Several Asian locations have been included in The New York Times’ list of “52 Places to Go” for 2023.
On Jan. 12, the Times released its annual list of over 50 travel destinations, as suggested by its editors.
“Travel’s rebound has revealed the depth of our drive to explore the world. Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? This year’s list has all those elements, and more,” the list’s introduction states.
The list’s first featured Asian destination is Morioka, Japan.
The Times argues that this particular city is “often passed over or outright ignored” for more popular locations, such as Tokyo and Osaka.
Circumscribed by mountains, it lies a few hours north of Tokyo by Shinkansen, the Japanese high-speed rail lines. Morioka’s downtown is eminently walkable. The city is filled with Taisho-era buildings that mix Western and Eastern architectural aesthetics as well as modern hotels, a few old ryokan [traditional inns] and winding rivers.
The publication also highlights the city’s “fantastic coffee” and notable places such as all-you-can-eat soba restaurant Azumaya and decades-old jazz cafe Johnny’s.
The second Asian location on the list is Bhutan.
The Times particularly highlights the South Asian country’s 250-mile Trans Bhutan Trail, a centuries-old path that recently underwent a three-year restoration.
The trail stretches east to west across nearly the entire country, passing through cities, villages, farmlands and wilderness. Depending on the route and time of year, trekkers might spy the snowcapped Himalayas, visit cliff-top fortresses, scale sacred mountain passes or pass through blooming rhododendron forests.
The third Asian location on the list is Kerala, India.
According to the Times, this southern Indian state is “celebrated for its beaches, backwater lagoons, cuisine and rich cultural traditions like the Vaikathashtami festival — where the government has adopted an award-winning approach that allows visitors to experience village life while supporting the communities that host them.”
It is also home to “responsible tourism destinations” such as Kumarakom, where travelers can learn how to climb up palm trees and use coconut fiber to weave rope.
The fourth Asian location on the list is Fukuoka, Japan.
The Times claims that this city is one of the last “remaining places in Japan where you will see rows of yatai — open-air street-food stalls resembling boxes of neon light.” These stalls were once a “common sight across Japan in the 1950s,” but now around 100 stalls remain in Fukuoka.
This Southeast Asian island, which The Times describes as an “island paradise,” is home to “nine-foot Komodo dragons, active volcanoes, white-sand beaches, coral gardens, rushing waterfalls and color-shifting crater lakes reputed to house departed spirits.” It is notably an hour away by plane from Indonesia’s capital, Bali.
Although it takes time and effort to visit this city – The Times says it can be reached by road from Hanoi in around six hours – the trip proves “both treacherous and exhilarating” for thrillseekers who don’t mind riding along “steep roads, serpentine passes and recurring switchbacks.”
This remote tableau of soaring peaks and cavernous valleys inspires a deep connection to the landscape and its inhabitants. Veer off the main road onto the narrow ribbons of concrete streaking the mountainsides and into the Hmong and Tay settlements dotting the hillsides and hollows.
For an even more enriching experience, The Times suggests hiring a guide from the family-run business QT Motorbikes & Tours, as well as taking a boat ride to see Ma Pi Leng, a jaw-dropping mountain pass.
The seventh and final Asian location on the list is Taipei, Taiwan.
The Times describes Taipei as “a glorious assault on the senses, a capital with stunning natural beauty, low crime, and clear air despite its immense urban sprawl.” The publication also highlighted Taipei’s other features such as its night markets, its Qing Dynasty temples and the Taiwan Lantern Festival, “a beloved tradition in which thousands of glowing lanterns float skyward in tandem.”