Must-do Asia travel in the second half of 2017

Must-do Asia travel in the second half of 2017

Dreaming on an Asian adventure? From flying above ancient ruins in Myanmar to blessings by monks in Cambodia, this travel guide reveals where to be in Asia over the next five months.

AsiaSeptember – Light a Lantern in Hoi An

Much ritual revolves around the full moon in Asia. Each month in Hoi An, when the moon reaches this pivotal phase the Old Town transforms under the glow of thousands of lanterns. The main river that snakes through the UNESCO World Heritage site becomes awash with flickering lights and sampans that ferry tourists and locals alongside the lights. In September the event is set for the 4th and starts at dusk.

AsiaOctober – Honour a Guru in Bhutan

Crisp clear days and the celebration of Thimphu Tshechu, one of Bhutan’s most majestic festivals, make a trip to the country’s capital a must in October. Monks donning elaborate masks and vivid, colourful garb perform traditional dances in honour of Guru Rinpoche, a Buddhist master who brought the religion to Bhutan in the 8th century. From 30th September to 2nd October throngs of locals and travellers descend on the city’s numerous dzong (fortresses) to watch the captivating performances.

November – Bag a Balloon over Bagan

Over 2000 temples, stupas and pagodas stud the ancient plains of Bagan. For the best vantage point take to the sky and gently float above the otherworldly landscape in a hot air balloon.

BhutanThe season runs from October through April, with the busiest time (and priciest) over the Christmas holidays, making November the sweet spot for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

December – Solicit a Monk’s blessing in Cambodia

With the weather cooling and the rains now halted, December is the prime time to visit Cambodia. Angkor Wat tops many bucket lists but there’s more to do in Siem Reap beyond the ancient ruins. decVisit a local pagoda to take part in a Buddhist ceremony where you’ll receive a blessing from a monk for safe travel, luck, and a long and happy life. What better way to get a head start on 2018.

To find out more visit Exotic Voyages.

 

 

 

The gentrification battles of Boyle Heights

The gentrification battles of Boyle Heights

Located just a few miles east of downtown and just across the river from the arts district, Boyle Heights is a district of Los Angeles where 90 per cent of the population of 100,000 is Hispanic.

Churros, image by Andres Reyes, Flickr creative commons

Churros, image by Andres Reyes, Flickr creative commons

In recent years, the district has gained a reputation for being home to the best Mexican restaurants and street food in town. A visit to El Mercadito, the central market on 1st Street, feels like Mexico proper. The breadth of items for purchase is overwhelming with colourful stalls selling everything from cowboy boots and hats to first communion dresses and me vale madre potion – an herbal concoction believed to calm the nerves. And that’s not to mention the food: churros, mole, tamales, palanquetas (nut bars) and bunuelos (fritters covered in sugar and syrup) are just a few of the essential “must trys”. The dueling mariachi bands entertaining clients in the upstairs restaurants are the icing on the pastel.

The charm of El Mercadito – and Boyle Heights in general – is that it isn’t touristy, unlike Olvera Street in the downtown district, long the preferred destination for travellers seeking a taste of Mexican life in LA.

Street murals, image by Laurie Avocado Flickr creative commons

Street murals, image by Laurie Avocado Flickr creative commons

However, Boyle Heights is changing. With the influx of coffee shops and art galleries in recent years, local activists are resolutely fighting against new developments in fear of what they might foreshadow: a wave of gentrification and the threat of displacement. The locals have termed the process “art-washing”.

In May of last year a non-profit art gallery called PSSST was preparing to open in the neighbourhood. Instead, on what should’ve been opening day, the gallery faced a crowd of protesters gathered in front of the building, beating drums, waving posters and chanting slogans such as “We don’t need galleries, we need higher salaries!”

Local street food vendors, image by Ray S, Flickr creative commons

Local street food vendors, image by Ray S, Flickr creative commons

This would not be the last protest in the district against the ‘hipster hangouts’ popping up. Recently, PSSST announced its shuttering. In a statement on its website they reasoned: “Our young non-profit struggled to survive against constant attacks… our staff and artists were routinely trolled online and in person.”

The anti-gentrifiers have been criticised for using confrontational tactics to push their case forward – personally singling out people for public condemnation and physically chasing unwelcome visitors out of the neighbourhood.

The Eastside has long been a centre of Los Angeles’ protest movements, whether it was residents marching against the Vietnam War in the 1970s to more recently demonstrating for immigrant rights.

 

main image: Streets of Boyle Heights, image by jondoeforty1, Flickr creative commons

Rhinos Without Borders continues conservation mission

Rhinos Without Borders continues conservation mission

Rhinos without borders 2The Rhinos Without Borders project has ensured a bright future for an additional 12 white rhino, which were recently airlifted to their safe new home in Botswana. In a bid to save the endangered species, the initiative removed the animals from a high risk area in South Africa, where rhino are being poached at the rate of one every seven and a half hours. The project, which aims to translocate a total of a hundred rhino, is spearhead by conservation-minded travel companies &Beyond and Great Plains Conservation.

“Watching the rhino set free in their new home was a very emotional moment,” says &Beyond CEO Joss Kent.

“I know exactly what Joss is talking about,” added Dereck Joubert, CEO and Chairman of Great Plains Conservation and Great Plains Foundation. “As the helicopter lifted off with a rhino and slung it across the Delta, Joss turned and walked to me. We shook hands and embraced. Neither of us said anything, afraid perhaps that the lumps in our throats would betray exactly how emotional we both felt right then.”

Rhinos without borders 3The latest achievement was another milestone towards the project’s goal of bringing a 100 rhinos across the subcontinent, from high risk areas in South Africa to highly protected safe havens in Botswana. Considered a top secret mission, the rhinos were deposited on a dirt airstrip in an undisclosed location by a Botswana Defence Force C130 airplane under heavy military guard. The animals were then ferried to their destination suspended upside down beneath a helicopter. While this method may seem dramatic, it is regarded as the safest and easiest way of getting the heavyweight animals to their new home in remote and otherwise inaccessible parts of Botswana.

The twelve animals that recently arrived in Botswana place the project exactly on target and well established to meet its goal of one hundred rhino.

His Excellency Lieutenant-General SKI Khama, the President of Botswana, as well as TK Khama, the Honourable Minister of Tourism, both participated in the release. The minister expressed his conviction that the unique partnership, which combines government involvement with private companies such as &Beyond and Great Plains as well as private donors, proves that tourism can make a significant difference in the conservation of Africa.

andbeyond-rhinos_without_borders_feb_2015_cbs5972“The number of rhino lost to poachers in South Africa is now higher than the rate at which the species can breed and there is an urgent need to create a new breeding population of rhino in a different geographic region. I firmly believe that we have taken a big step towards ensuring a safer future for the species and I am excited to do even more,” adds Kent.

“It’s not often that one gets the chance to rewrite the future history of a species. A few years ago the ink on the future of rhinos here was just about dry and it told a story of extinction. We’ve changed that and we’ve done it by collaborating with our friends and with like-minded people around the world,” concludes Joubert.

To find out more or to contribute towards future rhino translocations, visit www.rhinoswithoutborders.com

Where to experience the 2017 US Solar Eclipse

Where to experience the 2017 US Solar Eclipse

This summer, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical wonder will grace the US – a total eclipse, where the sun is blocked out by the path of the moon, will stretch out across the entire American mainland.

The first full solar eclipse since 1918, the line of totality will lead south and east across the country from Oregon to South Carolina, blanketing parts of 14 states in complete shadow for around two-and-a-half minutes on 21st August.

If you’re planning a trip to see this stunning phenomenon there’s a calendar of events brimming across the country to mark the occasion. Taking in stargazing parties, observatory tours and some of the country’s finest natural scenery through Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska, here are some of the best ways to celebrate the 2017 eclipse.

lower_falls_of_the_yellowstone_river

Lower falls of the Yellowstone River

Yellowstone National Park

Not under the path of the full eclipse, but Yellowstone’s a great place to head if you’re looking to spend a weekend beneath the stars. Spread across three states, the park fully lives up to its billing as one of the picks of the US’s natural beauty spots, with opportunities for canoeing and kayaking, fishing and horseback riding thrown in. You should squeeze in a visit to Old Faithful too – the world-famous geyser gets its name from the reliability of its eruptions, which unfold every 60 to 90 minutes.

As long as the weather’s clear, you’re in for a stunning show as just about anywhere at Yellowstone – with three full hours of the moon’s passage across the sun starting at around 10.15am and two minutes of 95% peak coverage timed for around 11.35am.

Snow King Mountain, Jackson

Yellowstone is not getting a complete eclipse, but nearby Grand Teton National Park and the town of Jackson, Wyoming are set to land the whole nine yards. The state’s astronomical society is duly pulling out all the stops, with two nights of events set to play out in the Jackson Hole valley over the weekend.

Visit the Snow King resort on Saturday and Sunday for presentations from astronomers and the chance to chat with astronaut Scott Altman, as well as expert demonstrations and a guided stargazing session. All this is bookended by the chance to take the chairlift up to the top of the resort and take in dramatic views of the night sky.

Wyoming Eclipse Festival, Casper

The people of Casper predict the moon will be throwing shade on them for a full two minutes and 26 seconds during the eclipse – a fine reason to throw a week-long festival in its honour. Located almost exactly on the centre of the path of totality – 280 miles from Jackson – Casper will be home to a fit-to-burst schedule of talks and workshops across its galleries and museums.

Stop by the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center for talks on all things starry, while AstroCon 2017 will pitch up at the Parkway Plaza with an all-day feast of talks and workshops, plus the chance to chat with eclipse experts. There are an array of public parks and open spaces, just about anywhere you pick in town will be the perfect spot for an unforgettable eclipse experience.

mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

South Dakota is away from the path of totality, but if you’re making the most of your US trip with a cross-country drive then it’s well worth pitching up between eclipse hot spots at one of the States’ most iconic man-made monuments.

Located within the beautiful surroundings of the Black Hills National Forest, the heads of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln are immortalised in granite, a tribute to the nation’s best-loved presidents.

Originally meant to serve as a head-to-waist portrait of its subjects, Mount Rushmore was completed in late 1941 after further funding fell through. But that won’t stop you marvelling at the work of dedicated craftsmen in celebrating some of history’s most vaunted figures.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

The Badlands and Black Hills are just nearby Mount Rushmore, offering outdoor escapes along with a special treat for space fans. The Cedar Pass Campground Amphitheater offers regular Night Sky viewing programmes at weekends, where rangers break out the telescopes and give visitors the chance to look out to the heavens.

With light pollution firmly out of the equation, in the Badlands it’s possible to spot the swirls of the Milky Way. With entire star clusters and nebulae visible from the park, take in the skies from an entirely new light within the intimate surroundings of an amphitheatre.

Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska, USA, central cars

Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska, USA, by Brian W. Schaller

Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska

Some say the awe-inspiring Stonehenge was built by druids in tribute to the almighty Sun; it lines up perfectly with the entrance on the Summer Solstice. Whatever its intentions, a neat parallel presents itself just three miles north of Alliance, Nebraska, in the form of the mysterious Carhenge.

Here a circle of cars in a similar formation to the stones at Salisbury, some standing on their rear ends with others laid across. Eccentric art project or mysterious ode to consumerism? Whatever your take, this unique construction is well worth a look.

As is happens, Carhenge is one of the prime viewing spots for the 2017 eclipse; with the skies set to go dark for a full two-and-a-half minutes at 11.49am local time. If you’re planning to visit, be sure to arrive early to nab a vantage point at perhaps the country’s quirkiest viewing spot.

Wherever and however you enjoy the eclipse, just remember never to look at the sun without appropriate safe eyewear.

main image: The progression of en:Solar eclipse of August 1, 2008 in Novosibirsk, Russia

This article was brought to us by Hertz car rental

Sky High Delights

Sky High Delights

Your time in the sky may never be the same again, if you have the chance to encounter the cabin crew aboard Icelandair who are waiting in the wings – to put on a live theatre show for passengers at 39,000 feet.

The airline is set to trial the unique in-flight entertainment to mark its 80th year and no expense was spared to ensure the performance is a show stopper. Flight attendants were sent to stage school to learn various elements of thespian arts such as singing, dancing and comedy. The results will be revealed in midair this September, lucky passengers on a flight from London to New York via Iceland, will catch the opening performance – a live, three-act, theatrical performance in mid-air.

The airline launched the initiative following a global survey of 9,000 air passengers in the UK, US, Canada, Scandinavia, France and Germany which found 52 per cent end up ‘bored’ during a flight. The company’s research found travellers are looking for more of a human touch on their journey.

To be ensure the entertainment is top notch, Icelandair have partnered with an immersive theatre group to create the unique three-act play starring the airline’s staff. The show will transport passengers from 1937 right through to the future, all on one transatlantic flight from London to New York via Iceland.

 

 

Turkey sees a rise in hotels for holy guests

Turkey sees a rise in hotels for holy guests

Turkey’s  move towards a more Islamic identity hasn’t only meant a growing popularity for headscarves amongst women in the country that has been secular since 1924  ­­- it has also led to a growth in so-called Halal tourist resorts. A New Yorker article from 2016 neatly summarises the socio-political context:  “Throughout his tenure as Prime Minister and now as President, Erdoğan has distanced himself from (modern Turkey’s founder), Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He views himself as the father of a new Turkish identity, one aligned more closely with its Ottoman past, its Islamic heritage. He has taken the country in a more religious direction, similar to a place it was in before the 1997 coup.”

One of the outcomes of such a move is the burgeoning crop of Islamic friendly hotels serving halal food and enforcing a no-alcohol policy in all or some areas of their premises, alongside on-site prayer facilities. Such hotels and resorts have separate pool, spa and leisure facilities for women, whilst some properties have private women-only beach swimming and/or sun tanning areas, whilst others have mixed beach areas for families with modest swimming dress code.

Halal hotels were once the preserve of rich Muslims, but over the last couple of years, these hotels are cropping up along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, in resorts such as Antalya. Resorts previously catering to beer swilling Russian and west European tourists are now keen to respond to the growing number of websites offering Islamic friendly holidays for Muslim travellers, joining the various other speciality holidays on offer such as kosher, vegan and even specialist Christian holidays.

Join Justine on her trip across Turkey or purchase the DVD or digital file at our shop.

Turkey

main image: Panoramic view of the courtyard of the Blue Mosque, in Istanbul, Turkey. The courtyard has a square shape, but the mercator projection necessary to squeeze all the field of view into the frame bends the horizontal lines. Panorama created with Hugin.

By Benh LIEU SONG – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12654068

Gotta face? Best mask it.

Gotta face? Best mask it.

The use of face masks across certain parts of Asia are proliferating…especially in Japan. The Japanese penchant for facial cover ups has been steadily gaining traction since the early 20th century.

When the global influenza pandemic of the early twentieth century killed approximately 30 million people, covering ones face with a scarf or veil became a popular choice of protection against germs. Years later, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 filled the sky with smoke and ash negatively impacting air quality for many months, the inhabitants of Yokohama and Tokyo once again donned masks. But it was a second flu epidemic more than a decade later in 1934 that saw the mask become the ubiquitous, oft donned accessory across the country’s urban metropolises.

Japanese culture’s high regard for courtesy to their fellow country persons meant that face masks went on to become a necessary and expected accoutrement — serving to shield others from the sneezes and sniffles caused by allergic reactions to the sharp increase in cedar pollen, as well as offering an albeit minimal, but guard nonetheless, against rapidly rising pollution levels during the industrialising post war era of the 50s. Such considerations neatly folded into the emphasis on sustained productivity, a notable feature of Japanese corporate life; to be seen to be active in preventing the transmission of germs and protecting oneself from possible viral contamination is regarded as an act of utmost politeness.

Whilst the actual effectiveness of wearing masks is disputed, their continued popularity is also attributed to the benefits masks offer to those who suffer from social anxiety, or those wishing not to be seen when looking less than their very best.

The face mask market is now worth $230 million and brand alliances with popular cultural icons mean masking ones face is a trend sure to to stay for some time.

Sources: https://qz.com/299003/a-quick-history-of-why-asians-wear-surgical-masks-in-public/

Join Megan for more intriguing adventures in Central Japan.

Venice gives fast food the chop

Venice gives fast food the chop

Venetian authorities have banned the sale of  kebabs from its central tourist district  in an effort to preserve the cultural identity of the historic city which they say is being diminished by fast food outlets.

Venice’s tourist chief, Paola Mar, says the sale of mini pizza slices will also be banned from fast food outlets though also added, “The city does not object to kebabs or fast food in principle and does not have a problem with people eating outside.”

Mar went on to say, “The problem is that with a tourist city like ours, there is a risk of it losing its identity,”  Only foodstuffs such as artisanal ice creams  will be excluded from the ban.

Venice, like much of Italy, is proud of its locally sourced cuisines and is the latest city to shut out fast foods from its popular tourist districts. Similar measures have been enacted in Florence and Verona, where it has been met with opposition from locals who appreciate the variety that other cultures bring to the Italian offering.

Venice receives millions of tourists each year and has  long grappled with environmental protection measures for its canal city, including limiting tourist numbers and the introduction of charges to enter public spaces, such as St Marks Square.

To find out more about Venice check out Globe Trekker’s Venice City Guide and Metropolis Venice on our website and store.

A Tradition in Bloom

A Tradition in Bloom

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, the sweet scent of flowers in bloom fill the air. To us this might be a passer-by event or maybe even an Instagram worthy photo, but for the residents of Japan, watching flowers bloom or hanami is one of the most exciting times of the year.

Cherry Blossom Celebration - Tokyo

Cherry Blossom Celebration – Tokyo

What is Hanami?

Known for its elegant petals and pinkish hue, the cherry blossom flower is the classic Japanese symbol of spring and the beauty of ephemeral nature. Lasting only about two weeks before they begin to fall, it’s no wonder why cherry blossoms are admired by visitor and citizen alike. Family and friends flock to the parks to hold parties, listen to music, or eat lunch, just to be surrounded by their beauty. As the spring wind blows, its tiny petals dance through the fresh air landing on the soft grass or following the rivers’ tide.

History

Ladies in the Edo palace enjoying cherry blossoms - Toyohara Chikanobu

Ladies in the Edo palace enjoying cherry blossoms – Toyohara Chikanobu

So not only are these flowers quite a visual spectacle, but they also bring communities together. But this “looking at blossoms” isn’t anything new; in fact it is one of the oldest Japanese traditions in existence. Hanami became a popular practice at the Imperial Palace of Emperor Saga of the Heian Period (794-1185). From this period onward, poems were published and paintings were displayed in honor of these marvelous buds.

Today, the countdown excitement is heightened by the televised Cherry Blossom Forecast which offers a day-by-day analysis of the coming of the blooms – known as the cherry blossom front – as they sweep towards the north. The arrival of these pink and white flowers ushers in a new season and fresh start.

Visit

If you are like most people and don’t have the time or money to visit Japan during these precious two weeks, don’t fret. Hanami celebrations and festivals happen just about everywhere, including Washington DC, Georgia, San Francisco, Taiwan, Rome, and New York.

Cherry Blossoms - Maki Matsuda

Cherry Blossoms – Maki Matsuda

But there is no better place to go than Japan. These stunning flowers can be admired all over the country including Tokyo, Kyoto, and Honshu Island. In fact, there are many tours available for those that wish to immerse themselves in the ultimate cherry blossom experience.

For a luxurious excursion, Japan Deluxe Tours offers a variety tours including a 12-night experience that takes you to nine cherry-blossom-filled locations from Tokyo to Osaka.

www.japandeluxetours.com/group/tour/grand-japan-cherry-blossom-tour-tokyo-12-days

For a more relaxed and inexpensive option, My Tokyo Guide offers several day trips to incredible destinations.

www.mytokyoguide.com/cherry-blossom-tours5

 

To learn more about Japan and all that it has offer, check out our Globe Trekker show Central Japan.

 

Written by Savannah Chinelli, intern at Pilot Productions HQ in London.

A message to our fans

A message to our fans

We urge you to visit our store or on Vimeo where we are curating this valuable and unique collection of shows for our loyal fans around the world.

Only a small selection of our shows are now available on Youtube and Amazon.

We are unhappy with the way these all powerful behemoths of the digital age treat content providers like us, small businesses, producing quality programming, who wish to reach as broad as an audience as possible.

Moving forward all our new shows will only be available on our shop or via Vimeo, our preferred online platforms, until further notice.