Being in Japan is a great incentive to indulge in its culture & traditions. With its magnificent civilization and history, Japan is a complex country. Authenticity is the keyword for anything Japanese. Over the years, the Japanese have perfected their arts and skills allowing us to enjoy many beautiful and memorable experiences.
See the full review, "Irashaimase! To the land of the rising sun...".
China, most populated in the world, has a civilization ancient than most countries. To fully experience this vast and ever-changing country one need a very good guide. Yet, it's a civilization (when you've come to grip with some facts and traditions unique only to the Chinese) you can enjoy and marvel at (its complexity). When Europe was in its Dark Ages, China was propering for a thousand years. During this time China has woven its humanity into mankind. Presently, China is still developing (rapidly) and opening up to the world. Its past as a communist country has slowly developed to be one with communistic political structure but capitalistic economy. This is inevitable especially since the internet has swept the whole world to speed up and exchange one's idea. I enjoy seeing the development stages of China. Lots of potentials :-)
See the full review, "As the tiger approaches".
They are not technically a country or countries now. Hong Kong & Macao are SARs (Special Administrative Regions) of China and their laws are distinct from that of China. Although they officially belong to China, these 2 SARs are very different from China in many ways. Hong Kong (unitl 1997) was for a century a British colony while Macao (until 1999) for a century was the Portuguese colony. So, that make them special. For as many years as I could remember, I visit these 'countries' and think of them as countries. Even now, if you leave China and enter Hong Kong and then reenter China, it'd have been considered that you've left a country & reenter another. The law will not be changed for the next 37 years or so (I believe, if not mistaken, HK law will remain unchanged for 50 years after the handover in 1997. Same for Macao). For these few decades, Hong Kong & Macao are still a different entity from that of China. So, enjoy the status quo while they last ;-)
A country of diversity: people, culture, income and history. Being one of the most populated country in the world (5th in fact, after China, India, Japan & U.S.A) this country is amazingly distant from the world; most of the population are not concerned what happen in the world but rather where they are going to find the next meal. This 17,508 islands country is currently undergoing key political ideology and economic crisis. I spent a major portion of my childhood in this country so I had lots of fond memories here.
See the full review, "Unity in Diversity (Bhineka Tunggal Ika), Unity in Adversity!".
Thai food (Nam pla, Prik, noodles, curry...YUMMY!!!), Thai fruits, sweets & desserts, Thai festivals, theatres, classical music & Buddhism & the Thai people... these are but a few of the attractions Thailand has in store for travelers from all over the world. With a civilization dating back to Pleistocene cultures (600,000 BC), Thailand has much to offer. Although it is a mosaic of people & cultures, its people get on well with one another & are friendly to travelers. To me, Thailand is one of the most colorful Asian countries & a week in Thailand is so memorable & treasured for years to come...
I spent many vacations during the late 80s here. My parents graduated from universities in Taiwan and they regularly make trips back to this island nation. It was fun visiting back then before it developed into one of the most expensive Asian nations. Back then, things were a lot simpler and cheaper. People are friendlier than now. Quite an interesting country for first timers.
Cambodia - ravaged by 20 years of civil wars & brutality unimaginable by anyone, it's a country where a great civilisation once ruled. Both worlds no longer exist here & yet we see remnants of its devastation on the people of Cambodia. Children & adults alike suffer from the brutality of the Khmer Rouge where half the population (in the 70s, that's equivalent to 3+ millions of people; both adults & children) were massacred & tortured over a period of 5 years! Still, those who survived had their limbs amputated after stepping onto the millions of landmines planted all across the country. Sounds depressing? Well, for majority of us, pains are only inflicted if something unfortunate happened to our loved ones or close friends & relatives. Yet, what about others who had been forgotten by the world at large & yet still struggling to survive? I ask myself these questions & yet am afraid to learn about the answers. It's here that one discovers how weak one could be if one is subjected to the same condition. It's also here that I find hopes, in children who have no idea about what computer games or electronic toys are & yet find so much happiness with just a couple of candies & a few cents. Ignorance is bliss indeed!
My trip to TURKEY has to be one of the most unplanned trips in the recent years. Basically, nothing planned since I joined a tour at the very last minute. No hotel reservations, no map readings & no visa needed. Just some prior reading of the most amazing civilization (trust me, u need to read quite a bit to understand & enjoy the trip) & packing up my bags & off I went! Boy, it was an unexpected great adventure! Amazing, gorgeous & most intriguing country! I'll be back in the future for an indepth exploration. The name "Turkey" doesn't convey a sense of wonder which this country has a right to. I mean, come on, turkey? I went while the Americans were having their turkeys at home on Thanksgiving day!!! How great can that be, right? ;-) Think instead of ASIA MINOR or TURKIYE or the saying "brave as a Turk"! Now that's something to think about. Or if that's not dramatic enough, how about these. Do you know that Virgin Mary is buried here? Do you know that St. Paul & St. Nicholas were borned in this area? Well, may be you did, but I didn't & I was hopeless in history when I was in school ;-) I still am, lol.. For the latest finding, I was told Virgin Mary's tomb has been found somewhere near the House of Virgin Mary in Selcuk & the archaelogists are planning to excavate it next year! How's that for news??? If that's not enough for you, how about exotic spices, belle-dancing (oops, or is it belly-dancing?), Turkish baths & whirling dervishes? Or silk carpets, potteries & kilims? Are you enchanted yet?!
Some undiscovered gems here, especially in East Malaysia. For those who are interested in diving, East Malaysia has some of the greatest spots. Seafood is great here too. As for West Malaysia, the popular cities are Penang, Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Langkawi.
Technically, Jordan is Middle East but I'm leaving it here on the Asia side of the continent as I haven't been to that many Middle East countries & hence it'll be awhile b4 a list could be made! I was in Jordan just last year. During the Gaza war period. It was a tough decision to make, whether to go ahead or take precaution and be safe. Since Jordan is Israel's neighbor, it seemed like not the perfect time to visit although I did get a free mileage ticket out of the deal and it was hard to get the date I wanted too! Well, I took the risk and I was not disappointed! It's been ages since I wanted to see Jordan after having seen the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark which featured Petra. Petra, here I came! And it was well worth it! Amazing places, not just Petra but many other parts of the country too. Dead Sea was an experience and the spa was great at Marriott Dead Sea Resort!
Myanmar (Burma) is a land of enigma. A land where I've not felt so welcome & a land where its people so wanted me to return for a 2nd & subsequent visits. I hope I will :-) The people of Myanmar may be poor financially, but rich in innocence & curiousity. They are gentle & hopeful people. It's been a very long time since I've experienced pure innocence in people. & it's here that I rediscovered that. So very precious... On this very first trip to Yangon, it's a very short but revealing journey. But it is one that has set my mind at ease & one where it invites future explorations. Until then, for the best part, I have yet seen the true colors of the country. But what I've seen left me wanting for more... a lot more!
I actually enjoyed my stay in Laos a great deal. It is a simple and unpolluted country and people are not complicated. However, after having been there once, I can't see myself going back again. The best thing about Laos is its coffee! Yes, the best in the world! If I do get a chance to return here, I'm going to export its coffee to the rest of the world, hehe... I do know a lot of Parisian coffee houses actually use coffee from Laos.
I was only in Cebu for 2 days or so and it was my first visit to this country. The people are nice and friendly though & I feel very much at home. So, yes, I do like Philippines, not to mention my first childhood best friend is a Filipino. Even though we have lost touched for ages, she had already laid the groundwork long long time ago about me liking this country :-) Such is life. You are destined to like some people and some places long before you even had a choice about it ;-)
I didn't go hiking but had stayed in the cities instead. Kathmandu is one of the poorest cities I've ever been to. Although people are nicer here than in India (less commercial and aggressive), I didn't have much of a chance to get close to them. The roads are chaotic and at times, no roads to travel on! However, I do know many Europeans who have had a great time here hiking. Could it be because it's so different from back home? Granted, people are nice even though they are poor. For me though, it's a bit depressing to see people surviving below the poverty line.
The country is wild. UB (Ulan Bataar) was where I stationed myself. Not a good idea as there's really nothing much in the polluted and messy city. Out of UB though, vistas change dramatically and you get a taste of the wild Mongolia. I had 2 day trips out of UB during my short stay in the country. Grasslands, horses, and nature. It was nice meeting some Swiss and Europeans who had gone to the Gobi. As I've been to Gobi on the Inner Mongolia side & I was traveling on my own, I didn't think it a great idea to go camping with strangers. To enjoy this country, it's best to go with friends, have lots of time and lots of money! It's not cheap to enjoy a wild country and to live simply!
Frankly, I didn't like my 3 visits to this country that much. It was the men, I must say. They are not anything like the Japanese. Korean men in Korea, at least those I met, were quite crude. However, I met some Koreans when in Beijing who were there to learn Mandarin, well, they are a nice lot. And I enjoyed Korean TV dramas a great deal. So while I may not like visiting this country as much, I do enjoyed things Korean! Including Korean BBQ! :-)
A country full of wonders (one of the 7 wonders being Taj Mahal & it was this that I came for but to be true to myself, it's a little disappointing) & incredible architectural delights. I have mixed feelings with India as I've had bad experiences with Indians. Not simply from before the visit but also during the visit. There are lots of people who are poor here. They are not bad people but being poor doesn't give them the right to be aggressive & hostile (imho). I mean if a beggar doesn't like the stuff (like food, biscuits, sweets) you give him/her (& they are kids mostly) I don't think it gives them the right to throw stones at you if you don't give them money, does it? They are plenty of them and to me they are like little robbers. Reminded me of those gypsies in Italy and Czech Republic! So, yes, these little ones leave a bad taste to a vacation one would have enjoyed otherwise. I do have to qualify that some Canadian friends of mine did enjoy their trips here so much so they were here for months. So, it depends on individuals.