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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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Adventure Travel, Far East: Inspired by Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, National Geographic
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Now displaying: Category: travel ideas
Oct 28, 2017
https://www.patreon.com/FarEastAdventureTravel I rely on public support to continue sharing travel inspiration from Asia! Become a patron of Far East Adventure Travel! Visit my Patreon page now! It's alway exciting when you first arrive in a destination like Kuching, the capital of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo. The sights, food, people, the environment as a whole. I have so many great memories of Kuching in particular because I was able to easily explore the town by foot. Meeting local people, being invited into the Sikh Gurdwara for lunch and a tour. Walking in the old Kampongs, traveling by riverboat on the Sarawak River, and meeting the warm, friendly, and hospitable people of the region. I hope this episode gives you a taste of what this amazing place on the exotic island of Borneo has to offer! YouTube-https://www.youtube.com/user/shngmn
Sep 26, 2017
https://fundly.com/far-east-adventure-travel-video-production-improvements Please visit my crowdfunding page! Your donation will help me upgrade video equipment to bring you better broadcasts and content from Asia! There has been much talk lately about the elimination of food stalls and carts on many of the streets in Bangkok, Thailand. On my most recent visit this was very evident in places like Pratunam where there used to me non-stop food carts on the streets of this mega shopping district. While exploring Chinatown it seemed like there were still many food carts on the streets and alleys but it’s possible there are not as many as there once was. This is a continuation of a live video stream from my exploration around Chinatown. Discovering electronics markets, exotic foods, and temples is what I consider one of the great joys of traveling. Having the time to just wander without the pressure of ticking off a list of attractions or sites is liberating. I hope you enjoy this casual walk through the streets of one of the most visited cities in the world, Bangkok, Thailand.
Sep 26, 2017
https://fundly.com/far-east-adventure-travel-video-production-improvements Please visit my crowdfunding page. Donations help towards purchasing new video equipment. Thanks for your support! Follow me on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/johnsaboeofficial/ Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/fareastadventuretravel/ Bangkok is one of my favorite cities in Southeast Asia. A modern city that's retained much of it's cultural heritage, it's fast-paced, vast, naughty, and filled with temples, markets, amazing food, entertainment and world-class shopping. It's also where you can find one of Southeast Asia's most vibrant Chinatowns. In this episode I explored some of the interesting lanes and streets where you can find everything from durian, the king of fruit, to Chinese medicinal remedies, fantastic street food, restaurants, and stores filled with gadgets, kitchen utensils, and pottery. I'm also looking forward to very soon bringing you live broadcasts from Asia on BlogTalkRadio and a chance to connect with you either by phone or Skype-stay tuned! Write a review for Far East Adventure Travel:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id1079513943?mt=2
Aug 31, 2017
fundly.com/far-east-adventure-travel-video-production-improvements Thanks so much for visiting my crowdfunding page! Your support will help me to create even better podcasts from Asia! Bangkok, Thailand has been one of the top 3 cities visited in the world for some time now. It's no surprise when you start discovering what Bangkok is all about. History, tradition, culture, shopping, food, and notorious red light districts. It's also of course a hub for Southeast Asia and a bridge to the middle east and Europe. On my most recent visit I saw for myself the clear sidewalks void of the famous street vendors of Bangkok. This has been reported for many weeks now but this was my first-hand look at the current street food situation. There are stalls to be found if you look around Chinatown, some of the tourist streets like Khao San Road but the vendors are gone all around Pratunam and the streets around Siam Paragon and Central World. It's disappointing but it's happening around other major cities in Southeast Asia, like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Governments in some cases want the sidewalks free of clutter so it's safer for pedestrians. That's certainly a valid concern for a city like Ho Chi Minh where it can be quite dangerous walking around stalls and parked motorbikes. It may just be the new reality of Southeast Asia. It may also be an opportunity for countries like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar that are still considerably undeveloped and have plenty of growth opportunity with their tourism industries compared with a giant like Thailand. Regardless Bangkok is still an amazing city worth spending several days visiting. You'll no doubt end up in Pratunam, considered by most the center of modern and luxury shopping in Southeast Asia. Join me for an evening walk in Bangkok's shopping mecca district.
Aug 29, 2017
fundly.com/far-east-adventure-travel-video-production-improvements Thanks so much for taking the time to view my crowdfunding page. I continue to strive to bring you better video content from Asia. I'm extremely grateful for your support whether it's $5, $10, $20 or more. In order for me to make what I do sustainable I need to expand my video on YouTube as well as continue to grow my livestreaming base and of course what started it all, the video podcast! Thank you for your support! For me a visit to Bangkok is not complete without a trip to see the Erawan Shrine, in the heart of Pratunam and the shopping district. The contrast between modern shopping, elevated trains, and the 4 headed Brahma shrine is sharp and unlike any city in the west. Unfortunately the shrine gained international attention in August 2015 when a bomb was set off there killing 20 people and injuring 125. Today there is still no conclusive evidence of who or why the bomb was detonated at the shrine. The Erawan Shrine was actually placed on this site because of bad luck believed to have been caused by laying the foundation for the Erawan Hotel on the wrong date. The builders consulted an astrologer who advised them to put the shrine on the site to counter the bad karma. In 1987 the Erawan Hotel was demolished making room for the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel. Thai traditional dancers sing and perform for worshippers who pay a fee. You can order the full deck of dancers-8, or just 2 who will sing and dance while you pray. A live band accompanies the singers. The music, singing, and intense smell of incense against the backdrop of the biggest shopping district in Southeast Asia is intoxicating and addictive. I'll always visit the Erawan Shrine!
Aug 1, 2017
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is made up of 5 small islands between 5-8 kilometers off of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah Malaysian Borneo. In this episode I’m heading for one of the smallest, Pulau Sapi, or Cow Island. It’s one of the least developed areas of the park. Great beaches, diving and snorkeling with a bonus chance of seeing some monitor lizards up close in the wild. Sapi Island can be reached by boat from the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal in KK. You can purchase a ticket directly to the island or get a multi-island ticket. This is a half-day or day trip for most. There are no hotels on Sapi but with prior permission from the park’s office you could camp there. Pulau Gaya, the largest island in the group at 3700 acres compared to Sapi at just 25 has resorts and more amenities. This is one of the finest beaches in the park. I’ll spend a little time here but first I’ll do a quick hike around the island where I may see the lizards and some macaques. This is the map I had to work with, not exactly detailed but the island is only 25 acres. In the worst case I’ll just swim if I get lost on land. Right out of the gate I get a quick glimpse of a monitor lizard but it quickly dashes into the forest. The trail that runs the perimeter of the island takes about 45 minutes to hike around with some nice little private beaches you can stop at along the way. Here’s a pretty cool adventure. Take a boat to Pulau Gaya, then zipline to Pulau Sapi. You can reach speeds of up to 50km/hr on the 250 meter crossing of the two islands. It’s also possible to swim from island to island, but as there are no lifeguards there, do it at your own risk. Back near the center of activity on Sapi close to the main beach and bbq area I found the biggest gathering of monitor lizards. These are actually water monitors, locally they’re called biawak. The males can reach up to 3 meters in length and weigh up to 50 kilos. They are very adept at swimming, and can stay underwater for up to a half-hour so watch out! You may see them catching a wave next to you. They’re more scavenger then predator so you probably won’t find them attacking people unless you get to close in their space, like some foolish tourists who try to include them in their selfie. These lizards carry a deadly bacteria in their mouth and their claws could tear a sizable chunk of flesh out of you so be careful. Monitors defend themselves with their tails, claws and jaws. These lizards are carnivores and will eat birds, rodents, snakes, crabs and even carrion, similiar to their bigger cousin The Komodo Dragon. Their main hunting technique is to run after their prey once spotted. They also have an amazing one way breathing system that can be traced back to dinosaurs. Pulau Sapi was a great half-day getaway from Kota Kinabalu and in between bigger Borneo trips. An easy boat ride gets you to a pretty nice spot for beach, relaxation, absorbing recent travel and cultural experiences, and even a little exotic animal viewing. It’s back on the boat to KK and more adventure in Malaysian Borneo with Far East Adventure Travel The Podcast, I’m John Saboe, Thanks for joining me, safe travels and Namaste!. "KKMap3". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KKMap3.png#/media/File:KKMap3.png
Jun 30, 2017
Bukhansan National Park is almost 80 sq/km in size and is located so close to the urban area of Seoul, South Korea that it’s possible to take the subway here, like I did on this visit. I started out in Insadong and transferred to line number 1 and rode the train until the very last stop of Dobongsan, which is actually the name of the mountain I’m going to hike up today. I think it’s important wherever you are hiking to stake out a place to have a beer or coffee and something to eat afterwards,. Some motivation or a reward to think about as you’re making your way to the top and of course something to contemplate as you safely get back down. It’s a bit of a hike itself just to get to the entrance of the park from the subway station, passing through what seems like a galleria of hiking and outdoor stores, Koreans love their outdoor gear. Plus there’s loads of restaurants and stalls selling food. I’m going to grab some gimbap, Korea’s version of sushi, the perfect picnic or hiking meal. Some say gimbap was inspired by the tekkamaki sushi rolls eaten by the Japanese soldiers that were present here during Japan’s rule of the country. Others say it is totally an original food of Korea, Either its the perfect dish to stuff in my backpack along with some kimchi, Korea’s national spicy pickled cabbage dish. Finally it feels like I’ve arrived in the park or at least I’m alot closer. I spot this very cool relief style map of Bukhansan and all of the mountains that are hikeable. Rock climbing is also a huge sport here. Bukhansan National Park was established in 1983. Being so close to the urban sprawl of Seoul, which is the third largest urban area in the world and an area population of over 25 million it’s a very popular recreation area. In fact at least 5 million people visit the park every year making it the most visited national park per square kilometer in the world. Another added feature of hiking in Bukhansan National park are the Buddhist temples that are scattered throughout the mountains. The first one I come across is Gwangnyun-sa. Shaminism was widely practised in Korea before the introduction of Buddhism in 372. Because Buddhism did not conflict with the nature worship of shaminism it was allowed to blend with the indigenous religion. Because spirits were believed to inhabit the mountains in pre-Buddhist times they became the home to many temples. The trails here are well marked so it’s pretty easy to stay on course. Dobongsan mountain is made up of 5 peaks and on this day I will go to it’s highest, Jaunbong Peak at 740m. It’s not a hard hike if you are in reasonably good shape. OK Mr. positive I would like to see some amazing views but It’s just not going to happen today. Too bad because this peak looks absolutely spectacular from this photo point image. Even with a little light adjustment it only makes the trees stand out. The trails are quiet though and normally this place is crowded with hikers sometimes causing traffic jams. Within Bukhansan National Park you can see up to 1300 different kinds of flora and fauna, Bukhansanseong Fortress with over 2000 years of history and over 100 Buddhist Temples and monk cells. Bukhansan is also a birder’s paradise with a chance to see among other species the great spotted woodpecker. On this day I’m just going to have to settle for this spotted cat! I was getting closer to Jaunbong Peak but with the skies appearing to become darker the threat of rain was looming. I was hoping I would make it all the way to the top before a downpour. When it rains in this part of the world the showers are fierce and sometimes torrential. In East Asia you have to be prepared with rain gear, like a poncho or an umbrella, so long as there’s no lightning. With the heat and humidity in the summer months jackets, unless they are of the lightest material, will most likely cause you to melt. Because the skies were cloudy with the possibility of rain few hikers were here. Normally on a sunny day this trail can be backed up with people trying to get to the top. Wow, this was really a special feeling in the mountains of South Korea, only 20km from the border of North Korea amongst these beautiful rock formations. Just can’t see past these rocky of Dobongsan but on a sunny day this small area of Jaunbong would be packed with people. Oh yeah, gotta get the selfie in here. Hey think about it, if they had this ability back in the day do you realize Edmund Hillary would have actually had a picture of himself on the top of Mt. Everest. So laugh if you will but they are a great way to record your achievement. OK not even close to anything in the Himalaya let alone Everest but a great day hike with some incredible scenery and guess what-it just started to rain as I made it to the top. I will definitely come back to explore more of Bukhansan National Park in South Korea. There are so many trails, interesting sites and temples that I can’t wait to see. Now where was that place I staked out earlier for a much earned beer. I know it’s somewhere around here…. Write A Podcast Review:
Jun 29, 2017
East Asia is such a super friendly place for foreigners with efficient subway or MRT lines throughout all major cities including Seoul, South Korea. All stations have English signs and all stops are announced in English. Namsan mountain is the most well-known of the four guardian mountains of Seoul with the famous landmark, Seoul N Tower topping the 262m peak. It’s not a challenging or particularly strenuous hike but it’s a nice break from the chaotic megalopolis below. It’s also a great way to join locals in their everyday activities and experience the fitness and hiking culture of the city. If you start your hike from the gondola station it’s extremely easy to find your way with signs in English everywhere. This is more like a vigorous walk in a park than a mountain hike. No rough trails to deal with. Stairs everywhere and there’s even rubberized sections of the trail to lessen the impact of hiking on a hard surface. When it comes to activities like this Koreans really know how to makes things comfortable. This may look like a road but it’s pedestrian only! On the way you’ll see sites you can check out like Waryongmyo, a Buddhist/Daoist/Shamanist Shrine dedicated to Zhuge Liang, a Chinese statesman and general who lived from 181-234 AD. As you meander up the trail you’ll start to get views of Seoul and the surrounding mountains. It’s a wonderful way to appreciated the city where half the population of the country lives. It’s easy to enjoy the serene atmosphere of the walk up Namsan. You’ll also have views of N Seoul Tower. The N stands for Namsan, nature and New look from a 2005 15 billion won remodelling project. Namsan is a popular place for Seoulites to visit on the weekend with many spots available for picnics and other outdoor activities. Namsan is considered Seoul’s principal park. It averages 23,000 visits a day. Every April a Cherry blossom festival takes place across Seoul with the longest avenue of Cherry trees anywhere in the city at Namsan mountain. There was a haze and clouds over the surrounding mountains of Seoul on the day I visited Namsan. There are 37 mountains in the greater Seoul area, many easily accessed by subway or bus. One of the most fascinating things I saw along the hike was Sukhojung, an archery field that dates back to 1630, still in operation today. Archery had played a prominent role in the defence of the country, particularly on Namsan mountain, one of the sites of The Fortress Wall of Seoul, the shield that protected the city from invaders. This outdoor gym was a sign I was getting closer to the direct stairs to the top of the mountain. As you get higher each step has a built in rubber cushion making it a little easier on the knees and joints. Koreans are real outdoor enthusiasts that also appreciate making the activity comfortable and convenient with covered rest areas, washrooms, and these wonderfully comfortable stairs. As I was on final approach to the top, with the tower now in direct sight the views opened up to show even though this is one of the most densely populated places in the world there are still large visible green spaces in greater Seoul. Follow Namsan’s portion of the Fortress Wall of Seoul, first constructed in 1396, and you’ll understand the strategic importance of the four guardian mountains and this wall that protected the city during the Joeson Dynasty. When I reached the top I was just in time for the patrolling and lighting ceremony reenactment of Namsan Bongsudae. There were 5 Bondsudae stations on Namsan during the Joeson Dynasty used to communicate political and military information to the king with beacons. Bongsu is the combination of the words bong, meaning torchlight, and su, meaning smoke. At the peak of the Joeson Dynasty there were 673 beacons located throughout the Korean peninsula. This Bongsudae on Namsan was reconstructed in 1993. It was an extremely warm and humid day so these sprinklers were a relief from the heat for everyone. More views directly under N Seoul Tower, which has been open to the public and showcasing views of the city and surrounding area since 1980. These locks underneath the tower are symbols of love from the countless dates that have taken place here over time. You can check out how many different languages love messages are written in, on these symbols of a forever lasting love. Or leave your own, but it looks like all the good views are gone. I like everyday activities, like cycling, hiking or walking in an urban area I’m visiting. The feeling of participating in the same daily workout or exercise that locals enjoy, like Namsan Mountain, makes me feel more engaged and like I’m actually living in the place rather than just being a sightseer or tourist. Next time you’re in Seoul, South Korea try hiking one of the mountains for a break from the busy city, a sense of touching everyday life, maybe even a little bit of history, and some pretty amazing views.
Jun 20, 2017
How do you figure out which temples to see in Bangkok when there are over 400 of them? Here are the top 3 that should be on anyone’s list. I’ll explore more in another episode but here’s where to start. This may be enough for your first trip to Bangkok, Thailand. Let’s start the tour! Number 3, Wat Arun. Even though it’s name means temple of dawn this is a wonderful site best enjoyed at sunset. Located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, some consider it the most beautiful temple in Thailand. It’s prang or spire on the banks of the river is a world-class landmark. At the time of my visit, Wat Arun was undergoing major renovations as you can see by the scaffolding. Wat Arun held the great Emerald Buddha before it was transferred to Wat Phra Kaew at the Grand Palace. In fact the temple was part of the grounds of the royal palace where it was located before it was moved in 1785. Wat Arun glistens in the golden hour at sunset. It’s intricate craftmanship of tiny pieces of glass and Chinese porcelain artfully placed on the prang and other structures is an unforgettable site. You can get to Wat Arun via Tha Tien Pier also called Pier 8 right after you visit the number 2 temple. Wat Pho, home of the reclining Buddha. This temple complex is perfect for just wandering as most people will show up, check out the 46 meter long Buddha and immediately leave. You’ll have lots of space to enjoy the atmosphere of a world-class heritage site and the largest collection of Buddha statues in Thailand. Wat Pho was the first public university in the country and is also home to the top massage school. This is where you can experience a more therapeutic rather than soothing massage. Book ahead otherwise you may have a long wait which can eat into precious exploring time. Of course you also want to savour the presence of this incredible reclining Buddha that’s covered in gold leaf. This image is the Buddha entering Nirvana thus ending reincarnations. The statue is 46 meters long and 15 meters high with the soles of the feet at 3 meters height and inlaid with mother of pearl. There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor representing the 108 auspicious characters of the Buddha. You can purchase a bowl of coins you can use to drop in the bowls for good fortune, which also aids the monks in preserving the reclining Buddha and Wat Pho. The sound the coins make when dropping is pretty cool in the giant hall. Wat Pho is within walking distance of the number one temple to visit in Bangkok, Wat Phra Kaew or the temple of the Emerald Buddha, located within the Grand Palace complex. Because Wat Phra Kaew doesn’t house any monks it is more like a personal chapel for the royal family than an actual temple. The emerald Buddha is considered the palladium of the Kingdom of Thailand. It is made of a single block of jade and is 66 centimeters or 26 inches high, cloaked in three different gold costumes appropriate for the three seasons, wet and hot, and winter, the cool season. No photographs or video are allowed inside the chapel but you can spend as much time as you like enjoying the Buddha and interior of the structure. This is the spiritual heart of Thailand and the top tourist attraction of Bangkok with thousands of visitors daily. There is a dress code and you will be stopped by officials if your clothing is deemed inappropriate. I’ll leave a link in the video description for your reference. In fact most if not all Buddhist temples in Thailand have specific requirements for appropriate clothing. The Grand Palace is crowded and most of the time, an extremely hot place with no air conditioning so pace yourself. To avoid some of the bigger crowds it’s best to start as early as possible, the complex opens at 8:30 everyday. Conceivably you could see all top 3 temples in one day. Starting out at The Grand Palace, then stopping for a coffee or tea beak in a cool cafe around Tha Thien or Pier 8, which is close by Wat Pho and the reclining Buddha. Then visiting Wat Pho before a leisurely lunch around Tha Tien. Then finishing off your tour with a river crossing to Wat Arun in the late afternoon and perhaps enjoying the sunset from one of the best spots in the city. Help others discover Far East Adventure Travel in iTunes! Write a Review: Dress Code For Royal Urn at Grand Palace-Bangkok, Thailand: Regular Dress Code: Music Credits Indore Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ Mystic Force Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
Jun 5, 2017
In part II of my walk through Jalan Alor Food Street in Kuala Lumpur I stop to talk with a Durian seller, check out some of the street musicians performing in the surrounding area and chat more about the culture and food of Malaysia. Jalan Alor is quite easy to get to from most places where visitors stay in KL. You can walk from Chinatown, about 15 minutes or if you're around KL Central Station you can take the monorail to Bukit Bintang station and walk 5 minutes. Don't bother showing up before 6pm as they still might be setting up tables and chairs for the evening. This is not really considered a night market as there are mostly sit down restaurants, but there are a few food stalls around. There are also fruit sellers selling whatever is in season. Lychee, longan, rambutan, mangosteen, or if you're daring or lucky, you'll be there for durian season and can finish off your meal in a most traditional Malaysian way with the king of fruit! For my most recent meal at Jalan Alor I dined at Wong Ah Wah. I ordered grilled stingray,(small portion), squid fried in batter mixed with squid eggs, some gai lan wok-fried with garlic, and rice. Total cost was 79 ringit=$18.40USD. The stingray was perfectly grilled, moist on the inside, and came with a spicy dipping sauce. This was my first time trying squid eggs fried with squid and it was almost overwhelming rich, but wonderful. The gai lan was fresh and delicious and I washed it all down with a large Tuborg beer, Tiger wasn't available. Ordering beer is not a problem anywhere along the Jalan Alor but if you've been traveling for awhile around Southeast Asia you will notice prices are higher compared to most anywhere else. For a 633ml of Tuborg I paid approximately 17 ringit=$3.97 USD. Vietnam is one of the cheapest spots for beer, with 450ml bottles going at some street stall restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City for $.70USD. There are lots of great restaurants in Kuala Lumpur but my favorite place overall for experience, food, and value is Jalan Alor! Help support travel and production costs for Far East Adventure Travel. Visit my Patreon page and become a sponsor of Far East Adventure Travel for as little $1/month. Get exclusive content and more! Check out the offers now! https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4035923 Help others discover Far East Adventure Travel in iTunes! Write a Review:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id890305531?mt=2
May 29, 2017
Bako National Park on the island of Borneo is Sarawak, Malaysia’s oldest park established in 1957. It packs in a huge variety of landscape, vegetation and wildlife for it’s small size of 27 sq/km. Only accessible by boat, if you’re based in Kuching you’ll just need to make arrangements to get to Bako Bazaar and the boat launch dock. There’s a public bus, or you can hire a taxi or Uber. By the way, although I did have to wait 18 minutes I was very lucky to get an Uber ride back to Kuching. Unless you want to pay a premium boats don’t leave the dock unless there are 5 passengers, so as long as you arrive not too late in the morning, it shouldn’t be long before you’re on your way, especially if you’re by yourself. The boat ride out to Bako, which takes about 20 minutes is an adventure itself, passing by fishermen and remote beaches and seeing the Satubong Peninsula. Once you reach Teluk Assam beach that leads to park headquarters you disembark from the boat and wade into shore. You could easily spend a half day just here, looking at the peninsula in the distance and checking out the wildlife that hangs out around the beach, including proboscis monkeys we caught a glimpse of right in the trees as we approached headquarters. You must check in at park headquarters when you arrive and present your park pass you purchased at the boat launch. It’s also a good idea to register which trail you will be on at the desk. Once you’ve completed that then you’re off to enjoy the beauty of Bako National Park. One of the guides that I met at the boat launch suggested I walk the Pandan Besar trail which gives you wonderful views, a chance to see unique vegetation, like the carniverous pitcher plants, and should allow enough time to do some wildlife viewing around the beach before the last boat leaves for the day at 3pm. Once you’re out of the lower trail and the jungle canopy you are in the scrub like padang vegetation and exposed to the sun, so it’s a good idea to bring a hat and use sunscreen. It would have been really easy to miss these pitcher plants that I saw close to the ground while walking the trail. They are abundant in this area. You will dip back into Kerangas forest, kerangas is an Iban word, Iban are the indigenous people of Sarawak. It means “land which cannot grow rice”-you’ll come out of the kerangas in the final stretch of the Pandan Besar trail. This is the prize at the end of the trail. Lovely views looking out at this beach, which is unfortunately inaccessible by foot. Another beach close by Pandan Kecil can be hiked from here. One thing you need to be mindful of when hiking here is the possibility of tropical downpours, Bako is part rainforest and on my way back I headed right into a huge rainstorm, which pretty much finished my hiking and exploring for the day. But it was a truly amazing taste of wild Borneo. Thanks to:http://www.purple-planet.com for their awesome soundtrack music! Write A Podcast Review: Visit the Far East Adventure Travel Patreon page and become a sponsor!:
May 26, 2017
I'm often surprised by certain things about a new place I've visited or discovered. Never more than on my recent trip to Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo where I found the local people were especially friendly and welcoming. Random greetings while crossing the street, "hello, welcome! Where you from?" Sometimes a hello from a group of students walking home from school or just people you cross paths with in the air conditioned modern shopping mall. Island people I've found, for the most part, are generally laid-back, easy-going and friendly. I've met and have had amazing hospitality on my most recent trip to Sabah on Borneo as well. And of course the people of Taiwan are known for being some of the friendliest people on the planet. I hope the Sarawak Tourism Bureau has a big party for their people because these are the kinds of things that most visitors will remember and tell their friends and others about when they're asked what their trip was like. No doubt you're going to have some pretty awesome memories if you visit Semenggoh, the orangu-tan sanctuary or spend a day or two in Bako National Park. Having Sarawak's famous Laksa, noodle soup for breakfast, gorging on some of the cheapest and best seafood in Southeast Asia at the UTC Top Spot Food Court will certainly be big takeaways from a visit to Kuching. I can guarantee you though that provided you didn't spend your whole time in your hotel or guesthouse room, it's the kind-hearted and friendly people of Kuching that will be one of your strongest impressions of a visit to Sarawak. In this episode of the podcast I'm experimenting with a different format including more travel advice and tips that's specific to the place featured. Of course I will continue to bring you the best experiences the area has to offer. In upcoming episodes watch out for my visit to the Semenggoh Orangu-tan Reserve, Bako National Park as well as other not to be missed sites around Kuching. I was really impressed with Kuching, the range of guesthouses and hotels, the exceptional food and overall value, Old Chinatown, India Street, and of course the wonderful boardwalk along the Sarawak River. There are amazing adventure activities that can be day trips while you maintain your base in Kuching. I'm thinking if you are coming from a Western country try to devote 5-7 days around the area which could include one or two nights in Bako National Park. If you're an Asian based traveller Kuching could be a great long weekend getaway. Many Asian cities have direct flights to Kuching and Air Asia has several everyday from Kuala Lumpur. I've started a Patreon account so for as little as $1/ month you can be a sponsor of Far East Adventure Travel and have access to exclusive content. Check out the page and help support travel and production costs of Far East Adventure Travel. Help others discover Far East Adventure in the iTunes Store by writing a review. Follow the link here:
Apr 29, 2017
[caption id="attachment_2264" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Cambodia's bamboo train-essential transportation for rural living doubles as a tourist ride Cambodia's bamboo train-essential transportation for rural living doubles as a tourist ride[/caption] Far East Adventure Travel The Podcast is brought to you by Far East Adventure Travel Magazine. Get your free copy now! Go to the iTunes App Store, download the app then download your copies of Far East Adventure Travel Magazine. I was staying in Battambang, Cambodia. While I was there I had to visit one of the area’s most famous attractions, the bamboo train. The bamboo train gets it’s name from the bamboo deck or floorboard used that rests on top of the wheels that can transport anything from chickens and rice to people. In Khmer it’s called a Lorry and has been used since the Khmer Rouge shutdown of most regular train service in the country. The Bamboo Train Station. Now where is the first class lounge? I could use a bloody mary about right now! Waiter? Actually the place is quite charming and surprisingly not touristy feeling at all. At least not at the starting point in O Dambong, about 4 km from Battambang. The bamboo train solves the biggest problem of a single track train line. What do you do when two trains meet from opposite directions? In the case of the bamboo train? Simple-move one off the track. This experience alone makes this one of the world’s all time great train rides. A little heavy on the photo gear I know but I’m a one man show right now. Farewells from the departure crew and we’re off. The bamboo train was not the first flatbed type service in Cambodia. During the civil war of the 80’s and 90’s flatbed trains were used as mine sweepers ahead of the rest of the train. Service was free, risky but popular. [caption id="attachment_2266" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Bamboo train station at O Dambong-approximately 4 km from Battambang, Cambodia Bamboo train station at O Dambong-approximately 4 km from Battambang, Cambodia[/caption] And here we go about 3 minutes into the ride and our first stop. Wow, now that’s taking service station to the next level. The first lorries or bamboo trains were actually hand driven with a pole, kind of like an Italian gondola. Small motorcycle or tractor engines, like this one were added later. The wheels? They’re actually from abandoned tanks! Yes get your ass off the deck so I can do my job, thank you! Once again we are rolling on the tracks. The ride lasts almost a half-hour each way starting in O Dambong with a short stop in O Sra Lav before returning. The tracks are not in the best of shape with little or no maintenance for decades making them warped and misaligned. Occasionally you’ll get a strong bump from a really weak section, but hey it’s all part of the charm. It is just after 7am and I think this is a perfect time to come-with the sun just rising and cool comfortable temperatures. The atmosphere is amazing and feels like you’ve been dropped into an Indochina themed adventure movie. Cambodia’s first rail line was built by the French in the 1930’s. By 1969 the rail system was still in good shape but the civil war of the 1970’s soon saw some of the line destroyed. By 2008 passenger service was completely discontinued. Private interests currently hold the concession to the railway with only freight operation running between Phnom Penh and the coastal town of Sihanoukville. We are slowing down because another train is coming our way. The rule is the car with fewer passengers gives way to the other car. So if you want priority service bring a group or give some locals a free ride. Finally after a ride with stops that lasts just under 30 minutes we arrive at O Sra Lav. Here’s where it gets a little touristy, with the usual t-shirts, scarves, and kids selling bracelets. But that’s OK, they’re just trying to make a living and the people are always friendly here even if you don’t buy. Like this man kindly showing me the way. Ten minutes later we are back on the tracks and heading back to O Dambong. Sometimes so-called tourist attractions are spoiled by being over commercialized eventually losing the charm that originally made them attractive. For me the bamboo train is an absolutely original experience. Pieced together with leftover tank wheels, tractor motors, and eco-friendly bamboo, it’s the ultimate transportation mutt making it one of the world’s most original travel experiences. Subscribe to the audio podcast:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id1079513943?mt=2
Apr 18, 2017
This is part II of my live broadcast from Can Tho, Vietnam. I spent my first night exploring the city near riverside and the night market. When I arrive in an unfamiliar place I'm always excited to get out and walk the streets, check out what restaurants and food stalls or night markets are serving and get to know where people gather. Can Tho, like many cities in Vietnam and Southeast Asia has a few areas where you'll find activity at night-it usually revolves around eating. Near the waterfront and night market featured in this episode and around De Tham Street, nicknamed "food street" by locals where a series of restaurants serve everything from hot pot to seafood, and vegetarian. Your hotel can give you directions, just ask them where's food street? I stumbled onto Com Chay An Lac, a hole in the wall vegetarian restaurant that serves ultra fresh and cheap Vietnamese vegetarian food. Big bowls of noodles with imitation bbq pork,(bean curd), springs rolls and other tasty guilt free food for less than a buck. Join me in Can Tho as I explore and chat with some of the live viewers on varying topics from street food safety to trekking in Nepal and an impromptu interview with a friendly French tourist. Also in this podcast a thank you goes out to everyone who subscribes to Far East Adventure Travel, especially those that have followed my travels since 2014. As well as gratitude for the lovely reviews written in the iTunes Store. Below you'll find a link to the podcast page where you to can rate the podcast and submit and write a review. Leaving a review helps others discover Far East Adventure Travel. Also for a wide variety of videos on East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia please subscribe to my YouTube Channel:http://www.youtube.com/c/JohnSaboefareastadventuretravel I'm also very interested in your feedback on the podcast. Where are you from and what would you like to see in the future. You can message me on Facebook(Far East Adventure Travel) or send me an email-john@fareastadventuretravel.com. For those of you in China I'm also on Weibo as fareastadventure. Please feel free to follow me and send a message(English). Write A Review:https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id890305531?mt=2
Apr 14, 2017
Can Tho, Vietnam is the largest city in the Mekong River Delta region, famous as a destination for Mekong River Floating Market tours. It was one of the highlights of my most recent visit to Vietnam. Upon arrival in Can Tho, approximately 3.5 hours by bus from Ho Chi Minh City, I decided to immediately head for riverside, naturally where most travellers gravitate and explore the streets, night market, temples, and shops in the area. I also wanted to investigate hiring a boat for a tour the next morning. Some of my best and fondest memories of traveling are seeing a place for the first time. It's always exciting getting familiar with unknown territory. Night markets, cafes, fruit stands and Ho Chi Minh statues are not much different from one end of the country to the other but the settings are as well as the people and local culture. Throughout Vietnam you will find a mostly friendly attitude towards foreigners, from outgoing to reserved but friendly. In Can Tho and I believe much of the Mekong River Delta region locals are very hospitable. I was setting up my camera crouched on the side of a street one afternoon when behind me a friendly older man had brought out a plastic chair for me to sit on. Vietnam has a plethora of famous cities and destinations that are highly recommended by guide books and travel experts from the centers of commerce, arts, and politics like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, to the picturesque and historic cities of Hoi An and Hue. Can Tho is certainly a favorite of mine now. It doesn't have the same charming and historic atmosphere of Hoi An but it also doesn't draw excessive crowds and with the exception of the "boat ladies" who aggressively sell boat tours, is not hyper-focused on tourist wallets. Two or three days of hanging out in Can Tho, taking in some river excursions and visiting local temples and sites would be a wonderful diversion from the big cities and tourist towns. Tasty cheap local food, like 60 cents for a big bowl of noodles, a fantastic selection of tropical fruit, and simple street side cafes in a wonderfully laid back environment will have you contemplating retirement if not here, somewhere in Southeast Asia.
Apr 4, 2017
Can Tho is the fourth largest city in Vietnam and the largest in the Mekong River Delta region. People that visit are here primarily for the boat cruises that take you to the world-famous floating markets. A confluence of boats that merge in various locations of the river for trade of mostly fresh fruit and produce. For this trip I hired a boat for about $14 dollars that will take me on an approximate 3.5 hour tour on the Hua River, a tributary of the Mekong where I’ll see a wholesale floating market in action and visit a rice paper making village. After 45 minutes of passing by colorful vessels and regular river activity, including tourist boats heading in the opposite direction on their way to other floating markets we arrived at the Cai Rang wholesale market. Cruising at a slower speed by boats almost spilling over with pineapples and other fresh fruit and produce. Local buyers arrive to purchase goods from the farmers that bring their fruit and produce to Cai Rang and take it to the cities to sell to shops and other wholesalers. It’s important to hire a boat and leave the dock at Can Tho before 7am otherwise you’ll mostly just run in to other tour boats by the time you arrive. You can either book your boat in advance at your hotel or make a deal with one of the boat ladies hanging out at the dock on Hai Ba Trung. Typically a boat here will have a sample of whatever they’re selling attached to a long pole, so it’s easy to spot what you’re looking for from a distance on the water. This also saves the farmers or sellers from having to yell out what they’re selling like in a typical market. You’ll also have a chance to interact with boats pulling up and offering drinks and snacks. Can Tho was once part of the Khmer kingdom. There’s still a significant Khmer community noticable by the numerous Cambodian style Buddhist temples in the city. If you’ve just arrived from Ho Chi Minh City you’ll appreciate a slighter slower pace with a mix of wide streets and narrow lanes. The city has enough interesting sites and places to stroll to keep you engaged for at least a few days. I found it effortless to settle in and enjoy the even friendlier environment and the inexpensive delicious food and fruit of the region. The Khmer style temples of the region are Theraveda Buddhist unlike the Vietnamese type that are filled with Taoist Gods and Buddhist deities. A visit to Munirensay Pagoda will either immediately take you back to your days in Cambodia or inspire you to cross the border. There are plenty of lovely restaurants along the waterfront on Hai Ba Trung as well as a nightly market with plenty of cheap food stalls but don’t miss out on the great spots on De Tham, the street of food located on Hue Vien close by the Munirensay pagoda. Here you can find a huge selection of dishes whether you favor meat, fish, or vegetarian. Plus there’s bake shops that sell slabs of cake for less than 50 cents, and fruit stalls with jackfruit that’s as sweet as candy. There are lots of friendly streets to stroll and if you decide you want to take a rest and have a caphe da, or vietnamese iced coffee, just grab a plastic chair and have a seat. I like the fresh fruit juices cafes serve here as well. Head back to Hai Ba Trung walk along the river’s edge, check off another Ho Chi Minh statue you’ve seen on your trip and make your way to the prettiest temple in Can Tho, Ong Temple inside the Guangzhou Assembly Hall. Under all of the huge incense coils that lends to the temples magical atmosphere you’ll find Kuang Kung or Guan Yu, right in the center. The God of war Kuang Kung symbolizes truth, justice, and courage among other qualities. Kuang Kung is the main deity worshipped at the temple. Development and modernization is spreading across Vietnam including Can Tho but there’s still remnants from the past including the Ninh Kieu Pier Tourist Market and it’s Market Hall dating back to 1913. Inside you’ll find trinkets and clothes, souvenirs, and a restaurant/cafe with lovely river views. Meanwhile back on the floating market tour we traveled up one of the quieter pretty canals to visit a rice paper making village. As touristy as some of this activity may seem you’d kick yourself if you didn’t hire a boat and visit a floating market while staying in Can Tho or the Mekong Delta region. The feeling of cruising up and down the river amidst this unique way of trade is an extremely rewarding adventure. There are longer river trips and more temples and sites to see around Can Tho. However it’s the slower pace, obvious relaxed feel of the city and it’s people as well as the transcendental experience of the Mekong River system that is the bigger take away. It’s a reminder that as much as the country is changing it’s the old ways and pace of life that reflects the true beauty of Vietnam. Donate now and help support the Far East Adventure Travel Podcast. A gift of $5, $10, $20, or $30 goes along way to help with production and travel costs. Whenever possible I stay in guesthouses, employ local guides and drivers, and support local business. The money I spend goes directly back into the community and so can yours. Support Far East Adventure Travel with a donation now!Donate paypal.me/JohnASaboe Donate Write a Review:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east/id890305531?mt=2
Mar 6, 2017
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is on the move! It's one of the fastest changing and growing cities of Southeast Asia with modern shopping complexes springing up everywhere, a skyline filled with construction cranes, and a joint venture between Japan and Vietnam to build the city's first subway/rapid transit system. It's great to see the people of Vietnam enjoying new amenities and infrastructure but people like me still want to see the old Saigon. Traditional culture, morning markets, non-touristy neighborhoods. The good news is there's still lots to see. Around Co Bac And Co Liang streets in District 1 they still have a traditional market and if you stay in one of the guesthouses in the neighborhood you'll feel very much like a local. The other area that's still ripe with traditional shopping and culture is Cholon or District 5 and Binh Tay Market, a wholesale market that bustles everyday of the week. Cholon is where the ethnic Chinese community is based. Some say it's the biggest Chinatown in the world. I've visited the neighborhood a few times in the last year and find it fascinating, friendly, and full of life. It's also a photographer's paradise with constant activity, huge displays of food and hard goods, and people so occupied with their tasks that candid shots are a breeze. Join me for a walk around Binh Tay Market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in this episode of Far East Adventure Travel. Donate now and help support the Far East Adventure Travel Podcast. A gift of $5, $10, $20, or $30 goes along way to help with production and travel costs. Whenever possible I stay in guesthouses, employ local guides and drivers, and support local business. The money I spend goes directly back into the community and so can yours. Support Far East Adventure Travel with a donation now!Donate paypal.me/JohnASaboe Donate Write a Review:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east/id890305531?mt=2
Mar 4, 2017
I truly enjoy cities that are pedestrian friendly. That is, sites, parks, entertainment districts, hotels, restaurants, that are within easy walking distance of each other. Although you might think with it's frenetic pace and appearance of crazy traffic Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam might not fit this category, but that's not the case. Once you get used to the traffic flow and crossing etiquette of Vietnam's largest city you'll appreciate, specifically the District 1 area, with it's convenience and plethora of landmarks, historical sites, museums, hotels and other amenities within reasonable walking distances. One place I always return to in Ho Chi Minh City's District 1, or what still many locals refer to as Saigon, is the Central Post Office and Notre-Dame Cathedral area. The Saigon Central Post Office in my opinion is one of the most beautiful buildings of the French colonization era of Indochina and Vietnam. Built between 1886-1891 there seems to be conflicting stories on who actually designed it. Gustav Eiffel has been named, as has Alfred Foulhoux and Auguste Henri Vildieu. Of course because the Eiffel name is so well known this is the most marketable story, he actually had an office in Saigon during this era designing many bridges, some of which are still in use today in Vietnam. Regardless of who designed it the Saigon Central Office is one site not to be missed on a visit to Ho Chi Minh City. Join me on a tour this is iconic treasure from the past, that today is still a working post office in this episode of Far Eat Adventure Travel. Recorded from a previous live broadcast on Periscope. Donate now and help support the Far East Adventure Travel Podcast. A gift of $5, $10, $20, or $30 goes along way to help with production and travel costs. Whenever possible I stay in guesthouses, employ local guides and drivers, and support local business. The money I spend goes directly back into the community and so can yours. Support Far East Adventure Travel with a donation now!Donate paypal.me/JohnASaboe Donate Write a Review:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east/id890305531?mt=2
Jan 31, 2017
To experience what life would have been like for a Nguyen Emperor of Vietnam one must only visit their tomb. Like a reflection of their life each tomb leaves one with a sense of how the Emperor viewed his place in the world. The tomb of Tu Duc, approximately 5 kilometers outside of Hue, the former Imperial Capital, is one of the grandest of all with construction that took place over 3 years requiring 10,000 laborers. Tu Duc was the longest reigning Emperor of the Nguyen dynasty, holding power for 36 years from 1848-83. His tomb served as palatial retreat for himself, his wives, concubines, and entourage after it's completion in 1867. The tomb complex is filled with buildings, temples, a lake, a tiny island where he could hunt small game, pavilions for relaxing and writing poetry and expansive grounds. Tu Duc's remains were never actually buried at the site of the tomb where he had spent so much time. Instead they were placed in a mysterious location somewhere around Hue. To ensure secrecy, the 200 workers that buried Tu Duc's remains were beheaded afterwards. To this day this site has still not been discovered. It's hard to justify the tomb with the history of suffering and loss associated with it's creation. Furthermore the lives that were sacrificed in order to preserve a mysterious burial site. When I walked around the Tomb of Tu Duc while broadcasting live on Periscope it was truly hard not to appreciate it's beauty while marvelling at the craftsmanship, artistry, and design. Much more fitting than a legacy to one man is a belief that this site reflects the beauty of Vietnamese architecture, heritage, and the hard work and sacrifice of it's people. The day I broadcasted live on Periscope from the Tomb of Tu Duc, the temperatures were in the mid-thirties celsius. Before and after the broadcast I explored the tomb complex while capturing images and shooting video for future podcasts. Working in the heat was exhausting, I can't imagine how hard it must have been for the labourers who turned this landscape into an Emperor's paradise. I hope you enjoy this "Best of" broadcast from the Tomb of Tu Duc in Hue, Vietnam. Donate now and help support the Far East Adventure Travel Podcast. A gift of $5, $10, $20, or $30 goes along way to help with production and travel costs. Whenever possible I stay in guesthouses, employ local guides and drivers, and support local business. The money I spend goes directly back into the community and so can yours. Support Far East Adventure Travel with a donation now!Donate paypal.me/JohnASaboe Donate Write a Review:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east/id890305531?mt=2
Jan 25, 2017
To appreciate Hue, the former Imperial capital of Vietnam, one needs time. Unlike other historic towns like, Hoi an or even larger cities like Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, where many sites are within walking distance Hue’s important landmarks and buildings are spread out. It’s a large canvas with incredible beauty, tradition and culture. I spent several days on my last visit to Hue exploring all of the significant sites the city has to offer from the Citadel and Forbidden Purple City, where the Nguyen emperors lived and ruled, to boat cruises on the Perfume River, bicycle and motorbike rides to temples, Emperor tombs, and famous vegetarian restaurants. There are a few ways you can visit the tombs that were built for the Nguyen emperors, who ruled Vietnam from 1802-1945. One of the most romantic ways is to hire your own boat and cruise the Perfume River, stopping at each tomb-some require a motorbike ride from the river bank. You can also go on a tourist boat, which is more economical, but either way this form of transportation will take the longest. Hiring a car is the most convenient and will cost around $40USD. I wouldn’t recommend cycling as it would take all day just to possibly visit only one tomb but renting a motorbike, as long as you’re comfortable using one is fun and inexpensive. A motorbike in Hue costs around $5-$6USD a day plus fuel. These tombs are impressive and at least two are in a fantasy setting. In this episode of Far East Adventure Travel the best of my live Periscope broadcasts from Minh Mang’s tomb in Hue, Vietnam. Donate now and help support the Far East Adventure Travel Podcast. A gift of $5, $10, $20, or $30 goes along way to help with production and travel costs. Whenever possible I stay in guesthouses, employ local guides and drivers, and support local business. The money I spend goes directly back into the community and so can yours. Support Far East Adventure Travel with a donation now!Donate paypal.me/JohnASaboe Donate Write a Review:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east/id890305531?mt=2
Jan 16, 2017
Vietnam is a multi-ethnic country with a total of 54 ethnic groups making up 14% or 13-14 million of the total population of 90 million. Excluding the Kinh or ethnic Vietnamese people there are a total of 8 ethnic hill tribes that are found in the Sapa area of Northern Vietnam. Hmong, Dzao, Tay, Giay, Muong, Thai, Hoa(ethnic Chinese), and Xa Pho. The last 4 tribes compromise less than 500 people. The largest groups are the Hmong(52%), Dzao(25%), and Kinh(15%). Many older women of the two tribes you'll see most often in Sapa, Hmong and Dzao, make blankets and other textiles to sell. Many will also sell produce as well as bamboo that they harvest in the hills. You'll also often see young children selling trinkets in the village to help support their family. Some places discourage this but in my opinion I'd rather see people buying trinkets from kids rather than handing out candy. Their dental hygiene is not good to begin with and signs around town discourage this practise. Better to donate pens, pencils, or books directly to the schools. If you insist on giving something to kids it's better to give items like toys to the parents so begging is not encouraged. Giving anything directly to children really does set a bad pattern. Please don't do this wherever you travel in Asia. It's just as gratifying to give to a local charity or school. It's always fun to walk through the morning markets to see local goods for sale including fresh fruit and snacks like the bamboo tubes full of sticky rice. The people of the ethnic hill tribes English is remarkably good and a sign that language skills are important to survival. They are lots of fun to chat with and if you can get past the aggressive salesmanship you'll have some wonderful memories of engagement and interaction. I truly enjoyed my recent visit to Sapa. A highlight of the trip was a daily visit to the morning markets. Hope you enjoy the podcast and if you'd like to write a review in the iTunes store it will help other people find Far East Adventure Travel. Please follow the link below, make sure you're signed into the iTunes Store, click Ratings and Reviews, rate the podcast with a possible 5 stars then write your review. Write a Review: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east/id890305531?mt=2 Write a Review
Jan 14, 2017
Sapa, Vietnam is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in Vietnam. At the time of this original live broadcast guesthouses and hotels were being constructed in a frenzy to accommodate the demand, especially from Vietnamese for lodgings. Sapa, with an elevation of 1500 meters has been a cool retreat from the heat and humidity of Hanoi and the surrounding area since the early 1900's. Military and missionaries arrived in the late 1800's then the first French civilian took permanent residence in 1909. Inhabitants of the Sapa region date back hundreds of years with little known of the first civilization other than hundreds of petroglyphs they left behind. Then came the hill tribes, Hmong, ZDao, and others. Today those hill tribes are still seen everywhere around Sapa dressed in their traditional clothing. Because Sapa is a tourist center and the people of the hill tribes are relatively poor they are constantly seen around the village selling textiles, trinkets, bracelets, as well as their own vegetables, bamboo and other goods including knives they forge themselves. Sellers, mostly women, are aged anywhere from 2 to 85. On my most recent trip I spent a few days around Sapa getting to know the area and the people of the region. If anything I've learned in my years as a passionate prolific traveler, it's to be empathetic. I'm not a master but with every journey I believe I get better. The hill tribe women will come off as being very aggressive and will follow you sometimes as you walk around the town pleading with you to buy something. It's quite easy to feel pestered and ultimately frustrated and annoyed. Keep in mind that they are not trying to get money from you to make a car payment, buy a nice bottle of wine, or a new pair of designer shoes. They're trying to put food on the table for their family. To buy the essential needs for survival. It's unrealistic to expect that everyone that comes to Sapa buy something from everyone they meet. But when you put yourself in someone else's shoes for a moment the annoyed and frustrated feeling tends to fade away. I've found that a smile, a compliment, some respect, and maybe even sharing a laugh goes along way to create a much more pleasant environment between myself and local people and also allows me to say no without them losing dignity. And yes, occasionally I will buy something. But I can't say yes to everyone either. Can you imagine though, having to go out walking around your town everyday with a bag of goods, hoping you can sell enough to buy your kids some food or clothing. Or sending your 3 or 4 year old daughter out into the streets to sell bracelets so she can do the same. Join me in this two part series of walks throughout the village from previous live streaming broadcasts of my recent trip to Sapa, Vietnam.
Jan 8, 2017
One of the most interesting sites I’ve ever come across in Southeast Asia let alone Vietnam is Ho Quyen, or the Tiger/Elephant fight arena in the former Imperial capital of Hue. It’s not on the same grand scale as Rome’s Coliseum but it’s an unusual and rare peak into a time in Southeast Asia when fights staged between tigers and elephants took place. Only 3 kilometers outside of Hue it was built in 1830 by the emperor at the time, Minh Manh, Research of this site revealed it was crumbling and falling apart but I was surprised that it was in better shape than I thought considering there has been little to no upkeep of the arena since the last fight took place here in 1904. There’s still enough structure including stairs to reach the top of the arena that you can imagine what it must have been like for the royal emperor and his entourage to be present during these brutal fights. Tigers were the symbol of rebellion, beasts that killed helpless villagers. Elephants were noble and represented monarchy, so it’s no wonder through the drugging, declawing and defanging of the tigers before the start of a fight who won everytime. It’s somewhat of a haunting feeling being inside the arena, on the very ground where tigers most of the time were trampled to death by elephants. If it looked like an elephant was losing a fight another would be sent in to help finish the job. All in the preservation of the pride of the monarchy. I crawled into some of the old holding areas for the tigers, some of which had claw marks scratched right into the plastered walls. A few kilometers in the other direction outside of the main town of Hue is a traditional Vietnamese countryside location complete with rice paddies, quiet roads, and a beautiful Japanese style covered bridge with a wonderful history. Thanh Toan Bridge is a cultural relic with unique architectural features but the story behind the bridge is far more interesting than the structure itself. Tran Thi Dao the childless wife of a high ranking mandarin or official in Le Hien Tong’s court in the 1700’s had the bridge constructed to help the local people communicate and travel outside of the village. When the Emperor heard of her kind deed he freed the village of taxes as a reminder of her generosity. In 1925 Emperor Kai Dinh ordered the village to build an altar in Tran Thi Dao’s memory inside the bridge. The Emperor knowing that Tran Thi Dao never had children ensured that she would always be remembered in a culture that puts a high importance on ancestor worship. This is one of two ancient bridges of Vietnam that appear in guide books world-wide. The other famous bridge of Vietnam is Hoi an’s Japanese covered bridge. That bridge was in fact built by Japanese immigrants in Hoi an but the Thanh Toan bridge is a Vietnamese bridge with similar features to the Japanese covered bridges of the time with a decorative tile roof and platforms inside to lean against. This is a lovely setting and the bridge is a great reason to leave the busier surroundings of Hue, making it a great afternoon getaway from the town. Back in Hue another bridge to admire is the Truong Tien Bridge created by the famous French architect and designer Gustav Eiffel. Completed in 1899 it’s setting over the Perfume River is atmospheric, even rising to romantic in stature. It’s had many ups and downs weathering historic storms and two wars. It’s latest renovation took 5 years from 1991-95 and in 2002 a lighting system was added. Today the bridge is mostly used for motorbikes and pedestrians and admired by all, especially in the evening with it’s colorful light display. It’s wonderful to cross the bridge North of the river where the Citadel and ancient Imperial complex is located and also to visit Hue’s largest outdoor market, Dong Ba. This is a great market to visit and buy some of the local snacks and fresh fruit and admire all of the wonderful ingredients that go into the amazing cuisine of Vietnam. These are all interesting and highly recommended places and sites to experience but the real reason most people visit Hue is to see the Imperial City where the Nguyen emperors ruled from 1802-1945. The complex is protected by the Citadel. Fortified ramparts that stretch 2 kilometers by 2 kilometers with an outer moat filled with water routed from the Perfume River. Within the Citadel is the Imperial City, inside an even more exclusive area, the Forbidden Purple City, access of which was only permitted to the Nguyen Imperial family. Much of the Forbidden Purple City had been destroyed during the Vietnam War when in 1968 one of the bloodiest battles of the conflict took place here during the Tet offensive. At first because of the cultural significance of the site, U.S. troops were ordered not to bomb the Imperial City but as fighting grew more intense those restrictions were lifted. Out of 160 original buildings only 10 remain as a result of the battle. The Mieu Temple has managed to survive the conflicts but did suffer fire damage in 1947 and was subsequently restored. The Mieu means temple of generations and it’s here where the altars of Nguyen emperors are worshipped. Directly across from the temple in front of the Hien Lam Pavilion sits the 9 Dynastic urns, dedicated to the Nguyen emperors. The urns are works of art with depictions of stars, oceans, rivers, mountains and other images. Important to the cultural history of Vietnam but even more valued by the Vietnamese claiming the artwork proves their right to the hotly contested Spratly Islands of the South China Sea. This is one of the most beautiful spaces in the whole Imperial Palace complex. Sadly it reminds us of the terrible destruction war can have not only on people but the significant sites that are the foundation of a country’s history and culture. As Hue’s important cultural sites are spread out over a large area leave a few days on your itinerary to visit the former Imperial Capital. Unlike Hoi an, it’s neighbor 3 hours by car south, Hue is not as compact so it’s charm must be appreciated on a much larger canvas. It’s truly worth the time as you’ll experience tradition, food, culture and history like no other destination in Vietnam. Help others discover Far East Adventure Travel by writing a review in the iTunes Store. Visit the page, click “Ratings and Reviews”, rate the podcast with a possible 5 stars and write your review now! https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east/id890305531?mt=2
Dec 30, 2016
The Temple of Literature or Van Meiu, Quoc Tu Giam was Vietnam’s first university. This temple is dedicated to Confucius as well as past scholars and sages, so significant it’s even featured on the back of the 100,000 dong note. Confucius was a Chinese teacher, philosopher, and politician among other things. In the early part of his life in 500 B.C. China had broken into rival states battling for supremacy. To bring more peace and harmony into society Confucius, created a code of ethics for people. He traveled the country to explain his principles. At the time his philosophy was radically different from the belief of acquiring status by power and heroic actions rather than selflessness, non-violent behaviour, and respect for others. It was Founded in 1070 by emperor Ly Thanh Tong. Dedicated to Confucius or Khong Tu, when it first opened in 1076 entrance was only granted to those of noble birth. It wasn’t until 1442 that the university opened it’s doors to gifted students from across Vietnam who came to study the principles of Confucianism, literature, and poetry. As you walk the main path of the complex you pass through the landscaped grounds filled with trees and ponds and several gates that lead into other sections with a total of 5 courtyards. It’s easy to picture students taking a break to relax in between studies during the days of when the Temple of Literature was an active university. It’s still possible to feel some of that peace with just a dull rumble of motorbikes and traffic in the background. It’s easy to appreciate the traditional Vietnamese architecture with many structures and features made of wood and tiles. In the third courtyard sits the pond known as the Well of Heavenly Clarity, sometimes also referred to as the Lake of Literature. It’s here where you also find the tombstone looking stelae dedicated to 1307 Doctors who studied here between 1442 and 1779. All of the stelae sit on stone tortoises, the sign of wisdom and longevity. In May during exams in Hanoi, students were often seen at the temple rubbing the heads of the tortoise, believing it will bring good luck and a pass on their tests. Today there’s a fence in place to help preserve the turtles. The fourth courtyard is dedicated to Confucius and 72 honored students as well as Chu Van An, known as an extremely passionate teacher. There’s another tortoise on display, this one is gold plated ceramic. The tortoise is one of 4 sacred and mythical animals revered by Vietnamese, the others are the Phoenix, Dragon, and Unicorn. This area is also where Confucius along with his four closest disciples are worshipped.10 other philosophers are also honored in this sanctuary. Because the Temple of Literature is such a picturesque location of history and traditional architecture there’s probably not a day that goes by without young couples posing for their wedding photos. Depending on the time of year you’ll also notice students upon graduation or completion of studies taking pictures. During the time the Temple of Literature was operating as a university right up until it’s closing in 1779, students lived as well as studied here. Along with Confucianism, poetry, and literature, students learned Chinese, Chinese philosophy, and Chinese history. They had minor tests each month and four major ones every year. Students were enrolled in the university anywhere between 3 and 7 years. The fifth courtyard was constructed in 1076 to be the imperial academy. In 1236 the Minh Luan House, more classrooms and dormitories were added. Khai Thanh Shrine was constructed to honor Confucius’ parents. In 1946 the French destroyed the fifth courtyard and it wasn’t until 2000 that new buildings were constructed along with the addition of a bell and drum tower. Ceremonies are organized in the fifth courtyard for cultural scholars and events along with other activities. Ho Chi Minh is considered the founding father of modern Vietnam. He was a communist revolutionary, prime minister and president. He died in 1969 before he could realize his dream of a united Vietnam. Upon the fall of Saigon and the end of the war the former capital of the south was renamed after him. That same year a mausoleum was constructed in Hanoi where his body is displayed under dim lights in the cool central hall of the building. The mausoleum, inspired by Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow is open to the public daily from 9 to 11am. There are strict dress codes and even body posture. No shorts or skirts, and hands must not be in your pockets or arms crossed. Photography or video is not allowed and even outside of the mausoleum when the doors are open there is a minimum distance where visitors to the area are allowed. Still, it’s definitely worth visiting just for the fact that there are only 5 former leaders on display, this way, in the world. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is located at the center of Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence in 1945 establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Another site in Hanoi worth a visit and that should take less than two hours to properly cover is the infamous Hoa Lo Prison, known to American POW’s during the Vietnam War as the Hanoi Hilton. Much of the prison was destroyed in the nineties for development but the original gatehouse remains as do some of the old cells and corridors. The displays are mostly focused on the days when the prison, run by the French colonists, kept Vietnamese political prisoners. Inside a model of the original prison compound is on display along with lots of stories and articles of clothing of revolutionaries. Some of the cells are remembered as places where Vietnamese looking to overthrow the French suffered. A guillotine used by the French to behead revolutionaries is in a haunting room complete with soundtrack. There are a couple of rooms where flight suits, photographs, and other personal items from captured U.S. military are on display which most will find interesting. Including pictures of young North Vietnamese female soldiers capturing and marching big tall American soldiers through the jungle. Another room with the use of mannequins shows how crowded and horrid the conditions for Vietnamese prisoners were. Originally to house 450, records show there were up to 2000 imprisoned here in the 1930’s. The prison is really a show of the fighting spirit of these revolutionaries honoring their suffering for the eventual freedom from the French. There’s even the actual sewer on display that many escaped through. The final outside area of the museum is where a memorial is located and a haunting mural/sculpture depicting the torture and suffering of the Vietnamese that were jailed here. Hanoi is the polar opposite is some ways to Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City, more traditional and formal in some ways, even strict, with much of the old quarter closed by 11pm. Different but still fascinating and exciting in it’s own way, and I can’t wait to share more. Subscribe now-https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east/id890305531?mt=2
Dec 14, 2016
This broadcast originally aired as a livestream on Periscope during my visit to Hue, Vietnam. Portions have been edited and some narration has been added for clarity. Hue, Vietnam was the seat of the Nguyen emperors and was the imperial capital from 1802-1945. The Perfume River divides the North and South sections of Hue. In the north, the Citadel, a walled fortress and the remains of The Forbidden Purple City, home to the Nguyen emperors. The South contains modern Hue, much of which had to be rebuilt after the Vietnam War. As I passed by the Citadel and the remains of The Forbidden Purple City of the Ngyuen emperors I chatted about the recent intense weather. Pedal boats in the shape of swans are popular at rivers and lakes throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia. Someone asked about a man I met working at a restaurant that made me a bottle opener with a bolt and scrape piece of wood. The Truong Tien Bridge was designed by Gustav Eiffel, who was responsible for many bridges and buildings during the French Colonial Period. This is a wonderful setting at night viewing the multi-colored spotlights on the bridge from the Walking Street market. The current population of Hue is approximately 350,000. As we passed under the Trong Tien Bridge my boat ride on the Perfume River was coming to an end. This was a fantastic experience riding past the green banks of the river seeing the Citadel and other sites from my very own chartered dragon boat. Hue is a city that in a relatively short time has seen emperor rule, terrible loss and devastation from war, and an eventual acceptance of what had been seen by the Vietnamese Communist Party as the reminder of a feudel regime. Currently restoration of many of it’s historic sites is underway. A truly remarkable experience and perspective from Hue’s legendary atmospheric waterway-The Perfume River.
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