Seeing a Kathakali Performance in Kerala

Demoness in Kathakali performance

For visitors to the Indian state of Kerala, one of the obvious highlights – besides exploring the Kerala backwaters by houseboat – is attending a traditional Kathakali performance. Dating back to the 17th century, these colorful musical performances offer up a combination of traditional dance and rhythmic music punctuated with wild shrieks and maniacal laughs. They are quite the experience!

So what is it all about? Plotlines are usually drawn from the Hindu classics such as the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas as well as folk mythology.

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The World’s Most Amazing Adventures

Thomas climbing to the Skylodge in Peru

Yes, these are crazy times. World travel has suddenly come screeching to a halt. From the isles of Oceania to the glaciers of Chile to sweeping sands of the Sahara, adventurers around the globe have had to buckle down and wait for Covid-19 to pass. Fantasies of exotic destinations will have to remain just that for the time being… fantasies.

Yet for those arm-chair travelers who still dare to dream, here is a list of 20 of our favorite adventures to put on your bucket list. Hopefully, the world will start up again in the not-too-distant future. Hang in there, people, this too shall pass.

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Gyantse – Jewel of Tibet

Monk at the Kumbum in Gyantse, Tibet

Gyantse is easily the most beautiful and atmospheric town in Tibet. There is so much to see, we could easily have stayed a week – but, unfortunately, our 17-day adventure to Mount Kailash allowed for only one day in the photogenic town. Sometimes, you just have to make due with what you have.

To take full advantage of our single day, we started early; in fact, we were up and out before sunrise. This may sound a little too early, but the sun doesn’t come up before 8 AM in Tibet – China can’t be bothered to introduce time zones. Having said that, sunrise was the perfect time to catch Tibet’s stunning morning light.

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta Pisa

So is a title even necessary for this post? Or did you miss it peeking out from behind the cathedral? The Leaning Tower of Pisa is certainly one of the most recognized monuments on the planet. It’s the perfect place to start a trip to Tuscany and Umbria, and it’s also a great day trip if you happen to be in Florence. What? Too typical, too beaten-track you say?

Travelers with a major ‘tude might write the tower off as the ultimate travel clichĂ©. It’s not. The famous Leaning Tower of Pisa and the stunning cathedral complex, including its monumental baptistry, are serious traveler eye-candy. If you need a more highbrow motivation, it’s the perfect place to study the very unique Pisan take on Romanesque architecture and search for hints of early Gothic. And, of course, there’s the whole leaning thing.

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Colossal Olmec Stone Heads of La Venta

Colossal Olmec head at La Venta (Monument 1)

Parque-Museo La Venta in Villahermosa is one of the most unique, well conceived museums we’ve ever encountered. Created in 1958, the park-museum was designed to house relocated Olmec treasures that were threatened by petro-chemical development near the original La Venta archaeological site in northern Tabasco. Those priceless treasures include three colossal Olmec stone heads as well as many other very impressive examples of Olmec sculpture and carving.

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Eating Your Way Through Paris

Paris treats in delicatessen window

I’ve actually heard a few travel bloggers claim that food isn’t that important to them. What? Could that be? Is it possible that some people don’t travel to eat? That’s seriously hard for us to believe.

For Thomas and me, food is a BIG part of the experience. For Thomas, it is the BIGGEST part of the experience. He travels primarily to eat. Architecture is what he sees in the background while he is stuffing his face. And if you travel to eat, France is definitely on the short list of must-eat destinations.

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Sagada’s Cave Connection

Tony enters a chamber while spelunking in Sagada

Sagada, a cool mountain station in north-central Luzon, is a restful escape from the tropical heat of the Philippines. The destination offers up forests full of pines and tree ferns, exotic burial rituals, a once grand head hunter culture, and gorgeous slopes filled with extreme rice terracing.

Our principle reason for coming here was to bone up on our spelunking skills by doing the famous Sagada Cave Connection, a four-hour cave crawling tour linking the Lumiang and Sumaging cave systems. This tour requires its participants to repel down vertical shafts, crawl, squirm, dangle off of ledges, slip, slide, wade waist-deep through underground streams, and clamber over wedding cake cave formations – in other words, it’s serious food for your inner child.

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10 Highest Mountains in the World

Tony backed by Everest at the Gokyo Ri overlook

Can you name the top ten highest mountains in the world? You can probably name Everest, and if you are clued in, maybe K2. But can you list any of the others? Most people can’t. That quickly changes for travelers to the mountains of southern Asia.

Yes, when it comes to spectacular peaks, you really don’t have to scour the world to find them. In fact, you could theoretically complete your collection with a visit to just two countries, Nepal and Pakistan. Throw in visits to Tibet and India, and you can take in all the best views.

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India’s Bhimbetka Rock Shelters

Masterpiece cave painting at Bhimbetka

The Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, a collection of more than 600 prehistoric cave paintings, was one of the main reasons we wanted to visit Bhopal, India. Boasting the oldest traces of human presence on the subcontinent as well as cave paintings dating back to the Mesolithic period, this just might be the best contender for the title of “the birthplace of India.”

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The Guarani Missions of Argentina and Paraguay

San Ignacio Mini, a Guarani mission

A trip through South America, as spectacular as it is, can often feel like one long story of conflict and open war between the continent’s native peoples and European colonists. Even today, there is a very palpable tension between these groups.

So as we were passing through northern Argentina along the border with Paraguay on our way to IguazĂș Falls, we were happy to discover a slightly different story. In the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries entering the area took a rather unique approach to conversion. They set out to create what some have termed a “Utopian” blend of native and European culture in methodically constructed communities referred to as reducciones.

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