Taking the Narrow Gauge Train to Darjeeling, India 

It’s still dark when we walk downhill to the train station. Although the train will only leave at seven, we have been advised to arrive an hour early, as there are few seats. The famous Sikkim narrow gauge train runs all the way up from the town of New Jalpaiguri on the plains of Siliguri to Darjeeling (55 miles) a trip that takes 8 hours. However, we have opted for the 19-mile return trip from Kuensong to Darjeeling. Continue reading

Hiking Mount Jizu in Yunnan, China

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. ~Jawaharial Nehru

It’s 2am and we’re up and about to climb a 3248-meter-high mountain: the Chicken Foot Mountain, as is the translation of Jizu Shan. By leaving at this time we will be ahead of the crowd of visitors that will start climbing in an hour or so, and we’ll have the peace and quiet of a silent night. Continue reading

The Charm of Usuki (Japan)

The reason to drive to Usuki was to see its famous stone Buddha statues. But on our arrival we first got a lesson in history: it was here where the first Dutch ship reached Japan, in 1600. A map at the tourist information promised more good things, and so we found a place to camp – in the parking lot of the tourist information – and explored town. Continue reading

Going Underground in South Korea – Visiting the 4th Tunnel at the DMZ

Entrance of the 4th tunnel.

Entrance of the 4th tunnel.

In the 1960s-1980s, North Korea dug tunnels under the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into South Korea in an attempt to surprise attack their neighbors from underground, Depending on the size of the tunnel it can funnel 10,000-30,000 soldiers an hour and some are big enough for vehicles as well. Unfortunately for North Korea, the tunnels were discovered. Continue reading

A World Peace Bell Made of Cartridges (South Korea)

World Bell of Peace.

World Bell of Peace.

In the north of South Korea stands a Peace Dam. It was South Korea’s response to the Imnam Dam in North Korea built in the 1980s. South Korea’s military dictator at the time, Chun Doo-hwan, predicted that North Korea would use it to create a killer flood, wiping out most of Seoul. This was two years before the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, so no time was lost or money wasted to counteract this by building a dam on the south side. Continue reading

A Toilet Challenge (Philippines)

Rizal Mountain Run, Philippines (©photocoen)I’m not easily disturbed by non-western toilets. Give me a bucket with water instead of toilet paper, and I’m okay with a hole in the ground. There are few advantages of being anosmic but not being able to smell is more often a pre than not at rest rooms, bath rooms, toilets, or comfort rooms. The latter word is used in the Philippines. Continue reading

Visit the Munnar Tea Plantations in Kerala, India

The world around us is an ocean of green: undulating hills blanketed with dark green and soft green tea plants. India is the second largest tea producer in the world (after China) and the Munnar Tea Plantations, in the southwestern state of Kerala, is one of India’s major tea producing centers. Continue reading

Watch the Highest Polo Tournament in the World (Pakistan)

Starting from behind the goal line, holding the ball and mallet in one hand and perfectly restraining his horse with the other, the horseman slowly moves forward. When he approaches the center of the field, he spurs his horse to maximum speed, tosses the ball into the air, hits just before it reaches the ground and launches it deep into defensive territory, where scrimmage and chaos reign. Continue reading

Exploring the Temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia

I’m looking at the Hindu god Vishnu, whose legs are being massaged by his wife Laksmi. The sculpture is lying in a stream in the middle of Cambodia’s forest, and is surrounded by twittering birds and fluttering butterflies. The sight is utterly peaceful. It’s a moment to absorb the overwhelming art of dozens of Angkor Wat temples we’ve admired in the past three days. Continue reading