Welcome to Part 2 of Destination Wishlist!
I initially began my Destination Wishlist as what I thought was going to be a simple write-up. However, it turns out, I’m fairly wordy when it comes to potential travel opportunities. So, in an effort to help you amazing readers, I planned a break down of the post into continents as best I can. Last week, we covered Africa. Obviously, Part 2 is going to cover Asia. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Asia is home to a massive population of 4.4 Billion people. To put it another way, that’s more than 50% of the world’s population straddling the 17 million square miles of this territory.
As someone who is acutely aware of her own preference of having a small number of people around me at any given time, I don’t expect that to be much of an option during my travels to this continent. Asia may prove to be my biggest social challenge.
Did I socialize with three people for longer than 2 hours today? If they didn’t include my spouse or my kids, I’m going to need a while to recover. The joke, “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation” is very often my real life struggle, no matter how relaxed the itinerary. So, I know there’s a question that needs asking: what on earth does anyone like me want to be doing in Asia?
Excellent question. For me, part of the real purpose of travel is to get out of your comfort zones. Experience the culture shock. Get immersed in the area you’re exploring. Eat the unusual food. This is how you conquer your wanderlust. And I’m going to do it because Asia has ancient customs and cultures I’ve never experienced before. Asia is worth pursuing, even for the most introverted people amongst us. Don’t let the sheer numbers stop you from your own exploration.
Yeah, you can’t just say China and not elaborate exactly where you want to go. Have a plan. Make it work.
It would almost be a slap in the face to China if first-timers didn’t go to Beijing. There will not be any worry over a lack of historical sites to visit with the offerings of the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven (you may recognize the design if you’ve been to Epcot’s China Pavillion), and Tiananmen Square.
Luckily, I have found a less crowded place to visit, the Hongluo Temple. It’s just a short two-hour drive from Beijing and will probably help me deal with the stress of being around an abundance of people. Hopefully, after visiting the city of Hongluo Temple, I can find a bus to take me the 30 miles to Huairou to visit the Museum of the Great Wall and walk the Great Wall of China!
Either 12 hours by car or 2 hours by flight from Beijing, I’ll be in Shaanxi, next. You can expect to find me excitedly anticipating the doors opening to the Terracotta Army. Maybe I could check out the Drum Tower of Xi’an and the Banpo Museum, which just happens to be located on a prehistoric site. Have you heard of the Wolong Temple? It’s over 1800 years old. In my book, that warrants a good visit as well. Wolong Temple just got bumped up on the list! These places alone make the visit to Asia a must!
Remember me wanting to cosplay Indiana Jones in Tunisia? I may or may not take that outfit with me to Jordan. Why? Hello – The Last Crusade? Yep. Going to see the ancient city of Petra has been on my list for quite a while.
During my visit to Petra, I expect to imagine what extravagant scenarios would play out in the Siq (the geological gorge before reaching the main attraction). I look forward to exploring the popular Treasury, the Al Khaznah.
Perhaps I’ll see the walk by the God Blocks to the 8,000-person capacity amphitheater with strong Roman connections. A little bit away from the amphitheater, a bust of Marcus Aurelius was found during this century, in 2004 CE. Maybe I’ll get lucky and come across something like that! Ha, here’s to dreaming!
I’m hoping to maneuver a way to get to the Dead Sea from Petra. Did you realize it was a health resort for Herod the Great? Cheers to medical tourism! Of course, if I go to the Dead Sea, I’d have to check out the famous Dead Sea Scrolls on display at the Jordan Museum 37 miles away in Amman.
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What’s a trip to Turkey without exploring Istanbul? There’s the prized jewel, the Hagia Sophia, a Christian basilica turned mosque turned museum. The architectural designs alone are seemingly worth your time here.
My husband and I are looking for a new home currently. The Dolmabahçe Palace would do nicely. Have you seen the splendor of this estate?
Since we probably wouldn’t be putting an offer on the palace, I suppose I can just console myself with shopping at one of the oldest and largest open-air markets, the Grand Bazaar.
I hear they sell fabric there and I do enjoy sewing as a hobby… I may need to locate a post office and mail it back home. Looks like I’ll want to take a cooking lesson here in Istanbul then make a point to pop into the spice bazaar to ensure I have all necessary ingredients to recreate my meal at home. Good news for you – I’ll share the recipe with you!
In Agra, my fascination lies within the love story surrounding the Taj Mahal. Of course, once there, I’ll probably eyeball my husband and wonder if he loved me enough to build something so grand as the Taj Mahal, should we ever attain the level of wealth and resources to make such a gesture possible.
More than likely, I’ll silently wish I owned a tiger like Jasmine from Disney’s Aladdin. I mean, sure it’s in the fictional land of Agrabah. However, the sultan’s palace does resemble the Taj Mahal an awful lot. So I’m going to pretend to be Jasmine and buy a plush tiger that will be adopted by my kid. I’m okay with it.
One and a half miles away, I’ll check out the Red Fort. The Red Fort is another UNESCO world heritage site. That’s a big deal for lots of travelers and right now, I’m more of a casual “collector” of these sites. For me, if it peaks my interest, I’ll look into it further. I enjoy the research.
Perhaps I can do this and more during the colorful Holi Festival in March. Maybe we can hire a car to get us to Mathura for Holi. If we get up early enough, we might catch the priests make bhang for the celebrations.
I hope I can possibly find a company that allows you to ride on elephants – looking for humane places, though. I’ll let you know what I come across when I make it over there! Okay, you have to be drooling over the idea of Asia by now!
If I manage to find myself in Osaka in July, I hope I can witness the Tenjin Matsuri. It’s an annual festival that has been happening in Osaka for over 1,000 years! Its purpose is to recreate the 8th-century imperial processional. They do things like riverboat bonfires and parades. The street parades on land have geishas and all-female groups carrying the portable Shinto shrines, called mikoshi.
If I’m not there in July, I will still enjoy the National Bunraku Theater – you know, the famous puppet plays? It’s a really big deal there, with the main puppeteer having been trained for about 30 years before they can achieve that status. I mean, I’m probably not going to understand it but I believe it will still be enjoyable. Note to self: I really need to get back on Duolingo.
Then there’s the Isshinji Temple. It’s an interesting place, to say the least. So far, there are 12 Buddha statues that are made of more than 50,000 human corpses. Families donate the bones of their late family members and about every 10 years the temple makes another statue. I think Dethklok would have loved this place.
After exploring the best of Osaka, I’ll be on a quick one hour flight to Tokyo. The first thing to check out: The Imperial Palace. Hopefully, I won’t be there during a blackout period due to diplomatic and political ongoings there. Can’t wait to tour the palace!
As in Osaka, I’ll want to experience the theatrical culture. However, in Tokyo, Kabuki Theater is a must for me. It originally was performed by only women but after the Edo period, it is now exclusively men who are the performers. At the Kabukiza Theatre, they have headsets for English speakers so I won’t be completely out of the loop.
Next Up: Destination Wishlist – Europe!
Not going to sugar coat it, the European edition of this series is shaping up to be quite extensive! There are so many countries there that I just haven’t had the opportunity to experience yet! Let the dreams continue!