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From a Western perspective, Asia is a continent that saturates the senses with alien sights and smells, where languages can be incomprehensible and food occasionally indigestible, and where it’s all too easy to get yourself well and truly lost. But isn’t that what travelling’s all about?
Prior to the 1960s, Asia was a wilderness untamed by tourism, and despite the immense surge in popularity the region has experienced since, there remain plenty of places on which the gaze of the West is yet to fall. Having said this, most visitors adhere to the destinations that were first penetrated by the Hippie and Banana Pancake Trails, and apart from the odd scam that’s inevitable when tourism descends on a place where poverty is a very real problem, it’s hard to get yourself into any serious trouble here, and even harder not to find a friendly face to help you get out of it.
By far the biggest difficulty facing a tourist in Asia, however, is deciding where to begin. Do you go for a trek in the Himalayas of Nepal or a bleached beach in Thailand? The neon lights of Singapore or the red lanterns of Beijing? The Terracotta Army in Xi’an or a cricket match in Sri Lanka? Sunset over the bulbous dome of the Taj Mahal or sunrise behind the pine cones of Angkor Wat?
"The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream" - Jack Kerouac