Asia is home to some of the most densely populated hubs in the world. Shanghai, Beijing, Istanbul, Karachi, Mumbai, Guangzhou, Delhi... the list goes on. If the thrills and spills of urban living get your heart pumping, the continent offers hundreds of opportunities to indulge. But what if you prefer peace and quiet to hustle and bustle? What if your idea of heaven involves an empty beach and the sound of silence? Does Asia have anything to offer on that score? It does, indeed. If you're keen to escape the rat race, you'll find few better places to make your base than these 20 most peaceful places in Asia.
20. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo
If you love the beach lifestyle but don't want to give up the conveniences of city living, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo could be exactly what you're looking for. Described by U.S. News and Travel as one of the world's most livable beach cities, Kota Kinabalu is a safe, clean, well-organized city of 800,000. Despite boasting every kind of convenience and comfort you could ever need, the city stretches just 2 miles from end to end, making getting around by foot or bicycle a breeze. Thanks to its gorgeous beachside location, life tends to revolve around sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. Understandably enough, the vibe is deliciously mellow and peaceful.
19. Da Nang, Vietnam
Da Nang is modern, dynamic, and unquestionably one of Vietnam's most progressive cities. The skyline is crammed with futuristic skyscrapers, while the sophisticated downtown is reminiscent of Singapore. Despite boasting about a million residents, the hustle and bustle you'd expect of a big city is noticeably absent. What is noticeable, on the other hand, is the peaceful parks, the lovely, uncrowded beach, the picturesque promenades, and the relaxed, laid-back lifestyle. If you were looking for proof that cities can be just as peaceful as the countryside, Da Nang is exactly that.
18. Vung Tau, Vietnam
As International Living writes, Vung Tau is close enough to Ho Chi Minh City to attract a good number of weekend visitors set on enjoying the city's laid back, beach town vibe, its outstanding restaurants, and its numerous recreational opportunities. With a population of around 527,000 and a large expat community to boot, Vung Tau is no little bucolic backwater. Despite that, it's still remarkably serene, making it a great base for anyone looking to introduce some calm into their life.
17. Da Lat, Vietnam
Da Lat is a green, tranquil city that feels more like Switzerland than Vietnam. With its refreshing spring climate, romantic lake views, and serene, zen-like atmosphere, it's little wonder it's developed a reputation as the honeymoon capital of Vietnam... and even less wonder that it's considered one of Vietnam's most peaceful spots.
16. Sanur, Bali
As liveandinvestoverseas.com notes, Bali enjoys a reputation as one of the most beautiful islands on earth. With its lush jungle, towering volcanoes, picture-perfect terraced rice fields, and pristine beaches, it's a reputation that's clearly not undeserved. While the main cities are packed with bars, clubs, and other distractions, you don't have to travel far to find a little oasis of calm. The small village of Sanur is just such an oasis. Quiet, laid back, and delightfully understated, Sanur feels a world away from the tourists and the crowds of some of Bali's larger resorts. It's also incredibly cheap, making it a great choice for people looking for a peaceful lifestyle on a shoestring budget.
15. Udagamandalam, India
Abandon all your preconceptions about India. Udagamandalam is about as far from the crowds and the noise and the pollution as it's possible to get. Surrounded by wooded hills, packed with rose gardens, lakes, and parks, and blessed with refreshingly cool weather, it's a little slice of Switzerland in the heart of India. If tranquility, cool breezes, and infinite calm are your idea of heaven, you'll love it.
14. Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Set in the sparsely populated eastern area of Cambodia, Mondulkiri is about as peaceful a place as you can imagine. The economy centers around strawberry, rubber, coffee, and cashew nut plantations, which, as you'd imagine, doesn't exactly lend itself to big factories, congestion, or noise pollution. The surroundings are idyllic, the air quality is as pure as pure gets, and the purveying sense of calm is practically an attraction in its own right.
13. Koh Yao Yai, Thailand
Set between the tourist centers of Phuket and Krabi, Koh Yao Yai is dreamy, serene, and almost completely untouched by the effects of mass tourism. Boasting stunning nature, a rich culture, and a traditional way of life that centers around the rubber tree and fishing industries, it's the ideal place to de-suit, de-stress and start enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
12. Yubeng, China
Perched high in the mountains and accessible only by foot or mule, the tiny village of Yubeng is one of the most peaceful places you'll ever encounter. If silence and reflection are what the doctor ordered, you'll find few better places to get your treatment. The quiet is interrupted only by the sound of chickens scratching around in the dust and the occasional bellow of a donkey. The snow-capped peaks in the distance, the crisp, clean air, and the sparkling streams combine to create an idyllic sanctuary far remote from the crowds and the noise of China's larger centers.
11. Bai Xep, Vietnam
Described by culturetrip.com as one of the most beautiful places in Southeast Asia, the tiny fishing village of Bai Xep has to be one of the most peaceful places on Earth. Blessed with two coves (Bai Truoc, a bustling harbor crammed with Vietnamese traditional circular fishing boats, and Bai Sau, a quiet slice of beach heaven that's perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing) and surrounded by paddy fields and forest, few would argue it's not a breathtakingly picturesque place to visit. Thanks to the absence of cars, noise, and crowds, fewer still would deny it's one of Asia's most peaceful places to live.
10. Ella, Sri Lanka
Bordered by tea plantations and bristling with wildlife, waterfalls, caves, and trails, Ella is a nature lover's dream. Due to its elevation, the small town boasts a cool, springlike climate that comes as a breath of fresh air after the heat and humidity of some of Sri Lanka's main cities. Although there are enough entertainment options (including a good selection of bars and restaurants) to keep you amused, the main recreation here is simply enjoying the stunning natural beauty of the landscape and enjoying the infinite sense of calm and tranquility.
9. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Described by theculturetrip.com as one of the 12 Asian cities you should visit before you die, Siem Reap is one of Cambodia's best known and most visited cities. Yet despite the ever-increasing numbers of tourists, the city has managed to hold on to its calm, laid-back atmosphere, making it a great base for anyone desperate to escape the rat race. Despite the fact prices are a little higher than in other parts of the country, the city is still eminently affordable - if you're a peace-seeker on a budget, it's ideal.
8. Pai, Thailand
Pai is a small town in northern Thailand's Mae Hong Son Province. Despite the fact it's only a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of Chaing Mai, Pai couldn't be more peaceful if it tried. It's been a key stop-off on the backpacking trail for years, with thousands descending on it each year to soak up the laid-back atmosphere and the tranquil vibe. Restaurants, guest houses, bars, and coffee shops pack the town, but regardless of how good the entertainment, how cosmopolitan the food, and how inebriated the visitors, Pai never loses its peaceful charm. Providing you don't bear any ill will to hippies, you're going to love it.
7. Otres Beach, Cambodia
Pai might be one of the most well-known hippie paradises in Asia, but Otres Beach comes a close second. Known for its chief activities of relaxing, sunbathing, or doing nothing whatsoever, Otres Beach is the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of 21st-century life. If you want to benefit from its laid-back lifestyle, you'd better act soon. After spending years as an idyllic backwater, the town has started to attract major attention from Western and Chinese developers. For now, the white sand beaches and turquoise seas are as tranquil as ever - give it a few more years, and those balmy waters and uncrowded beaches may soon be surrounded by major resorts and sky-high developments.
6. Luang Prabang, Laos
From the moment you arrive in Luang Prabang, you'll feel like you're stepping back in time. A designed UNESCO heritage site, the city is a calm, tranquil paradise where cars have been abandoned in favor of bicycles and the rush and noise of 21st-century living are problems for another day. The beauty of the surrounding mountains is hard to deny, while the Mekong River provides endless opportunities for recreation and relaxation. Understandably, this colorful little town is one of the key milestones in Laos' backpacker trail. Even so, it remains delightfully peaceful and zen.
5. Kuching, Malaysian Borneo
Kuching may be one of Malaysian Borneo's biggest cities, but don't let the size of its population fool you. Despite being packed with things to do and see, including an array of fascinating museums, world-class galleries, and exciting bars and restaurants, the city is blessed with the kind of laid-back, relaxing atmosphere that's positively infectious. Along with a charming promenade, the city is blessed with gorgeously serene surroundings, including numerous national parks that are the ultimate in calm tranquility. For those who favor sea and sand over jungles, there's plenty of world-class beaches within just a short drive.
4. Medog, Tibet
If you're nothing without your smartphone and your sat nav, you're going to hate Medog. If you value peace and serenity over 21st-century conveniences and comforts, you're going to love it. Hidden away in the heart of the Tibetian Mountains, Medog takes a lot of effort to reach. The terrain is challenging (to say the least), the weather is disgusting, and the roads are almost impossible to traverse. Most people give up long before they reach sight of the city. Those that persevere will be rewarded by one of the most peaceful places you'll find anywhere on Earth. With a relaxed atmosphere and a complete absence of cars and industry, Medog is the very definition of tranquility.
3. Lombok, Indonesia
If you were lucky enough to visit Bali before the hype turned it into a tourist mecca, you'll know exactly what to expect of Lombok. Pristine, beautiful, and imbued with a tranquil, carefree spirit, it's what every victim of the 24/7 lifestyle dreams of. Blessed with sights like Mount Rinjani and Pink Beach, and located just a hop, skip, and a jump from the awe-inspiring Gili Islands, Lombok's combination of age-old beauty, modern conveniences, and utter tranquility are irresistible.
2. Ubud, Bali
Ubud is widely considered to be Bali's cultural capital. Packed with art galleries, museums, and theaters, this is one of the best places to go in Bali to enjoy a live performance and marvel at some traditional art. It's also unquestionably one of the best places to go in Bali (actually, scratch that - the entire continent) to enjoy some unadulterated peace and quiet. With its wellness centers, its parks, and its laid-back, relaxed atmosphere, Ubud is the very definition of peaceful.
1. Koh Rong, Cambodia
Few places in the world can rival Koh Rong for serenity. Located just off the undeveloped coast of Sihanoukville Province, this tiny island is heaven for beachcombers. Around three-quarters of its coastline is made up of the kind of pristine, white sand beaches you rarely see outside of travel brochures. Its interior is a mass of jungle and paddy fields. Although holiday resorts and settlements are scattered all the way around the coastline, the lack of infrastructure makes them accessible by boat only. If you can't imagine living more than 2 minutes from a Starbucks, this isn't the place for you. If you'd happily trade all the coffee shops, Ubers, and take-outs in the world for a slice of pure tranquility, it most definitely is.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn