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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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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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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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 Complete Guide to Hiking Torres del Paine

UPDATED Nov. 2019: A lot has changed since we visited Torres del Paine in 2015. Trekkers doing the O and Q circuit can only hike counterclockwise, and all campsites and refugios need to be booked in advance including the free CONAF campsites. Note that Campamento Torres will still be closed during the 2019/2020 season due to maintenance. Read on for more details.

After several months of indulging in amazing luxury experiences in Peru and Argentina, Tony and I were craving a good challenge and decided to hike the O circuit around the Torres del Paine Massif. It had been way too long since we did a multi-day trek on our own, so hiking Patagonia without a guide was just what the doctor ordered. Continue…

Iguazu Falls – Which Side is Better, Argentina or Brazil?

Iguazu Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. Almost twice as tall as Niagara Falls and only rivaled by Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, the jaw-dropping Iguazu Falls leaves even the most seasoned travelers in awe (and yes, I’m talking about us). The 82-meter-high cascades of foaming water span an incredible width of 2.7 kilometers. At any one time, there are between 150 and 300 falls depending on the water level. Witnessing the power and noise of the falling water shrouded in perpetual mist is an unforgettable experience, an experience made even better by the incredible Continue…

20 Fun Things to Do in New Zealand

Mitre Peak Milford Sound, New Zealand

Although we’ve been traveling for decades, we have never made it to New Zealand. It’s simply inexcusable. Considering the island nation screams adventure travel, it just doesn’t make sense. We love glaciers, beaches, wildlife and epic landscapes, so New Zealand is the ultimate dream destination. The fact is, we just haven’t gotten around to it.

To give ourselves a little nudge, we have come up with a bucket list of 20 great things to do in New Zealand. Continue…

The Five Best Day Trips from Madrid

Day trips from Madrid: Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain

Madrid as a destination far exceeded our expectations. After spending three weeks in Spain’s booming capital, we were completely hooked on one of Europe’s most enjoyable cities. Not only are there millions of things to do in Madrid itself, the city offers easy access to all kinds of attractions in the surrounding countryside. If you love walled towns, medieval castles, and Roman ruins all with an accent of Castile, Madrid is the perfect hub to kick back and do some day-tripping.

While most of the more popular destinations can be reached by public transportation, renting a car in Madrid will give you a lot more flexibility and comfort. From our experience, car rentals in Spain are particularly easy and affordable. During our time in Madrid, we did five different day trips to nearby towns, all recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So without further ado, here’s our list of the five best day trips from Madrid, including our personal favorites. Continue…

Top Things to Do and Places to Visit in Jodhpur

Places to visit in Jodhpur: View of Mehrangarh Fort from Jaswant Thada

Situated on the edge of the Thar Desert, the walled city of Jodhpur definitely lives up to our definition of a desert dream. Known throughout Rajasthan as the Blue City, Jodhpur is an atmospheric tangle of blue-washed medieval lanes leading everywhere and nowhere. Hidden treasures abound from ancient havelis to spice-scented bazaars to exotic smoke-filled temples.

Once you enter the blue labyrinth of Rajasthan’s second largest city – one of our favorite places in the country – it is easy to lose track of time and space. But never fear. To help you make the most of your stay, we have compiled a list of our favorite things to do and best places to visit in Jodhpur. Continue…

The 12 Best Things to Do in Singapore

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

Whether you visit Singapore on a business trip or a family vacation, the Southeast Asian island city-state offers something for every taste. The so-called “Garden City” is a wild medley of modern skyscrapers, tropical rainforest, glitzy shopping malls, colonial architecture, street art and amazing hawker stalls – all wrapped in a blanket of Chinese, Malay and Indian traditions.

But Singapore wasn’t always the city it is today. Since Tony’s first visit in 1991, it has transformed from a coldly functional port-city to a fun, stylish metropolis which is constantly reinventing itself. The city has undergone a remarkable facelift in the last few years, reclaiming more and more land to add an unending stream of exciting new Singapore attractions. To help you organize your itinerary, here are some of our favorite things to do in Singapore. Continue…