‘The Far East’ is a notion that is constantly spoken of by seasoned travellers. It is also one that is often found in the catalogues of travel companies, appended by classical business jargon in phrases like ‘Far East tour packages’ and ‘tour packages to the Far East’ and such. Yet, not many are entirely familiar with what the Far East is. Globally, the Far East refers to the farthest of the “easts”, lying beyond the Near East and the Middle East, right at the edge of the world map. With its varied expanse of food and culture, the Far East remains one of the most exotic locations to visit. Here are a few essentials to cover for the first time Far East visitor.
Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam:
While they are separate nations in themselves, it is advisable to include Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as a single entity on your travel itinerary. The countries share similar political and cultural pasts, yet remain distinct in their identities. Explore the former of capital Laos, Luang Prabang, with its echoes of French colonialism and the Laotian night markets. In Vietnam, sights to see include Hoi An – the old town – where traditional Vietnamese culture remains stubbornly traditional, and the city of Hanoi which is historically rich yet modernly chaotic. Cambodia’s Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Killing Grounds offer a visceral experience for travellers looking to glance back at the history of the country. On the lighter side, Cambodia also possesses some of the world’s most beautiful and sparsely populated beaches, punctuated only the occasional sand crab and a deep sense of privacy.
Located immediately south of the notorious nation of North Korea, South Korea, unlike its neighbour, is making steady progress in world politics, economy and technology. The majority of South Korean population dwells in the capital of Seoul, a metropolitan hub modelled along the lines of Tokyo. South Korea is also a strong international contender in the fields of robotics, aerospace and education technology. However, it also offers more serene and traditional holiday options. One can head to Jeju Island to see the famed waterfalls or the tea fields in Boseong to sample the exotic Korean beverage.
Still known by its previous name of Burma, Myanmar is one of the smallest and least populated countries, and also the least eastern of the Far East countries. Despite the nation’s volatile political and economic climate, it is still a popular destination among the adventurous sort. Mountains border most of the country, which due to slow industrial progress has preserved most of its wildlife and ecosystems. Burma is also a strong centre of Theravada Buddhism, which influences much of its art and culture.
While most Far East tour packages cover only locations like Japan, Thailand and Malaysia, a more wholesome experience would be to source those package tours with a more daring itinerary, which include locations as the one mentioned above. Papua New Guinea, Taiwan and East-Timor are just a few of the more exotic locations to explore in the Far East!
Papua: Indonesia’s silent war – 29 May 2008
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Indonesia’s eastern-most province of Papua is rich in natural resources, but its people remain the poorest in the country.
For decades Papua was the scene of a low-level independence struggle, but years after the fighting ended, tens of thousands of Indonesian soldiers remain deployed in the province.
Al Jazeera correspondent Step Vaessen reports from a region where many residents still live in a state of fear.
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