Asia has been a front-runner in having the most number of places that exude culture and magic. The traditions, the people and their widely differing cultures and tastes make the continent something of a rich melange. To talk about a few of the cultural epi-centers of the continent, here are the best five:
1. Tokyo, Japan: The Japanese capital city may not be one of the cheaper places to visit. However, being a swanky, new age metropolis with a bustling city life, Tokyo offers unforeseen modern marvels without ever letting go of its magical age-old traditions. While on one side you’ll find mind-boggling and often over the top technology, on the other side you’ll still spot geisha apprentices walking around the city in their traditional Kimono.
2. Bali, Indonesia: The word “Bali” almost always resonates with the image of an expanse of sandy beaches, soothing mocktails by the sea, as you are dipping your toes into sea waiting for nothing in particular. And it should, because Bali is exactly all of those things. Once the destination for honeymooners and surfers, Bali, is now a solo traveler’s paradise, as well. The people are predominantly Hindu and consequently the culture is very similar to the kind you see in India with an extra helping of peacefulness and silence.
3. Penang, Malaysia: Penang, the erstwhile “Pearl of the Orient” happens to have the most delicious cuisine in all of Malaysia. The Malaysians take their food very seriously! Penang’s legacy of colonization is what has lead to development of its own unique cuisine incorporating Indian, Chinese and, of course, heavy Malay undertones. And if you are ever successful in tearing yourself away from all the food there is out there, the Penang National Park, Malaysia’s youngest national park and home of the nesting sea turtles.
4. Chiang Mai, Thailand: When you think of Thailand, Bangkok comes to mind, immediately. It’s involuntary that Thailand is KNOWN for the exuberant capital city that is Bangkok. But say you want a break from the big city hum-drum, Chiang Mai is the place to be. The northern capital Chiang Mai, reports most activity in its older part where people gather to watch the Buddhist monks draped in orange smile at them as they pass by on ornate elephants. The city always has some cultural festival queued up and the night markets are just extraordinary places to do a little retail therapy.
5. Beijing, China: The heartbeat of China, Beijing, can be anything from crowded and grimy to colorful and mystical with traditional Chinese cultural festivals, especially around and during the Chinese New Year. UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City will keep tourists pleased and for those with a bit of adventure on their itinerary, the streets and lanes of Beijing will never ever let you down. Explore away, and don’t let the madness get to you.
That’s a wrap for the best cultural sites in all of Asia, be sure to get your passport stamped once every year. Happy Hoboing!
Image Credits: Featured Image: Flickr
Chiang Mai: Flickr