Ancient ruins, mountains and countryside
Northern Thailand refers to the mountainous north of the country, a whole world away from the golden beaches and blue seas of the south. The area roughly corresponds to the mountainous area bordering Myanmar and Laos, however in this article I have gone as far south as Sukhothai, which is about 4/5 hours north of Bangkok.
The north of Thailand is one of my favourite parts of the world. The amazing history of Sukhothai is complemented by the cosmopolitan twin cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, the former being one of the highlights of my visit.
Sukhothai is famed for its historical park that has literally hundreds of statues of Buddha and ancient temples that are best explored by cycling. It was about an hour into the long journey north from Sukhothai that I began to feel a difference in the climate and landscape. The humidity and flat terrain of the south was slowly replaced by a crisp air and mountainous landscape. The road was bounded by greenery on all sides and the hectic pace of Bangkok tranformed into a slow crawl.
Up until the early 1900's the Lanna area of the north was relatively independent and the natives are still fiercely proud of their local traditions and customs. I was lucky enough to visit Lampang, a city the northerners refer to as the 'last true paradise' of Thailand. Staying in a village about an hour outside the city was one of my favourite experiences and I spent my time there visiting local cottage industries as well as a school.
Further north is Chiang Mai, a city becoming increasingly popular with tourists. The night market in Chiang Mai is incredible and the nightlife in general is very lively. The area has a significant Burmese influence, not just due to its proximity to the country but also having lived under Burmese rule. The city is the capital of the north, built in a valley, surrounded by mountains and is a great starting point for treks further north to the hill tribes. It's also a great place to spend a few days (or weeks) exploring the many temples, restaurants or getting lost in the streets.
The Sacred Valley (Urubamba Valley), Peru
The Sacred Valley of the Incas, also known as the Urubamba Valley, is a valley in the Andean Mountains in Peru.
The Sacred Valley, or El Valle Sagrado was formed by the Urubamba River that runs through the area and is located north of the ancient Incan capital of Cusco. The area called the Sacred Valley encompasses the towns of Ollantaytambo, Urubama, Calca, Pisac and Chinchero. The proximity of the river, fertile plains and natural defences made this an ideal area of settlement for Quechua people and it was one of the last bastions of Incan culture before it was conquered by the Spanish.
To this day the area produces a lot of the crops that feed the nearby city of Cusco, but it is making an increasing amount of money from the tourist trade. Trips to Machu Picchu pass through this valley and locals have made a business out of selling everything from Quechuan cuisine to clothing/equipment needed to climb the mountains.
The area of the Sacred Valley is one of outstanding beauty and almost every point looks over a view like something out of Lord of the Rings (the good part, not the fiery hell part). I visited a couple of cottage industries while I was out there, drank some purple corn juice and generally just admired the views. My walk around Ollantaytambo was perhaps my favourite experience. The town has ancient Incan ruins, a small community feel and a landscape unlike anything I have seen anywhere else.
Although most of my hike to Machu Picchu took part in the Sacred Valley, the pictures below cover only the towns in the valley itself.
Chile is strange in that the country is not particularly wide, but is one of the longest north-south countries in the world. This means the geography of the country is incredibly varied. From the worlds driest desert in the north, to the large metropolis of Santiago in the centre and the natural scenery of lakes and mountains in Patagonia in the south. Compared to its neighbours, Chile is also a developed country and this was pretty obvious as soon as I crossed the border from Bolivia.
Chile lacked some of the charm of Peru, the excitement of Brazil or the uniqueness of Bolivia but it was still worth the visit. The Atacama desert in the north was something particularly impressive, just a vast expanse of dry heat.
Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit places such as Valparaiso or Patagonia but in this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took in the country, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Chile, its culture and its attractions.
Cambodia is a country with a history as tragic as any you will hear about. During the rule and subsequent guerrilla campaign of the Khmer Rouge between 1968 and the late 1990's, up to 2 million people were killed, representing a quarter of the total population. Most of these deaths happened over a 4 year period between 1975-1979 during the 'killing fields' era.
Despite a whole generation of Cambodians being wiped out, you can't help but see the positivity permeating in the country. The demographics are very youthful and there is an energy unmatched anywhere else. Sure there is still a lot of development that needs to happen as the difference between Cambodia and its two neighbouring countries, Vietnam and Thailand is extremely noticeable but changes are happening.
In this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took across the country, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Cambodia, its culture and its attractions.
Rio de Janeiro
One of the largest cities in the Southern Hemisphere, home of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, birthplace of the largest carnival on Earth and famous for its beaches, it is no wonder that Rio is the most visited city in South America.
This city has the feel of a very large metropolis, similar to the rush of Bangkok, and you could spend a month here and still not scratch the surface. Rio has a lot going for it, but there is an income gap that seems to be increasing and social tensions that the state tries to hide from the public view (the construction of large panels to cover Favela's as you drive into Rio being the most striking). However, the positives are endless and this is truly one of those cities that never sleeps.
In this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took in the city, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Rio, its culture and its attractions.
Bolivia is a fairly large, landlocked country in western South America that was previously a part of the famous Incan Empire. These days, Amerindians make up a sizable proportion of the country, infact the different native tribes together make up just over half the population and the country is proud of its history and culture.
The first thing I noticed was its relative poverty when compared to its neighbours, although it is a country with a growing economy. Bolivia has a number of unique landmarks and attractions, La Paz, which is the seat of the government, is one of the city '7 wonders' as it is built over 3000m above sea level. Further south are the famous Salt Flats, or Salars in Uyuni, a landscape unlike anywhere else on the planet.
In this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took in the country, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Bolivia, its culture and its attractions.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.