This summer, broaden your global education through travel
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This summer, broaden your global education through travel

This summer, broaden your global education through travel

“Experience, travel – these are an education in themselves.” – Euripides

With the academic year coming to an end and the summer holidays firmly on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to start making plans for your time away from your university’s study halls and lecture theatres.

This generous vacation period represents an excellent chance for students to engage in worthwhile activities to enrich their international education – and what could be better than going out into the world to explore?

While many regions of the world offer independent travelers culturally rich locations, the diversity, splendour and wonderment of Asia is hard to match, with a wealth of destinations offering eye-opening experiences for even the most seasoned globe-trotter.

For a truly rewarding travel experience it’s best to avoid locations you’d find on every Tom, Dick and Harry’ s bucket list. Instead, look for locations which remain unspoilt, uncommercialised and where the local way of life continues relatively undisturbed.

With 48 countries, 11 climatic regions, 62,800 kilometres of coastline and over 100 Unesco World Heritage Sites, deciding where in Asia to visit can be overwhelming, but fret not – I’ve uncovered seven locations guaranteed to broaden your horizons and enhance your international experience.

1. Gili Islands


It’s been a long time since Bali was last described as an island paradise, and the recent ‘garbage emergency’ shows just how far this destination has deteriorated. Fortunately, Bali’s neighbouring islands have so far avoided the over-development and commercialisation that has tarnished this once idyllic region.

The Gili Islands are a chain of three small islands situated just off the northwest tip of Lombok. It takes about two hours to travel from Lombok’s international airport to the first of the three islands. All three islands offer beautiful white sandy beaches, excellent diving sites, watersports and no cars or motorbikes!

If you do travel to Gili, visit the Turtle Sanctuary on Gili Meno, where you can learn all about the scantary’s efforts to protect the local turtle population. If you’re lucky enough to visit at the right time, you can even make a donation and release a baby turtle into the sea – a truly unforgettable experience!

2. Ladakh – India

Chinese development and tourism in Tibet has led to claims that Ladakh in India is now more authentically Tibetan than Tibet itself. For intrepid travelers who wish to learn more about this fascinating himalayan culture, a visit to Ladakh is a must.

The Indian state of Ladakh is located on the Tibetan plateau and the people share their language, culture and religious beliefs with their Tibetan neighbours. The way of life in Ladakh has been less disturbed by the modern world than it has in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, which is now linked by high speed rail networks with Beijing and China’s other modern urban centres.

In Ladakh, which is home to 7,300 Tibetan refugees, many residents continue to live a nomadic way of life, herding goats and carrying on the traditions of their ancestors.

If you visit Ladakh you must make the trip to the Royal Palace in Leh, which shares the architectural features of Tibet’s medieval palaces and has an excellent museum that offers a comprehensive history of the region.

3. Mui Ne – Vietnam

 

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Sand dunes and cinematic desert sunsets aren’t something most of us associate with Vietnam, but in Mui Ne, that’s exactly what you’ll find.

The small fishing village of Mui Ne is located on Vietnam’s Eastern coast, and it’s beautiful sandy beaches are worth visiting on their own merit, but ride just 20 minutes from the village and you’ll find yourself surrounded by sand dunes.

There are actually two sets of dunes around Mui Ne; the red dunes which are reminiscent of the Gobi desert, and the white dunes which evoke memories of the Sahara. For those with a head for heights, you can even take a hot air balloon ride over the dunes and capture some amazing snaps!

4. Wulong Karst National Park – China

 

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If you’re looking for dramatic landscapes, then a trip to China is obligatory. With so many great locations, you really are spoilt for choice!

Hollywood’s recent infatuation with all things Chinese has resulted in many of the country’s most inspiring landscapes making it to the big screen. If you’re a fan of Avatar, head to Zhangjiajie National Park. If you were inspired by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, take a trip to Anhui Province. If animation is your thing, try a visit to Chengdu City which inspired the animators of Kung Fu Panda 3.

If you have time, you should visit each one of these locations, but if you’re going to choose just one location, then Wulong Karst National Park, which featured in ‘Transformers 4’, is probably the best bet. The highlight of this awe inspiring national park is the Karst Three Bridges, providing breathtaking views from three natural bridges which stand over 220 metres above the valley floor.

5. Fukuoka – Japan

 

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Exploring Asia wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Japan. The food, the customs, the culture, the shopping and of course the nightlife, make Japan a country like no other.

While most international tourists visiting Japan head to either Tokyo or Kyoto, Fukuoka remains a hidden gem, but one which is very popular with Japan’s own tourists who find the southern city’s unhurried pace of life a relief from the hustle and bustle of more famous destinations.

With its temples, castles, museums, art galleries, waterfalls, mountains, beaches and dazzling shopping malls, this city could keep you busy for weeks – it really is a surprise that so few international tourists visit this enticing city.

Foodies will be overwhelmed by the array of cuisine in Fukuoka, with everything from US$1,000 delicacies, to the freshest seafood, the most irresistible street grub – and even the food from Fukuoka’s convenience stores tastes great! The one dish that you must not miss during your time in Fukuoka is the city’s local speciality, Hakata ramen.

6. Palawan – Philippines

There are more than 7,000 islands across the Philippines, so it’s no surprise that some of the world’s most beautiful islands can be found here. In a recent Conde Nast Traveler survey of the world’s best islands, the Philippines claimed the top three positions with Boracay, Cebu and Palawan.

Explorer and oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau, was among the first westerners to praise Palawan’s beauty, calling the island the most beautiful place he had ever explored. The island’s landscape also inspired Alex Garland, the author of the cult travel novel The Beach, which was made into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 2000.

Here, travelers can explore the coastline and nearby islands, as well as swim, dive, snorkel, kayak, delve into hidden lagoons and discover empty beaches. The biggest problem will be tearing yourself away when it’s time to go home!

7. Dambulla – Sri Lanka

 

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First built 2000 years ago

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This South Asian nation has seen its fair share of violence over the years, but the country, the culture and the people are hospitable and enticing, and no one should be put off visiting the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka’s beaches offer incredible surfing and diving opportunities, and they are reason enough to visit this stunning country. But further away from the coastline, Sri Lanka offers a wealth of culturally significant attractions, including eight World Heritage Sites.

Each of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO sites are worthy of a trip, but if you were to pick just one, I’d have to suggest Dambulla – a 2,000-year-old religious site that’s home to the Royal Cave Temple complex and Sigiriya Rock Fortress.

Dambulla is situated 150km inland from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. Dambulla was first inhabited by forest dwelling monks in 3rd century BCE, making it one of the oldest living Buddhist temples in the world.

Sigiriya Rock Fortress is just as impressive, situated on a massive rocky plateau 370 metres above sea level. It takes about an hour to walk the 1,000 steps from the base of the rock to the summit, but it’s a walk well worth taking. On the way up, you’ll pass beautiful frescoes and some of the world’s oldest landscaped gardens, before finally reaching the views at the summit. Locals proudly refer to Sigiriya as the Eighth Wonder of the World and after a visit you’ll, be inclined to agree.

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