Uncharted Backpacker

Hunza Valley, Pakistan – Land of the Immortals

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Hunza Valley – Pakistan

Paradise: A word often used to describe white sand, blue water and sitting in a lounge chair with your favourite beverage with no worries at all. This may be paradise for many, but not for me. For me, paradise is a place far removed from the fast paced life we live today. A place where the landscapes are like no other on this planet. It’s a place where you can meet people who live long, happy lives and their concerns are more to do with the simple necessities of life rather than high politics or the affairs of the world. This is the Hunza Valley in Pakistan.

I am staring into a mountain vista from my hotel balcony. It’s the kind of view that makes you question everything you know. I have never seen such beauty as this before. The valley bottom is carpeted with green, spire-like trees that are flecked with red, orange and that quintessential golden colour of fall, while jagged, monstrous, white peaks above surround the valley like a fortress. The clouds, so high up on the mountains, appear static. The human eye cannot comprehend the movement of these clouds, as they are almost 8000 m up. The setting is like a painting. It’s perfect. Read More

Mongolian Throat Singing – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Mongolian throat singing or Tuvan throat singing, has been practiced throughout Mongolia for centuries. The Singer produces a pitch (usually a low one), and then creates another pitch simultaneously over top of the original one. Master Tuvan throat singers are able to create even more than two pitches at once!

The people of Tuva have created many styles of overtone singing, but the three basic styles are khoomei, kargyraa and sygyt. These styles of overtone singing have actually seen quite a rise in modern Mongolia pop culture, and Mongolia’s overall music scene.

While I was in Mongolia I was destined to see this singing for myself. For as long as I can remember I have been captivated by the unique sounds that the singers can create.

My third day in Ulaanbaatar brought me to the Ulaanbaatar performing arts centre. Here I enjoyed a show that displayed many of Mongolia’s different styles of song and dance. At the end of the show one of Mongolia’s most famous overtone singers belt out his many tones that vibrated throughout the halls.

This was by far one of the most amazing Tuvan throat singing I had heard in Mongolia. While in Ulaanbaatar if you are lucky enough to be there while this singer was in town, I highly recommend attending this show so you too can be shocked by how incredible this folk art is.

Indonesia Guide

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Why Indonesia

With head hunting tribes, island paradises, jungle covered lost temples and a smorgasbord of cultures, there are countless reasons why you should visit Indonesia. Apart from Bali, most of Indonesia has flown under the average traveler’s radar. There is adventure to be found here. Indonesia’s cities are a constantly growing urban sprawl, while its countryside remains traditional and relatively untouched compared to that of its South East Asian neighbours.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world! Many islands, however, have their own unique religions. For example, Bali is Hindu and Papua and Sulawesi are home to an array of tribal religions. This gives each of Indonesia’s Islands a unique flavour. Arriving at each new island almost feels like entering a different country entirely.

Add in some stunning beaches, world class diving, uncharted forbidden jungle paradises and you have a traveler’s dream destination. So, travel to Indonesia and get ready for an experience in a country unlike anywhere you have ever been. When you leave this beautiful place, you will understand why so many travelers choose to return to Indonesia once again. Read More

Funeral Crashing in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi – Indonesia

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Tana Toraja, Sulawesi – Indonesia 

As I clamber deep into the cavern of death, I stumble over human skulls and the remnants of ancient coffins. The light diminishes as I ascend deeper. The smell of the dead fills the stuffy humid air. Outside the drums beat deep from the funeral processions vibrating the cave walls. My Torajan guide pauses from the foot of the last tomb, and gazes into the deep darkening chambers of the cave. This is where they lay to rest, the ones before us Torajan. The ones who we come from.

Where is Tana Toraja?

Tana Toraja is a tribal region located in the central interior of the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The region is very mountainous and thick with dense jungle. Unfortunately, as is the case with most of Indonesia, much of the forest has been slashed and burned. That being said, there still are many national parks filled with wildlife and adventure.

Outside Tana Toraja’s commercial centre, Rantepao, there are numerous small Toraja villages that dot the countryside. Many of the hills have been transformed into jaw-droopingly beautiful rice terraces that climb impossibly high into the mountains. Water buffalo roll in the mud while children run with their pet pigs around the town. The setting is absolutely stunning. The villages here remain incredibly traditional. Locals often still opt for old-fashioned Tong-konan, rather than modern houses. Tong-konan are colorful longhouses raised from the ground on stilts and decked out in buffalo skulls. Read More

Trekking Guide – Simien Mountains National Park Ethiopia  

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Simien Mountains National Park – Ethiopia

Why Trek Simien National Park

Simply put, the Simien Mountains are amazing. Nobody seems to think of Ethiopia looking like this. Humongous, green, pinnacle peaks, deep valleys dotted with grass-hut villages, and fog blanketing the scenery for a picture perfect moment. Simien is breathtaking. Apart from the scenery, there is also an array of wildlife. Most likely, you will see the Gelada Monkey hordes, covering the hills, planning their next assault on the fields of golden wheat. The chances of seeing Ethiopia’s rare majestic Walia Ibex are also high. Simien can also provide a cultural experience as well. Many Ethiopians call Simien National Park their home. They grow wheat on gravity defying terraces and live in very traditional grass-roof houses. Trekking here is extremely rewarding. Simien is a World Heritage site, and any trek here will stick with you long after you have left. Trek Simien; I promise that you will never forget this beautiful corner of Ethiopia. Read More

Top Sights of Rajasthan – India

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Rajasthan Province – India

Welcome to the land of Maharaja Forts, crumbling desert cities, vibrant and exciting cultures and India’s premier desert escapes. Rajasthan is India’s historic center. It hosts some of India’s most traditional culture. Across this desert province are colour coated cities that conceal and preserve a very unique part of India. If you are new to traveling in India, then Rajasthan should be at the top of your list. You will not leave this beautiful province feeling empty handed. You will leave its borders with a huge appreciation of how complex and incredible this place is.

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Afghanistan – Traveling through the Ashes of the Past

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Mazar E-Sharif – Afghanistan 

Who am I? I am a traveler, I’m a wanderer and madman. I’m a scar of love, in my loneliness… I am Legend”
– Afghan Legend: Ahmad Zahir

Traveling Afghanistan

Many have attempted to conquer these lands. Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan are two prime examples. None, however, had succeeded in conquering this paradise from the proud, noble Afghan tribes. In 1979, there entered another conquering faction. This time, it was the Soviets. The Afghan people fought hard in this bloody occupation. Leading the campaign was none other than the Afghan group named the Mujahedeen. It is estimated that up to 1.5 million civilians were killed in this brutal act of war.  The Mujahedeen fought using guerrilla warfare tactics within Afghanistan’s own borders, in cities and countryside alike. This provoked the Soviets to begin bombing and utilizing landmines, leaving Afghanistan in ruins. Ultimately, the Mujahedeen exhausted the soviets and forced them to flee these lands.

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Iran – Breaking Stereotypes, Tehran and Esfahan

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Tehran, Esfahan – Iran 

Mention to anyone back home that you are venturing into Iran and you will receive negative responses. “Why would you go there? It’s dangerous,” or “Iran is full of bad people,” were some of the comments I received from others when I decided to visit Iran. Iran is a nation of many things, but bad people and dangers are not among them. Traveling to Iran has been a dream of mine for many years. Now, finally, I had received my visa in Istanbul and crossed Turkey to the Iranian border, in Dogubayazit, to visit the nation so many people in the west fear. Read More

Ethiopia’s Northern Circuit – Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela and Mekele

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Lalibela and Mekele – Ethiopia

Ethiopia: The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela

Continued From Ethiopia Part One: Addis Ababa and Lake Tana

From Lake Tana, the road goes east through majestic valleys to Lalibela. The road conditions are some of the worst in the entire country of Ethiopia. I arrived late in the evening; after about nine hours of bumpy buses, breakdowns, and coffee stops. Luckily, my hotel was located close to where the bus had dropped me off. I chose to stay at the Alef Paradise Hotel. Room rate was only 15 dollars per night, and was within walking distance of the churches. Read More

Getting a Sak Yant Tattoo from a Monk in Thailand

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Chiang Mai – Thailand 

Sweat drips down my forehead in the sweltering afternoon heat. My mind is clear. I turn my back to the monk. He begins to chant a prayer. I am asked to kneel down and fold my hands together in order to prepare for the process. To be honest, I am very nervous. This will be my first tattoo. Not only my first tattoo, but it will be done with a bamboo spike rather than the conventional tattoo gun. The prayer ends, and what happens next lives with me forever Read More