Seven Great Lakes in Asia

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, Feature Highlights, Nature

Who doesn’t like a great lake? No, not those great lakes, but any lake where you can see an amazing reflection or view that forces you to make your own reflection. Whether it’s a serene place or an amazing lake that has a story, these are great places to stop for a rest and think. Write in your journal. Or just relax – isn’t that what lakes are for?

Photo credit - Patrick Kiteley

Photo credit - Patrick Kiteley

Mirror Lake, New Zealand

Sunrise at the Mirror Lake in New Zealand, near Fox Village, is no mean feat. You must drive or bike a few miles from town, then trek in the darkness around the lake to get this view. But it is certainly a noteworthy goal, as a lake clear as glass and silent makes way for this surreal mirror image as light fills the sky. It is a must-see when seeing the glaciers in the area, and even during midday a walk around the entire lake is lovely.

If you’re looking for more reasons to visit New Zealand, look no further than our Dreaming of New Zealand photo blog.

Photo credit - Robert Nyman

Photo credit - Robert Nyman

Tonle Sap, Cambodia

The Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, expanding many times its size during monsoon season. Because of the incredible change in landscape between dry and wet seasons, the people who live near here stay on floating villages – complete with televisions, petrol stations, and other typical amenities. It is a surreal sight to behold, especially since the far shore of the lake cannot be seen, leaving you feeling as if you are afloat at sea. It is possible to visit as a daytrip from Siem Reap.

There is more to this Asian country than sun-baked ruins and temples galore. Retreat to the south and experience Cambodia’s shore, full of beaches and off-beat sights to be explored.

Photo credit - Susonauta

Photo credit - Susonauta

Lake Biwa, Japan

Lakek Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan; because of its location next to the historic capital of Japan, it is well known to Japanese historians, but the lake’s beaches are also popular to those not interested in history or literature. Other popular attractions include Ukimido, the floating temple, the Seta no Karahashi Bridge (especially at sunset!), and biwako Hana Funsui – the world’s largest water fountain.

Photo credit - Delirante Bestiole

Photo credit - Delirante Bestiole

Lake Baikal, Russia

Lake Baikal, just north of the Mongolian border in Russia, is a geological phenomenon. It is massive, containing 20% of the world’s surface freshwater and the deepest (and strangely, clearest) lakes in the world. Because of this and the hundreds of unique species that live here and nowhere else, Lake Baikal is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site. The resort of Listvyanka is also a UNESCO site and popular stopping point.

Not far from there, check out as well our exploration of Kamchatka, at the far eastern edge of Russia.

Photo credit - George Lu

Photo credit - George Lu

Lake Wuhua Hai, China

Wuhua Hai, meaning ‘five flower lake’ in Chinese, is one of several of the amazing lakes in the Jiuzhaigou Valley. The name is appropriate, because just in the span of a few meters the lake changes color, from blue to black to yellow to green and back again. It is surreal, spooky, and amazing. Don’t miss the other lakes here in the valley, such as China’s version of the Mirror Lake featured above.

Photo credit - Thomas Depenbusch

Photo credit - Thomas Depenbusch

Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Would you believe the above photo was shot in Kyrgyzstan? Lakes are a popular tourist attraction in the mountainous countryside of Kyrgyzstan, and Lake Issyk-Kul is no exception. It’s hidden inside a deep valley, giving you endless views of the snowy peaks of the Tian Shan mountains. It was a popular resort destination during Soviet times, and although those resorts fell into disrepair, they are making a resurgence with foreign tourists.

Check out our recent series of posts, where we covered the four “Stans”, starting from Kazakhstan, Tajiskistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Photo credit - yeowatzup

Photo credit - yeowatzup

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake in central Myanmar is the second largest lake in the country and one of its highest. An entire population of people, called the Intha, have built their lives and villages around this lake. Visit in September or October where you can experience Hpaung Daw U Festival, where Buddha images from the nearby Pagoda are paraded around the lake and there are dozens of boat races. This is followed by the Thadingyut festival of lights celebration.

Myanmar is also home to off-the-beaten-path Putao, a destination that is a veritable paradise on earth.

* Note: Some people seem to get held up with my definition of Asia. Asia = all of the destinations featured on Unearthing Asia, which includes places you might call “Australasia” or “Middle East.” Enjoy.


If you are planning a visit to Asia, don’t forget to check out Unearthing Asia, the best Asia travel portal focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. We have got some of the best Cheap Holiday Deal and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of must-try Malaysian foods.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Kyrgyzstan – The ‘Stans Part 4

May 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Crossroad of Asia

Today we continue our offbeat excursions to explore the things to see and do in Central Asia. This week we visit Kyrgyzstan, a rural and mountainous country that will remind you of the gorgeous scenery of New Zealand yet with a very different and distinct nomadic culture. Some actually call it the “Switzerland of Central Asia” due to the fact that it’s a land-locked nation comprised almost wholly by the Tian Shan mountains. You’ll also hear that Kyrgyzstan is the most accessible of the ‘Stans, due to the rather straightforward visa process and availability of direct flights from major airports such as London Heathrow.

Photo credit - noviceromano

Photo credit - noviceromano

The People

The true highlight of this country is actually the people. In the capital of Bishkek there are many Russians, but outside of there you will find people who still live in traditional, nomadic ways. They travel by horse, not by car (probably a wise choice once you see the condition of the roads). By summer they live in yurts and by winters they have sturdier shelters. But despite living in what must be one of the harshest climates in Asia to be a nomadic culture, these are some of the most hospitable people in the world.

The stories of friendliness and warmth are endless, and something you’ll no doubt encounter on any visit here. Be sure to take note of the mingling of cultures; as mentioned, there are many Russians in the capital, but Russian influences can be seen even in the nomadic cultures. The Kyrgyzstan is a Muslim nation but the powerful Kyrgyz vodka that is prevalent in day to day life is obviously a holdover from the days of Russia.

Photo credit - noviceromano

Photo credit - noviceromano

The Scenery

Ok, so if people are the main highlight of Kyrgyzstan, the other thing that you’ll be here to see is the mountain scenery: unspoilt, endless, and awe-inspiring. It’s one of those places where a postcard just doesn’t describe how incredible it looks.

Song Kul Lake takes top marks. It is the second largest lake in the country, and it has the unique feature of being in a flat, hidden valley surrounded by snow capped peaks, hence the tourist draw. Spend your days horseback or walking the terrain covered by wildflowers; by night, before withdrawing to your yurt for the night, look at the stars which seem so close you could reach out and touch one.

Manzhyly, another nomadic outpost, sits on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul and is another good base for hikes and exploring. There’s so many types of trails and sights, you can base yourself in one place yet have so many different experiences. Try to find an old Muslim cemetery; they’re filled with a kluge of sights, from metal yurts to sandstone mausoleums.

A great resource to use for help touring the countryside is Community Based Tourism Kyrgyzstan.

Photo credit - El Tuercas

Photo credit - El Tuercas

The Drink

While the food in Kyrgyzstan is similar to that of the rest of Central Asia, the drink culture has developed a few specialities you will want to check out. As mentioned, vodka is very prevalent, and of course your hosts will offer you as much tea as you can drink. But the drink culture gets far more interesting than that.

For beer lovers, there’s “bozo” which is a bitter made from wheat, not hops. It’s served more like a UK real ale – room temperature and a bit frothy. Come summer you’ll have “jarma”, a refreshing concoction made of fermented barley. If you like your spirits and the vodka is too much for you, sample some “Kyrgyzstan Cognac,” a type of brandy.

And if after all that booze you find you have a sore head the next day, ask for some kumys – fermented mare’s milk. It’s known to have restorative properties, but is definitely an acquired taste, so if you’ve not got a solid stomach then it is probably best to stick to the mineral water.

If You Go

Unless you are a passport holder of one of the former Soviet nations or Japan, you’ll need a visa. Most Europeans and other major English speaking nations can obtain a visa from their embassy or consulate before travel or upon arrival at the airport and do not require registration with local officials upon arrival.

Note that if you enter the country via an unmanned border crossing you may have trouble exiting, so be sure to get your passport stamped.

Kyrgyzstan is a relatively safe country, but women are strongly advised not to travel alone and travel by car in the mountainous regions can be treacherous. The roads are being refurbished throughout the country but conditions are still quite rough.

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About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.