Asia remains a mystery to many travellers in the Western Hemisphere. Many Asian countries choose to adopt a private and non-invasive attitude, helped by vast expanses of unfriendly terrain such as deserts and mountains. If you search long and hard enough, you’ll discover plenty of unexpected and unheralded delights all across this enchanting continent.
To inspire you, we pick five of the most mysterious destinations that Asia has to offer.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat translates literally as “Temple City” and is the largest Hindu temple in the world. This amazing place was built by King Suryavarman of the Khmer Empire in the 1100s, and is one of the most important places of worship for Hindus from all corners of the globe. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, and Angkor Wat served as the capital of the Khmer Empire. The temple is so important to the nation of Cambodia that it appears on the country’s flag.
The Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines
There are two tales of how these amazing natural spectacles were formed. One tells of how two feuding giants threw rocks and sand at each other to create them. The other relates how another giant fell in love with a mortal woman but upon realising they could never be together, formed the hills through his tears.
These unique hills in the Bohol Province of the Philippines, which number over one thousand, are usually green but turn a deep and amazing chocolate brown colour during the dry season. Beneath the hills there is a layer of the limestone karst that contains thousands of marine fossils.[
The Ghost City of Fengdu, Fengdu, China
One of the most bizarre tourist attractions in the world, Fengdu is about 110 miles downstream from Chongqing on the north bank of the Yangtze River. It was built 1800 years ago, modelled after the Taoist version of Hell. It has 75 temples and dozens of statues of ghosts, and many believe that the spirits of the dead do walk amongst the living here. It’s worth seeing just for the creepy unfinished hotel in the shape of a human that overlooks the city. Sadly, this place is slowly being taken over by market traders keen to lure spending money from tourists’ back pockets.
Hell’s Door, Darvaza, Turkmenistan
Never perhaps has a tourist destination been so well named. Some locals do believe that this place is actually the gateway to the underworld. The more considered opinion is that the area is a cavern that is filled with natural gas that caught on fire in the 1970s. Bizarrely, the cavern has now been burning for over forty years, and makes for a quite unbelievable and spectacular sight. There is no way of telling how long the area will continue to be awash with flames, but it has already been burning for much longer than anyone predicted.
Suqatra, Gulf of Aden, Yemen
Suqatra, or Socotra as it also known, really does have to be visited to be believed. Any traveler who treks there may be forgiven for thinking they’ve been mysteriously transported to an alien planet. More than a third of the plant and animal life on Suqatra is utterly bizarre, and cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.
Perhaps the island’s most famous plant is the dragon’s blood tree, an amazing tree that is shaped like an umbrella and oozes red sap that was thought to be dragon’s blood. Around 50,000 natives call this strange place home.
This was submitted by Josh Hansen on behalf of No.1 Traveller a luxury airport travel brand.
Angkor Wat by Arian Zwegers at flickr.com
Chocoloate Hills by Yotut at flickr.com