TRAVELED WALLS BLOG
Limited Edition Wall Art from Around the World
ASIA'S TOP 10 PLACES TO VISIT
Whether you come here as a honeymooner, a champagne-backpacker, or an avid scuba diver, there really is no doubt that you’ll leave with the lasting impression of the blues, greens, and all of those satisfying shades between that iconize The Maldives so vividly. It’s possible to arrive at the airport without a heavy wallet and take the local ferry services around many of the islands for a few dollars, but to experience the crystal –clear water lapping onto clean, powdery white sand you need to charter a boat for the day. Alternatively, you could arrange a live-aboard diving expedition for a week and visit some of the world’s best reefs and set foot on some of those white, powdery beaches that make The Maldives famous. The more extravagant, and better known, way to experience the island nation is to fly in to a 4 or 5-star resort on a private island by seaplane to relax, be pampered, eat fresh seafood, and repeat.
Probably the most famous travel icon in the world, The Taj Mahal needs no elaborate explanation. Completed in 1653, and built from rich, white marble and tearful love, it is the most elaborate tomb in the world. Inside lies Mumtaz Mahal, one of three of Shah Jahan’s wives. It’s safe to assume that the Taj Mahal answers the question of who his favourite was. Arrive early to experience the glistening white complex before the tour groups pour in, then take a seat on the warm tiled grounds and contemplate its beauty while chaos ensues around you.
Indonesia is home to many large, active volcanoes, but none as picturesque as those at Bromo National Park. A tedious ride of constant stops and starts from Surabaya brings you to Cemoro Lawang, where an hour or so long hike up Mount Penanjakan, or a short jeep ride, brings you to one of Asia’s most spectacular sunrise views. A series of volcanoes peak up together, often above a blanket of mist that collects over the ‘Sea of Sand’ that surrounds the cones. Sulphuric fumes rise up into the sky and add to the otherworldly view. It is also possible to visit the rim of Mount Bromo, which provides a totally different perspective of the area.
Perhaps it is cheating a little by including the whole area of Kyoto city, but the region is all too interesting and collectively comely to separate into individual sites. Visiting during cherry blossom season or when the autumn cooling triggers leaves to abandon their chlorophyll, resulting in vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows, will make the strongest impressions, but it is beautiful at any time of the year. Nothing in Kyoto is too fast-paced, or unattractive. Kinkakuji (the Golden Temple), Ginkakuji (the Silver Temple), Fushimi Inari Shrine, Toji, and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest are just some of the many popular sites in Kyoto that make this one of Asia’s best travel destinations.
Not just one large temple, but a complex of thousands, Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s draw-card. Angkor Wat temple itself was built in the 12th century, but many other temples have been added to the area since then. Many people’s favorite is a nearby temple named ‘Bayon’, which has many towers of gigantic human faces; a truly magical sight. The complex contains both Buddhist and earlier Hindu temples, and even when explored for days on end, there are just too many temples to view them all. Most people become ‘templed-out’ within a couple of days, but it’s possible to buy discount passes for a longer duration. The main temples can be easily seen in a single day. Tuk-tuks can be hired cheaply for the day or longer to cart you from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat, and between temples when inside.
Abandoned in 106AD, and only discovered by those in the Western world in 1812, the rock-cut buildings of Petra are found in Jordan. The narrow passageway that leads through the rock-face to Petra’s carved buildings dramatically changes colors throughout the day, also casting eerie shadows as the sun’s position changes. Al Khazneh, better known as ‘The Treasury’ is one of Petra’s better known sites, and features columns and intricate detail chiseled delicately and precisely into the tall rock face. A secret hike leads a lucky few to a viewpoint above for a different perspective. The area also has a number of rock-cut houses and an ampitheater.
Nestled neatly up in India’s far North, Ladakh remains India’s special secret. Summer brings tourists in modest numbers, but the majority of tourists focus on the sites closer to Delhi, such as Agra, Jaipur, and Jodhpur. Arriving in India’s far North is instantly refreshing, though be prepared for its relative lack of oxygen, as the largish settlement of Leh sits at 3524m above sea-level. Before long, you’ll be acclimatized and able to explore some of the many Buddhist monasteries, breathtaking landscape, and share smiles with some of the friendliest people on Earth. Perched on hills, cropping out of large, flat plains, colorful monastery complexes such as Thiksey, are enhanced further by the colossal backdrop of the Himalayan range, and the large shadows often cast by the picturesque, white cumulus clouds overhead. Winter travel is also highly rewarding, when you’ll be able to explore much of the region as one of only a handful of tourists, but during times of the monastery festivals you should expect crowds. These are magical experiences and draw large numbers of visitors every year.
The Great Wall of China
Ask some people about the Great Wall of China and they might tell you they were a little disappointed by it. Ask those same people which section of the once 13,000 mile long structure that they chose to visit and be prepared for the inevitable answer of either Badaling. This section of the Great Wall of China is impressive, but it takes some imagination to find it inspiring, since it is always overcrowded. To truly be blown away here, you would need to arrive very early in the day, or wait until later in the day when the crowds have dispersed. Alternatively, you could arrive at a different part of the wall, far from high tourist numbers, and enjoy some of the best scenery and experiences China has to offer. The recently renovated section from Simatai to Jinshanling ranks among many travelers top experiences, whereas the relatively unknown Jiankou to Mutianyu hike offers steeper gradients, incredible scenery, isolation, and a wilder experience. A host of the best sections are reachable from Beijing within a few hours, making a day or overnight trip easily achievable.
Picture thousands of different-sized pagodas reaching up from fields and behind trees, with mist looming above the early morning ground. The sun rises, casting a golden yellow light over the whole area, silhouetting the conical structures while you perch on one of the larger temple roofs with relatively few others who also won the battle with their alarm clocks. Hot air balloon silhouettes drift into view, and hover peacefully just over the temples and pagodas. This moment is what it’s all about – absolute awe. Sunset offers a different experience, and though the views are also magical, the absence of the morning mist subtracts from the mystery of the area. Myanmar has only recently opened up to tourism on a large scale, so Bagan remains relatively unseen. If you only have a day, then you can still experience its beauty, but multiple days will allow you to explore deeper and experience the magical views on offer from different viewpoints, at different times of the day.
Gokyo Ri and the Himalayas
Without doubt, one of the friendliest and most picturesque countries on the planet is Nepal. Home to rich, green valleys, wild tigers, glacier-fed rivers, ancient pagodas, and of course, the mighty Himalayas. With more hikes available than you could find time to experience in a lifetime, there are some that stand out from the others. The Gokyo-Ri trek is not only the most beautiful hike in the region, but arguably offers the best views in the world. With Mount Everest in full view, and a glacial lake in the valley below, it’s hard to beat the visual-buffet that awaits you on the top of the 5460m tall Gokyo peak. Prayer flags flutter in the wind, releasing prayers, and the air, though depleted of oxygen, feels like it couldn’t be fresher anywhere else. It’s not just about the views form the top though. The journey to reach here is epic. It’s possible to hike to Everest Base Camp and Gorak Shep from Gokyo, over a stunning glacial pass, or to simply enjoy other beautiful lake scenery on day hikes from Gokyo lodge. This region of the Himalayas is heaven on Earth.