Take two Eastern Bloc countries from 20 years ago such as Belarus and Vietnam, and then compare them today. The difference is stark. Vietnam has embraced business and market principles, and the annual growth rate in GDP is above 5 percent.
Travelling around Vietnam is certainly no carefree jaunt. Busses can be cramped, stuffy and undependable, while the drivers can often be maniacs. Hustlers are a constant annoyance and the hassles are numerous. But all that is a breeze compared to traversing around India. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way if you skip Delhi and head straight to Rajasthan.
Having spent time on Java and Bali, I thought I had Indonesia figured out. After all, if you've seen one island you've seen them all, right? Sulawesi was a bit of a slap in the face to this narrow-mindedness. What I discovered there was an entirely different culture, as different from Java as any country in Southeast Asia is from its neighbours — in some places even more so. Travelling here offers the extremes of South Pacific geography, from cool rugged highlands to lush equatorial islands surrounded by intense blue waters. It is an experience like no other, a trip into the real heart of Indonesian island culture.
For most tourist visitors to Laos, Luang Prabang is the only game in town. Direct flights from various cities in Asia mean visitors can even bypass the charming capital city of Vientiane in their rush to reach what is admittedly one of the most stunning towns in the region, leaving the rest of the country still largely untouched by tourism.
Before Koh Phi Phi and Vietnam’s own Con Dao, there was the Malaysian island of Tioman. In the 1970s, Time Magazine called this jewel 30 kilometres off Malaysia’s eastern coast one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Since then, however, Tioman has slipped down the rankings and rarely receives foreign recognition — perhaps thanks to the absence of real estate behemoths building super resorts.