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Random Tips & Tidbits From Asia

Want to know some cool facts about the hottest up-and-coming Asian destinations? Lonely Planet reveals all in the Lonely Planet Bluelist: The Best in Travel 2008.

NORTHWEST VIETNAM

MOST BIZARRE SIGHT
The mad Sunday morning market in Bac Ha is the place to get your water buffaloes, pigs, horses and dogs, or bottles of the local firewater. Groups of Flower H’mong throng here early, decked out in hippy-trippy rainbow-braided velvet.

PENINSULAR MALAYSIA

RANDOM FACTS

Malaysia is the first country in the world to have introduced passports embedded with microchips and biometric data.

More than 60 percent of all software used by Malaysian businesses are thought to be illegal copies.

Operating on a rotational cycle, each of Malaysia’s nine sultans takes a turn as the country’s head of state, serving as king for a five-year term (the current one is Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of the northeastern state of Terengganu).

Literally put on a pedestal by its builders so that its background is only sky. the Taj Mahal is a ‘Teardrop on the face of eternity’ according to Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.

MOST BIZARRE SIGHT

During the Thaipusam festivals held in Johor Bahru, Ipoh, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, you can see religious devotees pierce their skin with pikes and hooks, from which they hang milk pots, feather decorations and pictures of deities.

A sight common in Northwest Vietnam, this Dzao woman’s headgear, called a hong, comprises at least seven layers of cotton scarves.

CHENGDU, CHINA

RANDOM FACT
According to the principals of traditional Chinese medicine, Chengdu’s trademark spicy foods combat people’s “internal dampness,” which is believed to cause illness and be brought on by the city’s humid and rainy weather.

A sight common in Northwest Vietnam, this Dzao woman’s headgear, called a hong, comprises at least seven layers of cotton scarves.

WHAT’S HOT

The nightlife. From freakily mammoth discos through to cool little clubs, Chengdu boasts the biggest and best selection in all of southwest China.

WHAT’S NOT

Getting a taxi. On weekends it can take up to an hour to flag one down. Locals gripe that the city has cut the number of cabs on the road despite the economic boom and the influx of people.

RECENT FAD

Setting up your business here after getting fed up with high prices in Beijing and Shanghai.

BHUTAN

RANDOM FACTS

Not only the act of smoking but also the sale of tobacco is illegal in Bhutan (as are plastic bags and MTV).
 Television arrived in Bhutan in 1999.
 In 2002 Microsoft developed a special Dzongkha font for Windows.
 Bhutan has one set of traffic lights.

MOST BIZARRE SIGHT

Exterior house walls and entryways decorated with giant painted penises that are symbols of the drunken, promiscuous 15th-century lama Drukpa Kunley.
Otherworldly monks dressed in maroon robes transcribing ancient Buddhist texts into computers, or Bhutanese noblemen dressed in traditional Tibetan-style tunics and argyle socks sending text messages on their ultramodern mobile phones.

MUMBAI, INDIA

RANDOM FACTS

  Number of Bollywood movies made since 1931: 67,000.
  Percentage of people living in slums: 55 percent.
  Population density: 29,000 people per square kilometer.
  Proportion of Mumbai built on reclaimed land: 60 percent.

MOST BIZARRE SIGHT

Dhaba-wallahs (lunchbox couriers) weaving through the chaos to deliver about 200,000 meals a day from homes to hungry office workers, using a sophisticated system of numbers and colors to distinguish the tiffin boxes.

This is an edited extract from Lonely Planet Bluelist: The Best in Travel 2008 © Lonely Planet Publications, 2007.

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