Moulvi Bazar, Bangladesh

Photo: DuSai Resort & Spa

Photo: DuSai Resort & Spa

Heading to South Asia? India and Sri Lanka are definitely on your list. Pakistan might have to wait, for obvious reasons. Plus you’re hoping to detour to the Maldives. But you’re forgetting one country: Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is often overlooked. The small country—it’s about the size of New York State—sits in between India, Myanmar, and the Bay of Bengal. It’s very densely populated, and it’s turbulent history—it was part of the British East India Company and East Pakistan until its independence; poverty, famine, and military coups followed—kept the hordes of tourists away.

Since the country became a democracy though, things have slowly gotten better. Especially in Sylhet, the northeastern region of Bangladesh. Indian rivers flow here, creating lush forests and wetlands that are ideal for growing bamboo, pineapple, cane, and citrus. Tea gardens, mosques, and temples dot the area. Migratory birds stop en route to the Himalayas from Siberia. And a new resort is luring people to Moulvi Bazar.

Photo: Tanweer Morshed (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Tanweer Morshed (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The DuSai Resort & Spa is a lakeside retreat 200 kilometers from Dhaka, the hectic capital. The resort’s buildings are modern, spacious, and blend in with their natural surroundings. Your calm room has Burma teak floors, an outdoor tub, and a terrace overlooking the gardens. You could just stay inside and be quite content. But the rest of the grounds are meant for relaxing, as well.

Finish the book you’ve been reading by the three-tiered pool, then sip a cocktail on a sunken water seat at the Pool Café. Go fishing in one of the ponds. Canoe across the lake. Book a Beauty of Siam package at the spa—it includes a jasmine rice body scrub and a Thai herbal compress facial. Walk through the forest on the circular trail. Drink a glass of chilled wine on the floating platform at the Forest Pub. Then eat dinner at the Tea Valley, which overlooks the lake, a rice field, and a tea plantation.

After not leaving the resort the first day, you’ll be ready to explore on the second. Watch tea leaves being picked by hand at the Mrittinga Tea Estate. Walk through Lawachara National Park, keeping an eye out for macaques, gibbons, and Indian giant squirrels. Visit Monipuri, a tribal village that produces bright cotton quilts. Hike deep into the rainforest to see the Ham Ham Waterfall. And ride a boat through yellow-and-green rice fields to watch the sun set in the wetlands. It’s peaceful, beautiful, and not at all what you expected. Bangladesh should no longer be overlooked.

Lviv, Ukraine

Photo: Mykola Swarnyk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Mykola Swarnyk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As anyone who reads or watches the news knows, Ukraine is a mess. The Euromaidan demonstrations began in Kiev in late 2013. Violent protests broke out over the election in early 2014. Armed Russian soldiers arrived. Then a passenger airplane was shot down last week. Now one of Eastern Europe’s most charming cities is empty. At least of tourists. Families fleeing the bloodshed in Eastern Ukraine are arriving in Lviv, and the city recently withdrew its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Lviv is known as the “little Paris of Ukraine.” It’s the largest city in Western Ukraine, and it sits near the Carpathian Mountains and the Polish border. Like the rest of the country, Lviv has a history of being occupied. The Poles, the Germans, and the Soviets all claimed the area. But unlike Eastern Ukraine, which is still closely connected to Russia, Western Ukraine feels very European.

You arrive in Lviv to find cobblestone streets, sprawling markets, lots of little coffee shops, and tiny chocolatiers. The architecture ranges from Rococo to Baroque to Renaissance to Gothic. And the churches are just as varied—everything from Ukrainian Orthodox to Russian Orthodox to Roman Catholic. No wonder it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Start in Lviv’s historic center. Rynok Square is full of fountains and statues of Greek gods. It’s surrounded by 3- and 4-story buildings, including the sandstone Black House and the Lviv History Museum, with its huge painting of the old walled city. Climb to the top of Town Hall’s tower for a bird’s-eye view of the square. Wander through Krakivsky Market, where babushkas sell pickled vegetables and varenykys (potato dumplings). Then find Kabinet Café for a strong cup of coffee. The café has antique sofas and book-lined walls, but you prefer to watch the crowd from an outside table.

In the afternoon, ride the tram to Lychakiv Cemetery. Its overgrown grounds and ornate tombstones feel like one of Paris’ Gothic graveyards. Visit the nearby Museum of Folk Architecture and Life. The open-air museum has farms, windmills, and churches depicting Ukrainian rural life. Do a tour and a tasting at the Lvivske Museum of Beer & Brewing. Ukraine’s oldest brewery will turn 300 years old next year. Return to the center of the city for an early opera performance at the Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Don’t miss the Mirror Hall inside.

End the evening by climbing the wooded Castle Hill. Little is left of the 14th-century stone fort, but you have an amazing, 360-degree view of the city as the sun sets. The rooftops glisten, the church steeples sparkle, and the mountains stand protectively in the background. Lviv, and the rest of Ukraine, will rebound. Hopefully in time for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Edgartown, Massachusetts

No place welcomes the summer quite like Martha’s Vineyard. The Massachusetts island spends the winter boarded up. No one wants to visit when the sea is choppy, the temperatures are bone chilling, and a strong gust of wind could send you flying into the harbor. But then the sun comes out, and everyone—including celebrities and presidents—rushes to the Vineyard to enjoy the sandy beaches, the freshly caught seafood, and the low-key vibe. Here are two Edgartown hotels, down-Island on the southeast shore, to book in advance—way in advance.

 

Photo: Harbor View Hotel

Photo: Harbor View Hotel

The Harbor View Hotel, on elm tree-lined North Water Street, was built in 1891 as a family vacation home. It has views of the Edgartown Harbor Light and Chappaquiddick Island (Chappy, as the locals call it). No two rooms are alike, but their decor, with lots of white and pale shades of blue, mimic the colors you see from your windows. Spend your day relaxing by the heated pool. Walk through town to see the Greek Revival mansions from the whaling era with their widow’s walks on the top floor. Ogle the boats, from small lobster boats to huge yachts, docked in the harbor. Rent bikes to explore more than 100 miles of trails around the island. Then return to the hotel for a cool cocktail on a rocking chair on the veranda or small plates—cornmeal fried oysters and cod beignets—at Henry’s.

Photo: Winnetu Oceanside Resort

Photo: Winnetu Oceanside Resort

If you prefer to stay beachside, the Winnetu Oceanside Resort is the better option. The family-owned resort sits on South Beach, which has sun all day, cool breezes from the southwest, and big waves. The suites have whitewashed floors and nautical motifs. When you aren’t on the white-sand beach, join a kayak tour to Chappy. The guide, a naturalist, will point out ospreys and herons, clams and crabs, and a remote beach along the way. Or tour the island on an open-air vehicle to see the Cape Poge Light and the Mytoi Japanese garden. Return to the resort for a clam bake with all the fixings: clam chowder, heirloom tomatoes, cheddar bay biscuits, steamed mussels, littleneck clams, buttered sweet corn, and even 1.5-pound native lobsters. Then, even though you’re stuffed, ride the water taxi into town for ice cream. You have a perfect sunset view along the way.

Regardless of where you stay, it doesn’t take you long to get into the Vineyard groove. A quick bike ride or kayak trip when you wake up. Mornings—and most of the afternoon—on the beach. Cocktails with a view. Dinner that was caught or picked the same day. Plus a dripping ice cream cone as the sun disappears. If only the summer wouldn’t eventually disappear as well. But no worries, you’ll be back next year.

Tanah Rata, Malaysia

Photo: Arne Müseler / www.arne-mueseler.de [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Arne Müseler / http://www.arne-mueseler.de [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

You spent the morning getting a crash course on tea. You learned how tea leaves are plucked, withered, rolled, fermented, dried, and sorted. You studied grades, flavors, and characteristics of different types of teas. Now it’s finally time for a tasting. A robust black tea has been brewing in a tin teapot. Sweetened condensed milk sits off to the side. Steam is mixing with the fresh air. You raise a cup to your lips, smell the strong aroma, and take a sip. You smile and look out over the rolling green hills full of tea leaves. Welcome to the Cameron Highlands.

The Cameron Highlands, an area the size of Singapore, sit almost a mile above sea level on the Peninsular Malaysia. The area is known as “the little corner of England in Asia” due to its lush hills, cool breezes, and strong tea culture. It’s filled with tea plantations, strawberry fields, and fruit orchards. Plus jaw-dropping views.

After touring the BOH Tea Plantation, Malaysia’s largest black tea producer, continue driving up Mount Batu Brinchang. The second-highest mountain in the Cameron Highlands sits at the borders of Perak and Pahang, two western Malaysian states. Hike through a dwarf forest and dense moss. Listen to a cacophony of bird songs. Climb the watchtower for views over the jungle and the Titiwangsa Mountains that stretch into Thailand. And breathe in the clear air high above the clouds.

Photo: YTL Hotels

Photo: YTL Hotels

Then make your way down the winding hill to find your hotel, the Cameron Highlands Resort. If you didn’t already feel like you were in England, you will now. The Tudor-style resort has timber-beamed ceilings, French doors, and wooden shutters. Your comfortable room has a four-poster bed and a daybed. Join other guests in the Jim Thompson Tea Room for another cup of tea, tiny sandwiches, clotted cream, and a huge bowl of fresh strawberries. Relax at the Spa Village. Soften your skin in a yellow rose tea bath, restore your natural glow with a mint-and-thyme body scrub, and practically fall asleep during a strawberry aroma massage. After a candlelit dinner, end the evening with a glass of whiskey and a game of snooker at the Highlands Bar.

The bright sun wakes you up early the next morning. You have another full day planned. Stop for breakfast—a local noodle dish—in the dining room. The tea leaves outside are still covered with mist. Hike to the Sam Poh Buddhist Temple. When you arrive, remove your shoes and socks, pass through the bright yellow wall, and breathe in strong incense to see a large statue of Lord Buddha. Continue to Parit Falls, a small waterfall with a decorative bridge above it. Then stop at a strawberry farm to pick your own strawberries and then eat them with fresh cream.

Though tempted to return to your peaceful resort for afternoon tea, don’t go back yet. Instead, stroll through Pasar Malam, the night market that opens later in the afternoon. Browse the stalls for fried crabs, sweet potato balls, rice cakes, cauliflower, roses, cacti, and more strawberries. Plus lots of things you can’t identify. Everywhere you turn, a new smell tries to lure you in a different direction. You fill your bag with goodies and eat whatever you can’t take with you. The only thing you still need is one more cup of tea.

Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands

Photo: kajikawa yosiaki [CC-BY-2.1-jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.1/jp/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: kajikawa yosiaki [CC-BY-2.1-jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.1/jp/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s taken years. You’ve slowly been checking everywhere in the United States off your list. You started with the 50 states—including Alaska and Hawaii. You visited Washington, D.C. You stopped in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. And you finally made your way to American Samoa and Guam in the South Pacific. Your checklist is complete. Almost. Don’t forget the Northern Mariana Islands.

The Northern Mariana Islands are often forgotten on the list of US commonwealths and territories. They’re located in the western Pacific Ocean, three-quarters of the way between Hawaii and the Philippines. Only three—Saipan, Tinian, and Rota—of the 15 islands are inhabited. Saipan, the most populated island, is the one most people visit. But it’s Tinian, across the Saipan Channel, that really deserves a stopover.

Tinian has a fascinating history. Artifacts found on the island show that it’s been inhabited for more than 4,000 years. Spanish explorers “discovered” it in 1522, and later built a large port and ranches on the island, before selling it to the Germans in 1899. The island was captured by the Japanese during World War I and was seized by the Americans during the Battle of Tinian during World War II. They covered most of the island with a huge airbase. It’s now mostly overgrown and surrounded by limestone cliffs, perfect beaches, clear water, and vibrant coral reefs.

Photo: igasana (自分で撮りました) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: igasana (自分で撮りました) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You land at West Field, outside of San Jose, the largest village. The airport’s runway was built by the Japanese, and the Americans later used it as a departure point for reconnaissance missions in Southeast Asia. Stop at the Korean Monument, which honors the Koreans killed during the Battle of Tinian. See the House of Taga. Its prehistoric latte stone pillars continue to puzzle historians. Drive along the southern shore to Suicide Cliff. Japanese soldiers jumped from the cliffs, after the Americans seized the island, out of fear they would be tortured.

Driving north along the eastern shore, you see Mount Lasso, the highest point on Tinian, to your left. At the Tinian Blow Hole, massive columns of water spurt into the air from water entering a limestone ledge. Head inland to the Shinto Shrine. The last Japanese shrine on the Northern Mariana Islands is mostly covered by thick vegetation, though you can see the steps leading to it. And then go to North Field. The World War II runway was where the Enola Gay and Bockscar departed, carrying atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. The runway is now used for artillery training, and you can visit the memorial in the old loading pits and a Japanese fuel bunker.

Exhausted from a long day, you make your way down the western coast. Tomorrow you’ll hike Mount Lasso and look for Tinian monarchs, the island’s only endemic bird. You’ll scuba dive among war tanks and ammunition at Dump Cove, and then a Japanese canon and sea turtles at Turtle Cove. You’ll hop between the smaller beaches: Tachogna, Kammer, and Chulu. But tonight, you’re going to watch the sun set from Taga Beach. It may be the most popular beach on the island, but after a day heavy with history, you’re ready for some Chamorro food and friendly smiles. Then your mission will be complete.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Are you willing to travel for a great meal? New York City for the elegant Michelin stars. Chicago for the best cuts of beef. San Francisco for amazing fusion dishes. If so, it’s time to add Philadelphia to your list. Everyone is buzzing about the City of Brotherly Love’s restaurants right now. Local, sustainable, and New American may not be new terms in the food world, but three restaurants are putting their own twist on them. The results are delicious.

Photo: Fork Restaurant

Photo: Fork Restaurant

You’ve probably heard of Fork before. You may have even been there. But a new chef recently took over this Market Street restaurant’s kitchen. First, Eli Kulp reinvigorated the menu, and then he was named one of Food & Wine‘s Best New Chefs 2014. The restaurant has hand-painted chandeliers and a concrete bar. The food focuses on produce from the Delaware Valley. Charred octopus and spruce-smoked yellow beets are among the appetizer selections. Stinging nettle gnudi is a pasta option. And it will be difficult to choose between olive oil poached tilefish and Amish chicken with dirty risi e bisi (Italian-style rice and peas) for the main course. The perfect pairing? A Sly Fox 113 IPA from Phoenixville, less than 30 miles away.

Photo: Sbraga

Photo: Sbraga

You may have heard of the chef at another one of Philly’s hot tables, as well. Kevin Sbraga was the winner of Top Chef: Season 7. He recently opened Sbraga, which serves a four-course prix fixe menu, in Rittenhouse Square. Your first bite of the evening: foie gras soup with rose petals and a Gruyère popover. Once your palate has woken up, follow the soup with fluke crudo with jalapeño and pickled strawberry. Move on to barley risotto with crispy rabbit and fava beans. Then the tough decision: brook trout with just-picked green beans or Indian-spiced game hen. Go with the game hen, and leave room for roasted peaches for dessert.

Photo: Vedge

Photo: Vedge

The first two restaurants sound good, but you’re looking for something different. You want food you wouldn’t, in theory, cook for yourself. Or maybe you need a break from your usual go-tos, even with a twist. If so, Vedge is the place for you. This—don’t cringe—vegan restaurant is one of the most popular places in Philly right now. Start with a snack: curry pickled cauliflower or heirloom tomatoes with baked kohlrabi. Try a heart of palms tart with squash gazpacho and Brussels sprouts with smoked mustard. Sip a house ginger beer or a glass of pomegranate sangria. And don’t pass on dessert. Yuzu cornbread with miso frosting, if you prefer savory, or a cherry jelly donut with horseradish cream, if you need something sweeter. By the end of the meal, you might be considering eating veg more often.

So now that you’re drooling, when is your next trip to Philly?

Pali, India

Photo: subhadipin via freeimages.com

Photo: subhadipin via freeimages.com

You’re in the middle of nowhere. Actually, you’re surrounded by tall grasslands. Mustard fields, granite boulders, and deep gorges are in the distance. Jodhpur and Udaipur are both about three hours from here. The inhospitable Thar Desert isn’t far away. Pakistan is beyond that. So why would you travel to western India? To see leopards.

You’ve spent the last few days touring Rajasthan, the largest state in India. You visited Ranakpur’s temples. The Jain temple, which was completed in 1458, is made of white marble. It’s supported by nearly 1,500 unique pillars. The smaller, eastern-facing Sun temple has intricate sculpture work. Then you went to the Kumbhalgarh Fort, a Mewar fortress also built in the 15th century. The walls of the hilltop fort extend for 36 kilometers, making it the second-largest wall, after the obvious one, in Asia.

Then you arrived at the Jawai Leopard Camp, where nine tents sit near a winding, sandy riverbed and kopjes. The luxury tents have an Art Deco vibe: stainless steel furniture with black-and-white decorations, plus pops of red. They also have air conditioning, large decks, and endless views. You were welcomed with champagne and an umbrella to protect you from the hot sun. You cooled off in the pool. You ate a picnic lunch by the shallow lake. You walked through the bush with a red-turbaned Rabari herdsman, who pointed out flamingoes and cranes, hyenas and a jackal. And you waited for dusk.

Photo: Heman kumar meena (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Heman kumar meena (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When the sun begins to set, board a four-wheel-drive Jeep and head away from the camp. Your guide quickly spots an Indian great horned owl. You’re still focused on one of the largest owls in the world when leopard tracks are spotted. You grab a pair of binoculars and brace for a leopard, but the tracks disappear. You stop for tea and a quick snack, though you’re eager to continue. The people you met earlier at the pool saw five of the large cats this morning. They must still be in the area.

You’re starting to get discouraged when the Jeep suddenly stops. The guide raises his finger to his lips to quiet everyone and then points off to the right. Three Indian leopards are ripping apart what appears to be a goat. You feel bad for the helpless creature, though you’re fascinated at the same time. You watch the leopards—which have long tails, short ears, yellowish eyes, and gorgeous coats—devour their dinner. You only turn away when, one by one, they slowly walk through the tall grass and disappear. That’s why you visit western India.