Archive for the “Asia” Category

Ko Lanta: The Thai Island That Remains Paradise

It all started with two French girls. It was 2006, and I was five months into my first round-the-world trip. I’d arrived in Thailand two weeks before, run into a friend, and jetted off to Ko Phi Phi, a place I didn’t enjoy. Another friend emailed me about a beautiful, out of the way, hidden island near the Malaysian border called Ko Lipe and suggested I come. It sounded perfect. “I’ll be right there,” I replied. But then I ran […]

How to Play, Feed, Bathe, and Protect the Elephants in Thailand

Elephants have long been important in Thailand, where they are a symbol of religion, history, royalty, and power. According to Buddhist legend, Queen Maya of Sakya, Lord Buddha’s mother, dreamed that a divine Bodhisattva on a white elephant touched her side. She later became pregnant, and since then, elephants have had a strong connection to divinity and royalty in Buddhism. As Thailand is a Buddhist society, elephants are held in high esteem (the old kings of Thailand rode around on […]

How to Turn High Cost Japan into a Cheap Place to Visit

For years, I’ve been putting off going to Japan because I was afraid of how expensive it would be. The rumors I’d heard about the country’s high prices made me hesitant to go. I’ve always loved Japanese culture, and I knew any visit would involve gorging on sushi and ramen, visits to lots of temples, and heavy train travel through the countryside. And the thought of how much that would cost always made me think, “I’ll wait until I have […]

Figuring Out Why Someone Would Take a Tour in a First World Country

There always seems to be a negative attitude among independent travelers about going on group tours. Many view tours as inauthentic travel, while others see nothing wrong with them. Personally, I like tours and am in the “group tours are fine” camp. My first trip overseas was on a tour to Costa Rica. There are some places in the world where you do have to go on a tour, because it’s simply too hard or too complicated to go on […]

13 Reasons Why I Fell in Love with Japan

Last month, I toured Japan for three weeks with G Adventures. As you know, I was very excited. I had high expectations for a country that I had for years dreamed about seeing. And when you have high expectations, you can be easily disappointed. But Japan didn’t disappoint—it exceeded my expectations. I loved Japan. Loved it beyond anything I expected. The food, the people, the architecture, the culture—it was bliss. Just how much did I love it? Let me count […]

The Beautiful Temples and Gardens of Kyoto

I’ve dreamed of Kyoto and its thousands of temples for as long as I’ve dreamed of Japan. I love Japanese architecture and zen gardens. One day, when I own a home, my backyard will be designed as a Japanese zen garden, complete with pond, koi fish, rock garden, and little waterfall. On my recent visit to Japan, Kyoto was the only place I wanted to see as much as Tokyo. Though it rained (sometimes heavily) during my visit, Kyoto, with […]

Why Sex Tourism in Thailand is Not as Black and White as You Think

I can still remember the first time I heard about Thailand. I was around 15 and watching Hard Copy. It was one of those late afternoon “news” shows in the 1990s that focused on “hard-hitting” journalism but were really a precursor to sites like TMZ. Hard Copy was doing an exposé on sex tourism in Thailand. The program showcased the Marines and old men who came to Thailand to buy the services of young, sometimes underage girls (and boys). I […]

61 Interesting Facts About Japan

I’m currently in Japan on a G Adventures tour, and I’m loving every minute of it. Japan has far exceeded my expectations, though I’m definitely not eating enough sushi. In four days, I’ve only had it twice. For someone so addicted to sushi, that just feels so wrong. I’ll be rectifying that soon enough, though (tomorrow for lunch). Japan is a country with a fascinating culture and history, so I thought I’d share some of the interesting facts I’ve learned […]

38 Reasons Why I am Excited to Visit Japan

Next week, I’m going to Japan. It’s my first real visit there. I say “real visit” because back in 2004, on my way home from Thailand, my friend and I stopped in Tokyo for a long layover. After arriving at 6am, we left the airport, saw the imperial palace, realized Tokyo in January is a lot colder than Thailand in January, and camped out in a Starbucks until the sushi restaurants opened for lunch. After eating a luxurious sushi meal, […]

The Best Thai Food You Can Eat

I know Monday’s post was a bit of a Debbie Downer, but don’t worry, I’m not done writing about travel—just being a permanent nomad. So in a complete 180 from Monday’s post, let’s talk about travel and my love of good Thai food. When I returned to Thailand a few weeks ago from being in Cambodia, I went on an eating binge. Cambodia, as much as I love it, doesn’t have a lot of great food. It’s very bland, and […]