Sikeleli Travel & Expeditions in Asia
Asia, vast and diverse, is full of exciting contrasts — ancient temples and ultra skyscrapers, street food and world-class dining, night markets and luxury megamalls, mystical landscapes and buzzing cities.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Jodhpur & Jaipur, India
Lush rice terraces, hillside temples, sandy beaches and friendly people are just a few of the reasons Bali is the most popular island in Indonesia. Whether you wish to stay by a surfer beach or in laidback and artsy Ubud, private and affordable villa stays can be found throughout the island. Perhaps the serene natural setting here inspires wellness because the island boasts a number of yoga and meditation retreats, Balinese massages and healing therapies, and ample vegetarian options as well as fresh and delicious local cuisine. Connect with nature and join a cycle tour to the rice paddies, take a jungle trek to a waterfall or visit one of the many scenic Hindu and Buddhist temples found across Bali. Cooking courses, surf camps, yoga sessions and freediving schools are just some of the many activities you can practice here. Finally, no trip to Bali would be complete without shopping for local handicrafts or a colorful batik to remind you of your time in paradise.
It’s impossible to visit Cambodia and not be touched by its poignant past and the kindness and resilience of its people. The grandeur of the Hindu temples at Angkor Wat gives a sense of the powerful Khmer Empire that once ruled southeast Asia. Bayon Temple, with its magnificent carved heads, and Ta Prohm, the jungle temple, transport you to a long-lost world. Most travelers stay in Siem Reap, a charming and buzzing little town that still feels connected to its French past. The nearby Landmine Museum provides an important insight into recent history and the dangers still present in Cambodia. After the serenity of Angkor Wat, hectic Phnom Penh is a startling and overwhelming contrast, but the city is reinventing itself and developing a culinary scene. The Genocide Museum and nearby Killing Fields teach the brutal history of the Khmer Rouge, which many Cambodians alive today experienced firsthand. One of the best ways to explore the countryside here is to take a bike trip through the rice paddies and beautiful farmlands. A journey to Cambodia is a lesson in history, both triumphant and tragic, but the strength of its people is an inspiring message.
Cosmopolitan Hong Kong is the ultimate Asian city break for world-class dining, endless shopping and exciting architecture. Considered the culinary capital of Asia, if not the world, Hong Kong is renowned for its diverse local and international food scene, which ranges from simple street stalls to Michelin-starred restaurants. During the day, ride the wooden tram up to Victoria Peak and look out over iconic Victoria Harbour, then wander down Hollywood Road, one of Hong Kong’s oldest streets, filled with temples, antique shops and art galleries. When night falls, don’t miss the bustling Temple Street Night Market and the “Symphony of LIghts” music and light show over the harbour. End with a nightcap at one of the bars in popular nightlife spot Lain Kwai Fong. Don’t stay out too late though, or you may miss your chance to try Hong Kong’s famous dim sum breakfast in the morning.
From skyscrapers, bullet trains and pop culture to temples, tea ceremonies and geisha, Japan embraces its traditional past and high-tech present and casts a captivating spell on visitors. Even in futuristic, neon-lit Tokyo, where your waiter may be a robot, hints of the Edo period remain. For a mix of old and new Tokyo, watch a sumo practice, visit Sensoji Temple, stroll through Harajuku and join the crowd at Shibuya Crossing. Take the bullet train to enchanting Kyoto, where dreamlike temples, tranquil gardens and Gion’s lanterned alleys will transport you to the past. Cherry blossom season, typically in April, is a special time to visit Kyoto, and the pink and white blossoms are seen in parks, temples and along paths throughout the city. A short trip from Kyoto is the former capital Nara, famous for its Todai-ji Temple, which houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha, and the deer that roam the park. Japan’s second largest island, Hokkaido, has become a top destination for its untouched landscapes, skiing and onsen (hot springs) resorts. Niseko, Hokkaido’s celebrated ski resort, is just as charming in summer, with great restaurants, onsens, hikes and beautiful scenery. Each region in Japan has its own culinary specialties, and the diversity and excellence of Japanese cuisine goes far beyond sushi and ramen. Japan’s fascinating culture and history, gracious people, wonderful food, and impressive landscapes and cityscapes make it a fascinating destination. *Tsukiji Market has closed/relocated
White powdery beaches, sparkling turquoise water and reefs teeming with marine life are a few reasons this island nation in the Indian Ocean is the ideal honeymoon destination. Beyond its mesmerizing setting, the Maldives offers a variety of unique experiences above and below its waters. Stay in one of the famous overwater villas and wake up with the sea lapping below, relax at an underwater spa or dine in an all-glass underwater restaurant. In the Maldives, you can experience some of the world’s best scuba diving, swim with manta rays and whale sharks, surf at Thulusdhoo, go dolphin spotting and take a sunset sail in a traditional “dhoni” wooden boat. At night on Vaadhoo Island, scores of phytoplankton light up the beach like the stars above. Explore the local culture and go island hopping to local fishing villages, stroll around the tiny capital Male and catch a traditional Boduberu dance. The Maldives is the serene tropical paradise you’ll never want to leave.
Northern India, which sprawls across snow-capped Himalayas, the Thar Desert and vast northern plains, contains many of India’s architectural wonders and colorful cities. The jewel of North India for any visitor is the Golden Triangle, a route which connects the culturally- and historically-significant cities Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Begin in the buzzing capital, Delhi, famous for its ancient monuments, street bazaars and regional cuisine. A culinary tour of the maze of stalls around Chandni Chowk is the best introduction to local street food. Delhi boasts a number of impressive monuments to visit, but the Qutub Minar complex with its colossal victory tower and minaret is a must-see. Next, head to Agra, site of the breathtaking marble mausoleum the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and the Agra Fort, a striking red sandstone fortress and residence of the Mughal Emperors. Two worthy detours along the circuit include Fatehpur Sikri, the fortified city of red sandstone buildings, and Ranthambore National Park, home to tigers, leopards and crocodiles. Finally, in Jaipur, known as the “Pink City”, you’ll find the magnificent Amber Fort, the opulent City Palace and the historic astronomical observatory at Jantar Mantar. A cooking class and homestay dinner are the perfect intimate goodbye to Northern India.
This compact city and island nation at Malaysia’s tip is often a short stopover en route to other Asian destinations, but despite its small size, Singapore packs a lot in, and visitors will appreciate a deeper exploration. Influenced by a melting pot of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European cultures, Singapore is a foodie paradise, and amazing food can be found everywhere from trendy restaurants to casual food courts or “hawker centres”. Street food is a national pastime and the perfect way to sample local food—some hawker stalls even hold Michelin stars. The efficient subway system makes it easy to navigate popular districts, like Little India and Chinatown. Explore Chinatown’s historic temples, food stalls and trendy bars and Little India’s back alleys, temples and century-old shophouses. Both districts are also great places to indulge in the other national pastime: shopping. Singapore has an endless selection of street markets, boutiques and luxury megamalls, where visitors can shop tax free. For incredible views of the city skyline, guests can swim in the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands, and everyone can visit the Sands Skypark Observation Deck on the 57th floor for panoramic city views. Clean and safe, but far from boring, modern and multicultural Singapore offers plenty of reasons to extend your stay here.
Venture to tropical Southern India, and the landscapes shift to rolling hills of tea plantations, thick jungles and golden beaches. The culture here is also a sharp contrast to the north, and while the south may have fewer architectural gems, the hospitable locals; spicy cuisine; distinctive attire, music and dance; and overall mellow vibe are the real charms. In Mysore, “the city of Palaces”, you can visit the stunning Mysore Palace, shop for silk sarees and practice ashtanga yoga, like thousands of yogis who flock to Mysore every year. To experience the natural beauty of Southern India, visit misty Coorg, known as “the Scotland of India”. This region of gorgeous green hills, rivers, coffee and tea plantations, and teakwood and sandalwood forests is a magical setting for hikes, rafting, Jeep safaris and other outdoor activities. Staying at one of the picturesque coffee plantations is a wonderful way to relax and connect with the natural surroundings and wildlife of Southern India.
One of Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations, accessible and friendly Thailand is the gateway to Asia for many Westerners. Vibrant Bangkok is an exhilarating clash of modern and traditional scenes, where street vendors and ancient temples mix with luxury megamalls and skyscrapers. The grand Reclining Buddha at Wat Po Temple and the Emerald Buddha at Wat Phra Kaew are cultural highlights. After the peaceful temples, discover another side of ancient Thai culture and attend an exciting Muay Thai match at one of Bangkok’s top stadiums. Relaxed Chiang Mai, in the lush mountains of northern Thailand, offers an appealing break from Bangkok’s nonstop energy. Picturesque temples, jungle treks and the famous night market are just a few reasons to spend some time here. Southern Thailand is home to some of the world’s best beaches, and stunning and diverse Phuket makes an idyllic base for exploring beautiful untouched islands. Thailand’s amazing street food, traditional Thai massage, dazzling markets and welcoming people will make you want to return soon to the Land of Smiles.
Whether you’re dodging motorbikes and vendors in Hanoi’s Old Quarter or trekking through rice terraces in Sapa, every corner of Vietnam feels like a living photograph. From north to south, Vietnam is filled with culinary, scenic and cultural adventures. In Hanoi, wander through the Old Quarter and stop for a delicious Vietnamese egg coffee before visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the controversial leader’s resting place. From Hanoi, take an overnight cruise in Halong Bay and sail between the otherworldly limestone karsts. Head to central Vietnam to stay in Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and photogenic town filled with colorful hanging lanterns. Hoi An is famous for its tailors, and you can have a bespoke suit or dress made for you during your stay. Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in the south is a buzzing city with a number of cultural landmarks, including the stunning French colonial Saigon Opera House. A day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels used during the Vietnam War provides an important glimpse of recent history. Another unique experience is a trip to the rivers, swamps and floating markets of the Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s inviting people, fresh food and vivid cities and landscapes make it easy to connect with this special country.
A startlingly beautiful and spiritual landscape, Nepal and the hills of Kathmandu Valley, lay before the peaks of the Himalayan Mountain Range, which includes the infamous Mount Everest. This country boats some of the best trekking and mountaineering in the world as well as incredibly colourful markets of art, fabric and fine craftmanship. Nepal is also of course the birthplace of Buddha and was once upon a time, the world’s only Hindu Kingdom.