Gunung Bromo, Kawah Ijen, Java
Category - Asia
As you climb higher, past the ancient weeping cypress trees, across the bubbling stream that powers the giant prayer wheels, ascending into the clouds, you realize why this place is so sacred. Getting to Bhutan is a journey unto itself, but to take the trek up to Taktsang Gompa transports you to another world. Maybe all the talk about finding “enlightenment” or “oneself” has some credibility after all. This place would seem to indicate just so. Taktsang Gompa is an incredibly special location. As I climb through the clouds to a mystical Buddhist temple, I can’t help but thinking: This is Bhutan, at its most glorious.
Monks of black hat cults subdue demons with a spinning dance; the demons lash back with an equally grand performance. The battle of colour and music rages on. Horns of monks from the temple ring hypnotically throughout the valley. The constant beat of the drum releases the parading demons and saints into their spinning trance. The colours, sounds, and anticipation of what will come next from the Royal Dzong gates adds to serene beauty of this spectacle. The Thimphu Tsechu is an event unlike any other, one you will likely not forget.
Merak, Bhutan འབྲུག་ཡུལ་
The early morning breeze carries fog down the slopes of the mountains. Dew sparkles in beams of brilliant sunlight. Nomads usher their yaks onward, grunting as they carry their master’s earthly possessions past me. Here I am, in the Valley of the Yeti, situated in Bhutan’s Far East. So remote, beautiful, and serene. This is what a traveller dreams of finding.
What defines a traveler? Is it the destinations they travel to? Is it how far they are willing to go to find the adventure they have been longing for? Or is it their ability to discover places so incredible that, in that moment, they realise that they are exactly where they are supposed to be. Maybe it’s all of the above. For me, this very moment makes me reflect all the experiences, all the trials and tribulations I have endured. Finding a place so far removed from the rest of the world can change much in a person, for the better. That is what traveling is all about.
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.
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.
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 power line, 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!
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 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.
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.