San Cristobal’s Indigenous Markets

Thomas exploring the Zinacantan Market

Without a doubt, the highlight of any trip to beautiful San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas is a visit to the bustling indigenous markets full of Tzotzil and Tzeltal people. We decided to plant ourselves in the idyllic, colonial-era town for a couple of weeks to explore the markets as well as those in Tenejapa, Zinacantán, and Chamula.

Each market is an extraordinary event, a feast for the senses and a quick course in the diversity of the region. Traders descend from the hills wearing beautiful traditional clothing marking them as members of different villages. Non-indigenous visitors might be surprised to see twenty women sitting together in basically the same outfit. But this clothing has meaning in Chiapas: it ties the people together and displays their heritage. It’s a modern-day sign of the tribal unity of the past and present.

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The Smart Way to Hike Emei Shan

Huazang Temple on the peak of Emei Shan

Emei Shan, one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China, sits in western Sichuan at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. This soaring mountain was the location of the first Buddhist temple in the country. Today beautiful Emei Shan’s Jinding, the “Golden Summit,” features the gilded Huazang Temple, a prime destination for tourists, pilgrims, and hikers alike.

To Buddhists, the long, arduous climb up the steep slopes of Emei Shan is a testament to their devotion and spiritual fortitude. We took the bus.

It may seem like a cop-out, but it had a lot to do with a Canadian we met in our hotel at the base of the mountain.

“Did you enjoy your hike up the mountain?” I asked naively.

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Berlin Wall Art

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the Berlin Wall. For 28 years, the stark cement blocks of the notorious Berlin Wall reminded Germans and travelers to Germany that they were on the front lines of the Cold War. As the post-war western city rebuilt into its cement cage, the traumatized population began to express their anger and humor in paint.

What started out as graffiti on an architectural scar grew into extended visual commentaries on a divided nation caught up in the ultimate ideological battle. And then, in 1989, that battle ended. As Germans rushed to tear down their symbol of division, some realized a work of art was being destroyed as well – and that at least part of it was worth saving.

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Ten Crazy-Cool Experiences in India

Thomas at the Chariot Festival in Hampi

Having spent almost a year and a half in India, we know there is no other country on the planet more overloaded with cultural attractions, spectacular architecture, gorgeous scenery, impressive wildlife, and bustling markets. India is also full of quirky surprises. The country managed to leave us gaping in astonishment on a daily basis.

To capture just a bit of what this awe-inspiring country has to offer visitors, we decided to put together our list of ten unique experiences that make a visit so intriguing. And with Etihad booking, finding a flight into any corner of India is easier than ever.

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Komodo, Diver’s Paradise

Tony diving off the coast of Rinca

It’s not exactly a secret among experienced divers, but Komodo has some of the best diving in the world. While land-lubbers are more focused on the famous Komodo dragons, underwater fans realize that Komodo National Park protects some of the best-preserved coral and underwater life on the planet.

Why? As with Nusa Lembongan, deep channels with cold currents from the south seem to be protecting much of the coral from the hot water streams that have ravaged calmer Asian waters to the north. So far, bleaching seems to be less of a problem than in other parts areas of the tropics. Moreover, nature has gifted Komodo with wild ripping currents which make dynamite fishing difficult. Poachers can blow up the reef, but the strong currents drag all the fish away.

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Beautiful Bruges

Wandering through the streets of Bruges

As I said in our Srinagar post, it seems that every city with canals is inevitably compared to Venice. Perhaps, they should be compared to Bruges instead. Simply put, beautiful Bruges is northern Europe’s most enchanting, atmospheric town. A stunning medieval canvas embroidered with lovely canals and cobblestone streets, Bruges is one of those rare, perfectly preserved fairy-tale destinations – which I personally love, love, love! Some, however, will disagree.

Filled with chocolatiers, cafes, horse-drawn carriages, candy shops, pubs and cute little boutique hotels, some will dismiss Bruges as one of those tourist traps artificially maintained to keep visitors happy. Lonely Planet Online goes out of its way to suggest Bruges is part fabrication, reminding us that much of its architecture was redone in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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The Best Beaches in the World

World's best beaches

Dreaming of sun and sand? Stuck in a cubicle with cold winds lashing against the frosty windows? Or do you just need a few tips to help you plan your next beach trip? We are putting together our ultimate “best beaches in the world” list. Unlike other lists out there, this is no mass-produced product thrown together with stock photos. We have personally been to (and totally loved) each of these extraordinary beach destinations and snapped the photos ourselves. Enjoy!

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Bangkok’s Taling Chan Floating Market

Taling Chan market

As I bite into the pastry, the warm custard filling oozes over my hand. “Real Macau egg tarts,” the sign reads. Well, this is better than anything I ever had in Macau. Licking my fingers, I wonder how I could get my hands on the recipe. But the sensory onslaught distracts me – the smell of grilled fish, the exotic scent of orchids, an old Thai man playing a traditional stringed instrument. I turn just in time to jump out of the way of a speeding motorcycle. A blast of exhaust fumes hits me as the driver plows through the crowd. Clearly, this guy is even hungrier than I am!

Taling Chan Floating Market in the northwest of Bangkok is small, not especially traditional, and usually appears as an afterthought in most guidebooks (if it appears at all). But as hordes of tourists flock to the larger commercial floating markets, travelers in the know realize that Taling Chan is an exceptional opportunity for excellent, inexpensive Thai food in the company of friendly and inviting Bangkok locals. It also provides the perfect launching point for a boat tour of several typical Bangkok neighborhoods that gives visitors a glimpse of what Bangkok used to feel like when the city was more water-based.

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Gocta Lodge Adventures – Kuelap, Revash, Mummies and More

View of Gocta Falls from Gocta Lodge
See note at end of post on changes since our visit.

Stepping out onto the balcony of our room here at Gocta Lodge, it’s hard to believe this view isn’t on the cover of every travel magazine on the planet. We came to Chachapoyas to explore Peru’s rising star Kuelap, which many are calling the Machu Picchu of the north. Yet, the view from our hotel room may eclipse that rising star.

We look out over a jungle-filled canyon framing the spectacular two-tier Gocta Waterfall, which has only recently been named one of the highest in the world. A flock of several dozen parrots swoops by above our heads. Hummingbirds dart from flower to flower below.

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Remembering Legzira, Southern Morrocco’s Most Spectacular Beach

Thomas at Legzira Beach in Morocco

You never know when one of your adventures will end up becoming a legendary piece of travel lore. You think you are going for a stroll on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Instead, you end up witnessing the last precious moments of a natural wonder that has survived the tests of time… until now.

The central arch on the gorgeous triple-arched Moroccan beach of Legzira is gone. It collapsed in 2016, just a few weeks after we visited, but we only heard the news recently. It’s an enormous loss for Morocco as well as our planet’s natural heritage. Bizarrely, this is the second world famous arch we have visited, which later collapsed.

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