I tend to find myself scrolling through Instagram whenever I have pockets of time, lusting over pictures of secluded deep-blue pools in South America, magical ice caves in Iceland; the list goes on — always inviting me to hop on the next flight out.
Lately, I’ve been paying more attention to places in Asia. Through Instagram, I’ve realised that there are so many picturesque destinations off the beaten path that are yet to be discovered. And we are talking about places beyond your usual popular destinations like Tokyo, Bangkok, and Hong Kong.
As it is, I’m already making plans for my getaways and I’ll be sharing 10 plans to explore the less-travelled destinations in Asia!
Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, India
Image credit: IG @thugbong
Jaipur is often called the Pink City in reference to its distinctive terracotta pink-coloured buildings, with the colour representing hospitality and a warm welcome.
It is now gaining traction as an emerging tourist spot, as tourists flock to admire the charming pink façades of hill forts and palaces.
Amber Fort & Palace in Jaipur, India
Image credit: IG @ar_iyer
Notable places of attractions in Jaipur include the Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort, City Palace, and Govind Devji Temple.
Where to stay: Chokhi Dhani Resort Jaipur via Expedia, from S$121 per night
Plain of Jars, Laos
Image credit: IG @zoe_alyce_d
Laos is like the less popular sibling of Vietnam and Cambodia, whom many of us think we know, but we actually really don’t. Even those who have been to Laos, have mostly only been to more touristy places like Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
(Read also: 4D3N Luang Prabang Itinerary – An off the beaten track getaway to Laos)
There’s a gem for curious travellers - the Plain of Jars megalithic archaeological landscape in the Xieng Khouang Province, which is easily accessible from Luang Prabang.
Interestingly, archaeologists are still debating what these gigantic jar-shapes structures are. Some suggested that the huge jar-like structures were used to collect rainwater in the ancient times, while others thought that they resembled urns for funeral rites. I prefer the dreamy old wives’ tale, that the jars held whisky for a thirsty giant who lived in the mountains. The Plain of Jars is definitely a place you would want to visit to score some "likes" with these mysterious jars!
Where to stay: Victoria Xiengthong Palace via Expedia, from S$105 per night
Ruins in Inwa, Myanmar
Image credit: IG @pohtecktoes
In its heyday from the 14th to 19th centuries, Inwa saw itself as the imperial capital of Myanmar between the 14th to 19th centuries. A series of catastrophic earthquakes destroyed the capital city and was then abandoned in 1839. What remains now of the former grandeur are the ruins of the past that tourists can wander around and explore.
Image credit: Eric Lafforgue
Where to stay: Bagan King Hotel via Expedia, from S$149 per night
Phong Nha Cave, Vietnam
Image credit: IG @amused_observer
If you love being one with nature, Phong Nha is the place to visit. Phong Nha has now become well-known as one of the most beautiful and interesting areas of Vietnam.
At Phong Nha, be sure to check out the Dark Cave (Hang Toi). A narrow passageway leads to a mud pool so dense you can float on it. You can also experience zip-lining and kayaking on a guided tour around the cave.
Hang Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
Image credit: Kiran Moodley
Another attraction is the Hang Son Doong cave, the world’s biggest cave, which was discovered in 2009. The cave is so huge that it has its own climate within.
Where to stay: Victory Road Villas via Expedia, from S$109 per night
Yogyakarta is a hidden gem of Indonesia. Not only does it have two UNESCO heritage sites — the Borobudur and Prambanan Temples, it also has a wide array of activities related to nature that you can enjoy!
Sunrises and sunsets at these scenic spots will wow your IG followers, and make them itch to have a picture just as nice as yours on their feed.
We recently went to Yogyakarta and couldn’t get enough of it! If you are planning a trip to Yogyakarta, do check out our 5D4N Yogyakarta itinerary.
Where to stay: Plataran Heritage Borobodur via Expedia, at S$129 per night.
Image credit: Philippine Primer
In the region of Luzon, Philippines, there is an interesting yet spooky sight - coffins seemingly hanging off mountain cliffs. At Sagada, one can spot the hanging coffins of the Igorot tribe; a bizarre burial practice of theirs which is now an attraction to some tourists.
It is said that the elderly did not want to be buried in the ground and left to rot. Instead, they wanted to be laid to rest in a place where their corpse would be safe. So, the younger generations started the obscure tradition of nailing coffins of the deceased on the side of cliffs.
Rice Terraces of Sagada, The Philippines
Image credit: IG @vagabondpinas
Besides the weirdly intriguing afterlife attraction, Sagada is also famous for her stunning rice terraces, where locals have been working tirelessly on rice crops for generations.
Also, getting a guide in Sagada is not mandatory, but locals will strongly advise you to hire one if you are going into the caves.
Where to stay: Native Village Inn via Expedia, S$69 per night.
*Pro-tip: Take enough cash with you when you visit. The whole town only has one ATM, which is not always working.
Wat Phra That Khao Nai of Nan, Thailand
Image credit: IG @phobjer
Thailand’s number one tourism is Bangkok, but besides the shopping paradise, there’s also a lot more that Thailand offers.
Take Nan, for example, a small city 668km away from Bangkok that is home to many religious sites. Situation on top of Khao Noi Hill, the Wat Phra That Khao Noi is a great lookout spot for panoramic views of the valley and Nan town.
Image credit: Alamy
The famous Doi Khu Pha national park is also home to some of the minority tribes of Thailand.
Where to stay: Nan Seasons Boutique Hotel via Expedia, from S$132 per night
Image credit: Shenzhen World Scenery International Travel Service Co. Ltd. Beach at Hainan Island, China
There are power cities such as Shanghai and Beijing that everyone knows about, but how much do you know about Hainan Island? And nope, Hainanese Chicken Rice is not from Hainan Island.
Fun fact: Hainanese Chicken Rice is actually a Singaporean dish created by Hainanese settlers in Singapore.
Another fun fact: Hainan island has some of China’s most beautiful beaches – it is often dubbed “Hawaii of China” by locals.
Sanya Beach of Hainan Island, China
Image credit: Ecostarr
Also, being an island surrounded by sea, Hainan has an abundance of coconut trees. Many dishes you can find in Hainan will include coconut, be it a sweet or savoury dish. Needless to say, seafood is also very affordable in Hainan.
Perfect for an off the beaten path beach getaway.
Where to stay: Hainan Junhua Haiyi Hotel via Expedia, from S$102 per night
Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Brunei
Image credit: Exotic Travels Pinterest
Most Singaporeans know Brunei as the BORING country with nothing but forests. Well, that’s partially true if you consider this oil-rich country has only two McDonald’s in the entire country.
But, Brunei definitely has more to offer than that. The Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque sits in the middle of an artificial lake, exuding elegance and magnanimity while providing a picturesque backdrop for tourists to pose with. It is also worth noting that the largest dome is covered in pure gold!
Jerudong Park, Brunei
Image credit: IG @jinsubby
Also, there’s an amusement park in the country that is frequented by locals. The Jerudong Park is the largest and most expensive amusement park in Southeast Asia! The best part? Admission into the park is FREE, you just have to pay for rides.
Where to stay: The Brunei Hotel via Expedia, S$113 per night
Shophouses of Ipoh, Malaysia
Image credit: IG @semimpi_mimpi
For Singaporeans, Malaysia is that convenient neighbouring country with cheap food and pretty cafes. But most people do not even travel beyond Johor, Malacca or Kuala Lumpur. There’s also Ipoh, a place you’ve definitely heard of, or even know people from. And there are even more reasons for you to visits this quaint little town now. Besides being culturally rich, Ipoh’s food scene is one that’s worth noting too. Do try their famous Ipoh Hor Fun, Bean Sprout Chicken, and Ipoh White Coffee.
Old Town Streets of Ipoh, Malaysia
Image credit: IG @blondaholik
The little alleys in the old town also make great photo spots.
Where to stay: Weil Hotel via Expedia, from S$96 per night.
And that’s our list of some lesser known destinations of Asia that are worth a visit and will not break your wallet.