The Great Asian Road Trip

 

In 1947, Jack Kerouac embarked on a journey across the continent of North America-uncovering jazz, the beat generation and other mind-expanding experiences. Although Asia is notably bigger and more densely populated, that’s no excuse not to hit the road! Think of the culture, art, people, food and all the rewards waiting for those adventurous enough to seek out Asia for all its mysticism and exoticness. So buckle up and stick that hitchhiking thumb out as JUICE plots a course through Asia for the restless wanderer.

 

INDONESIA
Jakarta
The capital and largest city in Indonesia with over 8 million people is bound to offer you some cavernous adventure. Get down with the night scene here at superclubs like X2 and Centro. And boogie down to the electrifying beats of Indon new wave dance bands like Agrikulture, Goodnight Electric and Ape On The Roof.

Gili Trawangan
This tiny island off Lombok is shedding its backpacker-bum reputation and registering with a hipper crowd from Asia and Europe, who are calling it the “new Ibiza”. Though there are no cars or motorbikes on the island, there is a vibrant nightlife with stylish bars frequented by designers from Hong Kong, fashionistas from Tokyo, travellers from the UK, scuba nuts and Indonesian creative types.

Bali
Who says Asia doesn’t get any waves? Surf’s up, bang!

Bandung
If you go to Jakarta, then you must go to Bandung as well. Known for its celebrated art, fashion and music scene, the college town is the 3rd largest city in Indonesia and is chilly all year round due to its volcanic mountains. Fertile grounds for creativity, so they say. And arts and music festivals like Helar and Kick give Paris Van Java (as it’s also known) that credibility.

 

 

MALAYSIA
Kuala Lumpur
What can we say? It’s home. And we’re proud of it. Apart from politicians and other mental cases, Malaysia has the best combo of food, a thriving indie music and arts scene, and lots of places to party. Oh, we’ve also got the Twin Towers, but that has nothing to do with compensation of any kind.

Sarawak
If you haven’t been to the Rainforest World Music Festival, then you need to now! Launched more than a decade ago, the RWMF is Malaysia’s biggest music fest with a yearly audience approaching 30,000. Get down to enchanting and groovy world music vibes, feed off the allure of partying in the woods and suck on larvae. The jungle party cum celebration of ethnic diversity will keep you coming back. And if it doesn’t, the locally brewed tuak will…

 

 

SINGAPORE
All year round you’ve got festivals like Mosaic, Baybeats and ZoukOut covering everything from indie to dance to world music. You name it, this small island has it. Makes you forget that they banned chewing gum.

 

 

THAILAND
Bangkok
The capital of Thailand can be a wild place. And even wilder for those who are into fashion and shopping! Check out the Chatuchak Weekend Market and the yearly Songkran “Water” Festival. Get ready to get wet, and maybe a little broke.

Koh Phangan
So you like to party, huh? JUICE Writer Ben Liew once spent 3 weeks here and was forced to leave by Thai officials. The wicked monthly, anything-goes Full Moon Parties here can do that to you. Though we think it was the fungus shakes.

Koh Tao
The Koh Tao (Turtle Island) New Year Eve’s Trance Festival goes on for 3 days. Nobody bothers changing calendars here.

 

 

LAOS
Vang Vieng
Mountains and rivers? Back to nature? Sure. But what about partying loudly in the middle of the jungle? Silent disco this isn’t. Go tubing-meaning, stick you’re @ss in an abandoned truck tyre and play Tarzan on rope-swings at riverside bars as you float down the majestic Nam Song River. This is Brokeback Mountain in Asia, minus the gay cowboys.

 

 

CAMBODIA
Phnom Penh
Get ready to get phat Phnom-stylee! Youth counterculture is just beginning to emerge in this country, which has seen too much bloodshed in the past. The local hip hop scene is reinventing traditional Cambodian music, infusing chanting with rapping while adding quirky beats and retro synths. They even have their own Khmer hop label called Klap Ya Handz and their 1st female rapper MC Lisha.

 

 

PHILIPPINES
Manila
Check out the city’s burgeoning Pinoy rock scene where pioneers like poet-musician Dong Abay are still gigging. Be there in time for Pulp Summer Slam (the biggest annual music festival in the country)! The city also has the Mall of Asia (the biggest shopping mall in the continent) and Divisoria (the Pinoy version of Chatuchak).

Boracay
If you’ve got the dough to blow, then why not take a flight to hang out where local celebrities do, on the toned-down (compared to Koh Phangan) party island known for its tranquillity.

 

 

KOREA
Seoul
There’s more to Korea than just crazed K-pop boy and girl groups. For all things cool, check out Hong-Ik where weekend street markets, fashion and music all clash in the university town. Korea also has its share of music festivals like the Busan Rock Festival, which happens near the beach, and the Boryeong Mud Festival. Unlike Glastonbury, this mud fest actually helps your skin as the mud is a special kind that’s rich in minerals used to manufacture cosmetics. Ah, Asia…even when we’re dirty, we’re clean.

 

 

 

JAPAN
Tokyo
There isn’t enough time, even with your whole life ahead, to seek out all the pleasures offered in Asia’s fastest moving city. From checking out the latest gadgets at Akihabara (Electronic City) to weekend cosplay voyeurs at Harajuku to picnic jamming with local musicians at Koeiji Park to the ancient Honen Matsuri (Penis Fertility Day), the land of the rising sun bares all for brave visitors.

Naeba
The mountainous skiing town is also home to this year’s Fuji Rock Festival (30 July-1 August). Set to play are Roxy Music, Them Crooked Vultures, Muse, Massive Attack, Air, Hot Chip, Dirty Projectors, Broken Bells, LCD Soundsystem, Belle & Sebastian and The Cribs, among other rockstars. The festival’s stunning backdrop of forested mountains enforces its aim of being “the cleanest festival in the world”.

 

 

CHINA
Beijing
With its doors now opened, China is experiencing a rebirth in culture. Linglei (or alternative) chic is what’s cool to youths here and being different is their ironic priority in the Communist State of cheap electronics and even cheaper beer. But for a real and poignant look at China and its struggles, visit the 798 Art Zone in Dashanzi. A 50 year old former military storage compound, 798 has been vacated by China’s avant-garde artist community since the mid-90s. Risqué artworks, which would otherwise be removed or frowned upon by the government, are safely displayed here. The art space has maintained its post-industrial architecture and Maoist propaganda slogans (inscribed on pillars) for that added touch of home. 798 is often compared to New York’s Greenwich Village and SoHo.

Shanghai
For more than a century and a half, Shanghai has served as the trading post and hub of international culture within China. Thus, the youth culture here is more advanced than anywhere else in the country, with visiting international DJs and live houses where live bands perform electroklash, indie, punk and dance music.

Hong Kong
The country that gave us Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow and LMF has got plenty more to offer than just onscreen entertainment and Canto gangsta rap. Head down to Lan Kwai Fong for some night clubbing, and Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok for shopping and fashion. Every night at 8pm, the city literally comes alive with the Light Orchestra show at the harbour, where buildings light up in sync to traditional orchestral music.

 

 

INDIA
Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore
Heavy metal has found a new home. It’s not amongst Norse-Scandinavian descendants but rather, down in spicy, mystical India. Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore have all emerged as major melting pots for rock and metal fans. Legions of bands such as Indian Ocean, Dementra, Parikrama, Pentagram, Thermal and a Quarter, Scribe, Indus Creed, Demonic Resurrection, Belial, Infernal Wrath, Agni, Exiled, The Supersonics, Span, Five Little Indians and Nexus are looking to put India on the rock ‘n’ roll map. Hey, even The Beatles came here for inspiration and India’s most famous rock musician happens to be the late-Farrokh Bomi Bulsara (Freddie Mercury of Queen to the rest of us).

Goa
Like Ibiza before it, Goa became a centre of counterculture when hippies started to migrate here after the 60s. Now, the smallest state in India is known for its epic psychedelic trance raves and for exporting this unique genre. Check out the Sunburn Festival for a total eclipse of your senses.