Updated: Jul 26, 2019
Asia is becoming more and more popular and is a very big destination for 2019, it's currently the 2nd most popular region (after Europe) that we get calls for every day!
In this post I'm going to go over the some of the top countries to visit, tips and tricks and most importantly- how to survive that long flight!!
In 2018 I made my first trip to Asia and by the end of the year I had visited 4 countries in Asia. It's a beautiful and diverse continent with tons to see and do- so how to pick which countries and when's the best time to go?
As a quick note- according the the US Government Travel Advisory the safest countries to visit in Asia are -
Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Laos and Malaysia.
With level 2 countries (equivalent safety level to tourist areas of the Caribbean/Mexico) being-
China, Indonesia (including Bali ), Cambodia, India, South Korea, Myanmar (aka Burma), Philippines and Maldives.
Starting with these countries I am seeing the most popular currently trending as Thailand, Japan, China, and Maldives. Price wise Maldives and Japan tend to be the most expensive of these with Maldives being traveled to mainly by honeymooners and very commonly being paired with UAE (particularly Dubai/Abu Dhabi). In this article I am focusing on Thailand and China to give my personal insight on 2 very popular but very different options. If you want tropics, beaches and Buddhist temples look at Thailand, If you want cities, ancient kingdoms and more mild weather look at China. I'm going to go over my recommended areas and itineraries here and some of my personal experiences as well.
I personally did a tour through Beijing, Xi'an, Suzhou and Shanghai. If you have more time Chengdu, Guangzhou, and the Yangtze river would be secondary stops to add in, or you can easily hop over to Hong Kong/Kowloon/Macau region as well.
Here's my recommended top 10 sights to see and things to do:
1) The Great Wall of China
2) The Bund (Shanghai)
3) The Forbidden City and Tianamen square (Beijing)
4) The Terracotta Solders
5) The French Concession (Shanghai)
6) See a Chinese Acrobat performance
7) The Master of Nets Garden (Suzhou)
8) Sample the local cuisine- I highly recommend doing a food tour
9) Take a boat ride down the Suzhou canals
10) Go to the top of Shanghai Tower (the 2nd tallest building in the world)
Top 5 tricks and tips:
1) Chinese culture is very different, learn to set your manners aside and push your way through crowds.
2) Pack and carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you and be prepared for squat toilets
3) Make sure you apply for your visa ahead of time- I like using "It's Easy" for my visa services.
4) Don't bring much cash with you- only the Bank of China has right to exchange foreign currency there and it's not the quickest process. Instead plan to use mainly the ATM.
5) Internet is censored and you won't have access to western websites or apps like social media, google, what's app etc. although there are loopholes plan instead to have an international cell plan to keep in touch with friends or family and in case of emergency.
The most popular itinerary is Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket (with Phi Phi islands) to cover some of the most amazing spots and a bit in each region. If you have even more time to travel Koh Samui, Krabi and Chiang Rai would be good secondary stops or you can hop easily over to our countries in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam or Cambodia which is what I did.
Here's my recommended top 10 sights to see and things to do:
1) The Grand Palace (Bangkok)
2) Visit an elephant sanctuary (be sure this is a NO RIDING sanctuary- not an attraction park) some recommended places are: Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, Elephant Hills Sanctuary (also near Phuket) and Wildlife Friends of Thailand (2 hours from Bangkok).
3) Do a street food tour! Pad Thai and spring rolls at their absolute best
4) Tour the canals on Bangkok known as the "Venice of the East"
5) Wat Pho and the reclining Buddha (Bangkok)
5) Day trip to the Phi Phi Islands (Phuket)
6) Take a day trip to the floating markets (Bangkok)
7) Take a boat trip on the Mae Ping River (Chiang Mai)
8) Visit the many amazing and cheap markets of Thailand and don't forget to bargain!
9) Visit Doi Suthep temple (Chiang Mai)
10) See the giant Buddha (Phuket)
Top 5 Tips and Tricks:
1) Bug spray! specifically bug repellent DEET based lotion will be the best way to repel those mosquitoes in the tropics
2) Plan for Phuket to be at the end of the trip so after all the cities and touring you can have some island time!
3) Only drink purified water- no tap water
4) Bargain, bargain, bargain! Market places will ask a much higher cost because they know you are a tourist- offer half price back and negotiate from there.
5) Unlike China- you will need more cash (local currency Thai Baht), you can easily exchange US for Thai as long as the bills are new and unmarked- they won't accept bills with writing, tears etc.
SURVIVING THE FLIGHT:
There are a few options- I personally flew non-stop Newark-Beijing, Shanghai-Newark (which was about 13 hours each way) which was long but actually not unbearable. I watched about 4 movie each way, brought 2 books for the trip and of course slept. The flight to Bangkok was much worse for me with a non-stop 15 hour flight into Hong Kong and then a layover before connecting to another flight for the last 2 hours lol. Here are my tips-
1) GET THE EXTRA LEGROOM - seriously, if you are like me and can only afford economy, do yourself a favor and pay the extra fro the extra legroom- especially a bulk head or emergency row seat which has the most space.
2) ENTERTAINMENT- movies, books, games, music- whatever you need take with you and take advantage of it. You will want to fill your time as much as possible.
3) SLEEP- the more you sleep the less of the flight you are actually experiencing, be sure to have a great flight pillow, wear comfy and loose clothing, and eye mask and ear plugs. If you also feel the need to get ready for bed or wear contacts bring your glasses, any meds, and a zip lock with tooth brush, toothpaste, face wash etc. in your carry-on. Another trick to avoid jet leg is to follow the time of your destination (of home if you are flying home) while on the plane. For example if you are flying home and the time is 2 PM at home you should stay awake on the plane until the time at home is at least 8 PM so that way your are already adjusting to the proper time before you even land.
4) CONSIDER YOUR FLIGHT ROUTE- Although non-stop always has appealed to me you may consider a layover to get out and stretch your legs (for example a flight from Newark to LA with a short layover after those 1st 6 hours before continuing the flight may have been a bonus). For Bangkok instead of flying over the Pacific you can opt for a European airline and fly over Europe instead with a layover half way though instead of going 15 hours straight before your layover.
5) FLIGHT HEALTH- Hydration is key! Although tempting do not drink any caffeine or alcohol on the plane!! And be sure to drink tons of water, this will also help prevent jet lag. Get up and walk around the aisles and stretch a bit every few hours (I would do this after each movie ended and when I work up from naps), knee high compression socks are also great for any flights 10+ hours.
Have you been to Asia? What were your favorites countries and sightseeing? Do you have any tips or tricks for long flights? Please share!