Hot-off-the-press travel recommendations for 2020 by Toni Neubauer, founder of Myths and Mountains – a Wild Frontiers Company
If you are a nature lover and adventurer, then try a trip to Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan’s oldest national park and conservation showpiece. Although designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1966 and a national park in 1993, Manas was only recently opened to the public. Now is the time to go!
The park borders on India’s Manas Tiger Reserve in the south and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park in the north. Home to thousands of plant and animal species, many of which are extremely rare and endangered, Manas is not yet on the tourist radar and a unique place to visit in the country for nature viewing and catch-and-release fishing. Lodging within the park itself is quite simple, so be prepared. Now, is a great time to visit this beautiful country, before it is “discovered.”
Tourism has greatly aided recovery from the 2015 earthquake, and you can make a difference. The people in two villages very close to the epicenter of the quake, Laprak and Barpak, have worked to rebuild their infrastructure and share their stories and culture with visitors. A trek to Laprak or Barpak offers stunning views of the snow-capped Himalayas, but one can also drive there from Gorkha, the birthplace of Prithvi Narayan Shah, Nepal’s “George Washington.” Both camping and homestays are available, and the locals will go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Now is the time for an “off the beaten track” visit to these two charming Gurung villages, and you will make a difference.
A spectacularly beautiful part of Myanmar is the Taninthari Region in the south, bordering on the Andaman Sea and the Tenasserim Hills looking out on Thailand. Here one can find quaint fishing villages with spectacularly beautiful beaches, fishermen still dive for pearls, apartments are built for birds to make nests, and the Moken sea gypsies still keep many of their traditional ways. The key towns of Dawei, Myeik and Kawthaung are a delight to explore and are not overrun by tourists. Adventurers and romantics can always charter a boat and sail the Mergui Archipelago, an untouched gem and piece of paradise. Why do this now? The place is changing. After a two-year suspension, plans are again underway to build Southeast Asia’s largest deep-sea port and a special economic zone in Dawei, the capital of the region, turning this quiet coastline topsy-turvy into a major commercial center.