Things are starting to heat up in America. Summer is fast upon the Northern Hemisphere, and with it comes, at least for teachers and students, summer breaks. People are already filling up the beaches in Florida, and soon there will not be a vacant vacation spot in the U.S. Even the tourists are sick of the tourists. Those with an adventurous spirit might find a much more interesting place to visit in Asia. Here are few places to consider:
Thailand, home of The Beach and Return to Paradise, is a beautiful country. Although unbearably hot in the summer, the many beaches refresh melting backpackers and tourists before they waste away to nothing. Travel north in the country to see what is known at The Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos intersect at three rivers. Further south you may enjoy the island of Koh Samui, a place DeNiro’s character planned a little operation for in Meet the Parents.
Worth mentioning, also, are the mountains of northern India. Trekking through the foothills of the Himalayas is an adventure not easily forgotten, and you are guaranteed to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Visit the famous city, Darjeeling, and drink tea with locals. You are likely to find people that speak English, as it is the most widely used language in India, but if you’re having trouble, look for schools. There are always students studying English who would be happy to practice their skills with you and maybe even show you around. If you’re lucky, you might even make a real friend out of it. Getting mail from India after returning home is always cool.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sucked, and if you don’t believe me, ask anyone in China. The best cities to see (if you have money) are Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. If you must do things on the cheap (and I mean cheap), avoid the famous big cities and travel by train around the country. This will be very difficult without any understanding of the language, but with a phrasebook, it’s possible for a risk-taking traveler to get around. Something to pay special attention to in China is the diversity. Although the Han people make up approximately 89 percent of the population, there are a number of minority groups, especially in the south. If you travel northwest, you can experience the Muslim groups of China … they make awesome lamb kabobs. In the west, of course, are the Tibetans (and there are tons of different groupings for Tibetans), and in the north are the Mongolians.
Nepal is over-rated, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a beautiful country. Kathmandu is an awful, dirty city, but has its own charm in an odd sort of way. Sit on the steps of one of the many temples in the town center to drink chai and watch ruthless merchants push items ranging from tiger balm to hashish. It is simply not an experience to miss in this country. To really enjoy nature here, you must escape the tourist trap of the city and go trekking in the mountains. You can even go to Mt. Everest Base Camp.
Asia is amazing. If you want something a little different than last year’s trip to the overcrowded beach, you really might want to check into an Asian vacation this summer. Plane tickets are cheaper than you might think, and you’ll end up with great stories to share with all your friends (and grandchildren, for that matter). With the fear of SARS declining, even China might be a good option, but if not, Thailand, India and Nepal are all great countries worth visiting. Traveling in Asia can be a challenge, but it’s worth it. Do it for the adventurer in you.
Tips for Traveling in Asia …
· Remember to hold onto your passport. You’ll thank me.
· Like Dave Mathews says, don’t drink the water (even check your bottled water … sometimes it’s just from the tap).
· When it comes to food, try everything. You only live once, and you can get some great stories this way to tell your friends at home.
· When OUT comes the food, remember that you are going to live. Big ‘D’ calls for bananas, white rice and/or white bread.
· You’re not a man unless you’ve seen the Great Wall. Make a point to go see it if you can.
· Never, ever, NOT bargain with merchants (pay about a third in most places). Not doing this really ticks off foreigners who live in the area because it makes it harder for them to bargain.
· When your hotel phone rings late at night, just say no.
· Learn a few phrases to use where you travel. People love that. Good phrases are “Hello,” “Thank you,” “Toilet?” and “No, I don’t know Michael Jordan.”
· Take lots of pictures, but be careful where you have them developed. Not all Asian Kodak places are the same.
· Your country’s Lonely Planet guidebook is your new Bible.
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