Author Archive

Myanmar Travel: Where Politics & Tourism Intersect

March 24th, 2017 by
Myanmar Burma Bagan Sunset
Politics and Myanmar Travel The recent major political change in Myanmar has had an equally large effect on the amount of Myanmar travel occurring. On November 8, 2015, Myanmar’s election ended with a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its champion, Aung San Suu Kyi.  But if anyone thought the election was going to be the solution to Myanmar’s problems, they were sorely mistaken.  As we know well, democracy is not an easy form of government, particularly in a country that suffered 50 years of military rule. The military still holds 25% of the parliamentary seats and controls key government offices, including the ministries of defense, home affairs and border affairs. The NLD has enough seats to choose the president, but Aung San Suu Kyi, although wildly popular, is barred from the presidency. Instead, she is the first State Counselor–a position similar to being a Prime Minister—but with serious limits to her powers. To survive, she must juggle serving her constituents, not antagonizing the military, dealing with economic and political pressure from foreign powers, helping make up for years of economic neglect and political repression, and managing expectations at home and abroad. This is not an […]

A Sky Burial in Tibet

February 24th, 2017 by
Dingri Women Tibet
The body, carried by the Tibetans up the hill from the monastery, is wrapped in white cloth and tightly tied.  I follow this bundle, walking with my two companions in the crisp, clear, early morning air. We walk up along the kora, or pilgrimage path, which is lined with prayer flags, to the funeral site.  The top of the hill is not far; but at an altitude of more than 15,000 feet, we pace ourselves, breathing deeply.  Each of us wonders about the ceremony we will witness, a rite whose viewing is usually forbidden to tourists who travel to Tibet. The family in whose footsteps we are presently walking, however, has invited us. A Reason for a Tibet Ritual I have heard of sky burial. It’s a necessity in this very high land, where there is insufficient wood for cremation and burial is impossible in earth frozen for most of the year.  This monastery, Drigung, is one of the two most auspicious sites in Tibet for future reincarnation.  To the Tibetans, a rainbow to Sitavana in India, near Bodhgaya, binds the monastery with a rainbow  to the site where Buddha attained enlightenment.  Sitavana is the most famous of the eight […]

Bhutan Textiles: A Living Tradition

February 10th, 2017 by
Vacationing in Bhutan
For Bhutan, being a tiny, isolated, never-colonized country has had advantages: A united people, a common religion, an appreciation of happiness, and centuries of cultural continuity. Luckily for today’s travelers, change came late to Bhutan, so many of its traditions have survived. Today, for example, those who travel Bhutan see an abundance of evidence of the country’s thirteen traditional crafts. Especially ubiquitous are examples of the well-preserved art of textile weaving. Throughout Bhutan, in private homes, weaving villages, schools, museums, markets, festivals, and on the streets, you will see glorious examples of textiles with patterns that have remained unchanged for centuries. Two reasons for their survival are that traditional clothing is required for official and public events, and they are integral to the country’s celebrations and festivals. Western clothes may be making inroads, but look closely at the street fashion: A young woman may be wearing a t-shirt under her kira, but that traditional dress is the same as the one her grandmother wore. Its threads may be handspun silk, cotton, or yak hair, and the pattern represents the region where it was woven. Today, weaving in Bhutan is more than a craft; it’s an art that tells a story. […]

Cruising the Chindwin River: Adventure Travel At Its Best

December 2nd, 2016 by
Burma Cruise Chindwin Pandaw at Night
Myanmar’s rivers – the Ayerwaddy, the Salween, the Kaladan, the Sitaung and others – are interstate highways in Myanmar.  The Chindwin is no exception.  Myths and Mountains President, Dr. Antonia Neubauer just returned from an exploratory trip up the Chindwin between the towns of Monywa and Homalin, an ideal trip for the traveler who wants to get off the beaten track and yet spend the night in elegant comfort. Bordering on Northeast India and the largest tributary of the Ayerwaddy, the Chindwin rises in Kachin State and flows 750 miles generally south through Myanmar passing through forests and mountain ranges, as well as a 2,500 square mile sanctuary for the tiger in the Hukawng Valley. Along the Chindwin flourish fabulous teak forests, and locals discover amber, jade and even gold in drainage areas and surrounding mountain ranges. Despite the punishing mountainous jungle terrain to the west, the Chindwin has seen several invasions crossing back and forth over its waters, including an incursion in 1758 by King Alaungpaya of Burma to occupy the states of Manipur and Assam in India. The river was the graveyard for many of the boats from the famous Irawaddy Flotilla Company that were sunk during WW […]

Life and Death in Nepal: A Sherpa Funeral

November 18th, 2016 by
Travel to Nepal
A bit of life…and death…a Sherpa funeral…three days of a happening! We arrive to be fed tea or local brews – chang or rakshi – in a tented waiting area. Lakpa, our host, is sitting, talking, and laughing with us. To my surprise, he tells me it is his father who died–so typical in this country where life and death are one. A German lady arrives with her Sherpa escort. The lady is building a Sherpa Cultural Center in a monastery above the village. She appears to know it all, yet she has brought her camera equipment. I couldn’t. I am not here to stare but to learn and pay my respects. After tea and chang, we go inside the house. I sit a bit with Alice, a client and new friend, listening to the chanting of orange-clad monks, smelling the incense, and feeling the vibrations of their voices in my stomach, the familiarity of the sound. How can this now be so familiar, this strange Sherpa world? I remember laughing rudely in my first concert of chanting Gyuto monks in America. Now the chants here in the mountains are comfortable, peaceful. Rituals and Rites Lakpa explains what is happening […]

Traveling to India: A Journey to Diversity

September 22nd, 2016 by
Traveling to India
There is far more to India than the Taj Mahal, Rajasthan and Varanasi – the Classic India tour.  Of course, those places are most travelled, but wherever you go in the largest democracy in the world, you’ll encounter a dazzling kaleidoscope of people and activity. To say that India is diverse is an understatement: It’s home to more than 2,000 ethnic groups and all the world’s religions! India is also one of the world’s most colorful countries. What tourists often don’t know is that some of the richest Indian treasures are in out-of-the-way places like Northeast India, Gujarat, Sikkim and Darjeeling. They simply haven’t been discovered yet by the 200,000 visitors who gawk at the Taj Mahal each year. All you need to make any of the following trips your own treasured memory is curiosity and a sense of adventure. A knowledgeable guide will be sure you don’t miss a thing. Northeast India: Tribal India Take a look at a map of India and imagine it’s shaped like the head of a rabbit facing you.  The tall right ear, jutting eastward and attached to the India subcontinent by only a 12-mile-long finger of land, is Northeast India. Its 160 square […]

Traveling to Ladakh and Kashmir

February 8th, 2016 by
Likir Buddha in Ladakh, India
Ladakh and Kashmir, located in the northernmost state of India, are already the top destinations for many of India’s tourists. There is a ski resort and two vastly different golf courses – one in the desert and one overlooking Dal Lake in Srinagar! Today more and more Western travelers with a taste for rich cultural experiences and breathtaking landscapes are making the journey to “The Land of High Passes.” BEST TIME TO GO TO LADAKH AND KASHMIR The region enjoys four seasons, so the best time to go depends on what you enjoy. Keep in mind that this is a land of very high peaks, deep valleys and desert, and each has its own ecosystem and climate. In Kashmir, spring and summer are when the verdant valleys are greenest and the flowers are blooming.  Fall is usually dry, the green of summer turns to gold, and it is an ideal time for trekking.   Winter is for skiers and admirers of the snow-covered hills. Ladakh is a high altitude desert, with a very different ecosystem.  The best time for visiting is from May through October.  After October, many of the lodges and hotels close, and the owners head south.  On […]

Which Way to Angkor Wat?

August 1st, 2016 by
Traveling Angkor
Angkor Wat is just one of 72 Angkor must-see landmarks in Siem Reap. If you think you can cross Angkor off your bucket list in a one-day visit, you don’t know the difference between a temple and a city. And you’re not alone. Many people don’t know that Angkor Wat, the world’s largest temple, located near the gateway city of Siem Reap, is just one of 72 landmark sites scattered across Cambodia’s 154-square-mile Angkor Archeological Park. Angkor’s Claim to Fame Two million travelers a year visit Siem Reap, gateway to the Angkor Archeological Park. Why is it so popular? There are several reasons. One, Angkor’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has the added distinction of being a “living” heritage site, which means there are Cambodian people living there and maintaining their ancestral traditions. And two, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. But to fully answer the question, “Why Angkor?” you have to go back to it’s founding in the 9th century.  Angkor and the Khmer Empire Angkor, which is Sanskrit for “capital” or “holy” city, was the capital of the Khmer Empire, an enormous Hindu-Buddhist empire that extended from the coast of Vietnam to Bagan, […]

The Best Time to Hike the Annapurna Circuit

August 4th, 2015 by
Image
Deciding the best time to hike the Annapurna Circuit is an elimination game. You can rule out December through February–too cold. Take May off the list–too hot. And you certainly don’t want to go in the summer–too wet. June through September is the monsoon season, when as much as 70% of the annual rainfall occurs. This is also when rock fall and landslides are most likely to occur.