If I want to visit Europe for its architecture, I want to visit Asia for its nature. Beautiful sweeping mountains and flowers. Species of animals that can only be found in certain nooks and crevices across the continent. Tigers and Orangutans, monkeys and panda bears, and of course the Asian Elephant (I really want to meet an Elephant). Cultures and peoples that, perhaps because of their Buddhist and Hindi roots, seem tranquil and at peace. People who seem to be happy just living life. There’s a rich history in Asia of advancement and development, that is often overlooked by much of the Western world.
I struggled to with my decision to include the Asian Middle Eastern countries on this list. Ultimately I decided to, given my choice to develop these lists based on continents and not regions. There are 12 places that I HAVE to visit in Asia, but like Europe, the list could probably go on a mile long if I had the time.
Mongolia intrigues me. Despite being a relatively large country it seems empty and untrodden. Everything I hear about Mongolia strikes me as being very different from the rest of Asia. It has as history of being a nomadic civilization, with families moving from point to point in yurts. It’s also home to one of the only herds of wild horses and the Gobi Desert, one of the largest deserts in the world.
The Taj Mahal. I’m surprised every time I see a photograph of the Taj Mahal that it’s a photo and not a painting. If a building can be that beautiful on paper when I’m thousands of miles away, it’s bound to be breathtaking in person. There are so many different aspects to India; I want to see as much of it as possible. Every country is burdened with poverty, but there is something so immense and striking about the difference between rich and poor in India. Something that can only be understood by seeing it.
India is also the country of Gandhi, the greatest pacifist leader in history. Being able to walk even near his footsteps would be a huge honor. The country has grown and changed so much in the past 50 years and much of its growth can be contributed the incredible work he did to set free and unite his country.
Despite being the victim of one of the most recent and brutal genocides, Cambodia is now considered one of the most peaceful countries in Asia, with one of the most beautiful and vibrant cultures. Not to mention that Angkor Wat is some of the best preserved architecture from the 12th century. The ancient civilization is so old that in some areas the trees have actually grown around the stone and started to consume it.
For years Bhutan was closed off from the rest of the world. The country is now open to tourists, but guests have to pay a daily fee to stay. This fee is an effort to limit the number of people entering the country. With so few people the environment and ecosystem have been extremely well-preserved. So has the culture. It still remains so isolated that the effects of globalization have yet to really dent the surface.
My parents grew up in the age of communism and in the midst of the Vietnam War. The tragedies they lived with and watched in the news are the ones that I learned in history class. It’s remarkable that a country scarred with violence and death in their lifetime has been marked by peace in mine. My parents and their generation look at Vietnam and see the shades of war, while my generation and I see a culture worth exploring. I think the only way to see how the nation has shifted and changed and rebuilt itself after the long drawn out periods of war and occupation is to visit.
I’m scared of heights so climbing Mount Everest isn’t in my books. I’d still like to see the infamous mountain though. Learn more about the Buddhist religion and culture the country is famous for. From my understanding the rituals and culture of the people aren’t just influenced by their environment, they’re connected. I want a chance to not only understand but live in the way the Nepalese do and come to appreciate the link between a people and their environment.
China is immense. The country is so large, the language and the culture between regions can be virtually unrecognizable. Years before the Western world began developing some of the most standard technologies of today’s world, the Chinese were already making significant breakthroughs. Modern standards aside, China was once one of the most advanced societies in the world, and in many respects still is. This advancement wasn’t just technological, the Great Wall of China, in addition to being the nation’s best known (not to mention incredible) sights, is one of the greatest architectural achievements in history.
Iran has been an ever shifting country for the past century. The government has consistently changed, whether by force or by revolution. Today, many consider the nation “backward,” with religion being the guiding governing force. But, it was once one of the most progressive nations in the Middle East. The government of the country may have changed and the women may now have to veil their heads, but the people of Iran remain some of the strongest and strong-willed you may find. Many people view of the woman of Iran as repressed, and in many ways they are, but anyone would be wrong to think they’d back down from a fight. It would be something to set foot in a nation where its people are that impassioned.
In kindergarten my two best friends were Japanese. I’ve wanted to visit ever since. I’ve tried for years to understand the Japanese culture, but the more I try the less I understand. Regardless of what can be described as some strange cultural traits botanically Japan is beautiful. The Cherry Blossoms might be the most famous, but they aren’t the only flowers that come from Japan. It seems almost impossible that one country can have such a continuously beautiful landscape.
If there’s one country I’d be inclined to visit for its beaches alone, it’d be Thailand. Phuket Province, Thailand’s famous island, has miles of beautiful beaches. If the beaches on Phuket aren’t enough to bring my camera, the surrounding mountains, that often seem to jump right out of the water and miles into the air, are stunning enough to take photograph after photograph.
I’ll be the first to admit that outside of Iran I have a limited knowledge and understanding of much of the Middle East. But, I don’t think, if given the opportunity, I’d be able to resist a visit to Petra. The city was built during the B.C. era, more than 2,000 years ago, and it was built into the existing stone too. I’ve seen pictures of the city, the carving and detail, is spectacular. You have to ask yourself how a civilization that barely had hand tools was able to build such a stable and lasting city by hand.
Three things pop to mind when I think the Indonesia. The first is a quote from The West Wing “There’s no such language as Indonesian.” Apparently that’s only partly true. There’s a national language that most citizens are fluent in, but many communities still retain their regional dialects. The second thing that comes to mind is that President Obama spent a portion of his childhood in Indonesia. His mother married an Indonesian and the family moved to Jakarta. The final thing that comes to mind is Eat, Pray, Love . During the final months of Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey she stayed in Bali. With these three things in mind, I want to go to Indonesia. Gilbert wrote that the country is a country of pleasure. The people not only enjoy life, they’re relaxed in their lives.
This doesn’t include Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Myanmar, and any other number of nations and regions that I also desperately wish to visit. War has also left several Middle Eastern nations off, there are countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan I wish I could have visited 60 years ago, but many of the landmarks and sites have been torn down and destroyed. What strikes me as incredible about Asia though is the distinctly different cultures that live on the continent. The people are so different from country to country, region to region, and city to city.