37 Asian Odysseys

From Vietnam to Sri Lanka, a must-do list of essential experiences from reporters who have been there. 

Asian Odysseys – NYTimes.com.

Some samples from Thailand and India are listed below:


31 Bangkok Hop a Khlong Saen Saep boat taxi at Pratunam Pier (behind Gaysorn Plaza) to Bo Bae. A tiny soi, or side street, off Lang Suan Road leads to Bangkok’s oldest market, Nang Leong. Make an offering at the Chinese temple and then snack on specialties like sai-krok plaa naem (rice topped with sour pork, pickled shallots and shredded fish). Pick up kanom (sweets) at Mae Som Jit and exit past Chalerm Thani movie theater, entirely made of teak.

32 Bangkok The Grand Palace, with its medley of temples and glittering spires, is Bangkok’s glory. From downtown, skim over the traffic on the Sky Train to the Saphan Taksin stop, go down Exit 2 to the pier and pay 14 baht ($1.35 at 30 baht to the dollar) to ride the Chao Phraya Express public riverboat to Tha Chang. Savor the clamor of food stalls, and sample fried banana, dragon fruit or countless other snacks. Visit the hall of the Emerald Buddha, then walk 900 yards to Wat Po, home of the country’s largest reclining Buddha, to the camphor-scented cool of its famous massage school.

33 Chiang Mai Join the locals at Huen Phen, an open-air restaurant with northern Thai specialties like spicy sausage and khao soy. Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is a sprawling maze of stalls and carts hawking real-looking Rolexes, pirated DVDs and handicrafts. Before browsing, have a street-side foot massage. For a city view, head to the Buddhist temple Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep on top of Doi Suthep mountain.

34 Chiang Mai In multicultural Gat Luang, the riverside commercial heart of Chiang Mai, lunch on fermented bamboo salad and grilled chicken from stalls behind century-old Warorot Market. Pay respects at the nearby Guan Yu shrine, then, at Don Lam Yai market, grab mango and sticky rice to eat at Wat Ket, a small Buddhist temple across the pedestrian bridge. Don’t miss its quirky museum, which chronicles daily life in the hood.


11 Cochin Head to the harbor, where, just past the iconic Chinese fishing nets that hover over the entryway, you can pick out red snapper, rock lobster or other freshly caught seafood. Bring your catch to a nearby collection of stalls where a cook will grill your lunch. Follow it up with an espresso at while checking out the latest exhibition from local and national artists. Then start the evening with a 6 p.m. Kathakali performance at the Kerala Kathakali Center.

12 New Delhi Start with a walk through the storied neighborhood of Nizamuddin, which, with its shrines, slums, kebab stands and qawwali singers, offers a glimpse into the despair, hope and history of the Indian capital. The 16th-century tomb of Emperor Humayun is its best-known monument. Next door, Sunder Nursery is a unique collection of plant species from near and far; another nearby tomb, that of Khan-e-Khana, a poet, is illuminated at night. Across the road, through a dense warren of mosques, graves and vendors of lamb and roses is the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya, the 13th-century Sufi saint from whom the neighborhood gets its name and lore. There, at sundown, a men’s choir sings praise songs known as qawwali. At the smaller, quieter shrine of Inayat Khan, who took Sufi thought to Europe 100 years ago, qawwals sing every Friday under a glass dome that lets in the darkening sky.

13 Kovalam Kovalam, in the state of Kerala, near the southern tip of India, is known for its sea, sand and sunsets. Another gem is its mysterious song, which you can hear if you take a morning walk along the seaside next to the Vivanta by Taj, still widely known as the Taj Green Cove Hotel. You will hear it first — a gravelly chorus of men who sound as though they have lived hard and smoked long. Then you see them: wraparound lungis hiked up to their thighs, they walk into the water and haul in a large net heaving with fish. They sing as they haul. A few dive in on the downbeat, shouting “Whoop!” as if to mimic the call of a whale. At the end of the song and mime, fish glisten on the sand, fishmongers haggle, fish are carted away. You might haul yourself away too to sunbathe for the rest of the day. Sunset is glorious from the Sky Bar at the luxurious Leela Kempinski Kovaolam Beach hotel. For dinner, walk to the promenade and order a spice-rubbed fried fish that was pulled in that morning.

14 Mumbai Stroll to the Gateway of India and hop a rickety ferry to Elephanta Island to see the Hindu and Buddhist shrines and cave art. On your return, have tea at the Sea Lounge at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which has a nice harbor view. Skip the food stalls on Chowpatty Beach and instead, dig into chaat at Swati Snacks in the Tardeo neighborhood. Then, pretend to be a local and go to a horse race at the nearby Mahalaxmi Racecourse. Entry costs 20 rupees (about 45 cents at 45 rupees to the dollar) and you can buy and drink a decent bottle of beer outdoors.

15 Mysore Spend an afternoon at the city’s massive Mysore Palace, a masterpiece of Indo-Saracenic architecture in the heart of the city. Afterward, stop across the street at Cafe Aramane for local specialties like bisi bele bath, a spicy mix of rice and lentils. Once the sun goes down, grab a sweater before heading up to the Chamundi Hills for a sweeping view of the city and the palace — the building is bedecked with thousands of lights on Sunday nights.

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