Every winter, Hokkaido is carpeted in an ethereal wonder. Sparkling grains envelope the entire island in a spectacular symphonic performance – the capricious sforzando of the snowsquall, the lyrical whisper of the flurries, the howling dissonance of the blizzards, and the magnificent finale of their vast triumph. Together, these movements blanket the earth in a spiritual whiteout and breathe into the island of torii gates an air of meditative tranquillity.
Home to 35 million people, Tokyo boasts a GDP of 1.9 trillion USD in 2012, which is more than the entire GDP of countries like Canada or South Korea. Its research university, University of Tokyo, ranks best in Asia and 21st in the world. Its obsession with detail and discipline brings it 226 Michelin starred restaurants in 2015, 132 more than its nearest rival, Paris. Tokyo is one of the finest cities in the world. A true wonder and a testament to the power of Japan.
Yunnan, translating literally as “southern clouds”, is in many ways a fitting name for its geography. Its complex geographical variation and remoteness lead to one of the highest concentrations of plant species and ethnic diversity in China. This is enriched by literatures and myths celebrating the beauty of the region.
Tibet, currently an autonomous region of China, extends over the world’s highest plateau at an average of 4,500 meters (15,000 ft). Despite forced cultural assimilation, ethnic Tibetan constitutes 90% of the region’s population and traditional Tibetan culture remains distinct and magnificent. Many parts of the region are simply surreal and feels as if it is out of this world. No pictures or words can do justice to this enchanting land from the ancient past.
Vietnam is a strangely beautiful country with a distinct identity shaped by its colonial past and influence from powerful neighbours. Its economic growth in the last decade has been one of the highest in the world, culminating in its membership in the World Trade Organization in 2007. One only need to walk through the central business district of Ho Chi Minh City or the Hang Bong street of Hanoi to appreciate the creativity of those capitalistic communists.
Cambodia’s economy remains meager with about a fifth of population still living under $1.25 USD per day. Its people are prime recipients of global charity support. Underneath the hardships lies the memories of its past as Southeast Asia’s foremost empire – the Khmer Empire in 9th to 15th century. The Angkor Wat, in particular, serves as the most important national and cultural symbol of Cambodia.
Ever since the Asian capitalist class decided to relocate their family and money to Vancouver, torrential wealth has flowed into the city at an ever-increasing rate. Within a few decades, waves of urban redevelopment and immigration transformed this once relatively unknown location into the Pacific gateway of the Western world.
Laos is a landlocked Southeast Asian country with roughly half of its populace being ethnic Lao. Surveying its landscape, one sees small villages and wats scattered alongside the long stretch of its delicate mountain range, the Annamese Cordillera. Rivers flow down like hairline cracks into the Mekong, invigorating the rice paddies they meet on the way, providing the livelihood that villagers depend so much on.
Manhattan, the crown jewel of the American Empire, is a place that has exhausted all manner of portrayals many times over. Each neighborhood is distinct with its own stories of hope, desperation, and salvation. With the booms and the busts, the struggle of generations ages into a patina of wonder, bearing witness to its status as world’s foremost cultural and financial mecca.