The Thai capital Bangkok has been named the world’s most popular travel destination in a global index poll by Mastercard.
This pulsating city of contrasts saw off competition from 161 places around the world to nab the title for the second year running.
With over 20 million intentional visitors pounding its streets in 2017, Bangkok soared into the lead, followed by London and then Paris in third place.
Here are five of our favourite hubs to make the top 20 in the survey, along with a rundown on each of their charms (from street food to secret hiking trails and beyond).
We’ve done your wish list for you – all you need now is your passport…
The gateway to South East Asia, Bangkok crackles with creative energy, and you can’t help but be swept up by the relentless thrum of life here. Take a tuk-tuk to one of its many sleek rooftop bars, or wander the backstreets and find hidden hot spots teeming with foodie delights, from freshly baked roti to papaya salad with fermented fish sauce. In need of some spiritual solace? Pop Grand Palace or Wat Arun temple on your radar, and prepare for your jaw to hit the floor.
Fusing old-school quirks with futuristic design, Tokyo lives up to its hype and some. For the best experience of this mind-blowing city, head away from the crowds to the arty neighbourhood of Nakameguro, with its boutique galleries, cafes and riverside bars. Kiyosumi-Shirakawa to the east of the city is another great area to amble around, with hidden canal spots and Buddhist temples. For nightlife, look to the hip Tokyo Whisky Library with its selection of Japanese malts.
Mist-clad peaks vie for attention next to towering skyscrapers in this city of evocative wonders. The best way to appreciate local life here is through its rich culinary offerings. Wander through street stalls, markets and Chinese-style greasy spoons (“cha chaan teng”), trying everything from puffy egg waffles to smoky clay pots of bo zai fan and wok-fried oysters. Then head out of the city on the Dragon’s Back Trail and drink in Hong Kong views from afar.
Whether it’s freshly grilled okonomiyaki (pancakes filled with grilled squid or pork), enormous shopping meccas or ancient warlord castles, Osaka – Japan’s second largest city on the island of Honshu – really does have it all. Dive in for a street food feast of takoyaki (fired octopus dumplings) kushikatsu (bamboo skewers of deep-fried meat and vegetables) and the best kitsune udon in the region. Then, walk it off with a downtown stroll around the ateliers and coffee shops of Osaka’s Horie district.
Palm-fringed beaches and misty jungle hills are a rallying call to Bali travellers, and there’s little about this idyllic Indonesian island that fails to captivate. Have your hiking boots handy for a sunrise hike to the summit of Mount Batur, a live volcano, and watch the horizon erupt in a halo of light. Hop in a VW campervan for a bar crawl around happening Seminyak, and cut a path to the tropical haven of Gili Air, a tiny traffic-free isle with truly splendid beaches.
Images: Shutterstock and Flash Pack