A view of beautiul Indonesia

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Top 6 faces of Indonesia

Borobodur 1
Buddhist Borobudur of Java

Borobudur 2
Buddhist Borobudur of Java

Prambanan
Hindu Prambanan on Java

Komodo
Very large lizards on Komodo

Bali_+Gunung+Agung
The volcanic landscape of Bali

Kalimantan
Kalimantan, home of the orangutans

Raja+Ampat
Di Raja Ampat Islands as a diver’s paradise

Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Di Raja Ampat Islands as a diver’s paradise

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Hidden jewel of the Hindu Kush, #Pakistan

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Chitral in Pakistan’s far north offers lush green valleys, snowy peaks and a friendly welcome.

Chitral in Pakistan 4
A view of the valley from Ayuon

WHEN I READ an article in the New York Times last year about the historical valley of Chitral and its inhabitants, a minority tribe known as the Kalash, I knew that I would have to go here and discover it for myself.

The Kalash of Chitral in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, the Times article informed me, shared DNA fragments with an ancient European population, possibly Greek in origin.

Chitral in Pakistan 5
Kalash women traditionally wear black dresses covered with colourful embroidery.

Statistical analysis suggests that this has resulted from interracial mixing between the local populace and Alexander the Great’s army well before 210 BC.

The Kalash, who believe in multiple deities, live in Chitral’s Rumbur, Bumburet and Birir valleys, and speak the Kalasha language, which is derived from the Dardic family of the Indo-Iranian branch.

Chitral in Pakistan 1

We chose December for our visit to Chitral, a month well out of the tourist season but one that shows off the mountains at their very best, and travelled from Lahore, a journey of almost 800 kilometres that takes between 11 and 12 hours.

We were joined at Sialkot by a group of young adventurers and almost 24 hours later, entered the small town of Ayun from where we rented jeeps for the bumpy ride ahead. Soon, we were on our way to the mountainous areas of magnificent Chitral.

Chitral in Pakistan 2

he scenery, which welcomed us at the break of dawn as we reached the valley, was positively breathtaking with everything covered with a thick blanket of pure white snow.

In contrast to the bitterly cold weather, the Kalash were warm and welcoming and despite being so close to the Afghan border, at no point did we feel unsafe. Indeed, it is considered one of the safest districts in Pakistan and in recent years has become a popular summer destination for local, and often well-heeled, tourists.

Chitral in Pakistan 3

After checking in and leaving our baggage at the Foreigner Tourism Inn in Bumburet, we headed further into the valley and at every step were greeted by the locals of the village; all happy to see us and eager to engage us in conversation.

We were particularly entranced by the costumes of the Kalash women – long, black dresses, usually embroidered with cowry shells in vivid colours and which serve as a unique symbol of identity.

Chitral in Pakistan 6

The people of the neighbouring Nuristan, a province of Afghanistan, once practised the same polytheist religion as the Kalash minority though by the late 1800as, most had converted to Islam. While this has also happened to a certain extent among the Kalash, those who convert tend to remain in the area and stay faithful to the ancient customs.

We also trekked into a valley from where we could see the Afghan mountains covered with thick sheets of snow. The view was magical and it was hard to imagine how much more beautiful the valley would look in summer or spring, when everything turns a lush green.

Perhaps we will find out for ourselves one day – the visit to Chitral will surely not be our last.

Source: The Nation

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Uttaradit Province, #Thailand

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Nan_river_Uttaradit_province
The Nan River – The district Tha Pla was originally part of Nan Province until it was reassigned in 1923 to Uttaradit Province.

Uttaradit 1

A province in the North of Thailand bordering Laos, Uttaradit has a long history dating back to pre-historic times. The site of the “modern” town, then called Bang Pho Tha It, was located on the right bank of the Nan River during the Dvaravati or Lavo periods, prior to Lanna and Sukhothai, when it flourished as a commercial port until King Rama V elevated its status into a province and re-named it Uttaradit, literally “the Port of the North.”

Uttaradit 3

Uttaradit, which literally means “the Port of the North” has a long history of commercial importance. Today, the city is a naturally beautiful town and the province contains Queen Sirikit Dam, a 250 km² artificial lake, as well as the world’s largest teak tree, which has stood for roughly 1500 years.

Uttaradit 2

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Hot and heavy in ‘Haad Rin’ #Thailand

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Haad Rin 3

Don’t let the vast stretch of powdery beach and turquoise water fool you. Haad Rin is a self-contained village dedicated to partying. Glorious, glorious partying.

Party animals, lost souls, displaced hippies and plain ol’ tourists have been making their way to Haad Rin since the mid 1980’s when Khun Sutti Kuasurkul, then owner of Paradise Bungalows, organized a bonfire party on the beach to celebrate one backpacker’s departure.

He set in motion a sub-culture that would become world famous, be debated in Thai government and give small colorful buckets a whole new meaning.

Now, 50,000 or more revelers descend on Haad Rin each month. Even with countless bucket stands, fire shows and beach bars the party epicenter is still Paradise Bungalows. How quaint.

With renovated beachfront rooms, a spacious pool and a highly Instagrammable monument dedicated to the original Full Moon Party, Paradise Bungalows is your party HQ. Set up shop here and you won’t need to leave Haad Rin for at least a week – to sleep off that Full Moon hangover of course.

For a quieter Haad Rin experience (yes, it’s possible) stay at Seaview Sunrise Resort. This understated resort on the north end of Haad Rin is just far enough away from the hustle and bustle. It’s perfect for travelers looking for comfortable rooms and an authentic, friendly backpacker experience. Lounge on triangle pillows at the restaurant and you’ll be swapping stories and making friends over a khao phad kung and bottle of Singha beer in no time.

Haad Rin 2

Wherever you are, the party’s not far away. At sunset join the crowds of revelers at Cactus. This well-known venue is a chilled out restaurant and beach bar by day, and an absolutely cray beach club by night. Neon face paint optional, buckets or beers required.

Wake up in Haad Rin (around noon we’re guessing) and head to Nira’s Home Bakery for a healthy brunch of eggs and ham, banana pancakes or a home style chicken salad baguette. You’re sure to run into your new friends from last night, if you recognize them.

It’s true that Haad Rin is filled with spots catering to tourists. The upside of this is the authentic international restaurants. We recommend Mama Schnitzel for a giant schnitzel sandwich before heading out for night #2.

But beyond the parties, there’s another reason that Haad Rin is so popular: it’s a gleaming turquoise bay with clear waters and wide sandy shores. Each morning the beach returns to its pristine state, thanks to local cleanup efforts.

LEO Beer led the way on this with their recent 60 minute Beach Cleanup on Haad Rin. Before the Full Moon Party began, LEO organized volunteers to comb the beach, pick up trash and spread awareness about keeping the environment clean.

So despite Haad Rin’s reputation for Full Moon madness, this beach has more to offer than just buckets and neon face paint. With a strong community spirit and a beautiful landscape to preserve, we hope Haad Rin stays the way it is for a long time to come.

Haad Rin 1

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The Island Less Traveled – Koh Nang Yuan

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Koh Nang Yuan

Some places on Earth seem just too beautiful to be real. Koh Nang Yuan is one of those places.

The small island (actually three petite islands connected by a beach) often gets overshadowed by nearby Koh Tao, but those interested in taking a road less traveled are advised to listen up. If you’re looking for an escape to one of Thailand’s most pristine destinations, put Koh Nang Yuan on your to-do list immediately.

To reach the paradise that is Koh Nang Yuan, first you have to make your way to Koh Tao which is, fortunately, very easy. Ferries will take you to Koh Tao from a number of different places like Chumphon, Surat Thani, Koh Samui, and more. From Koh Tao, you have a simple 15 minute long tail boat ride to Koh Nang Yuan.

Let’s be honest, no matter how many times you ride a longtail boat, it never gets old. The humming of the motor, the sea breeze in your hair — it’s a classic Thai experience. Another option is to take the Lomphraya high speed ferry. Choose from high speed catamarans and speed boats, as well as snorkeling trips complete with buffet lunch on the island and a climb to a scenic viewpoint.

Koh Nang Yuan 1

Once you reach Koh Nang Yuan, it can be hard to find words to describe its splendor, so here are a few to get you started: breathtaking, magical, unreal. The glassy clear water shines radiantly alongside white sand beaches and grey stone boulders. It’s no secret how Koh Nang Yuan has been able to stay so stunning over the years.

The island’s dedication to environmental conservation has protected its natural beauty from the usual drawbacks of tourism. Plastic isn’t allowed on the island, and visitors are fined for bringing any. The result of this strict policy is a beautiful thing: the island has remained one of the cleanest in the country for generations.

Koh Nang Yuan 2

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Wora Bura Resort, Hua Hin #Thailand

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Wora Bura Resort 1

Wora Bura has spacious rooms with LCD TVs, a large free-form pool with a hot tub, and 5 restaurants and bars. It is 77 m from Hua Hin’s beaches along the Siam Gulf.

Wora Bura Resort 2

A 5-minute walk from Cicada Night Market, Wora Bura Hua Hin Resort & Spa include low-rise buildings of Thai-Colonial style surrounding the outdoor pool and garden.

Wora Bura Resort 3

Guests have a selection of luxurious rooms and villas that feature spectacular views of the outdoor landscape from private balconies.

Wora Bura Resort 4

Guests can enjoy relaxing at the resort’s Wora Spa, which offers an extensive spa menu, and children can play at the kid’s club. Shuttle bus transportation heading to Hua Hin town are provided.

Wora Bura Resort 5

The resort’s Rak Talay Restaurant has fine dining on an open-air terrace that offers panoramic views of the Hua-Hin Bay. Chonlamark, the pool bar has light lunch menus and refreshments.

Wora Bura Resort 6

Khao Takiab is a great choice for travelers interested in Seafood, Seaside and Restaurants.

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