Travelling is not just a trip when it can become part of your education. Asia is a continent filled with mystery, particularly for Westerners. But I’ve found myself embracing the customs and cultural settings as often as I can.
There are 48 countries in Asia, although the UN only counts 44. For this blog, we’ll list the 48 countries by population:
|28||United Arab Emirates||9,541,615|
|36||State of Palestine||5,052,776|
This does not count Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macao. Of these, Taiwan maintains its independence from China; China doesn’t agree. China maintains that everyone should regard Taiwan as part of China, but not all countries accept this. I still think it’s important to list the following since they are terrific places to see in Asia in addition to the 48 countries already listed.
|Rank||Territory||Population (2018)||Dependency of|
If they are ranked by size they are:
|Rank||Country||Area (square miles)|
|33||United Arab Emirates||32,278|
|44||State of Palestine||2,263|
Asia and Europe were initially joined millions of years ago. It is believed that humans were able to cross between the now separate continents via a land mass. Asia developed many of the world’s earliest civilizations, including Mesopotamian, Indian and Chinese civilizations.
Approximately 60,000 years ago people crossed from southeast Asia to Borneo, The Philippines, New Guinea and Australia. Approximately 5000 BC, the wheel and plow were invented. Agricultural farming and fishing were the primary sources of food. The first Chinese dynasty, Xia, started in 2200 BC. The ancient kingdom of Babylon was founded in 1867 BC.
The great Persian Empire began in 600 BC. Less than 300 years later, Alexander the Great arrived from Greece. The great Silk Road, from Asia to the Middle East, began in 200 BC and active trading continued. Buddhism and Christianity began as active religions about this time.
The Arab Empire began in the seventh century and its influence extended into Asia. Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire ruled most or all of Asia during the 13th and 14th centuries. The Ottoman Empire followed at the end of the 14th century. Because of these empires, China built the Great Wall in 1368.
The Mughal Empire was prominent in the 16th century. But the Chinese Empire became the largest in the world in 1600. China’s population was more than 300 million in the first part of the 19th century.
World wars dominated first half of the 20th century, with rebuilding being the primary focus of the latter half of the century. Certainly China and India are the largest population centers, and China is the largest land mass of any Asian country.
Why You Should Go
One of the first things I learned about Asia is that although I could speak several European languages and get by, in many Asian countries I couldn’t even read the characters, let alone speak the language. It’s a bit daunting, but it is changing as English becomes more prevalent.
For example, I’ve worked in Japan many times, and 30 years ago it was difficult to hear or read English in Tokyo. Now it is commonplace, and Tokyo is hosting the Olympic Games in 2020. They will be rolling out the red carpet to welcome visitors from all nations.
It might feel uncomfortable for a Westerner when first visiting Asia. But that can also turn into intense and rewarding cultural immersion. I frequently had people helping me in the Tokyo subway buying a ticket. They were practicing their English, and I was getting to talk to locals. Of course, I also was practicing saying thank you in Japanese! I was working and living in their culture, so adapting to it wasn’t hard. It just took a bit of time and knowledge.
Madeline and I have been to many countries in Asia and been impressed by them all. As ancient civilizations go, Asia certainly has a lot of history, and you can learn from every culture, country or people.
We want to go back, and we urge you to give it a try if you haven’t ventured to Asia yet. If you have, try another country and see what you think.