On Asia: Points East

Travel Blog  •  Julia Ross  •  01.22.09 | 1:56 PM ET

Shibuya, Tokyo, JapanShibuya, Tokyo. iStockphoto.

If this is indeed the “Asian century,” count me as an early adopter. I’ve quit two full-time jobs to explore the world’s most diverse continent, and they were the two best decisions I’ve ever made. To an Asia hand, the lavender fields of Provence might be pleasant, but it’s the chanting of novice monks, the mystical tinkling of the gamelan, a bowl of spicy dan dan noodles that really get the blood pumping. I’m drawn back, again and again, and I don’t know if I’ll ever kick the habit.

My (unlikely) introduction to Asia began in arid, post-Soviet Uzbekistan in the late ‘90s. As soon as my conference in Tashkent wrapped up, I hopped a bus to the Silk Road city of Samarkand, where blue-tiled madrassas dazzled against an azure sky. They were like nothing I’d seen, a window into an ancient time when Tamerlane traipsed across the steppes.

Next came my dance with China, which morphed into a lifelong quest. My maiden trek on Victoria Peak was spectacular, but it was a long walk through one of Shanghai’s writhing wet markets—all bubbling vats and flashing cleavers—that hooked me for good. I had to go back, and so I did, to live and study and let myself be overwhelmed by it all.

In between, I’ve wandered in Thailand and Bali and Vietnam, and still I’ve just begun. India and Laos are virgin ground, and Burma would be fascinating, but it’s western China—Xinjiang province—that holds me in thrall at the moment. I’m thinking 2009 is the year.

For now, I’ve got a virtual outlet for my Asia obsession in Points East. As they say in Taipei, Zhen bang (really great)! I’ll be blogging here about marauding pandas and Bollywood exports and everything in between. Yep, it’s a lot to cover, and Kabul is a long way from Kyoto, but I’m ready to jump in. If Asia is the future, I want a front row seat.

Julia Ross is a Washington, DC-based writer and frequent contributor to World Hum. She has lived in China and Taiwan, where she was a Fulbright scholar and Mandarin student. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Time, Christian Science Monitor, Plenty and other publications. Her essay, Six Degrees of Vietnam, was shortlisted for "The Best American Travel Writing 2009."

4 Comments for On Asia: Points East

Eva Holland 01.22.09 | 3:59 PM ET

Looking forward to it!

Michael Yessis 01.23.09 | 10:44 AM ET

Me, too, Julia.

I’m also looking forward to having some of those dan dan noodles at the next possible opportunity.

Bill Kennan 01.25.09 | 9:25 PM ET

I have a few favorites of my own. Teman Negara in Malaysia. The boat trip into the park is 3 hours long and left me wondering if I might find Kurtz at the end of the journey. Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, requires a lot of walking but the palace and temple ruins their are amazing. The charred smell remains from the 1700s.  I must have walked 10 miles sweltering but unwilling to give up. The Tiger Temple west of Bangkok, nearly in Burma, is a little cheesy but how often do you get to sit next to a 500 pound Bengal tiger?

Yep, I’ve got it bad and go back every chance I get. Oh, saty in a food court in Singapore or some market in Kuala Lumpur works for me.

cheap charley 02.01.09 | 10:28 PM ET

I feel the Asia bug as well, I love all the Asia cheapest travel options which keeps me out in the wild for a lot longer than I could any where else in the world This year i will be in Asia for nearly 9 months and i hope that I can get back to Shanghai for the markets.  I also went to Bali last year and had a great time diving there, as well as taking in all the culture. For me Bali was the best deal going in Asia clean safe and cheap.  I know of few places where you can get a awesome veg lunch plate with 5 options for $0.60 cents!

I love your writing style I which I had the same flair.

Perhaps I will see you out there in Asia. I will be in Bangkok. Phnom Penh and Saigon in April May,Philippines scuba diving in June, Bangkok in July, hopefully in China in August via Xiamen and Bali on my way to do Western Australia. Sept Oct Nov.

Happy trails!

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