Where the Sedentary Tourist Can Still Get Out There in Asia

Jim Sullivan | 5/22/2013, 3:31 p.m.
All across Asia, icons fulfill our fantasies of the destination. Rice paddies. Imperial citadels. Moats. Indigenous dance. The upturned eaves ...
Kecak Dance

All across Asia, icons fulfill our fantasies of the destination. Rice paddies. Imperial citadels. Moats. Indigenous dance. The upturned eaves of massive but graceful roofs. The jungle. A beach that served as backdrop to a hit TV drama.

Usually, we're obliged to seek out these distinctive Asian landscapes and architecture, guidebook in hand, camera at the ready. But for every active tourist, who’s moving from dawn to dusk, ticking icons off their bucket list, there is the leisure traveler who wants more leisure than travel.

Fortunately, throughout Asia, there is accommodation where such travelers can plant himself or herself in a hotel room or on a terrace such that the icon is in full flourish right before you. On Bali, in Central Vietnam, in Tokyo, Laos and Saigon these hotels offer up the opportunity to be both a couch potato and a sightseer.

The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah Ubud, Bali Kecak Dance

Without leaving the confines of the resort itself, catch a performance of traditional Balinese dance and drama. Staged under the stars in the resort's on-site amphitheater, the Kecak Cultural Dance show features a local dance troupe of 80 – 100 bare-chested male performers, who chant and dance in a trancelike state in concentric rings around an open flame. The Kecak has roots in the sanghyang, and originated in Bali in the 1930s. Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, the piece depicts a battle from the Ramayana where the monkey-like Vanara assists Prince Rama in fighting the evil King Ravana. There is no musical accompaniment, rhythm is provided by a 'monkey chorus' who wear checked cloths around their waists and act as various monkey armies in the story.

Palace Hotel Tokyo Tokyo, Japan Imperial Palace Gardens

If you've never lived within the walls of a moat, the next best thing is a prime, moat-side accommodation experience. At the new Palace Hotel Tokyo, guests borrow the comforting buffer of a moat every morning as they dine on the outdoor terrace of the hotel’s Grand Kitchen . Across the waters, aji stones case the upper reaches of the moat’s walls, while over the waters swans cruise through the heart of Tokyo. From the hotel’s upper floors, balconies and expansive views deliver the most magnificent vista in all Tokyo, from swards of black pines, so deliberately planted, to the monuments of the Imperial Palace Gardens. Visible from nearly every room in the hotel, the Palace’s Fujimi-yagura (Fuji-view Keep) is a lure to some of Tokyo’s most hallowed ground. Though most of the palace’s structures were lost to Allied bombing in May 1945, the grounds make for fascinating perambulation, from the Nijūbashi bridge to the Ninomaru Gardens to the aji-stone cased walls and ramparts that evoke the romantic appeal of vanished Japan

La Residence Hotel & Spa Hue, Vietnam Flagtower Bastion

From myriad terraces, from balconies, even from the hotel’s top floor fitness center, the view drinks in the Flagtower Bastion of the Hue Citadel. Work on the 1.5-square-mile Citadel began in earnest in 1804 after the first emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, Gia Long, consolidated his hold on the country and set 30,000 conscripts to work. Modeled on designs by the 17th Century French military architect, Sebastien de Vauban the Citadel emerged as Vietnam’s most imposing Citadel (there were others in Hanoi, Saigon and even Nha Trang). During the First Indochina War in 1947, and during the Vietnam War in 1968, battles raged within the walls of the Citadel. The walls and bastions suffered from all the tribulation, but Vietnamese preservationists busied themselves on the brickworks after the war. Today, the Flagtower Bastion looms over a 165-foot wide moat, and the Perfume River.