Ancient kingdoms, glittering skyscrapers and pristine beaches: these are just a few attributes that make up the world’s largest continent, Asia. With a plethora of diverse countries comprising it, Asia is an intriguing and captivating destination.
Asia’s largest country, also the biggest in the world, Russia is a fascinating place to visit and admire the grand splendour of its major cities. Russia’s neighbour, China, is another vast country with bustling cities and ancient villages that would take years to fully explore.
Although much smaller in scale than China, the Southeast Asian country, India, is a kaleidoscope of various cultures with thousands of different languages spoken and around eight major religions. When visiting India it’s easy to fall in love with its people; their joie de vivre is infectious. Thailand is a traveller’s favourite, each year drawing crowds of visitors keen to see its idyllic beaches, ancient ruins, high-end resorts and the bustling metropolis, Bangkok.
India and Thailand have their monsoons, Japan, its typhoons and Russia turns into a winter wonderland covered in snow blankets. The weather in Asia does differ considerably and depending on which country you’re visiting you’ll always need to check before booking your trip.
When to fly to Asia
In general, the best months to visit India and Sri Lanka are from November to March. Try to avoid visiting during the monsoon season; anywhere from May to September.
Japan is beautiful between the months of March and May when cherry blossoms bloom, and although the weather is pleasant at the end of August and September it is their typhoon season. On the other hand, the Philippines is lovely during the same months as Japan – March to May – but from June to October is the wet monsoon season.
The country that experiences the most extreme weather conditions is Russia; it gets bitterly cold in winter – November to early April – and unbearably hot in July and August. While the UAE, on the other hand, doesn't really have different seasons: it's generally warm throughout the year, with the exception of August when the heat can reach the high 30s.
Getting around Asia
Transportation throughout Asia ranges from efficient and comfortable to chaotic and frustrating. Each country has a preferred form of transportation and some towns or cities within that country could have a different preference.
Given the vastness of the larger countries - Russia and China, getting around is best done by plane. In both countries buses and trains are the cheapest and easiest ways to commute long-distance.
India has an extensive airline network for domestic travel. But while flying might be an easier option, the best way to get a feel for the country and its people is to travel by rail at least once. If that sounds too adventurous then the slightly more expensive option is to hire a car and a driver. This is also a good idea when travelling around other countries in Asia including Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
Asia insider information
- It can be bewildering planning a trip to Russia’s gargantuan metropolis – Moscow. Many tourists leave with the feeling they had seen less than they’d hoped to, but three things not to be missed are visiting the Kremlin, strolling around Red Square and a night at the Bolshoi Theatre.
- In China, visit Shanghai’s Jade Buddha Temple which was built between 1911 and 1918. The seated Buddha is encrusted with jewels and weighs over 2200 lbs (1000kg).
- Don’t miss the Hong Kong Museum of History which boasts an expansive collection of 6,000 years of the territory’s cultural heritage and history.
- Drop by the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok and test your bargaining skills at any of the thousands of stalls selling everything from antiques to flowers. Then head to the Jim Thompson House, a traditional Thai house that was once home to the most famous expat in Thailand: the American adventurer and entrepreneur who came to Bangkok during World War II as a US spy.
- Elephanta Island, a short boat-ride from Mumbai, is home to the holy rock-cut temples dating back to 450 AD. Although these temples suffered major Portuguese vandalism they remain virtually untouched.
- A trip to the UAE wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a ‘souk’. If you have to choose just one, the Deira’s Gold Souq is the place to pick up Indian and Arabian jewellery.
- Half-Asian and half-European, Turkey’s unique mix contributes to its most illustrious landmark, the Haghia Sophia. This museum was once a Byzantine cathedral which was turned into a mosque until 1935.
- While visiting Manila, the capital of the Philippines, head to Intramuros, the ancient walled city built by the Spaniards in the 16th century.
- In Sri Lanka take a trip to the hillside city of Kandy where you’ll find the sacred tooth of Buddha in Dalada Maligawa.
- After all that sightseeing in Kyoto relax in a hot spring resort, “Kurama Onsen”, one of the few bath houses close to the city.