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  • Laos Travel | Places to visit in Laos | Rough Guides
    middle of the two Indochina wars and long isolated from the rest of the world the country retains a slow rather old fashioned charm and its people incredibly laidback and friendly even by Asian standards are undoubtedly one of the highlights of any visit Laos s lifeline is the Mekong River which runs the length of the country at times bisecting it and at others serving as a boundary with Thailand the rugged Annamite Mountains historically have acted as a buffer against Vietnam with which Laos shares its eastern border Most people visit the country as part of a wider trip in the region often entering from Thailand and following the Mekong further south However Laos alone rewards further exploration and with a little more time it s not hard to feel like you re visiting places where few Westerners venture Stretching from the forest clad mountains of the north to the islands of the far south there s enough here to keep you occupied for weeks and still feel as though you d barely scratched the surface For such a small country Laos is surprisingly diverse in terms of its people Colourfully dressed hill tribes populate the higher elevations while in the lowland river valleys coconut palms sway over the Buddhist monasteries of the ethnic Lao The country also retains some of the French influence it absorbed during colonial days the familiar smell of freshly baked bread and coffee mingles with exotic local aromas in morning markets and many of the old shophouses of its larger towns now appropriately house French restaurants The effects of the wars and of its communist government are unmistakable it remains completely inadvisable to strike out into the countryside without following paths for fear of UXO unexploded ordnance and the country remains heavily dependent

    Original URL path: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/laos/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Places to Visit in Malaysia | Malaysia Travel | Rough Guides
    Chi Minh City View Guide The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka View Guide The Rough Guide to Laos View Guide The Rough Guide to Tokyo View Guide The Rough Guide to Seoul View Guide The Rough Guide to Bangkok View Guide The Rough Guide to Cambodia View Guide Populated by a blend of Malays Chinese Indians and indigenous groups Malaysia boasts a rich cultural heritage from a huge variety of annual festivals and wonderful cuisines to traditional architecture and rural crafts There s astonishing natural beauty to take in too including gorgeous beaches and some of the world s oldest tropical rainforest much of which is surprisingly accessible Malaysia s national parks are superb for trekking and wildlife watching and sometimes for cave exploration and river rafting As part of the Malay archipelago which stretches from Indonesia to the Philippines Malaysia became an important port of call on the trade route between India and China the two great markets of the early world and later became important entrepôts for the Portuguese Dutch and British empires Malaysia has only existed in its present form since 1963 when the federation of the eleven Peninsula states was joined by Singapore and the two Bornean territories of Sarawak and Sabah Singapore left the union to become an independent country in 1965 Today the dominant cultural force in the country is undoubtedly Islam adopted by the Malays in the fourteenth century But it s the religious plurality there are also sizeable Christian and Hindu minorities that is so attractive often providing surprising juxtapositions of mosques temples and churches Add the colour and verve of Chinese temples and street fairs Indian festival days and everyday life in Malay kampungs villages and the indigenous traditions of Borneo and it s easy to see why visitors are drawn

    Original URL path: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/malaysia/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Places to visit in Nepal | Nepal Travel | Rough Guides
    Guide to Laos View Guide Nepal is the very watershed of Asia Squeezed between India and Tibet it stretches from rich subtropical forest to soaring Himalayan peaks from jungly tiger habitat to the precipitous hunting grounds of the snow leopard Climbing the hillside of one valley alone you can be sweltering in the shade of a banana palm in the morning and sheltering from a snowstorm in the afternoon Nepal s cultural landscape is every bit as diverse as its physical one Its peoples belong to a host of distinctive ethnic groups and speak a host of languages They live in everything from dense ancient cities erupting with pagoda roofed Hindu temples to villages perched on dizzying sweeps of rice farming terraces and dusty highland settlements clustered around tiny monasteries Religious practices range from Indian style Hinduism to Tibetan Buddhism and from nature worship to shamanism the indigenous Newars meanwhile blend all these traditions with their own intense tantric practices The cultural richness owes something to the shaping force of the landscape itself and something else to the fact that it was never colonized This is a country with profound national or ethnic pride an astounding flair for festivals and pageantry and a powerful attachment to traditional ways Its people famously display a charismatic blend of independent mindedness and friendliness toughness and courtesy qualities that through the reputations of Gurkha soldiers and Sherpa climbers in particular have made them internationally renowned as people it s a rare pleasure to work with or travel among But it would be misleading to portray Nepal as a fabled Shangri la Heavily reliant on its superpower neighbours Nepal was until 1990 the world s last remaining absolute Hindu monarchy run by a regime that combined China s repressiveness and India s bureaucracy Long politically

    Original URL path: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/nepal/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Myanmar (Burma) Travel | Places to visit in Myanmar (Burma) | Rough Guides
    Myanmar Bagan and the central plains Inle Lake and the east Mandalay and around Northern Myanmar Shop Ebooks Travel Insurance Hostels View map Myanmar Burma Discover your own Burmese days in this fast emerging destination Show Related Guides Hide Related Guides The Rough Guide to Myanmar View Guide Hokkaido Rough Guides Snapshot Japan View Guide Rough Guides Snapshot Vietnam Hanoi View Guide The Rough Guide to Southwest China View Guide The Rough Guide to Taiwan View Guide The Rough Guide to Thailand s Beaches Islands View Guide The Rough Guide to Nepal View Guide Kyoto and Nara Rough Guides Snapshot Japan View Guide The Rough Guide to Shanghai View Guide The Rough Guide to the Philippines View Guide A beautiful and culturally rich country cursed for decades with a brutally oppressive regime Myanmar Burma has in recent years been making headlines for its tentative steps towards democracy Following the softening and then removal of a fifteen year tourism boycott led by the National League for Democracy Myanmar s leading political opposition party tourist numbers have swollen but the infrastructure has not yet grown to accommodate them all Although this means that finding a cheap bed is harder than before it does make this a fascinating time to discover Myanmar s glittering golden stupas bountiful rice fields enigmatic ruined temples and picturesque mountain paths Most memorable of all though are the encounters with people eager to introduce foreigners to their country and their culture What remains to be seen is whether today s modest political reforms translate into lasting change Read More Where to go When to go Essentials Fact file Getting there Getting around Accommodation Food and drink Culture and etiquette Sports and activities Festivals Travel essentials Things not to miss Explore Myanmar Burma Features Gallery Where Next Check out

    Original URL path: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/myanmar-burma/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Places to Visit in Philippines | Where to go in Philippines | Rough Guides
    Yet there s far more to these islands than sand and snorkelling Beyond the coastline are places to visit of a different nature mystical tribal villages ancient rice terraces jungle smothered peaks and crumbling Spanish churches Look closer and you ll see the influence of the island s rich stew of cultures Islamic Malay Spanish and American in an exuberant array of festivals tantalizing food and elegant colonial towns that has more in common with Latin America than the rest of Asia Indeed cut off from the main Southeast Asian overland route by the South China Sea the Philippines is often misunderstood by travellers and its Asian neighbours casually dismissed as a supplier of maids tribute bands mail order brides and corrupt politicians epitomized by the gaudy excesses of Imelda Marcos Don t be put off while poverty and corruption remain serious problems the Philippines is far more complex and culturally rich than the stereotypes suggest The Filipino people who speak more than 150 languages and dialects are variously descended from early Malay settlers Muslim Sufis from the Middle East Spanish conquistadors and friars and later Chinese traders It s an old cliché but largely true Filipinos take pride in making visitors welcome even in the most rustic barrio home Equally important is the culture of entertaining evident in the hundreds of colourful fiestas that are held throughout the country many tied to the Roman Catholic calendar Never far behind partying is eating and Filipino food is heavily influenced by Spanish and native traditions expect plenty of fresh fish roasted meats pork and chicken and unlike the rest of Asia a plethora of addictive desserts many utilizing the vast array of tropical fruits on offer Even the politics in Asia s first democracy is rich in showmanship and pizzazz From

    Original URL path: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/philippines/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Places to Visit in Singapore | Singapore Travel | Rough Guides
    historian William Hornaday of Singapore in 1885 as well planned and carefully executed as though built entirely by one man It is like a big desk full of drawers and pigeonholes where everything has its place and can always be found in it This succinct appraisal seems apt even now despite the tiny island s transformation from an endearingly chaotic colonial port one that embodied the exoticism of the East into a pristine futuristic shrine to consumerism In the process Singapore acquired a reputation largely deserved for soullessness but these days the place has taken on a more relaxed and intriguing character one that achieves a healthier balance between Westernized modernity and the city state s traditional cultures and street life The foundation for Singapore s prosperity was its designation as a tax free port by Sir Stamford Raffles who set up a British trading post here in 1819 The port plays a key role in the economy to this day though the island now also thrives on high tech industry financial services and tourism all bolstered by a super efficient infrastructure All these achievements were accompanied by a major dose of paternalism with the populace accepting heavy handed management by the state of most aspects of life in exchange for levels of affluence that would have seemed unimaginable a couple of generations ago Thus it is that since independence much of the population has been resettled from downtown slums and outlying kampongs villages into new towns and the city s old quarters have seen historic buildings and streets bulldozed to make way for shopping malls Yet although Singapore lacks much of the personality of some Southeast Asian cities it has more than enough captivating places to visit from elegant temples to fragrant medicinal shops to grand colonial buildings Much

    Original URL path: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/singapore/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Places to Visit in South Korea | Where to go in South Korea | Rough Guides
    the whole peninsula the two Koreas are now separated by the spiky twin frontiers of the Demilitarized Zone North Korea has armed itself to the teeth since 1953 stagnated in its pursuit of a local brand of Communism and become one of the least accessible countries in the world Unbelievably many foreigners seem to expect something similar of South Korea which shows just how well kept a secret this fascinating place really is beyond the glittering city of Seoul gimchi dog meat and taekwondo little is known about the country in the outside world and in actual fact one of those four has largely gone the way of the dodo anyway After the war the South gradually embraced democracy and has since gone on to become a powerful and dynamic economy Its cities bursting with places to visit are a pulsating feast of eye searing neon feverish activity and round the clock business Here you can shop till you drop at markets that never close feast on eye wateringly spicy food get giddy on a bottle or two of soju then sweat out the day s exertions at a night time sauna However set foot outside the urban centres and your mere presence will cause quite a stir in the remote rural areas life continues much as it did before the Economic Miracle of the 1970s and pockets of islands exist where no foreigner has ever set foot And for all its newfound prosperity the South remains a land steeped in tradition Before being abruptly choked off by the Japanese occupation in 1910 an unbroken line of more than one hundred kings existed for almost two thousand years their grassy burial mounds have yielded thousands of golden relics and even the capital Seoul has a number of palaces dating back

    Original URL path: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/south-korea/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Places to Visit in Sri Lanka | Where to go in Sri Lanka | Rough Guides
    in those who have never visited the place Romantically inclined geographers poring over maps of the island compared its outline to a teardrop falling from the tip of India or to the shape of a pearl the less impressionable Dutch likened it to a leg of ham while even the name given to the island by early Arab traders Serendib gave rise to the English word serendipity Marco Polo s bold claim still holds true Sri Lanka packs an extraordinary variety of places to visit within its modest physical dimensions and few islands of comparable size can boast a natural environment of such beauty and diversity Lapped by the Indian Ocean the coast is fringed with idyllic and often refreshingly undeveloped beaches while the interior boasts a compelling variety of landscapes ranging from wildlife rich lowland jungles home to extensive populations of elephants leopards and rare endemic bird species to the misty heights of the hill country swathed in immaculately manicured tea plantations Nor does the island lack in man made attractions Sri Lanka boasts more than two thousand years of recorded history and the remarkable achievements of the early Sinhalese civilization can still be seen in the sequence of ruined cities and great religious monuments that litter the northern plains The glories of this early Buddhist civilization continue to provide a benchmark of national identity for the island s Sinhalese population while Sri Lanka s historic role as the world s oldest stronghold of Theravada Buddhism lends it a unique cultural identity that permeates life at every level There s more to Sri Lanka than just Buddhists however The island s geographical position at one of the most important staging posts of Indian Ocean trade laid it open to a uniquely wide range of influences as generations of Arab

    Original URL path: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/sri-lanka/ (2016-02-16)
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