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10 Asian Cities You Must Visit in 2024

10 Asian Cities You Must Visit in 2024

BY DAVIS TURNER January 07, 2024 0 COMMENTS

 

There are so many fantastic cities in Asia, but here are my personal top ten. With airline advice and a list of things to do at each destination, this article will get you thinking about your next trip!

 

Tokyo, Japan

 

Tokyo is well known as the capital of Japan and is famous for its mix of historic temples and shrines alongside modern buildings constructed in abundance post-WW2. This makes for a unique travel experience rich in entertainment, liveliness, and history. 

 

Photo: Davis Turner

 

In my experience traveling to Tokyo, it is essential you visit Tokyo Skytree, Senso-Ji, and the neighboring Asakusa area, watch a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome, walk around the Imperial Palace grounds, check out interesting neighborhoods like Koenji and Nakameguro, and perhaps walk in Ginza admiring all the shops. 

 

Photo: Davis Turner

 

For those familiar with Studio Ghibli, I recommend the Ghibli Museum. It is truly impressive how many international brands have flagships in Tokyo; Fender, for example, has its only brick-and-mortar store in Ginza. There are also several Japanese brands with stores nearby.

 

Photo: Davis Turner

 

If you are thinking of going to Tokyo, you have many options. All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) both operate numerous flights internationally out of Tokyo's two airports—Narita (NRT) and Haneda (HND). ZipAir Tokyo, a low-cost subsidiary of JAL that commenced operations in 2020, operates entirely international low-cost flights out of Tokyo-Narita, flying to Honolulu (HNL), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and San Jose (SJC) in the United States. 

 

ANA has launched its competitor, Air Japan, but they have yet to launch service to the United States. Most major U.S. flag carriers - including Delta, American, and United - also operate flights to Tokyo's two airports. 

 

Photo: A T | AeroXplorer

 

The following carriers have direct service from the U.S. to one of Tokyo's airports:

 

  • All Nippon Airways from Chicago-O'Hare, Honolulu, Houston-Intercontinental, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Francisco, and Washington-Dulles
  • American Airlines from Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles
  • Delta Air Lines from Atlanta, Detroit, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Seattle
  • Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu
  • Japan Airlines from Boston, Chicago-O'Hare, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Diego, and San Francisco
  • United Airlines from Chicago-O'Hare, Guam, Houston-Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, Saipan, and Washington-Dulles
  • Zipair Tokyo from Honolulu, San Francisco, and San Jose

 

Seoul, South Korea

 

Seoul is one of the world's best cities, not to mention Asia's best. It is well known for its cuisine, globally-renowned music and entertainment (K-Pop, amongst other things), and retains numerous elements of Korean history. Perhaps you have seen the movie Parasite and admired the streetscapes; this is Seoul! 

 

It is also well connected to the rest of South Korea by the Korea Train Express (KTX), so it is a great place to start exploring South Korea. Consider visiting the Gyeongbokgung—the oldest and largest Joseon Dynasty palace—or Changdeokgung, which is the most well-preserved. If you want an impressive building that rivals Tokyo Skytree, N Seoul Tower is just that.

 

Photo: Dohwan Kim | AeroXplorer

 

There are numerous ways to reach Seoul by plane, as the city has two airports: Incheon (ICN) and Gimpo (GMP), although Gimpo has no international flights. Asiana Airlines and Korean Air square off in a tense competition, both offering ample flights to American destinations, including San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Honolulu (HNL), and New York (JFK). Hybrid carrier operates to Seoul-Incheon (ICN) from both Newark (EWR) and Los Angeles (LAX). Given the many options, many passengers fly directly into Seoul, although connecting flights are available via other Asian destinations.

 

The following carriers have direct service between the U.S. and Seoul-Incheon:

 

  • American Airlines from Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Asiana Airlines from Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, Seattle, and San Francisco
  • Delta Air Lines from Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Seattle
  • Korean Air from Boston, Chicago-O'Hare, Guam, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington-Dulles

 

Photo: Josh H. | AeroXplorer

 

Hong Kong

 

Once a British colony, the small island region boasts one of the world's largest and strongest finance industries, a unique housing density, and impressive shopping districts. Consider exploring Mongkok or riding the Ngong Ping 360 to Lantau Island, where a Buddha statue awaits. You might also want to ride the Peak Tram to the upper reaches of the main Hong Kong Island, where you can view the entirety of the city from an excellent vantage point.

 

Photo: Davis Turner

 

Hong Kong is also a hub for commercial and cargo aviation. There are, however, fewer ways to reach Hong Kong from America due to the flight length. The airline boasts one major flag carrier - Cathay Pacific - often renowned for its luxury. Low-cost airlines have attempted to compete in the past, notably Hong Kong Airways, but much of its international operations have been curtailed. For quite some time, before the launch of the A350, Singapore Airlines offered a 777 route to Singapore from San Francisco, making a stop in Hong Kong. Since the introduction of the A350, this is no longer offered.

 

Photo: Davis Turner

 

Cathay Pacific offers nonstop flights to Hong Kong from San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago-O'Hare, and New York-JFK. United Airlines also directly serves Hong Kong from their SFO and LAX hubs.

 

Photo: Davis Turner

 

Singapore

 

Food hubs and shopping abound in Singapore, with lavish resorts to boot. The politically-strong, economic powerhouse of a country brings in millions of tourists yearly and is one of the world's most well-known cities. While not as large as Tokyo, the city now has more millionaires than Hong Kong, and its terrific skyline is perhaps a reflection of that. 

 

View of Singapore's skyline from Facebook's office | Photo: George Mwangi

 

At One Fullerton rests the Merlion—a statue symbolic of a lion and mermaid—and reflects Singapore's core beliefs and values. Nearby are many shops and restaurants. You might also want to check out the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, which is quite possibly one of the most photographed hotels in the world.

 

Gardens by the Bay | Photo: George Mwangi

 

However, the city's main airport, Changi, only sees one flag carrier, Singapore Airlines, responsible for nearly all American operations. The airline serves Los Angeles, Newark, New York-JFK, San Francisco, and Seattle. United is the only US-based airline serving Singapore, with flights to San Francisco.

 

Inside Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) | Photo: George Mwangi

 

Taipei, Taiwan

 

Taipei may not have the size of Tokyo or the wealth of Hong Kong and Singapore, but it is quite the destination if you are looking for incredible food and bustling markets. Across Taiwan, numerous temples and museums are attractive to locals and tourists alike. Many things we enjoy in America today - milk tea - are original products of Taiwan. 

 



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I'd recommend going to the top of Taipei 101, which at one point in time was the world's tallest building. You may also be interested in the Longshan Temple, Taipei's oldest temple. The Beitou Hot Springs may be a great place to relax, given the cluster of spas nearby.

 

Taipei enjoys strong competition between EVA Air and China Airlines, which have formidable international route networks. These are the possible ways to fly from the U.S. to Taipei:

 

 

Photo: Jasper Kringen | AeroXplorer

 

Shanghai, China

 

Shanghai is one of the world's fastest-growing cities in the 21st century, serves as China's biggest city, and remains a key global financial hub. The sheer economic output in the city is massive: the GDP of Shanghai exceeds the overall GDP of Mexico, and the Port of Shanghai is the busiest in the world. 

 



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Why not visit this waterfront-adjacent, futuristic, wealthy city? If you see the Bund, you will have a perfect 180-degree view of the skyline, which happens to be one of the most Instagrammable skylines in the world. If you are interested in temples, the Longhua temple is Shanghai's oldest and largest.

 

Like most Chinese cities, more than one airline serves international flights. In this case, however, many of the reachable American destinations are only served by U.S.-based airlines. These are the nonstop routes:

 

  • American Airlines from Dallas/Fort Worth
  • China Eastern Airlines from Los Angeles and San Francisco
  • Delta Air Lines from Detroit, Los Angeles, and Seattle
  • United Airlines from San Francisco

 

Photo: Sebastian Colaizzi | AeroXplorer

 

Bangkok, Thailand

 

Bangkok is an excellent place to start for travelers looking to visit Southeast Asia. Very few cities in the world can beat the nightlife of Bangkok, not to mention the street food of India and Vietnam. While there, you may want to immerse yourself in floating markets or visit various temples. If you are a fan of spas and massages—especially the namesake Thai massage—then Bangkok is the perfect place for you. Massages are nearly everywhere in Thailand.

 

There are no direct flights from the United States to Bangkok: Thai Airways ended its route serving Los Angeles, albeit with a one-hour stop in Seoul. Thailand's flag carrier also formerly served Dallas/Fort Worth, New York-JFK, and Seattle. Many passengers now opt for a one-stop connecting flight through Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei, or Singapore.

 

Photo: Dhia Danish | AeroXplorer

 

Hanoi, Vietnam

 

Vietnam has long been a popular destination for tourists, and rightfully so. Hanoi and Vietnam offer some of the world's very best food—especially noodle dishes—and are exceptionally scenic. The National University and Temple of Literature, constructed in 1070 and dedicated to Confucious and other scholars, are right next to one another and worth checking out. The Vietnam Military History Museum may be interesting if you are interested in war history. Several beaches also flank the country, and the world's largest cave is right in the center of the country. 

 



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Vietnam's main flag carrier is Vietnam Airlines. Bamboo Airways has a robust domestic network, although they abandoned all international flights in late 2023, including their flight to San Francisco. There is only one direct route to Vietnam: San Francisco (SFO) - Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), operated by Vietnam Airlines. Passengers traveling to Hanoi can easily transfer at SGN or other major Asian airports.

 

Photo: Andrew Mauro | AeroXplorer

 

Macau

 

Macau is one of the world's wealthiest cities and is in the top ten cities worldwide regarding revenue obtained from international tourists. This reason is quite clear: a strong gambling industry that beats out Las Vegas. Macau is a great place to travel for any traveler looking to win money or simply explore Portuguese heritage in Asia. You cannot go wrong at any cafe that sells Portuguese-style egg custard tarts - it is a must-eat. If traveling in the springtime, the easter buffet at the Wynn is unbeatable.

 

Photo: Davis Turner

 

Unfortunately, there are no direct flights to Macau from the United States as the city's airport is rather small. One-stop layovers are available at nearly every major Asian airport, including Shanghai (PDG), both Tokyo airports, Singapore (SIN), Beijing (PKX), and others. Hong Kong is approximately one hour away by bus, which crosses the world's longest sea crossing.

 

Photo: Davis Turner

 

Delhi, India

 

New Delhi is the capital city of India and is world famous for the Taj Mahal south of the city. Delhi is also the political hub of India, with the Parliament resting within city limits. Additional landmarks include the Red Fort, India Gate, and Humayun's Tomb. If you are looking for an alternative perspective on religion, consider visiting the Lotus Temple, a 19th-century worship house for the Bahai faith.

 

Photo: Jack Oliver | AeroXplorer

 

Delhi is often a starting point for any traveler looking to visit India. It is quite reachable from the United States, with multiple nonstop flights from the following cities:

 

  • Air India from Chicago-O'Hare, Newark, New York-JFK, San Francisco, and Washington-Dulles
  • American Airlines from New York-JFK
  • United Airlines from Newark

 



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Interestingly, Air India serves other American destinations from other Indian cities, including Mumbai and Bangalore. Mumbai is reachable from Newark, New York-JFK, and San Francisco on Air India, and Bangalore is reachable from San Francisco on Air India as well.

 

Have you visited any Asian cities that you found are must-visits? Do you have additional recommendations for any of the cities above? Share your experiences in the comments below!

 

 

 

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Davis Turner
Planespotter and aviation journalist from the San Francisco Bay Area. Davis has previously worked on business plan research with StartupBoeing and historical analysis with Ricondo and Associates. Davis will be a freshman in college this fall, based in Chicago.

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TRIP REPORTS Asia Travel Destinations Tokyo Japan Seoul South Korea Hong Kong Singapore Taipei Taiwan Shanghai China Bangkok Thailand Hanoi Vietnam Macau Delhi India

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