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Offbeat Asian tourist destinations for backpackers

Being the largest and most populous continent, Asia has a mind-boggling ethnic, cultural and natural diversity. From quaint islands to majestic mountains, from delicious comestibles to hospitable people, and from bustling marketplaces to peaceful, picturesque sceneries; Asia has something for everyone. It is a traveler’s heaven and with its plethora of destinations, this piece of land will certainly give you much more than you can imagine.

We are living in an age where being an explorer is the norm. Tourism is booming and because all the prominent places have been frequented by enthusiasts, we list nine lesser known options you can consider while taking a trip to Asia.

So fasten your seatbelts and get ready to fly across the continent where magic comes alive:

Kapas Islands, Malaysia

There are a lot of beautiful islands in Malaysia. The reason we chose this one is its size. Not more than two kilometers square in area, Kapas island is one of the (thankfully) least populated islands in Malaysia. If a peaceful stay is something you need, then this is just the destination for you. Scuba diving enthusiasts will also find the island interesting. You should, however, refrain from visiting during the monsoon season (Oct to Feb) when the island is closed to visitors. A word of advice: carry money in cash, as there are no ATMs on the island.

There are daily flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu, from where you can get a bus or a taxi to the island.

Visit for: Peaceful stay, diving, backpacking

2. Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

If you asked a seasoned traveler about the most beautiful white sand beach in Indonesia, then this is the answer you’d probably get.

This coastal town in Lombok has a picturesque, panoramic setting. One visit and you will be awed by the beauty and seclusion it offers. Not to be confused with a homonymous island located in Bali, Kuta (Lombok) is one of the most sought after travel destinations by backpackers. However, you should visit it as soon as you can as it is slowly becoming more mainstream. To reach here, hire a taxi from Lombok International airport. It is half an hour drive from there.

Visit for: Surfing, Fishing, Diving

3. El Nido, Philippines

If clear lagoons, large rock formations and an idyllic stay is your idea of an ideal vacation, then El Nido (Spanish for nest) is your dream destination. Famous for its coral reef snorkels and deep diving, this place will cater to all kinds of tourists. It has budget stay options as well as luxurious resorts. Backpackers have the option of living in cottages on stilts in front of vast lagoons. The sight is enthralling. You can explore caves, climb rocks and experience serenity. Do keep in mind that cash is the way to go here. There are no ATMs and not many places accept payment by cards.

The nearest airport is at El Nido.

Visit for: Rock climbing, snorkeling

4. Ko Lanta, Thailand

Thailand has more hidden wonders than one can imagine. Ko Lanta is one such gateway for tourists from around the world. Discovered by backpackers in the 1980s, this island has a distinct lazy vibe to it. Picture yourself in a hammock, drinking delicious coconut water, with peace all around. The best picture you could conjure would be no match for the four most famous beaches of Ko Lanta: Khlong Dao, Phra Ae, Khlong Khong and Khlong Nin. All four are well connected by ferries and have a number of resorts, spas, and restaurants. The nearest airports are Krabi, Trang, and Phuket. Airlines like AirAsia can provide you with cheap and comfortable flights.

Visit for: Diving, Trekking, Kayaking, and a host of events and festivals.

5. Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand

Ko is the Thai term for ‘island’, and Phi Phi Don is one of the most easily accessible islands in Thailand. It is the only populous island among a group of six and is gradually becoming popular with hordes of tourists visiting every year. The climate here is mostly tropical and the island, as per archaeologists, holds great historical importance. Considered by many as the most beautiful island in the world, it is a haven for backpackers. If you are on a tight budget, then you can find a suitable accommodation away from the beach, up the hills. As peaceful as it is, it also boasts of a spectacular nightlife.

Visit for: Diving, Yoga, Cliff Jumping, Birdwatching

6. Georgetown, Malaysia

Spectacular, bustling and criminally underrated, Georgetown in Malaysia is the capital city of Penang. The ancient town is a culmination of the historical and contemporary world. You will love it here if you are a shopper, photographer or an explorer. Being a transportation hub, it is easily accessible by all means of travel, with the nearest airport being at Penang. Need more reasons to visit? The place is also a UNESCO world heritage site (declared in July 2008). Do visit the ‘Blue Mansion’ if you are a fan of art and architecture.

Visit for: Shopping, sightseeing, experiencing assorted architecture

7. Koh Kood, Thailand

Located in the Southeast part of Thailand near the Cambodian border, Koh Kood is a place where you can enjoy a vacation in all the isolation your heart desires. It is not a popular destination and thus remains unspoiled in beauty. Also known as Ko Kut, the island has zero nightlife. It is the sort of place you visit only when you want to be one with your own self. It is secluded and to get here, you have to take a flight from Bangkok to Trat, and then an hour boat ride from there. Ferry service is fairly regular, so you won’t have much problem reaching here. Beaches, waterfalls, and estuaries add to the charm of this diver’s paradise.

Visit for: Scuba diving, seclusion

8. Lake Toba, Indonesia

The largest volcanic lake in Indonesia welcomes you to lose yourself in its splendor. One look at its magnificent view and you will understand the word ‘majestic’ in its truest sense. Enjoy leisure, make friends with the Batak people and if you are visiting between September – November, experience local art, music and sports at the Lake Toba festival. If you are on a budget, do not visit during the Chinese new year as the prices go marginally up.

The nearest airport is Medan.

Visit for: Natural tranquility, water sports

9. Buriram, Thailand

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Literally meaning ‘the pleasant city’, Buriram boasts of its historic ruins. Be prepared to get mesmerized by the ancient Khmer ruins of the city. If you want to experience the rustic, rural Thai life at its best, then this is the place for you to visit. There are rental bikes available to get around in the city. To get here, you can take the regular AirAsia flights from Bangkok.

Visit for: Historical and prehistoric ruins, local food

There are a lot more undiscovered tourist paradises around the world. Asia is a relatively popular tourist attraction and is accessible by all means of transport. This is precisely the reason you can cut costs on transportation and spend more on shopping, sightseeing etc. With AirAsia’s ongoing mega sale, experience lowest fares as you fly across Asia and beyond. Want more savings on top of all this? Plan your holidays in advance and get even better prices and discounts.

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Now go on, visit the website and start planning your next holiday. Destinations are calling, where are you?

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