Top 7 Things to Do in South Asia

From majestic peaks to mystical religions, from ancient ruins to non-stop trance parties, South Asia has it all. Comprising some of the most colorful nations in the world this region has a multitude of offerings for travelers from across the globe.

A list of top things to do in South Asia could be endless but, as with any other list of this nature, who knows, you might just find the one holiday you had been missing so far. For this reason, the following travel highlights of the South Asian Region will serve as the perfect place to begin your quest:

1.Trekking in Nepal
Trekking in Nepal is definitely the number one thing to do in South Asia as the Himalayas is probably its most outstanding natural landmark. Not only that, it also forms a major source of life to the entire subcontinent, represented by the numerous perennial river systems born in these high mountains. Without doubt, it is the most challenging high altitude experience anywhere in the world that takes you through lush green valleys and precipitous gorges on the foothills of the highest peaks on the planet.

2.Backpacking across India
There is no other way to experience India – the most colorful and vibrant cultural capital of the East – than to go hopping betweentrains that cover the length and breadth of the entire region. But if you are not a fan of the bumpy train or bus rides and want more freedom of choice, hire a motorbike at one of the main citiesand enjoy a life changing journey through this vast, prolific land of contrasts.

3. Exploring the mangrove forests in Sunderban
The Sunderbans is a dense forest of mangroves and other tropical vegetation which thrives on the wet monsoon winds from the Bay ofBengal. It occupies much of Bangladesh’s southern half and some parts of West Bengal. The forest is spread over an area of about 4200 sq. km. and is the natural habitat for a huge collection of endemic species, most notably the eponymous Royal Bengal Tiger, whose population has dwindled to a mere 270 according to the latest census. To walk through this forest, you will need a permit from the Sunderban National Park.

4.Snowman Trek in Bhutan
A surefire entry to the list of top things to do in South Asia is the Snowman Trek in Bhutan, although it’s not recommended for the faint-hearted. It is a month long trek of epic proportions that takes you across Bhutan’s pristine mountains amidst some of the most unparalleled views you’ll experience in your life. You will cross numerous high passes, with an average height of around 16000 ft, feasting on the majestic snow covered peaks and turquoise lakes that are home to several species of wildlife like the extremely elusive snow leopard, blue sheep and yaks to name a few. It also gives you an opportunity to witness the culture of Bhutan, an ancient kingdom where man lives in eternal harmony with nature.

If you want to do this trek, contact a local company and they will take care of everything, although bear in mind that traveling in Bhutan is fairly more expensive than in most other South Asian countries.

5.Beach Holidays
If traveling overland is not your idea of the perfect holiday, don’t worry. South Asia has something for everyone. India, Maldivesand Sri Lanka offer some of the most amazing world-class beaches where you can simply grab a beer and watch the sun move across the sky. There are some world famous beaches in places like Goa and Kerala while the coastline of Sri Lanka and Maldives have remained untouched.

6.Yoga and Meditation
Before it took on the form of routine physical exercise, yoga originated in India as part of the Hindu philosophy of physical and spiritual self discipline required to attain enlightenment. Therefore, to learn the different forms and features of yoga from an actual yogi in India is nothing less than discovering its true meaning and purpose.

There are a number of options in touring India for yoga and meditation. One of the best ways to do this is to get enrolled in a yoga school. However, it is also possible to learn these things outside of a school by visiting a yoga retreat center or by exploring the real world of yogis in places like Varanasi and Hrishikesh.

7.Cultural Tours
The countries in South Asia are so rich and diverse in culture that you will find myriads of castes, religions and ethnicities in every corner of the region. So many of these communities have their own rituals, festivals, attire and food, which is a remarkable fact in itself. For an outsider, this diversity in culture and lifestyle can sometimes be so appealing that they actually live in those communities and experience those lifestyles on a personal level. It is a very common sight in any of these countries to find travelers from around the world who have stayed behind for long periods of time to learn new cultures in exchange of their own. A good way to do this would be to volunteer in one of the many social organizations in these countries.

Sunrise – 1 Year on From the ASIA Launch

Nearly a year has passed since Early Bird Sunrise registration began for the coveted new.asia domain extension, the Early Bird Sunrise period (SR2a) was the first opportunity for commercial entities to register a.asia extension. Prior to this, registration was limited to Asian governments wishing to submit their public bodies and culturally or economically important domains during the pre-Sunrise period.

Throughout the commercial Sunrise period, entry was limited to those companies with registered trademarks trading in on of the 72 Asian countries as defined by ICANN, the period was split into four sub-periods which ran consecutively with the entry requirements becoming less stringent over time, and finally closed for new registration on January 31 2008. On March 26 2008 the.asia Go Live registration period started allowing anyone around the world to buy a.asia domain, and prompted a wave of speculators to begin buying up cyber real-estate from web hosts in the hope that a few companies with sloppy marketing departments had missed the Sunrise window.

So why is the.asia extension so important, when the region has functioned perfectly well over the years with.com and the other Asian regional extensions?

Put simply.asia provides a unifying sense of economic identity for the region which has over 500 million internet users (compared with 315 million in Europe and 253 million in the USA) a number which is growing steadily all the time as the cost of technology decreases..asia also allows companies to demonstrate an online presence and expand in to a region with one of the fastest moving economies in the world. That said how many companies have taken advantage of their newly acquired domains and actually set up a live site, well fewer that you would expect, a search of the obvious key players (Pepsi, Ford etc) returned “error page not found messages” Toyota the third largest Asian company according to Business Week’s ‘Top 25 Asian Companies’ have not set up a.asia page, Sony the seventh largest Asian company’s site is “under construction” and 7eleven the mini-market of choice for the region has their domain ‘parked’ in fact of the well known international brands only Honda seems to have a fully functioning.asia domain. So why this reticence to embrace.asia? Do we expect to see a wealth of new.asia sites before the end of the year? Or, are the big players just happy with the fact that they have secured their plot and are now content to sit on the fence while the price of the cyber real estate rises around them?

On thing does seem certain – this area is bound to take off eventually, and although the transition is slow it is gradually happening, with millions of quality domain names still on offer it could be time to speculate and buy your company’s piece of.asia before somebody else does.

A Culinary Tour of Asia

The very heart of your Asian vacation isn’t the exotic locale, the invigorating massages, the majestic ancient temples, or even the warm, friendly people. It’s the food. When you’re at home, food is a centerpiece of activity and fun-the backyard cookout, the Friday evenings with friends, or the romantic dinner. When you’re on vacation, it will be even more memorable if you keep food enjoyment high on your list of priorities.

Food is more than mere sustenance. It is a social experience, and a sensory treat that will be remembered long after you return home. Asia is well-known for its exotic cuisine, and no Asian vacation would be complete without thoroughly enjoying the food. In every major Asian city, you’ll find your usual array of the familiar favorites from back home: KFC, McDonalds, Sizzler, and so on-but why not enhance your foray into the unknown with something new on the menu?

The cuisine is as varied as the continent, ranging from the aromatic curries of India, to the fiery-hot tom yum goong of Thailand, to the European-influenced Macanese cuisine found in the Chinese autonomous region of Macau. Wherever you travel, you’ll find unique and fresh ingredients, presented delightfully in authentic surroundings and delivered by friendly, smiling staff.

You’ll find your environment as memorable as the food itself. You may find yourself sitting under a straw roof, sitting cross-legged and eating off of a banana leaf, or enjoying the most elegant, five-star posh surroundings you’ve ever witnessed. And don’t neglect the local specialties. A meal of dim sum (“yum cha” in Cantonese) in a Hong Kong tea house is an event unto itself that will never be forgotten. Take a boat cross the bay to Macau for a trip back to old Europe, where you can enjoy High Tea in the afternoon, and one of the country’s characteristic egg tart specialties. And when you tour Japan, you’ll discover that there are dozens of different varieties of sukiyaki, which is customarily cooked right at the table.

You’ll also find very informal street cafes throughout most of Asia, which are little more than a handful of plastic tables and chairs on the sidewalk, overlooking a kitchen that consists of a propane tank and a wok. If you’re adventurous enough to try one of these places, you’re likely to find very local cuisine that you can’t find in the “normal” restaurants, including wild game, insects, and parts of animals that you never knew you could eat.

Desserts are not to be missed. Unlike the rich, gooey, chocolatey sweets of America, Asians tend towards the lighter, more delicate tastes in sweets. A Chinese sweet red bean bun is very tempting (and does not have the usual disagreeable side effect that beans often do). Japanese sweets (wa-gashi) also frequently use sweet bean paste and are quite delicate. In Thailand, you may enjoy bua loy naam qing (literally, “floating lotuses in ginger water”), which delivers an enjoyable contrast between the strong ginger tea and the delicate rice flour sesame balls floating within.

Often overlooked are the unusual tropical fruits found throughout Asia. If you think of fruit as apples and watermelons, think again-the taste of the lichi, mangosteen, and rambutan are incomparable and a sheer delight to the senses. Beware of the infamous durian though, the heavy, spiky “king of fruits” that has a decidedly foul, almost fishy smell and is definitely an acquired taste.

You’ll find that in most Asian countries, meals are very social, and are often served to your table communally, as opposed to the Western style of each person ordering individual dishes. Don’t be surprised if your host serves you and continues to refresh your drink throughout the meal. Bone up on how to use chopsticks. Here’s a chopstick etiquette tip: You’ll sometimes see diners at inexpensive restaurants rubbing together the chopsticks before eating. This is done when using the inexpensive, wooden disposable chopsticks, to make sure there are no splinters. Avoid rubbing your chopsticks together at somebody’s home or at an upscale restaurant, as it would be considered an insult-you’re saying that the chopsticks are inferior when you do that. But, not every Asian country uses them. Thais eat European-style with a fork and spoon. In China, you’ll use chopsticks, but will never see a knife at your place setting, because it is considered aggressive. In some very rural parts of Asia, such as in the Laotian countryside, you’ll eat with your fingers. But regardless of how you convey the food from plate to mouth, you’re in for a real treat.