13 GEMS OF PRAGUE: LOOK UP

1 Danube Geese 3488 E2SM

A WHITENESS OF SWANS (the actual venery term for a “group” of them) wings its way in silhouette downriver at sunset. When you roam around Prague, it’s a good idea to glance down and watch where you place your feet on the awkward and possibly dangerous cobblestone streets and walkways. But if you lift your head and look up, incredibly beautiful scenery abounds.

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BHUTAN: ITS ANCIENT PAST IS ITS FUTURE

1a Tigers Nest

Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Bhutan

BHUTAN IS ONE OF THOSE PLACES YOU CAN’T GET TO FROM HERE. And if you’re a budget traveler, you can’t get there from anywhere. Bhutan enforces a fixed daily rate of US$250 on tourists during high seasons and $200 during off seasons. You are not permitted to travel without a guide and driver, and there are some restricted areas you still can’t visit. If you travel as a single traveler as I did, you pay a surcharge of $40 per day. When I asked Kinga, my guide, why the government restricted travelers like this, he said: “To keep the backpackers out. We want to protect our culture. We don’t want Bhutan to become another Katmandu.” I guess you have to respect that kind of thinking. Continue reading

10 WAYS TO SLOW DOWN ON INLE LAKE

MINGALABA FROM MYANMAR: THIS IS WHAT I KNOW ABOUT MYANMAR (BURMA) so far: Myanmar is a whole lot like Bali, but without the “Bali.” You look at the horizon, you see mountains (not as high as Bali). You walk out of your bungalow, you see spiritual stuff (not as prevalent as Bali but some, remarkably similar, especially the gods with teeth and snarling lips). You walk into a local café for a cup of brew, you see café stuff (not quite as cool as Bali). You wander through a village and feel as though you’ve traveled back in time (not as Bali as Bali). You wander down a dirt path wondering where you might end up, and you discover a party of Pa-O tribe people (dark blue robes and bright red headgear) walking back to their flatbed truck after they’ve all taken a group “leak” break in the tall bushes beside the road (exactly like Bali).

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