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Top 10 places to visit in Asia

Carrying on his series of 'Top 10 places around the world', here are some of Alastair Humphrey's favourite spots in Asia

Banaue Rice Terraces, the Philippines (jojo nicado)

Part of the appeal of list posts is, of course, the howls of annoyance at the folly of the author. So have your say in the comments – what have I got wrong this time?!

1. Istanbul, Turkey

Straddling Europe and Asia... So I’m going to just about squeeze it into this category.

The gateway between Europe and Asia scores on many counts: history, beauty, atmosphere, food, energy. But I also love it for its symbolic location: take a ferry from the waterfront across the Bosporus and you’re in Asia. What a great start to Asia!

2. Beirut, Lebanon

Geopoliticians may quibble too over precisely which continent lays claim to Lebanon. But surely nobody can doubt Beirut’s stylish charm, critical political positioning, and enviable location between the warm Mediterranean and the craggy cedar-studded mountains to the east.

3. Georgia

The old truth of travelling: the slower the better. I dashed through Georgia on my bicycle, in too much of a hurry to stop and stare and seek out the spots that I could really cherish. So I am afraid I’m left only with a blur of memories of excitable, generous people, marvellous food, plenty of red wine, ancient churches, and the sun setting gently over the Black Sea. I will return.

4. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Back at university whilst trying to decide what to do as a career I read a book containing a poem about the Golden Road to Samarkand (“We are the pilgrims, master... We shall go always a little farther...).  One day, I said to myself, one day I will see the fabled blue domes of the Registan for myself...

5. Kashgar, China

The Sunday camel fair, spicy noodles and cut throat barbers. Aged 20 I arrived in Kashgar by bicycle having ridden over the mountains from Pakistan. I could not believe such mad, marvellous cities existed and I decided there and then that I needed to see more of the world for myself.

6. Yakutia, Russia

Some of the kindest people I have ever met live in this remote semi-autonomous region of Russia. -60 in winter, +40 in the summer: this is a fascinating, harsh place to survive with a  subsistence farming lifestyle.

7. Shikoku, Japan

Shikoku is the smallest and quietest of Japan’s four main islands. I enjoyed the mountains, small temples and slower pace of life in this relatively rural part of Japan.

8. Banaue, Philippines

The magnificent rice terraces here are my one concession to famous “sights” in this list (there’s no Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat or Great Wall, for example). They reminded me that man’s impact on the environment is not necessarily always to destroy and ‘uglify’. So they cheered me up as well as amazed me with their scale, longevity and beauty.

9. Hunza valley, Pakistan

The spectacular Hunza valley snakes amongst 7000 metre peaks. The Hunza river nurtures cleverly irrigated fields and apricot harvests dry on the flat roofs of the villages. It is friendly, peaceful, temperate and a lovely part of the journey up the famous Karakoram Highway.

10. Kerala coast, India

Warm beaches, palm trees, smiling kids and delicious curry served on a broad green banana leaf. Need I say more?

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