Updated: Feb 6, 2019
The word “Asia” is a female name, and it means ‘sunrise’ – after all, the sun rises in the east. It is home to some of the oldest civilizations as well as both the highest (Mount Everest) and the lowest (Dead Sea) points on the Earth.
If you were lucky enough to have visited Asia in the 90s, then you will know how much it has changed in the past two decades. Booming back from a financial crisis, Asia is now a global force (in particular China). What hasn’t changed is the diversity across the continent, and that is just one of many things that keeps calling me back.
I travel to China and Hong Kong as often as possible, for both pleasure and work (as they are the leading luxury watch markets globally). In Japan I’ve only visited Tokyo, so a trip around the country is well overdue. There are other countries that are on my list – Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Burma and Laos are all fighting for the top spot!
In Asia there are forty-eight different countries, equating to eleven different time zones spanning from GMT +4 to GMT +10. In the extract from my book below, I recount my journey across the continent spanning many countries. If only I had had a Culem watch then, to help me keep track of mine (and my loved ones’) time! For example, Bangkok is +7 hours ahead of London during GMT, but +6 hours ahead during BST.
Culem GMT watches show ‘real world’ time in twenty-four destinations – six of those are in Asia; Dubai, Maldives, Bhutan, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Culem travel watches are elegant time capsules that capture your journeys and your memories.
Let me now share with you a personal snapshot from Asia.
Let’s begin with Asia, the largest continent in the world. To me, Asia is the continent of the future as it is changing rapidly all the time. I started my travels in Asia in 1996 in the ‘Backpacker Capital’ of Bangkok, Thailand, and what an amazing City to begin with! A sensory overload of smells, tastes, sounds, smiles and curiosity. Like some before, my friends Dan, Therese and I went in search of paradise, and we found the beach in Koh Phi Phi – the one that is in the film ‘The Beach’. Until that point, I had never seen a place more beautiful.
We continued on our journey, crossing the border to Malaysia, and we ended up exploring the jungles of the Cameron Highlands, taking a little longer than we expected. I’ll never forget it; we got lost and spent a whole night the jungle, but we lived to tell the tale. It was such an adventure!
Next, on to Cambodia. I remember the unpaved roads and motorbike taxis, gunshot holes in the walls of the Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh and buying antique Buddha heads in the market that had been cut off of temple statues.
And then to Vietnam – in Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City I remember the crowd of bicycles and ‘Ao Dai’ – white flowing dresses. We travelled north, stopping in Nha Trang for party time, visiting Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in Hanoi and visiting the Hmong hill tribes of Sapa in the remote north. We ended up missing the bus to cross the border into China, getting drunk with locals on a super strong wine with snakes in the bottle. Welcoming in the Vietnamese New Year, in a way that I will never forget.
With an early start, and foggy head, the next day we crossed the Vietnam-China border and went on spellbinding train and bus journeys through Yunnan Province staying over in Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang and before our final destination, the Tiger Leaping Gorge, for a three day trek. We never planned to do any of this – but in Thailand we had met some people at the beach in Koh Phi Phi, and their stories made us want to trek the gorge. Wow, was it worth it.
After this remarkable experience we continued on to the Tibetan Border town of Zhondigan (Shangri La) with no expectations. This ended up being one of the best days ever during my travels – we jumped on the back of a truck, not knowing where we were going, and ended in what looked like a Tibetan mountain village with lots of houses and a large Buddhist temple on the summit. We climbed to the top and the whole town was there in all of their Tibetan regalia for the Spring Festival. It was a sight – the colours, smells, the temple, instruments, Buddhist monks and people of all ages in their best dress. The senior monk blessed me and his blessing has stayed with me today. I always feel grateful, but on that day I felt blessed for all of my experiences and how lucky I am to be able to travel.
My memories and stories of Asia are never ending, but this gives you a taste of my travels through an incredibly vast and diverse continent. In case you haven’t realised it yet, I love Asia and have spent a lot of time there over the last twenty-two years both with my travels and with my business. To-date I have been to sixteen countries in this vast continent and I am far from done, because Asia keeps calling me back.
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Thank you for reading. M.