Educational Holiday? Discover The European Past Of Asia
Everybody knows that friend who is not afraid of discovering the world of their own, one backpacking holiday at a time, sleeping in hostels and walking from town to town until they’ve seen and spent it all. Then they come back, the head full of mesmerising memories that make the rest of us dream. They’ve eaten street food in the smallest towns of India. They have learnt the way to a traditional couscous in the backstreets of Le Kef. Now they have new friends in Peru. They’re even planning to climb up the Himalaya next year and have decided to work with a personal coach to help them train for it. In short, you all know an Indiana Jones who isn’t afraid to explore the world and, if you’re completely honest about it, you’re a tiny weeny bit jealous of their fearless sense of adventure. As much as you’d love to see the world through their eyes, you might not feel safe or comfortable backpacking the way they do. Here’s the thing about discovering the world and exploring cultural customs all over the planet: You don’t need a backpack to do it. In fact, even if you don’t feel like pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to dive into a new culture, you can maybe see new things within the comfort of a known environment. If you belong to that category of people who would love to see the world but can’t help but remain a little anxious about misunderstanding or not fitting in a foreign environment, you might want to consider planning your next holiday in Asia. Why Asia? you ask. The answer is simple. The Far East, as it used to be called, is famous for its Buddhist beliefs and the respectful way people interact with each other and the wildlife. However, most Asian countries have a European chapter in their history, which can not only be interesting for you to see but also makes it easier for you to approach a culture that once was part of yours.
Dive into British history in Hong Kong
You don’t need to start with a completely foreign-feeling destination. You can start with a place that still feels close to home, Hong Kong, which left the British sovereignty and returned to China in 1997. Only 20 years ago, Hong Kong was still British, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost in translation. It’s most likely that the local population will still speak English. So, instead of thinking of phrasebook, spend some time planning your cultural immersion holiday. For a start, if it’s your first long-distance flight, you’ll need to find a time that suits your needs, as most flights to get you there will last up to 16 hours, including a stopover in between. In other words, as most flights to Asia follow the same scheduling rule, you want to plan at least two weeks so that you don’t mind losing a day or two during the trip. Due to its history, Hong Kong has maintained a strongly European mindset, so you’ll be pleased to discover the old historical capital of the British colony. You can take a peek at the now-closed Victorian prison on the Old Bailey Street or at the Old Supreme Court that remains an iconic landmark. And if you fancy a cuppa, head to the Flagstaff House, built in 1846, that host the Museum of Tea Ware. At times, you’ll feel like walking in Central London!
Stunning Dutch buildings in Indonesia
From the 1700s until 1945, Indonesia was under Dutch influence. Even though over 70 years have passed, there is still a lot of cultural heritage left behind, whether in the form of language or buildings. In fact, if you want to find out more about the Dutch heritage, you might want to head to the exhibition runs with the support of the cultural centre Erasmus Huis by Car Passchier, a prominent Dutch architect. You will find the exhibition in Gedung Tjipta Niaga, in the old town area of Jakarta and it’s completely free. The architect aims to present a clear story based on photos and historical archives of the Dutch influence in Indonesian buildings. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the country when you hear the story of the one thousand doors building, Lawang Sewu, the headquarters of the Dutch railway company built in Central Java. It is said to be haunted, and some might even tell you about the ghosts they’ve seen! Until now it’s impossible to know whether these ghosts are former Dutch officers or natives from a previous time. But who knows? Maybe you can get to ask them – although you might need a phrasebook in Dutch, as it’s unlikely these ghosts will speak English. Fancy something less paranormal? Head to the Museum Fatahillah in Jakarta’s city centre, which was finished in 1712 to imitate the Dom Palace in Amsterdam. You might even decide that you want to stay in this multicultural environment after all! If this is the case, and if you’re considering a holiday home, RumahDijual is a good address to start consulting prices and location. Besides, the weather in Jakarta is optimal for a sunny Christmas, so it’s definitely a nice place to spend the winter months!
Embrace your taste for French cuisine in Vietnam
If you have a sweet tooth for French patisseries and are wondering what the best way to satisfy is when there’s no Patisserie Valerie around, you should consider a trip to Vietnam. In Asia, Vietnam has been under French influence for over 80 years, and while the entire culture has evolved to carry the marks of French words, buildings and customs, nothing has had quite the same phenomenal impact on the country as French cuisine. You will find subtle aesthetic influence in the way Vietnamese chefs present their food, using natural colours that are close to what you would expect to find in a French restaurant, from green herbs to red tomatoes. But more importantly, you will rapidly come across known flavours, such as the iconic baguette. Although Vietnam relies on rice flour, the infamous bread remains easily recognisable. Other famous dishes, such as paté sô, or phonetically pâté chaud, a warm pastry from Brittany, have made their way to Vietnam too and live there under a Vietnamese name.
The Spanish history of Philippines
The Philippines is a conglomeration of several thousands of islands – over 7,000 islands if you really want to know. While you may not be aware of all their names, the fact is, you have probably come across pictures of this paradise on earth, showing a sea and fantastic limestone backdrop marking an elegant line in the landscape. What you may not know, though, is that the history of the Philippines is extremely rich, with several sites that can take you right to its colonial past. Paco Manila, for instance, is an open-air amphitheatre and garden that often serves as the venue for weddings, musicals and live shows. But did you know that it was primarily designed as a graveyard for wealthy Spanish colonial families in the 17th Century? If you want a total immersion into the Spanish history, pay a visit to Vigan the only town in the Philippines that is a preserved UNESCO world heritage site on the islands. You may even wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up in the old centre of Madrid!
Hurry up to Cambodia before the last historic buildings are gone
If you’ve been binge-watching the Tomb Raider films, you’ve probably noticed the iconic temple with the entwined tree roots where Lara Croft discovers a hint for her quest. It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember the plot of the film. You surely remember the temple. As it happens, it’s a real place in Cambodia, Asia, and it’s been left by the local authorities in the conditions it has been found, aka with the tree roots and the ruined stones. But what you might not know about Cambodia is that it was under French influence too. Obviously, the French didn’t build the old Buddhist temple. But they built several functional buildings that are rapidly disappearing in favour of dernier cri architecture. Phnom Penh administration is reviewing the heritage classification of its buildings, noting that over 400 historical buildings have been remodelled into restaurants and nightclubs. You can even find a food chain sat in an old colonial house! In conclusion: Plan a visit to Cambodia now before fast food chains claim further buildings!
The Black and White houses of Singapore
Singapore’s British past has left the place filled with iconic colonial houses, the Black and White houses. Strategically built to combat the tropical weather, the houses are elevated off the ground with pillars and arches and laid with tiles. You can still visit some that have now become offices or restaurants. But did you know that you could also buy a Black and White home as a residential building?
So between British, French, Dutch and Spanish influences, which one takes you fancy? You’ll love the combination of Asia culture with the occasional typical colonial building and custom from the past.