Chapter 30 Asia and the Pacific Potpourri.
We omit quite a few Asian countries from this chapter because they aren't major tourist destinations. The reasons are many: warfare in some keeps travelers away; political turmoil is a major deterrent in others; and still others are opening up rapidly but do not yet warrant their own sections. In addition, some countries, like North Korea and some of the Southeast Asia nations--Laos, for example, and Cambodia (also known as Kampuchea) --have governments with questionable human rights records and, therefore, limited tourist appeal. (Cambodia is taking efforts to reinstate tourism to the legendary Angkor Wat ruins.) Interestingly, there are also countries such as Brunei which, though having perfectly good relations with most countries, aren't especially interested in encouraging a tourist trade. But keep one important fact in mind: all this can change overnight. After all, the Berlin Wall came down, didn't it?
Mongolia's location--sandwiched between China and Russia--combined with its exotic history, makes this nation an intriguingly offbeat destination. Under Genghis Khan, Mongolia was once a world power. Today, the people of this nomadic, fairly primitive culture are more closely tied to Russia than to China.
Southern Mongolia is made up of the Gobi Desert; this arid, mountainous region is actually pretty, with much interesting wildlife. The rainier north is where most of the population lives. Ulan Bator, the capital, has many monasteries and quite a few museums. A good village to see the nomadic lifestyle at its best is Khujhirt; it's fairly close to the historic town of Karakorum (the capital during the time of Genghis Khan), which also boasts a fine monastery. And it's here, as well, that visitors can spot yurts, the traditional wooden-framed tents that are transported by the nomads as they herd across the countryside.
Separated from China by only North Korea, South Korea covers the southern strip of the Korean Peninsula; Japan is just across the Sea of Japan on the east, and the Yellow Sea borders Korea to the west. Seoul [SOLE], located in the northwest, was host to the 1988 Summer Olympics. The new Inchon International Airport (IIA), about 30 miles west of Seoul, is the main air gateway. (Kimpo (SEL) is closer to Seoul, but now mainly handles domestic flights.) The national carrier, Korean Air Lines (KE), Asiana (OZ), and a few U.S. airlines fly here. Cruise ships occasionally stop at Pusan, a major port on the southeast coast.
The Korean language is closer to Finnish or Hungarian than to any Asiatic language.
Most tourist destinations are toward the north, where the climate is humid. Spring and fall are pleasant in South Korea, with daytime temperatures in the upper 60s and chilly nights; these two seasons tend to be the driest times of the year. Summers are rainy--mid-July to mid-August is a mini-monsoon season--and the highs can soar into the 90s; winters, on the other hand, are cold, with temperatures often plummeting to the 20s or below. The official language is Korean, though English is quite common, especially in business.
South Korean tourism, fueled by visitors who seek shopping bargains and business deals, has reached impressive levels. The capital city of Seoul, historically surrounded by nine gates, is rich with temples and palaces. The cultural and shopping opportunities are excellent. Seoul's two most important designated national treasures are the Namdaemun Gate (the Great South Gate) and the Tongdaemun Gate (the Great East Gate): These grand, ornate structures are each adjacent to frenetic, popular marketplaces. The Itaewon district, which includes underground complexes, is the city's major shopping area.
Changdok Palace is noted for its huge and remarkable Piwon (Secret Garden), a 78acre labyrinth of paths, ponds, and pavilions. Two other former palaces were converted to museums: Toksu Palace (the one-time royal residence, now housing modern art) and historic Kyongbok Palace (built 600 years ago by the first emperor of the Yi Dynasty). The National Museum is here, as is the Kwanghwamun Gate.
Interesting day trips and excursions include:
* The Korean Folk Village in Suwon, a village museum where ancient life in Korea is reenacted.
Visitors are welcome to watch the peace talks; passes can be set up through the United Nations office in Seoul.
* Panmunjom, where peace talks continue between North and South Korea. Travelers can also visit nearby Inchon, a major port and the site of General Douglas MacArthur's landing.
* Namhansansong Castle, a spectacular fortress on Mt. Namhan. Hyonchungsa is a notable old temple in the area.
* The Royal Tombs at Kumgoknung, a majestic relic of the Yi Dynasty. Other sites in South Korea include:
* Kyongju, the old capital of Korea. Burial mounds, tombs, temples, and a national museum are the attractions here.
* Pusan, South Korea's second largest city, with several good resorts close by. There's also a moving U.N. Memorial Cemetery.
* Cheju Island, off the southern coast, famed for its pearl divers. The historical and revered Manjang-gul Cave and Samsonghyol Caves are important Korean sites. There are good beaches, major hotels, a casino, and excellent diving on the island. It's sometimes reached by a slow, 90-mile ferry ride from Pusan.
* Other resort areas, including Sokcho and Kangnung, east of Seoul. Each area has popular beaches for the summer and offers nearby skiing during the winter.
South Korea is a convenient extension of a trip to Japan or China. Because of the unfamiliarity of the language, escorted tours are popular. This country will appeal to those who love Asian culture, ancient architecture, and bargain shopping. War veterans may also want to return to the site of their battles, under peaceful conditions. South Korea offers beaches and skiing for active vacationers. Business travelers should be prepared for the brusque, no-nonsense approach of Koreans. Potential visitors may be aware of political unrest and the history of South Korea's conflicts with North Korea, but for the moment, neither unrest nor conflict is affecting tourism.
China considers Taiwan to be one of its provinces.
Until the mid-twentieth century, this 240-by-85-mile island was known as Formosa, which in Portuguese means "beautiful." The early settlers from Portugal knew what they were talking about; the island is a glorious one. For years, Taiwan's rulers claimed to represent the legitimate government of China. (It still officially calls itself the Republic of China.) Its airline, for example, continues to be called China Air (CI)--not to be confused with Mainland China's Air China. Taiwan's other carrier is EVA Airways (BR). Taiwan is located off the southeast coast of China, slightly northeast of Hong Kong and just north of the Philippines. Taipei, its capital and gateway in the north, can be reached via Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (TPE). There's also Kaohsiung International Airport (KHU) in the southwest, but it's less used. Taiwan is also serviced by a few U.S. airlines and several Asian carriers. The official language is Mandarin Chinese, but Taiwanese is also widely spoken, as is some Japanese. English is commonly used in business.
Most of Taiwan's tourist destinations are in the north. The weather here is humid; October through December are the nicest months, with temperatures in the mid 70s during the day. January through March is cooler and rainier. The south is drier and warmer, but there's not as much to see. The typhoon season stretches from June to October. Mountain temperatures, of course, are chillier than in the lowlands.
All visitors need do is gaze at its many shrines or travel through its lush countryside to discover Taiwan's beauty. One of its top destinations is Taipei--a busy, cosmopolitan capital. There's a wide selection of goods here and many excellent bargains for those who love to shop. The world-class National Palace Museum is a must-see; it has some 600,000 pieces of Chinese art, much of which was brought over from Beijing's Forbidden City when Taiwan's leaders fled the mainland. The classically styled Martyrs Shrine is designed after a hall in that same Forbidden City. The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall honors the nation's late general and president; its huge complex features a tower more than 20 stories high. There are many temples to visit in Taipei; the most notable is the historic, 250-yearold Lungshan Temple. A popular marketplace is nearby.
Among the day trips are:
* Taroko Gorge, a major destination, featuring an awesome 12-mile drive on its eastern end, known as the "Rainbow of Treasure Island." It's most commonly reached by a short flight from Taipei southeast to Hualien.
* Yangmingshan (Grass Mountain) National Park, noted for its scenic cherry and azalea trees. The trip here from Taipei passes by the Peitou Mineral Springs.
* Yehliu National Park, reached via an hour's drive to the east through lovely mountains and farmland. Yehliu's strange rocks and wonderful vistas make this a worthwhile half-day excursion.
One major destination far away from the hub of Taipei is Sun Moon Lake--created by a dam and offering rich green scenery. Beyond the natural beauty of the area, visitors enjoy the Shrine of Hsuan Chuang, a site honoring the monk who helped spread Buddhism from India. Wen-Wu is a temple dedicated to Confucius, and Filial Devotion Pagoda is as charming as its name implies. Sun Moon Lake is accessed out of Taitung, a pretty town two hours away on the southeast coast.
Taiwan attracts visitors because of its scenery, graceful Chinese architecture, and bargain shopping. Since the island is so small, it's easy to sample Chinese cuisine and culture without having to tackle the vastness of Mainland China. Some feel Taiwan is a safer destination than China. Taiwan makes a wonderful extension of most any trip to Asia--particularly Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea, as well as China. Because of language problems, an escorted tour or a cruise is a good choice.
Eighty-seven languages and more than 100 dialects are spoken in the Philippines.
Often capturing news headlines for its political turmoil, the Philippines can nonetheless be an attractive destination to sell. Comprised of more than 7,000 islands, it's located off the southeast coast of China in the South China Sea and stretches from Taiwan in the north to Indonesia in the south. The main island here is Luzon in the north, where the capital of Manila is located. Philippine Airlines (PR), the national airline, services the country, as do several U.S. and international carriers, and a few cruise lines. Manila (MNL) is the country's gateway; it also serves as a cruise port.
The climate is fairly steady year-round, with highs averaging in the upper 80s and dropping into the mid-70s at night. Winter tends to be a bit cooler and more pleasant; March through May are the hottest months. It's rainiest from June to October (when typhoons are most likely to hit). The official languages are Pilipino (based on Tagalog) and English.
The Philippines provides historical attractions, scenic sites, and lovely beach resorts. Manila is the political and industrial center of the country. It's a place of contrasts, with millionaire communities hard by teeming slums. Most tourists stay in the Ermita district near Luneta Park. There's excellent shopping here. (The best known market is Pistang Pilipino.) Visitors can discover Manila's Spanish heritage at Intramuros, the old walled city where battle-torn Fort Santiago--a former dungeon--is found. Corregidor is an island-fortress across Manila Bay, with important World War II memorials. Manila has many fine churches. Nearby is the pretty town of Makati, featuring a good cultural center and quite a few museums.
Among the day trips from Manila:
* Hidden Valley harbors a lush rain forest. Tourists can explore a dormant volcano close by.
* Pagsanjan Falls inspires visitors with its canyons, rapids, and craggy rock formations. The two-hour drive east of Manila goes through coconut, sugar, and pineapple plantations.
* Lake Taal [TAH-AHL] is commonly viewed from Tagaytay Ridge, 30 miles south of Manila. Lake Taal offers a geographic oddity: at its center is a volcano that, in turn, contains another lake.
Other destinations in the Philippines include:
* Baguio, in the mountains 150 miles north of Manila, is often thought of as the summer resort center of the Philippines. (The climate is cooler here.) The Banaue [bah-NAH-way] Rice Terraces are an extremely popular, if challenging, attraction: massive, awesome tiers cut into the mountainside.
If placed end to end, the Banaue terraces would stretch halfway around the world.
* The Visayas are a cluster of islands in the middle section of the Philippines. Many old churches dot the Visayas, as do beaches and resort developments. The island of Boracay presents especially good water-sports possibilities.
* Zamboanga is on the southern island of Mindanao. Known as the "City of Flowers," this beautiful, active port features hanging gardens, 300-year-old Fort Pilar, an impressive mosque, and nearby Rio Hondo Village, with homes built over water on stilts. Elsewhere on the island are good beaches, especially at Davao.
This tropical island-nation appeals to those who love scenic destinations, relaxing beaches, snorkeling, shopping, good value, and a mix of exotic cultures. World War II veterans may also want to return here. The Philippines provides good shopping opportunities. Escorted tours are a popular way to get around from island to island. Budget lodging can leave much to be desired, and luxury hotels are a relative bargain. The Philippines is close to Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and China, creating potentially longer itineraries. Japan and Australia (though more distant) are also potential add-ons. Asian cruises often call on Manila. So far, political turbulence hasn't disrupted tourism in the Philippines, though there's always that possibility. Crime and tourist scams are occasionally a problem here.
Fewer than half of the Philippine islands have names; only around 900 are inhabited.
"Peninsular Malaysia" is not another term for the "Malay Peninsula." It's the part of Malaysia that's actually on the Malay Peninsula (which also contains parts of Thailand and Burma).
Indonesia, with the fourth largest population in the world, boasts a land area about the size of Alaska and Oregon combined. Yet it stretches 3,000 miles--longer than the width of the United States. How can this be? Simple: Indonesia is made up of a spread-out arc of islands (17,000 of them), stretching almost halfway up Peninsular Malaysia on the west and almost to Australia on the east. The largest of its islands, Sumatra, lies to the west; Java, a densely populated island and the location of the nation's capital, Jakarta, is a bit farther east; Bali sits at the eastern tip of Java; and the jungles of Borneo are to the north. Jakarta (JKT) is the gateway into Indonesia and is reached via the national airline, Garuda Indonesia (GA).
Borneo has more species of plants than the entire continent of Africa does.
Most of Indonesia's landmass lies below the equator, so its seasons--limited as they are--are opposite those in North America. The climate tends to be steamy all year. The driest months are June to early November (but it's still humid and there will be rain), with temperatures in the upper 80s. Inland temperatures run slightly cooler. Late November to March is extremely wet; the monsoon season is January and February. Bahasa Indonesia is the official language, though many other dialects and languages are spoken. Many Indonesians speak English.
Indonesia is a mosaic of cultures. It's an ancient land: the prehistoric remains of Java Man were discovered here. Its destinations include:
* Bali features lush jungles, volcanic mountain peaks, exotic Hindu ceremonies, mystical temples, pristine beaches, and a culture that expects almost everyone to be an artist. Denpasar is the island's main business center--though most tourists stay at the great resorts near the island's southern tip, which features excellent snorkeling, surfing, and diving. Other resorts are at Sanur (east coast) and Kuta (west coast). Bali is heavily developed; it's no longer the "primitive" tropical place it was a few decades ago.
* Bali's intricate, moat-surrounded Pura Taman Ayun is one of the oldest temples in Indonesia. Pura Luhur (Ancestors Temple) is a sacred shrine with stunning views, located on the edge of a cliff. Sengah is a monkey forest where the animals--considered sacred--wander about everywhere, including through the nearby village. The town of Ubud has quite a few art galleries and museums; the villages of Mas and Celuk specialize in native craft; and Denpasar's Bali Museum features cultural arts.
* Yogyakarta, in the center of the island of Java, is a major cultural center. It's known for its batik factories, which are open to tourists. The Palace of the Sultan is a complex of elaborate, lavishly designed pavilions. A trip to nearby Borobudur [bore-uh-buh-DUR] and its immense, spectacular Buddhist temple--built 1,200 years ago and recently restored-- is a must. The Prambanan Temple complex, with its Loro Jonggrang Temple, is also impressive; from June through October, a ballet depicting the famous Ramayana story is performed on the nights of the full moon. (It's one of the two great Hindu epics, along with the Mahabharata.)
The temple of Borobudur was forgotten for 1,000 years and rediscovered by Sir Stamford Raffles (of Singapore's Raffles Hotel fame).
* Jakarta, Indonesia's busy and crowded capital, is located on the west end of Java. It has only a few sites of interest. The National Museum has some fine collections. Tourists might enjoy visiting Fatahillah Square (in the Dutch quarter) and batik factories. A little way out of town in Bogor is a superb botanical garden with more than 50,000 species of plants and 10,000 species of trees.
* Surabaya, in east Java, is an area of many volcanoes. The town also operates a good zoo with the famed Komodo dragons, huge lizards that were often used in movies to portray dinosaurs.
* Sumatra, a beautiful island with excellent wildlife, is most famous for its Sumatran tigers. Attractions in Medan include the interesting Sultan's Palace and a native village built on stilts.
* Krakatoa, the legendary volcano, rises up on the island of Rakata--you can book excursions here. (By the way, there was a movie called Krakatoa, East of Java. Krakatoa is actually west of Java, but east apparently sounded better to Hollywood.)
When Krakatoa exploded in 1883, it created the loudest sound in recorded history.
Unless the traveler is going only to Bali, an escorted tour is a great option in Indonesia: independent travel can be challenging. Indonesia will be popular among those interested in primitive cultures, the religions of the world, water sports, exotic food, shopping, and bargain travel. Cruise ships stop at nearly a dozen different ports. Cruises are also one of the easiest ways to get to see Komodo Island and its huge lizards. The country occasionally suffers from political unrest.
Some believe that an earlier eruption in 535 A.D. and global climate changes it caused triggered a plague in the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages in Europe, the abandonment of Teotihuacan, and the rise of Islam.
Malaysia is divided into two sections: the most populous region lies on the Malay Peninsula, bordered by Thailand to the north and Singapore and Indonesia (across the Strait of Malacca) to the south; the more primitive jungle area sits atop the island of Borneo. Kuala Lumpur (KUL), the capital and air gateway, is near the west-central coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It's served by the national carrier, Malaysian Airlines (MH), as well as several U.S. and Asian airlines. (Because Singapore is so conveniently close to Malaysia, some travelers prefer to land there instead.) Malaysia is well situated for cruises: George Town, Port Kelang, and Malacca are its main ports.
By law, karaoke bars in Malaysia close by 11 P.M. to keep men from staying out too late.
Malaysia has a hot, tropical climate. Daytime highs average around 90 degrees, with evening lows in the 70s. It's humid all year, though October through January is rainiest, whereas March through June is the most pleasant period. Conditions on the peninsula are slightly cooler and drier than on the island of Borneo. Malay is the national language, but English is widely spoken, especially in business.
A lush country, Malaysia offers beautiful scenery, an austere but intriguing Islamic culture, and some wonderful beaches. Among the most popular destinations are:
* Kuala Lumpur, a beautiful city with Moorish architecture. Most notable are the National Mosque, the palace-like railroad station, and the twin Petronas Towers, two of the world's tallest skyscrapers. The Central Market is a busy and entertaining place. Tourists may also enjoy the city's excellent zoo and National Museum. Outside the city are the Batu Caves, up nearly 300 steps to a Hindu shrine in an exotic grotto. And in the Genting Highlands is a resort and recreation area with a very busy casino.
Kuala Lumpur is commonly called "KL."
* Malacca, three hours south of Kuala Lumpur. This historic port--Malaysia's oldest city--can be seen as a long day trip from Kuala Lumpur. A multicultured city, it was settled at various times by the Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, and English. Malacca's old quarter is called Bandar Hillar. St. Paul's and St. Peter's are interesting churches.
* Penang Island, a place of beaches and temples off the northwest coast. Kek Lok Si is a multitiered temple built into the hillside; thousands of tiny Buddha statues fill its pagoda. The Snake Temple is lovely but perhaps not for the squeamish: poisonous, sacred snakes freely slither through the altar. (It feels like a place out of an Indiana Jones movie.) The gold and bejeweled Waterfall Temple is a popular site. George Town is the major city on the island, and its free port makes for excellent shopping. Fort Cornwallis marks the early British settlement, and the intricately carved Khoo Kongsi is a building many tourists enjoy.
* The Cameron Highlands, on the mainland halfway between Penang and Kuala Lumpur. This recreation area offers waterfalls, tea plantations, and its famous butterflies. (There's even a butterfly farm.) The climate here is cooler than that of the lowlands.
The British developed the resorts in the highlands to escape from the heat and humidity of the rest of Malaysia.
* Sarawak, the northwest territory on Borneo. This is the legendary, ancient home of Dyak headhunters. Kuching, the capital, features a historical museum, some fine temples, and several mosques. A British dynasty was begun here by the White Rajah; his successor built a lovely palace, Astana.
* Sabah, the northeast territory on Borneo, a region for the adventurous. The capital, Kota Kinabalu, has an impressive state mosque and a good museum; the city can serve as a convenient hub for exploring the surrounding tribal area. Mt. Kinabalu, rising 13,500 feet, is a popular destination for climbers; its hilly national park is filled with exotic birds, flowers, and butterflies.
* Tioman, the principal island amidst a group of 64 volcanic islands off the eastern coast. With white coral beaches and crystal-clear waters, these islands are being discovered for their superb snorkeling opportunities and the spectacle of hundreds of turtles that swim to shore to lay their eggs.
Malaysia is well located for extending trips to Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia. It's a country for those who love scenery, beaches, shopping (especially batik and brassworks), and tribal culture. It also offers areas that are ideal for the adventurous. You would be wise to upsell hotels rather than book travelers in unpleasant, basic accommodations. Getting around the country can be a bother to some, so tours might be appropriate. And, again, Malaysia's proximity to many other nations encourages an expanded trip, often via a cruise.
For many decades, Vietnam--at war with France and later with the United States--had virtually no tourism. The current government seems far more willing to encourage commerce in general and tourism in particular. As a result, several tour operators and cruise lines have positioned Vietnam as an intriguing destination to visit.
Vietnam--a long, thin country that stretches north to south along the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea--can be divided into three regions. The north is where Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, is located. It's an unusual amalgam of ancient temples, colonial French homes, interesting museums, and modern skyscrapers. About 100 miles to the southeast are the port of Haiphong and nearby Halong Bay. Halong Bay is Vietnam's natural wonder, with thousands of small islands, beaches, caves, and grottoes.
Vietnam's central region is most famous for Hue [hoo-WAY], considered Vietnam's most beautiful city. Once the nation's imperial capital, Hue's most impressive attraction is the Citadel, a huge, moated, partly destroyed complex of structures. Several hours away is Da Nang, a port city with many temples and small museums.
Vietnam's southern region is anchored by Ho Chi Minh City, more popularly known by its traditional name, Saigon. A large, bustling metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City has many French-inspired buildings and more ancient, traditional structures. Nha Trang, a developing seaside resort, lies to the city's north.
Most visitors access Vietnam on flights on Asian carriers from Bangkok, or via cruise ships that call on Vietnam's principal ports.
Nearly 100,000 monks live in Mandalay, an important Buddhist center.
Sandwiched between India, China, and Thailand, with the Bay of Bengal [ben-GAHL] to the south, Burma--also known as Myanmar [mee-AHN-mahr]--was once a British colony and has retained much of its cultural heritage. The squalid capital of Rangoon (also called Yangon) features a gold-and-diamond-encrusted, bell-shaped complex--Shwedagon Pagoda--one of the most sacred Buddhist shrines. Mandalay, the former capital, has a strong cultural past; its Kuthodaw Pagoda houses more than 700 tiny pagodas.
Pagan [pah-GAHN]--yet another former capital--is a beautiful, fascinating city with the ruins of 5,000 pagodas. This was the center of the powerful Pagan dynasty, until Kublai Khan overran it in the thirteenth century. Inle [IN-lay] Lake is a growing resort area.
The Burmese celebrate New Year's by throwing buckets of water on one another.
Burma is an adventure: lodging is hardly deluxe and there's much political and military turmoil. Most information and arrangements should be secured through Tourist Myanmar, the official agency for all Burmese travel. Burma is usually booked as a two- or three-day "extra" on a trip to adjoining Thailand--the more popular destination.
Slightly to the east of Nepal and separated from it only by a thin strip of India, lofty Bhutan [boo-TAHN] is known as the "Land of the Thunder Dragon." A country of unspoiled beauty, it's only been open to outside tourists since 1974; there continue to be strict limits on the number of tourists permitted yearly. The awesome Himalaya make Bhutan a major destination for treks and mountain climbing.
Paro is Bhutan's largest city. An old temple, Ta Dzong, today houses the National Museum; though now in ruins, Drukgyel Dzong was once an impressive monastery; and Kyichu Lhakhang is an important temple. The capital of Bhutan, Thimphu, is the folk-cultural center, with many ancient structures and good crafts shopping. Nearby Punakha is a religious center nestled in a mountainous area; many temples can be found here, the most famous is Punakha Dzong, a major winter sanctuary for Buddhist monks. The drive between Wangdiphodrang and Tongsa is breathtaking.
A dzong is a fortressmonastery.
Imagine the most stunning and prodigious mountain range you can. It's likely that you'll be imagining the Himalaya of Nepal. The northern region of this country is perhaps the prime trekking and mountain climbing destination in the world: this is the land of Mt. Everest, the world's tallest peak. Special permits may be necessary for some of the excursions here, so be sure to check with the Ministry of Tourism. Southern Nepal is merely hilly and, thus, more populous. There has been unrest here, which may worry some travelers, so check for government advisories.
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to climb to the top of Mt. Everest.
Kathmandu is the capital, the main hub for treks, and a somewhat cosmopolitan city. Visitors may enjoy its Royal Palace and Durbar Square; some impressive shrines are here, as well. Adjacent to Kathmandu, Swayambhunath Temple offers superb views up a major stair climb--not to mention monkeys that roam freely. Also near Kathmandu is Bhaktapur (once known as Bhadgaon), a cultural arts center. It was built in 900 A.D. and has retained many temples, monasteries, a famous Golden Gate, and the Palace of Fifty-five Windows. Another town close by is Patan, an impressive and ancient center of religious art.
Pokhara has a resort area on nearby Lake Phewa; it's also the base for treks beginning on the Annapurna Range. In the lowlands, Royal Chitwan National Park is a popular wildlife preserve, with such rare animals as Royal Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinos. The warm weather and jungle scenery here lend themselves ideally to safaris and rafting excursions. Tiger Tops is the area's most famous base camp.
Tradition is that Buddha was born in Nepal.
Pickled ginger is the most popular pizza topping in India, squid in Japan, and eggs in Australia.
The seventh largest country in the world, India is one-third the size of the United States. It's also the world's second most populated nation, with over a billion people--more than three times that of the United States. The most populous area of India is the fertile plains around the sacred Ganges [GAN-jeez] River; this lies below the Himalaya, which anchor the northern border in spectacular fashion. India is a beautiful, mystical land of splendor, exotic culture, and heart-rending poverty. It's located south of China, bordered on the west by the Arabian Sea and on the east by the Bay of Bengal. The island-nation of Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon) rests off its southern tip.
India is second only to the United States in the length of its road systems.
New Delhi, the capital, anchors northern India; it's the main gateway, with flights arriving at Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL). Near the northeast coast is Calcutta (CCU), India's largest city, major port, and commercial center; Mumbai (formerly Bombay) (BOM), on the west-central coast, is another important port and a fairly cosmopolitan city. The country is serviced from the United States by Air India (AI), the national airline, as well as by U.S. and international carriers.
March through May is a dry and often uncomfortably hot period in India, whereas June through September is the notorious monsoon rain season. It's most comfortable to visit from October to February: the climate in the south ranges from tropical daytime temperatures in the mid-80s to the mid-60s at night. The more mountainous north runs about 25 degrees cooler. The Himalaya, of course, can get quite cold. Of the 16 official languages, Hindi is the national language, though English (an associate official tongue) is common in business and government; more than 1,500 recognized dialects are spoken across India.
Some of the world's most historical cities and the Himalaya--these attract many to India. Among the country's principal destinations is New Delhi, which is actually made up of the old city of Delhi and a more modern development. Its seventeenth-century Red Fort was built under order of Shah Jahan, who was responsible for creating the Taj Mahal; it houses the Imperial Palace and the Hall of Private Audience, with a ceiling of solid silver. This same shah also had built the beautiful, marble Jama Masjid mosque, the largest in India. (An antique market adjoins it.) Another religious building, Lakshmi Narayan Temple, is one of the finest in the city. An impressively tall minaret, Qutb Minar, was built in the thirteenth century. Humayun's Tomb is a classical wonder, 450 years old. Another important tomb is the Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi; it's where his cremated remains rest.
Two excursions out of New Delhi:
* Agra, home of the Taj Mahal--considered by many to be the world's most beautiful building. This exquisite memorial was built by Shah Jahan for his wife; some feel it's most impressive in moonlight. For those who take the time to look beyond the Taj, Agra also has some other fine sights, including the complexes of Agra Fort, Itmad-udDaulah (often compared to the Taj Mahal but on a much smaller scale), and Fatehpur Sikri (with palaces, mosques, and a beautiful mausoleum). From New Delhi, Agra is 30 minutes by plane or about three hours by car.
* Jaipur, called the "Pink City" for the color of stone used here. Forts and hills circle the city. Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) is in fact no more than a facade with nearly 1,000 windows. The City Palace Museum has a fine collection of crafts, and the Amber Palace--Jaipur's principal attraction--impressively overlooks the city.
India's other major destinations are:
* Varanasi, also known as Benares. Pilgrims come here to cleanse themselves in the holy waters of the Ganges. Varanasi is the center of the Hindu religion in India; many sacred temples grace the city. Nearby is the town of Sarnath, a major Buddhist center; it's said that Buddha taught his first lesson here.
* Calcutta, the nation's commercial center and largest city. For all its importance, this major port city is painfully squalid. It's not a prime tourist destination, but there are some fine sites: the Victoria Memorial, which contains artifacts from the colonial days; Eden Gardens; the huge India Museum; the Marble Palace Mansion and its artwork; and New Market.
* Madras, on the southeast coast. The first British settlement was here, at Fort St. George. The city is also of major Christian and Hindu importance, with temples, palaces, and religious sites. Outside of town are a number of ancient temples: the village of Mahabalipuram has a magnificent shrine, with its famous cave temples and sculptures cut out of rathas (rock).
* Goa, a somewhat different sort of Indian destination. It's a tropical beach resort that has a very cosmopolitan feel. The climate is extremely pleasant--even the monsoon season in Goa is relatively mild.
Goa was a colony of Portugal until 1961.
* Mumbai, a fairly sophisticated industrial center. Sixth-century cave temples carved into rock can be found on Elephanta Island, reached by ferry. Tourists may enjoy exploring Mumbai Harbor and Chowpatty Beach or shopping in the "Thieves' Market," the Chor Bazaar. The Prince of Wales Museum offers fine, diverse collections; and the Hanging Gardens at Malabar Hill are beautiful.
* Ajanta and Ellora Caves; these superb ruins lie about 200 miles to the northeast of Mumbai. At Ellora, 34 impressive temples are cut out of the rock.
* Udaipur, a lovely city where palaces line a lake. The City Palace Museum is excellent. Other attractions include the ornate Maharajah's Palace and beautiful Sahelion ki Bari gardens. Just outside town are the Jain Temples, in the ancient ruins at Nagda.
* Wildlife reserves, with some of the rarest creatures in the world. You can book safaris in any number of lush, exciting parks. Among the best: Mudumalai, Sasan Gir (noted for its lions), and Keoladeo Ghana (an impressive bird preserve).
The word serendipity comes from the Moslem name for Sri Lanka.
India is a large country, and its culture (and, especially, the poverty) seems challenging to many; as a result, escorted tours (which help buffer tourists) or cruises are excellent options. In addition, you should upsell hotel accommodations, since the alternative can often lead to unpleasant experiences. There's even the possibility of staying in a converted palace. Several luxurious train trips are available. The wildlife here is unique and presents an interesting alternative to the traditional African safari areas. India will also attract religious pilgrims, bargain-seekers, lovers of early culture and history, and those fascinated by philosophy and mysticism.
The Maldives constitute the flattest country on earth.
One other point: Sri Lanka (an island-nation south of India that has suffered some political turmoil) and the Maldive Islands (coral islands to the southwest that are a common cruise port of call on the way to Africa) are attractive tropical destinations whose tourism industries have shown considerable growth.
TRAVEL TRIVIA Questionable Menu Items * "Pork with Fresh Garbage" (Vietnam) * "As for the tripe served you at the Hotel Monopol, you will be singing its praises to your grandchildren as you lie on your deathbed." (Polish tourist brochure) * "Chopped up cow with a wire through it (shish-ke-bob)." (Athens hotel) * "Muscles of Marines/Lobster Thermos" (Cairo) * "Buttered Saucepans and Fried Hormones" (Japan) * "Sweat from the Trolley" (Europe) * "Dreaded Veal Cutlet with Potatoes in Cream" (Europe) * "Teppen Yaki--Before Your Cooked Right Eyes" (Japan) * "Goose Barnacles" (Spain) * "Toes with Butter and Jam" (Bali)
NAME -- DATE --
MAP ACTIVITY [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] A traveler wants to visit the places listed below. Which number represents each on the map? Place/Attraction In Which Country? Number on Map A. Mt. Everest A. -- A. -- B. Bali B. -- B. -- C. Elephanta Island C. -- C. -- D. Taipei D. -- D. -- E. The Gobi Desert E. -- E. -- F. The Taj Mahal F. -- F. -- G. Seoul G. -- G. -- H. Kuala Lumpur H. -- H. -- I. Taroko Gorge I. -- I. -- J. Manila J. -- J. --
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CASE STUDY Sandra Durant, in her mid-thirties, has a wanderlust spirit and enjoys going on adventurous trips by herself. This year she has her sights set on about three weeks in Southeast Asia--Malaysia, Indonesia, perhaps the Philippines, and Singapore. Cost is important to her. The flight over is expensive enough and she'll be looking for bargains along the way. But then, she's always felt that roughing it is the best way to see any country. Circle the answer that best suits her needs: (1) Which of the following services could you recommend? First-class air tickets A side trip to Thailand An escorted safari Deluxe hotel rooms Why? * Sandra plans to be on the go for most of her trip, but she wants to find one destination in the area where she can stop and spend a bit more time. Where might you suggest? Tahiti Fiji Bali Bora Bora Why? (3) Of the following sites, which would not be appropriate for you to recommend that Sandra visit? Borobudur The Taj Mahal Batu Caves Banaue Rice Terraces Why? (4) Which of the following tips should you suggest? Lodging may be challenging. Bring a sweater for the chilly nights. Convenient transportation is. There are major trekking opportunities available throughout. Why?
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CREATIVE ACTIVITY You work for ACME Cruise Lines, which has decided to inaugurate an 18-day cruise of Asia and the Pacific. The cruise, which will be targeted to culture-seekers, begins in Hong Kong at 7 P.M. Your job: to propose an itinerary that will call on at least four ports (you may end the cruise at any port). List the ports you've chosen, indicate what happens each day, and be prepared to justify your itinerary. Remember that the ship shouldn't cruise a distance between ports that would take longer than three days. The ship is capable of speeds of 20 to 25 mph. Note also that cruise lines usually like to have their ships depart in the early evening and arrive in the early morning so they sail as much as possible at night. (Try to give projected departure and arrival times.) You may have the ship stay at a port for several days or have it merely arrive at a port in the morning and leave that same evening. You may wish to study cruise line brochures to get a few ideas. Day 1: Embark Day 10: Day 2: Day 11: Day 3: Day 12: Day 4: Day 13: Day 5: Day 14: Day 6: Day 15: Day 7: Day 16: Day 8: Day 17: Day 9: Day 18:
NAME -- DATE --
PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER: THE MATCHING GAME Directions: Below is a list of cities, attractions, and so forth, some of which we have covered, some that we haven't. There are all manner of connections among them. With a group of fellow students, you have exactly 10 minutes to come up with as many connections as possible. (Items may be used more than once.) Write your answers below. Note: There are at least 20 possible connections. For example, Yangtze and Li--both are rivers. Himalaya Tahiti Maldives Lhasa Katherine Great Dividing Range Japan Queenstown Yangtze Wellington Canberra Nepal Noumea Vietnam New Caledonia Li Coral Southern Darwin Murray Palace on Wheels Brunei Tonga Alice Springs Thailand Silver Fern Kuala Lumpur Beijing Micronesia Gold Coast Taroko Phuket Indian Pacific Blue Rotorua Volcano Truk Island Shanghai Western Samoa
Marc Mancini, PhD
Department of Travel
West Los Angeles College
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|Title Annotation:||PART VI ASIA AND THE PACIFIC Rim of Mystery|
|Publication:||Selling Destinations, Geography for the Travel Professional, 4th ed.|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2004|
|Previous Article:||Chapter 29 China of red and gold.|
|Next Article:||Appendix A Average length of stay--leisure travelers.|