Asia, the Earth’s largest and most populous continent with 30% of the planet’s land mass and 60% of the world’s population, is a popular travel destination for travellers young and old. From twenty-something-year old backpackers in search of Full Moon parties and idyllic beaches, to older travellers enticed by the continent’s vibrant mesh of colours, cultures and cuisines, the continent attracts a variety of visitors from all stages of life.
Here are a handful of movies that will inspire you to experience this vast and diverse continent.
The Beach (2000)
Leonardo di Caprio, at the height of his popularity amongst teenage girls the world over, plays Richard, a twenty-something year old American who travels to Thailand in search of adventure. There he befriends a guy in his hostel, who later commits suicide leaving behind a map to a mystery island. Richard, in the company of a young French couple, travels to the island only to discover that it is not quite all the paradise it appears, at first sight, to be. Whilst the story line might not be the travel experience we go out in search of on our travels (although certainly useful to remember that not every travel experience is a good one), the scenery is undoubtedly mesmerising and will make you want to go out and find your own, hopefully less disturbing, tropical island.
Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
Elizabeth Gilbert’s book of the same name, documenting her journey of discovery through Italy, India and Indonesia (Bali to be specific), was turned into a film starring Julia Roberts. It in, Roberts, as Gilbert, learns to let go, travel and live by herself as a thirty-something year old recent divorcee who had been up to that point a perennial dater. Much as the title suggests, Roberts spends a good deal of the film eating her way through Italian cuisine (and up through jean sizes in the process) and getting spiritual in India before finally settling down in Bali. A good movie for anyone who feels bogged down and in search of answers, it will also bring out the would be traveller in you through the vivid landscapes (particularly in India and Indonesia) and people she encounters on her trip. (I watched it first in Italy, where the newspapers were less than impressed with the country’s depiction as a nation of food obsessed people – a fact I found to be particularly amusing as during my encounters with Italians this has yet to be dis-proven).
The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003)
If you want a film that will remind you just how different yet universally quite similar people’s lives are around the world then look no further than the Story of the Weeping Camel. Set amongst a nomadic tribe living in the Gobi dessert in Mongolia, it is the poignant and quite moving story of a family of camel herders who care for a new born albino camel after it is rejected by its mother following a painful birth. The remoteness and desolation of the desert location show us a world that is yet to fall into the hands of commercialism and modernisation, although signs of it are beginning to creep in. Nevermind the camel, by the end of the film you will be reaching for a hanky to dab away a tear or two. The story will make you re-evaluate your outlook on life and the stunning cinematography will make you search for a place where your thoughts can continue to echo.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)
Proving that travel isn’t just for the young, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (based on the 2004 novel These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach) is the story of a bunch of geriatric Brits who decide to retire to a retirement home out in India run by aspiring entrepreneur, Sonny (Dev Patel). With a stellar all star cast of the best of British talent, including Judy Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith, the film is a rip roaring tale of the highs and lows of relocation abroad and how excitement and adventure can come at any age. Bright, busy and bustling it certainly gives off an honest impression of India and reminds us of the standards we need to relax and preconceptions we should discard in order to properly enjoy the experience of travelling and truly experiencing another culture warts and all.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson show how the unlikeliest of friendships can come about whilst travelling, in this movie set in Tokyo. Murray, an ageing actor is over there to shoot a whiskey commercial, whilst Charlotte (Johansson’s character) who has accompanied her photographer husband on an assignment, has been left at a loose end. Both a little lost, the pair bond over a shared uncertainty about their future and purpose in life. With the Tokyo night scene as the beautiful backdrop, they have what looks like some of the best nights out together, reminding us that whilst travel can often bring up these type of ‘life’ questions, sometimes it’s best just to live in the moment and make the most of the experience in the here and now.
Have you been inspired to travel to Asia after watching a film? If so, let me know in the comments box below. I’d love to hear from you! 🙂