Inle Lake is a very pretty place and one of Myanmar's major attractions. The mountain lake (880 m) lies in the Shan State and is home to several unique things like the leg rowing fishermen, stilt villages with floating gardens, and the cat jumping monastery of Ngaphechaung. If you want to take in everything the lake has to offer, it will be a long day including a bit of sightseeing along the shores, where the golden stupas stand and the non-floating markets are. A must see if you choose to go to Myanmar.
Up in the mountains in northern Luzon lies the village of Sagada, surrounded by pristine hills and pine forests. It's a refreshingly cool little place famous for its caves and hanging coffins. The deceased were put in a hollowed trunk and then placed high on a projection of the cliff or piled on top of other coffins. This ancient funeral custom is no longer practised, but it's still possible to visit the burial site where coffins of all ages and states of decay hang. You can even peek at the bones through the cracks, but no touching (some people do).
Once a year on the 5th November, the town of San Carlos on the island of Negros explodes into one of the most frenetic street festivals in a country renowned for its frenetic street festivals. Hundreds of dancers clad in a dazzling array of extraordinary costumes make their way through the town, performing spectacularly well-choreographed dances while on the move. Flowers are the theme of the day, and you'll see them painted all over the faces, bodies, arms and legs of the dancers. Some groups make human flower formations, their dances physically resembling the opening of a flower, and there may even be few giant bees hanging around to pollinate them. You won't find any slow, pretty waltzing here, though - these dances are fun, fast, full of life and in some cases a little crazy. The atmosphere in the town is absolutely wild, with karaoke bars full to the brim and overflowing onto the streets that the dancers pass through.
While Singapore's business district seems to grow into the sky, Chinatown stands in sharp contrast with its low rise historical shophouses. About 75% of Singapore are ethnic Chinese. Many of the Chinese immigrants came in the 19-century and early 20-century, when Singapore was a British colony. They settled in what became Chinatown, a mosaic of shops, markets, restaurants, temples, coolie quarters and brothels. Today, Chinatown is still that - except for the lack of coolies and brothels of course - and the Chinese culture is very much alive and everpresent.
Kampong Glam is Singapore's Little Arabia. The street names are Arabian inspired and there are carpet shops, Middle Eastern cuisine, and mosques. The grand Sultan Mosque with its golden domes is the pivotal of the neighbourhood. Bussorah Street is particularly picturesque with old tradehouses and palm trees, but also very touristic. There are many other fine Islamic buildings in Kampong Glam, which are all included in the 2 km long Kampong Glam Heritage Trail.
You know when you are in Little India. The air is full of spices and incense, the smell even reach down into the subway station. Little India is a vibrant neighbouring filled with flower garland vendors, Hindu temples, spice shops, and Bollywood posters. However, as the neighbourhood is fairly big, not every street and lane are necessarily interesting. It shouldn't come as a surprise, that you can get the best and most authentic Indian food here.
Perahera means parade in Sinhalese, and it is a thing Sri Lankans are crazy about. Any (Sinhalese) festival or celebration is not complet without a Perahera with marching bands of drummers and conch shell blowers, colourful dancers, stilt-walkers and decorated elephants. Some Perahera are huge events, like the Esala Perahera in Kandy (in honour of Buddha's tooth) and Navam Perahera in Colombo (a full moon celebration), while others can be tiny, like a school parade - just wihtout elephants. If you want to see a big perahera, plan ahead. Find out about the exact dates, for these change every year, and take into account that it might stretch over several days. Then find a good spot on the route and get blown away by Sri Lankan pandemonium.
Lanyu is a little volcanic island with two mountains and covered in forest. The people are of the Tao tribe (sometimes called Yami), which have more in common with the people of the Batan islands of the Philippines than Taiwan and mainland China, but nevertheless are a part of Taiwan. Today, the people are modern, but their cultural heritage is still very strong. It's possible to stay with a Tao family while visiting the island and a rented scooter is the way to explore the 50 km or so of roads the island has to offer. This is really off the beaten tracks.
One might think that travelling in a region with a severe shortage (aka zero) of hotels might pose a logistical threat. However, when travelling through the Pamir region of Tajikistan, this lack of accommodation is a blessing, not a curse. Throughout the area, wonderfully hospitable locals open their homes and kitchens to weary travellers (for a price). These home-stays offer an amazing opportunity to get as up close and personal as possible, allowing an insight into how local life happens. The often traditional homes are surprisingly comfortable and the hosts do all they can to ensure their guests leave happy.
Mae Hong Son is a charming hill town nestled in a valley close to the border of Myanmar (Burma). Surrounded by mountains and misty forests, it is a great base for trips into the tribe villages. Some of these places are actually refugee camps for fleeing tribes from Eastern Myanmar, like the famous Padaung tribe known as "long necks" and another Karen tribe called "long ears". Some have called these camps "human zoos" and it is not hard to figure out why: entry fees, souvenir shops and swarms of tourists. But you can get your mind around the fact that the people are super friendly, easy going, and the tourist income actually gives them a better living than back in Myanmar. So if you choose to go, consider it more as an opportunity to get some insight on the Burma issue instead of pretending it is a visit to a happy-dappy tribe village.