Cities and Towns in Asia
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Even though Chittagong is the second biggest city in Bangladesh, its old town feels less claustrophobic than its insane big brother, Dhaka. There is not much to see or do here, beside the usual Bangladesh activities like people watching and getting lost in the streets and bazaars. Though Chittagong has once been a proud seaport, these days the town is probably most famous for the many ship breaking plants along the coast, where huge ships are pulled apart by pure manpower for scrap recycling. Unfortunately, these plants can be difficult to get into, for no site manager is happy to see a happy-snappy tourist lurking around these polluting death traps.
Let us be hornest, Cox's Bazar is not the prettiest place on earth, or Bangladesh for that matter. A more appropiated name for this beach town would have been Cox's Bizar, for it is quit frankly hiddious and bizar. It is everything that can go wrong with a holdiday resort area, and makes Costa del Sol looks like an architectorial masterpiece. The shore is lined with neverending concret sceletors of upcoming hotels in the worst third-world design, so ugly that they hurt your eyes. The wide beach is a different story and the reason to come here. It is a surprisingly nice stretch of sand and part of the longest beach in world (see also Inani beach). But even here it can get crowded with lazy cows, stray dogs and curious gawkers. Funny enough, hardly anyone swims in the sea, a group photo knee deep in the Bay of Bengal is the main idea of beach fun. And the scary part, local tourists just adore the place.
Chittagong Hill Tracts
The town of Rangamati lies at the bank of the Kaptai lake and is among the most charming towns in the whole of Bangladesh. It spreads out over several bridge-connected hilly islands in the man-made lake, which is a result of the Kaptai dam. The beauty of the place is not just restricted to the nice lake views, but span to the whole countryside around the lake. Here you can find indigenous tribe villages, waterfalls and plenty of lush scenery, that make Bangladeshis believe that they live in the most beautiful country on the globe. Keep in mind that along with Cox's Bazar, Rangamati is a favorite with local tourists who adore boat trips on the lake.
Stilt villages, Kampung Ayer
Bandar Seri Begawan
Brunei River, which snakes through the capital, is home to about 30.000 people who live on stilts in water villages. Neighbourhoods are connected by a maze of wooden walk boards balancing several meters above the water level. Longer distances are done by zigzagging water taxis that shuttle between the city and the villages, and every point in between. Some have called it The Venice of the East, though that might be stretching it a bit too far, but it's probably the liveliest area you will experience in Brunei.
Though Battambang is Cambodia's second largest city, it isn't big in any way. It is nicely located along Sangker river and very easy going. Beside the well-stocked central market (think fruit bonanza), Battambang doesn't boast many sights inside town but there are many just a tuk-tuk drive away, including serene Angkor-period temples, the Killing Caves from the Khmer Rouge period, and rural villages. The town and countryside are littered with pagodas where the monks usually are eager to practice their few English phrases. Battambang is just one of those places, like Kampot, where you easily end up spending more time than planned.
Kampot is a dozy colonial town with a nice river setting. Beside bicycling school kids and slow moving scooters, the streets lack of traffic. There are still heaps of old French mansions and trade houses where some have been converted into cafes or guesthouses but the majority still stand faded and aged with patina, earning Kampot an extra point for charm and authenticity. The small town is a great base for exploring the lovely countryside on a rented bicycle or scooter. Within a couple of hours drive, you can find cave-temples, villages, salt fields and pepper plantations â€“ even Bokor mountain can be viewed from Kampot with a cold drink in your hand. With the gorgeous surroundings and laidback atmosphere, it is very likely that you'll end up spending more time in Kampot than planned.
The capital of China is a mind-blowing mix of imperial leftovers, bombastic communist relics, Chinese boom economy malls and just a lot of ordinary Chinese. Though it is constantly being rebuilt, there are still lots of elaborated temples, cramped hutongs and green parks with old people chatting between ultra wide boulevards. There are so many historical sites dating back to all the dynasties, that most people get templed-out before seeing them all. Luckily, there is also modern architecture, the mausoleum of Mao, and, the Chinese's favorite, never-ending shopping. If you are still standing when the night falls, head to one of the bar areas for a quiet drink - or pull an all-nighter in a Chinese disco. Almost everything is possible in Beijing, though you will probably get a stern look from one of many uniformed teen guards just for standing out.
Border crossing Vietnam / China
The difference between the Vietnamese border town of Lao Cai and Hekou on the Chinese side is quite immense. Crossing the bridge from Vietnam to China, you leave behind the joking have-all-the-time-in-the-world Vietnamese only to be met with stern looks and Chinese efficiency on the other side. The huge billboards with Chinese advertising facing the Vietnamese side of Red River leave you wondering who it is for, since nobody on the Vietnamese side speaks or reads Chinese. Beside all the facilities a traveller needs : banks, restaurants, hotels and a bus station, there also are the odd stores (like porn shops) catering for the border crossers. Hekou is packed with border traffic going or coming from Vietnam and can be an annoying place if you have to stay the night. Nobody speaks anything other than Chinese except for a few dodgy characters who seem to live of ripping off the few travellers passing by. You only spend time in Hekou, if you have to.
Hong Kong is officially a part of China, but it sure is a different world from the mainland. The whole range of life is represented here, from glamorous high society life on Hong Kong Island to the darkest corner of Mong Kok in Kowloon, where the density of people is beyond belief. The neon lit city is famous for shopping and fine dining, but nothing comes cheap here. Gawk at all the luxury brand stores, some you probably didn't even know existed, or get lost in the more trashy part of Tsim Sha Tsui. Go to the beach or take a hike in the hills, or gulp in all the iconic Hong Kong of high-rises, malls and neon signs.
Altitude 2616 m, Sichuan Province
This is where main China ends and the Tibetan Wild West begins. The town is beautifully located along a river at the bottom of a canyon with steep mountain sides. The town itself is not among the prettiest and it is hard to tell whether it is Chinese turned Tibetan, with a bit of Tibetan architecture thrown in for pleasing local tourists, or it was once a Tibetan town turned Chinese (the latter is the truth). It functions as a getaway point for both the northern and southern overland routes into the Tibetan province (TAR), which both can be broken off into great journeys of the Tibetan areas outside TAR, which are rich in Tibetan culture and do not need special travel permits.