These are neither movies nor games—these places are real. In Asia-Pacific alone, there are so many surreal and extraordinary places that will capture your imagination. Here’s proof that Earthly locations can be more dream-like than dreams.
Compiled by: Abby Yao
1. The Pinnacles, Australia
Ladies and gentlemen, we have landed on Mars. Far closer, actually. Western Australia’s golden dunes and limestone outcroppings will leave you moonwalking (with great difficulty) or bushwalking (as the Aussies call walking through wild lands) through Nambung National Park, three hours away from Perth. The strange pillars rise up to five metres and may have been formed from a petrified forest. The lookout point and Desert Discovery Centre will show and tell you all you need to know.
2. Chocolate Hills, the Philippines
Yummy, these are not. But in the summer heat, over a thousand of these cone-shaped hills on the island of Bohol turn brown and resemble Hershey’s Kisses before the grass turns them green for the rest of the year. Geologists haven’t completely figured out how these were formed, but there are four different legends for its origin. If you’re still pining for dessert, there’s a local specialty called Peanut Kisses that looks more like the hills than their supposed namesake.
3. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China
If you did a double take and swore you had seen this scene before, perhaps you did, in the film Avatar. Draped in fog, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is an explorer’s dream, with trails, streams, caves and waterfalls in and around its steep canyons. It is undoubtedly worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage Site (as part of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area). Tour groups dominate the best viewpoints and facilities such as the 7.4-kilometre cable car and the 330-metre outdoor elevator—attractions in themselves—but the solitary traveller will find plenty of quiet spaces with nature. Blue skintone optional.
4. Hitachi Seaside Park, Japan
Are they toys or creatures? Let’s ask the green thumbs. The hills are alive with kochias (summer cypress) in autumn, turning from green to red. The nemophilas (blue baby eyes) in spring may be best loved by visitors, but the kochias give us visions of life forms unlike our own. The park’s other offerings range from seasonal flower gardens to a ferris wheel to a 10-kilometre cycling path.
5. Plain of Jars, Laos
Barnacles on land, these are not. Thousands of prehistoric stone jars scattered across the undulating hills (its name clearly a misnomer) of Xieng Khouang province, some as tall as three metres, form one of the world’s great archaeological mysteries. The jars, some of them 2500 years old, are believed to have been used for burial. Who made them is still unknown. The area was heavily bombed during the 1960s and 70s and still have unexploded ordnance, but seven sites have been cleared for visitors.
6. Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
Mist rising over a sea of sand. A Hindu temple’s silhouette appearing like a mirage in the distance. Figures dwarfed by the lunar landscape. It’s not a Photoshop fantasy, but a photograph near the foot of Mount Bromo, one of the five volcanoes in the Tengger Caldera. Catch the sunrise, visit Poten Temple, cross the caldera on a 4WD or on horseback, or if you’re mad enough, do a 170-km ultramarathon.
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