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Awe-inspiring Asia: Discover a wealth of beauty and culture on your next getaway

From cities steeped in history to golden beaches and outdoor adventures — a getaway to any of these three Asian destinations will create memories to last a lifetime. | By Paul Oswell | February 1, 2024

When you think about traveling in Asia, you likely evoke thoughts of enchanting ancient cities with historic temples, or perhaps stunning natural beauty and incredible cuisine. This vast, diverse continent has a wealth of cultural and aesthetic wonder, and whether you love scenic sands, captivating cities or exciting adventure, there’s a destination waiting to be explored. Here are three must-visit locations to add your travel bucket list:

  • Serene Koh Samui: Relax on some of Asia’s best beaches, before partaking in water sports or inspiring island-hopping

  • Buzzing Beijing: Explore incredible art, culture, history and gourmet dining in one of the world’s most dynamic cities

  • Captivating Kyoto: UNESCO-worthy ancient buildings will ignite your desire for outdoor adventures and authentic cultural experiences

Ocean View from Villa
Be surrounded by stunning scenery at Conrad Koh Samui.

Beautiful beaches in Koh Samui, Thailand

While many travelers begin their Thai vacation in the sprawling metropolis of Bangkok, after the bustle of this exciting mega-city, take time to retreat to some of the country’s top-tier beaches. The tropical climes of Koh Samui, the country’s third largest island, are a must.

Koh Samui is a sophisticated resort island with alluring, unspoiled beaches. Spectacular stretches of the Thai coast — such as those at Chaweng, Coral Cover and Silver beaches — are famed for their glorious soft sands and beachside restaurants serving the freshest local seafood. Rejuvenate with a few days of sunbathing before renting a catamaran for a day trip, picnicking in a secluded cove on the nearby islands of Koh Phangan, Koh Tan or Koh Mudsom.

The secluded Conrad Koh Samui is an idyllic tropical escape for both relaxation and beach activities. Overlooking the Gulf of Thailand on the island’s south-western tip, the hillside all-villa resort features accommodations designed for tranquility with private terraces, infinity pools, spa-like bathrooms and panoramic views. The resort also has a range of complimentary water sports equipment for you to choose from to enhance your beach getaway. Take to the ocean with a choice of kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and snorkeling to enjoy at your leisure. Exclusive experiences offered by the resort include venturing out into the Gulf of Thailand to bask in the fresh sea air as you explore nearby islands on a longtail boat, diving in the stunning waters of Ang Thong National Park alongside expert scuba instructors or Jet Skiing over sparkling, azure waters.

Dine in the comfort and privacy of your Guest Room with our 24-hour Room Service menu
Immerse yourself in the spectacular urban surroundings of Waldorf Astoria Beijing.

Captivating city adventures in Beijing

Over the last three or four decades, the Chinese capital has transformed from a cultural backwater into a bustling, cosmopolitan and dynamic metropolis. Boasting world-class arts and culture, Bejing projects a decidedly confident and glamorous mystique. Featuring historic temples, tea ceremonies and traditional crafts that are secreted amid futuristic skyscrapers, the city also offers travelers gleaming designer boutiques and Michelin-starred restaurants.

Begin your city escape at the Palace Museum, known familiarly as The Forbidden City. The concierge at Waldorf Astoria Beijing can arrange for a private tour guide to bring hundreds of years of history to life. Wonder at the Hall of Supreme Harmony and the Imperial Gardens or visit the beautiful park surrounding the Temple of Heaven, which has awe-inspiring, intricately painted ceilings. For a sampling of contemporary Chinese art, the 798 Art Zone is a redeveloped military base that now houses dozens of the country's most inventive and collectible artists. Painting, photography and sculpture are all represented, with works that are bound to stand out in any private collection.

Tasting authentic traditional food should be high on any visitor’s schedule, and Beijing boasts a wealth of Michelin-starred restaurants. The braised eel at Chao Shang Chao, the aged Peking Duck at Xin Rong Ji and the vegetarian delights at King's Joy are among the most desirable dishes in town.

Zijin Mansion at Waldorf Astoria Beijing has a Michelin star of its own, and within the surroundings of the sumptuous dining room, Chef James Wang explores his creativity, with intricate dishes such as golden fish, steamed shrimp and lotus pastry. The hotel is also conveniently located close to the upscale shopping centers of Beijing APM (also known as Xindong'an Plaza) and Shin Kong Place, so you can easily bring home a treasured souvenir from your travels.

Outdoor pool with submerged loungers and woman
Experience Kyoto’s serene beauty at ROKU KYOTO, LXR Hotels & Resorts.

Outdoor and cultural experiences in Kyoto, Japan

The former Japanese capital has undergone an epic, almost cinematic history. Kyoto has weathered all manner of natural disasters and civil wars, all the while being a thriving center for culture, arts and commerce. The city’s historic districts, such as Higashiyama, are well known and worth exploring, including the various UNESCO World Heritage temples, and the most pristine of the city’s ancient townscapes.

Kyoto is also a wonderful base for outdoor adventuring, and you don’t have to travel too far from the comforts of your hotel suite. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is just outside the downtown area, and on a gentle half-day hike, you can walk through the dappled sunlight, the towering green tree trunks creating a magical tunnel. For more of a challenge, the famous Shikoku Pilgrimage starts in Kyoto. The full experience is a 1,200-mile (1,931-kilometer), multi-week trek that is designed to showcase 88 of the region’s holiest temples, but you can, of course, take on as much or as little as your time and experience allows.

Set within the Takagamine foothills, ROKU KYOTO, LXR Hotels & Resorts offers guests a taste of what this hike might entail. Guests can enjoy a stroll at their own pace around the gorgeous grounds of the Ninna-ji Temple with a private monk guide who will regale travelers with stories from the temple’s past. For visitors with children, the resort also offers an intriguing treasure hunt around the grounds, perfect for junior adventurers. There are also ample options for reviving yourself after any length of outdoor exploration, whether cozying up in the resort’s secluded historical Japanese tearoom for a traditional tea ceremony experience, enjoying a rejuvenating treatment at The Roku Spa or taking a leisurely dip in the year-round outdoor thermal pool.

Asia is an incredibly enticing destination for any traveler with a curious mind or an adventurous spirit. From its ancient temples and historic culture to some of the most cutting-edge architecture and captivating cuisine, you’ll likely remember every aspect of your Asian odyssey for years to come.

Paul Oswell is a British award-winning journalist and published travel author based in New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States. His books include Bucket List North America and The Great American Road Trip, as well as New Orleans' Historic Hotels. He has also been an editor of and contributor to several guide books/editions published by Dorling Kindersley (owned by Penguin), including New Orleans, Florida, Orlando, Los Angeles, California and The United States. His work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure (both of which he has written multiple online travel guides for) and The Guardian, as well as dozens of international newspaper and magazine titles, and inflight magazines for major airlines.

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