Forget a bucket list of fantastical adventures you probably won’t ever pursue. Try these super fun and highly attainable ones that offer great excitement, as well as rewarding experiences.
Words: Efi Eqbal
5 MUST-TRY FOOD DESTINATIONS
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA A melting pot of diverse cultures from around the world, Melbourne is a truly cosmopolitan foodie destination with fabulous food events happening all year round. Not to be missed is the annual Food and Wine Festival; the next one will be held from February 27 till March 15 next year. www.visitmelbourne.com
BANGKOK, THAILAND Get ready to go food shopping in this food capital. Enjoy street food like som tam (spicy papaya salad) to pad Thai (stir-fried noodles) and mango sticky rice, and dine at the many great local, fusion and international restaurants the city has to offer. www.tourismthailand.org
HONG KONG, CHINA Called ‘The Fragrant City’, Hong Kong presents an impressive menu with over 2,000 varieties of dim sum, as well as delicacies from mainland China. www.discoverhongkong.com
TOKYO, JAPAN Having earned 331 stars on the Michelin restaurants guide (the closest being Paris with 116 stars), Tokyo is a gourmet capital with a wide range of eateries to cater to different budgets. www.gotokyo.org/en
PENANG, MALAYSIA Penang lures epicureans with the promise of delicious hawker fare, from char kuey teow (wok-fried flat rice noodles) served with juicy prawns to fiery nasi kandar (rice served with side dishes and a variety of curries). The city was named by Lonely Planet as the top culinary hotspot in 2014. www.visitpenang.gov.my
5 MUST-EXPLORE HISTORICAL SPOTS
FORBIDDEN CITY, BEIJING, CHINA Built in the early 15th century, the Forbidden City (also known as the Imperial Palace Museum) was the seat of power for over 500 years, housing the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. With landscaped gardens and grand buildings showcasing historic artworks, the Forbidden City embodies the might of Chinese civilisation. The palace was seen as a symbol of the heavenly mandate given to the emperor, and a reflection of how the heavenly order functioned. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. english.visitbeijing.com.cn
ANGKOR, CAMBODIA Angkor in Siem Reap is one of Southeast Asia’s most significant archaeological sites with incredible ruins from the Khmer Empire dating from the ninth to the 15th century. Among its most famous structures are Angkor Wat, a Hindu-turned-Buddhist temple and one of the largest religious monuments in the world, as well as Bayon, a Buddhist temple that features serene faces of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara. www.cambodia-tourism.org
JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN, INDIA In 1876, buildings in Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital, were given a coat of rose pink paint to welcome the then Prince of Wales, earning the city the moniker of the ‘Pink City’. It is often hailed as India’s first planned city and was built according to ancient architectural principles laid out in the Shilpa Shastra, a traditional Hindu architectural treatise. Some of its most famous historical sites include the Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century, and the beautiful Hawa Mahal or ‘Palace Of The Winds’, constructed in 1799. www.jaipurtravel.com
KATHMANDU, NEPAL The beauty of Nepal lies in its balance of old world charm and modernity, as seen in attractions like Swayambhunath, also known as the Monkey Temple, and Thamel, a vibrant tourist destination filled with craft shops, boutique cafés, bars, restaurants, budget lodges and hotels. The capital is also popular among travellers seeking yoga and meditation retreats. www.nepaltourism.info
INTRAMUROS, MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES Intramuros or the Walled City was constructed by the Spanish in the 16th century, and is the oldest district of Manila. It was the seat of government during the Spanish colonial era, and its defensive walls were erected to protect against foreign invasion. Here, you can find Fort Santiago, where Filipino revolutionary hero, Jose Rizal, was imprisoned before his execution, as well as Casa Manila, a museum depicting the colonial lifestyle during the Spanish era. itsmorefuninthephilippines.com
5 MUST-VISIT RELIGIOUS STRUCTURES
SHWEDAGON PAYA, YANGON, MYANMAR In the 15th century, Queen Shinsawbu pledged that she would adorn the pagoda of the Shwedagon Paya with an amount of gold equal to her weight, which was about 40 kilograms. Not to be outdone, her son-in-law offered to decorate the pagoda with gold four times his own weight, plus that of his wife, the queen’s daughter; this worked out to almost eight times that of Queen Shinsawbu’s gold! This glittering collection of golden pagodas may have been made famous by this story, but even their grandeur is overshadowed by the relics that are said to be kept here: Eight strands of hair from Lord Buddha himself! This is a place that is most sacred to Buddhists in Myanmar and many miracles are believed to have taken place here throughout the ages. www.myanmar-tourism.com
FATIMA AZ-ZAHRA MOSQUE (FLOATING MOSQUE), JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA Built on stilts over the Red Sea, this white floating mosque is named after the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and evokes a sense of peace and serenity attracting pilgrims from around the world. sauditourism.sa
KASHI VISHWANATH TEMPLE, VARANASI, UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA Varanasi is known as the ‘Holy City of India’, and claims to be one of the oldest living cities in the world. This may well be true as within Varanasi is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva with at least 3,500 years of documented history. www.varanasicity.com
SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH, MANILA, PHILIPPINES Rebuilt after two fires, the baroque church you see today was completed in 1606. Behind its intricately carved doors are a baroque pulpit, molave choir’s stalls and an 18th century pipe organ. Having withstood disaster upon disaster, it has become an enduring symbol of Filipino resilience. It is the resting place of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the founder of Manila, as well as the site where the Spanish conquerors and Americans signed the terms for the surrender of Manila in 1898. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. itsmorefuninthephilippines.com
PRAMBANAN, YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA The legend of how this temple came to be is as amazing as the structure itself. According to folklore, in order to get out of marrying an unwanted suitor, Princess Rara Jonggrang gave him a near to impossible task as a condition of their union. She asked that he build 1,000 temples in one night. Calling on spirits for help, the man made haste and was about to complete his mission when the princess commanded her people to burn bonfires to resemble sunrise. The spirits fled, leaving only 999 temples. Realising the princess’ deceit, he cursed her, turning her into a statue for the last temple. www.indonesia-tourism.com
5 MUST-EXPERIENCE DIVING SITES
RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA Raja Ampat in Papua, Indonesia, is home to 75 per cent of known coral species on Earth, as well as thousands of marine creatures – plenty to satisfy both novice and experienced divers. It is also home to an unusual phenomenon called the Sea Ghost; every year-end, a mysterious light is seen hovering on the surface of the ocean for 10 minutes. www.gorajaampat.com
SIPADAN, SABAH, MALAYSIA Ever since renowned explorer Jacques Cousteau ‘discovered’ this island in the 1970s, Sipadan has been a must-do on every diver’s wish list. It is known for its dramatic wall dive that plunges over 600 metres down into the depths of the ocean and its signature dive site, the Barracuda Point. www.wonderfulmalaysia.com
ACROPOLIS, GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA This site offers one of the most beautiful underwater fields of Acropora coral, some of which are as large as 3.6 metres in diameter, as well as massive colonies of staghorn corals. www.gbrmpa.gov.au
PATTAYA, THAILAND Wreck-diving is a favourite in Pattaya, which is a year round diving destination, unaffected by the monsoon season. Some of the most popular dive sites here include the wreck sites of two Thai navy ships, the HTMS Khram and HTMS Kut, as well as the steamships Suddhadib and Bremen. www.tourismthailand.org
SOMBRERO, ANILAO, PHILIPPINES Anilao is one of Philippines’ earliest diving hotspots. It has an abundance of macro life with ribbon eels, nudibranchs and scorpion fi sh found here. Occasionally, the currents bring in tuna too. www.experiencephilippines.org
5 MUST-DO SHOPPING DISTRICTS
BANGKOK, THAILAND Shopping hotspots like the large weekend market Chatuchak, Platinum Mall and MBK are popular among wholesalers, and offer great value for shoppers looking for a good bargain. Bangkok also offers plush shopping malls like Terminal 21, Siam City and Siam Paragon where designer goods may be procured. Along the streets of Sukhumvit, you can find stalls selling everything from local crafts and silver jewellery to cool gadgets and kitschy items. www.tourismthailand.org
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA From bargain-friendly Petaling Street to massive neighbourhood malls and high-end shopping centres like KLCC and Pavilion, KL caters to a wide variety of budgets. kuala-lumpur.attractionsinmalaysia.com
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA K-Pop culture has set trends around the world and shoppers can get their fill of this South Korean fashion craze at places like high-end Shinsegae Main Department Store in the heart of Seoul, Myeong-dong area with its range of expensive to affordable malls and Gangnam with all things hip and trend-setting. For souvenirs and local craft, Insa-dong is the place to go. english.visitkorea.or.kr
SINGAPORE You need only walk the length and breadth of Orchard Road for a great mall-hopping experience offering everything from luxury buys at swanky malls to three-for-SGD10 bargains at Lucky Plaza. www.yoursingapore.com
DELHI, INDIA Delhi is said to have the best markets in India, offering a vibrant and exotic shopping experience. Head to King’s Park Street in West Delhi for high quality Indian arts and crafts, Dilli Haat for handicrafts and apparels, Janpath and Tibetan Markets for souvenirs and silverware, Khan Market for its tailoring shops, Ayurvedic food and cosmetics, and Chandni Chowk for silver jewellery and electronics. www.delhitourism.gov.in
5 MUST-EXPERIENCE ADVENTURES
SURFING AT BONDI BEACH, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA Say ‘Bondi Beach’ and most will think of Australia’s dynamic surf scene. This gorgeous beach with its golden sands, azure waters and scenic coastal walks, is the perfect place to take up surf lessons in the shallows and watch seasoned surfers take on giant waves. www.sydney.com
SAFARI IN KENYA, AFRICA Kenya is dubbed the ‘most visited safari destination in Africa’, and that’s no surprise as this country has 20 national parks and a wide range of safari experiences to choose from. You can opt to travel by plane, hot air balloon or jeep, and stay in luxury lodges or simple accommodations. The opportunity to observe wildlife like cheetahs, wildebeest and lions in their natural environment will be something you’ll remember for the rest of your life! www.tourism.go.ke
SWIMMING WITH WHALE SHARKS, DONSOL BAY, SOUTH LUZON, PHILIPPINES Swimming with sharks sounds like a scary prospect, but whale sharks, which happen to be the largest fish in the ocean, are fairly docile, so long as you keep out of their way. However, there are no guarantees, so it’s best to try this with an experienced tour agency. www.experiencephilippines.org
AERO ADVENTURES, NANDI HILLS, OFF BANGALORE, INDIA Nandi Hills in Karnataka is the place to go for parasailing, paragliding and hang gliding when in India. Even the airstrip used for these aero adventures has often been described as a site of breathtaking beauty. www.karnatakaholidays.net
BUNGY JUMPING, BHOTE KOSI RIVER, NEPAL At a height of 160 metres, this is one of the highest bungy-jump sites in the world! Designed by Kiwi bungee-jump specialists, the jump and swing has become one of Nepal’s most popular adventure attractions, and is known as the ‘Last Resort Bungee Jump’ – the ultimate destination for thrill-seekers. www.nepaltourism.info
5 MUST-VISIT ISLANDS
KOH TAO, SURAT THANI PROVINCE, THAILAND Nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, this small island with its stunning shoreline and crystal-clear waters lures world-weary backpackers year round. In recent years, plush resorts have popped up catering to families looking for gorgeous vacation spots away from the hustle and bustle of the city. www.tourismthailand.org
BORACAY, VISAYAS, PHILIPPINES If you’re looking to unwind, Boracay with its exquisite beaches and breathtaking sunsets may just be the answer. itsmorefuninthephilippines.com
BALI, INDONESIA Many have described Bali as a place of ‘organised chaos’, an apt phrase that captures the mood of this exotic island, which fuses rich heritage with charming hospitality, attracting wild party people, as well as culture buffs. www.balitourismboard.org
PULAU REDANG, MALAYSIA This little island offers scenic walks along beautiful beaches, as well as fabulous coral gardens for snorkelling and diving. You might even spot sea turtles here! www.terengganutourism.com
MENTAWAI ISLANDS, WEST SUMATRA, INDONESIA The Mentawai Islands, made up of four main islands – Siberut, Sipura and North and South Pagai – offer fantastic surfing. Over the last few years, this group of islands has undergone numerous facelifts, making it perfect for a laid-back getaway. www.indonesia-tourism.com
5 MUST-SEE STAGE PRODUCTIONS
HOUSE OF DANCING WATER, MACAU With a central stage that transforms into a 17-million litre pool, gorgeous sets, dynamic music and a cast of some 80 gymnasts, ballerinas, divers and freestyle motocross stunt riders, this is an extraordinary production that fuses pure artistry with awesome technology. Since it opened at Macau’s City of Dreams four years ago, it has been seen by over two million people. www.thehouseofdancingwater.com
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, VARIOUS LOCATIONS Hovering somewhere in between performance art, street entertainment and circus theatrics, Cirque Du Soleil’s fantastical shows mesmerise audiences around the world. The incredible acrobatics displayed during aerial dances make for a truly magical experience. Productions are staged in over 200 cities worldwide, some all year round. www.cirquedusoleil.com
YANGSHOU IMPRESSION OF SANJIE LIU, GUILIN, CHINA This show is based on a local legend about a lady named Sanjie Liu whose voice was said to be so beautiful, it could wake the dead. The brainchild of world-famous director Zhang Yimou, this production takes place on the Li River, one of the world’s largest natural theatres! It employs a creative play of light and shadow, advanced technology and the amazing synchronicity of over 600 performers – all locals who live along the river. www.travelchinaguide.com
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LONDON, UK Since its debut at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End 28 years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical has been seen by over 130 million people. This musical revolves around a deformed composer who lives beneath the Paris Opera House and ‘haunts’ its cast and crew, as well as a young opera singer he’s dangerously obsessed with. www.thephantomoftheopera.com
RHYTHM OF THE DANCE Traditional Irish step dancing with all its fast and fiery footwork is combined with modern dance and live music to create a vibrant spectacle. The show tours worldwide. www.rhythmofthedance.com
KICK-START A BUCKET LIST
Here are tips on compiling that awesome list.
PLAN YOUR LIST Break it down to ‘learning something new’, ‘seeing something different’, ‘going somewhere’ or even ‘climbing a mountain’.
LIMITLESS BUT REALISTIC If your spirit is strong and your body able, you can do whatever you set out to do. But, if ‘climbing a mountain’ is on your list, be sure that you’re committed to it. Invest in your health and train to fulfil your dream.
REFINE YOUR LIST Don’t get too hung up on what you’ve listed in your first couple of drafts; let it be organic. After a few drafts, you’ll be able to ascertain what you realistically can and cannot do; this is when you refine your list.
ATTACH MEANING Whatever you put on your list should be meaningful to you – be it to experience a sense of achievement or fulfil a long-held dream.
LOOK OUT FOR IDEAS Gain ideas and inspiration from everything around you – movies, books, posters, incidents, conversations, etc.
JUST DO IT The best way to begin fulfilling your bucket list is to start small; fulfil the simplest of things first and you’ll soon gain momentum to do the rest!
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