Hiking up rugged peaks for breathtaking views, sweeping descents and epic out-of-the-saddle climbs to explore ancient seats of power. Listening to the sounds of deep tropical forests whilst taking time out to sip traditional tea with hill tribe families. With all these exhilarating and rejuvenating activities – and many more besides – in its locker, it is little wonder that adventure tourism in Asia is on such a meteoric rise
The travel industry is a deeply competitive business with a multitude of strands to suit the varying tastes of clients. However, it is impossible to ignore the remarkable growth in demand for adventure. In 2014, a report by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) revealed that the adventure tourism sector has become a $263billion dollar market, growing an average 65% annually since 2009.
So what exactly is adventure tourism? After all, isn’t all travel an adventure of some sort? The ATTA defines adventure tourism as a trip that “includes at least two of three elements: physical activity, natural environment and cultural immersion.”
Emerging markets are outpacing developed economies. A report released in 2014 by the United Nations World Tourism Authority predicted that, during 2015, arrivals in emerging economies would exceed that of advanced economies and by 2030, 57% of all arrivals will be in emerging economies. This is thanks to rapid growth in in certain markets, especially Asia (UNWTO, 2014).
Asia & Adventure: A Match Made in Heaven
With its contrasting landscapes, diverse anthropological make-up and inescapable aura of exoticism, Asia is made for adventure. Whether it’s rafting down a roaring river, trekking to reach a summit for sunrise, or taking a leisurely kayak around the limestone karst-studded seascapes of Halong Bay in Vietnam or Krabi in Thailand, it is a travel destination with enough visceral options to satisfy even the most energetic explorer.
Early foreign adventurers in the region earned their stripes through discovery of lost civilizations, unique cultural fabrics and timeless ways of life. These days it is difficult to be quite so pioneering. Nevertheless, thrills such as scaling towering limestone cliffs or trekking through jungles and diving into crystal-clear pools provide an equally potent shot of adrenaline. Put simply, for travel experiences that are as active as they are inspiring, Asia is difficult to match.
EXO Adventure has identified the unquenchable appetite for adventure tourism and has the capacity and expertise to design and tailor trips in Asia that are guaranteed to thrill, amaze, and inspire awe. EXO Adventure is a specialist in hiking, cycling and multi-activity itineraries, encouraging accidental encounters and exploration. Being part of EXO Travel gives EXO Adventure a two-fold advantage. As well as being able to function independently and nimbly as a small operator, it can provide the cost advantages of a large destination management company. Dedicated local adventure teams in each destination oversee each trip from field research to handling clients on the ground and day-to-day operations. And, in order to exceed the expectations of clients, each team works closely together to ensure a consistent trip quality across multiple destinations.
“It is not so surprising that Adventure travel is rapidly growing,” comments Holly Richter, Director of Adventure at EXO Adventure. “With global, immediate access to information, I feel each of us is looking for different ways to travel. We search for something new, something unique, surprising – but now, in addition we look for ways to un-plug, reconnect to something larger, push ourselves out of our comfort zones, or try something out of the ordinary. Asia is full of unexpected experiences mixed with remote destinations to step back from the rapid pace of life.”
Explore Our Asia
With vast tracts of unspoiled nature sidling up to volcanic mountain ranges, Indonesia is one of Asia’s best destinations for trekking. Among the archipelago’s many climbable peaks, Mount Rinjani on the holiday island of Lombok is among the most accessible. The mountain, the second-highest volcano in Indonesia, is certainly no pushover, but its huge 50 kilometer caldera and Crater Lake are well worth expending the effort for.
For those seeking some easier trekking while visiting remote villages, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, and Thailand have stunning scenery alongside unique cultural experiences. In collaboration with the local Karen community in Thailand, we have developed a trek to unnamed waterfalls, through stances of Bamboo, pine forests, and moss covered wetlands. This is an area overlooked by many travelers because it is in the shadow of Thailand’s highest peak. But it is easily accessible from Chiang Mai and well worth the journey.
Asia is also well known as a cyclist’s paradise. We have become the training ground for national cycling teams, pro, and semi-pro racers. It is not unusual to spot a retired Tour de France racer in the northern Thailand hills. One reason for this is the climate. It is ideal for cycling all year round. Our terrain is another reason cycling is so popular, with steep climbs, winding descents, and meandering river valleys, ideal for cyclists of any ability.
One of the more unique routes in the region is in the Red River Delta in North Vietnam where the suburbs of the capital city Hanoi give way to undulating countryside, small timeless villages, and sweeping lavish landscapes near the town of Ninh Binh. Over in Cambodia, the utilization of pedal power reaches a mind-blowing peak on a multi-day voyage around some of the country’s most arresting cultural and less-visited sites. Kicking off in Siem Riep, the adventure takes in the famous temples at Angkor. Peddle through 1,000-year-old city gates, past crumbling temples of the recently discovered Beng Mealea Temple and the expansive ancient fort of Preah Vihear, a magnificent hill temple on Cambodia’s northern border with Thailand.
For those seeking something on an even more epic scale, there is plenty of scope in Southeast Asia to undertake multi-country adventures. One such itinerary takes place in Myanmar, Thailand and Laos where the journey kicks off in Burma’s former capital Yangon before heading deep into the Golden Triangle of Burma, to experience the diversity of people and ancestral traditions. Trek, cycle and kayak to explore this remote region, before diverting down the mighty Mekong River to Luang Prabang, the former royal capital of Laos.
Adventure activities needn’t eat up a sizeable chunk of an itinerary either. Day hikes or cycle trips are easily arranged while other activities such as zip-lining, caving, diving or skiing can also be simply done in a compact timeframe, leaving plenty of scope for more leisurely enjoyment of the region.
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