The phrase is one that is often thrown around loosely in travel circles. On its surface it seems clear enough, but the fact is that Asia isn’t a place one goes to. It’s a place that lets you in.
I discovered that 13 years ago when after months of planning, my new husband and I grabbed our guidebooks, maps and expectations and headed out in search of architectural gems and world wonders.
We found what we were after.
You can’t go to Asia and not feel the pull of history. There are mystical temples waiting to be explored at the top of steep hills in Thailand, mesmerizing dynasties you’ll yearn to understand in China and sky-high harbour views in Hong Kong that can’t help but lead you down the road to the unique story of their English and Chinese heritage. History comes to life here in the buildings whether towering skyscrapers or farmland flats. Parables are told that include rebellious leaders and championing emperors. You can’t help but fall in love with the lore.
But beyond the night markets of Bangkok or monolithic icons like the Forbidden City in Beijing, lie communities with more to offer than their impressive structures. What truly makes Asia worth visiting are the people. And in Asia the people are incredible.
So much so, that when the chance came to return last year with our two young sons in tow, we seized it.
And again, Asia didn’t disappoint.
Whether we were stumbling into shops for a cup of green tea, debating where to eat and what to put in our next round of green curry or looking for insider information on how best to greet a panda, the locals gave us what we were looking for and then added a layer of unabashed curiosity that was refreshing (“You need to eat more food. Your wife isn’t feeding you?!? She can’t cook?”) even when it shocked our Canadian sensibilities (“You need another baby! Where’s your girl? The boys need a sister.”). And it constantly made the trip even better.
- When you aren’t exploring Asia’s past, you’ll find yourself absorbing the present: Seafood fresh from the sea cooked with spices that make your eyes water as much as your mouth.
- back roads perfect for exploring smaller communities by bike or foot.
- sandy beaches that beckon with warm sand and cold beer.
- zip lines that tempt from far above and hold the potential of spotting an elephant and mahout in a neighbouring field.
- the slow ride on an authentic Chinese junk around Hong Kong Harbour – literally sitting on the past and cruising through the present.
But how do you find the places and people who turn a trip to Asia into an experience so memorable it is still going 13 years strong? Visit the Asia Now Series on The Toronto Star.
On these pages you’ll find some of the reasons that the area continues to demand your attention. We’ll take you to the kitchens and gardens of Hong Kong, the beaches of Hainan Island in China (sometimes called “China’s Hawaii”), the back streets of Chengdu in Sichuan province and the stunning island of Koh Lanta on Thailand’s coast. We’ll introduce you to the beauty of a pink sunset, the sing song calls for “massage” from ladies who mean business and help you navigate the tropical temperatures, affordable hotels and benefits of learning to “hang ten” in Mandarin.
You’ll read the stories of the people who make these cities worthy of a visit and you’ll begin to understand why the continent continues to call to tourists world wide.
It’s the stories and the people.
It’s the high fashion and the trendy t-shirts.
It’s the imprint of the history. It’s the promise of the future.
It’s what makes Asia, Asia. And it’s why you can be sure your next visit will always surpass your last.
Read the Asia Now Series on The Toronto Star.
This post originally appeared on The Toronto Star website. You can read the original version here.
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