It’s one thing to scour the markets of Asia, swim its beaches or wander its ruins, and another thing entirely to see it with a bird’s-eye view. Literally rising up over the tangled jungles and crystal seas of the Asian continent, you can experience a completely different side of the region’s most spectacularly scenic destinations. Get off the track altogether with these top five ways of seeing Asia from above on your next tailor-made holiday in Asia.
The Great Wall by Helicopter
The Great Wall of China is long, comprising around 22,000 kilometres of disjointed sections. Not surprisingly, it can be difficult to comprehend its immensity from ground level. One way of taking a big-picture look at it is by booking a helicopter tour over the Wall. Seeing it extend into the horizon can help you appreciate the sheer size of it, and how much labour force over centuries was required to create it. Aside from putting you up over the Wall, a chopper tour gets you up over the crowds – tourists at the Beijing sections of the Wall attend daily en masse; a private ride with personal guide can enhance the experience exponentially.
Angkor Wat by micro-light
Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, is a bucket-list destination for many a traveler – an unforgettable site no matter how you choose to explore it. The largest religious monument on Earth, walking through the temple grounds themselves is a must to really feel immersed in the history and reverence embedded in its stone. A particular highlight is the ascent to “heaven” at the very top of the temple. The Angkor complex encompasses far more than just Angkor Wat, however, and seeing all the main temples can take days. To get a glimpse of all of them from above – as well as the Tonle Sap lake and Siem Reap jungles, a micro-light flight is a thrilling option. Aside from the fantastic views, you get the rush of wind through your hair – a stark contrast to the humidity of ground level.
The golden stupas of Bagan, Myanmar, are a spectacular sight. This “gilded city”, as Marco Polo called it, once shone so brightly you could see the city from a great distance. Kublai Khan was able to locate it just by following its glow, the Venetian explorer wrote. Today, you can see Bagan via a variety of means – by WWII jeep, in a horse-drawn carriage, on horseback etc – but for the view to trump all views, ballooning at daybreak can’t be beat. A 45-minute ride over the tree-tops and glittering spires is a fantastic way to spend any tour in Bagan. A similar trip can be done high over Inle Lake, the largest in Myanmar, taking in stilt houses, floating gardens and zipping longtail boats.
Ha Long and Bai Tu Long Bays via Seaplane
The iconic Ha Long Bay and neighboring Bai Tu Long Bay are stunning from sea-level. With jagged limestone karsts jutting from the water, the craggy ridge of Ha Long resembles a dragon sinking into the bay. Speedboats dart between islands and junks float lazily against a blue-green backdrop, with a seemingly endless amount of rocks and bays to explore. To maximize the views, you can take a sea-plane flight from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, soaring over the traffic and catching the karsts from a seldom-seen angle. Once you’ve touched down, go on a cruise around the bay and compare island life to that of historic Hanoi.
Ziplining in Laos
Getting an aerial view in Asia doesn’t have to mean taking flight. In Laos, thrill-seeking travelers can skim through the tree tops via zipline. If you like trekking through jungles, camping and wildlife-spotting, an eco-tour with hire-wire ziplining is a great way to get a bird’s – or monkeys – eye view. Not only is a ziplining adventure low-impact on the environment, you’ll get to see gorgeous national parkland inaccessible by foot. Some gorges and valleys of Dong Hua Sao, for instance, can’t be reached via stairs, and the forest floor may not be suitable or safe to walk on. By ziplining from tree-post to tree-house, past waterfalls and between centuries-old evergreens, you get a truly wild view of Laos’ (almost) impenetrable forests.
If these views tickle your fancy, contact our Asia based Travel Specialists and they’ll include any of these options in a personally designed tour.