Culture & History holidays
As the home of the world’s oldest continuous civilisation, Asia’s culture and history is deep, rich, and infinitely interconnected.
So, where to begin? It all depends on how you like your history. You could do it Indiana Jones-style, weaving through vine-strangled temple complexes in Cambodia’s ancient Angkor Wat temple complex at dawn – or if you’re interested in more modern history, you could learn about the darker moments in Southeast Asia’s recent past with a visit to the Bridge on the River Kwai. Looking for a more multisensory cultural experience? Then why not see how Vietnam really says “good morning” with a coffee tour of Saigon?
In a nutshell: if you're looking for an Asian holiday rich in culture, look no further. Here are our best Asian culture and history itineraries, top cultural destinations and the best cultural tours and excursions, all tried and tested by our country experts.
What does it mean to dress “respectfully” at a temple?
Most temples in Asia, regardless of denomination, require visitors to dress “respectfully” — which essentially just means “cover up”! The level of strictness differs, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure that you cover everything from your shoulders to your knees, usually with something more substantial than a scarf or wrap. This goes for men as well as women, so guys — make sure your shorts are long enough to cover your knees. You’ll be expected to take your shoes off to go inside, too.
I’m from the USA. Will I feel welcome in Vietnam?
Although the war is definitely not forgotten, Americans shouldn’t feel any anxiety or trepidation at all about being in Vietnam. Our US clients and team members have never felt anything but welcome in Vietnam, and you’ll be treated just the same as any other overseas visitor. Indeed, most Vietnamese people working in the tourism industry today are too young to remember the war, so it’s unlikely to be top of mind in most situations.
What’s it like to travel during a religious or cultural festival?
It depends on the festival! National, multi-day festivals such as Tet (Vietnamese New Year) or Ramadan (in Malaysia & Borneo) will mean a more subdued travel experience, as many restaurants, shops and attractions close for several days. It also means busier airports and public transport, as locals travel home to spend time with their families.
Conversely, many festivals are exciting and memorable to be a part of, and are short enough that they won’t disrupt your entire trip. For instance, new year in many Southeast Asian countries means street parties, traditional music and dance, and country-wide water fights. Meanwhile, smaller festivals such as Hoi An lantern festival or Inle Lake’s Phaung Daw Oo Festival an also be a great taste of local traditions — including food, costume and craft. Festivals of all shapes and sizes take place across Asia in every month of the year. Speak to our team to find out more.
I’d like to get a feel for everyday local life, but how do I make sure my visit supports rather than exploits the local community?
All too often, cultural tourism can feel exploitative — but done properly, it can be a huge benefit to local communities.
If you’re visiting a struggling community and want to make a donation to support them, don’t be tempted to give money or gifts directly — speak to an NGO to find the right way to contribute. Similarly, don’t expect to be able to visit places like schools, orphanages, private homes, or anywhere that would interrupt daily life. Instead, visit with a guide who’ll show you to venues who’ve agreed to participate, such as cottage workshops or show-houses. That way, you can be sure that your visit is welcome.
We only work with community-based tourism projects that involve and empower local people, providing authentic cultural insight for the visitor in exchange for fair compensation for the host. Whether it’s a traditional cookery class, a rural homestay, or a fishing and farming experience, the goal is for everyone to come away richer for the experience.