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06.06.2016 (06.06.2016)

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From Afghanistan to Vietnam, Islam to Buddhism, you’re sure to find a place for your soul in Asia.

Asia is a traveller’s favourite; the overland route first mapped out in the pages of Lonely Planet.

With a phrasebook in one hand and chopsticks in the other, budget travellers can go further for less.

I first visited Asia in 1988, spending six weeks in China; after attending the Seoul Olympics, via an Air India flight to Japan.

Hong Kong was very much the gateway to China and still had the feeling a piece of the former British Empire about it; with its noon-day gun tradition.

Flying on down to Australia, it would be the following Spring before I visited the real South-East Asia; with the traveller’s famous little yellow book in my hand.

A few years later, I would tour the Indian sub-continent and I’d be back a third time for an unscheduled Christmas in Beijing.

In between those visits, I’d be travelling through Russia and the (then) Central Asian Republics in what was still the C.I.S – Commonwealth of Independent States – shortly after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Playing Mahjong in China
Playing Mahjong in China

Interestingly, it’s still my first visit to China in ’88 that I remember the most fondly; the Mahjong in the park and gold teeth smiles.

The big machine was in momentum all around. Many were afraid to speak; the Sino-Chinese summit was still a long way off; and with that, the most memorable picture to come out of China of a lone protester standing in the line of an advancing tank column in Tian’men Square.

Visit China today and you’ll find that the Chairman Mao suits are disappearing and gold teeth cost a lot more than they did back then.

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