Slow Travel in Asia
Slow Travel is a concept that has gained tremendous popularity in recent years. Travelling at a slow pace, to the rhythm of the country and nature, with respect for local traditions, in search of experiences, Asia is a continent that lends itself particularly well to this way of travelling.
REAL SLOW TRAVEL ?
Slow Travel sounds good and many travelers like to consider themselves as 'slow travellers'.
However, when they present their plans to us, it often turns out that the race to see as much as possible in a short time is never far away.
'That one highlight cannot be missed, that amazing sunrise described in a travel magazine must be included, bucketlists need to be ticked off, 'when we are there, we might as well add this or that', ...
"Very soon a travel itinerary is so overloaded that we wonder if this is still a holiday or rather a stressful race through a country. "
Slow Travel is often also associated with the way of travelling around. Hiking or biking can indeed be a way to travel slowly, but then again for many travellers the performance element appears. Kilometers, altimeters, following GPS tracks or Strava segments, and reaching this or that mountain peak,... prevail over experiencing a journey. A hiking trip in the mountains can be a way of Slow Travel, but for some travellers is equally a source of stress.
OUR OWN EXPERIENCE WITH SLOW TRAVEL
We travel through Asia several times a year. Very often we have to rush for practical reasons: visiting 3 hotels a day, meeting local service providers, checking out restaurants, long drives by car, literally flying from hot to cold... It's a job like no other. (but we don't complain :-) )
But even on our exploratory trips, we try to insert one or more resting points, we often stay longer in one place. Not always because there are so many 'highlights' to see, but just because they are fantastic places to relax, let the impressions sink in and taste the real atmosphere of the country. Without the pressure of an 'early breakfast' or 'early to bed because another busy day is coming ahead'.
In many of these places we meet other travellers, full of travel- and life experience, with whom it is often pleasant to chat over a cup of tea or something stronger. Locals sometimes join us, tell their stories and take us to places we never expected to see. Sometimes we continue to work on our trips in such a place ("another day in the office"). Sometimes we just enjoy a view from the terrace, stroll around in a nearby village, peek into the kitchen of our accommodation, accompany the local staff on an outing to the market, do something we never thought we'd do (like going butterfly spotting 😊). All quiet, no strings attached.
It are often those moments and locations that we cherish later with warm memories.
'SLOW TRAVEL IS BORING'
Does this sounds boring? For some travellers it might. We absolute respect if you want to travel the 'traditional' way and we are happy to assist you.
We consider it an added value to have a real 'stop' once in a while and to let impressions come through. No smartphone pressure, no social media waiting for the ultimate picture, Just disconnect and live !
A GROWING TREND
We notice that many world travellers go along with this idea. Often they are travellers who have already visited several countries and find it not that important to visit all the temples and highlights again at their new destination. They want to escape the daily race in the West or just continue their 'slow living' attitude from home during their travels.
Staying for a week or more in one location in France or Italy is dead normal for many, but more and more travelers are doing this in Asia as well. They choose (for part of their trip) to stay in a pleasant place, make occasional excursions, enjoy the local cuisine, make casual contacts and return with a fresh mind and wonderful memories. They often have a better idea of the host country than fellow travellers who have done the 'whole tour' in a short time and sometimes get back on the plane 'dead tired'.
Some of the accommodations that we often work with are perfectly suited for this kind of travel. To a large extent because the owners are fully committed to the concept of slow travel and want to introduce their guests to their country in a sustainable way.
These places are ideal for longer stays or, for example, to add a bit of relaxation to your trip that goes beyond a poolside lounger.
In Nepal, we immediately think of the Tiger Mountain Lodge in Pokhara. Perfectly located on a hilltop overlooking the Annapurna peaks, this is a unique place to experience the atmosphere of Nepal in a peaceful way. The lodge spans an entire hill, has beautiful gardens and works closely with neighbouring villages. Healthy meals from their own organic garden, possibility of nature walks nearby, breakfast with a view of the eternal Himalayas,... Marcus, the owner, has long been the pioneer of a sustainable approach to tourism in Nepal. An afternoon chatting with this pioneer of Himalayan travel is definitely worthwhile.
Another top pick in Nepal is a stay in one of the villas of Pavilions Himalayas and/or in the luxurious tents of Pavilions Lake View. Both eco-friendly accommodations are located in extremely quiet spots at the foot of the Annapurna, in the midst of exuberant nature. Wake up to the twittering of exotic birds and find fresh morning milk from their own farm on your doorstep. Drinking tea in the morning and (trying) to strike up a conversation with the local villagers whose rice paddies run through the hotel premises. Enjoying a massage or a yoga class. Cocktails with the owners who have lived in Nepal for years. Dine in the evening under a thousand star sky with a good glass of wine....
"Last year, we had some travelers with quite a Nepal trackrecord who wanted to go back to Nepal just once more. However, they only had ten days available locally. It took some convincing, but they decided to spend most of their travel time in the 2 Pavilions accommodations. Afterwards they were very enthusiastic: they had met the Nepalese people like never before, they had a wonderful relaxing vacation without worries, they enjoyed the environment and the chats ... in short: a real holiday"
Although almost any trip to peaceful Bhutan is a form of Slow Travel, there are several places there too that we absolutely dare to recommend for a longer stay. One such place is the Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary, one of the most recent luxury hotels in Bhutan. Located in a small side valley on the road between Paro and Thimphu, it is a wonderful base for exploring the highlights of Bhutan. The Sanctuary offers a total experience with wellness, meditation and yoga sessions, and relax experiences of Bhutanese life. Of course, you can also head out to visit Thimphu, Paro and the famous Tigers Nest. It's all close by so you don't have to spend unnecessary time in the car
The 5 brand new lodges of Six Senses Bhutan offer you the possibility to travel around in a slow travel way. They are located in the 5 main valleys of Bhutan and offer, in the best Six Senses tradition, an absolute top experience in terms of accommodation, gastronomy, activities and surroundings.
In Ladakh, we recently organized a 2 week tailormade with only 3 locations, each with their own character. From these locations our guests visited some cultural highlights, but there was ample time for a Tibetan massage or for a good book in a hammock among the apricot orchards.