Places with photo galleries in Asia
The small village of Orccha has not yet been discovered by mass tourism, probably because there is not that terribly much to see here. Since there are not many tourists, there are not many places to stay either. However, the town has some beautiful old temples and palaces built in the 16th and 17th centuries, towering beautifully and distinctively in the landscape. Together with the villagers and other pilgrims you can witness sacred ceremonies in the evening in the Rama temple in the city center or stroll around in the small town. And if you're lucky, you might run into a movie set with extras in colonial uniforms....
Pushkar is one of India's oldest cities. There are lots of temples in the city - but the main attraction is the large lake, that has approx. 50 "Ghats" - ie. stairs, which go down to the water's edge. It is interesting to observe both local and Hindu pilgrims, who wash their clothes and bathe in the holy water. Please note that it is not allowed to photograph people who bathe. You should also dress with respect, which means that you must not show knees or shoulders. The rest of the town consists of narrow alleys with camels and stalls from where locals sell exotic food, puppets, orange flowers and white sugar cubes, that Hindus sacrifice to the gods. Traders are fortunately not that aggressive here, so as a tourist you can walk around in peace and quiet.
When you are not on tiger game drives in Ranthambore National Park, visit the nearby town of Sawai Madhopur. Here, the entire city is virtually one big market, and there are stalls with citrus fruits en masse, sugarcanes are crushed into cold drinks, and colorful food markets are found, when you walk into some of the smaller lanes. People are being shaved in the streets, men sit and sew outside their fabric shops, women sit on the ground and sort groundnuts and weave baskets, while longhaired black pigs roll in mud and dirt on the roadside. There are not many tourists here - but the village is worth visiting, if you are in the area anyway.
When you visit the Taj Mahal, it is obvious why the monument is on the list of The Seven Wonders of the World, and you'll be amazed at how large the old mausoleum actually is. It took approx. 22 years to build it, and it was completed in the year of 1653. The Taj Mahal was built by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in honor of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to the couple's 14th child. Her coffin was placed in the middle of the monument, and when the Emperor died approx. 20 years later, his coffin was placed next to hers. So besides that it is a beautiful and impressive building, it also has a romantic history. There are always lots of tourists, but the area is so big that it does not spoil the experience.
Ranthambore National Park is one of the largest national parks in North India, and this is where you have the best chances of spotting the endangered tiger. Besides wildlife such as crocodiles, monkeys, various species of deer, wild pigs, jackals, leopards, birds and peacocks, there are also ruins of an old fort in the park. There is a lot of control over how many jeeps are allowed in the park per day â€“ what times they may drive around and what routes jeeps may take. It is therefore a good idea to pre-book space in a vehicle. Safari here is not like going on safari in Africa, where there are large groups of game, so if you do not spot a tiger on a game drive, a safari here can be quite disappointing. But when one of the large animals suddenly appears in the middle of the road, it is very exciting!
Varanasi is the holiest city in India. Traffic in town is insane, and you really have to be careful in the vast tangle of bicycle rickshaws, cows, motorcycles and cars. Around two million inhabitants live there, but the city is also constantly visited by approx. half a million pilgrims and sick Hindus, who come there to die. The River Ganges runs through Varanasi, and cremations and Hindu rituals take place along the river bank. At the same time Hindus believe that a bath in the river and a sip of its water is sacred and spiritually cleansing. However, the water is so polluted that 1 liter contains 1.5 million faecal coli form bacteria - usually bath water must contain less than 500 of these!! So donâ€™t go swimming with the Indians, unless you want to experience an Indian hospital as well ...
South Bali/Ubud - Jatiluwih - Bedugul - Munduk - Lovina - Kubutambahan - Mt. Batur - Bangli - Pura Besakih - Rengan - Amlapura.
With this semi-loop, you will see a lot of great temples, get incredible views of rice terraces, pass rumbling volcanoes and just drive some darn nice winding roads from the hot lowland in the south to the wet and misty mountainous inland back down to humid north coast just to return to the chilled mountains. The first leg to Jatiluwih can even be done on potholed back roads if you really want to experience the calm and tranquil life of the ordinary Balinese people in the countryside. Rent a scooter and off you go, but keep in mind that accommodation outside the tourist areas can be scarce.
On the 26th of December 2004, a devastating earth quake of magnitude 9.3 hit Banda Aceh. What wasn't toppled by the quake itself was quickly demolished afterwards by the gigantic tsunami, which continued its apocalyptic ravage to coastal areas all over South Asia. 61,000 people lost their lives in Banda Aceh alone, roughly a third of the city's population. Today, Banda Aceh has been rebuilt and there is not much left of the tsunami aftermath anymore, but every person has a heartbreaking story to tell. To add to Banda Aceh's tragical past, it has also been the centre of armed conflict between government forces and Aceh separatists, but the region of Aceh is on the rebound and on to something good.
Bukit Lawang is a small tourist village setup inside the Gunung Leuser National Park. It is famous due to the proximity to the orangutan rehabilitation centre just across the river. There are lots of alternative "backpacker" accommodations on the river bank and banana pancake can be found on the menus. Though seeing orangutans at the feeding platform is the main thing for most visitors, jungle treks and wildlife watching can be done inside Gunung Leuser NP and you can go tubing on the river on those lazy afternoons (but check the water level first - in 2003, the whole place was washed away by a huge flash flood).
The Gilis, as they are called, are three small palm fringed islands with long sandy beaches. They are surrounded by warm turquoise water with descent corals and excellent marine life, making it a world class dive spot, with equally good snorkeling with chances to see turtles right from the shore. The three islands all have a different vibe; Gili Air is the local island with more traditional life than the others, Gili Meno is the smallest and for those who want to chill, while Gili Trawangan is the party island with something for everybody. There are no cops nor traffic on any of the islands, beside horse carts and bicycles, and very little Bob Marley. Sounds like paradise on earth? Well, it is pretty darn close.