For many, travelling is much more than a mere physical experience, it is an opportunity to sample different cultures, broaden horizons and extend personal knowledge; developing a sense of awareness of the infinite variety of life on our planet. The Far East offers an abundance of exotic destinations which are both physically enticing and spiritually rewarding. If you are seeking something extraordinary; here is our Status selection…
THE FORBIDDEN CITY, CHINA
In the heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City was once the ceremonial heart of the Chinese empire; the symbol of power during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Surrounded by a broad moat, which reflects the stunning array of buildings, which include the Palace of Supreme Harmony, where the emperor was crowned and held court upon the gilded Dragon Throne. The Forbidden City is a vast imperial palace complex and the world’s largest group of persevered wooden structures, containing some superb art works from both dynasties. The Forbidden City remained China’s political centre until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1912, although the imperial court remained in residence until 1924, when China’s new rulers converted it into the Palace Museum.
Kyoto, the imperial capital of Japan for 11 centuries, is an amazing contradiction of ancient architecture; such as exquisite temples, gardens and shrines, set against the contemporary neon-lit backdrop of skyscrapers and modern city life. Despite natural disasters, earthquakes and bombardments during the Second World War, it remains Japan’s most beautifully preserved historic city. It is also home of the geisha, and these exquisite beauties, in their elaborate kimono, can be glimpsed in the wooden tea houses of the Gion quarter, as they partake in time honored festivals. Not to be missed is the dazzling temple of Kinkakuji, the cities’ most famous building that is covered entirely in gold leaf, its reflected elegance, shimmering magically in a beautifully positioned pool.
Once poetically named, Thang Long, or “ascending dragon”, this charming Vietnamese capital is a beautiful blend of monuments and colonial architecture and has a well preserved Old Quarter with shady boulevards, and at least 600 temples and exotic pagodas; which make this a very appealing city for discerning travellers. The biggest attraction, without doubt, is the chaotic labyrinth of markets streets of the Old Quarter, selling everything from silk and meats to bamboo; there is little than cannot be acquired by the persistent shopper! The biggest tourist attraction of Hanoi is the Chi Minh Mausoleum, the last resting place of Ho Chi Minh, the nation’s hero (who was enshrined against his will, as he wished to be cremated after his death!).
Java is the perhaps most complex and culturally compelling island in Indonesia. The most populated of the Indonesian islands, Java is a place of mesmerising natural beauty and interesting traditions in art, dance, spiritualism and advanced learning; boasting a dazzling array of enticing landscapes, from rice paddies to rainforests. The city of Jakarta, which lies to the west of the island, is the main city of Java and is the most visited tourist destination. Travelling east away from the city, there are numerous attractions; such as temples, lush fields and hills, volcanic mountains, waterfalls and castles. For the really adventurous, the active volcanic island of Krakatau in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra is an absolute must!
Bangkok is a city of clashing extremes with action on every corner; it is a metropolis of gleaming temples, luxury shopping malls and resplendent 5 star hotels. It is also a destination of exotic new experience, where you can catch a tuk-tuk in bustling Chinatown or take a longtail boat through the floating markets. Food is definitely an extraordinary delight, from local dishes served at humble street stalls to haute cuisine at romantic rooftop restaurants. For many travellers a trip to Bangkok would not be complete without glimpsing its famous nightlife, from lavish, extravagant cabarets to the erotic red-light districts, Bangkok never fails to offer the ultimate in new experiences! (Despite a declaration of martial law in May 2014, tourist attractions remain open for business).
By Sonia Kilvington