The Far East is often described as an “exotic” destination, and if you haven’t visited any of Asia’s many countries before, then you can certainly expect some initial culture shock, especially if you come from a Western country.
Traditions vary from country to country in the Far East, and it’s always worth researching what is or isn’t appropriate in terms of dress and behavior before your vacation. People in the Far East like to welcome newcomers to their shores and are naturally proud of where they live and what they can offer you in the way of hospitality, culture and sightseeing.
To pique your interest, here are a few ideas about where to go and what to do.
This vast nation has changed immeasurably over the past few decades, modernizing itself and opening its doors to welcome visitors from all over the world. China’s civilization is thousands of years old, and there are still some classic examples of its long and rich history for you to visit as well as thrusting modern cities that seem to keep expanding.
Beijing, China’s capital, has the splendor of the Forbidden City to explore, and it is also within striking distance of one of the world’s greatest feats of engineering, the Great Wall. You’ll find stunning imperial buildings just to the north of the capital at Chengde, and a visit to Xi’an gives you access to the famed Terracotta Army.
Shanghai, located on the east coast near the mouth of the great River Yangtze, is well worth a visit. Apartments and hotels in Shanghai allow you to explore the art deco monuments and marvel at the towering skyscrapers that dominate the skyline.
It’s almost impossible to explain Japan – you have to experience this country’s blend of ancient and stunningly modern life for yourself to get a real feel for it. If you’ve read manga or chomped on sushi, then you might have an idea of the culture, but it is so different that you may be disoriented at first before plunging into the delights that Japan has to offer.
Tokyo, as the capital, has everything that a modern metropolis can provide, with ambitious architecture, internationally renowned restaurants and bars and hundreds of stylish shops. You can also visit shrines, temples and imperial gardens for a taste of older Japanese traditions. Take the bullet train though the countryside or drive down to Mount Fuji — its snowcapped peak rises to over 12,000 feet.
Another enormous country, India has long been a favorite destination for travelers. It stretches from the deep south of Kerala with its tropical greenery to the far north where the Himalayas rise up in one of the greatest stretch of mountains in the world.
The so-called Golden Triangle is the area where most first-time visitors head to in the north of the country. Delhi was the colonial capital, and it is a teeming city with much of the architecture of the Raj still standing. To the south is Agra, home to the magnificent Taj Mahal. To the west of Agra is Jaipur and its famous Pink City, the old walled quarter packed with vibrant bazaars that are renowned for their jewelry and textiles.
This fascinating country has probably not been explored as much as many other Asian countries, but it has a highly distinctive culture that welcomes visitors with open arms, unlike its unpredictable neighbor North Korea.
The capital, Seoul, is full of historic character, with imperial gardens, 14th-century palaces, secluded tearooms and bustling markets that sit easily alongside the modernity of skyscrapers and shopping malls. Many visitors don’t venture out of the city, but a trip to the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas is worth an excursion and offers the chance to better understand the history of the civil war that took place in the 1950s.
If raucous nightlife is your thing, then head for South Korea’s second city, Busan, which is very different from Seoul and features a superb fish market considered to be the best in the country. On the fringes of the city are many excellent beaches for a different kind of relaxation, and it’s also worth traveling to some of the country’s more rural parts, such as Namsan. This is a small mountain area with many trails to explore and tombs to visit.
There are so many options to consider when planning a trip to the Far East. Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are among other countries with fascinating cultures and lifestyles, archaeological sites, stunning sandy beaches and opportunities to try many different types of cuisine. They’re all waiting for you!