Prompted by Barack Obama‘s first visit to Laos, which was also the first visit by a US President ever, I decided to revisit my travel wishlists and put together five places in Asia – the continent that I am living in – that I would really love to go, sooner rather than later.
Because, I mean, who would not want to go travel within Asia after seeing this photo?
1. Izmir Province, Turkey
First thing first, yes, I still consider Turkey as part of Asia. Some people, mostly Turkish, I believe, may not agree (including Lonely Planet!). But until Turkey is officially included in the EU, I will forever consider Turkey as part of the continent that is Asia.
Second, I’ve been to several places in Turkey and this country blew my mind everytime.
The eclectic cultures displayed in Istanbul were astonishing. Eg) Hagia Sophia – need I say more?
The Mediterranean coast that I went to exhibited so much colours, shades of colours that I never knew existed before, and it was really extremely hard for me to leave. My visit made me believe in the wonder that is nature.
The people! Oh my God, the people! Turkish people are really one of the most beautiful people in the whole wide world. Not that I’m trying to discriminate against any other race/nation. But I mean, honestly, have you seen how beautiful the men and women of Turkey are? I seriously daydreamed about settling down with many handsome Turkish men during my visits.
I understand that Turkey has many more places to see, many more culture to learn, and many more people to meet, but on my next trip to Turkey, I am hoping that I can travel to the Izmir Province. I choose this place because, according to TripAdvisor generalisation, I consider myself a ‘history buff’. I like to travel around the world and learn about history of the places I visit. One of the places that I wish to visit in Izmir Province is a used-to-be city called Ephesus. In Ephesus, it looks like history speaks for itself. It was a city that existed during the ancient Greek time and became a very important place under the Roman Empire. I mean, really, you can’t get more historic than that.
Everytime I look at pictures of Ephesus, I imagine myself being lost amongst all the Roman ruins, which I am a sucker for. One of the highlights in Ephesus is the ruins of a Roman library, Library of Celsus.I could envision myself being frustrated at my underwhelming camera, which would make me give up on taking photos and I would just soak in all the historic feels through all of my senses instead. I would definitely fantasise about the books that used to belong on the shelves of those thousands year-old library ruins and basically have orgasmic dream about it.
Oh Izmir Province, how I long to visit you…
Again, just like Turkey, I consider Jordan as a part of Asia. I’m not a believer in the discourse that the Middle East is its own continent because it is so different than the rest of Asia. Every country in Asia is very different than the rest of Asia, so none of that bullcrap. Jordan, in my mind, has been and will always be a part of Asia. Period.
With Jordan, in all honesty, I never really considered going there before my parents stepped foot in that country. It really wasn’t until I saw thousands of pictures that my parents took while they were in Jordan that I decided I want to go.
Funniest thing, it wasn’t their pictures in front of Petra that intrigued me to go. I mean, Petra, historic sites, those are my thing – of course I’m dying to see them.
But, it was actually a picture of my father floating on the Dead Sea, with face covered in wet Dead Sea’s beach sand, which is believed to stop the ageing process, that got me thinking about going. Moreover, it was a picture of my father with his soaked long pants, smiley face, and fingers forming a peace sign, standing by the Dead Sea, with a caucasian woman wearing a bikini photo-bombing the picture. That exact picture had helped putting ideas of travelling to Jordan into my mind. That very picture started a conversation between me and my parents about Jordan.
I was and never will be a fan of visiting a city/province/country that dictates what people should or should not wear. For example, I don’t even know whether I would ever visit Aceh and Iran, just because I would be required to cover my hair. Another example would be: I would never ever (again) visit France and its coastal regions after the burkini ban. I mean, why should I? It’s not like I run out of places to visit. Why should I visit, henceforth support, a city/province/country that dictates what people, more importantly women, should or should not wear?
So, to find that a girl can wear whatever they/we want in Jordan, while still being respectful to the culture and customs in the country, is like a breath of fresh air from the Middle East region.
I really hope Jordan would stay as open ideologically as they are very open for the Syrian refugees – at least until I am able to visit. Hopefully soon.
3. Maluku, Indonesia
Third place on my list of places I want to visit in Asia is located in my beloved country of Indonesia. I perfectly understand that it is such an extreme shame that there are many places in my own country I have yet to visit. But what can I say? Indonesia is a huge country, the largest archipelago in the world. So give me a freaking break for being unable to visit every inch of the country.
With that being said, there is one area in Indonesia that I would really love to visit. This area is called Maluku (or Moluccas to non-Indonesian) and it actually consists of thousands of islands, spread across two provinces: Maluku and North Maluku.
There are at least two reasons of why I yearn to visit this incredible flock of islands. First, it is, again, my parents. Prior to his retirement days, my father worked for a company with a branch in a small isolated village in Maluku. He never stayed for a long time in the area, but he took my mother along during a few trips and they successfully slipped in some extra time for sightseeings. The two places they were struck by the natural beauty of Indonesia include the islands of Ternate and Tidore. Both places were so amazingly beautiful, my parents made disturbing unthinkable noises when they were describing the beauty of Maluku to my sister and I. They haven’t been back to Maluku since my father retired, but they fondly remember how stunning the view was.
The second reason of why I would love to go to Maluku is because I have paid my homage to Afonso de Albuquerque. I have been to Lisbon, visited Praça Afonso de Albuquerque (by accident, actually, I was in Belem district and the square just happened to be the first thing my foot stepped on after getting off the bus), I’ve re-read and remembered so many things about him since then. So, I learned so much about the first guy who colonised and gave the name ‘spice islands’ to Maluku, how is it that I have never been to Maluku? It is a very important question that needs to be addressed sooner, rather than later.
Wait for me, Maluku! I will do my best to pay my dues to you. I will come. I am coming. Hopefully soon!
4. Kerala and Kashmir Region, India
India is a huge country. Period. There are so many places to visit, so many activities to do, so many cultures to learn about. It is a country to be easily overwhelmed about.
So, considering the vastness of the country, these are the reasons of why I want to go to India (again): 1) my first visit there wasn’t 100% planned – in fact, I basically almost played everything by ear; 2) I was alone – would really definitely go back with one or more travelling partners, preferably local(s)/Indian(s) who speak(s) Hindi; and 3) I really extremely am dying to see the natural wonder that is Kashmir and the social wonder that is Kerala.
I think my reasons to want to go to Kashmir does not need to be explained. I mean, who has not seen the picturesque photos of the region’s mountains and valleys? I do not want to climb any mountains, just to be clear, thank you very much, I’m not that crazy yet. Although, some trekking and hiking would definitely be fun. I simply think it would be incredible to see the majestic view of Kashmir region in person, without climbing the crazy high mountains. Also, I heard that the air up there is extremely clean, which would be a huge change from my daily life. For me personally, looking at pictures of Kashmir could make me relax and put me in some state of peacefulness. I can’t imagine the sense of tranquility that I could achieve when I eventually visit Kashmir in person – I can’t wait.
At the other end of the subcontinent that is India, extremely opposite of Kashmir, there lays Kerala. I feel like it is a lesser known tourist destination amongst Asian tourists for some unknown reasons (maybe because Tamil people are easier to be found roaming around Asia? Maybe because its landscape and climate are quite similar to many South East Asian countries? Maybe because many of the flora and fauna found there are also similar to those found in most of South East Asian countries? I don’t know). But interestingly, Kerala is a very well-known tourist destination amongst western tourists. I remember the undergrads from my school in London actually conducted a field trip to Kerala.I first learned about Kerala then, when one of my professors came back after supervising the undergrad kids and told my class about it. I’ve read so much about Kerala ever since and it makes me even more curious. There are two things that makes me wonder the most: 1) what does Kerala have that makes it one of India’s most successful tourism region? and 2) the region has the highest literacy rate within the country – how come? What can Indonesia learn about it?
I know it will be a long shot until I can go back to India, mainly because it is difficult for me to find a suitable travelling buddy – yes, I am THAT picky – and no, I’m never going back to India alone. But I hope miracle happens and I can find at least one travelling buddy who clicks really well with me. Amen.
5. Shanghai and Xi’an, China
I wasn’t sure about putting China on this list because I am (yes, right up until this post is published) not sure that I will be able to travel to China alone. Reasons: simply because I don’t speak Chinese and the Chinese don’t speak English. So I may need a translator or a guide, maybe? Or again, a travelling buddy who is local and able to point out which food I can or cannot eat.
I’ve been to mainland China couple times, but I feel like I miss two of the most important spots. First spot is Shanghai. Most populous city in China and the whole world, and I simply want to see the craziness. I am lucky to have visited Beijing – experienced the insane traffic jam and THE BEST peking duck. So, I really want to go to Shanghai just to see the city and compare it to the craziness of Beijing, probably also to Jakarta and Hong Kong. A little extra destination would be Shanghai Disney Resort, which opened in June 2016. I am a sucker for anything Disney and this would be a part of my bucket list, simply a must-visit-before-I-die place.
Second spot that I’ve missed in mainland China is Xi’an. The highlight in Xi’an is of course the terracotta army. I get very annoyed whenever I think about this particular landmark because both my parents and my little sister are lucky enough to have visited the site. How is it that I am the only one in my family who have yet to visit Xi’an? That is a very good question. Answer: only God knows. So in order to catch up to the rest of my family’s experience, I need to go to China, specifically Xi’an soon. I mean, after one of my father’s visits to Xi’an, he brought back (or was given to – I’m not quite sure) a terracotta bowl and now it is sitting nicely in one corner of my house. Frankly, I’m ashamed at that terracotta bowl. I just really really need to go to Xi’an.
There are so many other places/cities/countries that I would like to visit in Asia. A special mention would definitely go to Myanmar, a country every seasoned traveller is talking about – everyone is basically saying, “go there now, before everyone else.” I almost went this year, but decided not to – but who knows? This post is published in September 2016, which means there are 3 more months before 2016 is officially over, which also means there’s still a possibility for me to go to Myanmar within those 3 months. Who really knows, indeed?
Aaah if only travelling was free…