Uncharted Backpacker

Getting a Hand Tapped Dayak Tattoo in Borneo

DSC09331

Sarawak Borneo, Malaysia

In an almost trance like state, I lay on my back as the needle is pounded into my shoulder with a wooden stick. Traditional Sape music is playing in the background. Two tattoo-clad Iban, kneeling beside me, concentrate deeply as they slowly punch the ink into my skin. Then, out of the silence, Boy flamboyantly calls out Maa Guii!” and we all break into laughter. Read More

Into Borneo’s Heart, Belaga to Kapit – Sarawak, Malaysia

DSC08798 - Copy

Borneo, Sarawak Malaysia

Like images on an old film projector, the jungle slowly flickers by. When the hum of the boat’s engine slows, it’s noise is drowned out by the sounds of Borneo’s deep jungle. Traveling here is not easy, but the rewards of Borneo’s interior are great for those seeking something different, something more vibrant and beautiful. As the boat pushes further downriver, the jungle is occasionally broken by the odd Dayak longhouse settlement. This place is special, a travelers absolute fantasy. I am happy to be back, back in the heart of Borneo.

Read More

The Sultanate of Brunei – Borneo

DSC08539

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

The Islamic Call to Prayer fills the air with its beautiful tones from the many surrounding mosques. Locals adorning brightly coloured Hijabs and purple long shirts walk from the malls to pray at the mosque. The stifling heat almost suffocates you with its soup like humidity.

This is Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei’s capital city. Everything from the golden domed mosques, the thick surroundings of uncharted jungle, the traditionally dressed locals, and poster plastered everywhere of the current sultan resonates of this empires past glory. Brunei is something different, an unfamiliar face you should get to know.

Read More

Tokyo, Japan – Sumo Wrestlers, Buddhist Monks, and Laser Shooting Robots

DSC00825

Tokyo, Japan

Hove you ever discovered something that you always knew you loved, but only just learned existed? Something that you know, deep down inside, was the one thing you always felt was missing form your life? There I was, strolling through the blindingly colorful, vibrant, high definition streets of Shinjuku.

All my previous years spent traveling could not have prepared me for this. Tokyo takes the most jaded, arrogant, egotistical of travelers and expands their horizons into a whole new realm of traveling. This is exactly where I was. All my preconceived ideas of Japan being too modern, and having too little culture to be of any interest were quickly replaced. What I thought I knew about Japan had been completely turned upside down and violently shaken. Tokyo will change you.

Read More

Weary Silk Road Travelers, Samarqand – Uzbekistan

DSC_0124

Samarqand, Uzbekistan 

The dust seeps into every crevasse of our old, beaten down car. Our driver, an ancient Uzbek man, cranks the speaker’s volume on high, blasting out the cords of Uzbek tunes and folk tales. Crammed beside me in the car is a middle aged man, a child, and her mother, who are all eating fermented sour cheese balls called Kurut. It’s been over four hours of this of this already, having to transfer cars twice. My friend, Matt, and I are making our way from Tashkent to Samarqand in Uzbekistan.

Just Like a mirage teasing us in the desert, the signs of civilization begin to appear. A powerline, a billboard, a large herd of goats and sheep. We were finally getting close to the legendary Silk Road city of Samarqand. In the distance, the waves of heat dissipate and the tall blue domes of mosques rise from the desert. After hours of sour cheese, dust filled lungs, and bumpy roads, we had arrived!

Read More

Sea Gypsies, Whale Sharks and Chocolate Hills – The Visayas, Philippines

5 (546)

I lie awake in the middle of the night. The rain pounds hard against the plastic shutters. The wind roars outside at frightening speeds. The sound of roosters calling is chilling. They know that this is no normal storm. The Yolanda Typhoon continued throughout the night. Luckily, I was with my Canadian/Filipino friend, Grace, at her uncle’s house in Manila. We had no idea how much this Typhoon would affect our trip, not to mention Grace’s family, in the Visayas.  

Read More

Kuna Yala, Backpacker Caribbean Paradise, San Blas – Panama

P1060697

San Blas, Panama 

The sand is as white as snow. The water is a clear, turquoise blue, so vibrant that it almost looks like a painting. Swaying palm trees are back dropped by clear skies on a deserted Caribbean island. There is not one tourist or sunglasses salesmen in sight. This is the picture perfect image I see as I emerge from the ocean. It is difficult to express so much beauty in words. As I submerge myself into the ocean below, thousands of colorful fish, sting rays and sharks are visible in all directions.

All this beauty leads me to believe that, if there is a Garden of Eden then, after all of my numerous expeditions exploring the globe, I have quite possibly found it. This is San Blas, in Kuna Yala, Panama. Paradise on earth.

Read More

Exploring the Temples of Angkor – Cambodia

SONY DSC

Temples of Angkor, Siem Reap – Cambodia

Cambodia, a country of deeply rooted culture, emerald rice fields, ancient temples, and a horrific past. Mentioning the name “Cambodia” to the younger generation inspires thoughts of of backpacking and South East Asian adventure. Ask someone whose memory stretches back a little farther, however, and you will be shocked to learn of the unspeakable acts of genocide that occurred here very recently.

Cambodia has emerged from the ashes of disparity and bloomed into one of South East Asia’s most interesting and addictive destinations. It shows great promise in continuing this path. It’s got new paved roads, five star hotels and everything else a traveler could want. The real questions is: will Cambodia be able to retain its authentic feeling with all of this new tourist infrastructure?

I have traveled here countless times. Every time I step through the gates of Angkor Wat, I can tell you that even with all the swarms of tourists, hotels, hawkers, this place is special. Angkor Wat is the symbol of Cambodia’s past. Angkor Wat is a prime example of Cambodia’s will to hang on to its culture, while giving its people a sense of belonging and pride. In short, Angkor Wat is absolutely stunning. Read More

Temple Hopping Around Bagan, Myanmar

burma baùgan

Bagan, Myanmar

The soft shades of light shine through the tall, prickly trees, dropping shades of orange and yellow along the dusty road. The warm air breezes past my face as I ride my electric scooter. Traditionally dressed farmers with baskets balancing impossibly atop their heads, push cattle and goats through the fields beside me. In the distance, hundreds of temples dot the horizon. I stop my bike, and close my eyes. The only sound is the odd bleating of a goat or moo from a cow. This place is magical.

This is Bagan in northern Myanmar. Its gaining popularity fast, but the Burmese are doing everything they can to control the massive influx of tourism. Only electric scooters or bicycles are allowed in effort to keep the air clean and noise level down. While the main road is paved, the rest are dirt. In between the thousands of temples are farmers’ fields, rather than shops or hotels. You can spend weeks exploring these cultural treasures!

I absolutely love Bagan. I have been there twice now, and plan to return very soon. Both visits were unique experiences, but what makes me love this place the most is how tranquil and peaceful it is, even when the tour buses arrive. Keep in mind, though, that the majority of tourists are here on private tours. This means that once the tourists have taken their photos and climb aboard their bus, you usually end up having the place to yourself! Read More

Hunza Valley, Pakistan – Land of the Immortals

DSC04391

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