Header image courtesy of visualsofdana (via Unsplash)
With Lunar New Year on the horizon, this means more public holidays for you to take advantage of. Not sure where to go for your short break? We have compiled a list of locations that require minimal planning ahead. If you didn’t plan on travelling this Chinese New Year, our list of last-minute destinations might just change your mind.
Papua New Guinea is an exciting destination not just for those looking for a bit of tropical sunshine. Apart from gorgeous beaches that come in great abundance on the island, Papua New Guinea also has a wide variety of activities on offer for cultural enthusiasts and foodies. Port Moresby Nature Park and Varirata National Park have vibrant and gorgeous nature alongside a plethora of cultural displays from various groups indigenous to the island.
You can also find a diverse range of food on offer. As Papua New Guinea has been visited by people from all around the world throughout history, those who have chosen to settle have brought their cuisines into the local environment. From Western to Japanese, Malay to Chinese, you are sure to find mouthwatering dishes to sate your hunger.
Kyoto is famous for many things, but its traditional Shinto and Buddhist temples and shrines are a sight to behold. With a simple search online, you will find many temples in the traditional city. You have probably already seen the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine and its vermillion torii gates in pictures before. Kilometres of red and black gates stretch far beyond the entrance to the shrine and form a tunnel that is aesthetically pleasing and Instagrammable. The shrine itself is dedicated to the deity of agriculture and business.
A little further north in Kyoto, in the Gion and Higashiyama Ward, is another popular temple in Kyoto. The Kiyomizu-dera is a picturesque structure dating from imperial Japan. Located at the top of a small hill, the temple is breathtaking in its scale, architecture, as well as approach. The pedestrian areas leading up to Kiyomizu-dera are lined with traditional Japanese shops and architecture. As you head towards the summit, you can immerse yourself in an environment seeping with culture and history. If you’re interested in visiting one of the many other shrines in Kyoto, you can have a look here.
Seoul might be a bustling city, but within the metropolis, you can find plenty of cultural sites where the history of Joseon still seeps through. Changdeoggung is a palace from the Joseon dynasty designed with the environment around it in mind. The palace is the best-preserved in Korea, showcasing the respect which architects and construction workers had for nature in its structural and aesthetic harmony with the environment.
If you want to immerse yourself further in old Joseon, the historic villages, Hahoe and Yangdong, are must-visits for you. Developed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, they are well-preserved examples of typical Korean clan villages. These villages still house descendants of these clans to this day, making this a rare, living cultural heritage. Visitors can step into the Yangdong Village Cultural Centre where artefacts from the villages’ history are exhibited, traditional cultural programmes are also on offer for you to experience.
You can learn more about Seoul and Korea’s rich cultural heritage here.
Although Bali might be famous for its beaches, this area of Indonesia is just as rich in culture and history as the rest of the country. Tanah Lot is a Hindu temple frequented by travellers and pilgrims alike. Sitting on a rock on the coast, the temple sometimes seems to be floating on the water. Visitors are allowed inside the temple complex, but the inner hall is restricted to prayers, ceremonies, and local Hindus. For a piece of culture, head over to the Sury Mandala Cultural Park where a Kecak Fire Dance is usually held after the sun sets beautifully off the coast of Tanah Lot, coating the area in golden light as far as the eyes can see.
In this rural part of Bali, ecotourism is also a popular option amongst sustainable-minded travellers. From trekking mountains to hiking to waterfalls, and participating in locally run cultural workshops to staying in eco-friendly resorts, you can have it all in one trip.
You can learn more about Tanah Lot and Tabanan here.
The capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, is located in a valley surrounded by the Himalayan mountains. Dotted around the winding alleys of the city is a series of historic sites and temples. The Kathmandu Valley has as many as seven Unesco heritage sites worth visiting on your trip, this includes the Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka, set in the heart of the city, as well as the Hindu temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan. If culture is not your cup of tea, head over to the Thamel District and explore the mountain areas surrounding the valley.
Now that China is opening up its borders to the rest of the world, it’s time for seasoned travellers to dive back into its rich culture. Hangzhou is one of the historic provinces in the country. Particularly, you will find traces of the Silk Road at the Chinese National Silk Museum. Showcasing the famous and celebrated material, the museum offers a comprehensive historical account of the country’s largest trade in textiles through the centuries, including priceless relics, works of art, and clothing.
Another cultural hotspot is located just an hour from the city in the northeast. In Wuzhen, you will find the famous “water villages.” Reminiscing the streets and canals of Venice, these waterways are bustling with long boats carrying all sorts across the city. Follow this water trail and you will be able to experience the culture of the area in six unique parts.
You can learn more about different attractions in Hangzhou here.