Royal and Revered: Asia’s Enduring Dynasties and How to Experience Them

23 May 2024

Asia is rich with stories about the rise and fall of great dynasties. And many of these lineages still hold sway in their respective nations. Here are some of the most significant remaining monarchies in the region.

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Asia is rich with stories about the rise and fall of great dynasties. And many of these lineages still hold sway in their respective nations. Here are some of the most significant remaining monarchies in the region.



Twin Gold Chedi, the Grand Palace

The Monarchy plays a hugely significant role in Thai society. Rulers have guided constituent parts of the country through peaceful and troubled times for many centuries. And the institution—now steered by King Rama X following the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej — remains revered. Nowhere is Thailand's more recent royal history more on view than in Bangkok. The city's palaces, royally-significant museums and attractions pay homage to the beloved monarchy. You should not leave the city without visiting important regal landmarks like the Grand Palace and Dusit Palace. Highlights for visitors at the Grand Palace include the triple-winged Chakri Mahaprasat (Grand Palace Hall) with its distinctive Thailand-meets-Europe architectural style. Highlights of Dusit Palace include the Vimanmek Teak Mansion, said to be the world's largest golden-teak building. The nearby Ancient Cloth Museum, meanwhile, presents a beautiful collection of traditional silks and cotton that make up the royal cloth collection.  Also in the Dusit area, the Kingdom of the Arts—or Silp Pandin in Thai—is filled with a dazzling collection of the Kingdom’s treasures.

Suggested Itinerary: Classic Thailand


The Royal Palace

Phnom Penh only became the royal seat of power in the mid-19th century when King Norodom relocated from the former capital of Oudong and ordered the construction of the Royal Palace Complex. The ascent of King Norodom Sihanouk to the throne and the collapse of colonial power, however, heralded a new era of uncertainty. Sihanouk helped lead his country to independence but was deposed by a US-backed coup during the Vietnam War in which Cambodia was inexorably embroiled. During the murderous Khmer Rouge era he was reinstated as a convenient figurehead and kept under house arrest in the palace. These days Sihanouk's eldest son, Norodom Sihamoni, occupies the throne. Yet while Phnom Penh’s royal heritage may be largely symbolic, the presence of the palace provides a stabilizing focus for pride. Highlights of the vast compound of golden-spired temples and grandiose pavilions include its great throne hall. Visit at sunset when the sinking sun imbues the complex with an ethereal, almost magical russet glow.

Suggested Itinerary: Classic Cambodia


Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

The oldest independent state in the Arab world, Oman has been blessed with a stable lineage of monarchs, the latest of whom is Sultan Haitham bin Tariq. Its rich royal heritage can be experienced at various locations in Muscat, the capital. Named after the current monarch’s much-loved predecessor, The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, a 300,000-tonne Indian Sandstone building, is a marvel of Arabian architecture and modern construction technique encompassing a range of stunning elements from carved wooden doors to inlaid marble work, a massive woven carpet, crystal chandeliers and stained glass. Other highlights of the city include the Bait Al Zubair Museum and cultural foundation displays an impressive private collection of regional artefacts, with exhibits including antique jewelry and weaponry, as well as early Muscat photographs and prints. The nearby national museum lends an exhaustive overview of Oman’s cultural heritage too, showcasing crafts and applied arts, as well as musical instruments and maritime traditions.

Suggested Itinerary: Classic Oman


The Imperial Palace

Japan's royal heritage is steeped in tradition, tracing back over 2,000 years. The Imperial Family, known as the Yamato Dynasty, holds a revered position in Japanese society, embodying the nation's cultural and historical legacy. The Imperial Palace in Tokyo serves as the primary residence of the Emperor and Empress, surrounded by lush gardens and historic structures. While the inner grounds are not open to the public, visitors can explore the East Gardens, which offer glimpses of the palace's grandeur and tranquility. Guided tours provide insights into Japan's imperial history, architecture, and the symbolic significance of the palace. Additionally, attending public events such as the Emperor's birthday celebration or the New Year's Greeting provides opportunities to witness royal customs and protocols firsthand.

Suggested Itinerary: Classic Japan


Punakha Dzong

Bhutan's royal heritage is deeply interwoven with its cultural fabric, spanning centuries of dynastic rule. The Wangchuck Dynasty, established in 1907, holds a revered position as the guardians of Bhutan's unique identity and traditions. To experience Bhutan's royal heritage firsthand, visitors can immerse themselves in the Kingdom's vibrant festivals, such as the annual Tshechu celebrations, where traditional dances, religious rituals, and vibrant costumes showcase the nation's rich cultural tapestry. Exploring historic sites like the Punakha Dzong, once the seat of government and a venue for royal ceremonies, offers insights into Bhutan's royal history and architectural splendor.

Suggested Itinerary: Classic Bhutan




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