It took thirty hours to traverse the Taklaman, the world’s largest desert, by bus. I got off in the middle of nowhere, in a town called Turpan. The region captivated me for two reasons:
1. The extremes of the landscape. I stood amidst a vastness of dry, empty, yellow-to-red-hued plains and barren mountains. The lowest point is the Turpan basin at 505 feet below sea level, which receives practically no rain. Yet there are also extensive, fertile farmlands and even a grape valley. Continue reading
The goal of our Hindu pilgrimage is almost in sight: an ice stalagmite. A holy one, mind you. I flop down on an ice-cold stone and vigorously rub my feet that have turned blue and lost all feeling after I climbed stone steps without number in subzero temperatures. Barefoot, that is. Continue reading
With over 50,000 people selling and buying, the Sunday Market in Kasghar is the biggest in China. Its origin goes back to the golden age of the Silk Route when delegations from all different empires came here to trade. Today guidebooks highlight the market as one of northwest China’s ‘must-sees’. Our expectations were high. Continue reading
Tiger footprints. We stop in our tracks. Excitement rises. Our guide kneels and studies them, and concludes they are old ones. Disillusion comes with a hidden sense of relief. There is a gun-carrying guard with us, but still.
We set off once more along trails through a forest so hot and dry that the dehydrated leaves barely hang on to the trees. The sound of walking through the fallen leaves reminds me of Europe’s autumns, which is entirely at odds with the scorching temperatures. Continue reading
They laugh when Coen sign languages if he can join them. Their faces are skeptical. “A foreigner? Playing mahjong?” But they see he is serious and one of them gets up. “Take my place,” he motions. Continue reading
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
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
Living-root bridges? Bridges made of natural materials that last hundreds of years? Yes, they exist, and only in one place on earth: India’s northeastern state of Meghalaya, and more specifically around the village of Cherrapunjee – which also happens to be the wettest place on earth. Continue reading
There wasn’t just one stone – there were two. Which one did the tiger jump on when crossing this gorge? Tourism was booming in the Tiger Leaping Gorge, which made me wonder why there wasn’t a panel pointing out which stone was linked to the legend of the leaping tiger. Continue reading
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 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
“No.” Continue reading
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
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
It had been a beautiful afternoon of strolling around Seoul. We had left the subway for what it was: efficiently transporting people from A to B. We weren’t here for efficiency but for sightseeing, for getting a feel for the city. And walking is the best way to do so.