Elephant encounters in Thailand
Elephant encounters in Thailand Shirley Sinclair

Live it up for less in Asia

ASIA has always presented Australians with cheap and cheerful choices for overseas holidays.

However, with so many of the region's countries home to jaw-dropping landscapes, mouth-watering cuisines and cultures brimming with diversity and history, how do you choose the best from the rest?

For Aussies wanting a short-haul getaway, where they can stretch their travel budget even further, Expedia NAB Travellers' Foreign Currency Rankings has compiled a list of the top 10 destinations in Asia, according to the performance of the Australian dollar against the main Asia currencies in the past 12 months.

1) Vietnam

Topping the list as the best-value Asian destination, Vietnam is unsurprisingly a growing favourite among Aussie travellers.

Travellers can get a feel for the country's rich history with a visit to Hanoi or Hoi An, where the culture and heritage of Vietnam can be felt on every street corner. For those seeking to soak up some sun and sand, hit the beach at Nah Trang or Phu Quoc Island where the toughest decision of the day is whether to relax by the beach or the pool.

Expedia deal: Fly Malaysian Airlines and stay five nights at the three-star Hanoi Emotion Hotel in Hanoi. Priced from $1,056 per person ex Sydney.

A little something extra for $50: Wake up with the sun and spend a half-day touring Hanoi. Visit parks and marketplaces before learning to cook local dishes with a Vietnamese cooking class. Price for the Hanoi Sunrise Tour and Cooking Class from $45 per person.

2) Thailand

If sandy beaches, sparkling waters and a sun-kissed glow make for an ideal holiday, then one of Thailand's islands such as Koh Samui, Phuket or Koh Tao will tick all the boxes. Adventure-seekers won't feel left out on a trip to Thailand either, as the country is known for its outstanding diving and treks through magnificent jungles. For some hustle and bustle, head to Bangkok for a few nights. 

Expedia deal: Fly Emirates and stay six nights at the three-star Asia Hotel Bangkok in Bangkok. Priced from $978 per person ex Sydney.

A little something extra for $50: Board a boat and journey along the klongs of Bangkok to see traditional Thai homes and local ways of life. Back on land, explore Wat Po, the centre of Buddhism in Thailand and the oldest temple in Bangkok. Price for the Small-Group Tour: Temples and River of Kings from $44 per person

3) Hong Kong

Leave the beaches and resorts behind for the fast-paced bustling hub that is Hong Kong. Travel to The Peak for the best views of Victoria Harbour and catch A Symphony of Lights, the nightly display of light and music featuring more than 40 of the city's towering skyscrapers. Hong Kong won't fail to impress those in need of some retail therapy, with a healthy mix of high-end malls and street markets. Foodies will never be disappointed in this culinary capital, boasting more than 11,000 restaurants.  

Expedia deal: Fly Korean Air and stay five nights at the four-star The Royal Pacific Hotel & Towers in Hong Kong. Priced from $1,308 per person ex Sydney.

A little something extra for $50: Set sail on the 'Oriental Dragon' and take in panoramic views of Hong Kong from the city's world-famous harbour. Price for the Two-Hour Harbour Cruise from $38 per person.

4) Philippines

The Philippines, made up of more than 7,000 tropical islands, is the perfect destination for travellers wanting to discover a jewel of Southeast Asia. The Philippines is the go-to place for some of the world's best diving and snorkeling, Boracay Island is known for its nightlife and the Unesco World Heritage-listed Ifugao rice terraces are worth a visit.

Expedia deal: Fly Malaysia Airlines and stay five nights at the three-star Isabelle Royale Hotel & Suites in Manila. Priced from $1,025 per person ex Sydney.

A little something extra for $50: See Manila's past and present on a tour of the city. Start in the heart of the country's financial center and proceed to the old city of Manila before wrapping up with a visit to Fort Santiago, a Spanish Fortress. Price for the Manila Old and New Tour from $49 per person http://www.city-discovery.com/manila/

5) Malaysia

With the great expanse of the South China Sea separating the country in two, it is no wonder that Malaysia is as culturally diverse as it is geographically. A visit to capital Kuala Lumpur is the best place to experience this unique melting pot of cultures. For animal enthusiasts, Malaysian Borneo is an essential stop; its dense jungles are home to a diverse range of exotic wildlife including Proboscis monkeys, Asian elephants and Sumatran rhinos.

Expedia deal: Fly Malaysia Airlines and stay five nights at the four-star Swiss Garden Hotel Kuala Lumpur in Kuala Lumpur. Priced from $1,130 per person ex Sydney.

A little something extra for $50: See Kuala Lumpur come to life at night with a visit to the night market in Chinatown. Shop till you drop, enjoy an authentic Malaysian dinner and watch a cultural dance performance. Price for the Kuala Lumpur by Night Half-Day Tour with Dinner from $47 per person.

6) Cambodia

A visit to Cambodia will inspire and astound even the most seasoned travellers. After three decades of war, this enchanting treasure of Asia is becoming a popular holiday destination. The Tuol Sleng Museum in Phnom Penh offers travellers a glimpse back in history to face Khmer Rouge and Cambodia's dark past. See the breathtaking Angkor Wat, a keystone of any journey to Cambodia and be taken aback by the sheer enormity of the largest religious building in the world and then fast-track back to the present as Siem Reap comes to life at night with bars and pubs.

Expedia deal: Fly Malaysia Airlines and stay five nights at the three-star Macau Phnom Penh Hotel in Phnom Penh. Priced from $1,027 per person ex Sydney.

A little something extra for $50: In Phnom Penh, relive the past with tour of the chilling site memorialising Cambodia's turbulent past during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Price for the Half-Day Tour to the Killing Field of Choeung Ek from $42 per person.

7) China

A remarkable fusion of old and new, east and west, China is without a doubt the hallmark of adventure. From the ancient wonders of the Forbidden City to the glittering skyline of Shanghai, the vast plateau of Tibet and the tropical beaches of Sanya, China is truly a nation marked by diversity and contrasts. For the ultimate China experience, travellers can embark on a hike along the Great Wall or marvel at the wonders of Xian's Terracotta Warriors.

Expedia deal: Fly Korean Air and stay five nights at the four-star Jinglun Hotel Nikko in Beijing. Priced from $1,085 per person ex Sydney.

A little something extra for $50: In Beijing, witness theatrical splendour in an evening performance showcasing the art and acrobatics of Kung Fu meeting Vegas-style grandeur. Price for The Legend of Kung Fu from $40 per person.

8) Japan

With its cultivated traditions, futuristic innovations and a healthy share of scenic landmarks, Japan ranks high on the travel bucket list for many. For those wishing to experience authentic Japanese heritage, a visit to Kyoto is mandatory. The temples and shrines are at their finest in November as the autumn Japanese Maple leaves turn the hills and gardens a spectacular shade of red. Travellers can also hit the ski slopes at Niseko, discover the impressive coral and marine life at Ogasawara Islands or eat their way through Tokyo.

Expedia deal: Fly China Eastern Airlines and stay five nights at the three-and-a-half-star Best Western Shinjuku ASTINA Hotel Tokyo in Tokyo. Priced from $1,143 per person ex Sydney.

A little something extra for $50: Escape to Hakone, located just 100 kilometres outside of Tokyo for an indulgent hot spring bath in a ryokan. Price for daytime visitors range between $7 - $27 (500 and 2000 yen) per person. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5209.html

9) Indonesia

Bargain hunters will find themselves at home in Indonesia, where haggling is not just an experience but an art form. Escape the glitzy malls and join the chaotic crowds of traditional markets, which offers everything from tropical fruits to antiques to hand crafted jewellery. Jumping on a charter boat in Lombok will take travellers to some of the best surfing breaks in the world or play animal-spotting on a trek through the wild jungles of Sumatra.

Expedia deal: Fly Garuda and stay five nights at the four-star The Vira Bali Hotel in Bali. Priced from $971 per person ex Sydney.

A little something extra for $50: Witness Balinese dancers perform on fire as they recount a legendary tale of heroism. Price for the Evening Balinese Dance Performance from $40 per person.

10) South Korea

Embark on a trail less travelled and trek through to the mountains of South Korea to uncover the hidden gems often overlooked by the hit-and-run tourists. Beat the heat of summer and venture through the unspoilt islands of Dadohae Haesang National Park made up of remote islands, forests, fishing villages and picture-perfect scenery. Alternatively, travellers can gorge on seafood at the Jagalchi Markets of Busan, shop to their hearts' content in the nation's vibrant capital, Seoul, or experience Korean Buddhism first hand with a Temple Stay.

Expedia deal: Fly China Airlines and stay five nights at the four-star Hotel DODO in Seoul. Priced from $1,175 per person ex Sydney.

A little something extra for $50: Get a glimpse into Seoul's culture and history with visits to its temples, palaces, and museums. Start at the Blue House, the official residence of the president and make your way to the Jogyesa temple. Price for the Palace Morning Tour from $33 per person.

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