Asia is an enormous swath of the world, its influence extending out to every corner of the globe and permeating nearly every conceivable human endeavor. How do you begin to plan a trip to Asia? How do you decide where to go, what to do or where to stay? Backroads Trip Development Experts have spent years researching and traveling through the nooks and crannies of the Asian continent and in doing so have identified some special places we’d like to share with you. Out of all the places to stay in Asia, these are our picks for hotels that accentuate local traditions, exude world charm or simply cannot be matched anywhere else.
February is the time of year when most people are relaxing, recovering from the holidays and getting back into the swing of their daily routine. But if you can’t wait to get back out there, February is the perfect month for a unique adventure. From hiking in far-off New Zealand to cycling in Cuba to enjoying a winter wonderland closer to home, adventurous travelers can find something to satisfy their wanderlust, even in the off-season.
In 1921, British explorer and politician Charles Howard-Bury spotted massive footprints while on an expedition to Mount Everest. His Sherpa guide informed him that they must be those of the “metoh-kangmi,” the rough English translation being, “man-bear snowman.” From this, the world first heard of the abominable snowman, or yeti, one of the most persistent and widely known legends of our time. But where did this folklore originate before being introduced to the West? And why does it persist today among the people who call the mighty Himalayas home?
January: the perfect month to curl up at home with a book and a cup of hot chocolate, right? Maybe for some people, but for the rest of us, it's is the perfect time to get off the beaten path. At Backroads we believe that the traveling season is year-round, and January is the perfect example. From snowy adventures in the northern hemisphere to jungle or desert treks down south, every traveler can find something to surprise, stimulate and challenge them in January.
The landscape of Ha Long Bay, located just a few hours east of Hanoi, is among the most unique in the world. According to legend, several thousand years ago the burgeoning nation of Vietnam summoned the Mother Dragon to help them fight off an influx of invaders, which they did using divine fire and giant emeralds. The remnants of this fictitious battle can now be seen in the form of immense limestone pillars and tiny islets surrounded by emerald blue waters. This stunning series of earth and water formations combined with a multitude of classic junk boats, give the place a mystic, timeless feel. This UNESCO World Heritage site should be high on your adventure list--here are a few tips to make the most of your visit!
The view from a mountaintop is always worth it and it always inspires us. But the strange thing is, the view from the top always seems to obscure the actual, physical toil it took to get there. Inevitably, we find ourselves lacing up our hiking boots again or putting our cycling shoes back on to climb yet another peak, seemingly oblivious to the incredible challenges ahead. Of course, climb a mountain – including the world’s most iconic ranges – with Backroads and the joy multiplies: logistics, gear, route-planning, lunch stops and guides will all be taken care of so that you can focus simply on finding your stride or cadence and achieving your best day, whatever that means for you.
The one thing that has always attracted me to New Zealand--and what I continue to search for while I'm leading Backroads Trips here--is the feeling of living in the moment. In New Zealand there are so many ways to escape and be present with the people that you're traveling with. I recently had the opportunity to tour the country with my family, and while everything was truly incredible, there were three unique experiences that stood out above the rest.
Chi: Our fearless guide. Four-foot-ten on a good day, eighty pounds, twenty-seven years old, mother of two. She's a Sapa trekking guide and woman extraordinaire. She's honest, fiery, fierce and tells it to you straight. Her hair is long and without a kink, falling to her hips even when pulled back. She carries a purple umbrella, protecting her skin from the strong sun.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” You may have heard this question before; it’s borrowed from the poem A Summer Day by the American poet Mary Oliver. It’s a simple enough question, but it does speak to the core of those of us who are soul searchers and explorers in our own way. But, thirty-one years on this planet and I still don’t know the answer. I do know, however, that two weeks in remote Wanaka, New Zealand brought me closer to finding out.
The mother of two children clinging to her long, woven skirt encourages her two-year-old son to wave to you by grabbing his wrist and saying “sabaidee,” which means “hello” in Lao. When you pass by on your bike, waving back, the woman's daughter calls out, “Bye-bye!,” a phrase she probably learned at an early age to use to address passing bike tourists. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a celebrity, try biking in Laos. Laotians in remote villages don't see many Westerners rolling through their homeland.