The world’s tallest mountain, the world’s two most populous countries, and arguably the world’s least accessible kingdom all fall within the vast expanses of the striking continent of Asia. From dire poverty to pricey excess, via tradition, religion and colorful personalities round every corner, Asia is intense and rewarding. Eat almost anything in the nighttime markets, let loose in the sleaze fests of the South East, or take an epic train journey back to Europe and spend weeks watching it all pass by outside your window.
Plenty have found their soul on India’s muddy streets, where colorful rickshaws compete for space with the tiniest of stores and the calmest of cows. Watch Life and death go full circle on the banks of the Ganges, or be spell bound by the Taj Mahal, a shapely relic of a great love story that stands tall over India’s legions of delicate temples and colorful ceremonies.
China’s great wall stretches further than the eye can see, bending over craggy peaks. From the crumbling courtyards of the Forbidden City, Mao’s portrait stares out over Tiananmen Square and the winding queues to ogle his gruesome corpse. Far to the west lies the Tibetan city of Lhasa, the spiritual home of Buddhism, while the southern rebel state of Taiwan holds fast to many of China’s treasures.
Tokyo’s expressive sub-cultures and high technology mingle with pagoda temples and conveyor belt Sushi, while Hong Kong offers colonial class, high-end shopping and inescapable city bustle. The empty expanses of Siberia invite intrepid explorers to live off the land and the western ‘Stans feature sparsely populated plains, where life passes slowly and adventure travelers can get close to nature amongst nomads whose lifestyle hasn't changed for centuries.
Hard-to-see North Korea is a world traveler’s benchmark and a last taste of life behind the iron curtain, while pricey Bhutan’s visa policy preserves a land standing proudly by its traditions and reveling in reams of unspoiled countryside. In tropical Thailand the parties never stop and the beaches really do look like postcards. Asia is a red-hot traveler favorite, chock full of hidden – and not so hidden – gems that can be gently squeezed into just about any budget.
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