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October 06, 2010

Cambodia: Jewel in the Rough

Independence_Beach_Sihanoukville(Wikipedia) Independence Beach, Sihanoukville (Wikipedia)

Large groups of tourists typically make my travel destinations feel completely unoriginal. On a recent trip to Cambodia, my husband and I couldn't pass on visiting the striking Angkor Wat temples, even though we had to work to keep the oblivious masses out of our photos. But when it comes to the rest of Cambodia, now just may be the best time to see it before the rest of the world catches on to its charms.

As the country is still licking its wounds from a tough time in recent history—rent the 1984 movie based on a true story, The Killing Fields, to learn more—it is just now opening to the outside world. And tourism will be its next big thing.

The beach town of Sihanoukville is a tourist destination in waiting. It has all the natural elements of the big resorts of Thailand and Malaysia, but lack of development gives it its raw charm. The warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand, tropical sun, pearly white beaches, coral reefs, and fresh seafood await.

Continue reading "Cambodia: Jewel in the Rough" »

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Cambodia Travel

September 30, 2010

River Road through Myanmar

By Guest Blogger

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Pagoda in Myanmar (PhotoDisc)

"I love you. I love you very much. I will never forget you," said Daw May Lwin Zin, head mistress of the village school of Kindat, Burma (or "Myanmar" as it is now known). Before we parted, she showered me with gifts of limes, pomelos, and green jade earrings. We strolled arm in arm down the main, muddy thoroughfare of Kindat, as the esteemed headmistress proudly announced to curious on-lookers in their houses on stilts that I was the representative of the Road to Mandalay who had just presented the school with much-needed school supplies.

"We ask ahead of time what is needed; we do not give money," said crew member Terry KyawNyunt, who had managed the school fund for eight years. "For example, we bought a multi-media system for a school in Bagan with money donated by the passengers and crew."

Our Road to Mandalay river cruiser visited many remote villages along the Ayeyarwady River, immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in his poem Mandalay, when he described Burma as "quite unlike any land you know about." What was once Southeast Asia's most secretive and mysterious country is now slowly opening up to the outside world to reveal a rich and glorious cultural heritage, breathtaking natural beauty, and people who have an endearing genuine charm.

Continue reading "River Road through Myanmar" »

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Myanmar Travel

September 16, 2010

A New Kind of Massage

(Glow Images,Getty)
(Glow Images)

How good do you feel after getting a massage? Well, what if I told you there is a growing trend in the massage industry that is leaving customers feeling twice as good?

I recently spent some time in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. It was there that I first learned about blind massages. In Asia there is a large population of people with seeing disabilities, including more than eight million in China alone. Because of their disability, finding work is challenging. Many find themselves living on the streets and earning a living through panhandling. But thanks to an initiative started by the Association for the Blind, specialty schools now train the seeing-impaired in massage therapy. The perfect occupation for someone not used to relying on vision. In fact, only blind and visually impaired people can become licensed masseurs in South Korea (because they feel it is the only occupation for people with this handicap, and who otherwise would have little alternative to guarantee earnings). The training is intense, and students must successfully graduate before getting hired. Understandably, the sensation of touch for a blind person is extremely acute and gives blind masseurs an added dimension to their massage skills. The blind massage trend is catching on, and various spas across the United States are now offering similar services. Talk about a happy ending.

Lisa Costantini is a writer/editor currently traveling the world with her husband working on a project about sport and culture. More information can be found on their website at Lisa will be blogging from the road for us as she and her husband travel through Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe over the next several months.

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Travel Trends

August 05, 2010

Travel to Bhutan with a National Geographic Photographer

By awayblog

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Bhutan(Christopher Potter)
(Christopher Potter)

WorldNomads (in partnership with the National Geographic Channel and JoJo's Adventures Bhutan) is offering the chance for one exceptional individual to go on assignment with renowned wildlife photographer Jason Edwards to the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Photograph the deeply spiritual and mystical Bhutan as it slowly opens to the modern world, maintaining a strong balance with its ancient traditions. Nestled in the Himalayas, bordering India and China, 65 percent of Bhutan is under forest cover, making its pristine ecology home to rare and endangered flora and fauna.

To help the winner take the best photos, the scholarship recipient will receive $1,800 worth of Pentax photographic equipment of their choice.

The best photos will be published on the National Geographic Channel's website, where they will be viewed by thousands of travelers worldwide.

Continue reading "Travel to Bhutan with a National Geographic Photographer" »

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Free Stuff · From Around the Web · Travel Photography

March 19, 2010

Water While Traveling: What You Need to Know to Stay Healthy

By WorldNomads

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Editor's Note: Thanks to Chris Cranshaw, founder of Hydropal, for providing this information. Chris is a seasoned traveler who has been working to help the environment and provide safe drinking water for 15 years.

Water is something most of us take for granted until we step on a plane and head out into the world. Then we suddenly realize that this precious liquid so necessary to sustain life can also cause serious ill health and even worse.

Nothing ruins a good trip like a bout of diarrhea, nausea, feeling totally exhausted, feverish, and in no mood for anything but bed! Waterborne illness is one of the leading sources of health problems for travelers, and can have serious immediate consequences and after-effects for months.

Where are you at risk?
High-risk areas include Central America, most of Africa and Asia and the Middle East. Moderate-risk areas include Eastern Europe, Russia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, and the Caribbean. Even developed countries aren't necessarily risk-free.

Basically if you want to be safe, assume the worst and plan accordingly.

Continue reading "Water While Traveling: What You Need to Know to Stay Healthy" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Asia Travel · Central America Travel · South America Travel · Travel Tips

March 17, 2010

Go Off the Beaten Path with Wild China

Yunnan Province3-PhotoDisc
Yunnan Province (Photodisc/Getty)

I had the good fortune to have lunch last week in Boston with Mei Zhang, founder of Wild China. For more than a decade, the Harvard MBA grad has brought visitors to the remote parts of China, telling me that “over 80 percent of travelers to the country see less than 20 percent of the landmass.” More than likely they get a glimpse of the Great Wall in Beijing, go on a Yangtze River cruise, and, if they have time, see the Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China in Xi’an. But what about that impressive mountain and river scenery found in the backdrop of Zhang Yimou films? To immerse yourself in that otherworldly beauty, you’re going to have to sign up for one of Wild China’s trips. Zhang is keen on taking people to her native Yunnan Province, north of Laos and Burma. Here you’ll find centuries-old Hill Tribes making bricks of tea high up in the mountains and the Tea Horse Caravan Trail, a southern Silk Route still being used that links southwestern China with Tibet. The trade route will be featured in the May issue of National Geographic, a perfect time to take the weeklong jaunt with Wild China, according to Zhang. She also offers hiking trips on the 19th-centruy French Explorers’ Route, along the Mekong and Salween Rivers, and trekking in the heart of Shangri-La.

Steve Jermanok is the publisher of, a site that offers expert advice to travelers, not tourists, on connecting with nature, people, and wildlife around the world while working up a sweat.

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Related Topics: Asia Travel

December 10, 2009

Notes from the Field: Trekking in Nepal

Machapuchare, aka "Fishtail Mountain," one of the Annapurna Circuit's signature peaks (Getty)

I'm just back from two months' trekking in the Everest and Annapurna regions of Nepal, where we're seeing some significant changes in the interplay of development and tourism throughout this famous mountain region. The good news is that the country is just hopping with visitors; in fact, visitor numbers are expected to be the highest since the conflict ended and elections took place in spring 2008. However, the biggest change I observed came in the popular trekking area to the west of the country's capital, Kathmandu, where the Annapurna Circuit is increasingly encircled by road along most of its path. That is, trekkers actually need to walk on a dirty and dusty road instead of a proper hiking trail in some parts. In Nepal, as in other parts of the world, roads equal progress, and naturally the government supports development to improve the lives of its citizens, from hydroelectric projects to improved roads for transporting goods and people throughout the country. In the Annapurna region, for example, the village of Marpha on the west side of the Circuit exports its signature apples and apple brandy throughout the world. Improved access to roads can only further the prosperity of this remote mountain community.

Continue reading "Notes from the Field: Trekking in Nepal" »

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Outdoor Adventures · Travel News

December 02, 2009

New Year's Alternative: Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival

By Lacy Morris

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Ice and Snow World, Harbin, China (Lin Yang)

For an interesting and different way to spend New Year's this winter, try Harbin, China, where below-freezing temperatures don’t stop thousands of visitors from traveling to one of the world’s most spectacular ice and snow festivals. Every year on January 5, the International Snow and Ice Festival kicks off with a chilling celebration amongst a grandiose display of ice art. The arctic climate of Harbin yields perfect conditions for the annual festival, not to mention making it an early forerunner to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Ice and Snow World is a subcategory of the event, a place where the most extraordinary ice sculptures are displayed. Visitors are met with enormous castles towering above them—some of which reach more than 80 feet into the frigid winter air. LED lights are installed to create a spectacular lightshow inside the multi-tiered structures. Sports enthusiasts will bask in the snow-filled options for outdoor adventure—alpine skiing at the Yabuli Ski Resort, snowsledding, winter swimming in the Songhua River flowing down from the Changbai Mountains, and testing your own creativity levels with much smaller-scale ice and snow carvings.

Travel Tip: Such bitterly cold temperatures can wreak havoc on your camera. Protect it by keeping it under your coat when not in use. In the event that condensation does occur, take all removable parts off and let them dry out. Keeping the camera outside with condensation in it could cause the camera to freeze.

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Exotic Escapes · Outdoor Adventures · Travel Tips · Trip Ideas

November 12, 2009

Notes from the Field: Track Giant Pandas in China's Sichuan Province

Wanglang-reserve-wild-panda In April and October of next year, U.S.-and Beijing-based tour operator WildChina is offering two new weeklong itineraries to showcase the key panda-conservation area in southwestern China's mountainous Sichuan province. Starting out from the provincial capital of Chengdu, the group tours will delve into the bamboo and rhododendron thickets of Sichuan's Wanglang Nature Reserve, home to over two dozen Giant pandas. With a diverse array of habitat rising from between 7,500 and 15,000 feet in elevation, Wanglang is also home to numerous other wildlife species including Golden Snub-nosed monkeys, leopard cats, and some 165 kinds of birds.

Tour participants will follow "panda patrol" paths through the reserve in the company of local wildlife experts, learning how to spot panda tracks and helping to locate infrared cameras for recording panda behavior. Wanglang is home to a small but growing population of the world's estimated 1,600 wild pandas, all of which inhabit about 20 enclaves of isolated mountain forest in China's Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. WildChina's 2010 itinerary will also take in the alpine landscapes of Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World heritage site. Not only notable for its acclaim in high-end publications like Travel+Leisure and National Geographic Traveler, WildChina is a partner with the World Wildlife Fund to implement sustainable, environmentally-friendly tourism practices on the ground. Land-based costs for this trip start at $2,600 per person, with additional costs for domestic air transfers and optional trip extensions.

Photo credit: courtesy, WildChina

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Eco-Tourism · Trip Ideas

October 28, 2009

Getting Out There With Afar Magazine

Afar Traveling home from a conference in Québec last week, I picked up a copy of the premier edition of Afar, the newest travel magazine to grace an already crowded category on airport newsstands. An hour later after a thoroughly absorbing in-flight read, I can report that I was impressed. The magazine is "for readers who are curious about everything the planet and its people have to offer," according to founder and editorial director Greg Sullivan. In this day and age, when magazines seek to impress with the most luxurious travel experiences imaginable or cater to a budget-minded, close-to-home crowd, Afar bites off the essence of experiential travel with an honest, open, and upbeat appraisal of the world we explore. A bimonthly publication to start, each issue of Afar will be organized under the typical See, Connect, and Go sections; its first edition profiled everything from Japan's costume-play fetish to a local's guide to East London to the world's best treetop lodging. As someone who reads a pile of travel magazines each month for work, I'm happy to say that this is one travel magazine that will open your eyes, mind, and heart—not just your wallet!

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Asia Travel · Beach Vacation · Budget Travel · Caribbean Travel · Eco-Tourism · Exotic Escapes · Outdoor Adventures · South America Travel

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