“Your lips are turning blue,” said the Kiwi pilot, shouting over the roaring chopper. “That’s the first sign of altitude sickness.” If the blades are turned off, the helicopter won’t start again in the thin, dry air.
Flying over vast, rolling steppe for three and a half hours without seeing anything so much as a village, let alone a city, is a powerful reminder that Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country on the planet.
The old man had wrinkled skin that was weather-beaten from years spent working in the fields and seemingly possessed no teeth. “I’ve been sitting in the same spot, every day, for the last 10 years,” he said, through my translator
As the sunrise woke me, I got my first glimpse of Oman. The contrasting view of the beach below and the rocky Al Hajar mountains was a fitting introduction to a journey that would take me all over the diverse terrains of this fascinating country.
In the remote hills of the Chin State, tribes of tattooed women inhabit the villages, and as the area becomes more and more connected to the rest of Myanmar, local traditions are dying out
Whether your trip to Sri Lanka includes the stunning beaches in the south, the lush highlands terraced with tea plantations or a wildlife safari in one of its national parks, it’s worth making the effort to venture into the country’s heart to explore the Cultural Triangle to get a deeper sense of history.
I’ve known for some time that people in the Philippines know how to throw colorful festivals, but it wasn’t until I recently ventured to Bacolod in Negros Occidental to experience one for myself that I truly understood the spirit of a Filipino party.
Start from Saigon, I plunged deep into the Vietnamese countryside for an adventure up the mighty Mekong, finally to dock in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh
It takes nearly 20 hours to get from Bangkok to Mount Hagen in the western highlands of Papua New Guinea, travelling via Singapore and Port Moresby - but it's well worth the trip
After exploring the charming Siberian cities of Tomsk and Novosibirsk for a day apiece, I prepared to plunge deep into the Altai mountains, a majestic range that runs along the borders of Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.
We drove up to a viewpoint overlooking the resort and I watched as Zighy Bay - a sparkling turquoise beauty lapping upon soft golden sands, surrounded by the jagged cliffs of the Musandam Peninsula - unfurled before me.
At first, Seoul can seem a bit cold and uninviting; however once you get the lie of the land and work out where to go, it quickly becomes clear how much this city really has to offer
After spending some time in the most infamous of UAE cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I felt it time to take a better look at what lays outside these soaring modern landscapes and see if I could discover some worlds of old.
On my recent trip to UAE trip, I wanted to visit Dubai & Abu Dhabi, but I really wanted to reach far beyond them to discover the true essence of UAE and appreciate its rich history and cultural significance.
Phongsali in Northern Laos is beautiful and fascinating, as are the people I was lucky enough to meet here. They gave me an extraordinary insight into their lives, leaving me with exceptional experiences and vivid memories.
It was as though I had stumbled into another world when I visited the Zhangjiajie Scenic Area in China’s Hunan province. It is an incredible Shangri-la, characterized by over 3,000 quartzite-sandstone pillars that rise over 600 feet from China’s emerald forests.
Luang Namtha is one of the more popular tourist destinations in Laos and provides a comfortable base - although I preferred to head out of the city to see more remote minority tribes that include the Lantan, Yao, Akha Eko and Khoui.
Recently, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to witness the Thaipusam festival in full swing, at one of the world’s most revered Hindu shrines outside of India: the Batu Caves.
Brunei may not be the most exciting destination with no bars or nightlife, but for a short visit it offers plenty to do and see and its people are amongst Asia's friendliest.
In the northernmost nether regions of Vietnam exists a remote destination that has been open to tourism for a mere six years - Ha Giang, a region virtually untouched by the harmful effects of mass tourism and big industries.
Thailand is home to some of Asia’s best festivals, and the thrilling seven-day Buffalo Races festival that takes place annually during Buddhist Lent (normally in October) in Chonburi is no exception.
On this trip, I was headed once again to Southern Laos, where I would spend time gazing at exquisite waterfalls, zip-lining and abseiling through the lush jungle, and visiting impressive Khmer ruins.
On my most recent trip to the DPRK, I decided to embark on a road trip unseen by most outside of the country, from Pyongyang to Hamhung and Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast.
One of the main reasons for the timing of my trip to Kyrgyzstan was to have the chance to check out the country's National Horse Games Festival, which takes place in August.
Karakol is unlike any other part of Kyrgyzstan. Its scenery, its diversity of people, its attractions, and even its cuisine are all unique and have a wonderfully authentic feel. And after my kitschy Issyk Kul lake experience, unique and authentic were two traits I was craving.
Having heard so much about Issyk Kul lake since my arrival in Kyrgyzstan, I was excited to check it out. It is, after all, one of the top resort destinations for not only Kyrgyz nationals, but also for people living in other Soviet nations.
High in the Tien Shan mountain range sits the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. The city is young, and as such, has limited historic sites. I recently visited on a trip through Kyrgyzstan, and had a chance to explore the city for myself.
Any good traveler knows that the more challenging destinations are almost always the most rewarding, and this is very much the case with Song-Kul Lake, the second-largest lake in Kyrgyzstan.
Phi Ta Khon is one of the most fun of Thailand’s festivals. Festival-goers dress up in ghost masks and parade and party through the streets of Dan Sai district in Loei.
I recently took a trip to Pyongsong, a forty-minute drive from Pyongyang. A sleepy little village only just over half a century ago, Pyongsong has now grown into the capital of South Pyongan county, and a significant wholesalers' trading post.
A short flight from Yangon sits the very traditional Loikaw, one of the best places to head in Southeast Asia for a window into authentic tribal life. I was the very first foreign visitor to some of Loikaw’s more remote tribal areas.
Located at the confluence of the Brahmaputra and Nyang rivers, Tibet’s second-largest city Shigatse stands at an elevation of 3,840 meters and is the ideal spot to overnight on the way to Mt. Everest Base Camp or Kathmandu.
I recently took a trip to Yunnan, upon which I did as I always do, and strayed as far off the tourist trail as possible. What followed were some of the most incredible memories I’ve ever made in China.
Despite its popularity, Inle Lake, in Shan State, is one of my favorite places in Myanmar. Here are some of my favorite experiences in the Inle Lake area, where it’s possible to discover a much more authentic Burmese culture.
Lhasa makes an ideal springboard to Tibet’s hidden, remote corners. Here are my suggestions for things to do in Lhasa, based on my recent experiences there.
You know that old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover?” I feel like there should be a similar statement for Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan: “don’t judge a city by its airport.”
The fascinating city of Bukhara must be Uzbekistan’s most exotic locale. I had two days to spend in the area during my recent visit to Uzbekistan, so I made the most of them.
I’d been wanting to visit the Magical Tattoo Festival at Wat Bang Phra in Nakon Pathom, Thailand for years. This year, I finally had the chance, and what a festival it was!
Tsetang is one of Tibet’s largest cities, and as the seat of Tibet’s ancient emperors, contains significant historical importance. Flanked by Mt Gongbori, in the Yarlung Valley, with colorful prayer flags strewn about, the area is beautiful.
Kashgar, an ancient Silk Road gateway tucked into China’s far west corner, doesn’t boast a huge number of tourist attractions. But for me, it was a city brought to life by its people. - a place steeped in Uyghur culture.
I recently spent some time in Urumqi and discovered that though the city itself is somewhat plain, there are some truly beautiful sights just a short distance away.
Those on a quest to discover the ancient Silk Road often make stops in Dunhuang, Urumqi, and Kashgar, all oases on the ancient trade route, but none with as much to offer as Turpan.
Step back in history a few thousand years, when the Silk Road was first established and you’ll find Dunhuang at the crossroads of the Northern and Southern route
I’ve dreamt of taking a road trip along the Karakoram Highway since the early 90s. The road, which connects China to Pakistan, winds its way through the majestic, snowcapped Karakoram Mountain Range. On a recent trip to Kashgar, China’s westernmost city, I finally got my chance.
Always in search of the most authentic experiences in the most remote regions, the unique and colorful Hornbill Festival in India's little-known Nagaland region has been on my bucket list for the last 14 years. The festival showcases cultural displays from many of Nagaland’s vibrant tribes.
Xian, in central-northwest China, is one of the birthplaces of the ancient Chinese civilization. It’s bursting at the seams with colorful history, boasting over 3,000 years worth of it.
They say that travel is not about the destination, but the journey. I learned the true value of this statement on the long road from Lhasa to Gyantse in Tibet. They say that travel is not about the destination, but the journey. I learned the true value of this statement on the long road from Lhasa to Gyantse in Tibet.
With tensions between North & South Korea at the highest point they’ve been in years, there couldn’t be a more dramatic time to visit the Demilitarized Zone.
Melo Village is an interesting destination in Flores, Indonesia that hosts an authentic Caci festival. Caci involves two men with whips and bamboo shields jumping, spinning and trying to fake the other out in an attempt to strike the opponent.
Bhutan is an enchanting Himalayan Buddhist kingdom. The fabled Tiger’s Nest is the jewel of the nation, beckoning both intrepid hikers and photographers alike.
Tanjung Putting is one of Indonesia’s strategic reserves for endangered Orangutans. I journeyed there to investigate their plight and efforts to protect them.
During my visit to Kengtung, Myanmar, which is located not far from the Golden Triangle – close to Laos, Thailand and China – I discovered true diversity for its own sake, free of any other agenda, political or otherwise.
Myanmar is a place of often understated beauty and one of the least known parts of the country is the Mergui Archipelago. It is one of the least visited places in all of Myanmar.
What is it about Japan that so thrills us with almost uninhibited enthusiasm? What is the grand secret the Japanese are able to conjure almost at will in their quest to be exquisitely precise in all they do?
Golden Rock, known locally as Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, is located in the Mon State of Myanmar, about a 130-mile drive from Yangon. One of the most sacred sites in Burma, this is where candle-lit vigils, prayers, travelers, tourists and photographers amalgamate to create an interesting outing.
Varanasi is a shock to the senses: it is pure India at a “full speed ahead” mode. Crowded, dirty, and bizarre, this city is both fascinating and exciting at the same time. It is a hugely important destination for Hindus, and that feeling hangs heavily in the air.
The largest peaceful gathering on Earth, the Kumbh Mela festival involves millions of people making a pilgrimage to the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, where they will bathe in an attempt to purify their sins.
I have visited several sections of the wall and each has unique features. There are two main ways to visit the Great Wall: by going to the restored sections of the Wall, which are overrun by tourists, or by seeking out the non-restored sections that have far fewer tourists.
The Philippines' spectacular Banaue rice terraces are over 2000 years old, and home to the Ifugao former headhunters. The perfect place for an exhilarating and exhausting adventure.
Sagada is a mysterious village in a mountainous province of the Philippines, about 250 miles from Manila. It’s just under a mile above sea-level and situated near the Chico River, much of it on switch back mountain roads.
On a recent visit to Phnom Penh, which I consider a surprisingly pleasant and enjoyable Asian city off the tourist trail, I visited the notorious Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, known as S-21, as well as the Killing Fields, to learn more about what happened there.
Sapa or “Sa Pa,” is situated near the border with China in Lao Cai province. It’s a difficult place to reach — the most popular method being by overnight train, though it’s now also possible to drive.
Jaisalmer is a far-flung desert outpost often called the “Golden City” due to the glow of its buildings made of local sandstone. Founded by Rawal Jaisalin 1156 AD, Jaisalmer’s remote location kept it almost untouched by outside influences, even during the days of the Raj.
Extreme sports are all the rage it seems these days. But what would it mean if you could go to the Himalayas to engage in Ultra-lite, Para gliding, Ziplining and Mount Everest Flight-seeing?
North Korea is a place where people who think they've been everywhere need to go - So off I went to North Korea, all the way to their side of the DMZ to see what all the fuss was about.
Torajaland is a place unlike any other, both for its unique culture and its stunning landscapes. Getting there can be a major challenge, with only two choices: flying into Sulawesi’s largest city, Makassar, and driving six hours, or chartering a private turbo prop.
While most tourists head to Guilin and Yangshau, the real treasure for me in the area is heading to Longsheng by car to Miao, Yao, Dong and Zhuang territory, a rich mosaic of tribal minorities.
The 798 Art Zone industrial area has interesting origins. Known as the "Dashanzi Factory Complex," it was formerly a cooperative engagement founded upon an alliance with the erstwhile Soviet Union (and East Germany).
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival is an annual festival held on the small island of Cheung Chau in Hong Kong. I attended this unique festival several times while I was living in Hong Kong.
I recently visited a land mine dig in Cambodia with The HALO Trust to learn more about these unexploded devices that continue to exist in soil across the world. The trip was an eye-opener for me, exposing how truly dangerous land mines are.
Surin is home to the Surin Elephant Round-up, which takes place during the end of November each year. The festival is a multi-day event, starting with the "Elephant Buffet" or Elephant breakfast on the first day, and then is followed by elaborate battle re-enactments the following day.
Borobudur is the most vital monument in all of Indonesia and the largest Buddhist temple anywhere on the planet. Having a private breakfast with an unobstructed view of this wonder is relaxing compliment to an early visit to the monument.
Labuan Bajo and the Komodo area of Indonesia is a micro-version of a trip to Jurassic Park. Getting a huge dragon to come onto the beach for a photographical essay was a major, integral part of my adventure.
Just as the sun was starting to make its presence felt, we slowly floated upwards in our 8 passenger balloon. It was surprisingly quiet and serene. I quickly began to see Bagan in a way that I had missed on my many previous visits and the scenery was stunning.
The Chin tribe of Myanmar, which live near the Bangladesh border not far from Mrauk U, are a people who wear facial tattoos. I journeyed to this corner of Asia to seek out the answers of why exactly do they undergo the process of getting such tattoos.
The “Nine Emperor Gods Festival”, is a spectacular annual event in in Korat, Thailand that I had been keen to witness ever since I first came to live in Thailand – and this year I finally made it.