Ko Samui, Thailand’s second largest island, lies in the Gulf of Thailand off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus. It’s known for its palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest, plus luxury resorts and posh spas. The landmark 12m-tall golden Big Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai Temple is located on a tiny island connected to Ko Samui by a causeway
Bali is an Indonesian island known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches and coral reefs. The island is home to religious sites such as cliffside Uluwatu Temple. To the south, the beachside city of Kuta has lively bars, while Seminyak, Sanur and Nusa Dua are popular resort towns. The island is also known for its yoga and meditation retreats.
Phuket, a rain forested, mountainous island in the Andaman Sea, has some of Thailand’s most popular beaches, mostly situated along the clear waters of the western shore. The island is home to many high-end seaside resorts, spas and restaurants. Phuket City, the capital, has old shophouses and busy markets. Patong, the main resort town, has many nightclubs, bars and discos.
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. Its modern skyline is dominated by the 451m-tall Petronas Twin Towers, a pair of glass-and-steel-clad skyscrapers with Islamic motifs. The towers also offer a public skybridge and observation deck. The city is also home to British colonial-era landmarks such as the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.
Kuala Lumpur is also known for its shopping and dining, with options ranging from large malls and contemporary restaurants to shophouses and food stalls. The Golden Triangle area’s Bukit Bintang district offers designer boutiques, luxury department stores and glitzy retail and entertainment complexes. Small, colorful shops dot Brickfields (Little India) and Chinatown, whose art deco Central Market houses numerous craft sellers. Malaysian arts and history are on view at the National Museum and the Islamic Arts Museum. At the city’s northern edge is Batu Caves, natural limestone caverns housing Hindu temples.
Tokyo, Japan’s busy capital, mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. The opulent Meiji Shinto Shrine is known for its towering gate and surrounding woods. The Imperial Palace sits amid large public gardens. The city’s many museums offer exhibits ranging from classical art (in the Tokyo National Museum) to a reconstructed kabuki theater (in the Edo-Tokyo Museum).
The old, narrow streets of the Asakusa district contain shops, women in kimono and the 7th-century Sensō-ji Buddhist temple. By contrast, Roppongi has lively nightclubs and karaoke bars, and Akihabara has high-tech electronics stores. Cozy Japanese-style pubs called izakaya are scattered throughout the city. Tsukiji fish market, with a famous tuna auction, is near the center. The Tokyo SkyTree tower offers expansive views of the city from its public observation deck. Tokyo is famed for its vibrant food scene, and its Shibuya and Harajuku districts are the heart of its trendy teen fashion culture.