Looking for the perfect island holiday in Asia?
There’s often a stark contrast between expectation and reality when it comes to jetting off for an island holiday in Asia. Increasingly it seems many resorts are devoid of cultural relevance; they’ve become so well-trodden and warped by heavy tourism that little of what first drew people there remains. There’s got to be more out there, right?
Worry not; it’s totally possible to reclaim that sense of serenity. The world is still full of unspoiled nature, and the rhythms of island life exist today as they have for centuries. There are still places you can go to truly connect with tradition and nature to have a free-spirited experience. You just need to know where to look – and as luck would have it, we do. Here are some of our favourites.
A small request: we’ve all seen the documentaries on plastics in the ocean. Spot a bottle bobbling around in the surf? Pop it in the bin, and gain a little good karma.
Koh Trong, North Cambodia
The inland island
Islands surrounded by ocean are so 2019. The four-mile island of Koh Trong is situated in the middle of a Cambodian stretch of the river Mekong and is delightfully car-free; your transport options are motorcycle or horse and cart. The pace of life is as slow as you’d imagine, and from autumn to spring the island is ringed by white beaches (in the green season the river obscures them). Accommodation ranges from quaint homestays to villas. Explore picture-perfect local villages, see endangered freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins and mud turtles and visit a floating village just off the island.
Wa Ale Island, Myanmar
Just off Myanmar’s southern coast, this island deserves to have its picture beside the dictionary definition of ‘tropical paradise’. The Wa Ale Island Resort truly has it all; fall asleep to the sounds of crashing waves, watch leatherback turtles nesting from the comfort of your beach-facing balcony, and explore flourishing mangroves. The resort includes in-house diving and watersport instructors, which is handy as the Lampi Marine National Park is close by, featuring some choice diving sites, and the famed ‘Black Rock’ dive location is only an hour’s boat ride. There’s a huge amount of indigenous wildlife too – head out with a guide to learn about the gentle balance of the island’s ecosystem.
Con Dao, Vietnam
Accessible by propeller plane from Ho Chi Minh City, the cluster of 15 islands known as Con Dao are mostly uninhabited. A much-loved pastime is sailing between the islands in a flurry of discovery. On Con Son, the largest island at 20 square miles spot sea cows offshore, eat fresh seafood, and learn about the island’s complicated past at an abandoned French prison. Antiquated architecture is a common site around the islands. Con Dao is a history buff’s dream, and testament to the healing that the passage of time allows: old Buddhist temples sit alongside crumbling machine gun nests and dilapidated French villas, now overgrown with vines and flowers.
Yakushima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
Yakushima is a lush, circular island south of Kyushu, roughly 15 miles across. With a sub-tropical climate, unpredictable weather and an abundance of wildlife, it’s no wonder it was the inspiration for the mystical and atmospheric setting of Miyazaki’s seminal animation Princess Mononoke. Spend your days hiking through mossy forest to view the Yakusugi (Japanese cedar trees that live for over seven thousand years), heading to the shore to watch giant turtles lay their eggs (May-August), and bathing in natural hot springs on the beach front. The Sankara Hotel offers panoramic island views too; perfect for those golden sunsets.
Ogasawara, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
For those who find their tranquillity in solitude, these islands are about as remote as you can get; 600 miles from the mainland, and only accessible via 25-hour boat ride. This volcanic archipelago of subtropical islands is known as “the Galapagos of the East” thanks to its unspoiled biodiversity. Here you can see wildlife that exists nowhere else on earth; birds, reptiles, crabs, and fruit bats, all of which evolved here in total isolation. To take it all in you can try whale watching, swimming with dolphins, snorkelling, and hiking through the jungle. Out of around 30 islands, only two are inhabited. For those whose ideal island holiday in Asia involves seeking out far-flung havens, Ogasawara is a gem.
Feeling inspired? Keen to get started planning your own island holiday in Asia? Give us a call on 0117 244 3380, and chat to one of our expert travel consultants!