Travel lit: Explore the world through fiction

Travel lit: Explore the world through fiction

The seven books nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize this year are not just great reads, they're also a terrific travel itinerary
Man Asian Literary Prize

Seven authors have been shortlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize -- up from five in previous years. 

The winner will be announced on March 15 in Hong Kong and awarded US$30,000. 

But before then, the books on the list form a nifty guide for a global travel tour. Get your literary-inspired travel agenda here: 

'Rebirth,' Jahnavi Barua: Guwahati, India

Guwahati, IndiaRhino watching, elephant riding.

The young female protagonist who is tangled in an uncertain marriage travels between Bangalore and Guwahati in search of an answer, only to discover the treacherous worlds of betrayal and loss. But Guwahati is, in real life, nothing like this. 

It's the largest city in Assam, Northeast India, with a population of one million. It is a center for shopping and business, but Guwahati is also known as the "city of temples." 

The Wet and Wild Tawang tour takes visitors to the Kaziranga National Park, the home of one-horned rhinos. Hop on an elephant to discover the endangered animals, and travel around the streets of Guwahati, Cherrapunjee (one of the wettest places in the world), the city's temples, the Assam State museum and regional science centers. 

Tour starts from Rs 29,200 (approximately US$566) for two travelers.  

'The Sly Company of People Who Care,' Rahul Bhattacharya: Guyana 

Guyana Just try not to lose your tour guide.

A young and headstrong Indian journalist quits his job and heads to an exotic country to escape the "deadness" of life. That place happens to be Guyana, the perfect blend of Caribbean paradise and South American culture. 

Located on the northern coast of South America, the former colony of the Dutch and British is a haven for nature lovers, adventure seekers and eco-tourists.

With rain forests, mountains, waterfalls and numerous species of flora and fauna, the country offers attractions that include bird watching, sports fishing, mountain climbing and visiting national parks, zoos and gardens. 

The Guyana's Petroglyph Trail takes visitors to sites currently  being studied by anthropologists and archeologists. Nine-day tour starts from US$3,013.

Nature Journey through Guyana is fit for nature lovers with an itinerary that includes the nation's finest spots for bird watching, wildlife spotting, fishing and more. Two-week tour starts from US$4,273. 

'River of Smoke,' Amitav Ghosh: Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou, ChinaEnjoy the port, minus the opium.
"River of Smoke" depicts the struggles of Indian migrants, traders, convicts and laborers tossed into the crowded harbors of Guangzhou, China, after a vicious storm.

The book not only dives into the characters, but also delves into the opium trading that took place there. 

Located on the south coast of China, Guangzhou offers fast access to Hong Kong and Macau and has become the scientific, educational and cultural center in the Guangdong area. 

A must-see is the Yuexiu Park, the largest park in downtown Guangzhou that contains three lakes, seven hills of Mount Yuexiu, cultural relics and sculptures.   

For Hong Kongers, the Chimelong Travel Resort is a favorite. Especially fit for families with children, its facilities include a safari park and zoo; the Chimelong Grand Circus; Chimelong Amusement Park; Chimelong Water Park; a crocodile park and the Changlong Golf Center.

Yuexiu Park, free admission, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. 

Xiangjiang Safari Park, Dashi, Pan Yu, Guangzhou, +86 020 8478 3333, 

'Please Look After Mom,' Shin Kyung-sook: Seoul, Korea

Seoul, Korea Keep on searching, she may be mesmerized by all the lights.
A mother goes missing in the middle of Seoul Station subway, and the search eventually guides the family to its history, traditional values and the welcoming of modernity. 

Seoul Station is close to many different and interesting spots in the capital, including the Cheonggyecheon Stream, Namdaemun market and shopping central Myeongdong.

The Culture Station, Seoul 284 is a recent add. The venue was originally a train station, but it was transformed into an exhibition, culture and performance center last year. Despite its bizarre name, it's an interesting blend of history, art and architecture. 

The Seoul city tour bus allows visitors to stop by major sites around the city, including palaces, shopping districts and museums. It's perfect for those with a tight schedule, as passengers can get off and on any stop that fits their timeline.  

One-day pass: ₩10,000, Night pass : ₩5,000; from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., closed on Monday, +82 2 777 6090.  

More on CNNGo: Seoul: 24 hours, 24 adventures

'Dream of Ding Village,' Yan Lianke: Henan Province, China 

Shaolin Temple, ChinaThe book does not include martial art tips.
The book may be based on a real-life blood-selling scandal that led the book to a heavy censorship in China, but the backdrop of the book, Henan Province, boasts famous scenic spots and historical sites. 

Henan is known as the birthplace of the Chinese nation, hence its numerous historic ruins, relics and temples. A must-see is the Shaolin Temple, which is renowned for its kung fu center, and the Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The province also hosts numerous festivals, including the Kaifmg Ancient Capital Lantern Festival (February 13-15), the Luoyang Peony Fair (April 15-25) and the China Zhenzhou International Shaolin Martial Art Festival (September 10-15). 

A three-day tour around Lupyang, one of Henan's major cities, is available from US$249. Includes a tour to White Horse Temple, Shaolin Temple and Longmen Grottoes.  

More on CNNGo: China Spring Festival: A travel survival guide 

'The Lake,' Banana Yoshimoto: Tokyo, Japan 

National Art Center, TokyoBanana chose wisely.

"The Lake" deals with two broken souls who coincidently meet in Tokyo and end up in a mysterious lake where they search for answers within each other.

The young female protagonist moves to Tokyo to become an artist after her mother's death and she has every reason to move to this busy city for her career. 

Tokyo has a wide range of art galleries and museums, from small basement galleries to the fancy Mori Art Museum and the National Art Center, Tokyo

The Tokyo International Forum is also a unique public space where you can take artsy photos of glass ceilings and windows. 

Only five minutes' walk from Tokyo station, the Bridgestone Museum of Art is a local and international favorite, thanks to its location and impressive artworks and exhibits. 

National Art Center, Tokyo; 722-2, Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo, +81 3 5777 8600, open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, closed on Tuesday. 

'The Wandering Falcon,' Jamil Ahmad: Pakistan

PakistanYes, the boy and his goat are sweet, but wandering around this area is not.  

Jamil Ahmad depicts the essence of human life in the forbidden areas where the borders of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan meet. Unfortunately, the tribal areas mentioned in the book are currently restricted for travelers, unless it is essential. 

So, although the freedom of travel is in the hands of the traveler, we recommend keeping this one in the pages of the book. 

More on CNNGo: A tour with Tokyo's human food and drink guide

Rachel Sang-hee Han is a freelance writer for CNN Travel. 

Read more about Rachel Sang-hee Han