Asia

Introduction

Asia…no, not the east. Asia - the continent. It is hard to break out from the mental shell created by post colonial ideologies and propagandas. But, you are not to be blamed. By the time Asia found its way into literature and into hearts of millions in the new world, its character had been sketched anew and re-written to spark the adventure that Asia was, is and continues to be. However, when I speak of Asia I simply mean the continent, raw and ripe, in purely physical, geographical and cultural terms.

Uniqueness

As one moves from the north of the continent towards the south one meets different ethnic groups, different cultural backgrounds, different facial features, different kinds of music and different kinds of terrain. If there is a cold desert to the north there is a hot one to the very south that is a great deal smaller too. If there are grasslands called steppes in central regions there are thick tropical rain forests that mark the south eastern perimeters. If there are pale to brown faced Caucasians to the west and the south, there are people of Mongoloid race in the central parts and towards the east.

Landlocked on the north and water logged along its peninsular southern regions Asia has managed to carve its own niche in every field. Be it history, culture, politics, literature, science, mankind’s civilization, Nobel laurels, you name it Asia has seen it and done it all. And all in its own personal way. It is the only continent where myriad cultures mix, in numbers more numerous than those found in all other continents put together. And that is perhaps what makes it unique.

Borders

Europe lies to the North of this huge continent. Though there is free exchange of people and culture between the two, no definitive border marks this territorial boundary. Turkey that lies along this perimeter is an apt example of this observation. There is free cultural exchange and people regularly find themselves on the other continent. Subsequently commuting between the two has been made more convenient and some of the most liberal and successful realms can be found here. Bound in the south by the Indian Ocean and on eastern side by the great Pacific the waterways have ensured that the continent has remained in good contact with every other.

Population and growth

Taking up more than a quarter of the earth’s total land area the continent also has a very high population density with a figure that is more than that of any other continent. But that hasn’t hindered its economic growth. Except for a few parts in the Gobi desert and Mongolia it has progressed beyond all expectations of the past century. In those terms the resources endowed by the features of this vast and diverse continent have been well exploited.

History

Few know that the name Asia given to the continent was a product of Ancient Greece. Greek culture and trade, because of its antiquity, was among the first to influence the continent. In time,the Roman Empire also made its mark as it expanded to all corners of the earth.

But before all this, even many hundreds of millions of years before this, Asia was a part of huge masses of land called Gondwana and Laurasia. These masses in time broke away by geological stress to form the Asia that is seen today. As a result of this many rivers were formed that criss-crossed right across it, giving birth to many great civilizations all of which together with ancient Egypt came to be known as the Cradle of Life.

The civilizations of Asia

Asia, as mentioned before, has been the birthplace of many cultures and civilizations. The Indus Valley civilization and, Mesopotamian civilization formed the Old world along with ancient Egypt. Other notable civilizations were the one in Armenia and along the Yellow river. With over millions of inhabitants even back then, these thrived and burgeoned to create the history of Asia. Over time many cities have come up most of them well developed in terms of amenities, per capita and output. Some of the most successful and enchanting among them are Tokyo, Beijing, Delhi, Mumbai, Seoul and Bangkok.

Tourist Worthy Cities in Asia

These have registered steepening growth rate and now are a picture of urbanization and high rise buildings. Or, they are idyllic places that still retain their ancientness of what was once Asia.

Tokyo

This capital city of Japan, Tokyo not only has the highest density of people but is also the fastest growing metropolitan city in the world. With a colossal GDP of US$ 2.91 trillion it also has the most number of investing companies. Of the top 500 corporations worldwide, 51 companies are based in Tokyo. This kind of growth has its consequences though. It is the city with the highest cost of living too. But this is little compared to what the country is achieving through the people and policies of this city. By market capital, the Tokyo stock exchange is the third largest in the world and the largest in the country. What contribute to Tokyo’s growth are not just softwares and non –agrarian politics but a significant area allocated to farming and agrarian practices. Vegetables, flowers and fruits find their way into the city market from surrounding landscape which implies that the city is self sufficient in its food sector too.

The city is also well connected to interior regions in the country and every other major city throughout the world by rail, road and air transports. From high speed trains, monorails to trams, the city has ensured that transport is available to every person no matter what his/her budget.

Citizens enjoy freedom of religion. Even with such diverse faiths the city has a very low crime rate, as little as less than a hundred murders a year! The people are peaceful and enjoy a life of safety round the clock.

Mumbai

Mumbai locally known as the city of dreams is indeed what it is. People from distant parts of India and even from abroad come here in search of stints in Bollywood, the Indian version of movies and stardom. Many a soul has shed its tears at its steps in the hopes to climb those stairs to success and popularity. But more revered is its growth rate and development in the past few decades. Known among the business community as the financial capital of India, the city boasts the imposing Mumbai stock exchange. Not only does it appear impressive it also tops exchanges all over the world with its striking figure of 5000 listed companies! Moreover, according to latest statistics, it has a market capital of US$ 1.51 Trillion. Mumbai is also among the top ten most populous cities of the world.

There are many famous tourist spots too. The most famous landmarks in this city are the gateway of India, the fort at Worli, naval bases, the Jahangir Art Gallery, the Horniman Circle Gardens, Shivaji Park where once trained players like Sachin Tendulkar and the Juhu beach. Some kilometers from the city are the historical caves like the Kanheri, Elephanta ; lakes like the Vihar Lake, the Tulsi Lake; and meditation halls /pagodas. Tourists flock to the city to try their hands at everything life has to offer.

Beijing

With its famous and unique buildings this capital city of China also happens to be the most populous. The city is worth a visit for its peaceful temples complexes and extreme architecture. The Temple of Heaven is one such complex and perhaps the most famous of all. Perhaps it is the very high population or the intricate system by which the city is connected to all parts of the world, big or small, the airport of Beijing is one of the busiest ones in the world. Though the city is tolerant and ethical diversity is encouraged most of the people are the Han, Manchu, Mongol or Hui. Of these the Hans are the predominant. The city has served as their capital centre for more than 800 years and rightfully so is held in high honor. The services sector provides much of the revenue for this city with extremely high number of listed companies, mostly finance.

The National Centre for the Performing Arts, the old Beijing observatory, the Classical Gardens and craftworks on display in the city make it an interesting tourist destination.

Bangaluru

One of the most beautiful cities in India the city of Bangalore boasts of IT companies and greenery on the same note. It exports the nation’s most IT technology. Blessed with a pleasant climate throughout the year, Bangalore is also the most sought after for entrepreneurial endeavors. It was under the Maharaja of Mysore during the British colonial rule in India. Bangalore serves as the Mecca of education for most in the country. From top medical institutions like NIMHANS to leading research facilities like National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) and Indian institute of Science (IISC) can be found here. Other leading firms like the ISRO, Wipro and Infosys are based here too. The city is an attractive destination for sports tourism and encourages connectivity through air, road and rail. Theatre arts and Kannada cinema thrives and flourishes here. Most famous for its beautiful garden and park projects, Bangaluru also has the most vibrant and eye catching gardens in the world.

Novosibirsk

Now I know a Russian city wasn’t really on your mind when I talked about Asian cities. But that just brings us to another peculiarity of the Asian continent. It has a major share of Russian territory but still cannot lay claim to the country. You may wonder why. It is not surprising once I tell you that the country rightfully belongs to Europe as bulk of the populace lives towards the other side ie. Europe.

Novosibirsk lies in Siberia, the Asian part of Russia. It is the largest city in these frigid parts and is so large that it is second only to St. Petersburg and Moscow. It has a whopping 1.47 million populace that mostly engages in educational or industry oriented activities. Culturally, it is the ideal tourist spot with its relaxed and idyllic landscape, and small café’s. The people encourage theatre culture and consequently the Opera House there and the theatre are proud testimonies. Although Siberia evokes hostile sub-zero images, the place is nothing of the sort. Except during winters, the place has a humid continental type with warm summers. Adventurous tourists never fall short of a visit to this stunning city that was once the heart of Imperial Russia. The Chapel of St. Nicholas still stands tall after renovations as beautiful reminders of the by-gone royal era.

The city is an important access point to mountains in the south and to vast expanses in the north. The hotels are luxurious and albeit few in number suffice for a relaxed vacation out here. And while you are out there, if you are the hiking naturalist at heart, you may as well check out the awesome Stolby National park or the Novosibirsk zoo.

Metro-connected to important cities in Russia this place though little mentioned is the ideal place to just lay back with some sushi and wine.

Seria

No, not Syria. Seria- just as it is spelt. This little town located in Brunei is regularly connected to near-by Malaysian airports. It is one clean and well planned city. Most of the industry is centered around the oil found on this island. The nearest major airport is Marudi. Most tourists flock to either its world famous mosque or the estuary of migratory birds. Pekan Seria Mosque which was the first of its kind in the nation to get a dome in included in its blueprint is site worth visiting. For those interested just in the oil history of the nation The Billionth Barrel Monument and the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre (OGDC) museum functioning under Brunei Shell Petroleum Company which dominates the country’s oil business is must see. The Sungei Seria estuary, which is also one of the best spots to be observing migrating birds from near and far is also located here. So next time somebody mentions a peaceful and relaxed vacation in Seria, don’t raise your brows, just think again.

San Pablo, Philippines

This exotic city is also distinctly one of the oldest in Philippines. But, don’t be fooled. It’s has all the amenities of a first rate modern day city. Most famous for its seven lakes the city holds a population of just a few hundred thousand. Not only are they famous these lakes are exotically breathe-taking. Of these the twin lakes of Pandin and Yambo are truly remarkable. With a slow economic growth this place is taking its own sweet time to make its mark in the market and tourism industry. The city hosts five festivals the most famous of which is the Coconut festival. They showcase the rich culture and heritage of the land while also trying to be entertaining, with their street dances and colorful parades. If you are among the lucky ones who find themselves here make the best of the sports activities and budget resorts here.

Kolkata

More famous as the city of palaces, this historical city smells of imperial royalty. Although it is fast progressing at a rapid rate the colonial flavor is still to be experienced. The Victoria Memorial and the exquisite cuisine make it an insatiable destination for many. The architecture is to be specially mentioned as even residential complexes have a distinctive touch of the colonial era. A city of the educated even the poor are well learned either in science, literature or the arts. Many renowned vocalists are from the region. Unlike the rest of India the favored sport is football and not cricket although galli/lane cricket is well accepted too. It is from one such lane that the legendary cricketer Saurav Ganguly rose to outshine the world in international cricket.

The trams, metro and railway are intricately connected to the lives of its inhabitants while playing a major role in connecting it to the rest of the country. The airport at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport locally called the Dum Dum Airport, is of International standards and has flight services to major cities around the world.

The city itself is very urban and uses huge labor for its various activities. Must see monuments include the Rabindra Setu/ the Howrah Bridge, the Vidyasagar Setu/ the hanging bridge and the Victoria memorial. Other interesting places to visit include the marble palace and the Dakshineswar Temple. A visit to Kolakata is incomplete without a taste of the Sundarbans, where roam the Sundarban tigers a very important mark of Asian wildlife. Gigantic and daunting in size, these magnificent animals are let free through the Sundarban groves and visitors often get to see them up close and personal.

Apart from the few cities mentioned here there are other little places that if visited and experienced give you a real taste of Asia. But since most often budget constraints often limit our desires, we have given you a list of must see places each offering a different experience for the real traveler.

After a tour of this wide range of places in Asia you are sure to have experienced the diversity and richness of what is truly Asia.