Discover the Pacific Rim

China

Photos by: Jim Balderston

Basics: The capital is Bejing, formerly known as Peking. Although China is officially atheist, practiced religions include Daoism and Buddhism.
Climate: January, the coldest month, ranges from -15C in the north to 8C in the south. Travel is best during May, September, and October.
Miscellaneous: Be careful with food. Drink only bottled water. Tourists must register with the Public Security Bureau of China within 24 hours of their arrival. China is a cash-based society. Changing money on the streets is illegal and counterfeit money abounds. Tipping was considered an insult, but is becoming more acceptable.

India

Photos by Elena Kapulniik

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Basics: The population is 1.06 billion. India does not have an official religion, but 81% of the population practice Hinduism and 14% are Muslim. The national languages are Hindi and English. The capital is New Delhi. The climate is cool October through March, hot from March until June, and has monsoon rains June to September. Health: Be careful with food and water.
Transportation: Public buses are very crowded, noisy, and known for having bad drivers. Taxis can be prepaid but watch for scams. If there is another male in the taxi, females should not enter.
Females: In some regions women are not allowed to go to the market alone, so it’s natural that female visitors will be looked at with curiosity. Dress conservatively by wearing loose-fitting clothing that covers arms and calves. Never walk unescorted at night. The southern parts of India are safer than the north.
Travel Warning: Terrorist attacks can occur along any area bordering Pakistan in Rajasthan, Punjab, and Gujarat. In the western state of Gujarat curfews are still imposed and enforced. Travel in this area should be limited.
Tsunami update: Nearly all areas are fully recovered. The most affected areas are the Tamil Nadu coast, the Andhra Pradesh coast and the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Indonesia

Photos by Francis Leclerc

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Basics: Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous nation, with 235 million people. The majority, 89% are Muslim. The language is Bahasa Indonesia. Jakarta is the capital. with temperatures from 21C to 33C, the climate is tropical.
Etiquette: One should never touch the head of another person. The left hand is not used to shake hands, touch others, point, eat, or give and receive objects.
Travel Warning: As of February 26, 2005, Foreign Affairs Canada advises that Canadians should not travel to Indonesia due to an “ongoing terrorist threat to westerners and western interests.”
Tsunami Update: The province of Acehg, which is the closest land mass to the epicenter of the Indian Ocean Earthquake of December 26, 2004, was the scene of much death and destruction from the tsunami. Thousands of bodies are still being found daily. Recovery has been slow and much of the area has been off limits to tourists since February 26, 2005.

Sri Lanka

Photos by Francis Leclerc

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Basics Plus: The population is 19.9 million. Since the outbreak of hostilities between the government and armed Tamil separatist in the mid 1980s, Tamil civilians have fled the island. At the end of 2000, approximately 65,000 Tamils were housed in 131 refugee camps in southern India while another 40,000 lived outside the Indian camps. More than 200,000 Tamils have sought refuge in the West.
Seventy per cent of the people are Buddhist and the country is dotted with stupas and sculptures of the Serene One. The official language, Sinhala, is spoken by 74%, while English is spoken competently by about 10% of the people. The climate is tropical monsoon with a lowlands average yearly temperature of 29C. Health: Rabies outbreaks are common. Bring bottled water.
Transportation: Buses are extremely crowded. Trains are slow, unpredictable, and quite often late. Beware of pickpockets. Females should watch out for males with wandering hands.
Money: Credit cards are widely accepted. Many people working in the tourist industry rely on tips to bolster their modest wages. Tipping is a way of showing appreciation and understanding of the realities of life for these workers.
Traditional art includes woodcarving, weaving, pottery, and metalwork. Sri Lanka is known for its gems. Food is often fiery hot, with hoppers (pancakes) to wrap it all up.

Japan

Photos by Beverly Whitcutt

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Basics: Over 127 million people live in Japan and 84% practise Shintoism and Buddhism. Tokyo is the capital. You will find that many people speak English, which they learned at school. Japan restricts which medications may be brought into the country. Consult the Japanese Embassy for a list of prohibited prescription drugs.
The train is the most efficient and popular method oftransportation. The two other main forms are bus and taxi. If driving, please note that traffic rules are generally adhered to.
To show your gratitude, tips are given as gifts by placing them in specially printed envelopes.

Thailand

Photos by Francis Leclerc

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Basics: Ninety-five per cent of Thailand’s 62 million people are Buddhists. Although Thai is the official language, English is widely spoken in major cities and business circles. The capital, Bangkok, is also called Krung Thep, meaning city of angels. Thailand has a warm, humid, and tropical monsoon climate. Temperatures in March and April average 33C.
Miscellaneous: Avoid tap water. To reduce the risk of avian flu, avoid exposure to live poultry or birds. Renting cars is not recommended for visitors.
Etiquette: The head is the most sacred part of the body. Do not touch another’s head or hair. Do not point your feet at people or religious images and figures. Women should maintain a distance of two feet from Buddhist monks and never hand anything to them directly. Use your right hand to pass a gift or other object of importance, such as a business card. The Thai custom is to support the right arm at the elbow using the left hand.
Tsunami Update: Popular tourist destinations in the Andaman Sea, including Phuket, Phi Phi, and parts of Krabi Province, were hard-hit by the tsunami of December 26, 2004. Life along the south Andaman coast is quickly returning to normal. Phuket has restored most services and many hotels are operating as normal. Khao Lak and Phi Phi Island remain severely affected.