In Shanxi Province in 2005, Chinese archaeologists discovered what they believe is the world’s oldest observatory, dating back some 4,100 years. In this International Year of Astronomy we continue to wonder about our place in the Universe, and if you can really see the Great Wall from the moon, then Intrepid’s Rachel Wasser wonders who is looking at who…
“One of the major highlights of any trip to China is the Great Wall. Having been to six different sections at various times of the year, I like to consider myself somewhat of an expert. I have to say, the best way to see it is a four-hour hike along the Gubeikou to Jinshanling section. I have done the hike twice and there’s just nothing like it!
If you are searching for a real adventure that takes you off the regular tourist trail, then join Intrepid’s Jill Petrella as she reveals that hidden beneath the forested hills of Belize are river caves with tales to tell…
“Many of the Mayan ruins of Central America are well-known and sites such as Palenque, Chichen Itza and Tikal can’t fail to impress with their size and grandeur. However, not all the remnants of this civilisation are so easy to find.
From the small town of San Ignacio in Belize I enjoyed the day river-caving. To enter the cave we had to swim across deep, cold, crystal clear water. Then we spent the next two hours wading, swimming and climbing through the cave. The water was fast-flowing so we had to hold on to each other in some sections to avoid being swept away. The only light was from our head torches and the only sound was the gushing of water.
This holiday adventure had been a long time in the planning. Having a keen interest in Polynesian culture, and specifically being great admirers of the artisans who continue the traditions of tiki carving, our dream was to visit the Marquesas Islands.
This isn’t your everyday travel destination and is certainly not on the regular tourist route. The most common question when people heard where we were going was “Where’s that?” The Marquesas Islands are part of French Polynesia and sit 1500 km (800 nautical miles) northeast of Tahiti and just 6 degrees below the Equator. Although supplies come via Papeete, and this is where children usually go for higher education or where more advanced medical services are available, in many ways the Marquesas are worlds away from Tahiti. The Marquesans have their own language, unique customs and even the climate is different (often less humid and drier on some islands).
For many people, Russia is synonymous with Russian dolls (matryoshki), fur hats (shuba), samovars and Soviet memorabilia. So it’s not surprising that these are the most sought after souvenirs on visits to Mother Russia. And luckily Intrepid’s Tania George knows just the place to shop in Moscow…
“Located close to metro stop Partizanskaya and the Izmailovo Hotel complex, the Izmailovo markets seem to go on forever. Open daily from 10am till 6pm, you can buy literally everything here. Locals shop for clothes, shoes, household utensils, tools, fabric, illegally copied CD’s and DVD’s, etc. If you get hungry, you can enjoy cheap local snacks and drinks at one of the many food stalls.
All this is great, but for the souvenir shoppers among us, there is an even more interesting part… Vernisazh.
Live out your Saharan fantasies as your trusty camel takes you up and over sand dunes to a desert camp. Morocco made this desert dream come true for Jen Bird, one-time Intrepid leader, when she joined our Berber friends for a night of tall tales, traditional songs and a fireside feast…
“Deserts have long fascinated me. Their sheer endlessness and harsh, barren nature is at odds with the extraordinary life they harbour. They are the epitome of a dangerous, yet mesmerising beauty. So in Morocco, when I found the perfect opportunity to see the sands of the magnificent Sahara Desert, I was understandably thrilled!
“In my opinion critics have been a little tough on the movie A Good Year, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott. It’s true that the story is a bit predictable: Max, a British broker, inherits a rustic chateau with a vineyard in Provence. He decides to sell it, but he falls in love with the laid-back Provencal lifestyle and Fanny, a beautiful French woman. However, I loved watching it for the real star of the movie: the stunning countryside of Provence.
The Travel Lab’s Jacquie Burnside hadn’t been back to Bali for 13 years, but she finally put that right last week! It took Bali Bootcamp to get her there, but now she can’t believe she left it so long…
“The minute I stepped off the plane I had a smile a mile wide recalling all the fun times spent on previous trips, the warm and inviting Balinese hospitality and the shy but playful local characters. I was greeted by that very Balinese smell of kretek, clove cigarettes, and air thick with the fragrance of recent rain and there was Made, the cheerful driver sent by the guesthouse to transfer me from the airport.
Ah Bali, beautiful Bali! Where culture, religion and daily life are as one. Where the rice paddies are impossibly green, where the people are so friendly and welcoming you feel immediately at home and where I could happily hang my hat and never leave! The pace of life slows, the head clears and that smile…well, it stays a mile wide for the duration of my stay.
Exploring in countries like Bhutan so often leaves an indelible impression, and that was certainly the case for Cate Gaston…
“LOL as I am writing this in Kolkata, a herd of goats were just ushered by along the main road, I just love travelling!
“Coozoozambo La from Druk Yul”, Hello from the Land of the Dragon.
Well what can I say about Bhutan… Oh so much. I will start with some interesting facts about the last Shangri La…
* Bhutan is a land locked country between India and Tibet
* it is the size of Switzerland
* has a population of nearly 650,000 people
* you have to pay the Kingdom the privilege of entering and touring the country and last year they only issued 17,000 visas
In June, Gayle Martin and her husband travelled on Intrepid’s Central Europe Encompassed trip and wondered if Barry had made this journey before…
“This photo was taken at a monastery while we holidayed in Montenegro. Now remember, this was a holy place where there were rules i.e. men and woman slept in separate rooms, 10pm curfew, lights out by 10.30pm followed by silence. In general, our tour group of 12 were expected to walk around calmly and quietly in this holy place!
At the monastery there were various holy pictures dotted around the walls. We noticed that religious people who were staying here would walk from picture to picture and pray beneath them. As Barry and I had one bag between us, I had to sneak into the ‘boys’ room to grab a few things from time to time. When I walked out of the ‘boys’ room I noticed this holy picture staring down at me from the wall. I thought, “this is a picture of Barry!”
How do they do it? Spinning an entire crockery set on a stick, trick cycling and balancing on flimsy ropes or tossing huge porcelain pots around like basketballs. Chinese acrobats always entertain with their amazing skills, but don’t feel too disheartened if they leave you questioning your own coordination, as they have been practicing since the 3rd century BC when it started with juggling daggers!
Intrepid’s Rachel Wasser loves joining her groups in China for a night of acrobatic entertainment and knows you’ll see nothing like it at home…
“A visit to the Beijing Acrobats is an experience that enhances any China tour. It’s a part of Chinese culture that you have heard about for years, or maybe even witnessed somewhere else, but viewing it from the audience in Beijing is something else entirely. Watching the kids balance on sticks in their mouths and spin discs on every limb is incredible. The climbing and jumping and spinning are all just dazzling!