1. Hong Kong: The Peak Tram
The queues are sometimes long, but those who wait in line for Hong Kong’s famous Peak Tram will be rewarded with jaw‑dropping views of the city and harbour.
The tram, opened in 1888, continues to be a popular tourist attraction, making its journey up the steep hill to Victoria Peak in seven minutes.
The view can only get better from a helicopter, and this is where the Peninsula Hotel steps in with chopper rides from its rooftop. Start with a cocktail in the hotel’s swish China Clipper lounge, which recalls the pioneering days of aviation.
The Star Ferry plies Victoria Harbour, between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. It’s a favourite with tourists, as well
as locals going about their daily business.
The outdoor Central-Mid-Levels escalator system is the longest in the world at 800 metres and is a godsend for shoppers and pedestrians tackling Hong Kong’s vertiginous terrain.
2. Singapore: Chinatown
Whether you hunger for satay sticks from a food hawker, or have pangs for frog porridge, buzzing Chinatown delivers day and night.
Shop for Chinese trinkets from roadside stalls, take a trishaw ride, visit the restored colonial shophouses, or get swept along at the night market.
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The centrepiece to this colourful street in the Kampong Glam district is the gold-domed Sultan Mosque. Middle Eastern cafes offer kebabs and falafel, while traders sell fabrics, oriental carpets and rattan furniture.
The pungent fragrance of spices hangs in the air at Serangoon Road and its off-shoot alleyways. Have your fortune told or try a curry. You can shop 24 hours for things like household knick-knacks at the Mustafa Centre.
3 Macau: Ruins of St Paul's
The stone facade, and the grand staircase leading up to it, are all that remain of the 17th‑century church that was burned down in 1835.
The baroque facade is buttressed from behind, so tourists can get a close look at the stone carvings and a view of the city below.
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Cannons line the walls of this 1617 fort. It is on a hill just 52 metres above sea level, but repelled a Dutch invasion in 1622. There are views to mainland China, and the fort features a public park, an observatory and the Macau Museum.
In the historic centre, Senado Square is the heart of Macau. It is surrounded by neo-classical buildings in pastel colours, shops and restaurants.
4. Malaysia: Petronas Towers
If there is a landmark that defines Kuala Lumpur, it is the twin towers.
At 452 metres and with 88 storeys, the skyscrapers were the tallest buildings in the world until Taipei101 came along in 2004. There is an observation deck on level 86 of the towers and a sky bridge, that you can walk across, at levels 41 and 42.
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At 421 metres, this construction is no shrinking violet either. There is an observation deck and an open deck at the very top of the building. For real thrill seekers, an annual base jump event is staged from the building. There’s also a revolving restaurant, aptly named Atmosphere 360.
5. China: Xiao long bao
These steaming hot buns, traditionally filled with pork, are an obsession in Shanghai.
Also known as soup dumplings, care needs to be taken if you want to avoid burning yourself on the soup and steam that awaits inside. The technique is to bite a small hole in the top of the bun to release the steam then fill it with some black vinegar. In Shanghai, you’ll find them for sale, cheaply, around almost every corner.
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Sheng jian bao
These are similar to xiao long bao but have a crispy-fried bottom and a soft, steamed top. With the pork, there will be a mix of other ingredients, most likely cabbage, green onion, ginger and some broth.
These little steamed gems are easily recognisable, because they are open at the top and filled with ground pork or prawn. They’re often eaten for breakfast.
6. Bali Tanah Lot temple
Thank heaven for territorialism. Legend has it that 16th-century Hindu priest Nirartha chose this spot on Bali’s west coast to honour the sea god Baruna.
When the local chief objected, Nirartha meditated on a chunk of rock, lifting it into the sea and shredding his sashes into sea snakes to guard its base. Tanah Lot temple now sits atop the rock, which is cut off by sea at high tide.
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Bali has thousands of temples. Uluwatu is on acliff over the waves, while Ulun Danu Bratan appears to float on Bratan Lake in the central highlands.
Petals, fruit, crackers, an incense stick …even the least spiritually minded can’t miss the Balinese offerings that colour every corner of the island.
7. Vietnam: Mekong Delta
From Ho Chi Minh City, do a day trip to the maze of rivers and islands that make up the Delta.
Float along the peaceful canals in a sampan, eat in an open-air overwater restaurant and visit farms producing honey or coconut candy.
MORE DAY TRIPS …
Cu Chi Tunnels
If you’re game, crawl underground into the tunnels where the Viet Cong hid and lived during the Vietnam War.
A plethora of food tours – day and night – operate in Ho Chi Minh City.Go by foot, van, or on the back of a motorcycle, and sample Vietnamese food: don’t miss a crusty banh mi (baguette).
This story is taken from Flight Centre's Travel ideas Asia magaine. Words: Robert Upe and Clare Barry