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Top Experiences for 2016

| Words by Zoe Crane

Every year we discover amazing Asian experiences that we want to share with the world. With thanks to our staff throughout Asia, always on the lookout for exciting ways to uncover the real Asia, we bring you a list of some of our favourites for the coming year.

See the adorable Snow monkeys in the Japanese Alps

Snow Monkeys
Snow monkeys bathing in the hot springs

The cold climes of Yudanaka, set in the snowy Japanese Alps are home to the Japanese Macaque. Known as snow monkeys these adorable primates are right at home frolicking in the snow, and when they get a little cold they just jump right into the local hot springs to warm up. This gorgeous sight is a tourist drawcard, and while the monkeys are around year round, this is best experienced in the cooler months. The area around Yudanaka also offers travellers hot springs, lovely ryokans and even a small ski resort.

See the Rhinos at Kaziranga National Park

Indian Rhino
Indian one-horned rhino takes a stroll through Kaziranga National Park

With over two-thirds of the world’s population of the one-horned or Indian rhinoceros, this is the major drawcard at Kaziranga, and travellers here are almost guaranteed to see them on the wild. Located in the Assam district in northern India this national park is a huge stretch of tall grasses, marshland and tropical forests, inhabited not only by the rhinos, but home also to tigers, elephants, wild water buffalo and deer, as well as being an important are for birdlife.

See the temples of Angkor from the Air

Angkor from the air
The view of Angkor Wat from the air

The temples at Angkor, and particularly the world-renowned Angkor Wat are a bucket-list experience everyone should see once in their life. Seeing the temples at sunrise is an amazing experience as is travelling by tuk-tuk around the complex for some great photo opportunities, but nothing beats seeing them from a hot air balloon. Board a tethered balloon and head straight up for a bird’s-eye view of the ancient temples and a story you’ll be retelling for years to come.

Discover the food of Laos

Laos cuisine
A noodle soup commonly eaten for breakfast

While not famous for its cuisine like neighbours Vietnam and Thailand, the food of Laos is both delicious and unique. Get a taste of authentic cuisine by joining the locals for dining experiences you’ll never forget. Try a cooking class surrounded by tropical greenery at one of Luang Prabang’s best restaurants, or join a local family in their home to try some of the traditional jaew dips. Surrounded by lush rice fields, learn to cook bamboo sticky rice in a bamboo hut, before a picnic at the refreshing Kuang Si Falls.

Cruise the Mekong

Jayavarman signature stateroom
One of the luxurious Signature Staterooms on the Jayavarman

River cruising in Asia isn’t only about the convenience of unpacking just once as your boutique “floating hotel” takes you to a new destination each day, it is also about accessing parts of the country that you just couldn’t see otherwise. By choosing a small ship, you’ll get to explore local villages and meet local people. For the best of both worlds combine your River Cruise with a small group tour on our Mekong & Beyond small group tour, which includes eight nights aboard the Jayavarman in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Elephant Hills in Thailand

Elephant Hills
Luxury Floating tents at Elephant Hills in Khao Sok National Park

This luxury tented camp just a couple of hours away from Phuket by road, yet a world away from the hustle and bustle. Check in to your luxurious permanent tent surrounded by lush jungle and experience jungle treks, traditional dance performances, river rafting and meet the elephants cared for at the Elephant Hills sanctuary. Travel to the tranquil lake for a day spent swimming in the refreshing waters or paddling your canoe amongst the soaring jungle-clad hills, or stay overnight in one of the plush floating tents.

Visit a nunnery in Burma

Nunnery in Burma
Lunch at a local nunnery in Burma

Buddhism is an intrinsic part of the culture in Burma where it is practised by nearly 90% of the population. Visiting a monastery is a common activity for tourists to Burma, however for those looking to get off the beaten path, a visit to a local nunnery is a unique experience and meeting the nuns and sharing lunch is so heartwarming you’ll be talking about it for years to come.

Meet the people of Yunnan province in China

Bai Locals
Bai Locals in Xizhou Village

Ethnic minorities make up about a third of the population in Yunnan, with 26 different groups giving the region exceptional diversity. Near the village of Xizhou, you can visit a local market, where you’ll find a Bai ethnic minority community going about their daily lives. The small town of Shigu is on the “tea and horse” road, an ancient road traversed by caravans through dangerous hills and rivers across the roof of the world, where few tourists venture or meet the Naxi people and listen to traditional music in Lijiang. Further on in Zhongdian, Tibetan families welcome you into their home for a cup of yak butter tea, a chance to learn more about their life and culture.

Spend a night cruising on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam

Mekong Delta
The Tra Su flooded forest in the Mekong Delta

Known as the rice bowl of Vietnam, the lush fields of the delta are crisscrossed with tributaries of the Mekong River. Travelling by boat here is the norm, with houses and markets floating alongside. Cruising the languid waters is a peaceful pastime, but spending the night afloat gives travellers the chance to experience the peace of this region in new ways.