All in Culture

Vassavasa – Thailand's Annual ‘Rains Retreat’ and Candle Festivals

Thailand has many Buddhist festivals throughout the year, but some of the most interesting for visitors to the country to experience are the colourful candle festivals held at the start of the annual rains retreat. The parades are held on both city streets and waterways and feature the transportation of candles to the temples ranging from individual offerings in floral displays up to massive wax carvings on motorised floats that take up to a year to make.

Buying Art in Asia as Trip Souvenirs

Paintings make great souvenirs to bring home from a trip to Asia. They not only serve as a reminder of places that you’ve visited, but will look great on the walls of your home. Original paintings may appreciate in value and are a better buy than reproductions. Our guide to buying art in Asia tells you where the best places are to buy original paintings, how to transport your paintings home, and where to see the best art if you aren’t in the mood to buy yet.

Nepal’s Durbar Squares – Glimpses into History and Heritage

The three historic Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley offer visitors a journey into the heart of Nepal’s heritage. They contain many of country’s finest temples, both Hindu and Buddhist, along with centuries-old royal palaces. Despite being badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake, the squares remain full of atmosphere, and of buildings that retain the power to dazzle any visitor.

Echoes of Asia in the Notre Dame Fire

The fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on 15 April 2019 has revived memories of how accidents and natural disasters have devastated sacred buildings in other countries. We take a look at similar tragedies in Asian countries, and how the authorities have handled them.

Embracing the Changing Face of Kathmandu

Kathmandu’s main tourist area is the bustling district of Thamel. It’s a busy place, full of hotels, restaurants and shops, and its narrow alleys are crowded with visitors. But this wasn’t always so. When backpackers began discovering Kathmandu in the 1960s and 1970s, most stayed in an area further south, around the historic Durbar Square. It’s one of the many ways Kathmandu has changed over the years – and some of the changes have been dramatic.

Exploring Malacca’s Religious Heritage

Malacca’s long history as a colonial trading port has shaped it indelibly as a city. More than 450 years of rule by the Portuguese, Dutch and British are still reflected today in its ethnic mix, its architecture and its blend of cultures. This is true of its religious heritage too. It has some of the oldest churches, temples and mosques in Malaysia, most of them still functioning. Here’s a look at some of the finest.

Victoria Terminus: Mumbai’s Grand Old Railway Station

Mumbai’s Victoria Terminus is one of Asia’s great railway stations. The 130-year-old building, now called the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, is a creation of British rule that has become a treasured symbol of modern-day Mumbai. It handles at least 3 million passengers a day, has featured in many Bollywood films and has even come under terrorist attack. It has a lot to offer any visitor interested in India’s colonial heritage.

The Asian Bullock Cart, Still Rolling Along

The humble bullock cart has been an important means of transport in Asia since ancient times. It has survived into the modern age and continues to be used in many parts of the continent despite fierce competition from tractors and other motorised transport. The bullock cart represents a side of Asia where tradition holds sway even in the 21st century.

Asia’s Top Festivals: A Guide to 6 of the Best

When you’re travelling in Asia, you’ll probably want to see some of its famous festivals. Each country has its own, religious or cultural, traditional or modern. Some of the biggest festivals, especially religious ones, reach beyond national borders and are celebrated by huge numbers of people across the continent. Here’s a concise guide to six of Asia’s top international festivals. 

Hachiko -- Japan’s Favourite Dog

The story of Hachiko, the dog who waited at a Tokyo railway station for almost a decade for the arrival of his deceased master, is well known in Japan. A memorial to Hachiko outside the busy Shibuya Station is a testament to how Japanese people value loyalty and perseverance.

The Asian Elephant: Symbol of a Continent

The Asian elephant still lives in the wild in at least 13 countries. But it’s facing ever-growing competition for land from humans and its numbers are declining. Many others live in captivity and work in the logging industry, at temples and in the tourism business. Travellers who want to see these gentle giants at close hand have several options.  

Betel Nut: An Asian Tradition

Travellers in Asia may be surprised to discover how widespread the practice of chewing betel nut is. It’s common in many regions, from South Asia to Indochina and beyond. Visitors may be unaware that betel nut isn’t just a chewy stimulant. It has a social and cultural history dating back centuries and is even a symbol of love and marriage.