Favorite thing: Don't expect to see wild elephants or tigers on your first visit to Asia! You have to be very lucky to see them. But you will see a lot of other animals. Specially India is good for that: paraceets, monkeys, snakes and lizzards are everywhere. I even saw antilopes from the train. There are many beautiful national parks, where you might see the bigger animals: rhinos in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, for example.
You may be deciding which country to go in Asia or how long to stay in each country based on the relative cost of expenses.
It depends on your budget and travel habits and currency exchang rate.
Whether you spend more on hotels, air ticket, visa cost, food, transport, admission entrance, shopping or souvenir. Whether you are backpacking, on package tours or staying in resorts and spas. Whether you spend more time at the capital cities or the rural country side.
So based on my own personal experience, I would rate the cost of travel per day:
Most Expensive: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Brunei, Macao
Moderate: China, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal
Least Expensive: Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia.
Above just based on my personal travel experience and can differ from others. Just a rough guideline.
As this varies according to which country you are from, I will specify here for Malaysian passport holders who are visiting as tourists for a few weeks.
It will give a general idea on how stringent or cost wise of visa required for each country.
For Malaysian passport holders only
No visa: Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan.
For those countries requiring visa for Cambodia, Vietnam, the visa cost is relatively high.
Visa is required for China. Moderate price, easy to obtain but must apply in advance. There are fast service which require higher charge. There is single or dual entry visa. Multiple entry visa needs special processing.
Visa for Nepal is relatively expensive but can be obtain at airport on entry.
Visa for Japan is free but require a lot paper work of proof. Need to apply in advance for Malaysians. However if you are on an airline overnight transit at Narita, no visa required.
As for Malaysia, check this official websitehttp://www.imi.gov.my/eng/perkhidmatan/im_HapusVisa.asp
Throughout Asia, most countries use 220 Voltage 50 Hertz for domestic electrical appliances.
220V supply will blow out your hairdryer or any item set at 110 Voltage. So take note especially if you are coming to Asia from North America, some Central and South American countries and Saudi Arabia where the voltage used is 110V.
Two Asian countries, South Korea and Philippines, use 220V but a higher 60 hertz, Generally not much difference with 220V 50 hertz for your electrical appliances except on power efficiency loss.
The two major exceptions are Japan and Taiwan (under Japanese rule for a period of time) which uses 100-110V.
220V 50Hz - Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macao, China, Nepal
220V 60Hz - Philippines, South Korea
100V 50Hz/60Hz - Japan
110V 60Hz - Taiwan
Some hotels will have both voltages with different plug heads. If you plug a 220V appliance on a 110V electricity outlet, if will not function but will not damage the appliance. But not the reverse!!!! So double check if your electrical appliance uses 110V, whether your electrical outlet is confirmed a 110V one. So it pays to know.
Strangely, I have flown from Singapore on a Saturday morning and arrive at San Francisco an hour earlier on the same day. You gain a day when crossing the International Dateline from Asia to North America. Of course, you lose a day when you fly back.
When you cross from Thailand to Malaysia, you have to move your time to one hour later.
When you call Japan from Taiwan, there is an hour of difference.
Similarly when going on the ferry from Java to Bali, I had to update my mobile phone to one hour later.
Most countries are in the 8AM GMT including the whole of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia and Bali (Indonesia).
Japan and South Korea are one later earlier at 9AM GMT.
Thailand and Sumatra, Java (Indonesia) are one hour earlier at 7AM GMT.
In the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan (5:00 AM GMT), Sri Lanka (5.30 AM GMT), Nepal (5:45 AM GMT)
So watch out for your time so that you do not miss a flight or go to your appointment one hour earlier because of the time zones.
Taipei is located at the northern point of Taiwan island along a river near the sea and at the foothill.
On the map, you will appreciate that to the east is the Straits of Taiwan and to the east is the East China Sea and Pacific Ocean.
Just driving a few hours out of Taipei, you will be in the mountains, valley or sea.
With a map, we went north by train to Tanshui - a place famous for some local dishes.
And headed east to the coast to see the fantastic stone "statutes" carved by the sea.
And south to the valley and hills of Wulai.
To the east is Taoyuan and the international airport.
Recently in the breaking news of an unfortunate devastating earthquake is Yogyakarta.
This is a royal town with an existing lineage of sultans. Its location is the south of Central Java Island, about 16km north from the coast facing the Indian Ocean.
With a map, you can either walk or take the trishaw to go around town and gawk at the royal palace and ceremonial buildings of the Sultan. There are palace tours available but check out the time.
There is also a large town field with many small "warong" tent-like coffee and tea places where you can seat on cushions on floor and snack and chat like the locals.
Tokyo is a fascinating city with lots of parks, temples, gardens, shops and restaurants.
With your map, you can get from Shinjuku to Ueno to Ginza using the efficient subway and rail system. I was surprised at how easy it was to go by car using the elevated highways or underground city tunnels during the night after the off peak hours.
You can walk around the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace of the Japanese Emperor which right in the heart of Tokyo and to the Japanese parliament "Diet" located next to the business district.
Do not forget to take the subway to Shibuya, Harajuku, Asakusa, Kanda or Akihabara, etc.
You will find that Tokyo has so much to explore. Keep the map as a nice souvenir to remember Tokyo and to go back again.
Bangkok is a strategic location along the country most important river, the Menam Chao Phraya. As Bangkok was once the "Venice of the East", it is not a suprise that river boat taxi is still an important mode of transport.
If you go to Saphan Taksin by "Sky Train" or to Shangri-La Hotel, you can hop on a boat taxi and just get off anywhere and come back the same way.
You will see school children, housewives, monks and people going to work using the boat taxi. Get a map to decide where you want to get off.
You can visit the Royal Palace and Temples which is also near one of the river taxi jetty. Just point to map where you want to go. The jetties are numbered 1 to ... but they are look alike.
You will see Bangkok from a different view for sure. Get on the river boat.
Seoul is laid out in axis, has many historic palaces and a famous iconic Southern Gate (Namdaemon) which is tourist mecca for street shopping.
So advise to start your touring first, then rest of your time for your shopping delight. The shopping area has underground levels since it gets cold in the winter.
Easy walking around and using the underground subway for further distance. Discover the soul of Seoul, lacquerware, porcelain, cutlery, barbecue beef bulgogi and spicy cabbage of kimchi.
Hanoi is built along the Red River which has created many lakes of water.
There are many lakes but the most famous is Hoan Kien Lake with a llegendary tale of returning of the sword to a tortoise living in the lake by the King.
Strolling around this lake is a must to capture the spirit of people living in Hanoi. You can see them rushing to work, playing or exercising with the many motorcycles going round the lake.
Just north of the lake is the Old Quarters with streets of different trade. Here a map is invaluable as I have lost my sense of direction many times but with the map and asking the locals, you can always find your way back to the Lake.
Singapore river has played an important role in the history of Singapore which is now one of the world's largest ports. But now most of the port handling is done elsewhere and so the river side and the old godowns and warehouses are converted into shopping, dining and night entertainment attractions.
Use your map to walk along the river stretch from Clark Quay and across to Boat Quay and ending at the harbor front with the Merlion spouting water, an icon of Singapore.
There are several important bridges across the Singapore river that you can walked across too. It can be hot in the afternoon. But in the night, it is an excellent river side stroll.
Kowloon or Tsimshatsui (TST) area is a major area of exciting shopping and tantalising dining.
The main road is Nathan Road or Golden Mile. You will not get lost. Just go up and down on both sides of the road and left and right along the different junctions. You may lose all your money though through shopping and eating.
As all the streets do look alike after awhile, do use a map to decide your itinerary by foot. This will maximise your time to shop and dine.
On the map, you can see the Kowloon park with greenery and birdlife to rest your eyes and take a break. There is even a public swimming pool to get rid of the calories consumed.
Or head for the harbor front promenade to see the harbor, smell the sea breeze or watch the light show on the tall buildings of Hong Kong Island at night. Or just have high tea at the expensive and exclusive Peninsular Hotel near the Star Ferry.
But generally all the walking and shopping will earn you a well deserved fine meal.
It is nice to get out of bustling busy Manila during the weekend. Of course, it is best to have a local driver while you direct with your map.
We went north to Subic Bay at Olangapo and passed by the remnants of the devastating eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.
We went south to Lake Tagaytay, a crater lake with the Taal volcano in the middle.
Also took a breath-taking boat ride up the Pagsanjan Gorge and waterfalls, south of the Laguna de Bay lake and stopping at the family residence of Joe Rizal, a famous hero.
Shanghai is a large city and with a map, it is quite too large to walkabout.
But when the weather if fine and with good walking shoes, it is a real treat to walk from Renmin Peoples Square, along the famous pedestrian mall of Nanjing Road with all the shops until you reach the Bund.
Walking along the Bund, you can see all the famous Shanghai colonial buildings and the new high rise architecture of Pudong across the river.
Best time to be at the Bund around 7-8pm to see the lights on the buildings of both sides. There is always a sizeable crowd of locals and tourists on the Bund taking photographs or buying trinkets from street sellers.
Take the bus, taxi or walk back if you want to do more shopping on Nanjing Road (Nanjing Lu).
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