Pir Dastgir Sahib Shrine Destroyed by Fire

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Waking up this morning to a series of ¬†messages from Kashmiris, we were devastated to discover that the Pir Dastgir Sahib, perhaps the most stunning Sufi shrine in Srinagar, Kashmir, had been destroyed by fire. This is a tragic loss for Kashmiris, who are mourning the destruction of one of their most beloved religious sites. It also represents a heartbreaking loss of world architectural and cultural heritage. It is being reported that holy relics from the shrine have been saved. Continue…

The Nightmare Called American Healthcare

On the road, the topic of American healthcare comes up about as often as my favorite country (in other words, a lot). Citizens of the world are fascinated by the twists and turns of the American healthcare debate, a subject which is pretty much incomprehensible to anyone born outside of the United States.

What many non-Americans do not realize is that the subject is as relevant to foreign visitors to the country as it is to U.S. citizens. Anyone who needs to visit a doctor or emergency room while traveling in the U.S. will be plunged into the complexities of a highly bureaucratic, highly bloated nightmare that has the potential to confuse and confound even the greatest mind.

Although I am American, I am insured through a German travel insurance company. This rather unusual status as well as some recent experiences with the healthcare system here in the U.S. have given me some insight into the difficulties that visitors might encounter. Here are a few bits of advice for foreign Continue…

Seaport Village Busker

While we were strolling along the bay at San Diego’s Seaport Village, this busker sporting white 18th-century garb caught our attention. You go girl, don’t let that economic crisis get you down. ūüôā

Home Exotic Home

On ContemporaryNomad.com, we’re used to showcasing exotic destinations around the world. But today, these scenes are from my home turf in La Jolla, California. I grew up hanging out at the beaches in La Jolla, I went to La Jolla High School, and I worked in La Jolla for years. Somehow, after years of living abroad, my home seems like an exotic destination in Continue…

Au Revoir Asia

We initially came to Asia with the intention of staying two to three years. We stayed nearly twice that amount of time. Fifteen countries and tens of thousands of ground miles later, it is time for the blog to say not goodbye but rather au revoir to Asia. We’ll definitely be back.

Despite the fact that we conceived of ContemporaryNomad.com as a travel blog dedicated to in-depth world travel, many have labelled us a blog devoted to traveling Asia. Not so fast nay-sayers, we just haven’t gotten around to the rest of the world yet. It turns out that “in-depth” takes longer than you think.

10 Hours in Seoul

Generally, I’m not one to rush my travel experiences. But on our flight from Bangkok to San Diego, we were left with a gaping 10-hour layover which made a quick trip into Seoul irresistible. So, with no guidebook and no real information in hand, we stumbled our way into the middle of the capital hoping to get a taste (both figurative and literal) of Korean culture.

Once you actually figure out how to buy a ticket, accessing Seoul is super-easy via the very convenient commuter trains which carry travelers directly to downtown Seoul. (Tip: if you have time, skip the expensive express trains and just take the normal commuter train. It only takes a few more minutes.) With limited time, our goals were to Continue…

1000 Posts

Less than one month before the fifth anniversary of ContemporaryNomad.com, we mark our 1000th post. Personally, I think more than 200 posts a year is not bad for two guys who have been on the move for nearly half a decade. To celebrate the milestone, we put together another list of some of our favorite travel achievements during the last 59 months.

Trekking 600 Kilometers in Nepal
We trekked the Annapurna Circuit, the Annapurna Sanctuary, the Everest region (including Gokyo, Kala Patthar, Everest Base Camp, Chukhung, Cho Oyu Base Camp, and Ama Dablam Base Camp), and four days across Chitwan just to add a little jungle to the mix. Total days trekking: 53!!!

Seeing Five Tigers in the Wild
One of our major goals in India was to spot tigers in the wild. We spotted our first in Bandhavgarh, our second in Corbett, and our third, forth and fifth on a return trip to Bandhavgarh a year later. We even saw one tiger on two different occasions for a grand total of six sightings!!!

Encountering the Last of the Traditional Akha
We searched high and low across Laos for the last of the traditional Akha, a group which I had first encountered in Thailand in 1990. As of 2010, there were still a few villages in the far north near Phongsali clinging to traditional ways. From what we understand, the villages shown in these photos were forcibly relocated by the government in 2011.

Eating our Way Across Vietnam
Our Vietnam experience was defined by food. We ate our way from Saigon to Sapa – and loved every single bite of it.

Biking Bagan Before Myanmar Opened Up
Our Facebook fans might have noticed a short post pointing out that Myanmar (Burma) just introduced visas on arrival last week. This combined with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi means that Myanmar has become the new tourist hot spot. Political reforms are a welcome change for Myanmar, but that change means mass tourism is on its way. Biking Bagan might be a little busier from now on.

Seeing Whale Sharks, Mantas, Thresher Sharks and Sunfish in the Wild
It’s been a series of scuba diving highlights from the bath tub waters of India’s Andaman Islands to the wild currents of Indonesia’s Nusa Tenggara. Not only did we rejoice in pelagic overload (whale sharks, mantas, thresher sharks and sunfish), we developed a serious love for macro diving in superior muck locations such as Dauin, Mabul, Bali and Maumere.

Finding the Last Few Isolated Beaches in Thailand
We made it our goal to find (and in some cases even clean up) the last of Thailand’s undeveloped beaches. There are still a few finds out there for those looking for the perfect beach.

Doing the Mt. Kailash Circuit in Western Tibet Without a Han Chinese Guide
This was perhaps the most important accomplishment for me personally. Traveling across Tibet to Mt. Kailash has always been one of my major dreams. And Thomas and I just made it through before massive changes to Tibetan tourism swept through the region starting in early 2008. Tibet will never quite be the same again.

Making a Difference with our Posts
We’ve been praised, critiqued, and reviled for many of our posts – which is just the way we want it. But certain posts have made more of an impact than others. Sometimes our posts enrage people and sometimes they draw attention to dangers. They challenge people to think about¬†changing cultures as well as endangered environments. Sometimes, the posts even make a difference.

Om Garden Cafe

So what does the adventurous traveler do in the area around Pai? I have absolutely no idea. I’m proud to say that we spent virtually our entire 4-day Pai experience within the relaxing thatched walls of Om Garden Cafe, run by our friends Mark and Anon. (Mark and I go back over two decades – geez, I’m getting old.)

Mark and Anon have spent the last few years in Pai. Anon, chef extraordinaire, runs the Om Garden Cafe kitchen dazzling Pai’s smartest visitors with scrumptious treats ranging from a fabulous Mediterranean plate of hummus and baba ganoush to a knock-your-socks-off pavlova. You never know what Continue…

Vomit Road to Pai

I don’t get carsick. Well, I didn’t think I did. I’ve driven across Europe, the Middle East, Central America, and Africa. I crossed North America multiple times. We’ve driven thousands of miles across Asia including the most notorious mountain regions on the continent, including Sichuan, Qinghai, Tibet, Nepal, Spiti, Ladakh, Kashmir, and Sikkim. And I’ve never gotten carsick once… until the vomit road to Pai.

Apparently, I’m not the only one. When we arrived in Pai, everyone kept asking whether we had gotten carsick on the way in. I have absolutely no explanation for what makes this road so bad. It’s well paved, quite smooth, and the bus driver wasn’t nearly as bad as the drivers in China, Nepal and India. So what is causing so many visitors, both Thai and foreign alike, to get sick? Could it be the swirling cosmic energies that have made Pai the New Age center of Thailand?Can cosmic energy make you puke?

World Wonders Project

Now everyone can be a Contemporary Nomad AND a couch potato at the same time. Google’s new World Wonders Project is placing virtual tours online allowing people at home to explore the world’s most spectacular sites from their computers.

The project is just in its infancy, but there is already plenty to explore. You can hop from Bryggen, Norway to Diamantina, Brazil to Kyoto, Japan with just a couple of clicks. We can’t wait until they get more content. If they need us to go to Africa for them to get some new material, we’re ready!!!