Days like today the wanderlust sets in and I feel like getting away for a while. Unfortunately, until my wealthy Uncle Sam starts providing me with cash (~seven months from now) I will remain as broke as a joke. In the meantime I will be gazing longingly at the pages of Time Magazine Asia. Their current issue features The Best of Asia. Did you know that the best Red Light District Experience in Asia is at…Cooco’s Den & CafÃ© in Lahore, Pakistan (note that Time currently has the wrong description here)? What I really wanted to know is where I could go to just blow out for a few days.
“You must be crazy” is the response you tend to meet with when announcing an intention to vacation in Afghanistan. But for the courageous traveler willing to overlook the backdrop of simmering warfare between U.S. forces and Taliban insurgents, the country offers astonishing rewards–none more uplifting than Band-i-Amir. These five connected lakes in the central Bamiyan province are among the world’s least visited yet most dramatic natural wonders. Spilling like a string of sapphires across golden desert canyons, buttes and mesas, the lakes of Band-i-Amir (the name means “jewels of the king”) are fed by an underground source, rendering them preternaturally pristine. Their purity and extraordinary depth give the lakes a blueness of indescribable intensity. Local legend has it that a plunge in these waters is a cure for madness. Possession by djinn, or demons, is a standard Afghan explanation for insanity–but djinn hate swimming, the reasoning goes, especially in a holy lake said to be carved out of solid rock by the magic sword of warrior-saint Hazrat Ali. Local faith in the healing powers of these waters is evident in a small shrine at the first lake, where the recently exorcized leave discarded clothing and tokens of thanks. If they’re right about the waters, then you’re in luck: even if you were a little crazy to vacation in Afghanistan, Band-i-Amir will restore your sanity. But you don’t have to believe in the folklore to rejoice in the fact that you ignored the naysayers and ventured here: the surreal beauty of these lakes is a balm for every soul. [Link]
Now for this next “Best” I felt a little guilty for imagining myself there. We shouldn’t be happy about bargains brought about by unrest…err, right?
Visiting violence-wracked countries isn’t everyone’s idea of a vacation, but local unrest can be a boon for the bargain hunter. Nepal, which has endured 10 years of civil war, is a perfect example. Although foreigners haven’t been targets in the conflict between the government and Maoist rebels, the U.S. Department of State asks Americans to defer all nonessential travel to Nepal; the British government tells its citizens to remain vigilant. But if you can live with a moderate level of risk, you’ll come across fabulous hotel and restaurant deals and have some of Asia’s most iconic sights, like Durbar Square and Everest, virtually to yourself. [Link]
I still don’t understand the next “Best.” What the hell is a “Democratic Dreamscape?” It is hard to imagine that a place where politicians spend their days arguing can be considered a “Dreamscape.”
It is a wonderful irony that one of Asia’s most rambunctious democracies should be housed in its most ethereally elegant parliament building. But such is the case in Bangladesh, where the Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, or National Assembly–flooded by natural light and ringed by the still waters of an artificial lake–is the official arena for politics of breathtaking malignancy. Situated on a 200-acre site in the center of Dhaka, this giant gray octagon of a building at first looks like it was hallucinated by Isaac Asimov, or that it came to George Lucas in a dream. In reality, it is the deeply thoughtful work of American architect Louis Kahn. [Link]
p> This next one is just silly in my opinion. “The Best Place to See the Indian Boom.” The answer: aboard a new airline:
If you suspect that India’s economic boom is only benefiting the country’s rich, then book yourself on a flight on one of India’s budget airlines. Pick someplace nice–Goa, for instance–and once you’re aboard, take a look at your fellow passengers. There’s a high likelihood some of them are flying for the first time in their lives. Chances are many are visiting Goa for the first time as well. [Link]
I take that back. One of the most deeply satisfying things to ever witness in your life is watching someone fly for the first time. It actually chokes me up.
Finally, I know that I am not keeping it real since the next place isn’t in South Asia but…The Best Place to Get Naked is:
When you do it for the first time, you stand there for mere seconds, thinking “I can’t believe this,” before scurrying for the cover of your fashionably minimalist bedroom. The second time, you force yourself to linger a little longer and at least take in the view. But well before your stay at the Park Hyatt is over, you have accustomed yourself to standing naked in a bathroom that comprises nothing but glass on three sides, situated above one of the busiest intersections of one of the busiest cities of the busiest continent on earth. Sustaining it all is the questionably held faith that the thin panes in front of you really are reflective.
Attaining the physical and aesthetic heights required of statement buildings, and lapped by vast tides of Gangnam district traffic below, the Park Hyatt occupies one of the choicest sites of the South Korean capital. It is the work of fashionable Japanese design house Super Potato, and the firm’s brightest bolts of inspiration were surely the Park suite bathrooms–translucent aeries that lord it over the unknowing populace. [Link]
Because at the end of the day, no matter how bad you feel, nothing cheers you up like getting naked…