10 Asian Sensations

9. Surat Thani, Thailand
Once the capital of the 10th-century Indonesian Srivijaya Empire, Surat Thani city is the hopping-off point for its eponymous province and some of Thailand’s best-known islands, each of which has built a reputation on offering either great diving, a castaway lifestyle, or a party from dawn to dawn – and sometimes all three. Koh Tao is credited as having the best diving in the Gulf of Thailand, and gorgeous places to stay are legion. Koh Samui – part of the protected Ang Thong National Marine Park’s 42-island archipelago – is known for its high-end resorts and spas, but you can also find nightlife along Chaweng’s main street and a more tranquil vibe in north coast fishing hamlet, Bo Phut. And while Koh Pha Ngnan is best known for its infamous full-moon parties and less-raucous half-moon parties, it has a lot more to offer beyond the Hat Rin debauchery. As 90 per cent of the island is covered in jungle and 40 per cent is protected by national park, wildlife abounds: if you hike up Khao Ra, the island’s highest point, your pulse will likely be raised by the jaw-dropping vistas as much as the incline.
10. Iran

Jame Mosque of Yazd – Iran

You might not realise it, but Iran is also in Asia. It’s also set to be one of the must-go frontier destinations for 2016. Most of the country is now considered safe: Australia has an embassy in Tehran and after re-establishing its embassy there last summer, the UK is launching non-stop flights from London this July – Iranian officials are hoping to welcome 20 million annual tourists by 2025. But those going now will be among the first to experience the Islamic Republic’s diverse landscapes and cultural treasures. You can hit the beach or go skiing (yes, you heard correctly). You can explore 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the most of any Middle-Eastern country (Persian capital, Persepolis was founded by Darius The Great in 518 BC), and wander ancient Islamic prayer halls illuminated by kaleidoscopic shafts of light lancing down from stained-glass windows. And after a day’s sightseeing, you can turn your attention to Iran’s fabulous cuisine to the sound of Persian pop or classical poetry – walnut pomegranate stew or hot and sour shrimp, anyone?

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