Travel Briefs

Step into one of Uzbekistan's teeming bazaars, and things won't look much different from the days of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Yes, there are Nike T shirts and fake Chinese Levi's. But along the ancient Silk Road, in market towns like Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara, many merchants offer traditional wares: carpets, scarves, silk and spices. The region, which can be reached by air from Moscow and other European cities, is no stranger to modern trappings. Many of the rugs from Afghanistan, a country torn by more than 20 years of war, show off traditional gorgeous patterns--which turn out, on close inspection, to be woven from pictures of warplanes, helicopters and tanks.

The area is known as the Pacific Graveyard: the far west coast of Canada's Vancouver Island. Remote and thinly settled, its fishing and logging industries fading out, the region is famous mostly for fierce winter storms. Now tourism operators in the tiny town of Tofino have found a way to market their most conspicuous natural resource, drawing hundreds of storm watchers from all over the world. The town's luxurious Wickaninnish Inn was built five years ago solely for storm watching. "This is ecotourism and adventure tourism, and it can be extremely and thrillingly dangerous," boasts owner Charles McDiarmid, who has the sound of crashing waves piped live into the dining room. The waves are indeed dangerous; the safest place to watch them is indoors. The season runs from October to March, usually producing 10 to 15 really big storms--with a silver lining for Tofino.