The Secret Sides of Asia

Hong Kong
Hong Kong

For Australians, a getaway to Asia is rapidly becoming as common as a weekend trip to Sydney. The warm temperatures and affordable costs of living in places like Thailand and Singapore make them a hit with travellers from Australia, and the direct flights make holidays to Asia that much easier. Rather than making yet another trip to Bangkok on your next trip abroad, consider something new. Asia has a lot to offer if you are willing to get off the tourist track, and you might uncover some amazing things at one of these less common destinations.

Kawthoung, Myanmar

In 2012, Myanmar was opened to significantly more foreign travellers, which put it on the map in terms of holiday hotspots. Since very few people have been able to visit Myanmar, this is far from an overrun or crowded place to visit. One of the top places to explore is the town of Kawthoung, which is located on the southern tip of the country a few miles from the Thai border. Kawthoung boasts beautiful beaches on the Andaman Sea as well as pristine landscapes with waterfalls and world-class diving. Affordable and secluded, this is one of the few undisturbed tropical retreats left in Asia.

Hong Kong

When most Australians hear about travel to the giant metropolis of Hong Kong, they assume it is for work or for a stopover during a longer international flight. However, Hong Kong can be a fantastic destination in its own right. There are few cities in the world that can provide amazing hiking, vibrant culture, incredible nightlife, world-class shopping and a handful of beaches without crowds. During the summer, beaches on the island of Lantau are deserted during the week, which gives you the option of a secluded day by the water. If you are more interested in the wild nightlife, head to Wan Chai or Lan Kwai Fong to join in with the expatriates and locals who spend their nights in the bars, clubs and lounges. For a peek into the local culture, head to western Hong Kong closer to the Chinese border, or take the train all the way into Shenzhen, China.

East Timor

The nation of Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, best known as East Timor, is located just northwest of Australia. While the history of this nation has included conflict in the recent past, it has been an independent and internationally recognised state since 2002. Since then, tourism has slowly but steadily been increasing, and the only visa you will need is available upon arrival and good for 30 days of travel. The diverse culture in East Timor is spectacular, and the most common local languages are Portuguese and Indonesian, among a full 37 spoken in the country. Your travel itinerary might include trekking through the Nino Konis National Park, climbing Mount Ramelau, scuba diving in Dili or shopping for traditional silver jewellery at the local markets.

Hainan, China

If you are looking for incredible beaches and warm temperatures throughout the year, China may not be the first place in Asia that comes to mind. However, the province of Hainan is actually best known as China’s Hawaii thanks to its popularity with international tourists and beautiful coastlines. Sanya is the epicentre of beach tourism in Hainan, and locals there speak the Cantonese dialect rather than Mandarin Chinese. It boasts a stunning 20-kilometre stretch of sand, and visitors can swim, relax by the water, spot sea turtles, go golfing, set off on a hike or even take surfing lessons. The prices of accommodation, dining, and nightlife are incredibly low in Hainan, and they can even be more affordable than in places like Thailand. Hainan may be underrated, but you certainly won’t be disappointed if you visit.

Sanya beach by Dale Preston (creative commons)

Before you set off on an Asian getaway, be sure to check in advance about health guidelines or necessary vaccines in the area. To protect yourself while you are there, travel insurance is a must. To find some affordable policies that won’t cost you a fortune, use websites like This will give you peace of mind, allow you to get reimbursement if something is lost on your journey and can offer medical help if you need it when travelling abroad.