I don't think you can beat Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) + Thailand for a first visit. Inexpensive, friendly, exotic and very interesting. The mistake you might make is trying to see all of Asia in one trip - IMPOSSIBLE!
My favorites: large city - Hanoi; small city - Luang Prabang
[ Edit: Edited on 06-Jun-2011, at 10:02 by Daawgon ]
Bangkok, Chiang Mai.... Welcome to The Land of Smiles...
No tour of Asia is complete without covering India and China, two biggest countries of Asia each having a rich history and culture dating back more than 5000 years.
In India, you should primarily cover Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa, Bangalore, Varanasi, Jaipur, Srinagar in J&K, Agra, Bangalore in Karnataka, Trivandrum in Kerala among many others. Actually, if you really want to see India you need a good whole year.
As for the poverty issue, it may shock you, but it surely won't trouble you for that matter.
Hanoi is one of the most peaceful city in the world, and it is big too. Shouldn't miss it