The new year is a time for lists. Forget the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, here is my list of 10 places you must go to.
1. Luang Prabang, Laos, a World Heritage site, is simply the loveliest place on earth. Trust me. Stay at the Villa Santi Hotel (not the resort), rent bikes for $1 outside the hotel, and get up early one morning to stroll amongst a sea of saffron robed monks.
2. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Stay at the Grand Hotel d’Angkor. Get a guide and driver, you’ll need an air conditioned car to escape to from the heat and the hawkers. Buy something from one of the kids, but don’t haggle if you don’t plan to buy it. Furthermore, ask your conscience do you really want to haggle for 25 cents?
3. Hoi An, Vietnam, another World Heritage site. Make sure you eat some pho and beware of young girls approaching you with, “my auntie has a dress shop, wanna come see?
4. The Forbidden City and the Great Wall, Beijing, China. Nuff said.
5. The terra-cotta warriors, Xi-an, China. If possible don’t overnight in Xi’an.
6. Harajuku girls, Tokyo, Japan. Even long past Gwen Stephani making them famous, they are still sight to see. I never tire of them. They come out on Sunday’s at Harajuku station at about 11am.
7. Omotesando Dori, Tokyo, Japan. Start at Harajuku station and walk the length of Omotesando to the Nezu museum. Along the way on the right is Louis Vuitton where the Japanese stand in line to buy bags. Past Omotesando crossing/Aoyama Dori, stop at Prada, a must see for the Herzog and de Meuron architecture. Bape Exclusive is behind Prada to the right. Also take a look at the Nezu gardens, but not the museum itself. I lived across from the Nezu when I lived in Japan.
8. The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey. Huge and illuminated in blue light, simply the most impressive space I have ever seen. My only non-Asian pick.
9. The Four Seasons Chiang Mai, Thailand, the best hotel experience I’ve ever had. Visit the hill tribes while your at it. I purchased a headdress from an Akha hill tribeswoman, something no one should be without.
10. OPTIONAL: The long necked Karen near Mae Hong Son, Thailand. The women of the Karen hill tribe wear brass rings to elongate their necks. Some say exploitive, others a tourist trap. I found them beautiful and gentle. Use you own moral compass.