Hiking the Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail

ngong-ping-trail

While it should be one of the most popular hiking trails in Hong Kong, very few people seem to know about the Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail – a 6-kilometer trail (but feels like 8 kilometers) running directly under the cable cars in Lantau Island Hong Kong leading to the Big Buddha.  The trail is called that because the commercial park you travel to before getting to the monastery and the Big Buddha is called Ngong Ping 360, and the trail was originally built to service the cable cars throughout the whole trail, breaking from the trail for only less …

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Exploring Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s Storied, Pulsating Capital

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Vietnam conjures up harrowing images of war and demonstrations. At a young age, I already had a rough sketch not only of the brutal conflict in Indochina, but also the one waged at home. Naturally, as the big history buff that I am, I find myself booking a flight to Ho Chi Minh, with the intent to uncover treasures of the past. Formerly known as Saigon, and still fondly referred to by most locals as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh is like any other bustling metropolis at first glance. On my first day, the roar of cyclos greeted me along with …

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Japan on a Shoestring: Budget Tips

japan at night

It’s no secret to the backpacking community that Japan is an expensive destination. The purist budget traveler in me would stay away from it, but it’s hard to ignore the country’s rich culture, enigmatic cityscapes, and natural wonder. Despite its ridiculously high cost of living, I am still drawn and deeply attached to this country, which is why I keep coming back to it despite my lifestyle and limited resources. The main advantage to being a shoestring traveler for many years is that stretching a budget and getting more for less would require minimum effort. Japan is no exception to …

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Meeting Borneo’s Enigmatic Orangutans

borneo orangutan

On a solo trip to Kota Kinabalu, I met Sarah, a middle-aged woman who dedicated her entire life to the conservation of orangutans. She’s no primatologist, nor does she see herself as an eco-warrior of some sort. Deeply fascinated, I asked, “What made you decide this is what you want to do?” I expected to hear something political or a heated discussion about poaching and the destructive palm oil industry. Instead, she answered, “One day, I took a tour to a wildlife conservancy in Kubah National Park, and happened upon a motherless baby orangutan nibbling on a leaf. I felt …

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On Board the Dream-like Trans-Mongolian Train

trans-mongolian railway

I’d like to call myself an enthusiast of long rail journeys. There’s something melodic about the slow but constant change of scenery as the train trundles past tarnished railway tracks. My trip from Moscow, Russia to Beijing, China via the Trans-Mongolian Railway was one such voyage. The route crosses two continents, three vast countries, and several prominent landmarks, including a vast portion of Siberia, the Ural Mountains, Lake Baikal, the Gobi Desert, and the Great Wall of China. I admit that before embarking on this journey, I entertained myths about endless snow, frozen soil, and blizzards that caused trains to …

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Eco-touring West Malaysia: 5 Forest Reserves to Visit

Penang National Park

The vast majority of West Malaysia is a tranquil tropical rainforest, far removed from the frenzy and anxieties that beset city life. Picture a cozy cabin suspended by wooden stilts, intertwined into an understory of saplings, palms, and mangrove. Native groundcovers fringe the damp trail, inching to reclaim lost ground. A hanging bridge weaves through brackish water and a canopy of hardwood. Birdsong, the dawn chorus of siamangs (giant gibbons), an invisible waterfall nearby, inviting you to a dreamlike state of sensory bliss. This is Peninsular Malaysia – home to the Rafflesia, ancient kempas hardwood, and the elusive Malayan tiger. …

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Chasing Waterfalls in North Bali

falls in bali

Imagine golden sunrises, misty unpaved roads, and lushly forested trails that lead to a mystical waterfall. Even for a top tourist destination, Bali still offers plenty of surprises. If you’re not one for crowds and seek a quiet but adventure-packed, off-the-beaten-path experience, head up to North Bali’s central, highland region. A Step Back in Time North Bali is the perfect place to soak in the local and colonial history. Its main cities Lovina, Seririt, and Singaraja are far removed from the bustle of the island’s central, eastern, and southern townships. Nevertheless, the friendliness of the locals is ever-present, as with …

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Discovering India on the Railways

India-evening-bazaar

There’s no other train system in the world that speaks so much about a country than that of India’s. It covers a staggering 71,000 miles of tracks and 41, 000 miles of network weaving across vast lands. While the Indian Railway is a legacy of the British Raj, its glory lies on the diverse topography it traverses and the 8.4 billion people it carries every year. These figures probably don’t mean anything at first glance. But these tracks form a fundamental part of discovering India, entrancing the likes of Paul Theroux and Wes Anderson. It was the Nizamuddin Duronto Express …

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Southeast Asia on a Shoestring: Discovering the Banana Pancake Trail

trekking

Southeast Asia is a rite of passage for backpackers, given the dazzling array of places to visit. But if you’re on a shoestring budget and want to discover as many countries as you can, The Banana Pancake Trail is the perfect route. It’s an introductory trail for a good reason. In fact, many Westerners and Asian backpackers agree that it’s the epitome of budget travel. The Banana Pancake Trail got its name from the sweet banana pancakes sold abundantly as breakfast to backpackers in the region. Traditionally, the route covers Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. But the name now serves …

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6 Places to Visit for Sustainable Travel

tourist-spot

Responsible ecotourism is fast becoming a popular way for environmentally-conscious people to travel. From what was once a loose concept, it has evolved into a legitimate conservation movement that organizations and governments worldwide lead. Operators used to designate “eco-conscious” to just natural and cultural heritage sites, but it now covers any destination where the flora, fauna, and culture are primary attractions. Today, with the growing prevalence of travel, eco-tourism serves as a guiding principle for the preservation of the natural environment and cultural integrity of the local people. People visit places with the objective of observing, immersing, admiring, and ultimately …

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