Hiking in Asia: 10 Places With Stunning Trails

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Asia is home to breathtaking nature, lush vegetation, exotic cultures and delicious cuisines. One of the best ways to explore and discover the various destinations in Asia is on foot – by taking a hike. Some hikes in Asia offer hikers a chance to spot rare wildlife species and meet indigenous tribes living in charming villages along the way. In many of the trails listed below, the journey itself is the destination.

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1. Sapa, Vietnam

Travel the northern highland town of Sapa in Vietnam for breathtaking views of rice terraces and stunning mountain peaks with mists hovering over them. Sapa rests in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, close to the Tonkinese Alps at the Chinese borders. Sapa is an increasingly popular destination among hikers, all keen to experience the hillside treks which passes through lush landscapes and charming villages. The best time to visit is from March to May.

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2. Ladakh Range, India

India’s highest and largest district is the Ladakh Range. Comfortably nestled between two vast mountains (the Karakoram to the north and the Himalayas to the south), the Ladakh range has more sheep and yaks than monkeys and cows. In Ladakh Range, the culture of the people lean towards Tibetan rather than Indian. Travellers can take on trails in the Ladakh Range which ranges from easy (Ripchar Valley Trek and Lamayuru Alchi Trek) to difficult (Kang Yatse Trek, Hemis to Tsomoriri Trek). Some of the most gorgeous trails in the Ladakh Range are those that take hikers through the Zanskar range, such as the Lamayuru to Darcha Trek.

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3. Ratanakiri, Cambodia

Ratanakiri (Ban Lung), located in northeast Cambodia, is known for fantastic jungle trekking and hiking. It is also known as “dey krahorm” (red earth), as the area is covered in reddish dust during the dry season. Impressive hills, rivers and mountain ranges grace Ratanakiri, and the area is dotted with crater lakes and waterfalls.

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4. The Snowman Trek, Bhutan

Bhutan’s Snowman Trek covers over 200 miles, crossing 11 passes over 16,000 feet. To undertake the Snowman Trek, which takes about 25 days to complete, it is compulsory to be part of a guided tour. Each year, only a handful of people challenge themselves to take on this hike. The trail passes through Laya, home of the indigenous Layap people. Guides usually drop by the Thanza village to exchange horses for yaks, which are used to traverse difficult terrains. The highlights of this trail include the sceneries of remote valleys, visiting Buddhist monasteries, experiencing Bhutan’s authentic culture and spotting interesting wildlife such as the Himalayan blue sheep. Timing is essential for this trek, and it is best to go in April to avoid the snow and rain that closes the high passes. The Snowman Trek is ideal for the hardcore hikers.

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5. Maluan Mountain, China

The trail that leads up to Maluan Mountain is easy and safe, and it passes through clear streams, verdant woods, and captivating waterfalls. It is no surprise that this trail is popular among hiking enthusiasts. Mount Maulan is also known for its plum blossoms in red, white and sea blue, which can be seen in January from the Plum Blossom Pavilion.

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6. Gunung Tahan, Malaysia

To have a taste of the jungle, climb one of the most challenging mountains in Malaysia, Gunung Tahan. Tigers, elephants, leopards and the Sumatran rhino will greet hikers in this 130 million years old virgin rainforest, located in Taman Negara in the state of Pahang. The most scenic route is the Kuala Tahan classic train, which usually takes about seven days. Just be warned: this trek requires you to be mentally and physically fit.

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7. Mount Everest, Nepal

Climbing Everest is the dream of many mountaineers, but for those who are not capable of undertaking that intense, arduous and potentially-fatal journey, just hiking to the Everest Base Camp will do. Hikers heading to the Everest Base Camp can drop by museums and monasteries, enjoy amazing views and also experience the Sherpa culture. The warmth of Nepalese hospitality and breathtaking scenery makes the Everest Base Camp Trek an amazing trip, one that is possible even for those with average fitness.

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8. Annapurna Mountain Range, Nepal

The lofty peaks of the Annapurna are only for the trained and determined, and one of the best trails in the Annapurna Mountain Range is the famous Annapurna Circuit. This horseshoe-shaped route that runs for more than 200 kilometre is considered one of the best hikes in the world. Completing this rather challenging trek will take between 15 to 20 days. Rugged trails, sacred pilgrimage sites, exotic wildlife and awesome views of nature’s bounty will make your trip a memorable one.

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9. Mount Kailash Pilgrimage, Tibet

Mount Kailash stands out as a holy site to Buddhists, Jains, the Ayyavazhi branch of Hinduism, and the ancient Bon religion of Tibet. However, it is not often visited due to the mountain’s remote location in far western Tibet. Some religions regarded Kailash as the mythical Mt. Meru – the center and birthplace of the entire world. Myths and legends surround Mount Kailash, such as the Hindu belief that the place is the abode of god Shiva. Transportation to Mount Kailash via rugged over-land vehicles can be booked through various tour companies. Once you get there, hiking the 50 kilometres around it alongside pilgrims is the ritual to complete. Do note that the weather there can be always harsh and trekkers and pilgrims must carry all the supplies and provisions they need for the entire trip. April through September is the best months for this trek.

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10. Great Himalaya Trail, Nepal

The Great Himalaya Trail covers over 4500 kilometres and it connects the highest routes across the Himalaya with existing trekking trails and pilgrimage paths. The trail can be completed in a whopping four to six months if the weather permits. The challenging part of the Great Himalaya Trail is during the ascents and descents of the high passes, including Sherpani Pass (20,128 feet), West Col (20,154 feet), and Amphu Laptsa Pass (19,193 feet) sandwiched between Everest and Makalu. Wildlife such as the endangered snow leopard, yaks, red pandas and herds of blue sheep can be spotted along the trails, and there are also monasteries, tea houses and guest huts along the way.

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Source: Tripzilla Magazine
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Making the most of an Asian winter

Harbin, China

Eight great places to enjoy the cold

While westerners flock to Asia in the winter for sun, sea and sand, Thais prefer to think about chilly weather, pristine white snow and the chance to wear the cold weather gear that spends most of the year in their wardrobes. For many years they headed to Europe or the US in search of their dream weather. Now, though, thanks to the advent of low cost airlines and the opening up of the world, they need travel no longer than a few hours to literally chill.

We take a look at the best winter destinations.

Lijiang, Chiana
ULAANBATOR, MONGOLIA
Billed as the coldest capital in the world, the windswept capital of Mongolia, which is surrounded by the steppes, ensures a chilly winter treat. With an average temperature of -1 degree Celsius, visitors can warm up in a traditional yurt or a modern shopping mall. Prosperity has come to gas-rich Ulaanbator in recent years and the city’s Sukhbaatar Square is now home to such luxury brands as Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Hugo Boss. Thirteen kilometres from Ulaanbator is the Sky Resort, which typically offers skiing from November to March or April.

HOW TO GET THERE: Fly to Beijing and then take the Trans-Mongolian train to Mongolia’s capital.

LIJIANG, YUNNAN, CHINA

Tucked away in Northern Yunnan province, Li Jiang means “beautiful river” in Chinese, and you’ll have no trouble seeing why. The 800-year-old town is built where the Jade River splits into three and streams coming off the main waterway flow along the streets of the old town. An attractive tourist destination for 800 years, Lijang once drew the caravans of ancient traders as they travelled along the Tea Horse Road – an ancient network of mule caravan paths winding through the mountains of Yunnan and Tibetan Plateau. Today the Unesco World Heritage Site draws visitors for its charming historic townscape. The city is famous for Naxi traditional houses and it’s easy to spend a week getting lost in the narrow pathways, people watching, shopping and drinking and eating.

HOW TO GET THERE: Fly to Kunming, Yunnan’s capital and catch a connecting flight to Lijiang. Flight time is just one hour. Thai Airways and Thai AirAsia operate flights between Bangkok and Kunming.

Sapporo, Japan
NISEKO, JAPAN

Niseko is a resort town in Hokkaido, northern Japan. Located in a massive valley, Niseko sits between Mount Yotei-zan to the east and Niseko Annupuri to the west. When the snow is falling (and it does a lot), sounds are dampened, making even a walk out to the car seem like a magic sleigh ride. Skiing at Niseko, with its jaw-dropping views of mountains and its plethora of onsen, is unequalled. Like it’s northern cousin Furano, Niseko enjoys perfect powder snow. If you’re one of the first on the slopes, you’ll feel like you’ve left Earth as you float downhill. For the best winter playground, check into Niseko Village (www.Niseko-Village.com/en). This ski in-and-ski out resort has around 60 beginner, intermediate and advanced runs with a 2m to 3m snow base.

HOW TO GET THERE: Thai Airways operates direct flights between Bangkok and Sapporo (Hokkaido’s capital). Niseko is about three hours on the bus from the airport.

GANGWON, SOUTH KOREA

Three-quarters of South Korea is covered by mountains so it’s no wonder that thousands of tourists fly in every winter to hit the slopes. Many Thai snow-virgins fly to Seoul then travel by bus to Gangwon before taking their first run on the pistes and heading straight into the bushes. For an affordable white holiday, Gangwon Province is the place to go. From November to March, the Gangwon-do mountains transform into a skiing paradise that is sure to excite the most rabid aficionado. Whether you’re in search of an adrenaline-fuelled adventure, the perfect family chalet, or tips on the best way to jump off a cliff, there’s something new for you in here. Check out the Yongpyong Resort (www.Yongpyong.co.kr) for 28 slopes spread across beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert levels or head to Vivaldi Park, an hour’s drive from Seoul, to rub shoulders with the younger crowd. Visit http://www.Daemyungresort. com.

HOW TO GET THERE: Fly to Seoul.

OTARU, JAPAN

Otaru, a little resort town just a short train ride from Sapporo, is known for the freshest sushi in Hokkaido. A romantic port steeped in a rich history that dates back to its glory days as a major herring centre, it’s a great place to stroll along snowy paths by Otaru canal before defrosting at the Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery and Otaru Music Box Museum.

HOW TO GET THERE: Fly to Sapporo.

Niseko, Japan
LEH, INDIA

Perched at a dizzying altitude of more than 3,500 metres , the remote paradise of Ladakh was the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, now Leh district in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. In summer Leh is filled with backpackers, souvenir shops, pizza restaurants and guesthouses. In winter, it’s the epitome of solitude and silence as snow blocks the narrow zigzag dirt roads and cuts the small town off from the rest of the world. Despite the harsh conditions, the local market is fully operational and bustling with activity. If you’re looking for a rustic experience, stay with a local family as a paying guest.

HOW TO GET THERE: Air India, Jet Airways and GoAir have daily flights between Delhi and Leh.

HARBIN, CHINA

Tucked away in China’s north, Harbin means “a place for drying fishing net” in Manchu, but has evolved into a world-class winter destination. From November to January, Harbin draws tourists for its International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. The festival features a grand opening ceremony, firework display and theatrical performances. Visitors can also enjoy snow activities in Sun Island, Ice and Snow Amusement World, and Zhaolin Park. It’s also the best place in the world to enjoy a hot pot.

HOW TO GET THERE: Fly to Beijing, and then take a domestic flight or train to Harbin.

SAPPORO, JAPAN

The capital of Hokkaido Prefecture, Sapporo offers endless treats from three-star Michelin French restaurants to Japan’s haute kaiseki cusine. The best place to be in Sapporo is, of course, in winter when the city is hosting the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. The upcoming festival runs from February 5 to 11 and will see the streets around the Susukino neighbourhood and Odori Park filled with snow sculptures and ice carvings. Street vendors ply their trade offering delicious Hokkaido seafood delicacies like snow crab. End the day with a visit to Sapporo Beer Museum. Kanpei!

Leh, India
Source: The Nation

#Bangkok Attack ‘linked to Uighur deportations’

Hindu shrine

PM dismisses police claim, blames human traffickers for blasts.

THE BANGKOK bombing was the handiwork of an international human-trafficking network seeking retaliation against Thailand for the return of 109 Uighur to China and a crushing crackdown on their underground activities, police said yesterday.

“They got angry. They are from the same gang that attacked the Thai Consulate in Turkey,” national police chief General Somyot Poompanmuang said.

This is the first time that the Thai authorities have directly linked the bomb attack with the deportation of trafficked Uighur.

However Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha rushed to dismiss the police statement saying nobody had claimed responsibility for the bomb. “At this stage, there is no link. I don’t think so. It could be a normal crime and by ordinary human traffickers,” he said.

A team of senior Thai police was heading for Malaysia after reports that three suspects arrested by Malaysian police may have been linked with the Bangkok bombing.

Last month, two explosions rocked the Thai capital. The one on August 17 at the popular Erawan Shrine killed 20 people and wounded more than 100 others. At least five Chinese tourists were killed and many others hospitalised. The other blast on the following day at the Sathorn Pier caused no casualties.

The bombings in the heart of Bangkok shocked the entire nation, as no such attacks had ever taken place on Thai soil. They also hit the economy hard.

‘Deportations in line with law’

Somyot said that the deportation of the 109 Uighur to China was in line with international law, and that Thai authorities had repatriated illegal migrants to their home countries, not just China.

Thai authorities have issued arrest warrants for 12 suspects and are holding two of them at a temporary facility in a military base. Colonel Winthai Suvari, spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), defended the choice of the detention location, saying their case was related to national security.

“It is also convenient for investigators who still need to interrogate the suspects and bring witnesses to identify them,” he said.

Deputy National Police chief General Chakthip Chaijinda left for Malaysia along with Special Branch Police chief Lt-General Chaiwat Getvorachai and deputy chief Maj-General Chanthep Sesavej. The team is expected to follow up on reports that the three suspected human smugglers arrested in Malaysia might have had some links to the Bangkok blasts. “Thailand and Malaysia will exchange information,” Somyot said.

Chakthip refused to speak to the media before his departure, other than saying that he “will return on Thursday”. Somyot said Thai authorities were still investigating the whereabouts of Abu Dustar Abdulrahman, or Izan, and the yellow-shirt man – two key suspects wanted for the bomb blasts.

A foreign news agency said a senior official of the Turkish government had recently denied that Izan had entered Turkey after the blasts. “We are investigating the matter,” he said.

Ties with gang

A Metropolitan Police source said one of the three women arrested at an apartment on Sunday had personal ties with a gang that helped the bomb suspects sneak into Thailand.

“We are preparing to seek an arrest warrant for her,” the source said.

This 39-year-old woman had taken the suspected bomber to the apartment rented by two university students and asked for their permission to leave some of his things there. The two students knew nothing about the bomb plot and have been released, the source added.

Police expect the military to transfer the woman to them on Saturday.

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Asean countries bid to draw tourists from India

India people
Asean countries bid to draw tourists from India

AN ECONOMIC SURGE in the growing ranks of the educated middle class in India has turned the spotlight on more outbound travel to Asian destinations that are nearer home than those in the West and are just as exciting.

China and Asean countries including Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are making a determined bid to woo tourist traffic from India with focus on adventure, weddings, honeymoons, health and wellness, and family and single-woman travel.

Indonesia has decided to do away with visas for 93 countries including India before the end of this year. In addition, emphasis is being given to green tourism along with shopping and golf to woo the new breed of Indian traveller who wants to try everything including different cuisines.

In keeping with this objective, tourism boards and authorities from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia made detailed presentations at the “Pacific Asia Travel Association Mart” in the Indian city of Bangalore on Tuesday, the concluding day of the three-day event.

More than 1,000 delegates from 61 countries participated in the meet, the third such event to be held in India after New Delhi and Hyderabad.

The international meet decided to hold the 39th PATA Travel Mart in Jakarta from September 7-9 next year. Before this, Thailand will host the “PATA Adventure Travel” event, and a responsible-tourism conference and mart next year. The three-day event in Thailand will run |from February 17 in Chiang Rai with the theme of “Creating Experiences, Sharing Opportuni-ties”.

Indonesia’s deputy minister of tourism, Igde Patana, said Jakarta had been chosen for next year’s PATA travel mart considering the huge potential for tourism that the archipelago of nearly 13,000 islands presents with 150 international-standard golf courses in addition to the ethnic diversity of the country and its cuisine.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said the PATA Travel Mart would help connect buyers and sellers, giving a major boost to tourism in general.

He said Indonesia wanted to target nearly 10 million tourists this year, with the traffic from India alone accounting for about 240,000. The country now hopes to raise this number to more than 270,000, focusing also on further promotion by allowing Indians to celebrate and hold their weddings in exotic locations such as Bali.

Meanwhile the Tourism Authority of Thailand said that notwithstanding the recent issues in the country, tourist inflows had shot up 31 per cent year on year to 17.5 million in the first six months of 2015, generating revenue of more than US$23 billion (Bt829 billion). TAT deputy governor for marketing Sugree Sithivanich added that Indian tourists were among the major revenue generators.

Tourism Malaysia deputy director-general Azizan Noordin announced that special tourist packages had been developed to boost traffic from India during the Malaysian Year of Festivals. In addition, special packages had been developed to coincide with the Malaysia year-end sale from November 14 to January 3.

India is a significant contributor to Malaysian tourism, he added. In fact, it was the No 6 tourist market. Last year, more than 770,108 Indian visitors flocked to Malaysia, up 18 per cent over 2013. Shopping, leisure and luxury holidays were being promoted to woo Indians.

As far as China was concerned, it was also making a bid to boost traffic from India, with the country already receiving more than 710,000 Indian tourists in 2014, up by 5 per cent from 2013. In the first six months of the current year, the tourist traffic from India to mainland China, according to Li Qianguo, director of the China National Tourist Office in New Delhi, touched the 410,000 mark, up by 4.2 per cent over the corresponding period last year.

He said the trend was very encouraging and the tourism links between the two countries were continuously strengthening.

The Chinese National Tourism Office is promoting China as an attractive destination in such Indian cities as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Amritsar and Ludhiana.

Besides, 2015 is the “Visit India” year in China. It was launched in February in Beijing. Next year, India has to reciprocate with a “Visit China” campaign. Under the programme, the two sides carry out a series of promotional activities to boost two-way tourist traffic and people-to-people contact.

Source: The Nation

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