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The world's largest continent, home to 60% of the world's population, literally defies description. From the chaotic colossus that is China to squeaky-clean Singapore, Asia is too vast and too different to fit any of a thousand notions.
Whether you're exploring the foothills of Mt Fuji or kicking back on a beach in southern Thailand; whether you're eating dim sum in a Hong Kong market or clambering the Great Wall, one thing is certain: you will never get a handle on Asia, but there's plenty of fun to be had in trying.
CAMBODIA Tours, Travel and Activities
Ancient temples, empty beaches, mighty rivers, remote forests ...and (outside Angkor) only a handful of tourists. But the word is out - Cambodia has emerged from decades of war and isolation and is well and truly back on the southeast Asian travel map.
Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, retains an undeniable charm despite its tumultuous and often violent past. The crumbling colonial architecture makes an attractive backdrop to bustling street-side cafes and the redeveloped riverfront precinct - a particularly lively part of town on Friday and Saturday nights.
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CHINA Tours, Travel and Activities
China isn't a country - it's a different world. Unless you have a couple of years and unlimited patience, it's best to follow a loose itinerary here, such as following the Silk Road, sailing down the Yangzi River, or exploring the Dr Seuss landscape of Guangxi Province.
From shop-till-you-drop metropolises to the desert landscapes of Xinjiang, China is a land of cultural and geographic schisms. It's not that it has completely done away with its Maoist past - it's more that the yin of revolutionary zeal is being balanced by the yang of economic pragmatism.
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HONG KONG Tours, Travel and Activities
Hong Kong has the big city specials like smog, 14 million elbows and an insane love of clatter. But it's also efficient, hushed and peaceful: the transport network is excellent, the shopping centers are sublime, and the temples and quiet parks are contemplative oases.
Just remember: Hong Kong is about savoring new tastes, weaving through a human gridlock and humming some dumb Cantopop tune while slurping your noodles.
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INDIA Tours, Travel and Activities
India will sideswipe you with its size, clamor and diversity - but if you enjoy delving into convoluted cosmologies and thrive on sensual overload, then it is one of the most intricate and rewarding dramas unfolding on earth, and you'll quickly develop an abiding passion.
Nothing in the country is ever quite predictable; the only thing to expect is the unexpected, which comes in many forms and will always want to sit next to you. India is a litmus test for many travellers - some are only too happy to leave, while others stay for a lifetime.
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INDONESIA Tours, Travel and Activities
The floating emerald islands of the Indonesian archipelago have for centuries lured everyone from missionaries to pirates, mining companies and backpackers to their sandalwood and spice breezes, their Bali Hai lifestyle and their magnificent beaches, mountains and volcanoes.
However, the myth of paradise is often marred by deep racial divides, religious warring, high-handed autocracy, government corruption, economic mismanagement and natural disasters. The latest rounds of violence have made Indonesia a problematic destination for Western travellers.
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JAPAN Tours, Travel and Activities
Whether you end up taking photos of a reproduction Eiffel Tower, surfing an indoor wave, musing in a Zen temple, shacking up in a love hotel or bedding down in a capsule, you'll do best to come with an open mind and be prepared to be surprised.
Somewhere between the elegant formality and the candid, sometimes boisterous exchanges that take place over a few drinks, between the sanitized shopping malls and the unexpected rural festivals, everyone finds their own vision of Japan.
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MALAYSIA Tours, Travel and Activities
Malaysia is one of the most pleasant, hassle-free countries to visit in southeast Asia. It's buoyant and wealthy, and has moved towards a pluralist culture based on a vibrant and interesting fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures and customs.
Most visitors to Malaysia stick to the insane headlong rush of Kuala Lumpur, the colonially soothing Cameron Highlands Hill Station or the hedonistic torpor of Langkawi. However, East Malaysia, on Sabah and Sarawak, offers spectacular wildlife, longhouses and the awe-inspiring Mt Kinabalu.
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NEPAL Tours, Travel and Activities
Draped along the spine of the Himalaya, Nepal is a land of sublime scenery, time-worn temples, and some of the best hiking trails on earth. It's a poor country, but it is rich in scenic splendor and cultural treasures. The kingdom has long exerted a pull on the Western imagination.
It's the kind of country that lingers in your dreams long after you leave it. This is why so many travelers are drawn back to Nepal, armed the second time round with a greater appreciation of its natural and cultural complexity, a stout pair of walking boots and a desire for sculpted calf muscles.
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SINGAPORE Tours, Travel and Activities
Singapore has traded in its rough-and-ready opium dens for towers of glass, and its steamy rickshaw image for hi-tech wizardry, but you can still recapture the colonial era with a gin sling under the languorous ceiling fans at Raffles Hotel.
At first glance Singapore appears shockingly modern, but this is an undeniably Asian city with Chinese, Malay and Indian traditions. It's these contrasts that bring the city to life.
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SRI LANKA Tours, Travel and Activities
For a small island, Sri Lanka
has many nicknames: Serendib, Ceylon, Teardrop of India, Resplendent Isle, Island of Dharma, Pearl of the Orient. This colorful collection reveals its richness and beauty, and the intensity of the affection it evokes in its visitors.
Head for the rolling hills to escape the heat of the plains in the cool of tea plantations. The entire island is teeming with bird life, and exotics like elephants and leopards are not uncommon. To top it all off, the people are friendly, the food is delicious and costs are low.
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TAIWAN Tours, Travel and Activities
Steeped in traditional Chinese culture, with influences from Japan and the island's own indigenous tribes, Taiwan is a destination full of surprises. Beyond the bustling metropolises are lush tropical landscapes, rushing rivers, hot springs and some of northeast Asia's tallest mountains. The island is a compact showcase of natural attractions and cultural jewels, with unexpected marvels around every corner.
However, what's really special about Taiwan is the Taiwanese, who welcome visitors to their island with amazing warmth and hospitality.
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THAILAND Tours, Travel and Activities
The Kingdom of Thailand draws more visitors than any other country in southeast Asia, with its irresistible combination of natural beauty, inspiring temples, renowned hospitality, robust cuisine and ruins of fabulous ancient kingdoms. Few countries are so well endowed.
From the stupa-studded mountains of Mae Hong Son and the verdant limestone islands of the Andaman Sea, to the pulse-pounding dance clubs of Bangkok and the tranquil villages moored along the Mekong River, Thailand offers something for every type of traveler.
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VIETNAM Tours, Travel and Activities
Most visitors to Vietnam are overwhelmed by the sublime beauty of the country's natural setting: the Red River Delta in the north, the Mekong Delta in the south and almost the entire coastal strip are a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats.
There are some divine beaches along the coast, while inland there are soaring mountains, some of which are cloaked by dense, misty forests. Vietnam also offers an opportunity to see a country of traditional charm and rare beauty rapidly opening up to the outside world.
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