Capital Capitals: Asia

734px-Map_of_Asia

Moving along, moving along through the vast world. Next stop: Asia. This populous continent (over half the world’s population) has no shortage of interesting capital cities.

Afghanistan – Kabul – The book The Kite Runner is based in Kabul and starts off following a young Afghan boy during Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. One kite bazaar peddling handmade and wholesale kites claims to sell over 20,000 paper and string fliers per day during peak seasons.

Bahrain – Manama – The longest causeway in the world is often planned to be built between Bahrain, just outside Manama, to Qatar (but construction is just as often delayed). The link between the two countries would have to be at least 25 miles in length.

Bangladesh – Dhaka – Dhaka is sometimes referred to as the “Rickshaw Capital of the World” since the streets might be worn by the tires of as many as 400,000 cycle-rickshaws per day. Navigating the streets has to be difficult since Dhaka is the 9th most populated city in the world while also being one of the world’s most densely populated cities.

Bhutan – Thimphu – Not wanting to become like factory line products jettisoned along belts, stopping and starting in time with signal lights, the citizens of Thimphu have kept traffic lights out of their city. It is purported that traffic lights were once installed, but the people felt it was too impersonal and favored traffic cops. Thimphu might be the only capital city in the world without traffic lights.

Brunei – Bandar Seri Begawan – Bandar Seri Begawan’s claim to fame is its water village, the biggest in the world. Approximately 39,000 people live on houses constructed on stilts above the Brunei River.

Cambodia – Phnom Penh – The capital of Cambodia was formerly known as “Krong Chaktomok”, which is Khmer for “City of Four Faces”. This was a geographical reference, highlighting the city’s location at the Mekong, Bassac, and Tonle Sap rivers. The rivers meet to form an “X” right where the city resides.

China – Beijing – The smog is Beijing is bad. It’s so bad that earlier this year, a bottle of fresh mountain air was sold for $860. Of course, the auction for a mason jar of atmospheric gases was just a publicity stunt to raise awareness of the pollution in Beijing, which really is bad.

East Timor – Dili – East Timor gained its independence in 1975, but barely over a week later Indonesian troops marched on the new capital city of Dili. It wasn’t until 1999, when the UN stepped in to help, did East Timor gain sovereignty.

India – New Delhi – New Delhi appears to be a city of seconds. It is the second most populous city in the world. It also has the 2nd highest GDP in South, West, and Central Asia. And it’s even in its name; it wasn’t even the first Delhi!

Indonesia – Jakarta – When you think of Jakarta, you think of Twitter, right? Maybe not. But Jakarta, Indonesia is the tweets more than any other city in the world.  

Iran – Tehran – As a wrestler, I had to find something about wrestling for Tehran. While soccer is the most popular sport in Iran today, wrestling has traditionally been the nation’s national sport. This year the 2014 FILA Wrestling World Cup (Greco-Roman) was held in Tehran, with the host country taking the gold.

Iraq – Baghdad – Baghdad was once an eminent intellectual capital. It is said that traders would purchase books in Baghdad, measuring their mass and giving the equivalent in gold. That is, books in Baghdad were once worth their weight in gold.

Israel – Jerusalem – You know Jerusalem, one of the holiest cities in the world known for spiritual pilgrimages and its religious history? It’s also the home of Haoman 17, rated as one of the liveliest night clubs in the world. Famous DJs and 20+ hour parties attract party-goers from near and far, often filling the club with hundreds of raving teenagers.

Japan – Tokyo – You’ll find capsule hotels in Tokyo. These close-quarter living arrangements are popular in many Japanese cities due to their low cost and efficiency. Some buildings can hold as many as 700 “rooms”, which are nothing more than coffins with a window. There’s room the lie down and sleep but not much else can get done.

Jordan – Amman – Amman is one of the MENA’s (Middle East and North Africa) best cities based on economic, labor, environmental, and socio-cultural factors. Multinational companies often look toward Amman as the location of their regional offices; only Dubai is home to more corporations.

Kazakhstan – Astana – Astana might have one of the most unoriginal names for a capital. The word Astana comes from the Persian root “-stan”, which just means “place of” or “land”. Translated literally, the capital of Kazakhstan is…”capital”.

Kuwait – Kuwait City – Kuwait has seen great economic prosperity due to expansive oil reserves in the Middle Eastern country. It’s said that Kuwait citizens enjoy free education (domestic or abroad) and those who marry other Kuwaitis may receive a free house as a wedding gift from the government.

Kyrgyzstan – Bishkek – Kyrgyz love their fermented mare’s milk. Called kumis, this sour alcoholic beverage might be where the Kyrgyzstan capital got its name. “Bishkek” is sometimes reported as a derivation of the word for the churn that is used to make kumis.

Laos – Vientiane – Despite being a relatively small capital city, Vientiane enjoys substantial revenue from tourism. Buddhist tourists often seek famous Buddhist monuments and sacred relics located in Laos’ capital city.

Lebanon – Beirut – The city of Beirut has a long, long history. The name, meaning “wells”, comes from a language dead for over a thousand year. “Wells” referred to the large underground aquifers that are still used by inhabitants today.

Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur – Strangely enough, “Kuala Lumpurians” or “Lumpurians” are not the most common names for citizens of Malaysia’s capital city. Instead, the residents choose to go by the moniker “KLites”, which despite looking like a weird nickname for a B-list white rapper is probably just an abbreviation of the capital with the common resident-denoting suffix “-ite” added on.

Maldives – Malé – The government of Maldives normally operates in Malé, but in an effort to raise awareness to the threat of rising sea levels in Maldives, the cabinet once had an underwater session 20 minutes outside of Malé. Business as usual for the Maldives government.

Mongolia – Ulan Bator – Mongolia is known for its nomadic origins. The capital city itself was once entirely composed of yurts, making the capital city mobile. It is said to have moved at least 25 times in a period exceeding 100 years until the city settled down where it stands today.

Myanmar – Naypyidaw – The capital city of Myanmar (also known as Burma) has a very short history; construction for the city only started in 2002. The capital was moved at that time to a more central location.

Nepal – Kathmandu – Kathmandu, or “KTM” (as the cool kids call it), had a tourist attraction between the early 60s and late 70s called “Freak Street”. A small avenue located in Kathmandu, Freak Street became a hippie paradise, where the young and free-spirited would venture off to in search of legal drugs, namely marijuana.    

North Korea – Pyongyang – Newspapers and television in Pyongyang once reported that Kim Jong II played 18 holes of golf and shot 38 under par (25 lower than the best round ever recorded) – on his very first try golfing. If anyone’s ever taken up the sport, you might know it’s not easy to sink 3 or 4 holes-in-one per round as the former Dear Leader was once capable of doing.

Oman – Muscat – Not to be confused with the grape variety, Muscat is the capital of Oman. To purchase alcohol in Muscat (and elsewhere in Oman), a person must have a liquor license, obtained by a lengthy bureaucratic process that includes presenting a passport, labor card, two separate photos, application used to obtain said labor card, employment confirmation (and no letter from your employer objecting to your consumption of alcohol), and a liquor license permit application. After filling all that out, you’d probably feel like you need a drink.

Pakistan – Islamabad – The City of Peace was designed with a triangular shape by Greek architects when the capital of Pakistan was moved from Karachi to Islamabad.

The Philippines – Manila – During World War II (before the Pacific Front opened up), General Douglas MacArthur and his family spent a lot of time at the Manila Hotel. His suite ended up costing so much money that the hotel named him “General Manager” to avoid charging him. MacArthur ignored the figurehead status, attended monthly meetings, and helped manage hotel staff.

Qatar – Doha – If Qatar manages to get it together (hundreds of workers have died during the construction of new facilities), Doha could be location of a few games for the 2022 World Cup, the first to be held in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia – Riyadh – Riyadh (and Saudi Arabia) is known for its traditional and outdated outlook on women (e.g., women must always go out with a “guardian”). As a result, Riyadh is the location of the largest women’s university in the world.

Singapore – Singapore – Singapore is a city-state, a nation so small you could run across it. Tired of the smacking sounds of teenage teeth and rubbery, sweet Bubble Yum, Singapore banned all chewing gum. (Gum is permitted with a prescription, though). This caused major international attention when an American teenager was caned for graffiti. The media reported the caning, tying it to the chewing gum ban and likely writing intentionally ambiguous headlines that confused US citizens.

South Korea – Seoul – Seoulites, as the people residing in South Korea’s capital city are called, enjoy their bangs. They have a bang for everything. Bang for karaoke, bang for watching movies, bang for poker, and bang for PC gaming. “Bang” literally means “room”, making an innocuous way of referring to things slightly salacious.  

Sri Lanka – Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte – Try saying that a few times fast. The city of Colombo (much easier to say) once reigned as the capital, but Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte was built just outside Colombo’s city center to ease congestion and overcrowding for the government’s seat of power.

Syria – Damascus – Damascus is another ancient city and just might be the oldest continuously inhabited capital city in the world. It was founded over 5000 years ago and watched as Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Nabataeans, Romans, Umayyad, Turks, Mongols, Ottomans, French, and others attempted to rule the city.

Taiwan – Taipei – Towering over Taipei is the architectural masterpiece called Taipei 101. Taipei 101 was once the tallest building in the world at over 1600 feet (until Dubai built the Burj Khalifa, completed in 2010 and over 1000 feet taller).   

Tajikistan – Dushanbe – Dushanbe means “Monday”. This seems strange that a capital city might only be good for one day of the week, but the weekday naming comes from the capital’s origins. It once was just a tiny village that had a popular Monday market before it grew into the sprawling capital city.

Thailand – Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit– Wait…what?! Okay, so the capital of Thailand is Bangkok but this string of letters smashed together is the ceremonial name of Thailand’s capital city. The ceremonial name can be translated to an equally long string of English words that describe the city.

Turkmenistan – Ashgabat – Ashgabat was the location of a deadly 7.3 magnitude earthquake in 1948 that not many people heard about. At the time, the USSR controlled the region and often censored media reports that might reflect poorly on the Soviet government. The lack of reporting might have saved face for the government at the time, but it likely led to a slow response that resulted in a death toll around 110,000.

United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi – Abu Dhabi flaunts its wealth with various landmarks, but Ferrari World just might be Abu Dhabi’s metaphoric dive into a McDonald’s ball pit of $100 bills. Ferrari World is basically Disneyland for luxury car aficionados

Uzbekistan – Tashkent – The “stone city” was destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1219. It was later rebuilt as a significant trading post along the Silk Road.

Vietnam – Hanoi – Hanoi translates to “city inside rivers”. It was once called Thang Long though, or “ascending dragon”. The more modern name seems to have toned it down a little.

Yemen – Sana’a – It is purported that Sana’a was founded by Shem, who was the son of Noah. Shem would have probably liked high places, making the location of Sana’a a good place for him. It rests at an elevation of 7500 ft, one of the highest capital cities in the world.

 

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