I follow a lot of travel publications on my Facebook and Twitter feeds and lately I’ve noticed that lists have become commonplace in travel journalism. Is it lazy journalism or do the writers believe that their compilation of the Top 2015 Destinations will add something that other publications missed?
Today I came across an article on the Top 10 Asian Cities. As I clicked through the selected cities, I found myself shaking my head. They had it all wrong. Where was Kathmandu? Why wasn’t Siem Reap closer to the top of the list? Did they forget that India was in Asia?
So I decided to make my own list – you know, to set the record straight. In doing so, I realized why publications are inundated with lists – because they’re great fun to write. Compiling a list of your favorite destinations requires you to go back and reflect on all your travel experiences: the cities, the meals, the people, the feelings you had when you were there. For a traveler, going through these memories is the next best thing from reliving them.
And with that, here is my version of the top Asian cities.
Top 10 Cities in Asia
10. Ho Chi Minh is not a pedestrian friendly city and it probably wouldn’t have made my list if it weren’t for having a friend in the city. After a rough start in the city, my friend, Nikos, picked me up on his motorbike. We cruised the streets – there’s something exhilarating about exploring a city from the back of a motorbike. The warm air against my face, the smells from the food stalls, the camaraderie with others at stop lights made me appreciate my time in HCM.
9. Tokyo was the first city I visited in Asia. I had limited travel experience at that point and was on my first big solo trip. To say Tokyo was a shock to my senses would be an understatement, but when I felt I needed to escape the crowds, I would retreat into one of the many shrines or parks that offer a quiet oasis in a bustling city.
8. Kathmandu. With its lush green hills, nestled just below the Himalaya mountains, Kathmandu is a gorgeous city. The sheer beauty of the city and the people make it a city to which I hope to return.
7. Mumbai. There isn’t another city that challenges me as much as Mumbai. The juxtaposition of a modern life and an impoverished one is something I still struggle to understand. To be in Mumbai, is to witness two different lived experiences. I don’t know of any other place where the contrast is as vivid as in Mumbai.
6. Hoi An is one of those cities you instantly love because it’s so quaint and picturesque (and the food is incredible). It is overrun by tourists but renting a bicycle provides a way to escape the crowds and explore the city on your own.
5. Varanasi has a pulse, an energy that is unlike any other place I’ve been. It has a polarizing effect: some people love it, while others hate it. It’s colorful, chaotic, and in-your-face. I loved it.
4. Bangkok is an expansive city. There is so much to take in, and I feel like I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. What I love most about Bangkok, and Asia in general, are the food stalls. There’s something wonderful about the plastic tables and chairs that allow locals and travelers to enjoy a meal together.
3. Hong Kong. I’ve always loved skylines, and Hong Kong’s is incredible. What I love most about the city, though, is its gritty side. It gives the city character. I love how the old and the new seamlessly come together to create a vibrant city.
2. Ubud. Bali is a magical destination, and Ubud is its cultural hub. It would be a stretch to call Ubud a city, but I’ve included it in this list for its surrounding areas. Terraced rice fields, temples, rain forests – there’s so much beauty in the central region of Bali.
1. Siem Reap. I knew the instant I stepped out into Siem Reap that it had ahold of my heartstrings. The temples are awe-inspiring, but the people are what make this city so special to me. The Cambodians are warm and hopeful, despite all the hardships that they have encountered. I know that there will be many visits to Cambodia in my future.