While Talk Travel Asia has been sharing and dreaming of travel since 2013, there are still lots of countries in the region that we’ve yet to dedicate an entire episode to. As we begin 2022, we note a handful we’re curious about and hope to feature in the year ahead. Get ready to expand your travel ‘bucket list’ as we share some fun, interesting, and quirky facts about 13 countries we’d like to cover as show topics in 2022.
- home to the world’s largest river delta, which is formed by the Brahmaputra and the Ganges river.
- Roaming Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans
- the longest natural uninterrupted sea beach in Asia (Cox’s Bazar beach), which is 150 km long.
- 163 million people, 148,460 square kilometres making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world
- Bangladesh shares land borders with India to the west, north, and east, Myanmar to the southeast, and the Bay of Bengal to the south
- Bengalis make up 98% of the total population of Bangladesh
- The large Muslim population of Bangladesh makes it the third-largest Muslim-majority country with 90% practicing Islam
- The capital Dhaka has 8.9 million residents and 21 million in the Greater Dhaka Area
Why we’re intrigued – a couple of top sites: See the delta areas, try the food, fill in blanks about a country I know so little about; used to be part of East Pakistan until 26 March 1971
Burning question about Bangladesh: is it really all humanitarian chaos and disaster, or can an enjoyable, civilized trip be had?
- Bhutan is the first country in the world with specific constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. Among its requirements: At least 60 percent of the nation must remain under forest cover at all times.
- “Bhutan” translates to “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” It earned the nickname because of the fierce storms that often roll in from the Himalayas.
- the sale of tobacco is banned
- There are no traffic lights in the capital Thimpu
- 754,000 in an area of 38,394 square kilometers, 133rd largest in the word.
- Borders India and China
- Main religions are 74.8% Buddhism (official) and 22.6% Hinduism
- Unified: 1616–1634
- The economy is based on agriculture (55% of population), forestry, tourism and the sale of hydroelectric power to India.
Why we’re intrigued – a couple top sites: I imagine it looking a bit like BC, Canada; very mono-culture, high respect for tradition, happiness and the environment, curious how it’s different from the mountainous areas of Nepal
Burning question: how does Gross National Happiness play-out in everyday life?
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- Cows are considered sacred.
- India is the wettest inhabited place on Earth.
- India has over 300,000 mosques and over 2 million Hindu temples.
- Rajasthan has a Temple of Rats.
- It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world.
- 1.4 Billion people;
- shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east
- Official languages are Hindi and English
- Himalayas to tropical beaches and islands
Why we’re intrigued – a couple top sites: Trek in the mountains, go to Leh, Sikkim, Kerala (canals), Goa (beaches), and if lots of cash, the Andaman islands
Burning question: Where do you have to go to get away from the crowds?
- Jordan’s Dead Sea (some call it a lake) is the lowest point of elevation on earth with the surface at 480 meters below sea level.
- There Are Over 100,000 Archaeological (And Tourist) Sites In Jordan!
- Many are religious, including Al-Maghtas, which is where Jesus was baptized.
- The king’s mother is an American.
Demographics: population, size, something about neat about geography:
Slightly smaller than the state of Pennsylvania: only 26 miles of coastline.
Population of around 11 million: many refugees from neighboring countries: Palestinian, muslim, and christian. Mostly dessert: around 11% agricultural and less than 2% forest.
- Founded in 7250 BC, Amman, Jordan’s capital, is one of the oldest cities in the world that’s been continuously inhabited.
- Jordan is situated at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe,within the Levant region of the Fertile Crescent, a cradle of civilizationon the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel and the West Bank of Palestine.
Why we’re intrigued – a couple top sites:
- Its top attraction, Petra, is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. First settled more than 10,000 years ago, it was established as the capital of the formerly nomadic Nabataean Arabs around the 4th century BC.
- Jordan is a major tourist destination, also attracting medical tourism due to its well developed health sector.
- Home to the second highest mountain K2
- one of two Muslim countries to allow women to work in combat jobs
- home to the world’s highest ATM
- The Karakoram Highway is the world’s highest paved international road, according to Travel+Leisure magazine. The 800-mile highway connects Pakistan to western China, and reaches a maximum height of 15,300 feet.
- officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; 225 million; the world’s second-largest Muslim population
- has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south, and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China to the northeast.
- Pakistan is the site of several ancient cultures, including the 8,500-year-old Neolithic site of Mehrgarh, and the Indus Valley Civilisation of the Bronze Age, the most extensive of the civilisations of the Old World.
- Has nuclear weapons
- Official languages: Urdu and English
- Independence in 1947; first elections in 1970
- Karachi is the most populated at 16-million and is one of the fastest growing in the world
Why we’re intrigued – a couple top sites: Karakoram Highway, British architecture and that legacy, food, really just what is this nation like?
Burning question: is it really dangerous for a white westerner?
- Named after King Philip II of Spain
- The Philippines is the world’s number 2 producer and exporter of coconuts. …
- It boasts three of the world’s largest shopping malls. …
- With 7,641 islands it’s the second largest archipelago in the world
- Only 2,000 of these islands are inhabited and nearly 5,000 still unnamed on global maps.
- 110 million people
Why we’re intrigued:
My list is only islands for surf and dive: Boracay (of course), Palawan, Siargao (Cloud 9). But these are so popular. There must be good surf and less people. Otherwise, there’s a lot I’ve never heard of that sound intriguing:
- Ifugao rice terraces – Often called an “Eighth Wonder of the World,” these agricultural masterpieces high in the green mountains of central Luzon were sculpted by tribes some 2,000 years ago.
- Ati Atihan festival – At the most famous and raucous of Philippine festivals, the line between spectators and participants gets blurrier as the day gets longer.
- Chocolate Hills –
- Hiking in general must be great: lots of volcanoes…
- Puerto Princesa, beaches, restaurants, and nightlife make it the best slightly off the beaten path destinations. The city is the main gateway to reach the El Nido (which i also dont know about). Apart from being a miracle of nature in terms of its panoramic beauty, the city houses the 2nd longest underground river that is navigable. The Puerto Princesa Underground River is registered as the UNESCO world heritage site and is known to be the newest spot in the list of 7 wonders of the world.
- Turkmenistan is 70% desert
- One of the least visited in the world and a hermit kingdom
- Dogs are banned from the capital city, Ashgabat, on grounds of their “unappealing odour”
- Huge gas reserves but the people remain mostly poor
- landlocked country in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, east and northeast, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest and the Caspian Sea to the west.
- About 6 million people; one of the most sparsely populated nations in Asia
- Merv is one of the oldest oasis-cities in Central Asia and was once the biggest city in the world;
- Only got independence from the Soviet Union in 1991
- Turkmen is the official language but Russian is widely used
- Poor human rights record, no open communications
Why we’re intrigued: Merv – ancient Silk Road trading hub, deserts, Ashgabat – the capital with 1-million
Burning question: How freely can you actually travel and enjoy yourself?
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea, in the southwestern Pacific (technically Oceania rather than Asia), encompasses the eastern half of New Guinea and its offshore islands. A country of immense cultural and biological diversity, it’s known for its beaches and coral reefs. Inland are active volcanoes, granite Mt. Wilhelm, dense rainforest and hiking routes like the Kokoda Trail. There are also traditional tribal villages, many with their own languages.
- Papua New Guinea has 851 languages. …
- Papua New Guinea has 5% of global biodiversity. …
- PNG is home to one of the world’s very few poisonous birds – the hooded pitohui bird,
- Papua New Guinea is the most rural country in the world, as only 13.25% of its people live in urban centres.
- Most of the population of more than 8,000,000 people live in customary communities, which are as diverse as the languages
- The country is one of the world’s least explored, culturally and geographically. It is known to have numerous groups of uncontacted peoples, and researchers believe there are many undiscovered species of plants and animals in the interior
- In fact PNG has the world’s third largest rainforest.
- Uzbekistan is a doubly-landlocked nation. There are only two such countries in the world, the other one being Liechtenstein in Europe. To reach any coastline from Uzbekistan, one has to cross at least two countries. The countries bordering Uzbekistan include Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and these countries are also landlocked.
- Largest Shrinking Lake; The Aral Sea was formerly the world’s fourth largest lake, covering an area of 26,300 square miles. However, from the 1960s, the lake has been gradually shrinking.
- Uzbekistan is part of the Turkic languages world, as well as a member of the Turkic Council.
- Uzbek is the official language but Russian is widely used
- Tashkent is the capital with 2.5-million, about 35-million total
- At least 15 ethnic groups; 92% Muslim
- Independence in 1991 but dates back to 1370
- 56th largest country in the world by area
Why we’re intrigued: 4,600m mountains, huge deserts, Silk Road towns like Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva – this is the Silk Road
Palau is an archipelago of over 500 islands, part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean. Continent: Oceania. The country was originally settled approximately 3,000 years ago by migrants from Maritime Southeast Asia. Spain was the first European nation to invade the islands in the 16th century. Following Spain’s defeat in the Spanish–American War in 1898, the islands were sold to Germany in 1899. Palau was made a part of the United States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. Having voted in a referendum against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1978. The islands gained full sovereignty in 1994
- Currency: United States Dollar
- It rains 225 days a year
- In 2009, Palau created the world’s first shark sanctuary, banning all commercial shark fishing within a sanctuary of about 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 sq mi) of ocean a similar size to France.
- Population: 18,092 (2020) of whom 73% are native Palauans of mixed Melanesian and Austronesian descent. There are many Asian communities within Palau. Filipinos form the largest Asian group, dating back to the Spanish colonial period. There are significant numbers of Chinese and Koreans. There are also smaller numbers of Palauans of mixed or full Japanese ancestry. Smaller numbers of Bangladeshi and Nepalese migrant workers and their descendants who came to the islands during the late 1900s
- An archipelago of over 500 islands, Palau’s most populous islands are Angaur, Babeldaob, Koror and Peleliu. The latter three lie together within the same barrier reef.
Why we’re intrigued – a couple of top sites: Other than uncrowded surf… Jellyfish lake. In its north, ancient basalt monoliths known as Badrulchau lie in grassy fields surrounded by palm trees.
Other countries discussed on this episode: Download and/or listen to Episode 139: Elsewhere in Asia: Countries we Hope to Cover in 2022 to hear Scott and Trevor discuss the following:
- Sri Lanka