Thailand and Cambodia were among the first to reopen late last year, followed in quick succession by Sri Lanka, India, Bali, the Philippines, Vietnam and Laos, Malaysia and Korea du Sud due to throw the welcome mat on April 1st. The only notable resistants, for the moment, are China, Hong Kong and Japan.
The entry process can be more complicated than traveling to other parts of the world, but the need to quarantine on arrival has mostly been removed. Depending on the country you are traveling to, there may be pre-departure forms to fill out and tests to do – and you will need to wear a mask, a practice that has become the norm in Asia. But any tenacious traveler willing to jump through a few hoops will be richly rewarded with cheap hotels, empty beaches, restaurants once again frequented by locals, and grand monuments all to themselves in a tourist-free version of the Asia seen for the last time 30 years ago.
Main photo: Dance of the Furies at Haa Tshechu festival, Bhutan (Alamy)
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1. Stunning new hotels in Thailand
New hotels have been built faster than bamboo in Thailand. Over the past year, Bangkok has seen four major luxury hotel openings: Capella Bangkok, Four Seasons Chao Phraya, Kempinski Sindhorn and Kimpton Maa-Lai. Chiang Mai has a trendy new Melia in the heart of the old city. New resorts include Explorar in the Koh Mook countryside, the clifftop Anana Pavilions in Krabi, Banyan Tree Koh Samui and Avani + Khao Lak just north of Phuket.
Best Hotels in Bangkok
2. See Malaysia in style
Malaysia has some of the best restaurants, shopping, and luxury value-for-money accommodation to be found anywhere in Asia. Add an extremely favorable pound to the ringgit exchange rate and it’s even more of a bargain. Hotels to book include a glamorous new One&Only resort on the Desaru coast, the new Alila Dalit Bay, between the beach and orangutan-studded rainforest in Borneo, and eco-darling The Datai Langkawi , which was renovated to the tune of $60 million. shortly before the pandemic.
The best islands in Malaysia
3. Disconnect from the network in Vietnam
Vietnam is hugely diverse and still a relative newcomer in terms of international travel, making it ripe for return visits. Have you ever experienced the tourist flotilla in Halong Bay? Scootch slightly south to La Han Bay, which shares the same spectacular karst-studded landscape with far fewer crowds. Have you hiked the dizzying trails of Sapa? Instead, head west from Hanoi to Pu Luong, where you’ll find walking paths winding through verdant mountains and rolling rice paddies. Want the beach all to yourself this time? Aim for the still-empty golden sands of Quy Nhon.
Best hotels in Vietnam
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4. Walk in Bhutan
Open to tourists for the first time in 60 years, the newly restored Trans-Bhutan Trail winds 403 km through the spine of the Thunder Dragon Kingdom, from Haa Valley to Yak-yomping to the western border with Tibet. to the walled city of Trashigang in the east. A limited number of passes are available for visitors, who can walk and mountain bike the entire trail or traverse different sections, encountering 6,000m high Himalayan peaks, historic towns and cliff-cling monasteries along the way.
5. Go green in Singapore
There’s more to Singapore than gleaming skyscrapers. New developments in the Garden City include a man-made wetland park – ABC Waters at Jurong Lake, home to pretty sea otters, large monitor lizards and pretty tropical birds – and a redevelopment of the old rail corridor (along the way, look for the enigmatic Bukit Timah station, built in the 1930s). Keeping with the green theme, look for a second Raffles hotel to come later in the year in the form of a posh resort on Sentosa Island.
The best things to do in Singapore
6. Admire Angkor Wat
Ruby and pink sunrises, vine-tangled temples, ancient stone faces – if you dream of exploring Angkor Wat without the crowds, now is definitely the time to visit. International flights have only just started to return to Siem Reap (via Singapore and Phnom Penh currently) and hotels are offering cheap basement deals, with five star hotels costing just £100 a night. You’ll also find a city transformed by a massive £114million infrastructure upgrade adding new roads, pavements and cycle lanes.
7. Best of Japan Tour
Japan is full of fabulous new hotels – an Edition and a Four Seasons in Tokyo, an Ace hotel in Kyoto, the Ritz-Carlton Nikko – as well as a series of exciting new train journeys (check out the Nishi-Kyushu shinkansen), groomed hiking trails (try the Michinoku Coastal Trai), a second Dark Sky Park on Kozushima Island, and the recently opened Haruki Murakami Library in Tokyo.
The best things to do in Tokyo
8. New spas in Thailand and Bali
Two new holistic retreats are giving Asia’s most popular wellness retreats – Chiva Som, Kamalaya, COMO Shambhala – a run for their money. Opened amid the pandemic on a frangipani-scented island on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River, The Rakxa combines cutting-edge medical technology with ancient Thai, Indian and Chinese wellness practices. While in a small mountain village on the Indonesian island of Bali, Banyan Tree Hotels recently launched Buahan, which offers jungle villas that open up to the elements and emphasize traditions. local healing.
The World’s Best Medical Spas
9. Go island hopping in the Philippines
With over 7,000 islands enveloped in the warm waters of the Pacific, the Philippines offers island hopping, as well as some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world. After a six-month closure to help marine life recover before the pandemic, the waters around bustling little Boracay have never looked better. Immerse yourself in island life then fly to El Nido’s group of 45 islets, some towering over 600 meters high, others with coral reefs, sea caves and white sandy beaches.
10. Vietnam Glamor
Vietnam has seen an influx of new luxury hotels. Set in a French colonial-era stack overlooking the Opera House, Capella Hanoi has wonderfully theatrical interiors designed by Bill Bensley (the man behind Capella Ubud and The Siam Bangkok). In central Vietnam, Bai San Ho has everything you could want for a romantic vacation, from alluring interiors to al fresco restaurants overlooking the rice paddies to puffy beach huts. Next up is the contemporary yet family-friendly Regent Phu Quoc, perfectly positioned on 15 kilometers of clotted cream beach.
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11. Ride the rails in Laos
Laos, dotted with temples, has become much easier to navigate, following the launch of a new 602-mile train line linking the capital, Vientiane, to the city of Kunming in Yunnan province, in southern China. China. Along the way, there are 20 passenger stations where visitors can hop on and off, including Vang Vieng, famous for its fantastic limestone karsts, milky blue lagoons and vivid green rice fields, and Muang La, home to the Hmong hill tribes. and Khmu.
12. Sri Lanka Adventure Tour
Alabaster beaches, misty mountains, abundant wildlife, heavenly food and a host of rich cultural attractions have long drawn travelers to Sri Lanka’s shores. Now the country is hoping to entice visitors back for longer stays with the introduction of a one-year multiple-entry visa ($200/£150) that allows digital nomads of WFB (work from home) beach) for 365 days – plus enough time to get off the grid in the wild and wonderful north.
The best excursions in Sri Lanka
13. Get the royal treatment in Rajasthan
Rajasthan is having a moment. Beautiful new places to rest include Six Senses Fort Barwara, housed in a 700-year-old fort with views of Aravalli Mountain and a spa as big as a polo field; Raffles Udaipur, set in a glorious Mughal-era mansion on a lake surrounded by immaculate gardens; and The Johri, an intimate 19th-century haveli with five jewelry box-like suites.
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Here is a selection of some of the best tourist routes in our Times Travel Partners.