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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: Category: Nepal
May 12, 2017
The last few days I spent in Nepal during the earthquakes of 2015 were a whirlwind of visiting villages in the Kathmandu Valley and the remote hard hit Sindhupalchowk District. At least two thirds of all of the houses in Sindhupalchowk were destroyed. It was shocking as we rode up the windy road to one of the most remote villages, Thangpalkot I to see twisted buildings and piles of stones that were once homes. I met one young man that lost his guesthouse and had no idea how he would support his wife and daughter in the short term. Many of the younger people in the families around Sindhupalchowk were contemplating leaving the country to find work in order to save the money it would take to rebuild. In the Kathmandu Valley some villages lost historic buildings and temples, like Bungamati's Rato Machhendranath Temple, where the patron God of Patan deity usually presides. When I returned later in the year many of the villages and sites I saw in May had been cleaned up and there were more temporary shelters in place but the work had not yet begun at almost all locations. Nepal was also in the middle of a fuel crisis, spurred on by a constitution that wasn't favorable to villages in the Terai region. It was believed India was also in disfavor of the new constitution and held back deliveries of fuel giving the reason that drivers and trucks did not feel secure crossing the border. Most tourists were still able to move around the country by bus and with internal flights but Nepalis were preparing less vegetables in order to conserve cooking fuel. Less fuel also meant less goods available in stores and higher prices at the markets. The country and it's people could not think about rebuilding in this unfavorable environment. Today the work still remains painfully slow, especially in the remote regions like Sindhupalchowk but the country's state of panic has passed. When I visited Nepal in May of 2015 my intention was to support tourism and get the message out that although it wasn't the best time to visit during the aftermath, the country and it's people were still counting on tourism to help sustain the economy and families. It wasn't a surprise that many people cancelled their plans for a fall visit and a fuel crisis was not exactly a sign that things were stable. Today among other projects including two podcasts and a YouTube Channel I find myself a partner in a trekking and tour company based in Nepal with a personal stake in bringing tourism back to the country. I visited Nepal at my own expense during the earthquakes, no trekking adventures or relaxing days around Phewa Lake in Pokhara. I was there to document the damage, speak to people that were deeply affected by the destruction and share on social media that immediate help was needed and long term support of tourism was necessary. Most of the great trails of Nepal saw little or no damage as a result of the earthquakes and the south, the birthplace of the Buddha and some of the best wildlife viewing in the world were completely unaffected. Only 15% of the world heritage sites were damaged or destroyed. For every trekker or tourist that visits Nepal at least seven Nepalis benefit during that time spent in the country. Visiting Nepal whether you use my company or someone else's will have a huge impact on the recovery from one of South Asia's worst natural disasters. Beyond the knowledge and awareness of how valuable your tourist dollars are to the country I believe you will feel like you've had one of the most memorable and meaningful vacations of your life. For more information on travel and trekking in Nepal visit our website:https://explorehimalayan.com Please support Far East Adventure Travel with your donation:paypal.me/JohnASaboe Write a podcast review and help others discover the Far East Adventure Travel:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id890305531?mt=2
May 4, 2017
Part IV of Earthquake Diaries From Nepal begins in historic Sankhu Village, approximately 45 minutes by car from Thamel-Kathmandu it is located in the northwest corner of the Kathmandu Valley. It is where many religious festivals take place and was a stop on the original salt trade route from Tibet. I visited Sankhu a few times during my stay in May 2015. Outside of the Sindhupalchowk region this was one of the most devastated villages I witnessed in the Kathmandu Valley. Many locals were willing to share their experience and loss and it was not only heartbreaking but extremely overwhelming to hear the stories of losing brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, along with friends and relatives as a result of the earthquakes. There was also a miracle rescue when the sister of a man who had lost two other sisters, his father, and two domestic workers of the family, was pulled from the rubble of their house 5 hours after the initial earthquake. The site of people living in terrible conditions along the Bisnumati River was shocking. There were tented camps in Kathmandu with much better conditions but locals did not want to be far from their homes fearing looting or theft. There were aftershocks almost everyday sending more fear of yet another big earthquake on the way. Please send me any feedback on this documentary series to john@fareastadventuretravel.com. This podcast can’t happen without public support, help me continue to produce this series that I hope helps you either plan your next big adventure or allows you to imagine travelling at a time when it’s maybe not possible. A donation of $10, $20, $30 or more helps meet production costs and travel expenses. Support Far East Adventure Travel with your donation today: paypal.me/JohnASaboe Nepal Travel and Trek Planning: explorehimalayan.com Write a Podcast Review:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id890305531?mt=2
Apr 30, 2017
My Earthquake Diaries Nepal documentary series continues with part 2 and a “cry for tourism”. This episode follows my first few days of walking through the streets and alleyways of Kathmandu, visiting many sites that had suffered damage, destruction and terrible loss. I met tour guides and taxi drivers that saw a future of little or no work. And one afternoon I came across a group in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square conducting a desperate rally for unity within the tourism industry. I also traveled around the Kathmandu Valley visiting some of the most popular landmarks and Unesco World Heritage sites including Boudhanath, the Tibetan Village, the great Pashupatinath Hindu Temple complex, and the medieval village of Bhaktapur to see first-hand the damage to these sites that in the past have attracted travellers from around the world. This podcast can’t happen without public support, help me continue to produce this series that I hope helps you either plan your next big adventure or allows you to imagine travelling at a time when it’s maybe not possible. A donation of $10, $20, $30 or more helps meet production costs and travel expenses. Support Far East Adventure Travel with your donation today: paypal.me/JohnASaboe Nepal Travel and Trek Planning: explorehimalayan.com Write a Podcast Review:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id890305531?mt=2
Apr 26, 2017
As I assemble this series from my days in Nepal during the earthquakes of 2015 the memories of fear, shock, and helplessness are painfully resurrected. People from all walks of life, sleeping outdoors for fear of another earthquake that could collapse their house, if they still had one. The site of shocking destruction, streets where buildings were folded like an accordian. Apartment blocks levelled to the ground with the remains of personal and household items scattered amongst the debris. And the helplessness of watching people struggle to find food and shelter and listening to the stories of relatives that fell to death. There was much talk of more earthquakes and rumors that another one was inevitable, perhaps larger than any of the previous tremors that shook the country. Even if you wore a mask the dust that floated around the Kathmandu Valley from the thousands of buildings that collapsed seemed to find a way deep into your lungs. There was also a light and warmth that you felt from the hundreds of volunteers from around the world that were there to serve their fellow humankind. A nurse from The Netherlands working in one of the local hospitals, a young Taiwanese backpacker that decided to postpone the rest of her trip to help out. A Japanese medical team whom when I asked how long they would stay, they simply responded, "as long as necessary". And Nepalis themselves organizing shelters, and meals for the homeless. The country's tourism industry is beginning to rebound which is one of the best ways to lend support to the rebuilding of Nepal. For every tourist that visits the country at least seven people are affected in a positive way directly. Planning a trekking or cultural trip, and even a safari is not only an enriching personal experience, it's a step towards helping one of the most deserving people anywhere on the planet. You're welcome to check out trip ideas with our travel company in Nepal, just follow the link below. Nepal Trekking and Tours:https://explorehimalayan.com If you enjoy watching the Far East Adventure Travel Podcast please help others discover travel inspiration for East, Southeast, and South Asia. Follow the link below, click Ratings and Reviews, rate the podcast out of 5 stars, then write a review. Write A Podcast Review:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id890305531?mt=2 Subscribe to the Far East Adventure Travel Audio Podcast:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id1079513943?mt=2
Apr 24, 2017
It’s been 2 years since the first of several earthquakes and tremors terrorized the Himalayan nation of Nepal. It was April 25th, 2015 at 11:56am local time when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the country. It was followed by several hundred aftershocks and another 7.3 tremor on May 12 that in total killed nearly 9,000 people and injured over 22,000 leaving many homeless. To this day thousands are still not living in a permanent home. Having visited the country on several occasions over the years when I first heard the news of the devastation I thought I should plan a trip to see first-hand how severely damaged the country was and it’s tourism infrastructure. I knew that the media reports of a ruined tourism industry would have a huge impact on the nation and it’s people that desperately rely on tourists to earn a living. I also wanted to encourage other people to visit the country either through volunteering to help with the recovery or once the situation had stabilized, make their own travel plans to Nepal, as this is one of the most effective ways to help the country rebuild. My flight was due to arrive at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport May the 12th at 2pm. Approximately 1 hour before we were due to land the pilot announced another earthquake had struck Nepal and our descent would be delayed until crews finished a runway safety check. The plane went completely silent, passengers mostly all Nepalis returning home for the first time since the devastation, fearing more loss. This documentary series, comprised of recorded live streams, apologies for the inferior quality, along with regular footage I captured is my diary of the 20 days I spent in Nepal during some of the most desperate moments in the country’s history. After 90 minutes of circling the Kathmandu Valley on May 12, 2015 we were finally cleared for landing. This is where my story begins. I would love to get your feedback on the podcast either by email to john@fareastadventuretravel.com or just message me on the Far East Adventure Travel Facebook page. In China you can contact me on Weibo as fareastadventure. If you want to find out more about visiting Nepal you can check out our travel page Explore Himalayan. The link is in the show notes of this podcast. I’ll also leave a link in the show notes to my photo essay “Voices Of Nepal” published last year in the Impossible Project Magazine. Write A Podcast Review:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id890305531?mt=2 Travel Information For Nepal:https://explorehimalayan.com John Saboe "Voices Of Nepal"-https://magazine.the-impossible-project.com/voices-of-nepal/?utm_source=Impossible+Magazine&utm_campaign=4ecd6c44b0-Magazine_Monthly_Newsletter_July_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3aa46766f1-4ecd6c44b0-91484753&mc_cid=4ecd6c44b0&mc_eid=af7b26c1ba
Dec 4, 2016
Kagbeni is one of the most interesting villages in all of Nepal with it’s ancient Bonn Animist beliefs, statues and a picturesque location in the Kala Gandaki gorge. The Kag in Kagbeni was once Ghag, meaning center and it is, with the important Buddhist/Hindu pilgrimmage site Muktinath to the east and the town of Jomson to the south. The beni in Kagbeni means confluence of two rivers where the Kala Gandaki and Jhong Rivers meet is where the village sits. Before Tibetan Buddhism became the fabric of the culture of this region people followed Bon, another Tibetan religion. Bon is an ancient shamanist religion with rituals, exorcisms, and talismans. Kagbeni still integrates the beliefs of Bon in village life with these ghost eaters or Kennis that protect the town. I asked my friend Dara, the proprietor of YakDonald’s Hotel and Restaurant to explain what the statues do to protect Kagbeni and some of the other beliefs that Bon followers hold. I asked Dara who runs the famous restaurant and hotel of Kagbeni, why the name YakDonald’s? It was time to leave Kagbeni and head for Jomsom, the final stop for my Annapurna Circuit Trek. At roughly 3 hours it will be a light trekking day. The impressive Kali Ghandaki Gorge, some believe the deepest in the world has been an ancient trade route between Tibet and India for centuries. Kagbeni is one of my favorite villages in Nepal but we needed to get out of the gate by 8:30 so we can beat most of the winds that pick up by late morning. With a clear start to the day we were able to enjoy magnificent views of Nilgiri North at 7061 meters, the highest of the 3 peaks of the Nilgiri Himal. Horses are used for carrying loads as well as for tourist groups wanting to enjoy the Upper Mustang on horseback rather than by walking. Mountain biking has also become a popular way to see the region. Upper Mustang is considered one of the easier treks of Nepal. As we approached Jomsom the winds had started picking up. Flights from and to Jomsom airport are only scheduled in the early morning as the winds are too dangerous for air travel later in the day. The original Annapurna Circuit would take trekkers all the way back to Pokhara. Like most visitors these days, I’m ending my Annapurna trek at Jomsom, with a flight back to Pokhara. Jomsom is the gateway to Mustang and the Upper Mustang as well as Muktinath. Most people just pass through the village. There’s monasteries to visit and some wonderful views of Nilgiri and Dhaulagiri to enjoy and little shops and markets. But for most people stopping here for the night, it’s a place to chill and rest after or before a trek. I was quiet happy having lunch, settling into my lodge, then going for a walk around the village later in the afternoon and enjoying the sunset over Nilgiri. The next morning a little traffic jam on the way to the airport. Then it’s time for checking in and ending my Annapurna Circuit Trek. There are more adventurous and challenging regions for trekking, but for an overall experience of walking through brilliant landscapes, appreciating the diverse culture and people of Nepal, and comfortable friendly lodges, the Annapurna Circuit won’t dissapoint . Even as the region develops with more roads and infrastructure I still believe it lives up to it’s reputation as one of the world’s greatest treks.
Nov 30, 2016
We arrived at Thorung Phedi just before dark. An 8 hour day with an elevation gain of over 1000 meters. Long, tiring, and risky before a summit of the Thorung La Pass. But I was fine other then feeling the long day on the trail. I’m not a huge fan of trekking in the dark. I feel more tired, frustrated, and generally uncomfortable, so sometimes these summit days don’t start out pleasant, but when the first light comes up in the sky my spirits are all of sudden lifted. I feel light, full of energy, and excited to reach our goal, in most cases, the hardest day of the journey. Yes there is a horse on the trek, some choose a horseback ride up to the top of the pass. For most it’s usually a 4-5 hour walk from Thorung Phedi. Some stay at Thorung high camp, just over 300 meters higher, which will slice an hour off your morning summit. Whenever you reach the summit of a pass, which inevitably is part of many treks in Nepal, the feeling of accomplishment, relief, elation, is mutual with all of your fellow trekkers. The Thorung La Pass at 5416 meters, is the widest mountain pass in the world. It’s always a place with dangerously high winds that start as early as 8am, so our time on the pass was limited to less than an hour before we started to descend. Just over a year ago this was the sight of one of the most tragic trekking accidents in the history of the Annapurna Circuit Trail. On October 14 2014, a snowstorm struck the Annapurna, Manang, and Mustang Districts of Nepal causing severe avalanches. In the end over 400 people were rescued from the area with at least 43 deaths, which included 21 trekkers. Because the previous few days brought fresh snowfall to the region, descending down to Muktinath and Ranipauwa, our next stop would be treacherous and tiring. Roughly 4 to 5 hours of carefully trying to keep from sliding on my butt was challenging and on more than a couple of occasions I was defeated by the conditions. Arriving at Muktinath, the religious site that is both sacred to Buddhists and Hindus and the neighboring Ranipauwa village where we would lodge, felt like Shangri La. We passed by Muktinath and headed straight for Ranipauwa, sometimes also referred to as Muktinath, to settle into our lodge and get acquainted with the village. After the long trek of summiting the Thorung La pass and the rough and tumble descent, gazing at Dauligiri, the 7th highest mountain in the world seemed like the perfect way to end the day. The next morning I had more time to walk through the village and enjoy the views of the Mustang region. This is one of the most wonderful settings in Nepal. The dry region filled with captivating views of Himalayan peaks, Buddhist monasteries, and pilgrims that have journeyed from all over South Asia to visit Muktinath. For some Hindus, the central shrine of Muktinath is considered one of the 8th most sacred shrines in Asia. This is a Vishnu temple, one of the oldest and most revered in South Asia. The prakaram or outer courtyard of the temple has 108 bull faces through which sacred water is poured. Many devotees will take baths, even in freezing temperatures in the pools at the complex. Buddhists revere Muktinath for the fact that the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Rinpoche, meditated here on his way to Tibet. Their name for the temple complex is Chumig Gyatsa-Tibetan for a hundred waters. We all took a turn catching some of the holy water. Hari, being a Buddhist, was all in with his hat off and splashing the sacred water on his face. I took the conservative approach while running my hand through all 108 taps. Some will run under the spouts with nothing more than shorts or a bathing suit on in a total devotional effort to bring good kharma and luck to their life. I just wanted to stay warm while participating in my spiritual quest. You don’t need to be Hindu to have one of the priests on duty perform a puja or prayer for yo either. Just a donation which can be whatever you think is fair. Further away from the main temple complex is another holy site, The Goddess of Fire temple, where 3 eternal flames are located. The natural gas spouts are called the holy flame from rock, holy flame from soil, and holy flame from water. The close proximity of the flames, holy flowing water, and the earth which surrounds it, are the reasons for Muktinath’s prominence as an important pilgrimage site. As with many holy sites throughout Nepal and India, photography of the flames is not permitted. Hindus in particular will travel from as far away as South India to visit the site. Some even fly in from Kathmandu by helicopter, but due to the rapid rise in elevation can only stay for a short time. After crossing the Thorung La Pass many will travel through Muktinath and Ranipauwa only stopping for a short few hours before making their way to Kagbeni. I highly recommend at least staying one night in Ranipauwa. The village is simple, charming and friendly. You will receive attention from the local trinket sellers, but it’s usually just good-hearted. The views of the surrounding Mustang region are breathtaking and there is an heir of peace here that probably hasn’t changed much since Guru Rinpoche’s meditative stop. Mustang was once an independent kingdom, only fully coming into the fold of Nepal in 2008. Up until 1992 the Upper Mustang was completely closed off to the rest of the world. Having visited their myself to view this still preserved Tibetan culture and relatively untouched region I appreciated the similarities the lower Mustang offers. And there is no need for a special permit to trek here, other than a regular Annapurna Circuit trekking permit. Along with tourism animal husbandry is still one of the main sources of income, along with farming. Sea buckthorn grows in abundance here. The nutritious pulp from the berries is used to make syrups, tea, other drinks and is also used in cosmetic products. The most atmospheric of all of the villages is probably Jhong. With it’s ancient crumbling fortress and hilltop temple it feels like the setting of a fairy tale, or a Star Wars or Lord of The Rings shooting locale. We climbed up to the very top of the hill where the temple was located to enjoy some of the sweeping views of this side of the Himalaya. What seemed like an apple tree growing out of the roof was really rooted in the little courtyard below, where we met one of the young novices of the monastery. This region could be it’s own little trekking trip, with wonderful walks through these villages and comfortable stays in Jomsom, Kagbeni, and Ranipauwa Muktinath. One our way to Kagbeni we stopped to marvel at the peaks in the distance including The Thorung La. As wonderful a trekking day this can be it’s important for comfort to be done the majority of the walking for the day by the early afternoon, as the winds are quite strong through the Kali Gandaki Gorge. By the noon hour we reached the wonderful crossroads of the Annapurna Circuit and Upper Mustang regions Kagbeni. A town loaded with layers of Bon and Buddhist culture, Kennies, guardians or protector statues and an old fortressed village. Next time on Far East Adventure Travel, the ancient village of Kagbeni and the conclusion to Trekking The Great Annapurna Circuit.
Nov 21, 2016
There are two routes to Manang from Pisang. A lower trail that’s a little easier with less climbing and the upper route, slightly more challenging but also helpful for acclimating with bonus mountain views. We chose the route north of the Marsyangdi and headed for Upper Pisang. Annapurna 11 is part of the Annapurna chain but is an independent peak. It was first summited by a team made up of British/Indian/and Nepalese nationals in 1960. It is the second highest peak of the range at 7937 meters. The highest, Annapurna 1, is 8091 meters making it the 10th highest mountain in the world. Fantastic views of Lower Pisang from Upper Pisang, a much more traditional village of the region. Look for lots of opportunity to spread good kharma with the many prayer wheels at the village’s entrance. We saw a few signs of earthquake damage. These traditional village buildings saw the worst devastation in Nepal but this area was not as affected by quake damage as other regions. Our trekking for the day would include one stop for lunch at Ghyaru before settling into to the wonderful little traditional Tibetan style village of Gnawal. More suspension bridge crossings with amazing views of this drier region of the Annapurna Circuit that some feel is the most scenic. Climbing higher now at 3600 meters it’s time to slow the pace down slightly to allow for proper acclimatization. This side of the valley, although a little more challenging to trek will help you get used to the conditions of the higher altitude. Most trekkers will rest two days in Manang before attempting to cross the Thorung La Pass to help with adjusting to the higher elevation. This is the Disyang Valley. Syang is a village in Upper Mustang, Nepal. Disyang means the people who migrated from Upper Mustang to Manang. We arrived at the village of Ghyaru in time for a lunch break. Most all the villages resemble this style seen in the Mustang and Upper Mustang regions. The walled lanes help to shield visitors and residents from the harsh winds. In my opinion this trail is one of the most enjoyable in Nepal, for it’s incredible views of the Annapurna range and the stunning high Tibetan plateau landscape. It’s been an important route for yak and salt traders for centuries. You’re constantly reminded of the deep Tibetan Buddhist roots with stupas and mani walls almost around every corner. We arrived in Gnawal late in the afternoon with a shadow on the village and some cold winds to endure on the approach. With some of the best lodges in the country it was nice to arrive in Gnawal to find some wonderful rooms available for the night. After checking into my room I headed out to the upper part of the village where the sun was still shining to check out the gompa or temple. Sending out good kharma with a spin of the prayer wheels I headed back to the lodge to warm up by the kitchen fire and watch one of the porters entertain us with some improvisational dance. Later in the evening we were lucky enough to see a local performing artist group from Pokhara that specializes in traditional Tibetan and Gurung song and dance at the temple. Back on the trail the next morning for a trek of less than 4 hours to Manang, where we had a planned extra rest day for acclimatization. Should you develop any symptoms of high altitude sickness there’s a medical center that specializes in A.M.S. in the town. By road Manang has become more accessible in recent years allowing for more efficient transport of goods to the village and for the opportunity for some to enjoy this trekking region with a limited amount of time. There’s also a small airport that serves the whole area. There’s cultivation on terraces nearby the village and of course yak herding is popular here. Still with the new access it feels remote, and sublimely Tibetan. About 45 minutes before we reached Manang we walked through the little village of Braga with one of the nicest Buddhist monasteries in the region. The monks had left for Nepal for higher learning leaving the monastery vacant through the winter. Finally we arrived at our stop and rest before pursuing the hardest part of the trek, reaching the summit of the Thorung La Pass. Manang's main source of revenue is the trekking business but some still support themselves with crops and yak herding. After lunch and a break in our lodge I started exploring the village to discover we had a surprise for our itinerary. With one of the biggest trekking disasters in the history of the trail in the previous year we weren’t about to take any chances. We prepared ourselves for at least one extra day on top of the two we had already planned to spend in Manang. I spent the morning on day two wandering through the village watching everyday life in the snow. While some trekkers were disappointed abandoning the rest of their trip due to time constraints everyone else in the village just seemed to be going about life like it was just another day. Except the day’s chores included clearing roofs, catching animals, and building snowmen. In the afternoon to get some walking in and help acclimate we hiked back to the village of Braga to climb up to the monastery. Unfortunately unable to find the caretaker who had the key to the Buddhist monastery that’s vacant in the winter we had about the same access as these guys we crossed paths with. The next day, was brilliant. Bright sunny, a bluebird day. Time for the classic acclimatization hike in Manang overlooking Gangapurna Lake. After spending two nights in Manang with a planned third night we decided we would head straight for Thorung Phedi the next day, leaving out another acclimatization stop in Yak Kharka. This would mean a summit of the Thorung La Pass, the toughest day of the trek after a 8-9 hour day on the trail. Everything felt right, like this was the way the trek was meant to unfold. Even a herd of goats couldn’t stop us on our push to summit the pass the next day, but they did delay us by a few minutes. The snow backed up the village of Manang so there were alot of trekkers eager to move on with the change in weather. Pushing on right to Phedi would put us ahead of most who would make a stop for the night before the summit base camp. Along the way, some of the clearest best views of the Annapurna range. This was the longest day of the trek so a few stops en route for tea and rest were in order. Another stop at Khenjang Khola for some tea and more spectacular views of the Annapurna range. What originally was our stop for the night,Yak Kharka, has become our lunch break with our adjusted itinerary. We had to take a short lunch and move on so we can reach Phedi before dark. For now it feels like we’re leaving the Annapurnas behind as we make the last few kilometers to Phedi. I was very conscious of ensuring I was properly acclimating to this sever jump in elevation. Technically the rule of thumb is not to ascend and sleep at more than 500 meters from the previous day once you are above 3000 meters. The jump in altitude we were attempting in one day was over 1000 meters from Manang to Phedi. One precaution I took was to hire an extra porter to take the rest of the gear I was packing all the way to the top of the Thorung La, keeping my load light with minimal stress on my system. One last bridge over the Jargeng Khola river and we were on the same side of the valley as Phedi. We stopped one last time for a tea break before reaching our destination for the night. I spoke with Naris, one of the porters on our team about Yarsagumba, the lucrative crop that locals harvest in these hills every year. Next time on Far East Adventure Travel-Trekking the Great Annapurna Circuit continues with The toughest day of the trek. Summiting the Thorung La Pass. Yarsagumba Photo Credit-By The original uploader was Rafti Institute at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Lvova using CommonsHelper., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5088245
Nov 8, 2016
It’s a shame that many drive through this part of the circuit for upper Annapurna trekking and stays missing the epic river and waterfall views in this portion of the trail. The suspension bridge crossings that put you right in the middle of the energy path of the mighty Marshyangdi are breathtaking. This is now the third day of trekking and the mornings are feeling a little colder and crisper, so it’s important to get out right after the sun has risen so there’s plenty of time to walk in the warmer temps. In keeping with the original trail, which does take a little longer to walk, we have the opportunity to trek through more little villages for leisurely breaks. Across the valley what looks like a thin ledge carved out of the mountainside is the road that transports people and goods. From a distance the jeeps traveling the road almost appear to be literally on the edge of the cliff as they meander along. Another epic suspension bridge crossing with sweeping views of the Marshyangdi and surrounding valley. If you’re scared of heights you’ll eventually get used to these crossings-you have too! There’s no other way! After reaching Dhranapani, an important crossroads and trekking permit check-in office we agreed to just make this a lunch stop rather than an overnight stay and move a little further up the valley to Danaqyu village where we’d spend the night. This an important crossroads where the Manaslu trail meets up with the Annapurna Circuit. The Mansalu area was affected by the earthquakes of 2015 but things have since normalized. The Nepalese army along with help from locals and NGO’s have cleared away the fallen rocks from the trails over the past year. Prince Harry was even seen in this region in 2016 trekking and pitching in to help rebuild a school that had been damaged. Horses and goats on the side of the road and crossing paths with other herd animals was a sign we were nearing our stop for the night-Danaqyu. Dhranapani is a major crossroads for trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit and the Mansalu trail so it’s nice to kick back in a little village that has less traffic. Because there so many spots like Danaqyu on the Annapurna Circuit with great lodges you could trek this trail a few times and have a completely experience. This season following the devastating earthquakes was quiet to begin with. It would be another night in a lodge as the only guests. The next day’s destination was Chame, the administration center of Manang District. We had some climbing to tackle as our first challenge of the day, over 450 meters up to Timang. The promise of views of Manaslu and Annapurna II was motivating and helpful on a climb first thing in the morning. More bridges to cross, and animals like big yaks to yield to. It’s hit or miss whether you’ll see any of the Manaslu massif. On this day we missed. Mansalu is the 8th highest mountain in the world, first summited by Japanese mountaineers in 1956. Just as the British have claimed Everest as their mountain, the Japanese consider Mansalu a Japanese mountain. But just before our lunch stop at Koto on the way to Chame we caught the first glimpse of Annapurna II, at 7937 meters, the second highest peak in the 6 mountain range. It was a magnificent site and a wonderful welcome to this part of the region. The Annapurna translation from Sanskrit means “full of food” which makes sense as the normal translation is Goddess of the Harvests or the kitchen Goddess, the mother who feeds. Chame is the headquarters of Manang District, which is the least populated district in all of Nepal, with a total count of over 6500. Many Manangies are also traders having been given special permission by King Mahendra in the 1970’s to trade in Southeast Asia. Customs duties were waived and many now reside mostly in the Kathmandu Valley. They import electronics, watches, and other items and are allowed to export goods like precious stones, metals, and herbs among other things. The largest ethnic group in Manang District are the Gurung people, who over centuries have adopted Tibetan Buddhism, the signs of this are evident in the village with Buddhist stupas that hold relics and the remains sometimes of lamas, and mani walls for prayer. The next day we left with Lower Pisang village as our next destination. Not far outside of Chame we came across what I had been observing especially in this part of Nepal-signs of a new era of tourism, with young Nepali entrepreneurs bringing new ideas from the outside. Like this Apple Orchard using the latest strains in apple production. I spoke with the owner of this large orchard, Samraj Gurung about his inspiration for this new breed of apple orchard. After a tea and some fresh crisp golden delicious apples from Samraj’s orchard we were back on the trail. Hari my guide, who is Gurung himself joins in with a local senior for a mid-morning Buddhist chant. We’re now at Dhukurpokhary, home of the Paunga Danda rock wall, or gateway to heaven. A massive mountain of stone thatt literally looks like a giant wall reaching towards the sky. Locals believe that all souls of the deceased must ascend Paunga Danda after leaving their bodies. Our stop for the night Pisang. The area consists of a lower village at 3200 meters and an upper more traditional old Tibetan style walled village at 3300 meters. The lower village has more lodge choices and shops so we opted for a night there. Mani walls, the stone walls made of tablets with the inscription om mani padme hum, meaning “jewel in the lotus” are found everywhere here. Pisang reminds me of Nepal’s Upper Mustang Tibetan/Buddhist region and Tibet itself, environmentally and culturally. Many residents leave for the Kathmandu Valley or other places during the winter months but we’re still able to see some traditional village life, spinning prayer wheels, and the smell of juniper burning as Buddhist offerings. Next time on Far East Adventure Travel Trekking The Great Annapurna Circuit, Nepal continues.
Oct 10, 2016
I've have been very fortunate to have trekked some of the greatest trails in the world. Everest Base Camp in Nepal and Tibet, the once forbidden Upper Mustang region of Nepal, and India's Singalila Ridge trek among others. I finally decided last year that the Annapurna Circuit would be the next big trek I would attempt. It's the busiest trail in the world, even busier than the popular route to Everest Base Camp. It's also probably the most convenient trek as well with the highest concentration of guesthouses and facilities. Even flush toilets are found in most guesthouses throughout the region-with the exception of just before the Thorong La Pass, at 5416 meters the highest point on the trek. Sadly for the owners and operators of guesthouses and trekking companies, the Annapurna Circuit may have seen it's worse year ever in for visits in 2015 due to the drop off of tourism after the devastating earthquakes and the fuel crisis. The region also saw one of the worst trekking tragedies ever, with the death of 39 people following a freak storm in October 2014. One of the reasons why the Annapurna Circuit has been at the top of trekker's favorite trails is it's varied landscape and climate. You begin in Besisahar, a subtropical region filled with rice terraces, citrus and papaya trees. Gradually your lead into the high Himalaya and the far reaches of the Tibetan Plateau. The plethora of the country's best guesthouses and facilities has also contributed to the trail's popularity. Nicknamed the "apple pie" trek almost every guesthouse has a version of the dessert they serve. Hot showers abound as well as Western style flush toilets. In recent years due to the development of a road system in the region, some have even opted for a jeep drive through the lower valley skipping the first few days of foot travel to spend more time in the higher altitude and manage most of the trek with a shorter vacation. This trek would also be the first time I would attempt live streaming on Periscope. Following research of the potential for 3G connectivity I brought two sim cards from the country's cellular service providers, Nepal Telecom and N Cell. Even with the highest probability for live streaming out of any trekking region in Nepal disappointingly at best I was only able to connect in 3 locations. It was still exciting to be one of the first "scopers" to live stream from the Himalaya and one of the greatest trekking regions in the world. I hope you enjoy the best of Far East Adventure Travel "Live" from Nepal's Annapurna Circuit.
Aug 20, 2016
Kathmandu is at it's most colorful with the lead up to Tihar, the festival of lights-marigold garlands are available everywhere for worship and celebration. 2015 will go down as one of the most challenging if not the most disastrous year ever for Nepal. From the worst earthquakes in over 80 years to a fuel crisis that literally turned the country upside down with line-ups at the pump that lasted for days to a lack of basic cooking and heating fuel for the majority of the population. I visited the country twice in 2015. The first time was just after the devastating earthquakes and tremors that started April 25th. My flight was actually denied clearance for landing for over 90 minutes on May 12 while crews checked the runway for safety after the second biggest earthquake struck the country that day. My second visit was in October and November when I returned to trek the Annapurna Circuit and check up on the conditions of recovery from the earthquakes. As I had heard reports before I arrived that virtually no reconstruction had begun I was not shocked to see things, especially in the Kathmandu Valley, had not changed other then some rubble had been cleared away. The fuel crisis had created food shortages and delayed plans for rebuilding. From a tourist's point of view this could be easily seen by shortened menus in popular restaurants to some establishments even closing their doors frustrated by the lack of ingredients available and the extreme costs and shortages of cooking fuel. As well as some landmarks and monument still noticeably in need of repair or reconstruction. Nepalis were frustrated with their festival plans either from the lack of reliable transportation getting to a from their home village to the shortage of special food for celebrations cooking fuel. Still despite the politics that created the fuel crisis, an unofficial Indian embargo as a result from a new constitution which did not favour ethnic groups in the south, Nepalis seemed to carry on as they usually do through adversity. After spending a few days in Pokhara following my trek of the Annapurna Circuit I returned to Nepal in time for the Tihar Festival, otherwise called "the festival of lights". In other South Asian countries and communities around the world it's known as Diwali. It's one of the most exciting times to visit Kathmandu. Marigold garlands are available everywhere to help celebrate the festival and everyone is in a joyous mood. It's also a unique introduction for many into the Hindu religion and culture. To see the various days celebrated in the festival including Kukhar Tihar, the day of the dog, when dogs are decorated with garlands and tikas is enlightening. It's part of the lead up to the most important day of the festival Lakshmi Puja. Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity and it's believed she will visit your home or business on this night and you will be blessed with a prosperous year-if it's cleaned and decorated with flowers, lights, and rangoli art, the street or courtyard designs made of colored sand, flower petals and dry flour. I hope you enjoy the latest episode of Far East Adventure Travel "Live" Best of Nepal 2015 and the exciting days of Kathmandu's Tihar Festival.
Aug 11, 2016
[caption id="attachment_3820" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Kathmandu is at it's most colorful with the lead up to Tihar, the festival of lights-marigold garlands are available everywhere for worship and celebration.[/caption] 2015 will go down as one of the most challenging if not the most disastrous year ever for Nepal. From the worst earthquakes in over 80 years to a fuel crisis that literally turned the country upside down with line-ups at the pump that lasted for days to a lack of basic cooking and heating fuel for the majority of the population. I visited the country twice in 2015. The first time was just after the devastating earthquakes and tremors that started April 25th. My flight was actually denied clearance for landing for over 90 minutes on May 12 while crews checked the runway for safety after the second biggest earthquake struck the country that day. My second visit was in October and November when I returned to trek the Annapurna Circuit and check up on the conditions of recovery from the earthquakes. As I had heard reports before I arrived that virtually no reconstruction had begun I was not shocked to see things, especially in the Kathmandu Valley, had not changed other then some rubble had been cleared away. The fuel crisis had created food shortages and delayed plans for rebuilding. From a tourist's point of view this could be easily seen by shortened menus in popular restaurants to some establishments even closing their doors frustrated by the lack of ingredients available and the extreme costs and shortages of cooking fuel. As well as some landmarks and monument still noticeably in need of repair or reconstruction. Nepalis were frustrated with their festival plans either from the lack of reliable transportation getting to a from their home village to the shortage of special food for celebrations cooking fuel. Still despite the politics that created the fuel crisis, an unofficial Indian embargo as a result from a new constitution which did not favour ethnic groups in the south, Nepalis seemed to carry on as they usually do through adversity. I spent time in Pokhara after my trek through Annapurna visiting the beautiful World Peace Pagoda as well as enjoying the celebrations of Tihar, the festival of lights in Kathmandu. In the latest episode of Far East Adventure Travel join me for "live" highlights from last November in Nepal.
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!
May 14, 2016

When I visited Nepal in May of 2015 the country was in the middle of one of the worst natural disasters in it's history. Fear was felt everywhere as the second biggest tremor registering 7.3 shook the country on May 12 followed by more aftershocks.

Despite the uncertain future and the constant fear of another big earthquake, including rumors of an even more devastating one, Nepalis continued their daily prayers and worship.

Tibetan refugees and other Buddhists were seen one their koras of Boudhanath stupa and Hindus prayed at their neighborhood temples and shrines.

In Patan the Bunga Dya Festival celebrating the rain God was delayed due to safety concerns with the two chariots that are pulled throughout the streets of Lalitpur District during the event.

In part 5 of My Beloved Nepal a look at some of the temples of Kathmandu that were damaged or destroyed during the earthquakes of 2015 along with scenes of continued daily worship in one the most significant spiritual centers on the planet.

The post My Beloved Nepal-Part 5-Worship Amidst Ruins appeared first on Far East Adventure Travel.

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