Camera-wielding tourists… we’ve all seen them. We’ve all been them. These are the vacationers who glide through the Louvre taking in the action through a viewfinder or camera-phones, never once coming up for air. These are the travelers who stand on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and are so overwhelmed by the natural beauty that they can’t take it in with the naked eye… only a selfie stick will do.
Capturing the moment and safeguarding memories is part of taking a vacation. And while it’s easy to criticize people for taking pictures to save the moment instead of living in the moment, saving the moment is an integral part of traveling. Who knows if or when you’re ever going to get back to see Shanghai’s Art Deco buildings, Hong Kong’s futuristic skyline, or the gardens of Kyoto. Here are the top places in Eastern Asia to take a great shot.
Shanghai’s Art Deco Buildings
Shanghai is the most well preserved major city in China. The city’s Art Deco era began in the 1920s and lasted through the mid-1940s, a building boom that created some of the most beautiful hotels, apartment buildings, private residences, and Art-Deco structures in the world. In the early 20th century, Chinese architects worked alongside international architects to create a range of unique styles that illustrated Shanghai’s devotion to progress, innovation, and modernity.
The Bund (or waterfront) has several examples of Art Deco buildings. However, if you’re looking for a shot that will make Hufton + Crow jealous, venture off the beaten path and visit the Shanghai Municipal Government buildings in the Jiangwan area of Yangpu District. These structures are Shanghai's best examples of the Ming Revival subgenre of Chinese Art Deco.
Thailand’s Remote Islands
Thailand is a county of raw natural beauty, but in order to find it, you’re going to have to travel beyond Phuket and Phi Phi, popular tourists sites where you’re more inclined to see throngs of tourists and 7-Elevens than palm-lined beaches and exotic cuisine. According to The Guardian, Thailand hosted 39 million international visitors in 2019.
A day trip to one of Thailand’s less trampled pockets is where you’re going to find a National Geographic-worthy photo. Islands such as Koh Kradan and Koh Phra Thong are where you can live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasies. The quiet beaches are fringed with cashew trees, there are emerald rainforests (70% of Koh Tarutao is covered injungle), craggy limestone outcrops to go caving, and quiet fishing villages selling cuisine fresh off the boat.
Japan’s former imperial city is so overloaded with grand temples, shrines, villas, tea houses, and colorful gardens that you’re not going to know what to visit (or take a picture of) first. The historic city is a carnival of color, a magical landscape best described as place where Madame Butterfly meets the Cave of the Enlightened Dragon.
Katsura Rikyu, a 400-year old retreat, is the city’s best garden. Small ponds, flower designs, and miniature, well-tended landscapes mimic famous scenes from Japanese history. The garden’s buildings, meanwhile, are the finest example of tea house-style sukiya architecture. Still, it doesn’t matter where you go in Kyoto, there is a picture worth a thousand words around every corner.