Craving a taste of Asia? Countries like Japan and Thailand have set the bar as the top destination for travellers and both of the capitals, Tokyo and Bangkok, have electrifying metropolis’ punctuated with skyscrapers which contrast to their ancient traditions and iconic temples. But, before you start dreaming about where your next in tour to Asia will be, we’re here to help you decide where to go.
|Most popular destination||Kyoto||Chiang Mai|
|Natural attraction||Hakone||Erawan National Park|
|Nightlife destination||Rappongi (Tokyo)||Pattaya|
Just under 7,000 islands make up the multi-faceted country of Japan. At first glance, it might seem like an overwhelming country with so much to see and do, but really, it comes down to finding the perfect tour to suit your needs to hep guide tour travel. Are you searching for a hiking tour? Maybe an in-depth cultural tour? However you travel, there is something for everyone. Most importantly, if food is a priority for you, just know that Japanese cuisine is top notch, and your Tour Guide is bound to know where to find the best hidden spots for local fare.
Japan is a fascinating destination with a quirky mix of historic and wacky culture. It is this diversity that made us love visiting Japan.
From the tasty ramen, to ancient temples to world class theme parks and even UFO catchers, Japan is the ideal destination for young and old alike. with everyone getting their share of adventure during the trip.
Explore using the subways as it will link you to almost every interesting sights, making it an economical way to travel and discover Japan. Go with an open mind. Japan is full of delightful surprises at every turn! – Daddy M, The Wacky Duo
Best time to visit Japan
For less rain and mild temperatures, late spring (March to May) or late fall (September to November) are the optimal times to travel here. Plus, cherry blossoms are a stunning sight during the spring, as are the brightly hued fall leaves.
Things to know before you visit Japan
- While most locals typically know a little English, many signs and menus are only in Japanese so it helps to know keywords when it comes to navigating streets and restaurants.
- Keeping your shoes on in someone’s house is seen as extremely disrespectful, and can also be the case in some restaurants, so see what other diners are doing and follow suit.
- Most places only accept cash and tipping is not expected at restaurants, hotels and other services (often they’ll chase after you to kindly give it back).
- Nomihodai is all-you-can-drink alcohol at bars, clubs and some restaurants for a set price.
- Most meals are eaten with chopsticks.
Train: Travelling by rail in Japan, is likely to eat into your budget quicker than you might expect. If you’re travelling independently, the ultra-modern bullet train provides a touch of luxury and is an experience in itself, so purchasing a Japan Rail Pass is one of the most cost-effective ways to travel through the country. Some tours will include this style of transport in the total cost, so this is one less thing you need to worry about arranging which means you can sit back and enjoy the journey.
Bus: There are buses which come at a fraction of the price of a travelling on a luxury train, but keep in mind this will take more time. If you’re travelling on a group tour, it’s possible you will likely travel on a small mini-coach, a private vehicle or a private bus.
See Also: The Most Scenic Train Trips Around Japan
What to eat and drink
- Sushi: While you may have already enjoyed sushi in other parts of the world, there’s nothing quite like the fresh rolls rotating on conveyor belts at sushi restaurants perfected by the Japanese.
- Beef: Kobe, the world-renowned steak cut, comes from Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture and is absolutely mouthwatering (but can come at a high price point).
- Ramen: Noodles soaked in a broth are accompanied by a variety of different additions, like braised pork, bamboo shoots, egg, and spinach.
- Okonomiyaki: This cabbage-based pancake is made in different ways depending on what prefecture you find yourself. The name also means “how you like it” so feel free to make your own savoury creation.
- Gyoza: This meat or veggie stuffed dumplings were originally from China, but they are commonly enjoyed in Japan.
- Takoyaki: A battered ball-shaped snack filled with octopus.
- Kushi-Katsu: Deep-fried meat on a skewer is a staple street food.
- Sake: Japanese rice wine that can be served hot or cold.
- Matcha tea: A powdered green tea that becomes frothy when whisked.
You don’t need to be anime film fan to appreciate the detail of the whimsical displays and art pieces that piece together the making of the legendary Studio Ghibli. The multi-storied mansion houses all of the enchanting and otherworldly elements of director Hayao Miyazaki’s colourful world.
Taking your travels to the southwest of Japan’s main island, Kyūshū is the destination for winding down. Natural hot springs, active volcanoes, and beaches are just a few of the natural pleasures offered in a lush landscape.
Japan’s capital city is readily prepared to excite travellers with sci-fi skyscrapers, legendary and inventive food (hello land of sushi), and a quirky fashion scene in the Harajuku district. But the twist is that all of this is set against the traditional and calming spirituality that surrounds the cities ancient temples.
Locals of the country’s largest post city are avid preachers of kuidaore (eat until you drop). Aside from drawing those with an appetite for tantalizing food, the cities Dōtombori screams with nighttime action while the grounds of the Osaka castle are a calm beauty and is one of the countries most important landmarks, symbolic of the unification of Japan.
Summit one of the countries three most sacred mountains (which is also an active volcano) or admire the iconic site from Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park like the many artists before who have been inspired by it to create works of art.
In one of the oldest parks in Japan, you’ll be amazed to see so many free-roaming deer in one place. Getting up close to admire them is nearly as incredible as when they join you crossing a bridge or venture into a store in town.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
This Shinto shrine is exemplary of the traditional religion in Japan. The thousands of vibrant orange torii gates wind through paths which lead to the five different shrines on the grounds perched on the wooded hillside.
Thailand is a quintessential Southeast Asian destination. Aside from its concentration in tropical beaches, eclectic food markets and iconic temples, the interactions with friendly Thai locals is often one of the most memorable experiences.
Best time to visit Thailand
Thailand’s rainy season falls roughly between the months of May and October. Though unpredictable, prepare for a few hours of rainfall most days. The best times to go are March, April, or May when the weather is hot. Alternatively, the cooler months between November and February are still warm by Western standards.
See Also: 2 Weeks in Thailand for Every Budget
Things to know before you visit Thailand
- Spicy foods are everywhere in Thailand and what you may consider extra hot, might be considered a mild spice to most Thai people. If it’s not for you, know how to say mai phet (pronounced “pet”).
- Local transportation within cities is known as tuk-tuks (rickshaws). Negotiate and settle a price before heading out on the journey.
- Avoid animal tourism. This includes tiger temples, elephant trekking, and monkey activities. There are many reports of the neglect and mistreatment animals, so set instead visit sanctuaries and don’t feed the animals.
- Cover up your shoulders, and knees when visiting temples. Also, taking off your shoes before entering someone’s home and often sacred sites is common practice.
- Tipping isn’t expected but is highly appreciated.
- Be wary of bucket drinks. They can be extremely pungent and are targets for being spiked, especially at large gatherings. Keep your wits about you.
Train: Miles of rails connect most major cities in Thailand. They’re scenic, safe and reasonably comfortable ways to get around. There are different styles of train travel labelled as ordinary, rapid, express and special express. They each operate at different speeds and offer different services accordingly (book in advance).
Bus: Similarly to trains, buses also come with different styles of travel. Note that the local and some express buses will often make frequent stops and might not come with air-conditioning. Alternatively, going for VIP buses, you’ll typically have air-conditioned and be offered some food or beverage.
Ferry: Ferries are a popular method of transport for island hopping. Waves can get quite rocky, so be warned of seasickness. Book in advance as they tend to fill up quickly. If you’re travelling on a group tour, you can rest easy, as transport is one less thing you need to worry about.
What to eat and drink
- Pad Thai: A staple street food dish made of stir-fried rice noodles with either chicken, shrimp, beef or tofu, and vegetables.
- Mango sticky rice: Mango with a side of sticky rice drizzled with sweet coconut cream syrup.
- Tom yum goon: Shrimp soup made in different varieties, but often with chilli and lemongrass.
- Nam prik kapi: Thai cuisine favours its spice, so this Thai chilli dipping sauce is the perfect accompaniment to kick it up a notch.
- Green papaya salad: Shredded papaya served with fresh chillies.
- Juices and smoothies: With so many fresh fruits available, you can come up with some pretty exotic fruit combinations, it’s the perfect refresher!
- Coconut: Tapped and cut right in front of you, this coconut water is fresh as it gets.
- Cha yen: Brewed black tea mixed with condensed milk topped with a scoop of sugar, sometimes served in a plastic bag.
- Beer: Chang is a cheap and strong beer (it’s marked by an elephant on the bottle, symbolic of the feeling of having an elephant on your head the next day, also known as a “Chang-over”) or Singha which is Thailand’s oldest beer.
Ornate shrines, posh rooftop bars, and brimming markets abound, Bangkok combines old and new with a certain organized-chaos that is hard to put your finger on. Get to the heart of it all on Khao San Road where you can experience street food to the extremes or visit the floating markets.
Endless shopping and dining experiences from 8 am to 9 pm. My greatest achievement was purchasing 8 quality clothing suitable for work and outings at only 75 to 100baht per piece! If you are travelling on a budget, remember to control your buying desire. Keep in mind that there is (usually) an exact yet cheaper piece around the corner! I’m serious, therefore SGD75 to SGD100 per day is actually enough for a memorable and exciting Bangkok trip. – Yunzi, Joysofyz
Wat Pho Temple Complex
Get in touch with Thailand’s Buddhist religion at one of the most symbolic temple complexes. It’s not only where you’ll find Bangkok’s largest Buddha, but it’s also a hub for teachings like traditional Thai medicine and massage.
The Thai Islands are among the most sought-after destinations in the country. Among the top ones is Ko Phangan (known for its monthly Full Moon party), Ko Tao (an ideal dive destination for first-timers or more experienced divers), and Ko Phi Phi Don and Ko Phi Phi Le (for immaculate beaches and clear waters).
Erawan National Park
Near the Myanmar border, Erawan National Park houses a 7-tier waterfall to splash around in while monkeys linger in the jungle nearby. There are also different series of caves like Tham Phra That with natural limestone formations and Ta Duang with rock paintings.
On Phuket, the mountains meet the sea. Patong is Phuket’s high-end area with resorts, spas, and restaurants. Meanwhile, the main city is pulsing with busy markets and lively bars and beaches to embrace your hedonistic side.
Chiang Mai is a dreamy destination to visit with elephants in sustainable rescue parks. Formerly the capital of Lanna Kingdom, there are some incredible 14th and 15th-century temples. It’s much slower paced than other Thai cities so you can embrace the calm.
Aside from the unique and awe-inspiring architecture of the White Temple, I enjoyed that “small town” feel in Chiang Rai. It was more relaxed than Chiang Mai and quieter. Compared to Bangkok, the weather is also nicer since Chiang Rai is in the northern part of Thailand. For first time travelers, I would tell them to consider spending more time in Chiang Rai. A lot of travelers only drop by Chiang Rai for a day trip so they don’t get to explore much of what Chiang Rai and the surrounding countryside has to offer. Definitely check out the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), Black House (Baan Dam Museum), Clock Tower, and the night and weekend markets. Of course, not to be missed is trying a lot of local food (especially Khao Soi) at the various food stalls and restaurants in Chiang Rai. – Darlene, Point and Shoot + Wanderlust
Phrases and Words
- Jaa mata
- See you
- Suki desu
- I like it
- Dame desu
- It’s no good
- Mazui desu
- It’s terrible
- Mai chai
- Mai pen rai
- Never mind