02 Jan Asia By Foot: 4 Non-Touristy Walks to Explore in 2020
What better way to start off the new year — decade, even! — and end your Christmas break than to discover the hidden treasures around you? And what better way to truly take in these sights than by getting around by foot? Below, you will find travel tips for, and walks in, four neighbourhoods in Southeast Asia: Sai Kung in Hong Kong, Downtown Yangon in Myanmar, Nyuh Kuning in Bali, Indonesia and Galle Fort in Galle, Sri Lanka.
The commonality between these four walking routes is not just that they are all incredibly scenic, they are surprising too. Curated by locals, these routes will steer you away from typical tourist traps. Please note that the article below features a few highlights of these four neighbourhood walks. To access the full routes with interactive GPS maps, photos, stories, fun facts, history and more, download our app in the App Store or Google Play. Don’t worry, it’s 100% free: there are no in-app purchases. So what are you waiting for? Charge your phone, put on your sneakers and start exploring! Happy 2020!
SAI KUNG | Hong Kong
Surrounded by acres of country park and pristine beaches, the picturesque town of Sai Kung has the laid-back atmosphere of a holiday island. Together with local youth, we put together a journey beyond the obvious seafood recommendations along the bustling waterfront promenade and into the small alleyways in Sai Kung old town.
Highlights of this walk include…
#iShop: Floating Fish Market
A daily market near Sai Kung’s public Pier
“I have been fishing for 40 years,” Says local fisherman Mr Lo. “I started when I was around 10 years old. “I’m in my boat at 5 am every day to catch fish,” he states. Ten minutes away is his secret fishing spot, somewhere at Au Mei harbour. Once there, Mr Lo drops his net and stays there for up to five hours. Mr Lo is one of the many fishermen who sell their catches of the day, converting their speedboats into mini fish markets, in Sai Kung. Look down at the boats and take in the potpourri of fresh seafood, ranging from brown mantis shrimps to bright red garoupa. Decided what you would like to eat? Simply shout down your orders at the fisherman and they will hand it to you in a bucket hanging on a stick. “My biggest fish was 10kg garoupa. I just sold it here,” Mr Lo smiles.
Sai Kung Hoi Pong Square
#iSurprise: Sai Kung’s Cows
Symbols of Sai Kung, roaming the town day and night
Cows are synonymous with Sai Kung; you’ll see them absolutely everywhere! During Hong Kong’s industrial boom in the 1960s and 70s, many farmers in the New Territories abandoned their farming lifestyle in search of better, higher-paying jobs. Their livestock was released into the wild, and their descendants live in the Sai Kung area up until today.
#iEat: Loaf On
The first restaurant in Sai Kung to earn a Michelin star
Loaf On is the first restaurant in Sai Kung to be featured in the Michelin guide. Serving up traditional Canton Cuisine, this famous seafood restaurant is located in a classic, renovated Hong Kong village house. Loaf On welcomes you to bring your own seafood to be cooked by the chef, or simply ask the waiter what is fresh. We highly recommend you to try their razor clams in black bean sauce, deep-fried abalone seasoned with salt and pepper, steamed fish with soy sauce, mantis shrimp with chilli and pepper and Sai Kung baked rice.
49 See Chuen Street | Open daily 11 am – 11 pm | +852 27929966
DOWNTOWN YANGON | Myanmar
Walking along the city’s grand Pansodan boulevard, it’s not difficult to imagine the cosmopolitan grandeur of old Rangoon with its prominent banks, grand mansions and luxurious department stores. While the once prestigious pastel-coloured facades may be crumbling, the city’s charm and uniqueness is again attracting entrepreneurs from all over Myanmar and beyond, who are bringing creative retail and restaurant concepts as well as a fresh coat of paint to Yangon.
Highlights of this walk include…
#iShop: Book Market
Literary treasures on the sidewalk
The corner of Pansodan and Merchant has been a book market since the 1950s. Popularly known as the ‘street-side university’, the market used to be a meeting point for intellectuals, artists and historians. It was not uncommon to bump into a famous poet or writer while roaming the stalls! As of today, the book trade is still very much alive: local sellers display their books on rickety wooden shelves or cardboard boxes on the ground. Some of it would classify as literary rubble, but some digging will get you interesting titles hidden between the piles of old, new and copied books and magazines. Books aren’t priced, so there’s a nice excuse to strike up a highbrow conversation or a good haggle.
Pansodan Street, Lower Middle Block | Open daily 9 am – 6 pm
#iSee: Turbantia Building
Yangon’s only original Dutch gable building
Built in the early 20th Century, the gable of the old Stork & Co headquarters gives away the owners’ Dutch roots. Frederik Stork was a very successful textiles machinery and rubber entrepreneur as well as a consul of the Netherlands. The company’s massive red brick office building is called ‘Tubantia’, the Latin name of the Dutch province of Twente, where he grew up. The 1910 chronicle reports: “Stork has recently built commodious offices in Lewis Street, which are the first of their kind in Rangoon. Here spacious godowns are provided for the storage of stock, while the rest of the building is set apart for offices and living quarters for assistants.”
57 Seikkantha Street
#iEat: Rangoon Teahouse
A traditional teahouse with a contemporary twist
When UK-raised local Htet Myet Oo returned to his home country, he fell in love. He spent endless hours rediscovering the nooks and crannies in the city of his early youth. Inspired by the local tea house culture, he rented a lofty place on the first floor of the dilapidated Pansodan office building and injected a contemporary feel into the traditional tea house experience. Kitted out with original nan ovens and noodle steamers, the place is as popular with locals as it is with travellers. The menu offers over 30 choices of the local speciality la phet yay, Burmese milk tea with specific ratios of black tea, steamed milk and condensed milk.
77-79 Pansodan Street, Lower Middle Block | Open daily 8 am-10 pm | +95 1 1224534
NYUH KUNING | Bali, Indonesia
2hrs － 2.5km － 6000 steps
Located in the heart of Bali, Nyuh Kuning is a charming eco-friendly village. Its frangipani-lined streets radiate an atmosphere of spirituality and creativity. Surrounded by serene rice paddies and shrouded in rich heritage is a proud, tight-knit community that welcomes you to their homes to eat, play, pray and love.
Highlights of this walk include…
#iSurprise: Nyuh Kuning Gate
A monkey’s welcome to Nyuh Kuning
Two stone sculptures of praying monkeys welcome you to Nyuh Kuning. The statutes represent the fun character of the village, as well as its deep roots in fine artistry. As you pass through the village you will notice that every home, temple, and business is adorned with two stone sculptures, one on each side of the entry to greet you. The stone carvings are a community initiative which started about ten years ago to give Nyuh Kuning a unique identity while maintaining its traditional integrity. Each family commissioned their own custom stone carving, sculpted on-site by local sculptors. Today, seventy homes have a unique pair of statues adorning the doorways: comical animals, funny figures or more spiritual Hindu gods. The best part is that the stone carvings reflect the owner’s personalities. Boy, would we like to meet some of these characters!!!
Jl. Nyuh Bulan
#iDrink: Bali Bohemia
Funky café among the monkeys
This laidback restaurant and boutique hotel is located right next to the Monkey Forest entrance. Sprawling two floors, Bali Bohemia boasts colourful murals and a wall featuring works by local artists. The place serves up delicious fresh fruit juices, cocktails as well as a healthy and fresh food menu. Their patio is a fantastic spot to get out of the sun and enjoy watching Bali’s naughty monkeys monkeying around. The staff has their ways to keep the monkeys from joining your table, slingshot in hand!
Jl. Nyuh Bojog | Fri-Wed 7 am-10 pm, Thurs 7 am -11 pm | +62 813 3888 4756
#iSee: Subak Uma Desa
Lush rice fields
A meandering footpath takes you through some pristine rice paddies. This is what Bali is all about. Watch the farmers toil their fields and kids fly their kites. Rice farming in Bali is a community affair. All rice farmers are obliged to join a subak (water management system) association to jointly decide on planting, crops, pest control and irrigation. What makes this system even more unique, is the strong spiritual element. Every rice field has a shrine, every subak a temple and to ensure a good harvest, there can be as many as 15 blessing ceremonies per season.
Jl. Raya Nyuh Kuning
GALLE FORT’S ARCHITECTURE | Galle, Sri Lanka
2 hrs － 3km － 3700 steps
The rendezvous of Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial powers on the shores of Sri Lanka left its mark in the streets of Galle Fort. The massive moss=dappled stone ramparts were built to withstand armies and welcomed an influx of traders, adventurers, merchants and missionaries within its walls. By building jetties, mansions, warehouses, courts, churches, mosques and temples, these voyagers made Galle a colourful melting pot of cultures and religions. Today the iconic historic monuments, beautifully renovated hotels and picturesque pastel-coloured streets tell the story of that magnificent multi-layered past.
Highlights of this walk include…
#iSurprise: First Jetty
The place where it all began
Today, the jetty outside the old gate may look like any other concrete pier, but this is where the history of Galle as a major trading hub began. Here, the first generation of seafarers first set foot in the country. “It all started with the story of the legendary Sinbad the Seaman who peddled across the water and found a river full of gems. Sinbad’s legend inspired generations of adventurers, explorers and seafarers to seek fame and fortune at this serendipitous piece of coastline,” says Galle-based historian Mark Thompson.
#iSurprise: Historical Mansion
This family museum in a lovingly restored building is a real treasure trove
This family house was one of the first renovated houses in Fort. “When my father bought it in 1978, it was in a dilapidated condition. He was always a passionate antique collector – on family trips our van would come to an abrupt stop as soon as he spotted some old treasure on the side of the road,” says Nasser Hussain, co-owner of the Historical Mansion. “Few walls were left, but we did find some original door frames belonging to the Portuguese Period of Galle.” The family has opened their house to visitors and this lovely little museum is worth a visit. A true treasure trove, it is chock-a-block with plates, bowls, chairs, coins, clocks, stamps, spoons and other cherished finds.
Leynbaan Street | Open daily 9 am-6 pm | +94 912234114
One of Fort’s iconic buildings on the site of the Dutch gunpowder storage
This is Fort’s second lighthouse. The first one at Galle Pointe (Flag Rock Bastion), which was imported all the way from Scotland, burned to the ground in the middle of the night in 1936. It was quickly replaced by this lighthouse, constructed with fireproof brick and steel. The lighthouse stands at Utrecht Bastion on top of the old Dutch gunpowder storage (kruithuis). It still guides ships into the bay to this day, its light is visible up to fifteen miles at sea.
Ready to take the route less travelled in 2020? Bring us with you!
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