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By Nature, You Are An Adventurer

By Ashley Barnard

By nature, you are an adventurer, full of amazement and curiosity about a world bigger than life itself. Learning about cultures in faraway lands fascinates you, and engaging in new experiences gives you an incomparable rush. You are a born explorer, and destined to travel the continent of Asia.

Exploration of Asia - the largest landmass on Earth - will reveal a land of diverse cultures and philosophies; natural and constructed landscapes; and monuments that tell stories of times past and those to come.

Journey into Southeast Asia and discover the lands of Thailand, Cambodia, Burma/Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Bali, Singapore, East Timor, and Brunei.

While strolling along the River of Kings (Chao Phraya) in Thailand's capital city of Bangkok, you can see the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Temple of Dawn, and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha - all of which contain monumental statues of Buddhist deities. Travel south and explore the Thai "paradise islands of Phuket, Phi Phi Islands, Phang Nga Bay, Krabi, and Ko Samui in the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Siam.

The Royal Palace Grounds in Cambodia's capital city of Phnom Penh is a fantastic place to view a vast collection of Buddha statues and royal artifacts. Nearby, the National Museum has an immense collection of original Khmer sculpture.

In Burma/Myanmar, you can view the Sule Pagoda, a shrine built in the 3rd century that today remains a center for Ayurvedic astrology and Buddhist worship. In Vietnam, a walk through the popular Binh Tay market in Saigon will lead you to fresh produce, pottery, incense, and other goods. The city of Hanoi is a center for Vietnamese culture and intellect, while the countryside is home to rock formations, rural villages, and tropical landscapes.

Go to the ancient Laotian royal capital of Luang Probing, where you can witness cultural and religious festivals any time of the year. In Malaysia, just outside Kuala Lumpur, watch worshipers carry their patron deities into the Batu Caves during the annual Thaipusan Festival.

In the Philippines, on the island of Luzon, the bustling capital city of Manila is home to Fort Santiago and San Augustin Church. An hour away in the town of Tagaytay, you can see the Taal Volcano. If you want to learn about Indonesia's culture and history, visit the country's National Museum, located in the capital city of Jakarta.

In Bali, you can go to the Ubud, the country's cultural center, and absorb authentic Balinese dances and music. In Singapore, you can observe worshipers at the Sri Mariamman Temple, which also features frescoes and statues of deities. Nearby, you can stroll along Arab Street by the Sultan's Mosque and shop for batik, rattan, jewelry, and Muslim figurines.

Travel to South Asia and explore the countries of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

In India, visit the capital city of Delhi's Red Fort, an isolated area of palaces, dancehalls, and meeting places. Another must-see is the Raj Ghat, which is where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. In Nepal, you can stop at the royal palace of Durbar Square and temples of Hanuman Dhoka, all of which date to the 12th century.

While in Bhutan, a visit to the Bhumthang region will reveal valleys amidst blue pine forests surrounded by mountains. There are also many places in this region that are associated with myths and legends, such as "The Castle of the White Swan."

In Pakistan, you can take a camel safari through the sand dunes of the Tharparkar Desert. In Maldives, go deep-sea fishing for marlin and tuna at the Soneva Fushi. While in Sri Lanka, a trip to the north-central plains will lead you to the Citadel of Sigiriya (Lion Rock), which rises 600 feet and features images of Buddhist grottoes carved out of its red stone. Journey to Bangladesh, and visit the Bangladesh National Museum in Dhaka, which features ancient and contemporary art.

A tour of East Asia will take you through Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

In Japan, you'll enjoy the cities of Kyoto, Tokyo, and Hiroshima. Kyoto has an abundance of teahouses, temples, and decades-old shops. In Tokyo, you can visit the Mingei Museum (National Museum), old-world gardens, and plenty of nightclubs; and Hiroshima is home to the Peace Memorial Park and its museum, Hiroshima Castle.

If you travel to China, you must go to Beijing and visit the Forbidden City, formerly the Imperial Family's private kingdom, which features a maze of corridors, through-gardens, shrines, and meditation halls. Most of the treasures that adorned the places are now on exhibit in the Palace Museum.

In North Korea, a great destination is Mount Kumgang, which is celebrated in mythic legend and folk songs. Head to Seoul in South Korea and visit the National Museum of Korea, which displays thousands of relics from ancient times.

On a trip to Hong Kong, you can scurry through the bustling metropolis of the New Territories, or you can travel out to peaceful fishing villages or Tai Mo Shan (Big Misty Mountain), which stands 3,144 feet tall (the highest point in Hong Kong).

In Taiwan, visit historic cities such as Kaohsiung, where a mountain road lies amidst the interior of marble mountains lined with pagodas and pavilions. Or, you can experience life in aboriginal villages such as Wulai.

In Central and Southwest Asia, you'll find Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Mongolia. In Southwest Asia, you can visit Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Kuwait, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

In Uzbekistan, take a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts for a glimpse of artifacts from pre-Russian Turkistan, including bronze Buddhas and Zoroastrian relics. You can also travel through the country's walnut tree forest and grassy meadows. While in Kyrgyzstan, you can bathe in thermal springs in the capital city of Bishkek.

In the country of Turkmenistan, visit the city of Merv and view 7th century ruins at Kyz-Kala. You can also travel to Mongolia in the summer to observe the Naadam Festival, a time when Mongolians travel across the country on horseback to celebrate their ancient heritage.

While in Turkey, visit the Topkapi Palace and view the embroidered robes of sultans, jeweled weaponry, an immense collection of porcelain, and an elaborately decorated harem. In Iran, go to the world-famous Iman Square; and in Jordan, view Byzantine mosaics while traveling through Madaba. If you journey to Israel, go to Jerusalem's Haram Al-Sharif, which is purportedly the Temple Mount that is sacred in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

Explore the Jeitta Grotto caves in Beirut, Lebanon. In Syria, travel to Crac De Chevaliers, which is said to be the largest and best-preserved Crusader castle in the Middle East. You can also trek through the hill-town villages of the island of Cyprus; or journey to Saudi Arabia and see Jidda's 853-foot King's Fountain that illuminates at night. In the United Arab Emirates, you can take a trip to the Dubai Museum and view exhibitions that depict mosques, traditional Arab homes, and the fishing and pearl diving trades.

In Bahrain, travel to the village of A"ali (nine miles away from the capital city of Manama) and tour thousands of burial mounds. In Qatar, travel to the rocky hills of Al Jassasiya and view stone carvings dating back to prehistoric eras. In Oman, visit the city of Jabrin and tour a 17th century fortified palace.

While in Yemen, marvel at ancient Islamic architecture as well as the mountainous and desert landscapes of the walled city of Sanaa. Travel to Kuwait and see the remains of the ancient Old City Wall Gates, which guarded against invasion from desert tribes for decades until the 1950s.

In Armenia, travel to the capital city of Yerevan and see the Hellenistic temples of Garni and the Geghard monastery. In the Republic of Georgia, visit the monumental statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali in the city of Tbilisi. While in Azerbaijan, you can see the ancient Walled City of Baku on the western shore of the Caspian Sea.

If you go to North Asia and Russia, be sure to tour Moscow's Red Square (Krasnaya ploshchad), the former site of military parades and public executions. You could also head to St. Petersburg and visit the Peterhof Palace and Garden (Petrodvorets), which was built for Peter the Great and currently houses marble statues, sculptures, and other artifacts belonging to the late ruler. While in Siberia, go to Krasnoyarsk and walk along the magnificent Enisey River.

Such a tour of Asia is in no way all-encompassing. Inside each individual country lies an opportunity for a world of experiences. Even a brief passage through the land can satisfy your appetite for new discoveries and enlightenment. However, before you venture off to Asia, be sure to find out if there are any current safety guidelines or travel warnings. After that, you can begin your journey.

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