Asian beaches have a much different character than anything in the Western world. The sand is clean and the water warm, ocean life is abundant for the exploring, and there are plenty of opportunities for surfing, scuba diving, and boating. Or if you have a more sedentary afternoon in mind, you’ll usually find plenty of nearby places to lounge under a thatched roof or in a beach recliner, while people bring you tropical drinks in glasses made out of coconut shells.
With much of the coastlines in the tropical regions of Asia, it’s no small wonder that the beaches here are ranked as some of the most amazing in the world. Whether you’re lounging on a beach on an island off the coast of Thailand, on the South China Sea, or on the banks of the Mekong, you’re sure to have plenty to do. Beaches aren’t just beaches in Asia. You’ll see some great shopping with local craftspeople selling their wares, night markets, bazaars, and fabulous entertainment, along with some of the finest beachfront restaurants you could ever want.
After a relaxing day on the beach, you won’t have to go far to find something to eat, and in many cases, you won’t have to move at all. Many beaches have food stands and rows of beach chairs, and people waiting to take your order. But beyond that, there’s nothing like a good sit-down restaurant overlooking the water, so brush off the sand and head on over for some freshly-caught seafood! The variety is astounding. You’ll find restaurants on the pier and on floating barges, restaurants in boats, and restaurants on the sand. In Kanchanaburi Thailand, you can enjoy some fresh crab at a restaurant overlooking the Mae Kwai, with a perfect view of the historic “Bridge over the River Kwai”. For you youngsters born after World War Two, that’s right, it wasn’t just a movie, it’s a real place. Feel free to walk across it while whistling the theme song from the film.
Asia’s stunningly pure beaches are so compelling, you won’t want to leave. So why take a hotel room in town, when there are plenty of affordable, comfortable resorts right on the beach? There’s nothing like waking up in the morning and walking right out onto the sand to have your morning coffee as you watch the waves roll in off the sea. And depending on where you go, you will find a range of accommodations, ranging from a simple thatched hut to a five-star hotel. Those on a budget can still enjoy staying close to the beach with an amazing array of quaint bungalows and backpacker guest houses that will leave you with plenty of extra money in your pocket.
But while many regions are highly developed and feature luxurious accommodations, there are still plenty of unspoiled and undeveloped beachfront regions for those who want to rough it a little. Vietnam’s China Beach, which runs between Danang and Hoi An, is still largely undeveloped, and is a rare and beautiful gem in this Southeast Asian paradise. Closer to Danang, you will find more upscale resorts, but you’re just as likely to encounter a local spot with quaint grass huts to spend the night. Another rare and largely unexplored beachfront area is along the Sihanoukville coast in Cambodia, where you’ll still find accommodations built in traditional architectural styles.
Respect for Local Customs
The beautiful beaches throughout much of Asia attract people from all over the world, and tourists (and tourist dollars) are always welcome. But your trip will be more pleasant if you understand a bit about local customs, and resist imposing your own on the locals. Most local Asian cultures for example, tend to be modest, and public skinny-dipping or topless bathing is mostly a Western phenomenon. Yet many mistakenly believe that it is acceptable on Asian beaches. Respect the local customs and find out ahead of time whether it’s commonly accepted practice on any given beach before you drop your top.
Some of the most breathtaking beaches are also close by to other sites you may want to see, including Buddhist temples. Most Buddhist temples are open to the public, and the monks in residence are always quite happy to welcome visitors who want to have a look around. But avoid the temptation to walk straight from the beach to the temple in your bathing suit-custom requires you to dress modestly, with long pants (or a skirt for women), and a modest top that covers your arms.
Asia has become a prime surfing destination for those who seek the ultimate wave. Surfers visiting destinations like Padang Padang, Indonesia, or some of the warm waters off the Maldives, won’t be disappointed. If you’re an old pro, the surf will be high and the excitement unbelievable. If you’re a beginner or even a first-timer, don’t be intimidated though, you will find plenty of spots with more mild surf and capable instructors to get you started.
Beyond the Beach and Under the Water
Asia’s beaches are so spectacular you won’t need to go very far to satisfy your vacation needs, but if you venture out a little, you can also take a boat ride to get up close to the sea life, or even go scuba diving or snorkeling to get a look at what’s underneath the water. Asia has some of the most spectacular scuba sites, complete with places for training and for renting equipment. The Coral Triangle in Malaysia for example, offers incredible diversity and abundant colorful sealife; and world-famous Christmas Island offers amazing views of nature both above and underneath the water.
The Perfect Getaway
And the great thing about beaches in Asia is that no matter what time of year, you can find someplace warm. In the tropical regions, it is sunny year-round, so be sure to send a picture of yourself enjoying the warm waters back to your friends who are busy digging out from the latest snowstorm.
At least one day at the beach when visiting Asia is recommended. Some of the more populous regions, such as Hong Kong, will have more crowded beaches, but you won’t have to look far to find one that has room for you to carve out a little space of your own for the afternoon.