Asia: The Bucket List

Asia: home of ancient civilizations, tropical jungles, and the tallest mountains on Earth. Travels in Asia are a sensory barrage, imprinting memories deep on the soul.

The construction of the Taj Mahal in the 17-th century took 22 years (Photo credit: MCArnott)

Connecting with the White Marble of the Taj Mahal

  The grand finale of my trip to India is neither a massive fort nor a sumptuous palace,  it's a mausoleum: the Taj Mahal. For some of the Indian celebrities interviewed on the occasion of its 350th anniversary (in 2004) the love story was Read More

Where the Tooth Relic is kept. (Roberta Sotonoff)

Attending the Perahera Festival in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Tammattam drums throb in the distance. The steady boom, boom, boom of these small-sized, kettle-like drums grow louder. Their rhythm is almost hypnotic. Then comes the sound of cracking whips. A troupe snaps them to the drum beats. For the next four Read More

Players and caddies ride on a golf cart at Nirwana Bali (Photo credit: MCArnott)

Teeing-off over Rice Paddies at Nirwana Golf Club in Bali, Indonesia

She briefly scouts the fairway and points to my ball, in a narrow ditch along a rice paddy. All eyes are on me as I give it my best shot. When a splash of mud squirts in all directions including mine, I am miffed. Yet, my caddy smiles and my Read More

Tree roots grow over a temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Exploring the Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia by Bicycle

I'm covered in sweat. Sweat is pouring down my back under my t-shirt, and my hair is soaked. I don't mind the sweat, because I'm looking at my favorite temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park so far: Ta Phrom. Unfortunately there are about a million Read More

The Great Clash of Nature-001

Sleeping like Monks in the Caves of Goreme in Cappadocia

As an independent traveler, it happens every so often: You find yourself walking beside a road in the middle of the desert, cars whizzing by you with little regard, no more than a bottle of water and a book in your bag. It was that way one afternoon Read More

The Beautiful Blue Coast of Heybeliada

Ferrying to the Princes’ Islands in Istanbul

On the ferries to Princes’ Islands, I would always drink copious amounts of tea. Waiters with dangling trays roamed up and down the decks touting chai for less than a dollar, delivering a tear-drop Turkish tea cup on a little glass saucer, complete Read More

A mass grave in the Killing Fields, Cambodia

Learning about Cambodia’s History at the Choeung Ek Memorial (Killing Fields)

I hold it together until I see the Killing Tree, but then it's impossible to stop the tears. The Killing Tree, as the sign next to it explains, is "the tree against which executioners beat children". Previous visitors have attached colorful Read More

The Great Wall of China

Standing Sentinel on the Great Wall, Badaling, China

The last of the fall color was about to disappear from the trees growing in the shelter of the Great Wall. "A really awful place to be a sentry in winter," I said. My companion nodded. We were looking out from one of the many watch towers Read More

Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Exploring the Historic City of Ayutthaya, Thailand, by Bicycle

As I park my bicycle next to a 7/11 and a collection of souvenir shops, I realize Ayutthaya is not going to be the step back in time I hoped it would be. It feels more like a history theme park. Before I came to Ayutthaya – the old capital of Read More

Women sell vegetables, spices, fruit, fresh fish and flowers at market along Thu Bon River in Hoi An in central Vietnam. Here, women sell shrimp and crabs. Photo by Yvette Cardozo

Learning the Art of Vietnamese Cooking from a Hanoi Celebrity Chef

They are EVERYwhere in Vietnam, from the largest city to the smallest village and even aboard tourist boats in Ha Long Bay. No, not T-shirt sellers. We're talking cooking classes. This is THE thing to do in Vietnam and I sampled several. There Read More

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Living Large at the Burj al Arab in Dubai

"Ah, not the elevator," my friend said in the lobby of Dubai's Burj Al Arab hotel. "We will ride the submarine to the restaurant." And indeed, we did. After entering a small capsule with bucket seats and fastening our seat belts, lights flickered, Read More

Maitreya Buddha Statue in Thikse Gompa, Ladakh, India

Learning About Tibetan Buddhism in Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh, India

In the corner of a small, dark room, a monk in red robes sits huddled over a book. In candlelight he shows me pages of neat text in long rows, and explains the writing is Tibetan. The book, like the hundreds of others crammed on the shelves on the Read More

Bridge from Europe to Asia in Istambul

Drifting Between Continents on a Bosphorus Day-Cruise in Istanbul

Talk about Continental Drift: I am floating -- literally -- between Asia and Europe. To my left is familiarity, reassuring names like Paris and Venice, Vienna and Madrid. To my right are places like Kazakhstan and Urumqi: the exotic lands of western Read More

The Bezeklik, or Bizaklik, Thousand Buddha Caves in Turpan, China (©photocoen)

Touring Xinjiang’s Historical Sites Around Turpan, China

I traveled for thirty hours by bus traversing one of the world's largest deserts – the Taklamakan Desert – and got off in the middle of nowhere in a town called Turpan. I was intrigued by the region for two reasons: The extremes of landscape: a Read More

Naxi women in Yunnan's Countryside (©Coen Wubbels)

Cycling in Yunnan’s Countryside Around Lijang, China

They laugh when Coen sign languages if he can join them. Their faces are skeptical. "A foreigner? Playing mahjong?" But they see he is serious and one of them gets up. "Take my place," he motions. How do you learn this complicated game in the Read More

The First View of China's Terra Cotta Warriors in Pit One. (Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis)

Taking a Day Trip from Beijing to the Terra Cotta Warriors at Xi An

I was pushed by the crowd around me all the way to the edge of the pit. Once there, I stopped and stared entranced by the sight of the thousands of warriors, trapped in time in their glass domed building. The first five corridors alone covered more Read More

Sunrise Prayers at the Jinding Temple of Mount Jizu in Yunnan, China (©photocoen)

Hiking up the Holy Mountain of Mount Jizu in Yunnan, China

It's 2am and we're up and about to climb a 3248-meter-high mountain: the Chicken Foot Mountain, which is the translation of Jizu Shan. By leaving at this time we will be ahead of the crowd of visitors that will start climbing in an hour or so, and Read More

The Narrow Gauge Train to Darjeeling, North India (©photocoen)

Taking a Narrow Gauge Train to Darjeeling, India

It's still dark when we walk downhill to the train station. Although the train will only leave at seven, we have been advised to arrive an hour early, as there are few seats. The Sikkim narrow gauge diesel train runs all the way up from the town Read More

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Exploring the Angkor Wat Temples in Cambodia

I'm looking at the Hindu god Vishnu, whose legs are being massaged by his wife Laksmi. The sculpture is lying in a stream in a tropical forest and is surrounded by twittering birds and fluttering butterflies. The sight is utterly peaceful. It's the Read More