Fly and Discover Asia

Fly and Discover Asia

Asia. Such an all-encompassing word to cover such a varied continent. From the Buddist temples in the Tibetan mountains, to the jungles of India with a sprinkling of the Middle East, Asia has a whole world of culture to be explored. Whether you're going for two weeks, or two months there are packages to suit and with a high emphasis on service quality present in most areas, you'll find the stress taken out of a multi-destination trip.

Travelling in style

Although many may associate travelling around with roughing it in Indian youth hostels, exploring a region can still be done in luxury. Asia is home to some of the world's most magnificent hotels, with stunning examples such as the magical Conrad Bali in Indonesia, or the retreat of Nilaya, Arpora in Goa, which comes complete with a team of Ayurvedic doctors.

A survey by Luxury Travel magazine revealed China and Asia overall as the top predicted growth destinations for 2008, with editor Alyson Cook citing Thailand as a particularly exciting country. She explained that it is becoming "very high on the luxury travellers' list" with more boutique hotels and spas, rather than the backpacker market that previously dominated the region.

The Five Star Alliance release annual lists of the best, high quality hotels in the world - and in 2007 the Raffles Hotel in Singapore was one of the winners of the best romantic getaways. This is one of the exclusive getaways where you can enjoy a room butler and a decadent restaurant to sample local cuisine. Also recommended is the Shanri-La in Bangkok, which is described as having "lush gardens, river views and a signature spa ...[which] offers guests the warmth of the Thai capital amid the serenity of a tropical retreat."

Themed holidays

Of course, if sight-seeing alone isn't enough, then you may wish to base your travels around a central activity such as golf, extreme sports or even poker. Editor of Total Gambler Chris Marais recently commented on the increasing popularity of gambling in Macau, which could interest those looking to play a hand in a new setting.

Mr Marais explained: "There are new huge hotels and casinos opening quite regularly and there's a Venetian [hotel] there now which is larger than the Las Vegas one. They're holding live tournaments and there's the Asia Pacific Poker Tour, of which one of the stops was in Macau."

Alternatively, families may wish to base their holiday around the best activities for children - perhaps by taking a tour of some of the best zoos or theme parks. South Korea is home to the Everland resort, packed full of rides such as the Championship Rodeo which it describes as: "With the funky music of DJ, come into the exciting break dance! Get down with your body and mind!" Sounds intriguing.

Where to start

Deciding to visit a continent can be a daunting experience, and it's obviously impossible to begin to cover everything in one trip. Start by deciding on which country most tickles your fancy and then build your trip around that. For example, a trip to India could provide the base to exploring other regions such as China and Nepal l in the north, or Sri Lanka then Singapore or Thailand. Allow yourself enough time to enjoy each area properly and don't forget: you can always come back again!

A trip to countries like Japan and China offers a glimpse of the future, with soaring new architecture and modern technology balanced against the rich, ancient history. Away from the neon lights of Tokyo, smaller Japanese areas such as Otaru and Kiso, or ancient sites such as the San'nai-Maruyama Ruins are a reminder of the old world. Similarly, travellers basing themselves in the modern world of Shanghai can easily access 'authentic' China by train, with towns such as Wuxi or Nanjing.

Alternatively, you could look at island hopping - taking in the regional cuisines and festivals of areas such as the Philippines, Indonesia or less-travelled islands off the Chinese coast including Taiwan. By booking flights beforehand, and planning a careful schedule, a two-week break could take in a number of places without being an exhausting slog.

Getting there and getting around

Travelling around should also be made part of the holiday experience. For example, a cruise could take you from Beijing to Shanghai: the Imperial Jewels of China cruise takes 12 relaxing days and offers a snapshot of this varied country. Other treats include the amazing Deccan Odyssey, which travels from Mumbai in India, onboard a train which include a conference hall, spa, library and two restaurants - highlighted as one of the best new train rides by the Daily Telegraph.

Train is also a fabulous option, with famed examples such as the Orient-Express which takes travellers through south-east Asia, from Bangkok to Singapore. This well-known train is basically a moving hotel, with breakfast brought to your personal compartment each morning and optional coach trips on the way to special places of interest, such as the Penang region.

Cars are only practical for short trips - but short flights between destinations will save time and help you make the most of precious holiday hours. Flights can take tourists from Japan, to China, then Laos, Vietnam, Thailand ... the list goes on as far as your imagination.

Be aware that visits to some areas may require immunisation - seek advice from your doctor about what's needed.