Number one in extent, number one in population. The world’s largest continent is also the most populous with approximately 3,8 billion inhabitants, 60% percent of the world’s population. China and India are the dominant countries in the Asian market, but when it comes to vacations the southeast part of the continent is more popular: Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Lately, South Vietnam and Cambodia have emerged as upcoming destinations for restless travelers, while Tokyo in Japan is always a must-go place for people that want to live, even for a few days, in a “Megalopolis”. India on the other hand offers other kind of thrills: busy big cities, curry smell and the sacred river of Ganges. The Great Wall in northern China and the Taj Mahal in northern India are sights you shouldn’t miss.
Asia is home to several language families and many language isolates. Most Asian countries have more than one language that is natively spoken. For instance, according to Ethnologue, more than 600 languages are spoken in Indonesia, more than 800 languages spoken in India, and more than 100 are spoken in the Philippines. China has many languages and dialects in different provinces.
Asia is too massive and diverse to conceptualize as a single digestible travel “destination”.
Even defining the borders of this continent is difficult – from the mountains around the Black Sea in the west, to the snow fields of Siberia in the east, there are more people and cities in Asia than outside of it.
Asia’s and the world’s highest point is Mount Everest, along the border of Tibet (China) and Nepal, which rises to 8,848 m (29,028 feet) above sea level. Its lowest point is the Dead Sea, located at the meeting points of Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan, whose surface is 400 m (1,312 feet) below sea level. Asia’s longest river is the Yangtze, which runs 6,300 km (3,915 miles) through China, from all the way from the high Tibetan Plateau to Shanghai. Its largest lake is the 386,400 sq km (149,200 square mile) Caspian Sea, which is surrounded by several Central Asian nations.
Asia is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east, by Australia to the south east, and by the Indian Ocean to the south. It is bordered by the Red Sea to the south west, by Europe and Urals to the west, and by the Arctic Ocean to the north.
Travel options range widely, from the desert ruins and modern mega-malls of the Middle East to the magnificent ancient monuments in South Asia, and from the beach bungalows and jungle treks of South-East Asia to the mega-cities and technology capitals of East Asia. Find out more about regions, destinations, and itineraries below.
Asia offers very diverse travel options. There are ultra modern, largely democratic countries like Japan and the East Asian Tigersof Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea which are very prosperous and in which people enjoy very high standards of living. On the other hand, Afghanistan, Laos and East Timor are extremely poor countries where people struggle even to get a few grains of rice each day. Of course, there are also many countries lying somewhere in the middle, such as the emerging powerhouses of China and India which make wonderful travel destinations in themselves due to their long history, size and diversity. Thailand is a magnet for travellers, with great food, a tropical climate, fascinating culture and great beaches. Asia also contains North Korea, suffering under one of, if not the most, oppressive regimes in the world and, therefore, very safe for travellers.
Geographical Asia is a cultural artifact, an imprecise concept causing endemic contention about what it means. In contrast to Europe, Asia is the largest and most culturally diverse of the continents in the seven-continent system. It does not exactly correspond to the cultural borders of its various types of constituents.
In addition to its general inherited geographical meaning, to which the entire literate world subscribes, Asia has any number of agency-specific meanings organizationally and operationally of use in more restricted fields of interest. For example, the World University Service of Canada is a volunteer organization dedicated to bringing educational, health and other services to nations that need them the most. The regional divisions most convenient to its operations include, among others, the Middle East and Europe, and South and Southeast Asia, termed just “Asia”. Its administrative Asia is substantially different from the overall geographic and the same may be said of many hundreds more agencies across the globe that operate in Asia from headquarters elsewhere. Some of the most innovative and perhaps the most transitory uses of “Asia” have been promulgated by the news media reporting on current events. Their classifications must be the most suitable for the news and the sources of it. For example, the BBCNews has an Asia-Pacific section, which acquires news from anywhere in Australasia, Oceania or the Pacific side of the Americas.
From the time of Herodotus a minority of geographers have rejected the three-continent system (Europe, Africa, Asia) on the grounds that there is no or is no substantial physical separation between them. For example, Sir Barry Cunliffe, the emeritus professor of European archeology at Oxford, argues that Europe has been geographically and culturally merely “the western excrescence of the continent of Asia”. Geographically, Asia is the major eastern constituent of the continent of Eurasia with Europe being a northwestern peninsula of the landmass – or of Afro-Eurasia; geologically, Asia, Europe and Africa make up a single continuous landmass (except for the Suez Canal) and share a common continental shelf. Almost all of Europe and most of Asia sit atop the Eurasian Plate, adjoined on the south by the Arabian and Indian Plate and with the easternmost part of Siberia (east of the Cherskiy Range) on the North American Plate.
The history of Asia can be seen as the distinct histories of several peripheral coastal regions: East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, linked by the interior mass of the Central Asian steppes.
The coastal periphery was home to some of the world’s earliest known civilizations, each of them developing around fertile river valleys. The civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and the Huanghe shared many similarities. These civilizations may well have exchanged technologies and ideas such as mathematics and the wheel. Other innovations, such as writing, seem to have been developed individually in each area. Cities, states and empires developed in these lowlands.
The central steppe region had long been inhabited by horse-mounted nomads who could reach all areas of Asia from the steppes. The earliest postulated expansion out of the steppe is that of the Indo-Europeans, who spread their languages into the Middle East, South Asia, and the borders of China, where the Tocharians resided. The northernmost part of Asia, including much of Siberia, was largely inaccessible to the steppe nomads, owing to the dense forests, climate and tundra. These areas remained very sparsely populated.
The center and the peripheries were mostly kept separated by mountains and deserts. The Caucasus and Himalaya mountains and the Karakum and Gobi deserts formed barriers that the steppe horsemen could cross only with difficulty. While the urban city dwellers were more advanced technologically and socially, in many cases they could do little in a military aspect to defend against the mounted hordes of the steppe. However, the lowlands did not have enough open grasslands to support a large horsebound force; for this and other reasons, the nomads who conquered states in China, India, and the Middle East often found themselves adapting to the local, more affluent societies.
The Islamic Caliphate took over the Middle East and Central Asia during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century. The Mongol Empire conquered a large part of Asia in the 13th century, an area extending from China to Europe.
Source: Wikipedia, www.thisitchyfeet.asia