My Top 10 Favorite Places in Asia: Not Making the Cut

I was doing an author’s interview recently and the interviewer asked what is my favorite place in Asia. That made me really stop and think. I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled to some pretty cool places throughout east and southeast Asia. So I decided to do my blog’s first 10 ten series. I’ve compiled my 10 most favorite places I’ve been to in Asia.

Now, of course, a list like this is very subjective. So I do have a couple of rules.

1) This list includes only places that I have visited. Yes, there are a lot of great places not on the list which I simply haven’t been able to get to. So don’t be offended if your favorite place isn’t even mentioned. I probably haven’t been there.

2) Some of the places are more regional, and others more specific. I didn’t want to just say “My Top 10 Favorite Cities” because some of my favorite places aren’t necessarily in a city.

3) Some of these places I haven’t been to in years so my thoughts are based on my experiences whether recent or long ago.

So with those ground rules, I’ll be posting my picks over the next few weeks. I’d appreciate your comments.

Today, I’m starting with seven places which just didn’t make the cut. It’s not like I didn’t like these places; it’s just that only 10 places fit in a top 10. Here are a few leftovers in no particular order:

Bangkok, Thailand – Bangkok is a sprawling, bustling city, that always feels extremely hot. The temples and palaces are beautiful and the food is great. But it wasn’t enough to crack my top 10.

Vientiane, Laos – I remember driving through the capital for the first time and asking myself, ‘where’s the capital’? It’s an extremely laid back place. Very friendly people, but not a whole lot to do.

Bali, Indonesia – Some will wonder how this one didn’t crack my top 10. The beaches are beautiful, yes. However, I was turned off by the crowds. Everything was so busy and chaotic. It wasn’t the relaxing beach destination that we were looking for. It is pretty, though.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – The capital of Cambodia is an interesting place to visit. A must are the relics which reveal the horror of the Killing Fields. The Cambodian people are fun and gracious.

Tokyo, Japan – It was big, confusing, and really expensive.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – KL is an interesting city with some fun stuff to do. I always like stopping by the administrative capital of Putra Jaya to the south. But really, if you are going to Malaysia, there are more interesting places.

central Vietnam – This one was hard to cut from my list because there are some really nice places to visit there. Hoi An, the ancient city, is quaint and pleasant. Danang has the wonderful China Beach, Hue, the former Imperial City, has some wonderful old palaces to visit. Come to think of it, how did this one not make the list?

These ten ahead of it must be something special.

Up next: #10

A Waterfall that Fueled an Ending

Here is a picture of Thac Ban Gioc, on the Vietnam-China border in the Vietnamese province of Cao Bang.

Thac Ban Gioc

What does this waterfall have to do with my new novel? Until yesterday, nothing. But the mind seeks ways to justify actions and plot-lines, and I often find that the way I do that is going back to my experiences. It’s there; I just have to flesh it out. Spend a little time thinking, and suddenly, all is obvious.

OK, let me be more specific.

I’m down to the final 10,000 or so words of my untitled third novel. For the longest time, I thought the father and son in the story would be leaving Vietnam on a plane to Bangkok. From Bangkok, the son was going to decide that he had unfinished business and I was going to figure out a way for him to jump the border somewhere and get back into Vietnam to finish things. However, as I finally reached the point where Bangkok fit into the plot, I realized that Bangkok didn’t fit into the plot.

Now what?

Should they not leave Vietnam?

Should they go somewhere else?

Is there another secret way into Vietnam?

And then the waterfall came to my mind. I traveled there on a long 6 hour motorbike trip a good dozen years ago. It was an amazing trip and breathtakingly beautiful. The waterfall, when we saw it, was during low season and not completely filled out as it can be. But wonderful nonetheless.

I remember chatting to a guard there and he told me not to put my foot in the water or he would have to arrest me because the water is the international border between the two countries. I promised that I wouldn’t. I didn’t want to find out what a Cao Bang jail was like.

But in contrast, the Chinese from across the border, treated the ‘sacred’ water as a play-land. They got on little boats, crossed unabashedly to the Vietnamese side and splashed joyously in the water.

My first thought was, ‘no fair’. I want to do that! But I didn’t, mindful of the young guard who was polite enough to warn me about his handcuffs.

And so my travelling party enjoyed the majestic scene by sight only.

But now, as I tried to think of a way to get a person across the Chinese border, my mind immediately came back to the happy Chinese crossing at will on their little tourist rafts.

I got it!

And so the plane which was heading to Bangkok was diverted to Hong Kong. One short flight to Nanning, a tourist package to the falls, and my protagonist is set to illegally cross the border to finish what he started.

Perfect.

I love it when little ideas and memories provide the template for everything you need.

Now, to write it!

(Photo Credit: Me! I took it. The background on the other side of the water is China. The foreground is Vietnam.)