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Adventure Travel, Far East: Inspired by Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, National Geographic

Far East Adventure Travel. Inspiring, entertaining. Let John Saboe take you on journeys filled with spiritual celebrations and rituals, ancient festivals, wildlife safaris, trekking and climbing quests and vast array of food cultures. Learn about village life, cultural differences, urban exploration, street food, history and architecture. Visit Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and Korea. Stories and advice from one of the most exciting destinations on the planet-Asia.
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Now displaying: January, 2016
Jan 25, 2016

The Petronas towers or Petronas twin towers are located in the center of Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia. They were the highest buildings in the world from 1998-2004 until Taipei 101 in Taiwan took the reigns of the top spot. They are still currently the highest twin towers in the world.

A limited number of tickets are sold each day for the strictly guided tour of the buildings. Your ticket comes with a set tour time, that’s why I was in such a hurry.

After the initial elevator ride we arrived at the skybridge that connects the twin towers on the 41st and 42nd levels made famous by the 1999 Sean Connery Catherine Zeta-Jones movie “Entrapment”.

The skybridge weighs 750 tonnes and is not actually attached to the towers instead it slides in and out so it can sway during high winds and maintain structural integrity. Even though you’re not at the highest viewing floor it’s position makes it a pretty cool spot. This was one of my favorite parts of the tour.

We’re given about 10 minutes to wander around the deck before our color coded group is called to move up to the 86th floor.

Back in the elevator, for some small talk, or maybe not. This appears to be a glass elevator but this is actually a virtual view. Just a ride made interesting with a fake outside video, because whoever designed this was very smart and knew how hard it is to make eye contact and small talk in an elevator, especially if you’ve got a long ride. It’s a pretty realistic video with movement that seemed to match the speed of the elevator but the visibility didn’t mirror the current environmental conditions.

Arriving on the 83rd floor we are escorted to another elevator that took us to the final stop, the 86th floor and the dizzying views of Kuala Lumpur.

On the day of the visit the smoke created from the slash and burn fires of Indonesia was hampering the views but seeing the other tower at this height and this close was absolutely spectacular.

The towers were designed by Argentine architect César Pelli. Incorporating Islamic geometric patterns in the shape of eight pointed stars they symbolize the principle of "unity within unity, harmony, stability and rationality”. Anyone who appreciates design and architecture will get a real thrill out of this tour.

The haze was the result of illegal slash and burning of fields mainly for Palm oil production on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, Borneo.

After about 15 minutes our time was up on the 86th floor and we were escorted to the elevator back down to the 83rd floor for a look from this level before exiting the tower.

In the hazy distance we could see the Menara Kuala Lumpur or KL Tower. Boasting the highest public viewing deck in Kuala Lumpur the KL Tower sits on Bukit Nanas or Pineapple Hill giving it a slight height advantage even though the Petronas Towers are structurally taller.

I don’t think you visit the Petronas Towers just for the view. Today’s visibility was very poor and disappointing but the experience of being inside this engineering marvel with a design right out of the 1927 Fritz Lang futuristic film Metropolis was rewarding and very memorable.

Back in the elevator with one last virtual view of Kuala Lumpur before ground level. There are a total 29 double decker high speed passenger lifts serving the towers not including service and executive lifts. They can travel between 3.5-6 meters a second.

On the ground level at the front entrance you can admire the large pool and fountains facing the towers. On the other side sits the 17 acre KLCC Park. Inside the lobby you can usually enjoy a display of some of the cars Petronas, the state-owned oil company sponsors in various motorsports events. Petronas takes up the offices of tower one while tower two hosts a number of multi-national companies.

Because the Malaysian government had a 6 year deadline to finish both towers they ...

Jan 21, 2016

Luang Prabang, Laos is one of the most picturesque towns in Southeast Asia. The name literally translates to Royal Buddha image. It’s rich history, beautiful architecture combined with a strong Buddhist monastic community makes it a place all too tempting to stay longer than planned. On my most recent trip to the former royal capital I was fortunate enough to be in time for the country’s most important holiday and festival, Pi Mai or Laos New Year.

Even if your visit is outside of festival time you will be enchanted by one of the most beautifully preserved towns in Indochina full of French colonial architecture.

One of the best places to start your exploration of the town is a walk up the 328 stairs of the highest hill in Luang Prabang-Mount Phou Si, where you can visit the Buddhist temple Wat Chom Si. Here you can see the whole town and the peninsula it sits on between the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers.

There are a few approaches to the top but I chose to start from the staircase across from the Royal Palace Museum and temple exiting on the other side to see Wat Tham Phou si.

Sunset is a popular viewing time so if you don't like the crowds, and it's a tight squeeze at the top, try a walk in the morning.

Phousi translates to sacred hill and is considered the spiritual center of the town. It's believed that the hill was once the home of a powerful naga serpent deity, lending more spiritual significance to the site.

As you near the top of the hill the golden spires of Wat Chom Si come into view. This temple was built in 1804 and has become a symbol to the significance of Luang Prabang's cultural importance to Laos.

The view is not only spectacular but a great way to orient yourself to the city. Seeing the city and it's peninsular feature between the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers I found allowed me to ensure I wouldn't miss any part of the town during my visit.

It’s tempting just to hang out in the old town with it’s amazing selection of cafes and restaurants. But venture out and you’ll see more of the real Laos.

On the way down take the stairs on the other side of the hill that lead to the Wat Phousi Shrine and get your fill of the Buddha in various states of contentment.

If you visit Luang Prabang during the dry season you'll have a chance to cross the Nam Khan River via the bamboo bridge. This iconic symbol of Luang Prabang gets washed away during the wet season and is rebuilt each year by a local family. The small fee to cross the bridge supports this family.

There are also a few atmospheric outdoor restaurants on the other side of the river that are easily reached from the bamboo bridge and some real authentic Luang Prabang neighborhoods.

It's a wonderful setting even more so if you're lucky enough to cross when the monks are leaving the monastery after the morning alms.

Watching Tak Bhat or the morning alms is one of the highlights of a visit to Luang Prabang. Many tourists like to take part in the morning offering of food to the monks but unless you are really familiar with Buddhist rituals and traditions out of respect opt for observing it. Tak Bhat is easily enjoyed from a distance. Getting to close and in the way of the monks is disrespectful and just downright unclassy.

You can easily OD on Buddhism and wats in Luang Prabang as it has the highest concentration of temples in the whole country. One you must visit because of it’s history as a temple of the royal family is Wat Xieng Thong, or Temple of The Golden City. It’s a celebration of art, culture, and the royal family making it one of the most significant temples in all of Laos.

Construction on the site began in 1559. There are over 20 buildings on the ground including shrines, pavilions and residences. Many of the entrances feature carved gilded doors depicting the life of the Buddha. This is not a museum so life, prayer and worship continue on here as it has fo...

Jan 1, 2016

When you walk through the crowds around Taipei 101, Taipei City Hall and the Xinyi Shopping District of Taipei, Taiwan on December 31st, New Years Eve, you might not believe that this is not the most important celebration of the year.

Annual attendance for the fireworks event that erupts from the 101 floor building of the once tallest skyscraper in the world is well over 1 million.

As much as Taiwan has adopted Gregorian calendar events to celebrate like New Years Eve as well as Christmas this country's roots are still deep in traditional Chinese culture with Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year holding the spot as the most important event of the year.

Believe it or not with an attendance of over 1 million this is quiet a peaceful event compared to similar celebrations in the West.

Main thoroughfares are shut down to traffic, additional police are on patrol and transportation like the reliable and efficient MRT,(subway) system of Taipei runs through the night to see that everyone arrives home safe.

In this edition of Far East Adventure Travel I walked through the crowds around Taipei 101 this past December 31st to hopefully give you a sense of the spirit and anticipation of Taipei 101's world-famous annual New Years Eve fireworks celebration.

The post Taipei 101’s New Years Eve Blast Off- 2016 appeared first on Far East Adventure Travel.

Jan 1, 2016

The Batu Caves are a series of limestone caves and cave temples located in Selangor, Malaysia. So easy to get to it even has it’s own train stop.

I picked up the KTM Comuter train at KL Sentral in Kuala Lumpur which can be reached via the Kelana Jaya line if you’re staying near KLCC.

In less than 30 minutes the giant limestone outcrop was in view.

Leaving the train station you are immediately surrounded by Hindu shrines and temples including this giant statue of Hanuman, the Monkey God.

The Batu Caves gets it’s name from the Sangai Batu, the nearby Batu River, and it is also the tenth, Pattu in the Tamil language, limestone of Ampang Malaysia.

The Batu Caves are one of the most popular Hindu Shrines outside of India. Dedicated to Lord Murugan, God of war. He is the son of the Hindu dieties Shiva and Parvati.

The Murugan statue is the largest statue of a Hindu deity in Malaysia and the second tallest in the world coming second to the Kailashnath Mahadev Statue in Nepal.

This is the site of the annual Thaipusam Festival which draws over 1.5 million people every year to honor Lord Murugan. Devotees among other things carry containers of milk as an offering to Murugan.

The first steps to the cave were built in 1920 made of wood, since then they have been replaced by 272 concrete steps. There are several caves throughout the site but the Temple Cave or Catherdral Cave, which I was climbing up to is the most well-known and visited.

Another reason to keeps things inside your bag or backpack on your way up. This guy eventually got back his little pack minus a couple of things.

As it tend to rain often it’s a good idea to bring an umbrella and watch the steps. This Hindu priest heading up doesn’t seem to have an issue with either the climate or the stairs.

At the top of the steps an entrance full of colorful deities greets you in the same tradition of Hindu Temples in South India and Sri Lanka. Below the giant limestone opening to the caves another statue of Lord Murugan, a Hindu God tradtionally worshipped in areas of Tamil influence including South India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Once inside there are a further set of stairs that lead to the giant Temple Cave. These caves were believed to be formed over 400 million years ago. Chinese settlers first started harvesting gauno from the caves as early as 1860 for fertilizing their vegetable gardens.

They didn’t become well-known until they were recorded by American naturalist William Hornaday in 1878. K. Thamboosamy Pillay a prominent Malaysian of Tamil origin lead the establishment of the Batu Caves as a place of worship for Hindus. The first Lord Murugan statue was placed inside the Temple cave in 1891.

There are several undeveloped caves located below the temple cave including the dark cave, a two kilometer network of caves rarely visited due to its restricted status by the Malaysian Nature Society. The caves feature stalactites hanging from the ceilings and stalagmites jutting from the floor with features such as cave curtains that took thousands of years to form.

Even though the Temple Cave is fully developed with floors, shrines and stairs it is incredibly impressive and quiet possibly one of the most unique places of worship in the world.

Thaipusam held during the full moon in January or February is probably the most spectacular time to see Hindus worship when some devotees through sacrifice and an offering pierce their skin, tongue or cheeks with skewers attached to a kavadi attam they pull. Others will simply carry a pot of milk on their head as an offering. Other celebrations, daily pujas or prayers take place most often the rest of the year.

The Batu Caves have also become a rock climbing destination in Malaysia over the last 10 years. There are more than 160 climbing routes with most crags starting from the ground.

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