Every city, every town you visit is bound to have a selection of must-sees, must dos. But often, travellers are forced to pick and choose due to time constraints. Here is our list of places you simply cannot miss when visiting these cities.
Words: Efi Hafizah Hamzah
Ayurveda in Kochi
Kochi, previously known as Cochin, is a culturally and spiritually diverse city where Hindus, Christians, Muslims and people of the Jewish faith live harmoniously. Kochi is also the go-to place for one of India’s greatest gifts to alternative medicine: Ayurveda, which has been commercially practised in India for over 500 years with a history that dates back as far as 3,000 BC. There are many Ayurvedic centres to choose from with qualified herbal specialists and therapists readily available. If you are unsure which to go to, do a quick research on the Internet or enquire with your hotel concierge about popular centres and price range. Treatment usually begins with a consultation where your general issues are taken into consideration. From there, you’ll be prescribed specific treatments that can be a one-off or lasting over several days. These treatments are generally 100 percent natural and you’ll come out feeling lighter, fresher and invigorated. AVN Arogya Ayurvedic centre in Ravipuram offers a list of extensive tried and tested treatments (www.avnarogya.in/kochi) or visit www.ayurveda.in/ayurveda-cochin for a list of clinics in Kochi.
The Magical Market in Osaka, Japan
What was formerly known as Emmeiji Market up until the end of the Meiji era and is now called the Kuromon Ichiba Market located in the Nipponbashi district, remains one of the greatest attractions in Osaka for over 170 years. This market is well organised and covers an area of about 600 square metres, with shops selling fresh produce, cooked food, herbs, spices, clothes and arts and crafts. With over 200 shops, this market is also where professional chefs and restaurant owners get their daily fresh produce. But expect to also see discerning housewives coming here to stock up on their groceries. You may not be looking to buy a kilogramme of horseradish here but make it a point to buy the freshest, pre-packed sushi and sashimi. Also, exploring the market will always reveal hidden gems and opportunities to meet friendly locals. www.kuromon.com
Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam
When visiting Hanoi, include Van Mieu, or better known as the Temple of Literature, in your must-see checklist. Founded in 1070 as a Confucian temple, this building is located in the south of the Thang Long Citadel, overlooking the central part of Hanoi. Quoc Tu Giam, or the Imperial Academy (Vietnam’s fi rst university), was established within the walls of this temple in 1070, teaching Mandarin and medical sciences. The university was operational for over 700 years and between 1076 and 1779, some 2,313 doctors graduated. However, in 1802, the Nguyen monarchs founded the Hue capital and established a new imperial academy; Quoc Tu Giam lost its prominence and eventually became a school of the Hoai Duc district. The Temple of Literature remains a sacred sanctuary and a monument to the culture and history of Vietnam. It is known as the Confucian Temple mainly because of its design, mimicking the temple in Qufu of Shandong, China, where Confucius was born. The temple covers an area of 54,000 square metres with five beautiful courtyards and the serene Literature Lake. www.vietnam-beauty.com
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies to Hanoi from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
Temple Massage in Bangkok
Ignore the sniggers you might get when you exclaim you had the best massage in the world in Bangkok simply because the best massage is in Bangkok: Temple massage! Having a temple massage offers stress and pain relief and absolute relaxation. The temple most renowned for such treatments is Wat Po Temple in Phra Nakhon district. The temple is actually the fi rst public university in Thailand, teaching religion, science and literature through murals and sculptures. It opened the first school for traditional medicine and massage in Thailand in 1962, where the open-air hall outside the temple was used to teach Thai massage. The Thais take massage very seriously and it is part of their lifestyle to maintain health. The Thai massage is a type of massage that employs assisted stretching techniques where you may be put in yoga-like poses for certain stretches. The aim is to relieve tension in the body while working on the meridian (central nerve) lines along the body. An hour of Wat Po Thai massage will cost around between USD13 for a basic massage to USD17 for an herbal Thai massage. www.watpomassage.com
Hot and Spicy in Lombok
Lombok may not be as popular as its neighbour, Bali, but that may actually be a good reason for travellers to visit this island. The food, accommodation and shopping are way cheaper, and the beaches here are far more pristine, as they are less crowded with commercial outfits. While it’s a diver’s haven, guests and foodies must sample the island’s savoury fried chilli paste dish called sambal. Besides the fact that the word lombok means ‘chilli’ in the local language, the naga jolokia chillies found here are native only to Lombok. They are pounded with garlic and shrimp paste and served with rice and other dishes like ayam taliwang (grilled wild chicken) and sayur nangka (jackfruit curry). www.lombokindonesia.org
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies to Lombok from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
Hawker Food in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Malaysia
The hawker fare in Penang and Kuala Lumpur is mind blowing! And cheap too! A full-on spread can cost as little as USD10 and you’ll be bursting at your seams! There are so many dishes to sample in both cities. In Kuala Lumpur, head to Jalan Alor hawker centre (Chinese food), Petaling Street hawker stalls (Chinese and some Indian food) and Kampung Baru hawker stalls (Malay food). In Penang, hawker stalls are everywhere but a must-visit spot is the Gurney Drive hawker centre (also called Glutton Square for obvious reasons!). Everything from rice with dishes to dim sum, prathas (unleavened bread), rojak (vegetable salad with spicy peanut sauce in the Indian version, and fruit salad served with a sweet and spicy shrimp paste in the Chinese version), satay, soups and noodles, grilled fish, baked or steamed cockles, fried rice… the list is endless and you will want to sample everything! It’s like you have died and gone to foodie heaven. www.foodtourmalaysia.com, www.penangculinarytour.com
History & Culture in Bali, Indonesia
To understand the Balinese version of Hinduism, a trip to Besakih Temple is almost compulsory. Located along the slopes of Mount Agung in the town of Besakih (‘salvation’ in Javanese language), Pura Besakih dates back to the 14th century. The Balinese regard this temple as highly sacred considering the fact that when Mount Agung erupted in March 1963, killing over 1,700 people, the temple did not suffer any damage all; the lava stopped mere metres from the temple. Comprising 22 temples in six levels, the Pura Besakih complex was built within the natural terrain with terraces and stairs ascending through courtyards and gateways that eventually lead to the highest spire called the Pura Penataran Agung – symbolising closeness to the gods at 1,031 metres above sea level. The temple was constructed in worship of Lord Siva and archaeologists believe that it possibly took many centuries to build because of its megalithic structures and pyramidal terraces. Depending on weather conditions and the time of year, Pura Besakih may welcome you in subdued gloom or bright and sunny surroundings. However, locals believe that how you see the temple reflects the visitor’s state of mind and existence. www.uluwatu.org/pura-besakih.shtml
MUST-DO, MUST-SEE ELSEWHERE
Perth, Australia – Visit the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) in Northbridge
Hong Kong – Sample halal dim sum at Islamic Centre Canteen in Wanchai
Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Shop at the Psar Thmei (Central Market) in the heart of the city
Vientiane, Laos – Have coffee and sandwiches at the ParadIce Cafe in Centre Culturel et de Coopération Linguistique in Th Lan Xang
Yangon, Myanmar – Watch the sunset from Sakura Tower in Yangon’s central business district
Seoul, South Korea – Visit the quaint, traditional Bukchon Village in Jongno-gu
Colombo, Sri Lanka – Shop for semiprecious stones in Galle Fort
Beijing, China – Watch the Beijing Opera at Li Yuan Theatre in Yongan Lu