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Asia travel

Busan in South Korea tops Lonely Planet Best in Asia 2018 list; Sichuan, Ho Chi Minh City, Chiang Mai also in top 10

Hot springs, hikes to Buddhist temples, seafood feasts, and its East Asia’s Culture City for 2018 – Busan has the lot. New museums and national parks help other places make guidebook brand’s 10 best in Asia list

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 1:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 1:02am

“An eclectic offering of activities to suit all travellers” is how Lonely Planet describes the port city of Busan in South Korea, which it has declared the best place to visit in Asia in 2018.

Compiled by its in-house Asia experts, the guidebook brand’s Best in Asia list puts Busan in first place ahead of Uzbekistan and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in a list of 10 locations.

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Busan’s status as East Asia’s Culture City for 2018 is likely to have helped it make first place, with the writers from the travel guidebook publisher describing it as “a stunning confluence of scenery, culture and cuisine”.

“Asia is such a vast and diverse continent for anyone dreaming of an escape,” said Chris Zeiher, Lonely Planet’s Asia-Pacific spokesman.

This is the third annual Best in Asia list published by Lonely Planet. It’s a list that focuses on places that it considers particularly good to visit now and over the next 12 months, and which have something fresh to offer for the year ahead, Lonely Planet told the Post.

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Two years ago a new bullet train linking Tokyo and Hakodate helped Hokkaido, Japan top the list, while Gansu in China was crowned in 2017 thanks in part to the upgrading of the Mogao Grottoes Buddhist art site.

Hong Kong has appeared once on the list – ranking fifth in 2016. No location has appeared on Lonely Planet’s Best in Asia list more than once, and a spokesman told the Post that it's unlikely, though not impossible, for a destination to appear on the list in consecutive years.

Lonely Planet’s Best in Asia 2018

1. Busan, South Korea

East Asia’s Culture City for 2018 topped the list, with hot springs, hiking to Buddhist temples, and feasting on seafood at the country’s largest fish market all earning a mention.

2. Uzbekistan

Most famous for Samarkand’s Registan and its Silk Road lore, this Central Asian country’s visa-free and e-visa schemes, and new air routes and railways, helped it to second place.

3. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

“The southern supercity of Ho Chi Minh City somehow keeps getting cooler,” reads the Lonely Planet website, its writers praising its music, craft beer, and pioneering street food scene.

4. Western Ghats, India

The purple neelakurinji flower, which blooms only once every 12 years, contributed to this Unesco-listed mountain range in India making the list. It’s due to bloom from August to October 2018.

5. Nagasaki, Japan

The opening of the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, along with hiking routes around its volcanic hills, both helped this buzzing city in northern Kyushu make the list.

6. Chiang Mai, Thailand

The opening of its Maiiam Contemporary Art Museum, along with a general arty vibe and a fusion cuisine restaurant scene, are among the reasons to visit the northern Thai city this year.

7. Lumbini, Nepal

Formerly a stop on the India-Nepal overland route, Lumbini has become a destination in itself thanks to being close to Buddha’s birthplace. A new international airport is under construction.

8. Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

This surf town has retained a relaxed vibe, and was singled out for its beach bars and music festivals. Also worth visiting is the nearby Kumana National Park, for its leopards, elephants and crocodiles.

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9. Sichuan province, China

“Far-flung villages, towering skylines, giant pandas and fiery cuisine … Sichuan province is a microcosm of modern China,” according to Lonely Planet’s writers.

They also mentioned the Sichuan-Tibet Railway and Chengdu’s trend for brewpubs and boutique hotels.

10. Komodo National Park, Indonesia

“A nature enthusiast’s nirvana,” according to Lonely Planet, Komodo National Park should be visited not just to see the famous Komodo dragons, but also for its hiking, diving and beaches.