The first thing you need to know as a backpacker about to travel in Asia is that it is a truly massive place to explore. It is also one of the most culturally, ethnically and geographically diverse region of the world. Asia is busy and rich with human activities. The sights and sounds will be an explosion of stimulation to all your senses. These countries are ancient and their spiritual and religious roots run very deep. The landscape is filled with ancient wonders and sacred spaces.
Asia is home to some of the world’s biggest regions like, Buddhism and Hinduism. Asia is the land of many contrasts with histories and traditions, where just about every range of society has developed, from the politically free to the no so free and everything in between. Even trying to define Asia’s borders can be difficult. Europe itself is part of the same land mass as Asia, known as Eurasia and there is no clear geographical separation between the two continents. The divide seems more based on people and politics. No doubt as things change in the future so will the boundaries that define Asia.
Backpacking in Asia
There are a number of choices when deciding to backpack through Asia. If you are new to backpacking and on a limited budget, then I would recommend starting your journey in South East Asia. As a starting point, Thailand has long been a long favourite amongst backpackers. If is a fairly cheap travel destination for budget travelers, but still offers plenty of old world charm, gorgeous tropical islands and enough exotic stimulation to keep you coming back for more.
Bangkok, which is a fascinating city in its own right, is also one of the major regional flight hubs. From here it is easy enough to connect to their rest of South East Asia or reach out further to countries like Nepal, India, Japan, China and Korea. Thailand also shares borders with Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia.
South East Asia
There is a reason South East Asia is one of the top backpacker destinations. Whether you’re a part animal here for the full moon parties, a shopaholic looking for the best deals in Bangkok, an adventure junkie looking for the next thrill, trying to find the perfect island and white sand beaches or just trying to find yourself through yoga, meditation and Buddhism. South East Asia has something for everyone and continues to lure thousands of backpackers to its beautiful lands and people year after year.
Japan and East Asia
East Asia is made up of counties like Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China. The first thing that will strike you when backpacking in places like Japan is how ultra-modern and ordered people’s lives, the cities, the trains and everything else seem to be. On the surface everything seems to be in its place but there are hidden deeps to Japan and the other East Asian countries.
It does not take long to realize that you have found yourself in one of the most exciting, energetic and contradictory places in the world. Japan was once the land of shoguns, Ninjas, Samurais and Geisha. Modern day Japan has managed to blend the old with the new in a truly fascinating way. Even though Japan is very high tech, there is still a great respect for nature.
As an outdoor backpacker and there are some truly magical spots to explore, you are still spoilt for choice. Try a hike up Mount Fuji or other volcanic mountains, a day out in the blossom trees or lavender fields, there are hiking trails galore in the backcountry to explore and see more than you would ever have imagined. The people are warm and friendly, especially over a good bottle of sake and sushi. If your budget allows I would highly recommend going to Japan as part of your Asia backpacking trip.
India and Nepal
It is often said by those that have been, there is just something indescribable about India. You just have to go there and experience it for yourself. One of the allures of India for backpackers is the amazing variety of different flavours, explosive colours, rich and vibrant culture, exotic beaches and the wonderful chaos all mixed into one. It is very difficult to become bored of India when just around every street corner there is something new and exciting to experience.
There are many holy sites, temples and festivals in India. Visiting the Tahj Ma Hal or spending time along the beaches of Goa might be well trodden highlights and well worth the hip but they are just the tip of the ice berg. There are lots of amazing places in India, don’t be afraid to get off the beaten track. India is still a cheap destination and most of the locals are warm, friendly and English is widely spoken.
Nepal is the Asian capital of trekking, hiking and all round outdoor awesomeness. This is the home of the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. Ever since the New Zealander mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary made that epic journey up the slopes of this majestic mountain with the Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, Mt Everest has been a beacon for climbers and adventures from around the world.