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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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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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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Traveling through Magical Maharashtra

Azad Maidan in Mumbai

India is overflowing with rich history, tradition, natural heritage, and glorious architecture. To say the country is overly blessed with attractions is the understatement of the century. One destination which offers up an excellent cross-section of attractions is magical Maharashtra, India’s second most populous state.

Whether arriving via a convenient Delhi to Mumbai flight or making your way overland as we did from Madya Pradesh, the region’s highlights are easily combined into an adventurous circuit which should satisfy even the most jaded travelers (including yours truly).

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Kyoto Autumn Leaves: Japan’s Most Colorful Season

Excited about the foliage in Kyoto's Eikando Temple

I’ll admit that our trip to Japan was a bit last minute, but that didn’t mean our timing was totally random. For years, we had been wanting to experience one of the country’s most stunning natural spectacles, the Technicolor fall foliage season. Autumn leaves? Don’t you mean cherry blossoms?

No. While most Westerners associate the country with the world famous spring cherry blossoms, many Asian tourists are equally drawn to Japan’s gorgeous fall colors, which for religious and cultural reasons have become something quite unlike anything else on the planet.

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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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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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Hiking to Potato Chip Rock in San Diego

Tony and Thomas at Potato Chip Rock

Potato Chip Rock is crazy, a little dangerous, and – much to the chagrin of locals – a darling of the Instagram crowd. Perched high above the arid valleys of Poway in Southern California, the very photogenic site repeatedly pops up in newspapers, blogs and social media streams around the world.

Hilariously, despite the fact that Potato Chip Rock is located 30 minutes from where I grew up, I had never visited. Considering the fact that Thomas and I have scoured the world for similarly unique locations, we thought it was about time we paid a visit. Continue…

Wildlife along the Kinabatangan River

The Kinabatangan River is both tragic and miraculous at the same time. One of Sabah’s premier attractions, the river flows through a stretch of surviving secondary and tertiary forest sandwiched between the industrial-scale palm plantations of the Kinabatangan region.

Perhaps the strongest testament to wildlife’s ability to survive and adapt under desperate conditions, I can personally say that, in all my travels, I have never seen such a boxed-in forest region with so much wildlife and such diversity – it is simply incomprehensible. Continue…