Asia's regions: a quick overview

Submitted 3 years 2 weeks ago by CultureWhiz.

Central Asia includes the countries of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

This region is known for its rugged terrain, nomadic cultures, and Muslim and Turkish-speaking peoples. These countries were formerly Soviet republics, save for Afghanistan. Today, all have authoritarian, secular governments (except for Kyrgyzstan).

Afghanistan used to be a popular backpacker destination, but some thirty years of conflict and famine have substantially decreased its touristic appeal. Kazakstan, sparsely populated but beautiful, is the world’s largest landlocked country. High up in the mountains, Kyrgyzstan is the easiest and most pleasant Central Asian country to visit. Off the beaten track, Tajikistan is Central Asia’s poorest country. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are both also beautiful, but difficult to travel through due to government and bureaucratic restrictions.

East Asia includes the countries of China (including Macau and Hong Kong), Taiwan, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, and South Korea.

East Asia has made the greatest developments in infrastructure, health, education, and general standards of living over the last couple decades. China leads the charge as the largest economy in the region. China is also home to beautiful architectural marvels that have endured centuries of conflict and change. Hong Kong is a former British colony that is popular for its shopping, beaches, and food. Macau is a popular gambling destination with beautiful colonial period architecture. Taiwan is a democratic outlier of Chinese civilization and the gay capital of Asia, known for its exciting night markets, fine beaches, and beautiful mountains. North of China, Mongolia is a vast country with nomadic cultures and beautiful landscapes.

Japan is one of the most modern countries in the world and has made highly unique creative contributions to the world, like Hello Kitty, Pokemon, and Nintendo. North Korea, though open to tourists, is a secluded totalitarian country with a way of life that largely hidden from outsiders. South Korea is North Korea’s democratic and capitalistic counterpart, with a popular culture that has swept across most of Asia through film, television, music, and food.

The Middle East is a region that was demarcated by British colonialists in the 19th century. The area is highly ethnically mixed, with Arabs, Jews, Persians and Turks making up the largest groups. The region includes the countries of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordon, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the Palestinian Territories.
Though certain areas are marked by high levels of conflict or repressive rule - Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Palestine - the Middle East is still a highly popular travel destination.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are economic powerhouses due to their vast reserves of oil. The United Arab Emirates is also a highly popular shopping destination and contains the only shopping mall in which one can go skiing.
Turkey straddles the cusp of the East and the West, making it a fascinating destination with culturally diverse practices. However, one thing most of the population has in common is their adherence to Islam.

The Caucasus includes the countries of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey. This area straddles the boundary between East and West, though it is generally viewed as part of modern Europe. The area is well known for beautiful alpine landscapes, including Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain peak in Europe. The area is an emerging tourist destination, but though areas like Chechnya are considered too dangerous to visit.

South Asia includes the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Tibet, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. These countries are contained between the Himalayan mountain range, the Ganga and Indus river valleys, and the Indian Ocean.
Bhutan is a beautiful, high traditional country but difficult to enter to the visa restrictions meant to protect the country’s traditional cultural practices. Nepal, home to Mount Everest, is a popular adventure destination. The Maldives have beautiful beaches, though they are increasingly at risk due to rising ocean levels.

India is home to over a billion people, centuries of history, delicious food, rich cultural traditions, and beautiful architectural destinations like the Taj Mahal. A little off the beaten path, Bangladesh is a friendly Islamic country, though relatively impoverished compared to its neighbor, the rapidly growing India. Sri Lanka is an island country south of India with a tropical climate, a rich cultural history, popular beach resorts, and several national parks.

Pakistan lies within the overlap of Central Asia, East Asia, and South Asia. Though certain areas are off limited to foreigners or have limited infrastructure, Pakistan does drawn in travelers interested in the ancient ruins of Moenjodaro, historical shrines and mosques, or the trekking opportunities offered by the mountains of Gilgit-Balitstan.

Southeast Asia includes the countries of Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Brunei is a small, but rich island country with an oil-based economy. East Timor is a poor nation with abundant natural resources that has experienced heavy conflict and might not always be safe to visit.

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago, known for its Komodo gardens, tropical forests, and extensive beaches, though infrastructure remains poor. Malaysia is a culturally diverse country with many different types of landscapes ranging from the skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur to the jungles of Borneo. Singapore, the most economically prosperous country in Southeast Asia, is a popular business destination. The city is affluent, modern, and known for its restaurants, shopping, and vibrant night life.
The Philippines is an island country with heavy Spanish influence, lovely colonial period architecture, and beautiful tropical beaches.

Thailand is known for its adventure destinations in the north, and beautiful beaches and wild parties in the south. Laos is a popular backpacker destination with mountains and heritage sites. Neighboring Vietnam is also a popular backpacker destination offering beautiful landscapes and delicious food. Cambodia is still in economic recovery following decades of conflict, but is currently safe to travel to. The ruins of the ancient city of Angkor and the beaches of Sihanoukville are popular Cambodian destinations.

Though Myanmar has recently begun opening up to tourism after decades of military dictatorship and conflict, ethnic violence has once again arisen in this country, making it unsafe for travel.