I travel to the Far East a lot as you can tell from the volume of articles I have published about the region. Whether I’m in Japan, China or any of the other countries that make up this region of the world, I love the friendly people, the delicious food, the impressive technology and interesting culture, to name just a few features. As far as my own travels are concerned, I have a simple rule: When it doubt, head east. Here are five fabulous Far East cities for you to enjoy.
Osaka is probably my favorite food city in the world, particularly local street food like takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Great eats are literally everywhere in Japan’s third-largest city, from the restaurants and food stalls that line the Dotonbori pedestrian street, to makeshift markets set up in alleyways and even at shrines! Osaka is not only a great destination in itself, but is also within easy day trip distance of nearby treasures like Kyoto and Nara.
Beijing is a city many people love to hate, but not me. Even if you ignore the fact that the Great Wall of China is just a couple hours away by car, Beijing is one of the few places in the world that truly has it all: Ancient places like the Forbidden City and Lama Temple; Tian’anmen Square, the world’s largest public plaza; and the skyscraper-filled Guomao District. What’s more is that in spite of its reputation as a polluted place, Beijing has plenty of green space, from the central Jingshan Park to the sprawling Summer Palace.
Although Shanghai is just a quick flight from Beijing, it couldn’t be more different. Here, the emphasis is decidedly on the modern, with architectural marvels like the futuristic Oriental Pearl Tower and the new Shanghai Tower, which is one of the tallest buildings in the world. Of course, in spite of its contemporary sheen, Shanghai’s got plenty of heritage. Step into Shanghai’s past at spots like Jing’an Temple and Yuyuan Gardens.
Move over, New York – Tokyo is the true city that never sleeps! Whether you chase neon signs in Shinjuku, cross the world’s busiest intersection in Shibuya, spot crazy fashion in Harajuku, overload on anime in Akihabara or watch a tuna auction before dawn at Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo is 24 hours of fun. Tip: For priceless views of Mt. Fuji towering over Tokyo, ascend the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills just before sunset.
Seoul gained international fame in 2012 due to Psy’s massive hit “Gangnam Style,” but K-Pop is only the beginning of all there is to love about the capital of South Korea. Trace the steps of Korean emperors at Gyeonbukgung Palace, step back in time in the Bukchon Hanok Village, ride bikes beside the Han River, watch sunset from Mount Namsam or relax along Cheonggyecheon, a natural stream that flows through the heart of Seoul’s skyscrapers.
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who’s been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as “CNNGo” and “Shanghaiist” along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.