If you’re anything like us here at Backyard Travel, your wish list to Santa undoubtedly included a mix of holidays to exotic locations and the chance to embrace local culture in all the places you visit.
Below you’ll find some of our own travel aspirations – places we are personally yearning to visit in 2014. If you’re searching for inspiration for your next exciting journey you may like to consider the following destinations:
Muang Ngoi & Nong Khiaw, Laos
Muang Ngoi remains an oasis of calm whilst nearby Nong Khiaw is quickly developing into a tourist hotspot. The reasons for traveling to these two destinations are the same; to experience ‘the real’ rural Laos. Trekking, kayaking and traditional long tail boats are scenic ways to explore the beautiful mountain scenery around the Nam Ou River, which is home to a variety of ethnic groups and hill tribes. Muang Ngoi is only accessible by boat, a fact that’s helping it remain remote, only offering simple guesthouses and local restaurants – a classic version of authentic Laos!
Koh Phayam, Thailand
If you are looking for a genuine ‘Robinson Crusoe’ style destination then Koh Phayam in Thailand is a tropical island few have heard of. Located along the Andaman Coast close to Myanma’s Mergui Archipelago, Koh Phayam is still relatively underdeveloped and remains one of the country’s best kept secrets. The island has a population of only a few hundred locals, one village and a few choices of restaurants so if you want peace and quiet, then this is the destination for you.
Kalimantan is still very much an ‘off-the-beaten-track’ destination and thankfully is likely to remain that way. Located in the green heart of Indonesia, Kalimantan offers huge remote tropical forests infused with meandering rivers suitable for exploration and discovery. Orangutans, proboscis monkeys, hornbill birds; the region is an untouched paradise for nature lovers and although Kalimantan is slowly opening up for tourism the area still feels raw and untouched.
Cao Bang Province, Vietnam
Remote. Exotic. Friendly. Stunningly beautiful. Those are the words we’d use to perfectly sum up the Cao Bang Province in Vietnam. Home to colorful hill tribe groups, the province’s vibrant markets are overlooked by dramatic limestone karst mountains which are in turn surrounded by never ending green rice fields. This often overlooked area is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful regions in the country. Accommodation options are basic (better suited to the more the more ‘adventurous’ traveler), but the welcoming hospitality of locals, and breathtaking scenery provides a reward that repays such intrepid instinct ten-fold.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
PNH is the hip place to be right now. New boutique shops are springing up everywhere and numerous luxury hotels have been announced to open in 2014. The culinary scene of Phnom Penh is one of the fastest developing in the world with traditional Khmer recipes fusing fabulously with contemporary influences. New development is adding a modern kudos to the already charming city streets and ’14 will be a great time to visit.
Guangdong province is a lesser-visited region of China that has played a fundamental role in the history and culture of the country. The fascinating region is considered the stronghold of Cantonese culture and the origin of world-class cuisine (in particular dim sum) and boasts an abundance of natural beauty as well as unique and original architecture features such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Diaolou – fortified multi-storey towers built in the nineteenth century. We’ve got a feeling travelers are ready to embrace the region more and more in the coming months.
Nozawa Onsen, Japan
Japan is an outstanding destination any time of year. With four distinct seasons, no matter which month you choose to visit there’s something for everyone. Lately though, it’s the winter ski seasons that have been capturing the imaginations of wide-eyed travelers. Nozawa Onsen is our hot – or should that be ‘ice cool’ – tip for ’14. From November to March the region in the Nagano Prefecture is blessed with perfect powdered snow and the 1,650m Mt. Kenashi provides sublime slopes to slalom down.
*UPDATE* Since publishing this list, we’re delighted to say that New York Times Travel have backed up our choice by listing Nozawa Onsen on their ‘52 Places to Go in 2014‘ list, and even mention us and the details of our ‘Ski & The City: Tokyo to Nozawa Onsen‘ tour.
Irrawaddy River Cruises, Myanmar
Lifting a rum sour to your lips is the extent of physical exertion you’ll endure while cruising the iconic Irrawaddy River. Cruising the majestic river offers travelers a glimpse of Myanmar not accessible by car or plane. Drifting past riverside villages, a cruise allows you a slow-paced perspective of life as you mirror the smiling faces waving from the riverbanks and observe skilled fisherman crafting their living from the bountiful waters. Most cruises sail between Mandalay and Bagan, and range from one- to four-nights, with guided excursions to remote villages included – a decadent way to explore magical Myanmar.
If you’d like to know more about our tips for travel to these special destinations in Asia, feel free to get in touch with our locally based Travel Specialists who will be delighted to offer their insider advice.