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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Must-Read: Books that Will Arouse that Nomad in You

travel-books

A compelling book has the power to change your life. Moving from one chapter to another is an adventure in itself, inspiring you to take action and follow suit. Many of the travelers I’ve met are avid readers and students of the written word. On idle nights in hostels or campsites, I’d find them in a quiet corner, holed up with a book. In my case, it was Jack Kerouac’s ”On the Road,” which led me to decide that I would spend my life discovering the rich possibilities of this “too-big world.” Today, the travel genre has expanded, with titles …

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Ultralight Packing Tips: Living On the Road with Less

travel-packing

If you’ve seen the movie “Wild” (starring Reese Witherspoon), you’d remember the breathtaking scenes and whirlwind of emotions that led to the satisfying end. But you’ll also recall the absurdity of the main character’s backpack. It’s enormous for her size. And it is packed with so many unnecessary items which made her Appalachian thru-hike nearly impossible to endure. While she did manage to make it to the end of the trail, her packing mistake isn’t worth repeating. Treading the world lightly is a way of life here at My Travel Backpack. And what better way to leave a minimal environmental …

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Belonging Everywhere, To Everyone

Winter was driving on and snow was on the horizon as I fumbled my way out of Portland International Airport. This was a trip I wasn’t particularly keen on for a couple of reasons. One, I haven’t been chasing the sun only to freeze up, and two, I haven’t been home in a while. I met my sister Joanne in the waiting area and I kissed her like no time had passed since we last saw each other. We spent the night at her apartment downtown. We had dinner in her tiny balcony and watched night-shining clouds hang over Mt. …

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5 Ways to Travel Responsibly

travel-reponsibly

As someone who’s lived on the road for six years, I’ve been lucky enough to explore all kinds of places and know many cultures in depth. But traveling is as unsettling and awakening as it is exciting. Beyond the façade of dazzling beaches and exotic spots lie the harsh reality faced by the host community. As tourists, we can spend days or weeks in a place oblivious to the day-to-day struggles of locals. We indulge in food, adventure, and freedom without realizing that certain groups of people might be feeling chained to that same place. In some cases, while tourism …

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