20 November 2018

4 Of The Best Capital Cities In Asia

Be  prepared for the massive culture shock

Sri Lanka

Asia is one of the most diverse and exciting places in the world. There is so much to discover out there but for newcomers, it can be quite daunting. The cultures you find in Asia are so different to anything you’ll find closer to home and that culture shock puts some people off. People tend to have a certain picture of Asia in their mind and it tends to be tied into stereotypes about backpacking. They often think that a trip to Asia means trekking around vast countrysides and staying in bare bones hostels or huts in the middle of nowhere. If you’re used to a different type of travel and you usually stay in luxury hotels, that might put you off. But the thing is, that’s only one of the many different experiences that you could have in Asia and there are plenty of places that are just as developed as other parts of the world. If you’re a bit unsure of Asia and you don’t know whether it’s for you, you’re better off starting in the capital cities. It’s the ideal way to experience the wide range of cultures in Asia without straying too far outside your comfort zone. There are so many great capital cities in Asia, these are some of the best ones for first time visitors. 

Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sri Lanka
One of the best things about visiting the capital city of a country is that you get a cross section of everything the country has to offer. That’s definitely true of Colombo, the capital

city of Sri Lanka. This beautiful port city has a very long colonial history which means that there is a big mix of cultural heritage there. You’ll be able to experience the cultures and religions of a lot of different groups from around Asia and beyond. It’s a city of contrasts where you’ll find luxury mansions and hotels, and
fine dining restaurants alongside packed out slums in the poorer areas of the city. But if you’ve got a good travel budget, you can have a great luxury travel experience in Colombo.

The city has a thriving art scene so there are plenty of great galleries displaying traditional Asian art dating back to the 4th century as well as plenty of contemporary stuff. The best place for food is probably the Mt Lavinia beach region. This laid back suburb of Colombo is packed with some amazing restaurants serving local seafood. If you’re in the mood for some retail therapy, there are plenty of great shopping districts in the city where you’ll find some of the most popular high end brands in the world.

As well as all of that modern stuff, you’ll be able to get a taste of the traditional Sri Lankan heritage in the capital city. The Gangarama Vihara is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. This amazing temple is decorating with impressive brass and stone carvings and houses a great museum where you can learn about the history of Buddhism.

If you’re a nature lover, you should absolutely visit the zoological gardens in Colombo where you can see all manner of interesting wildlife including birds and marine life in their natural habitat.

While you’re in Sri Lanka, you should definitely make sure to visit the spice gardens. You’ll have to take a tour out of the city to get there but it’s a great day trip that gives you a chance to experience the more rural areas of the country and learn about a lot of the ingredients that you cook with at home. Never buy things there! 

Jakarta, Indonesia
The capital of Indonesia, on the coast of the beautiful island of Java, is another great melting pot of cultures. It’s ideal for first time visitors to Asia because there are people from China, Malaysia, India, and Europe living there and you can experience an exciting blend of all of those cultures. Jakarta has been through a lot of rapid development over the last few decades which is a good and a bad thing. It’s good in some sense because it means that there are a lot of great new properties where travelers can stay during their visit (Check out the rumah kontrakan site to see what is on offer). The downside to that expansion is that there are a lot of high rise buildings and busy roads which some people don’t like.

However, the rich cultural heritage that makes Jakarta such a great place is still there. The food is one of the best things about Jakarta because you have such a blend of cultures and culinary styles. The Istiqlal Mosque is an absolute must as well. It’s the largest mosque in all of Southeast Asia and an impressive sight to behold.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong is its own independent territory within China and it’s very different from the rest of the country. It’s a former British colony so western culture is very prominent there. China itself is a very different country and it may be overwhelming for travelers that haven’t visited Asia before. That’s why Hong Kong is such a good introduction to the region. When people think of Hong Kong, they usually picture a thriving metropolis filled with business people from around the globe. That is true but that’s only a small part of what Hong Kong has to offer. Most people don’t realize that over 70 percent of Hong Kong is filled with mountainous countryside and amazing parks. 

Once you get outside of the city you’ll find lots of traditional villages and hiking trails around remote islands. It’s ideal for first time visitors because you can stay in the familiar westernized city area and venture outside into the more rural areas if you feel comfortable. The city is in love with food so you’ll never be short of amazing places to eat. There are some great Cantonese and Japanese restaurants if you want to sample traditional Asian cuisine but if you want something more contemporary, there are plenty of top chefs pushing the boundaries of food in Hong Kong.

The culture in Hong Kong is just as diverse as the food. One day you could find yourself in a traditional bamboo theatre listening to a Chinese opera or taking part in a tai chi lesson. The very next day you might end up in a contemporary art gallery showcasing the best in Chinese artists.

Pyongyang, North Korea
People might think that this is an odd entry to have on the list because North Korea isn’t top of anybody’s list of places that they want to visit. But if you want a unique travel experience, you’ll definitely find it here. It’s a very different travel experience to any other you’ve had before because it’s incredibly restrictive. You can only visit the capital city and you’ll be escorted by a guide wherever you go, you won’t be able to go off on your own anywhere. You’ll get a tour of all of the local monuments and visit some local restaurants. The hotels that you will stay at have a lot of amenities because you’ll need to stay there in the evenings. A lot of people that go to Pyongyang will tell you that it isn’t a relaxing trip but it’s an incredibly unique experience that gives you some small insight into the most secretive country in the world. 

These are all great cities to visit if you’re intrigued by Asia but you’re not sure whether you’re prepared for the massive culture shock that you’ll get in the more rural areas. 

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