Trekking, cycling, climbing and more - Katie McGonagle picks out Asian holidays to get pulses racing
Life isn’t easy for adventurous types. It wasn’t so long ago that the very mention of a trip to Thailand, India or Vietnam attracted oohs and aahs from friends – part envy, part admiration.
But as more destinations open up to mainstream tourism, intrepid explorers have to go to even greater lengths in their quest to conquer new frontiers. Luckily for them, operators have cottoned on to the need for ever-more exciting trips, introducing a host of action-packed expeditions that will have friends and neighbours sighing with jealousy all over again.
Asia is the ideal adventure playground for these types of trips. With its rugged scenery and vast tracts of unspoiled land, the possibilities for daring exploits are endless. Here, we highlight a few of Asia’s best adventures to help keep your most active clients ahead of the curve.
1 EVEREST FOR EVERYONE
There’s something exciting and evocative about even the name: it doesn’t sound like somewhere mere mortals should even be able to go near.
However, with time to acclimatise and a slow and steady pace, the relatively fit should be able to manage a Base Camp ascent.
While the focus inevitably falls on the peak, there’s a spiritual and cultural side to this journey too, with a tour of Kathmandu to see its bustling markets, a visit to 2,000-year-old hilltop shrine Swayambhunath, a trip to the Sherpa ‘capital’ of Namche Bazaar and a stop at Thyangboche monastery.
There are also plenty of opportunities to mix with Sherpas, Gurkhas, Tibetans, Indian traders and sadhus, Hindu holy men on pilgrimages.
It’s not restricted to adults, either: even families can trek in the Everest Valley. The Adventure Company has a 12-day Everest Teen Trek (from £1,689 with flights) for youngsters who want to go back to school and impress their friends with amazing holiday stories.
2 BURMA BY BICYCLE
It’s the destination on everyone’s lips at the moment so it should come as no surprise that adventure operators are scrambling to offer new active tours around this magical country. Interacting with Burma’s gentle population – in the main devout Buddhists, many of whom speak good English – feels like a real privilege.
Explore’s new 16-day Cycle Burma trip gives plenty of opportunities for immersion in local culture as customers cycle from village to village. Travelling by bike for 315 miles on generally flat and quiet roads, and with some days off the bikes, this moderate-graded trip visits Burma’s major highlights, including the golden stupas and markets of Yangon, the ancient capital of Mandalay, Bagan’s thousands of temples, the long-tail boats at Inle Lake and hilltribes in the Shan Highlands. The trip starts from £2,446, including return flights, 13 nights’ B&B accommodation, mountain bike hire, transport and the services of a tour leader and support vehicle.
3 CHOOSE CHINA
A brief walk on the Great Wall of China is a mainstay of many a bucket list, but why take a tourist-style stroll when you can follow in the footsteps of ancient soldiers on a hike along lesser-known parts?
That’s one of the highlights on G Adventures’ 15-day China Adventure. Hop on a bike to explore Beijing’s ancient hutongs (alleys), before spending two days walking the less-touristy sections of the Great Wall and spotting magnificent scenery along the way. Get back in the saddle for a real feel of rural China on a guided bike ride through the countryside of Yangshuo. Then hike across Longsheng’s famous rice terraces, known as the Dragon’s Backbone, stopping at hillside villages for a glimpse of the tall wooden houses of the Zhuang and Yao people.
The small group tour starts at £1,099 land-only, with departures between March and October 2013.
4 TREK ROUND THAILAND
Forget kicking back on the beach, the real action in Thailand lies up north. Explore the backstreets of Bangkok by bike with Intrepid’s Active Thailand tour before embarking on a three-day trek between hilltribe villages in northern Thailand, hiking through rainforest and meeting the Karen people and other locals.
Then it’s on to adventure capital Chiang Mai for optional rock-climbing at Mae On and a cycle tour of the oft-overlooked villages around the city, followed by a kayaking trip down the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi to see waterfront farming villages and spend a night under the stars in a jungle hut.
There is plenty to keep the mind active too, with visits to the poignant Hellfire Pass and temples in Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
The 12-day trip starts at £775, excluding flights, and is graded four out of five for difficulty, with a minimum age of 15.
5 EXPLORE INDIA
The subcontinent is best known for majestic sights like the Taj Mahal, the sun-soaked beaches of Goa, or relaxing cruises on the backwaters of Kerala, but it’s got plenty to offer the active traveller too.
Head north to the cool climes of the Himayalas with an Exodus trek around Darjeeling, Sikkim and the Singalila Ridge, for a challenging but rewarding chance to see four of the highest peaks on earth.
The border region between India and Nepal is breathtakingly beautiful and best seen on foot. This 16-day trip mixes challenging days of up to eight hours’ walking with more relaxed two to three-hour treks, with nights spent camping or in mountain lodges, plus visits to Darjeeling, the 16th-century Rumtek monastery, and a train journey to Kolkata. Prices start at £1,949 including flights and is graded moderate.
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