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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: July, 2016
Jul 31, 2016
[caption id="attachment_3303" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]An ancient Chinese fishing net and traditional fishing boats are still used to catch a variety of fish and creatures from the sea in Fort Cochin-Kerala, India An ancient Chinese fishing net and traditional fishing boats are still used to catch a variety of fish and creatures from the sea in Fort Cochin-Kerala, India[/caption] Kerala is one of my favorite states to travel through in India. It has an interesting history filled with some of the most varied culture and religion in all of the country. Fort Cochin at 35% has the highest per capital Christian population in India. Coupled with a smoothly assimilated remainder of mostly Hindu and Muslims, the feeling of harmony amongst the groups could be the highest than anywhere else in India. Kerala also boasts the highest literacy rate in the country, 93%, and the highest life expectancy, 77 years. Spices have been exported from the region since 3000 B.C. Walking through the streets and alleys of Matancherry next to Fort Cochin can still feel romantic and like a slice from another time with small warehouses piled high with sacks of nutmeg, mace, cumin and many other spices. Much of which is used in Ayurvedic medicine, one of the main reasons tourists visit the state. Ayurvedic clinics, yoga retreats, beach side resorts and backwater houseboat cruises are some of the most popular draws to Kerala. On my last visit to Kerala I spent a few weeks in the Fort Cochin area before traveling further south to the beach towns of Varkala and Kovalam, with stops in the capital, Thiruvananthapuram, or the older and easier name to pronounce, Trivandrum, as well as the backwater capital Alleppey. Join me in this episode of Far East Adventure Travel for live stream highlights of "God's Own Country"-Kerala, India.
Jul 27, 2016
[caption id="attachment_3293" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Mumbai's most famous landmark, The Gateway of India is one of the most visited sites in the country's largest city. One of the highlights of Far East Adventure Travel-Best of "Live" Mumbai's most famous landmark, The Gateway of India is one of the most visited sites in the country's largest city. One of the highlights of Far East Adventure Travel-Best of "Live"[/caption] Mumbai, India is one of the most exciting destinations in South Asia. Easily the richest city in the region, the most expensive private home in the world is located there, it's a roller coaster ride of experiences from visiting neighborhoods filled with British "Raj" architecture, holy sites, crazy markets, and yes even long stretches of beaches, just don't go in for a swim. On my most recent visit I spent two weeks wandering the city streets, traveling on local buses, taxis, even taking a boat ride to Elephanta Island. It can be an overwhelming experience for those especially not accustomed to such a huge population, over 22 million in the greater Mumbai area. On top of that there are areas with high security due to past terrorist attacks, photography prohibited in some places, seriously determined professional beggars working the streets, not just targeting tourists, and crazy traffic. Still it's a must visit if you consider yourself a serious traveler. This past year Lonely Planet named it one of their top 10 cities to visit in 2016. Join me in a Far East Adventure Travel Best of "Live" for moments on the streets of Mumbai. From the famous stretch of beach known as Chowpatty to one of the busiest train stations in the world, Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus. You'll see why they call Mumbai the "Maximum City".
Jul 25, 2016
[caption id="attachment_3802" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Views of the Taipei 101 skyscraper and surrounding area from Elephant Mountain, Xiangshan (象山) Views of the Taipei 101 skyscraper and surrounding area from Elephant Mountain, Xiangshan (象山)[/caption] For an island that stretches only 144 kilometers(90 miles) wide, and 394 kms(245 miles) north to south Taiwan packs alot of culture, life, along with a wide variety of activities into a compact area. Smaller than Switzerland, slightly larger than Belgium this past June and July I covered a few of the many activities and events one can enjoy on a vacation or family visit to the island. From hiking up Elephant Mountain, Xiangshan (象山) and checking out the views of Taipei and the developing skyline to the lovely hot springs district of Beitou, a 25 minute MRT ride from the center of the city. Many people ask me, "is it difficult to travel in Taiwan because of the language barrier"? My reply is always, not really. Most people, especially in the larger cities all have post-secondary education and have studied English for several years. Because of the shy nature of Taiwanese people though, some may be a little reluctant to speak. If you can learn a few words or a couple of simple phrases, it's always a helpful icebreaker. When people see that you're Chinese(mandarin)is no better than their English they will feel more comfortable speaking with you. Even in the smaller towns and villages you can get by with little or no mandarin skills. Calculators, for showing prices are readily used and with all of the various translation apps available now you won't find it difficult to communicate. If you are a seasoned travel you will find Taiwan a refreshing change from some of the more visited cities of East and Southeast Asia. You will see far less Western people in Taiwan than almost anywhere else in this part of the world. Modern in every way but still retaining it's ancient culture of Chinese folk religion, Buddhism, and Taoism, one of the best times to visit the country is during Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year festivities, usually in February or March. This is also a great time to visit if you don't travel well in the heat and humidity that lasts from April through to mid December. Here is just a small sample of what to expect on a visit to Taiwan from the best of my live streams from this June/July.
Jul 16, 2016
Clock tower OK, I don’t want to mislead you, this is not the busiest street in Chiang Rai and there is lots of traffic in the city but it’s easy to feel like it’s not busy in this town and surrounding area with a population of around 200,000. To start your exploration of the town there are at least half a dozen temples worth visiting in Chiang Rai including Wat Jed Yod built in 1844. Jed Yod means 7 peaks represented by 7 chedis on the site. In keeping pace with the town the gatekeeper is pretty laid back and once you get past him you are greeted by an impressive giant Buddha in the main hall. Wat Jed Yod is probably the least visited of Chiang Rai’s most significant temples so you usually have lots of space to yourself. The temple is a copy of one by the same name in Chiang Mai which is a copy of an Indian temple, Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, the very same spot where the Buddha found enlightenment. You will find some of the traditional features of Thai temples including the typical red and gold colors and naga serpents, above all a quiet spot for peace and reflection. The favorite part of my visit? Seeing the glowing sunset shine directly on an ornate window at Wat Jed Yod. Chiang Rai sees many people extend their stay in the town I think because there’s such a huge selection of cafes and places to eat for a town of this size. Once you’re done having a coffee, which could be from beans grown in Northern Thailand move on to the market which pretty much operates all day and through the evening. Perfect for self-catering you can get everything from seafood to cheap noodle dishes. This market is located close by Chiang Rai’s most famous landmark, the gold clock tower. This tower was designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the same man who created the White Temple. Check out the special show of music and lights every evening on the hour from 7 to 9pm. Wat Phra Kaew is Chiang Rai’s most important temple, the place where Thailand’s Emerald Buddha was discovered. Now and since 1784 Thailand’s palladium, the Emerald Buddha has been kept at Wat Phra Kaew in the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok. In the last almost 600 years the Emerald Buddha has been on a epic trip with stays in Lampang, Northern Thailand, Luang Prabang and Vientiane, Laos before eventually ending up in the Royal family’s private chapel at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The one here was carved out of Canadian jade in China in 1990 in honor of the princess mother’s 90th birthday. It’s an exact replica of the original. Wat Phra Kaew is a tranquil spot and only a short walk from the clock tower, worth setting aside a hour or so to enjoy the many statues, ponds, and buildings that are in the complex. Within the Wat Phra Kaew site is it’s museum which houses many gifts from it’s followers seeking merit over the past few hundred years. Being one of the most important temples in Chiang Rai province it owns many significant religious art works, some of which are on display in the museum. Each item is labeled in English, Thai, and Lanna, the language of Northern Thailand. Chiang Rai is charming, laid back and full of friendly Thai people. If you do decide to linger around the town a bit longer than your stay, try to plan it around the Saturday Walking Street Market. A chance to get up close to the locals who love to visit the market, see some of the hill tribe goods on display for sale and enjoy the music of Northern Thailand. How about a snack of bugs? Insects are very much apart of the diet in Southeast Asia, I’m actually a non-meat eater, but I’m not really an insectivore, but I guess I’ll try it. Didn’t taste like chicken, just kind of crunchy and salty, but they do have chicken if that’s what you’re craving. Maybe something sweet to kill the cricket taste. These Thai doughnuts look tasty! You’ll find the Chiang Rai Saturday and Sunday Walking Street markets are far less crowded than the ones in Chiang Mai and other large cities so there’s lots of places to stop and eat and listen to the birds, thousands in this park. Head back for the light show at the clock tower and you’ve completed your day in Northern Thailand’s haven and retreat from the speedier pace of the rest of the world, charming Chiang Rai.
Jul 16, 2016
[caption id="attachment_3232" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Mt.Everest(Qomolungma)8848m, view from Kala Patthar-5545m in Nepal's Khumbu Valley region Mt.Everest(Qomolungma)8848m, view from Kala Patthar-5545m in Nepal's Khumbu Valley region[/caption] It’s one of the most coveted treks in the world. Everest Base Camp, Nepal. Far East Adventure Travel is proud to present two podcasts completely devoted to the magic of trekking this region. From crossing the sometimes trecherous Chola Pass to the final steps arriving at Everest Base Camp. And an early morning ascent of Kala Patthar for one of the best views of Everest in all of Nepal. Join me John Saboe for one of Asia’s great adventures. Trekking to Everest Base Camp. Everest Base Camp, Nepal. Right from the start I was in for a hair raising experience. The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, rated as one of the most dangerous airports in the world is often canceled in October, the busy season due to weather conditions. If it’s not cloudy or windy in Lukla, it is in Kathmandu, making it extremely tricky to complete scheduled flights. You can be stranded in Lukla for days waiting for a weather window. Same this goes in Kathmandu. Days! You can avoid the whole worry of flight delays and dangerous weather conditions by trekking all the way to Lukla. Take a bus from Kathmandu to Jiri, about 9 hours. Then just walk for a week! For me, I was extremely lucky to be on one of the first flights that day from Kathmandu to the start of the trek with favorable weather conditions. Previously I had trekked in a couple of regions in Nepal and had been to Everest Base Camp in Tibet. Up until now I had avoided the EBC trek for more remote and quieter trails in Nepal’s Himalaya. But this was the same ground that many mountaineers had trampled including the first two to summit the world’s highest mountain, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. My curiousity with the trails, the lore of the region and the super friendly Sherpa people that make up the largest ethnic group in the Khumbu Valley could no longer be suppressed because of some crowded trails and teahouses with wine bars. As we approached Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla I couldn’t help but think about the History Channel show Most Extreme Airports. In 2010 it rated Tenzing/Hillary the most dangerous airport in the world. There’s no chance for a go around, meaning an aborted landing on final approach due to the high terrain beyond the northern end of the runway. At the southern end, a steeply angled drop into the valley. A safe landing, and an exciting start to one of the world’s great treks! Just have to dodge a few yak before we started. Good practise for the crowded trails we were about to enter. Lukla actually means place of goat or sheep, but all I ever saw were yak, and maybe some horses. As this town is the start and finish for trekking in the Khumbu and Gokyo Valleys there are many lodges, guesthouses, restaurants and even an Irish Pub here! One last stop at the police station for permit checks and we were on our way. At Thadakoshi the first of many steel suspension bridges over the Dud Khosi River we would cross. We took a rest and lunch at Phakding, where most stay the night before trekking onward the next day to Namache Bazaar. The porters with boundless energy take a break for a game of volleyball. I had heard that the trails in the Khumbu Valley were crowded in the peak season in October but I was not prepared for the constant herds of yaks used for moving in camping and supplies for the big trekking groups as well as just bringing goods into the valley for many guesthouses and lodges here. Always remember to move to the side when you see caravans coming. These creatures can get quite nasty. It’s always a great experience to hike through different landscapes and geography on a single trek. The lower Khumbu Dud Khosi valley is full of grazing animals, rich forests and waterfalls. We arrived at our lodgings for the night in the village of Monjo at an altitude of 2835 meters. The guesthouses at these lower elevations are quite luxurious compared to the high altitude. So it’s a good time to appreciate an attached bathroom with a flush toilet and hot water. The next morning we were heading to the gate of Sagarmatha National Park, Sagarmatha is the Nepali name for Mt. Everest. Including Everest, the park is home to 8 peaks over 7000 meters high. It’s also where rare species like the Snow Leopard and Lesser or red panda reside. This is also another police station where permits are checked and trekkers registered. The next stop would be Namche Bazaar, the second largest village in the Khumbu Valley that also has the claim of being the most expensive town in Nepal. Most everything transported into Namche Bazaar must come in on the back of a horse or yak. Sorry though no Mr. Doughnut here, and one piece might cost up to $3. It’s also an acclimatization stop with most staying over two nights before heading into the high Himalaya. More steel suspension bridge crossings and busy trails before a brief rest stop. This one with special prominence as the first chance to gaze at the top of the highest mountain in the world, Everest. One last checkpoint before arriving in Namche Bazaar and a customary kora of the Buddhist stupa that greets you at the entrance to the village. It’s a good place for a two night stay with lots of shops where you can pick up last minute trekking supplies. There’s also plenty of cafes and souvenir stalls. The next morning we walked up the steep steps of the village for an acclimatization hike and to fix our eyes on the most famous peaks on the planet. Just an everyday place for these kids from the Home Away from Home School, where children in the Khumbu Valley can get a solid education without being separated from their families. The snow-capped peak to the left-Mt. Everest 8848meters. The highest surface point on the planet, the roof of the world. The weather can change without warning at high altitude. Within minutes our views of some of the most prominent peaks of the Khumbu Valley disappeared. Ama Dablam, not the highest but certainly one of the most beautiful mountains in the world at first thickly veiled, eventually vanishing in the clouds. The hundreds of trekkers continued to move up from the village,views or no views, putting in their necessary acclimatization time to ensure a successful Everest Base Camp trek. We had finished our work for the day and were back to the crowds, traffic jams and gridlock of Namche Bazaar. The next morning we returned to the trail with the spectacular views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam joined by the hundreds of others who were on EBC itineraries. Nearly 10,000 tourists will visit the Khumbu Valley or Everest region on average in October, the busiest time of the year. You really must pay attention when trekking these trails especially when so many others are walking both ways. Not to mention the hundreds of horses and yak used to pack in gear, food and other supplies. Stopping on the trail and stepping out of the way of trekkers and animals is the best way to enjoy the breathtaking views. You must! It was time to move off this trail at Sanasa and head for the Gokyo Valley. Later to rejoin the trail to Everest Base Camp after crossing the Chola La Pass. The Gokyo valley’s trails are much quieter even in the busy month of October compared to the Khumbu Valley. Adding a few days to an Everest Base Camp trek will send you into a Shangri La of high altitude lakes, the highest in the world, and breathtaking views of the Himalaya. Arriving at Gokyo Village with Cho Oyu, the 6th highest mountain in the world and a sunrise view of Everest and sister peaks from the top of Gokyo Ri was challenging with rewards few ever get. Returning to the Khumbu Valley and resuming the trek to Everest Base Camp would take us across the Ngozumpa Glacier, the largest in Nepal and possibly the whole Himalaya before arriving at Thangnak for an overnight rest. The next morning we would rise early for a summit of the Chola Pass at 5420 meters. This is a challenging portion of the trek with a required early 4am rise and the first hour or so in complete darkness with only a headlamp for light. I personally struggled a little on this day with a slower pace due to a strong cold I was fighting off. This can be a dangerous pass to cross with an unstable glacier at the top and slippery sections. The approach is steep and perhaps even more dangerous if you are coming from the other direction and the Khumbu Valley. A favorable weather window is important as the pass is almost impossible to cross after a heavy snowfall. Success and overwhelming joy was shared by all that day under sunny skies. There was still a few trekking hours to log in before arriving at our next stop, Dzhong lha. The views while crossing back into the Khumbu Valley were heart-stopping with Ama Dablam at 6170 meters commanding our attention as we descended into the valley. Ama Dablam means mother’s necklace, the long ridges on either side like a mother’s arms cradling a child. The hanging glacier like the double pendant worn by Sherpa women. It felt especially rewarding when we arrived in Dzhong lha after the longest and hardest day of the trek. The accomplishment of crossing the Cho La pass felt like a big check mark ticked off. It was now time to rest in the dining hall and warm up by the yak dung fuelled fire. Some of the most exciting days of the Everest Base Camp trek were still ahead. So pile on the dung my friend, we need to stay warm! Next time on Far East Adventure Travel Podcast heart stopping views of the Himalaya and the conclusion to The Ultimate Trekking Adventure-Everest Base Camp. Please like the Far East Adventure Travel Facebook page. You can also follow me on Instagram, Google+, Twitter and Periscope, with live streams from Asia. All of the links are at fareastadventuretravel.com. That’s it for this week’s episode, thanks so much for joining me, until next time this is John Saboe, safe travels and Namaste!
Jul 16, 2016
[caption id="attachment_1780" align="aligncenter" width="480"]A view of the conical-shaped Adam's Peak - Sri Pada, from the town of Dalhousie A view of the conical-shaped Adam's Peak - Sri Pada, from the town of Dalhousie[/caption] Adam’s Peak or Sri Pada is located in Central Sri Lanka and is a 2200 meter conical shaped mountain. All religious faiths on the island consider a hike to the top the holiest pilgrimage. Most will make their ascent in the early in the morning to reach the peak for sunrise. I had left Dalhousine, the small village at the base of the main route just after 2am. Plenty of time I thought to enjoy the sunrise. Sri Pada actually means sacred foot- print. Near the summit lies a rock formation in the shape of a footprint. For Buddhists it represents the buddha’s footprint. Hindus regard it as Shiva’s. In the Muslim and Christian world it is Adam’s. If you ever go you will wonder how I ever got off course. The route is well marked and lit through the night but I did take a wrong turn and ended up in the nearby tea plantation hills for awhile... Finally I found my way down and got Sri Pada really has a special feel. As you walk up the steps you will come across many rest stops and tea and snack shops open all night. As well as plenty of places for prayer and worship. While I was heading up a small group were carrying a man down on a stretch- er. Later I was told an elderly couple were making their way to the top when the man collapsed from exhaustion. He was carried down while his distraught wife followed. It is a strenuous hike. Plan on anywhere from two and a half to four hours depending on your fitness level and the amount of rest stops you make. Leaving Dalhousie between 2 and 2:30 should give you enough time to reach the top for sunrise. As incredible as the views were I was most overwhelmed with the hospitality and friendliness of the Sri Lankans. There are simply no better people on the planet. Finally at the top and the prized view of the triangular shadow of Sri Pada seen only at sunrise. A meaningful hike with amazing views amongst the spirit of the Sri Lanka people. For Far East Adventure Travel.com this is John Saboe. The post Sri Lanka’s Greatest Pilgrimage-Sunrise Climb To Adam’s Peak appeared first on Far East Adventure Travel.
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