The nicest cities in Asia are those cities where you planned to stay two nights, but ended up sticking for a week or more. We selected them for you: the 10 (+2) towns or villages in Asia where the atmosphere is so relaxed that you never want to leave.
1. Hoi An (Vietnam)
The perfect example of an ultimate town where the atmosphere is so nice and relaxed that you actually want to live there permanently. Hoi An is located in the middle of Vietnam and is the ideal stopover during a journey from north to south, or vice versa. In the car-free center you will find atmospheric streets full of lanterns, old wooden houses, delightful (cheap!) boutique hotels, nice restaurants and cozy bars. Rent a bike and you can drive straight into the countryside or to the quiet beach. Check out the cool things to do in Hoi An here.
2. Luang Prabang (Laos)
No matter how relaxed and charming the Laotian capital Vientiane is, you will be truly enchanted in dreamy Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang is also called the “Pearl of the Orient”. Dozens of Buddhist temples, smiling monks, lantern-lit streets, ornate French-Indochinese architecture and a photogenic location in the hills, between the Mekong and Nam Khan River. Luang Prabang has a magnetizing effect. Rent a bike and meander through the back streets of the old quarter, visit the colorful night market of the H’mong and get pampered at one of many spas (5 dollar for an hour of massage!). Just outside Luang Prabang are the beautiful Kuang Si waterfalls and the sacred caves of Pak Ou, which are full of Buddha statues.
3. Chiang Mai & Pai (Thailand)
We call them together, because visiting the small town of Pai without having first been to Chiang Mai is actually not even an option. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city and has been a traveler’s favorite for decades. The city (admittedly, it is not a small town) is located in the green, mountainous north of Thailand and is not only a pleasant, medium-sized city full of atmospheric boutique hotels, hip coffee bars, cozy street cafés, delicious eateries, ancient temples and bustling markets; Chiang Mai is also the base for the active person. Trekking, ziplining, rafting, quad biking, scooter rides along crocodile farms and botanical gardens: you can stay busy in the beautiful, natural environment of Chiang Mai. Visit the Elephant Nature Park to see how elephants are treated properly.
If you want to be more immersed in nature, then continue 3 hours further north to Pai. A backpack classic and hippie hangout, but also a lovely village on a river for the “ordinary” peace seeker, between rice fields and green hills. In Pai you book a spacious bungalow on the river for a few dollar, with your own veranda and hammock.
4. Kampot (Cambodia)
Kampot is located near the Vietnamese border on the Kampot River, a few kilometers from the Gulf of Thailand. It is such a typical sleepy river town in Cambodia with houses in old, decayed French-colonial architecture. Some of them now form nice, cheap boutique bars, restaurants or bars. Kampot is slowly but surely developing into a popular tourist town, but it will continue to have a relaxed vibe for the time being. Thanks to the French influences, croissants, wine and even fondue are possible here, just like pizzas, burgers, espresso and even tapas. The backdrop of the city are the Bokor Mountains, whose peaks hit the mist. Must do: a day with the scooter driving around the countryside outside Kampot. Everywhere friendly locals wave from their bikes or the verandas of their simple wooden houses. Especially the dusty country road towards Kep is beautiful.
5. Ubud (Bali, Indonesia)
Ubud is the cultural and spiritual heart of Bali and is beautifully situated between the rain forests and rice terraces. It is the place where fans of “Eat, Pray, Love” indulge in massages, ayurveda treatments and yoga classes. In and around the main street of the town, the Jalan Raya Ubud, you will find many local craft shops, coastal galleries, cafes and restaurants. In the Puri Saren Agung palace, daily performances are given by various Balinese dance groups. Also visit the Monkey Forest and the Monkey Cave. The nature around Ubud is breathtakingly beautiful, you can enjoy hiking through the rice fields, cycling in the area or rafting on the Ubud Ayung River.
6. Udaipur (India)
There are more beautiful relaxation towns in the fairytale-like Indian province of Rajasthan, but we opt for Udaipir. This small city is considered the most romantic city in India and is located in a valley along the azure blue Pichola lake. There are beautiful palaces in and on the lake, the highlight of which is the extravagant Lake Palace where the James Bond film Octopussy was filmed. Udaipur is the city to take it easy, and to enjoy delicious food and drinks at sunset, overlooking the lake.
7. Nong Khiaw & Muang Ngoi (Laos)
The remote river villages of Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi are Laos at its best: spectacularly located, withdrawn places where time stands still and you can combine your ultimate tranquility with trips to nearby caves and H’mong villages. Nong Khiaw is located about 3 to 4 hours (or 8 hours by boat) From Luang Prabang, on the edge of a cliff at the foot of the Nam Ou River. Around the village you will find an impressive blue-green karst mountains, the area is really beautiful here. You prefer to stay in Nong Khiaw right on the river, ideally a house with its own porch and hanging chair.
8. Lijiang (China)
The Chinese province of Yunnan is one of the most beautiful and popular regions of China among travelers. Here you will find many traditional minorities and authentic historic towns, of which Dali and especially Lijiang are the best known. Lijiang is one of the most beautiful provincial towns in China. Due to the system of waterways and bridges, the town is sometimes called the “Venice of the East”. The old center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Touristic? Yes. But in a good way. Stroll through the narrow, attractively lit streets full of lanterns, along the small rivers and the courtyards that are typical of the Naxi culture. Admire the old buildings with their carvings, traditional pillars and red decorations. And rent a bike to explore the area. In and around the city center of Lijiang there are dozens of rivers, small waterfalls and water features.
9. Georgetown, Penang (Malaysia)
Gorgetown is a city with half a million inhabitants and can therefore not be called a relaxed hanging town. It is not necessarily quiet there, in fact: totally not. But it is precisely this cozy and manageable chaos in Georgetown that makes you stick to it longer during a trip through Malaysia. Because where certain parts of Malaysia sometimes look a bit “un-Asian” and are fairly neat, clean and quiet, Penang – and especially in the capital Georgetown – is full of life and culture. The city is a mix of old and new, western and Asian, always full of life and activities. Busy Chinese shopping streets and eateries stand side by side with age-old temples, British-colonial buildings and trendy boutique cafes. What will keep you apart from the fun in Georgetown is the food. The Penang cuisine is unrivaled in Malaysia (and beyond) and everywhere on the street or in food courts you can eat the most delicious seasoned soups, curries, rice and noodle dishes for little.
10. Yogyakarta (Indonesia)
Smuggling again with a city of half a million inhabitants. But also Yogyakarta on Java is included in this list, especially after you have just come from large and ugly Jakarta. Yogyakarta is not the official one, but in our opinion it is the cultural capital of Indonesia. The city is the center of Javanese culture and is one of the few “fine” large Indonesian cities to stay. That is not only because the magical Borobudur is nearby, but also because of this university city itself: lots of culture, atmosphere and (nightlife) life in the brewery!