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The Ultimate Asia Bucket List

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Most of us have probably started a bucket list at one point or another. The thing about bucket lists though is that most of us don’t follow through with them and never manage to accomplish all the things we’ve written down. Asia has become an increasingly popular destination in recent years and it comes to no surprise that usually every bucket list includes at least one Asian country or city. We at Intern Asia have decided to write our own Asia Bucket List. Seeing as Asia is incredibly big and has so many countries, we’ve narrowed our bucket list down to six countries. For each country listed, we’ve included one famous sightseeing spot of the country as well as one off-the-beaten-track location probably not known by many people, but just as worth visiting as the top spot. And since we know that following through with your bucket list is no easy task, we’ve included a tip on how you can start crossing off some destinations on your bucket list, maybe even multiple items at a time.


1. China

Internship in ChinaWe’ve all heard the saying “you’ve not been to China if you’ve not seen the Great Wall”. The Great Wall of China might well be one of the most popular destinations in Asia. Once build to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe, the Wall comprises a series of fortifications on an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China. Over time, the Wall also has had purposes such as border control, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. As one of the most impressive architectural feats in history, it’s no wonder that it attracts so many visitors. Thus, popular areas such as Badaling and Mutianyu are often overrun with tourists and hawkers. The best way to experience its true majesty is by hiking and camping on the Wild Wall, unrestored bits often in ruins and overgrown. Here you can easily find a section to yourself and hike for hours without seeing another traveller. Bring a sleeping bag and you can even spend the night in a crumbling watchtower for a full-on experience.

work in ChinaThe Great Wall is not the only destination worth visiting in China, despite being its most popular one. Mount Wudang Shan is one of the Five Sacred Mountains of China. It’s lesser known by visitors, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less worth visiting. Located in the Wudang Mountain range of Hubei province, this is the go-to place to experience one of China’s most breath-taking views. Views as you’d find them on postcards: the mountain mists slowly marauding through the hills as rays of sunlight break through the clouds. The climb to the top is hard and takes about 3-4 hours, but on a clear day the views you get from the top are the ultimate reward. The Wudang Mountains are also home to a famous complex of Taoist temples and monasteries associated with the god Xuanwu and are one of the “Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism” in China, an important destination for Taoist pilgrimages.


2. Japan

Intern in Tokyo JapanThe city of Tokyo is a destination found probably on almost every bucket list. This city of contrast balances past and future perfectly by mixing its traditional culture with the passion for everything new. Giant, modern skyscrapers stand next to age-old, handcrafted temples. Cutting-edge technology and innovation can be found in almost every corner, which is why it comes to no surprise that the first hotel run by robots is located in Japan. The city claims the first spot regarding employer activity and is one of the world’s three leading financial epicentres. It is also a city in which the most unusual and bizarre things are followed as the normal. From cosplay, manga and anime conventions to themed cafés and restaurants, there are plenty of oddities that can be discovered in Japan. 

live in JapanThe subtropical island of Yakushima has long been favoured by the Japanese but has only recently started to catch the eye of visitors. Located off the coast of Kyushu, the island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hosts cedar forests filled with trees dating back thousands of years and soaring mountains to explore making it a great hiking spot. In fact, most visitors come to the island to hike through the forests and see the ancient cedar trees. The island is also the largest nesting ground for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle in the North Pacific. Due to its isolation, steep terrain and exceptional climate, Yakushima is one of Japan’s natural wonders. The rocky coastline and the verdant mountains rising sharply in the centre of the island are often spectacular, with the pink sunrises and blood red sunsets over the Pacific providing for breath-taking views.


3. India

work in IndiaJust like The Great Wall is China’s most famous sight, the same can be said for the Taj Mahal being India’s most famous one. The Taj Mahal is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra during the 17th century. It was ordered to be build by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal and is considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture. It holds the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, which is the centrepiece of a 17-hectare complex that includes a mosque and a guest house. The most spectacular feature is the marble dome that surmounts the tomb. The dome is nearly 35 metres high and accentuated by the cylindrical “drum” it sits on. The Taj Mahal incorporates and expands on design traditions of Persian and earlier Mughal architecture. However, while earlier Mughal buildings were primary constructed of red sandstone, Shah Jahan promoted the use of white marble inlaid with semiprecious stones. The Taj Mahal complex is bordered on three sides by crenelated red sandstone walls. Outside the walls are several additional mausoleums, including those of Shah Jahan’s other wives, and a large tomb for Mumtaz’s favourite servant.

live and work in IndiaIn the north-east state of Arunachal Pradesh in India, a more hidden destination can be found. The Tawang Monastery is the largest monastery in India and second largest Buddhist Monastery in the world after the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The monastery was build back in the 17th century and is home to around 450 residential monks. To visit the state, you need a special permit which is why only a handful of foreign visitors make it all the way to the Monastery every year, making it a great off-the-track destination for anyone looking for something more hidden. The monastery has its own printing press, where wooden blocks and local paper are used to print religious books. Its library holds valuable ancient manuscripts such as Kangyur, a translated version of the canons of Buddhist teaching, and Tengyur, a compilation of commentaries on Buddhist teaching. All the halls are brightly coloured and beautifully decorated with many festival celebrations being held in the large courtyard of the monastery such as the Tawang-Torgya, a festival exclusively held in the monastery. It takes place annually, and is a celebration of the Monpa people, which takes place according to the Buddhist calendar.


4. Thailand

work in ThailandBucket Lists also can include festivals or events you wish to attend and take part in. This is the case of the Yee Peng Festival celebrated in Chiang Mai. The event takes place every year in Northern Thailand on the full moon of the second lunar month of the Lanna calendar (usually around mid-November). It is actually celebrated at the same time as Loy Krathong, which both take the name of “festival of lights”. Although very similar, they differentiate themselves in that in Loy Krathong floating lights are released into the river, whereas in Yee Peng, the lights are placed into sky lanterns which float up into the air. Alongside the floating light ceremonies, there are also parades, fireworks, displays of colourful lanterns and other cultural highlights involving the Lanna. According to history, it’s during this time in which locals believe the rivers are filled to their fullest and the moon is at its brightest making it the perfect time to ‘take merit’ and set your floating krathong off on the Ping River or light your lantern and make a wish for good fortune in the new year. The act of releasing the lantern and krathong symbolizes letting go of all ills and misfortunes in the previous year.

intern in ThailandOne not so known destination in Thailand is Kanchanaburi. Despite not being that far away from Thailand’s capital Bangkok, it’s the exact opposite. The town is equal parts scenic and tranquil with an increasingly thriving backpacker scene taking advantage of the chilled-out riverside vibe with easily accessible waterfalls and national parks.  Here you’ll find floating restaurants along the river, shops and buildings surrounded by verdant jungle, and a spectacular food scene. The town is also an ideal base for exploring some of Thailand’s rural gems. However, Kanchanaburi also has a dark past. During World War II, the town was under Japanese control and it was here that Asian forced labourers and Allied POWs to build the famous Burma Railway, a rail route to Myanmar. Many died while constructing it from disease, maltreatment, or accidents. This event was later immortalised in films. For most visitors the main sight of interest is the Bridge over the River Kwai, which serves as the start of this infamous World War II Death Railway to Myanmar. Other notorious sights include ttwo museums that commemorate the death and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.


5. Cambodia

Angkor wat CambodiaAnother widely known Asian destination is Angkor Wat in Cambodia, a temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture and has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag. It combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple-mountain and the later galleried temple. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than to the east. This has led many to conclude that Suryavarman intended it to serve as his funerary temple.

Being the location in Cambodia to attract the most number of visitors and therefore the “centre of attention”, very few visitors make it to the Cardamom Mountains. This majestic mountain range in Cambodia’s southwest is a biodiversity hotspot and one of the last remaining wild elephant corridors. It’s also home to a community project in which you can help plant trees to combat forestry. Due to the fact that it’s home to Cambodia’s highest peak, Phnom Aural, it is also a great location for hiking. The mountains also contain many 15th to 17th century sites containing exotic ceramic jars and rough-hewn log coffins set out on remote, natural rock ledges, scattered around the mountains. The jar burials are a unique feature of the mountain and are a previously unrecorded burial practice in Khmer culture history.


6. Indonesia

indonesian temple

Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Borobudur. This Buddhist stupa and temple complex is located in Central Java and is considered to be the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Build in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple design follows Javanese Buddhist architecture, which blends the Indonesian indigenous cult of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana. The temple demonstrates the influences of Gupta art that reflects India’s influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make it uniquely Indonesian. It remains a popular destination for pilgrimage and once a year, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument.

For those of you who prefer to go to less crowded places, but still want to experience Indonesian culture you might want to consider this more off-the-track destination. Ratu Boko provides perhaps an even more imaginative glimpse of the region’s cultural and religious origins than Borobudur. Set on a ridge called the Thousand Hills, Ratu Boko offers expansive views of Prambanan as well as Java’s most active volcano, Mt Merapi. In striking contrast to other Classic-period sites in Central Java and Yogyakarta, which are remains of temples, this archaeological site displays attributes of an occupation or settlement site. The central section of the compound consists of the main gates, a crematorium temple, a pool, a stone pedestal and the paseban (audience hall). Apart from the temples that still stand there, the site has also yielded smaller artefact including statues, both Hindu and Buddhist suggesting that both religions lived together on this site. Despite the large quantity and variety of remains found there, the exact functions of Ratu Boko site is still unknown. Some believe it was the former palace of ancient Mataram Kingdom, others interpret this site as a monastery whilst a third group believe it was a place for rest and recreation.


INTERNSHIP – The perfect combination

Internships are a perfect opportunity to not only visit and discover a new place, but also immerse yourself properly into the culture of that location. Whilst you’re improving and gaining new skills and knowledge and enhancing your CV, an internship allows you to also learn about the local culture, try out new food, visit places you’ve never been to before, go on new adventures and give you the experience of a lifetime. That’s why we believe that crossing off the above bucket list with the combination of an internship placement makes for a perfect experience.

work in asiaDuring your internship placement abroad, you’ve got different options. You can choose an above bucket list location as your internship placement and explore the country whilst at the same time living there and immersing yourself more in the local culture. In China, Hutong School provides you with the perfect package of securing you an internship placement in cities such as Shanghai or Beijing whilst at the same time helping you out every step of the way with more complicated things such as getting a visa. Shanghai and Beijing are both great cities to live in and experience Chinese culture and also give you the perfect opportunity to discover other sites in China such as the Great Wall or the Wudang Shan Mountains. As one of the world’s three leading financial epicentres, Japan is home to some of the biggest international companies in the world and provides enviable professional and internship opportunities. Here, you can choose to do your internship directly in the epicentre of Japan, Tokyo, and live the city life, and use your free time to explore other, not so crowded areas of Japan. Or, if you’d rather go live somewhere more quiet and peaceful during your internship and visit Tokyo on your free time, enjoy the more laid-back and relaxed site of Japan and go to Okinawa. If you’re up to taking on a more unique internship in areas such as journalism or human rights, choose Internship Nepal. With their help you can intern in the more mysterious and lesser known city of Kathmandu and use your free time to explore the Kathmandu Valley and the Himalaya Region.

Some other locations from our bucket list can still be combined with your internship but might be better considered as a holiday destination before, during or after your internship. Some of them like Thailand make for a great short-escapade from your busy schedule as an intern. Relax at one of Thailand’s beaches, go island hopping or enjoy the Festival of Lights in Chiang Mai, recharge your energy and head back to your internship location feeling refreshed and ready to give it your best for the rest of your internship duration. If you’re interning in one of Asia’s big and bustling cities, Cambodia is a great go-to place to enjoy the contrast of these mega-cities. You can visit India either before or after your internship in Nepal and Indonesia makes for a great destination as a reward for your hard work during your internship. This way you can use your first days exploring the country and then spend your last days of your vacation at one of the many beaches Indonesia has to offer.

Why not combine multiple bucket list locations in one single trip? Choose one of these locations as your internship destination and then use your free time before, after and/or during your placement to visit some of the other bucket list locations. This way you get to cross multiple items off your list in one go!

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