Asia’s Quirky Natural Wonders – Outdoor Experiences in China, Japan, and Thailand

in China, Japan, Thailand

When many people think of Asia they think of shopping up a storm in the cities and discovering the continent’s cultural heritage in temples and museums.

But some of Asia’s most interesting attractions are actually outdoors.

Just outside Kunming in China you’ll find the Shilin Stone Forest, a forest which really isn’t a forest at all, at least not in the way that most of us imagine. Rather than trees, the forest features thousands of differently shaped stones which appear to grow from the ground. Apparently the area was a shallow sea some 270 million years ago, but as the earth moved over time the water retreated and the limestone structures emerged. Visitors can discover attractions like the Major Stone Forest, Strange Wind Cave, and Subterranean Stone Forest over this 400 square kilometer space. If you can visit in June, it’s worth making a trip during the Torch Festival. The native Sani people demonstrate wrestling, lion-dancing, and bull-fighting, and legend says it’s the best time to meet Mr or Miss Right!

Shilin Stone Forest

The Shilin Stone Forest

For interesting animals and plants, look to the Bonin Islands off the Japanese coast. These 30 different islands were formed long ago by an ancient volcano, and have since evolved in their own unique ways. The islands are home to more than 14 different animals and 100 unique plant species including the protected Ogasawara damselfly, the Japanese Woodpigeon, and the Bonin Flying Fox. Access is difficult though, so you’ll need to be keen. The Ogasawara Maru liner leaves from Tokyo Bay four or five times each month, and takes around 25 hours to reach its destination.

Tourists can feel like royalty traveling on the backs of elephants in northern Thailand. The elephants will take you through the forests and hilltribe villages of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Kanchanaburi. There are rides to suit your time and budget, from a half-hour walk to a five-day expedition. The elephants are all well trained and love people, so you needn’t worry about being on the back of a petulant pachyderm!

Asia offers plenty of natural beauty and experiences for tourists; you’ve just got to know where to look!

[Image Source: Kent Wang/Flickr]

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