Travel bloggers share why they love travelling in Asia
Handicrafts in Asia
James Ian at Travel Collecting shares why he loves the handicrafts in Asia
I have travelled all around Asia and there as so many incredible things to love, but some of my favorite things are the handicrafts. They vary dramatically from region to region and country to country, but what they have in common is that they involve great skill that is passed down from generation to generation, usually within families. Whole villages can be dedicated to one handicraft, and if you grow up in that village, your career is set for life.
As the world modernizes, there is a danger that many of these handicrafts will start to disappear, so buying them (they are always a good deal, though you usually need to bargain) helps keep these traditions alive. In many places, it also possible to see the handicrafts being made and even join workshops to learn how to make them. I have learned how to tie and dye fabrics in Rajasthan, as well as print fabrics using wood block prints, and have taken classes in Japanese calligraphy. This not only gives you a greater appreciation for all of the time, hard work and skill that goes into the products for sale in the markets, but also provides a source of income to the artisans so that they can see the financial value in keeping these traditions alive.
When you travel around Asia, keep an eye out for incredible pottery and paper products in Japan; silk cloth and handwoven baskets in Thailand; lacquer work and paper umbrellas in Myanmar, batik paintings and wood carvings in Indonesia; and hand-printed and tie and dye fabrics in India. These are a just a drop in the ocean of all of the amazing things you can see, buy and learn in Asia.
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Festivals of Asia
Pooja Shah from Fairytale Studio shares why she loves festivals of Asia
Asia is the only continent where so many religions are being followed. The countries are rich in cultural diversity and celebrate various vibrant and enchanting festivals. Not only are the religious ceremonies celebrated, but there is a celebration of nature, music and wildlife; like Cherry blossom festival in Japan, Sonar music festival in Hong Kong and Velas turtle festival in India. Accompanying all these festivals is the delicious local food and drinks, dance and music, as well as street shows and religious ceremonies. Many of these festivals have been around from 100s of years and attract a lot of visitors from countries all over the world.
Here’s a list of 5 incredible festivals celebrated annually in Asia that shouldn’t be missed:
1. Holi (India) – Holi is a festival of colors that is celebrated each year in India. It marks the arrival of spring season. Colored water is thrown and dried color powder is applied over each other faces to celebrate Holi
2. Phuket Vegetarian Festival (Thailand) – This festival is celebrated since the locals in Phuket stopped eating meat to please God, some 150 years back. It is accompanied by a road show, body piercing and fire walking.
3. Cherry Blossom Festival (Japan) – This festival is a visual treat to the eyes. The spring bloom of cherry blossom tree is celebrated as a festival between March to April.
4. Chinese New Year (Southeast Asia) – A 3 –week celebration of Chinese New Year is accompanied by dragon parades, fireworks, and lighting displays. The locals perform certain rituals and raise paper lanterns.
5. Diwali (India) – Diwali is a festival of lights celebrated between October and November. It marks the beginning of New Year in Hindu and Jain calendar and is believed to ward off evil and darkness.
Religion and Spiritual Practices in Asia
Smita Bhattacharya shares why she is fascinated by the Religion practices in Asia
The spread and diversity of religion and spiritual practices in Asia are astounding. Every country has some form of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, adapted to suit local cultures and ways of life.
A largely Hindu country India, for instance, follow multiple Gods and Goddesses, with festivals held literally every month to worship one or the other. Add to that, large global congregations in the holy cities of Mathura or Varanasi, and the Kumbh Mela, a photographer’s delight. Bali is another largely Hindu region, but they have adapted the religion in their own unique way.
Cambodia started out Hindu then moved to Mahayana Buddhism, and the transition is clearly palpable in its temples and practices. Christianity and Islam have also been adapted differently, with variety in attire, houses of worship, a hybrid practice. I’m a great believer of integration, and it is fascinating for me to see such a tolerant and multicultural way of life. Shivers course through my spine when I see a flash of saffron amidst a spot of temple ruins, or an ash-smeared sadhu walking past chanting mantras.
There’s always so much to know and learn. Every ritual so elaborate and special, carrying the weight of centuries of transformation. Definitely, a key Asian speciality for me.
Elephant Sanctuaries in Asia
Tia from Tia Does Travel tells us about ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Asia
Each year, millions of tourists travel to Thailand, hoping and wishing to interact with the majestic and beautiful Asian elephants which are now considered an endangered species as there are only 2000 wild elephants left in Thailand. More than 60% of all elephants In Thailand live in captivity and a whopping 65% of those are working in the tourism industry. There are dozens of elephant related activities all over Thailand – from elephant trekking, to yoga on top of an elephant, taking pictures with baby calves, picture painting and so on. Tourists are led to believe that these activities are normal, safe, and humane. But is it not naïve to assume that such activities are not part of the dark and sinister world of animal exploitation, and dare I say it, animal abuse?
Elephant sanctuaries are a breath of fresh air; a reminder that we all need to can do better. They are a beacon of hope, of ethical tourism done right and a great example of compassion towards these gentle giants. In Phuket, sanctuaries like the Elephant Sanctuary Phuket, Phuket Elephant Park and the Elephant Retirement Park Phuket take in rescued elephants and give them a new lease of life. In parks such as these, you get to feed them, go on jungle walks with them and even bathe with them (the latter is not allowed everywhere).
You will find out their story; their history, age sex and temperament and the kind of foods they love. You can feel how loved they are, and how respectful the caregivers are towards them. In the jungle walk, you are informed of why they pick and choose specific plants to eat, and the medicinal purposes of each dietary choice they make-truly fascinating. The fact that these sanctuaries now exist and tourists can make better, more ethical choices for their activities, is definitely one of my favorite things about Asia.
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Beaches in Asia
Allison Smith from Flights to Fancy tells us about the beautiful beaches in Asia
I’m a beach person. Always have been. As an Aussie, I’m grateful that my homeland is blessed with some of the best beaches on the planet, so it’s not surprising that it takes a spectacular beach to impress me. I seek out the best of the best when I travel, and Asia has no shortage of sensational waterfronts.
Thailand found fame as a beach destination thanks to Leo Di Caprio’s aptly named blockbuster The Beach. While Maya Bay is currently closed to allow the eco-system to recover from the ravages of tourism, Thailand still has plenty of beaches worthy of a visit. Ton Sai in Koh Phi Phi and Pra-Ae in Koh Lanta are two of my favourites. The seas are calm, warm and crystal clear. It’s the kind of place you could laze all day.
The other standout for me is The Philippines. Boracay boasts some of the whitest sand I have ever seen and is famed for its nightlife. We stayed at Coast Boracay in Station 2 and we were steps from the sand. The other area of note in the Philippines is Palawan. Island hopping in the thing to do in El Nido and each of the set tours visit some of the most popular beaches in the region. While not strictly beaches, the lagoons around Coron have some of the clearest water I have ever had the privilege of taking a dip in.
Kayangan Lake is not to be missed and the best way to get there is on a private boat tour. While Indonesia may not immediately spring to mind when thinking of fabulous beaches, Bali attracts surfers from far and wide and the islands nearby won’t disappoint. The beaches in Nusa Lembongan are picture perfect, but the water can get a little chilly.
Just a short boat ride away are the Gili Islands. The waters are clear, clean and warm and famed for their snorkelling and diving. Just make sure you wear reef shoes as the sand is course and mixed with coral. Whatever type of beach holiday you desire, you are sure to find something to appeal in Asia.
Friendly locals in Asia
More life in your days tells us why they love meeting local people in Asia
Whilst it is hard to generalise about people across an entire continent, we have always found the people in Asia to be very warm, welcoming and friendly, and this is one of the many things that we love about Asia.
We have travelled widely from the heights of the Himalayas to the jungles of Sumatra and one of the constants has been the welcoming nature of the local people.
Amongst other things, we have been offered shelter from a storm in Nepal, been welcomed into a Shinbyu novitiation ceremony for boys becoming monks in Myanmar, and even been gifted money for our children at a temple in Vietnam (admittedly, this felt awkward, but they were insistent and excited to meet our girls).
More mundane challenges like asking the way to the bus stop or where to find food have always been met with a smile and offers of assistance.
We always try and pick up a few words of the local language and this seems to go a long way towards breaking down barriers.
Learning new languages is hard but we have had the most success with the Indonesian language which is relatively easy to pick up – Thai remains something of a mystery.
Please visit us at More Life in Your Days to read more about our family adventures in South East Asia.
Coffee in Asia
Traveling Honey Bird tells us about the coffee in Asia
It may seem like an odd combination – Asia and coffee. Let me rephrase that Asia and top quality espresso coffee. For years countries like Vietnam have had their own unique spin on the morning cup of joe. In the past 10-15 years we have seen an influx of Asian countries, like Thailand, Japan, Korea, Nepal take on the world of the flat white. In part catering to the western tourist market, and also an effect of expats who have returned home with a love of coffee.
The unique take on the simple flat white, a matcha latte and some fabulous latte art, depending on where you go, is one of the many things that I love about exploring Asia. Each country presents a very different, yet somewhat familiar take on coffee.
Temples in Asia
Gumnets Abroads tells us about the temples they have visited in Asian
Asia is an incredible continent that offers visitors diverse cultures, stunning landscapes and delicious food. But for us a trip to Asia wouldn’t be complete without a few days of temple hopping.
The region is a melting pot of religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism just to name a few – that have inspired fascinating houses of worship. And some of the most stunning buildings in the world have been built for people to come and worship in.
Many temples in Asia are gloriously crumbling ruins whose ancient stones hold thousand-year-old secrets. While others like Wat Tham Sua in Thailand are living religious sites where people still come to pay their respects. They are a magnet for visitors who come to admire the gilded temples that have earned the region the nick name “The Golden East”.
One of things we like about Asia’s temples is that not only are they stunningly beautiful, but they also offer a tantalising glance into a different way of life. As religion is such an integral part of many of Asia’s different cultures. And isn’t that what travel is about? To learn about other people’s cultures? The best time to visit a temple is at dawn when you can smell the heady incense, hear the chanting monks and pay tribute to these astounding religious monuments.
Landscapes in Asia
Globetrove tell us why they love Asia
It is hard to narrow down to just one thing that I love about Asia but the first thing that comes to mind is the versatility that the countries have to offer. This is in so many different aspects. From the terrain where you can visit deserts, forests, gorgeous islands, big cities, rural villages, mountains, volcanoes and more to the types of vacation that you can take which can be active or passive, luxurious or with a backpack. Asia truly has something for everyone.
I’ve learned that it also has something for people of different age groups. Places like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are handicap friendly. There are numerous places where we have seen elderly travellers move around with ease. In fact, you will find that travelling South East Asia with kids is something that many people advocate.
The more you travel across Asia, the more you begin to realize how big it is and how diverse it is. There is no one definition fits all kind off situation. In fact, in countries like India, there is so much diversity within the single country that it can leave you astounded!
With so much going on and so many things to do, it is hard not to fall in love with the continent. We’ve spent the last five years travelling around it and still can’t get enough.
Marquestra tells us about the delicious food in Asia
Asia is a paradise for food lovers. I have yet to visit all of the 48 countries that make up this diverse continent but with South East Asia, Indonesia and Northern India under my belt (pun intended) I can assure you that food alone is reason enough to book your next flight to Asia. Each country offers unique dishes and distinct flavour profiles while some marvellous new blends of delicious recipes emerge, particularly in Malaysia for example, from neighbouring influences.
Some Asian countries have dishes they’re renowned for, like Thailand’s green papaya salad, it’s Kao Soi Curry Noodle Soup or Pad Thai, Indonesia’s satays and delicious tempeh, India’s lassis and dhals or Myanmar’s tea leaf salad and Shan noodles. Then there are all of the magnificent fruit and produce markets worth visiting if not solely to observe the many shapes, colours and textures from the multitude of choices available.
And let’s not forget to mention the vast and fantastic choices of street food and many food courts Asia has, which alone gets me salivating just thinking about them. Moreover, travellers can find many tasty and filling options in Asia at a reasonable price. If you like tasty, flavourful food, you need to target Asia for your next travel destination.
The contrast between old and new in Asia
Creative Travel Guide tells use why they love the old and new in Asia
One thing I love about Asia is the contract between old and new. Every major city you visit across Asia will have a modern area, full of incredible skyscrapers or intricate architecture, representing the developing economy and growth across the continent.
Yet, every city also has it’s fair share of temples, churches, markets and communities that offers a glimpse of the old.
Take Bangkok, the most visited city in Asia. You can visit the glamorous shopping malls or skyscraping hotels with glorious rooftop bars; living life like a king in the centre of Asia. But stop outside of these hotels and you find yourself surrounded in local life and culture. A short boat ride along the Khlongs (canals) of Bangkok, you will see how Bangkokians use to and still live, on stilted homes along the riverfront. You can take a stroll down Wang Lang Market and watch locals buying fruit and veg and street food from the same place their families have bought food for years and years.
It is this contrast that motivates me to explore more and more of Asia, knowing there is always something new I will discover, a new piece of history I can learn whist experiencing modern day life in Asia.
Have you been to Asia what did you love? Where would you like to explore next?
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