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Johor Bahru is the second-largest city in Malaysia and, with the opening of two major amusement parks in 2012, it is poised to become a major tourist destination. TripAdvisor travellers also recommend visiting the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple, a unique Hindu temple decorated with brilliant glass mosaics.
A bargain shopper’s delight is just across the causeway in Malaysia, with numerous bus and train services available to ferry travelers across the border. The largest and most popular malls are easily accessible from the checkpoint and offer a blend of name-brand and knockoff shopping. Dig deeper and you’ll appreciate the city’s differences, good and bad, from Singapore, though rumors of rampant crime are overblown. Museums and places of worship abound, along with good dining for any budget. A new premium outlet mall opened just outside the city in December 2011, and keep an eye on the new Legoland Malaysia, slated to open at the end of 2012.
The cultural hub of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is visually defined by the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which, at 88 stories high, are the tallest twin buildings in the world and a vision of modern architecture. On the flip side, the Sri Mahamariamman is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia, its façade a colorful totem pole of iconography. Shopping at the Central Market is a joyful experience that involves haggling, handicrafts, and happiness.
Bangkok is full of exquisitely decorated Buddhist temples—as you go from one to the next you’ll be continually blown away by the craftsmanship and elabourate details. But if you’d rather seek enlightenment in a gourmet meal, or dance the night away, you’ll also enjoy Bangkok—the restaurant and nightclub scenes here are among the best in the world.
Surpassed only by Manila in size, the Philippines’ second city combines colonial architecture and mountainous surrounds with a burgeoning cultural and culinary scene. As the gateway to both Bohol and Cebu Island, Cebu City impresses with chic rooftop bars and intriguing museums.
Shanghai is the cool, confident face of modern China, and its energy is infectious. Go to the Bund to watch ships on the river and marvel at the huge variety of architectural styles on display, or watch the crowds go by in People’s Square. Shoppers should make a beeline for the Fabric Market, where you can have a suit or dress tailor-made for you at bargain prices. At night, explore all manner of fashionable restaurants, bars and nightclubs or just stroll through the city enjoying the spectacular neon lights.
Amritsar is a major commercial and cultural centre in the heart of Punjab. The city is the spiritual and cultural centre of the Sikh religion and is home to the Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple. Respectfully marvel at the Indian and Pakistani soldiers who march-off nightly at the Wagha Border, and at the Jallian Wala Bagh the site of the 1919 Amritsar Massacre in 1919.
Probably best known for its eponymous beer, Sapporo—the capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island—has maintained the youthful and open atmosphere of the 1972 Olympic Winter Games, drawing international visitors for its annual Snow Festival and its world-famous ramen. Those seeking out the full diversity of Japanese cuisine will want to visit: a city with a ramen-inspired theme park is one that embraces and pampers foodies.
The prophet Mohammed's birthplace is Islam's spiritual center and is strictly off-limits to non-Muslims. The pillars of Islam state that all Muslims with the means must undertake Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, once in their lifetime. Those who visit the holy city are rewarded not just by proximity to landmarks and religious sites crucial to the religion, such as the Masjid Al Haram (Holy Mosque), the Mountain of Light, the Black Stone and the Well of Zamzam, but with the forgiveness of all their sins.