For once, forget the major cities like Beijing or Bangkok. These smaller cities have all the charm too, and minus the expensive price tag.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a travel destinations as universally loved as Japan, and it’s unlikely one will ever get bored of Tokyo. But venturing to a smaller Japanese city like Fukuoka on Kyushu island is totally worth it.
While you’ll still enjoy Japan’s special brand of craziness, from schoolgirl bars to toilets more technologically advanced than your smartphone, you’ll be rewarded with a slower pace, fewer crowds and attractions unique to the region, as well as lower prices all around.
Fukuoka is famous for its yatai, lines of street food stalls that come alive at night, and where you can sit and slurp up a bowl of ramen or have a glass of beer. The city is also home to a bustling izakaya scene and has enough malls to keep shopaholics busy.
NEXT: Xi’An, China →
Beijing is one of the most incredible destinations in Asia when it comes to history and culture, but the suffocating smog and crowds that make our own MRT carriages look spacious can be more than a little overwhelming.
A less chaotic alternative could be to visit Xi’an, the home of the famous terracotta warriors. There are more than enough sites where you can get your Chinese history fix, including the ancient city wall, the Qin ShiHuang Mausoleum and the Shaanxi Historic Museum. Then there’s the mouth-watering local food, which is very cheap if you stick to street food and small local eateries.
The best part? Almost everything will cost significantly less in Xi’an than in Beijing, from accommodation to food.
NEXT: Chiang Rai, Thailand →
Chiang Rai, Thailand
Which travel junkie in Asia hasn’t been to Bangkok? Instead, try its oft-overlooked neighboring city, Chiang Rai.
If you love Bangkok’s culture, you’ll loooove Chiang Rai’s dynamic cultural and heritage sites, like the Wat Rong Khun, also known as “the White Temple” – it’s easily one of the most iconic temples in Thailand.
Or if it’s Bangkok’s food you’re after, try Chiang Rai’s local street stores for Thai classics like Pad Thai or grilled chicken; the recent sprout of quaint cafes are also fuelling the brunching ritual well.
Shopping in Chiang Rai might feel more like an undercurrent than a mainstream activity, but that’s what we love about it: shop local craftsmen and designers for hidden finds unique to this city.
NEXT: Adelaide, Australia →
Melbourne is home to thousands of Singaporean students, and a popular destination for Singaporean self-professed foodies.
Far fewer Singaporean tourists bother going to Adelaide, thinking of it as a boring, sleepy town. But guess what, the city is actually one of Australia’s best destinations for wining and dining.
The fifth largest city in Australia is home to a great food scene, whether you’re looking for Vietnamese pho or yes, the dreaded hipster cafe. It’s also situated smack in the midst of wine growing areas including the famous Barossa Valley, which gives you a great excuse to get plastered on the pretext of sightseeing.
NEXT: Kuching, Malaysia →
The Malaysian capital boasting splendid skylines blending in perfectly with well-preserved heritage, we see why Kuala Lumpur is a hit among many in Singapore.
But on the other, more often neglected Malaysian Island sits Kuching. Here, put on your walking shoes and explore the bustling streets lined with shops, ornate Chinese temples, the historic Sarawak museum, and more – the city is incredibly compact, which means a great deal of attractions are easily within reach on foot.
On the way, don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a friendly stray cat (or five). “Kuching” means “cat” in Malay, no prizes for guessing why!
NEXT: Fukuoka, Japan →
By Joanne Poh, MoneySmart, additional reporting by Pinky Chng, May 2017
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