As a frequent traveller through Asia I have had the good fortune to have visited many of the countries in the region.  Being in Western Australia one of the most economical travel options is of course to visit some of our closest neighbours in Asia.

In the past 20 years I have done numerous trips around Asia (also many other places in this big wide world of ours as well!) and wanted to share with the readers of this blog some of my dream destinations.  There have been many highlights and any time I chose to go back to a country I always find new and exciting things that make me pleased that I have ventured back there.  I have also been disappointed by some on returning but that has not happened very often.

Whether it has been taking the train from Hanoi in Vietnam to the trip from Malaysia to Thailand on the train, I have always enjoyed the chance to sit back and watch the country side of a new country flash past.  With the option to get off along the way and experience the diversity of cultures adds to the trip.  Sometimes it has been the desire to find a beach side destination that offered nothing more than great accommodation, swimming, relaxing and lazing around to get a real rest to taking long walks up a mountain to get to a hidden temple.

Asia offers so much and each country of courses offers a range of amazing cultural experiences and for me there is nothing better than getting to taste the subtle differences in the types of cuisine on offer as well.  I have always enjoyed getting into the culture by attending local cooking schools to learn more about how the locals source their produce and then creating some of my favourite dishes and learn from the people who really know how to create those dishes – whether it is making my own green curry paste in Chiang Mai to sculpting vegetable creations in Bali, each class has offered an insight into the mind of the local chef teaching us but also getting a real sense of the wonders of the local cuisine.

In terms of my dream destinations in Asia, for me it does depend on my frame of mind when I am looking for somewhere to go and what exactly I am wanting to do on the holiday for me do decide where to go.

If it is just a real relaxing time and the chance to really unwind, read a good book, have a few massages and not do much else my 2 favourite places to go are Seminyak in Bali and also staying at Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia…each location offers something different and each has its own amazing options in terms of accommodation.  For me villa accommodation really takes the cake in Bali and these days there is just so many options to chose from there really is somewhere for every price range.  You will see from my previous post that I have a real affinity for ZEN 4 Men www.zen4menasia.com which offers personal service in a quiet relaxed environment in the perfect location.  In Kota Kinabalu I head to the other end of the spectrum by staying at the Shangri-La resort www.shangri-la.com/kotakinabalu/rasariaresort/ which is a large family based resort that has great activities, a large pool and wonderful restaurants; it is also right on the coast and close to all the local islands for a great day of snorkelling and exploring them. Also see my previous posts about the W hotel.

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The W Hotel Bali

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The pool area at ZEN 4 Men Bali

As you will know if you are a follower of my blog, I love good shopping and a great destination for me usually will involve shopping of some kind!  I have 2 favourite Asian destinations for shopping that I know will not really surprise anyone who has travelled through Asia – Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are my top shopping destinations in Asia but both for very different reasons – Singapore for brand name, top quality fashion and design and Kuala Lumpur for the amazing locally made and designed shoes that they have on offer – so a perfect shopping holiday for me would be to start off in Singapore and do Orchard Road and then to head to KL to get my fill of new, interesting and exciting shoes to complete the outfits that I have purchased in Singapore.

It is so easy these days to do a quick stop over in Singapore but I have found that I usually need at least 3 days to really experience all the stores I want to look at as well as just have some time out because it is usually the first stop on my way to somewhere else or a stop on the way back and it is great to be staying in a nice hotel that also offers a pool to have some chill out time at.

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The amazing Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

From a cultural perspective I have 3 favourite destinations that each tick all the boxes for me for experiencing a culture in the country first hand and to allow a real sense of engagement.  After spending a month in Vietnam a couple of years ago  I was struck by the diversity on offer as you travelled further down the country and the varied cuisine on offer from the heavily French influenced fare in Hanoi to the more traditional Vietnamese offerings in Saigon.  This is still a country that is just coming into its own in terms of international travellers and is rushing to catch up with the demand that is expected by people heading there but catch up it is.  The range of top quality hotels is constantly evolving and a highlight for me was a stay at the Moevenpick  in Saigon www.moevenpick-hotels.com/en/asia/vietnam/ho-chi-minh-city/moevenpick-hotel-saigon/overview/.  With rates that are really affordable and a stay on the Executive floor this was a real treat and the service and location in the city were perfect for getting around to see some of the many important historical and culture offerings for this very important Vietnamese city.

Chiang Mai has become like a second home for us; my partner and I have travelled and holidayed in Chiang Mai about 15 times in the past 10 years and every time it feels like returning to an old friend who keeps evolving and at the same time offers those comforts that we have come to expect.  Accommodation becomes more plentiful as more people discover it and you can do everything from b & b accommodation to some amazing 5 star accommodation and all at the most amazing prices.  Earlier this year we stayed at the Le Meridien Hotel www.lemeridienchiangmai.com/.  This was the second time we had stayed there and whilst it was perhaps a little faded around the edges the rooms were spacious, comfortable, full of great amenities and it was perfectly located amongst the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar that I love to hang out in every night to shop, eat, people watch and enjoy!

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Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai

 Also there is much to see and do and you are only a couple of hours drive from the Golden Triangle of Laos, Cambodia and Chiang Rai – doing a journey along the river in this golden triangle is a must.  A trip to Chiang Mai also always involves for us a trip up to Doi Suthep Mountain Temple and the chance to be blessed by the Buddhist monks, have some quiet reflection time and to enjoy the amazing view over Chiang Mai on a clear day – you can really see forever!

Finally this year we did a multi city tour of a range of different Asian cities in January from Taipei to Chiang Mai and my final culture treat which was 5 days in Siem Reap in Cambodia.  This amazing city offered a range of wonderful cultural experiences and was an absolute highlight of our trip in January.  Of course most people head to Siem Reap for a visit over 1, 2, 3 or more days to Ankgor Wat and it can really take a couple of days to truly experience the layout, all the amazing temples and ruins that are laid out over such a large space.  There are also the amazing markets and eat street that offers the most amazing locally produced food and produce to really get a taste of what is on offer from Cambodia.

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Angkor Wat Siem Reap

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The markets in Siem Reap

I could do pages and pages on all the things that I love about Asia and all the amazing places that I have experienced to date but these are just some of my highlights…

We are heading off in March for a 15 day cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong via Vietnam and Thailand to be followed by 6 days in Hong Kong so there will be more for me to write about during and after this trip and I am sure once I put this blog post to bed there will be more that I will want to share about the wonders of Asia and all that is on offer.