Asia is made up of almost 50 countries, from the central deserts of Afghanistan to the lush tropical jungles of Borneo, and it includes China and India, two of the most densley packed and populous countries in the world, so defining Asia is a very difficult thing.
One thing is certain is that Asia is one of the most popular regions on earth for travellers, with backpackers especially adopting south east Asia in particular as their first time gap year destinations and more often than not semi nomadic homes too.
Remnants of ancient civilisations and simple Buddhist monestaries are as an intrinsic part of Asia’s landscape as high rise, neon filled skyscrapers. Snow topped mountains sit side by side with lush tropical jungles and serene white sand beaches, and traditional cultures blend seamlessly with conflicting political ideologies of communism and consumerism. Travellers are as likely to hear the muezzin call the faithful to prayer while they hustle their way through bustling local markets as they are to smell the burning incense drifting on the breeze from a nearby temple, and all of this insane, crazy melting pot of faiths, cultures, history and tradition all seem to come together to give travellers the ultimate culture shock!
No matter what you want out of your travels there is something for every traveller in Asia. If you want to explore ancient ruins and wonders of the world head to the Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal in Agra, if you want to relax on a sun kissed beach the famed islands of south east Asia beckon, or if you want something different there is Taiwan, a country relatively few Western tourists have yet to find. And of course one of every travellers best experiences of Asia is the food! From Indian curries to Chinese stir fries and the famous street food of Bangkok or Singapore, Asian cuisine has been adopted all over the world for good reason! Whatever you are hungry for Asia will blow your mind!
Know Before You Go.
Commonly referred to as the ‘Stans, this region is not as mainstream as other destinations yet, which is why – with the exception of Afghanistan for obvious reasons – it has grown increasingly popular with backpackers and independent travellers over the last few years. Consisting of Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Khorostan and Kyrgyzstan, its unique geographical landscape and history offers travellers an off the beaten path bucket list that is irresistable. Who else can boast they have stared down into the gates of hell?
Whenever anyone things of Asia, it is usually an image of east Asia that pops into their head, which is one of the main reasons it is also the most popular regions for travellers. China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan and Macau are in this region and hold some of the worlds most impressive man made and natural wonders, including Mount Fuji and the Great Wall of China.
Consisting of India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan and Nepal, parts of south Asia are extremely popular with travellers and thanks primarily to India are among the most densely populated too. Alongside south east Asia, south Asia is firmly rooted in the traditional backpacker routes, especially India and Nepal, although Bangladesh and Pakistan are increasingly popular with more intrepid travellers.
South east Asia.
South east Asia consists of Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is such an iconic part of the backpacker trail, including the faous banana pancake route, that is dereves a region guide all of its own, which you can find here.
When To Go.
There is no bad time to visit Asia in very general terms. When to go depends invariably on where you go. Asia stretches from the tropical backwaters of Kerala in the South to the frozen wastes and snow covered mountains of Northern Japan and China, with arid deserts, lush jungle, lake filled countryside and every type of terrain in between. If you are travelling through Asia, try to avoid public holidays, especially in heavily populated places like China or Japan. Alternatively at least plan to spend a few days wherever you are to enjoy the holiday when one hits, and plan ahead carefully as transport hubs can get insanely crowded, prices shoot up and it can get increasingly difficult to travel.
Depending on the country you go to Asia can either be extremely cheap by western standards in places like India or regions such as South East Asia, or it can be extremely expensive in the major cities of Singapore, China or Japan. Whatever your budget, you will be able to travel through much of Asia relatively easily.
The hardest part is generally the increasingly infuriating bureaucracy that infests the visa application systems of many countries such as China or India. Whilst they rarely pose problems beyond filling in endless forms and waiting for officials to rubber stamp them, they are often annoying nonetheless. Certain parts of central Asia, Afghanistan in particular are still subject to travel advisory warnings and you should research thoroughly the visa process and restrictions on the individual countries you want to visit far in advance of going.