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Archive for asia

The Old and New in Southeast Asia

By Linda Tancs

One of the newest countries of the 21st century, the island nation of Timor-Leste (East Timor) owes its diversity to influences of old. Namely, a combination of traditional Timorese, Portuguese, Chinese and Indonesian influences permeates its architecture, cuisine, fashion and art. Perhaps the best-kept secret of Southeast Asia, the current dry season is an opportune time for diving (especially at Jaco Island), trekking, whale watching and fishing. Located at the southern extreme of the Malay Archipelago, access by air is easy with international flights from Bali, Australia and Singapore.

The White Temple

By Linda Tancs

Typically adorned in brilliant colors, there’s one temple in Thailand that breaks the mold—the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) just outside Chiang Rai. The brainchild of artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, its ghostly, otherworldly appearance is intended to convey Buddha’s purity. Funded entirely by the artist, the structure depicts Buddhist ideals of life and death. For temple “purists,” there is an ornate, gold building next to the temple; it houses a public restroom popularly referred to as the most beautiful in Thailand.

A Thousand Rice Paddies

By Linda Tancs

Shiroyone Senmaida (meaning “a thousand rice paddies in Shiroyone”) is a rice terrace outside Wajima, Japan, comprising 1,004 small rice paddies on steep slopes beside the Sea of Japan. Nationally designated a “Special Place of Scenic Beauty,” each field is farmed by hand. The view is stunning at any time of year, but from mid-October to mid-March (when farming ceases), the fields are illuminated at night with thousands of LED lights that change color every 30 minutes. To get there, take the local bus toward Ushitsu to Shiroyone Senmaida station.

The Highlands in Malaysia

By Linda Tancs

Named after surveyor Sir William Cameron, Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands were developed during the British colonial period, serving as a hill station to escape the tropical heat. The region unfurls with emerald-green tea plantations, the largest tea-growing area in the country. Enjoy some morning tea after watching a spectacular sunrise over Gunung Brinchang, the highest peak of the highlands. A trek through the mossy, or cloud, forest of Brinchang brings views of wild orchids and carnivorous pitcher plants. You can get to the region from Kuala Lumpur by bus. Take a window seat for amazing views.

Korea’s Herb Festival

By Linda Tancs

Korea has a long medical tradition in the use of herbs for healing. It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the country’s premier festivals is the Sancheong Medicinal Herb Festival. Held at Donguibogam Village, a Korean medicine theme park, the festival celebrates the herbs of Jirisan Mountain. In addition to an herb market, visitors can sample traditional herbal medicines and even get a check-up. This year’s event begins tomorrow and continues through October 9.

The World’s Highest Monastery

By Linda Tancs

Tibet’s Rongbuk monastery is the highest monastery in the world, located just miles from Mount Everest’s base camp. As you would expect, it’s the perfect locale to see eye to eye, as it were, with one of the highest mountains on earth. Along with its colorful flags and golden stupas you’ll find an observation deck there to take stunning photos. April, May, September and October are great months for a visit.

It Flows in Takachiho

By Linda Tancs

In Takachiho, Japan, one might say you go with the flow. After all, it’s famous for Takachiho Gorge, formed from lava from Mount Aso that over time eroded to create towering cliffs of volcanic basalt columns complemented by plunging waterfalls. But it’s also considered the birthplace of nagashi-somen, a noodle rite involving catching ice-cold somen noodles with chopsticks as they float down a chute. Be grateful for the colander catching errant noodles at the end. A summertime tradition in most of the country, it’s practiced all the way to the end of November in Takachiho.

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