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Tourists travel from around the world to spend days exploring the temples of Angkor Wat. But these three local boys quickly pedal past the back entrance (always less crowded in the mornings) without a second glance. I guess even Angkor Wat can lose its awe when it's part of your daily commute.
Balinese culture has its roots in the Majapahit Kingdoms of Java, which date back to the 8th century, so it stands to reason, Jamu, Java’s traditional healthy and beauty system, has blossomed on Indonesia’s last remaining Hindu island. Just as the point of Balinese spiritual life is to cultivate harmony by balancing light and dark energy, Jamu balances hot and cold elements within through a regiment of tonics made from indigenous plants. Some tonics induce sweat, others relieve stomach problems, and kunyit or turmeric is a popular daily tonic used by millions to detoxify the blood and stimulate healthy circulation. Even in today’s modernizing Bali, this ancient art thrives as it’s often more affordable for folks to consult with a Jamu healer than a medical doctor. And Jamu tonics are available from herbalists and in some cafe's throughout Ubud, the island’s cultural heart. (photo by Dinuraj K: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kdinuraj/)
The palace is an attraction in itself, but if you’re simply looking for a peaceful place to stroll, the area around Gyeongbokgung Palace is it. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Seoul, the palace grounds sit on 101 acres of serenely landscaped land, backed by the jagged rocky peaks of the Amisan mountains. Small pavilions, flower gardens, statues, ponds and streams prevail in this natural space, and the crowds of tourists and children make for great people watching as you meander.
Istanbul's Grand Bazaar might have become a tourist mecca, but given that it's the world's oldest shopping mall, it's still around for a reason. Locals still work, shop, and play here, and if you're there in the off-season, as we were, you hopefully will get a more authentic grasp of the way this bustling hub of old-world business used to be. I loved watching the employees rush around the huge place with the ubiquitous Turkish apple tea to shop owners and customers in their gorgeous, yet utilitarian, tea caddies. Between the knick-knacks, it's still full of beautiful spices, textiles, and other authentic Turkish goods. Though I couldn't rock a pair of these back in the states, I thought this was such a lovely vignette of this once-traditional Turkish footwear!
The temperature was dropping quickly as we wove our motorbike up the windy mountain in the foothills of the Himalayas. Despite the threat of impending rain we decided to continue our journey north from Wat Suthep in the mountains around Chiang Mai. We wanted to explore some of the Hmong villages said to exist further up the road. Shivering under our rain ponchos, we rode on and on taking in the beautiful views below and the surrounding forests. After about 45 minutes, we finally rounded a bend, and saw small houses along the road. The rain had officially started, so there wasn’t much activity around. But then a glorious, yellow sign caught our attention – it read simply “Coffee.” My shivering bones leaped with excitement as we wondered down the pathway toward promising warmth. As the bushes and trees cleared, we found ourselves standing on a beautiful wooden deck overlooking acres of coffee plants reaching far down into a valley. There were tables and benches on which to sit and a small “counter” with coffee making utensils strewn about. A small women with a big smile came from behind a nearby house and motioned for us to sit down. We did, and she began to prepare cups of fresh, smoldering coffee directly from these grounds. I don’t know if it was the cold, the gorgeous view, or the fact that I’d never had coffee this fresh in my life –but that hot cup on top of the world is something I’ll never forget!
Last winter, when our Egypt trip was re-routed to Istanbul due to the political climate in Cairo, we decided to take a day trip down to Ephesus. After a week of early mornings and late nights exploring Eastern Europe, we took the opportunity to rest up a bit, so we slept the entire bus ride from the Izmir airport to Selçuk. When the driver literally shook us awake, we stumbled off the bus bleary-eyed and disoriented. We decided to just start walking and hope that we were headed in the right direction of the Ephesus archeological site. After about 20 minutes, the sidewalk ended. A few minutes after that, we knew we were lost. We started to get irritated, but then we looked around us and saw all the beautiful scenery that most tourists only see whiz past them from a tour bus window. We suddenly went from "tourists" to "travelers." We were walking (walking a lot) in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, Cleopatra, Mary, emperors, Alexander the Great, and the people who made up some of the greatest civilizations in our world's history. There were women tending the fields and livestock roaming the pastures all around us. If not for the paved road and the much-needed can of Coke in my hands, it felt like we could have been walking along this not-so-beaten path at any point over the last two millenniums. (Catch! Lost entry!)
hagia sofia is a extremly intresting place like anything in europe the build something and whoever is ruling they turn this into a church, a wepon depot, a mosque, etc !! take the walking tour or a guide tour they will explain you things that you wont know on your own
I really wanted to ride an elephant. Decades ago while reading a travel magazine I was mesmerized by a close-up picture of smiling tourists riding an elephant up to the Amber Fort. That was what I wanted to do, ride on top of an elephant. Walking alongside the lake below the Amber Fort in Jaipur, India were possibly the same elephants wearing regal crimson blankets and carrying riders to the fort. After visiting the fort we drove by a building where the rides were advertised. Asking the driver to stop, he pulled in to an adjacent side street, we climbed out of the car and waited outside for an approaching elephant. Its face and trunk were painted in pinks, yellows and oranges. My pulse quickened. A chance to ride an elephant! As it neared, the ground, surprisingly, did not shake and we could hear the riders’ voices. Then we noticed that the paint colors were faded and I sensed sadness in the spirit of this elephant and lifelessness in its eyes. It looked very unhappy with the family of five sitting on its back in the hot, dry midday sun. Albert didn’t want me to ride these elephants because they looked abused, but I wanted to be sure. I asked the mahout where the elephants were housed. He pointed down the same dirt street we were on to a large entrance. I took my camera and entered into a cavernous building that was two stories high, where I found six adult elephants and one baby tethered to the cement floor by short chains.
55 Luftballoons took off before the sun came up over the stunning landscape of Cappadocia Turkey. The landscape was beautiful to see from above, however I think I was more in awe of a sky full of balloons which felt like such a unique experience.
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Istanbul's famous Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest markets in the world. It is absolutely dizzying, even to the most dedicated shopper. I stumbled into a family-run carpet store, which was a welcome reprieve from the hustle going on in the main hall. They showed me scores of antique and contemporary carpets and kilims before I finally decided I was just there to browse, not buy—a choice I now regret. Know your price before you go, drink some mint tea, and don't be shy about taking your time and negotiating on price.
This stall was selling moist chocolate cake. When we ordered some, the lady doused our cake with a thick chocolate sauce. Needless to say, it was sinfully scrumptious!
Kiyomizu-dera Temple in the Eastern part of Kyoto is one of the most popular temples in Japan. During the autumn when the maple leaves are changing color and the evening light festivals take place, it is spectacular. The temple is Buddhist and was founded in 778 on the side of the Otowa Mountain. The Otowa Waterfall contributes to the temple's name as Kiyomizu-dera literally means “Pure Water Temple.” At the base of the mountain where the waterfall is located, the water descends into three streams. There is a shrine where visitors can drink from each stream. The waters are said to have a different benefit: longevity, success at school and a fortunate love life. Drinking from all three is considered greedy, so it is up to the visitor to select carefully! The temple is part of a large park with plenty of space to enjoy the various temples, shrines and halls. There is a teahouse and cafe for refreshment as well.
We weren't quite lucky to see the snowcapped covered mountains in the lovely lakeside village of Pokhara since we visited during monsoon season. But it was a perfect way to start our introduction to the area and cross over to the trail leading up to the Peace Pagoda. Pay a few ruppees, pack a picnic lunch and guide yourself around the serene Lake Phewa.
The ancient history preserved in the architecture of Bagan provides a unique insight into some of the country's modern political struggles. Throughout Burmese history, religion and rulers have been inextricably linked. The temples of Bagan were built as both religious and political seat for the conquering Buddhist kings who built one of the largest empires in Asian history. Kings ruled via their piety, and it was important to build a partnership with the ecclesiastic order. Now the political and religious orders are in strife. The current regime's claims towards religious validity are at odds with their actions. At Bagan, you can see the truth that the ancient Burmese builders tried to hide from: No regime lasts forever; the world goes on without us.
Bright and early, just before the sun comes up over Mount Bromo, Mount Semeru and Mount Batok, with ample rolling fog and an epic eruption for good measure. We climbed Mount Penanjakan in our Toyota 4x4 pre-dawn in the headlights of some 1,200 other vehicles. Once at the viewpoint my travel partner and I decided against the same shooting vantage as everyone else - all 3,000 tourists, gah - and climbed down the hill for a better look (and a few square feet to dig in our tripods). As soon as the sun started to shine and illuminate the volcanoes in the distance, all the nuisance and discomfort of the day, all the pain and suffering associated with actually making the trip to Bromo, it vanished. We spent the next hour shooting one of the most incredible sunrises I have ever witnessed. Getting here is a bit of a package-tour nightmare, but so very much worth it in the end.
The structure was originally built as a Christian church and was converted to a mosque in the 15th century. This photo was taken for the upstairs gallery where one can truly appreciate the spacious interior and grand domed ceilings.
This is where to go. You will need to get yourself to Krabi, Au Naug or Phuket on the south western coast and then take a boat. There is no other way to get here.
The most exciting plane landing ever is in Paro, Bhutan - an approach through tight mountain passes to the only flat spot in Bhutan large enough to accomodate a runway. But just when you think you had won the "best flight ever" lottery - the trip out on Druk Airlines to Delhi is via Kathmandu and on the way you fly right by Mt. Everest in all its majesty. Sit on the right side of the plane (when facing forward) at the window and gawk at the awe inspiring "highest place on earth".
It took three years to realize this passion project: a spa retreat built mainly of bamboo. Book a riverfront suite, or the hotel can arrange a stay in a rural family’s home. From $475. 62/(0) 36-146-9206. Image by Djuna Ivereigh/Fivelements. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
The family-owned Yandup Island Lodge is located on a private island across from the remote Playon Chico community on the Caribbean coastline of San Blas, Panama. The eco-lodge offers two tours a day: a visit to a beach on one of the archipelago's deserted islands and a cultural tour that connects guests to the local Kuna Yala indian community.
If you're spending time in Bangkok, the Grand Palace is an absolute. This collection of buildings in the heart of the city will wow you in scale, passion, and color. Until 1925 this was the official residence of the king and while the present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, lives at the Chitralada Palace, he'll still use the Grand Palace for official annual events. On the grounds, you'll notice the Royal Grand Palace and the exceptional Emerald Buddha (while visiting the Wat Phra Kaew/Royal Chapel). It is incredibly uplifting and extremely warm, while you're in the complex. Enjoy a day exploring the palace but be sure to hydrate and wear sunscreen.
I arrive at Nyaung Shwe, Inle Lake’s main development, in the dead of night and immediately book myself into a boat tour of the lake, wondering aloud if the notorious Nayar, a mythical dragon with four legs, still patrols the waters. An old man seated next to me on the bus had told me all about the Nayar and the Magan, a man-eating crocodile-cum-anteater that patrols the murky depths of Inle when the sun goes down. I don’t consider myself superstitious, but in Burma I’ll believe just about anything.“Now you’re starting to understand our country,” he says, winking at me as he captains us through the dark.The engine dies and we sit for a moment; I’m not sure if we’re waiting for the Nayar to drag us to the bottom of the lake or if our propeller has fallen off and we have to swim back to shore. Out of the mist, with the first rays of dawn pouring over the eastern hills, a fisherman appears, trawling across what appears to be a thin sheet of glass, one strong leg propelling his slender canoe while he hefts a massive cone-shaped net above his head and plunges it into the water. This is an Intha fisherman, a member of the Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority group that make their homes in stilt houses on the lake, self-sufficient fisherfolk and farmers known for their unique one-legged rowing style that has been fodder for romantic travel tales in the same vein as Venice canal rowers for hundreds of years. We paid $35 for a day on the water in a private boat. It was worth every penny.
There are so many variations to the Pho noodle soup in Vietnam, and yet, one of the best one I've ate was in Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City. Grab a plastic chair, chopsticks and don't forget the lime. It's a great combination.
Maya Bay is no real secret - Leonardo DiCarprio's The Beach took care of that - but it is still one of the most naturally stunning places on earth. The old Thai longboats that settle in on the beach help add to the atmosphere too. As far as pure tourist destinations go, this is one of the best in the country.
The curved eaves of Tokyo’s intricate Buddhist temples and the orange tori gates of the Shinto shrines endure as reminders of the city’s over four hundred year history. Walk beneath the massive gates of Meiji-jingu, Tokyo’s largest Shinto shrine, and transport back to the time of shogun and samurai. Receive an omikuji (fortune) at Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, but beware these fortunes can be curses or blessings. Surrounding Sensoji is Nakamise-dori, the central street in the centuries old shopping district with shops offering kimonos, fans, and tapestries among other traditional goods. Photo courtesy of Austin Rea (http://www.flickr.com/photos/austinrea/)
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