Asia is the largest continent in the world, and has the largest population. Some of the world’s oldest civilizations have their roots in Asia – China and India’s ancient civilizations can be dated back to almost 8000 years BC.
Westerners have long been fascinated with the manifestations of wealth and power to be found in Asia. Consider the Great Wall of China (over 13,000 miles long), and the estimated 7,000 “terracotta warriors” recently discovered in Xian, China. The Taj Mahal in India dates back to the 1600”s, and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in that country. The elaborate temples of VietNam, Thailand, and Cambodia are all witness to the spirituality and mysticism that are integral parts of the Asian culture.
The diversity of cultures in Asia is mind boggling. You can take a course in advanced meditation with a visit to a mountain monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal. Or you can shop ‘til you drop in Hong Kong! You can explore the Batu Caves and waterfalls in Malaysia or take in traditional Kabuki theater in Tokyo. From jungle wildlife encounters in Sri Lanka and Borneo to luxury beach vacations on the islands of Bali or the Maldives, a travel experience in Asia is sure to be unlike any other travel destination you’ve experienced.
Where to begin? Asian travel will satisfy travelers with a broad variety of interests and preferences. Here is a small sample of highlights for:
History and architecture buffs:
- Bagan – an ancient city in Myanmar has architectural wonders dating back to 1100 AD. The temples, monuments and statues of Buddha are all part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site preservation program.
- Khajuraho in India is home to Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu temples, and the sculptures celebrating the Indian practice of Kamasutra have fascinated tourists for centuries.
- Siem Reap in Cambodia offers a little something for everyone – historic temples like Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm give the traveler a glimpse of the past, while the entertaining Cambodian Circus, a uniquely Cambodian entertainment which combines theater, music and extreme acrobatic acts, is definitely a modern art form.
- Petra in Jordan is another site preserved by Unesco. This amazing city was carved out of a mountainside. Recent improvements to the site make it possible to visit at night, when the facade is illuminated by thousands of candles.
- The Forbidden City in China was built in the 1400’s and was home to many of China’s emperors and their families. It was inaccessible to most of the rest of the population, hence its name. This site is close to The Great Wall, so it’s easy to check off two boxes with a visit here.
Shoppers and nightlife enthusiasts:
- Singapore is known for its bargains on everything from glitzy jewelry to quality furniture and everything in between.
- Hong Kong has countless alleyways full of markets full of jewelry, makeup, leather goods, and electronics as well as a huge department store, SOGO, where you can shop for almost anything.
- Dubai’s markets cater to those shopping for high end items at a discount. Dubai is the place to be if you’re interested in a variety of nightlife activities. Comedy clubs, and lounges and bars offering spectacular views of this vibrant city abound.
- Bangkok has bazaars open at night, so you can shop 24/7 if that’s your thing. It also has a huge entertainment district known as Royal City Avenue with bars and restaurants galore.
- Istanbul boasts a market bazaar that has been in existence since the 15th century and is still popular with tourists and locals alike.
- Viet Nam has a number of “floating markets” along the Mekong Delta, selling primarily produce and fish. But there are also vendors selling folk art, woven products and tools
- Ziplining in Thailand The longest zipline in Asia, known as The Flight of the Gibbon, is located away from major population areas and close to a traditional Thai village, offering a less “touristy” experience.
- Camp in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Viet Nam. Spend your days trekking through this beautiful park, and spend the night in the world’s largest cave, over 3 million years old!
- Hike the volcanoes in Indonesia Several of these volcanoes have been active recently, although none since 2016. The sunrises and sunsets from the craters are spectacular.
- Ski Mount Hella in South Korea This dormant volcano becomes a winter wonderland for cross-country and backcountry skiers.
- Dive for shipwrecks in the Philippines There are several shipwrecks surrounding these islands, mostly wrecks from WWII. Divers of all experience levels can find a wreck to explore, and viewing the variety of sea creatures that inhabit the waters is a bonus!