinerary varies depending on what you'd like to do and what weather conditions are like on the day of your trip. These are the junk trips I've taken so far:
Admittedly, renting a junk is easier if you're living in Hong Kong or traveling with a group. The boats can be quite expensive to rent so having multiple people sharing the cost is key!
Pricing varies depending on how much you get included with the trip. On both the junk trips I've been on, our group chose to bring our own food and beverages - potluck-style - to save on catering costs.
Pro Tip: If you're visiting and want to join a junk, look at the Hong Kong Meet Up groups on Facebook to see if they're advertising junk trips. Check out this article in Sassy Hong Kong for more details on renting junks.
**Read the full post about our junk trip to Soko Islands.
Cruise on the Mekong River in Laos
The Mekong River is the lifeblood of Southeast Asia and what better way to appreciate it than by relaxing on a cruise? If you like to slow travel, a Mekong river cruise in Laos is a great option.
On our recent trip to northern Laos, we took a 2-day, 1-night river cruise from Houayxay to Luang Prabang. Each day, we spent several hours on the boat - relaxing, eating delicious lunches, and admiring the scenery.
Since we chose a private cruise, our trip included a couple stops at local villages and one for cave exploration. At night, passengers disembarked at a small town in rural Laos and stayed in hotels/guesthouses of their choosing. Ours was a lovely bamboo hut overlooking the Mekong River.
**Read the full post to find out What to Expect on a Mekong River Cruise in Laos.
Sailing from Mandalay to Bagan on the Irrawaddy River
Another slow travel experience that I loved was our boat trip from Mandalay to Bagan on the Irrawaddy River. Although it takes about twice as long as driving, I think it's a relaxing experience that's worth the extra time.
As you sail down the river, you'll pass small villages and spot lots of golden stupas dotting the countryside.
Bangkok Longboat Canal Tour
When people think of canals, they often think of Venice. So much so, that Bangkok, Thailand was dubbed the Venice of the East in the 19th century due to its extensive system of canals, or khlongs.
When I visit Bangkok, I frequently take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to travel up and down the main river - the Chao Phraya. It's scenic, plus you avoid sitting in Bangkok traffic!
But to get back and explore the canals, you'll need to hire a longboat. This will allow you to see the more residential areas of the canals. Plus you can get a feel for how locals use the canals to travel through the city.
**Find out more about the longboat trips as well as other exciting things to do in Bangkok in this Perfect 3-Day Itinerary for First Timers to Bangkok.
Memorable Historic Sites
Throughout Asia, you'll discover diverse and fascinating historical sites that will take your breath away. The sites I've included here are big bucket list items. How many are already on your list or have you already visited?
Angkor Wat in Cambodia - Exploring by Tuk Tuk
The Angkor temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains the ruins of many famous temples from the Khmer Empire (9th-15th century) and draws over a million visitors each year.
A great way to get around to the temples and support the local economy is by hiring a tuk tuk driver for the day. It's an affordable and fun way to get around, plus allows you to jump out easily for photos along the way.
Taj Mahal in India
Without a doubt, the Taj Mahal is one of those bucket list places that you have to see! Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife in the 1600s, this UNESCO World Heritage site is considered the greatest architectural achievement of the Indo-Islamic architectural style.
Synonymous with beauty and splendor, as you wander around the Taj Mahal, you'll be in awe. Although the white marble mausoleum with the intricate mosaic inlays is the star of the complex, the red sandstone buildings are also beautiful.
Forbidden City in Beijing
The Forbidden City, or the Palace Museum, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that should be at the top of everyone's list for Beijing. For over five centuries (1416-1911), this complex served as the seat of imperial power for China and it's where 24 Chinese emperors ruled during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The sprawling maze of grand receiving halls, political chambers, royal living quarters, and gardens are incredible to see. Due to the large number of visitors it attracts, visits are limited to four hours in either the morning or afternoon. So you really have to work to see the entire complex!
**Find out more about the Forbidden City as well as other fun things to do in Beijing in 8 Great Things to Do in Beijing.
Bagan in Myanmar - Electric Motorbiking Adventures
The ancient city of Bagan in Myanmar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the former capital of a regional empire in the 11th -13th centuries. It's a sacred Buddhist landscape dotted with temples, stupas, monasteries, and archaeological remains.
One of the best ways to explore this fascinating place is by electric motorbike. We love renting motorbikes when we can because it allows you to traverse the countryside at your own pace. And when you arrive at some of the small stupas and temples and no one else is around, you almost feel like you're discovering them for the first time.
Pro Tip: Mind your battery usage in electric motorbikes!
We rented one electric motorbike for 2 people. However, at the end of the first day, our battery ran out of juice too soon. This meant we (mostly Jeremy) had to push it for the last ~1 km back to the rental shop. The next day, we returned to the rental shop midday for a new battery so that wouldn't happen again!
Memorable Cable Car Rides
These memorable cable car rides in Asia provide amazing views both while you're riding and once you get to the destination. Although if you have a fear of heights, you may want to skip some of them.
Cable Car to Tian Tian Buddha in Hong Kong
When in Hong Kong, visiting the Tian Tian Buddha (aka Big Buddha) is a memorable experience in itself. This large bronze Buddha statue sits 34 meters tall and is nestled in the mountains of Lantau Island. And the easiest way to get to the Buddha is on the Ngong Ping Cable Car.
Personally, I love the cable car ride and views almost as much as the Buddha itself! As you're lifted over the green peaks into the sky, you have amazing views of the sea and the mountains of Lantau Island. As you approach Ngong Ping, you can see the Buddha sitting on the hillside.
Get the car with the glass bottom for even more views as you climb over the peaks. As you cross the mountains, you'll be able to see people hiking on the trails right below you!
**Find out more about visiting the Tian Tian Buddha in 16 Incredible Things to Do in Hong Kong.
Penang Hill Funicular Railway in Malaysia
While visiting George Town, Malaysia on Penang Island, a great day trip to escape the city is to take the Funicular Railway up Penang Hill. This hill resort is slightly cooler than George Town and has spectacular views of the town.
The easiest way to access Penang Hill is by the funicular railway which climbs the steep track up to the peak at 833 m (2,733 ft). As the train climbs, you'll begin to see the impressive views of the city emerge.
**Find out more about Penang Hill as well as other things to do in George Town in 3 Days Exploring George Town, Penang.
Peak Tram in Hong Kong
Riding the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak is a classic Hong Kong experience that everyone should do at least once. Operating for over 100 years, this funicular railway climbs 396 m (~1,300 ft) above sea level to reach its terminus in ~10 minutes.
At the top, you'll be able to appreciate those iconic Hong Kong skyline views from various trails, restaurants, and cafes.
**Check out what other Hong Kong sights not to miss in 12 Hours in Hong Kong: How to Hit the Highlights.
Maokong Gondola in Taipei
Located on the outskirts of Taipei, the Maokong Gondola is a scenic cable car experience that will lift you into the mountains to Maokong - a quaint village overlooking Taipei.
The village is known for its quality tea and is home to numerous teahouses. It's an excellent place to sit and sip a cup of tea while enjoying beautiful views. I also recommend exploring the various hiking and nature trails while you're up there.
Memorable Foodie Experiences
Although we've had plenty of delicious culinary experiences throughout our travels, these low-key experiences tend to be the most memorable to me.
BBQ Street in Yangon
One of our favorite memories from our trip to Myanmar was eating on the lively and aromatic BBQ street in Yangon. In the evenings, restaurants along 19th Street in Chinatown set up their plastic chairs and metal tables along the sides of the streets. They line up their skewers of meats, seafood, and veggies as people spill onto the street on the hunt for delicious barbeque.
First, choose a restaurant, then pick out your skewers. We tried to choose a restaurant where it looked like the food was kept cold either in a refrigerator or on lots of ice. Once you've filled your basket with goodies, they'll cook it up for you while you grab a table and start on a beer.
This street is a great spot for people-watching and has such a fun and lively atmosphere. We had a great time with the guys working at the restaurant and went back the next day. They greeted us like old friends!
Eating at Hawker Centres in Malaysia and Singapore
After my first visit to Malaysia, I was hooked on hawker centres. The idea of ordering dishes from different vendors - each of whom has a specialty dish - all in the same venue and for a reasonable price sounds too good to be true. But that's what hawker centers are all about. And I love them!
Visiting hawker centers and trying new dishes each time continues to be a highlight of any trip to Malaysia or Singapore. They may be a bit toasty, especially if you visit during the day, but that's also part of the experience!
Dim Sum in Hong Kong
Speaking of trying a bunch of dishes.... dim sum in Hong Kong is another foodie highlight for me. I always go overboard ordering too many dumplings and pork buns!
But I love that you can custom-build your menu with however many dishes you choose. And if you just want a quick midday snack, dim sum is an easy and delicious choice!
Memorable Bar Experiences
Okay, so I've been to a lot of fantastic but different kinds of bars in Asia. Since there are so many memorable ones to recommend, I've covered a few categories to get you started.
Fancy Sky Bars
If you're looking for a splurge on your trip, fancy cocktails at a sky bar with an incredible view is the way to go. Most cities around Asia have good selection of sky bars. Some are incredibly fancy, others are more laid back, but regardless you're going to pay for that view.
Pro Tip: Be sure to research the sky bar before you go to find out if they have a dress code. During peak hours especially, they tend to be strict about enforcing it.
Below are a few of the sky bars I've enjoyed and would recommend during travels throughout Asia. Some I've been to more than once!
Sake Tasting in Tokyo
Until I visited Tokyo last year, I didn't know much about sake. Admittedly, I still don't. But I know more than I did, including that there are some I really like!
If you're new to the sake scene and don't know what types you like, I recommend a sake tasting. The Meishu Center in Tokyo's Minato City neighborhood has a great selection of sakes and you can pick whichever bottles you like for the tastings (prices vary). The labels are in both English and Japanese which was a relief for us!
**Find more things to do in Tokyo in 4 Days in Tokyo: Tips and Itinerary Ideas.
Trying Local Craft Beer
Since I'm a huge fan of craft beer, I'm usually on the hunt for local craft beer bars. Southeast Asia is a bit of a disappointment for locally brewed craft beer, but I've been pleasantly surprised as I've traveled in East Asia.
Here are a few craft beer bars serving locally brewed beers that I recommend visiting while you're traveling around Asia.
In Hong Kong
Since I live in Hong Kong, I've explored the craft beer scene quite a bit more than in places I've only visited for a couple days. Here are a few of my local favorites, but check out the article below for more!
**Check out more places to get delicious craft beer in Hong Kong in 16 Best Bars for Craft Beer in Hong Kong.
After checking out these memorable activities, I hope you've found a few to add to your bucket list. If you're like me, it's a long list that just keeps growing!
What are some of the most memorable activities you've done in Asia? Let me know in the comments below!
Happy travels (or, for now, dreaming of travels)!