Asia is full of thrillingly unexpected experiences like that—from the discovery of a golf course lying between the runways of a busy international airport, to catching a glimpse of the eternal in a Zen rock garden, to the almost equally sublime pleasure of the perfect spring roll. Here, in TIME's annual guide to the Best of Asia, we bring you an array of such delights, courtesy of a network of correspondents who are richly familiar with the charms and quirks of places as diverse as Bombay and Beijing, Tokyo and Thimphu. Think of this collection of their recommendations not just as a celebration of the Best of Asia, but as a celebration of Asia, the best home we know.
The glorious Chinese vessel in this picture is Duk Ling—Hong Kong's only remaining sailing junk. The last time I was on board, we were bound for the nearby island of Cheung Chau when a storm hit. What was meant to be a champagne cruise turned into something of an odyssey, as rain cascaded over the decks and the prow lunged sickeningly into the waves. The crew furiously worked the ropes and pulleys, while the rest of us held on to whatever we could. It was then that I realized that Duk Ling was more than just a quaint boat for corporate hire; being aboard in these appalling conditions allowed us to feel exactly how generations of Hong Kong people must have felt on boats just like this when the weather turned. All at once, I felt electrifyingly connected to the ancient, maritime soul of the city I call home. Hong Kong's history was no longer buried under office towers or shopping malls—it was here, lashing my face with rain and wind. When we finally limped into Cheung Chau harbor, the crowd that had gathered on the waterfront knew it too. Haggard old fishermen grew rheumy-eyed and applauded as Duk Ling emerged magnificently from the storm, a reprise of sailboats past.