One October a few years ago I spent a couple of days in Churchill, Manitoba looking for polar bears. Churchill is famously the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” because so many bears come in to den when the pack ice breaks up on Hudson Bay. In the fall, when Hudson Bay begins to freeze, ice forms first around the spit of land where Churchill sits, and the bears know it. That’s why they gang up here, why thousands of tourists like me come to gawk.
But now there’s a new game in town: snorkeling with belugas. Yep, you can don a dry suit and slip into water that was frozen solid last week and come nose to nose with beluga whales. John Flinn took the plunge and conveyed his experience in the San Francisco Chronicle this week. Continue reading »
One night some years ago I arrived in Guanajuato, Mexico for the first time, knowing little about the place beyond its being yet another Spanish colonial city. When the bus couldn’t get anywhere near my hotel on Jardin de la Union because the streets were jammed with revelers, I got out, shouldered my bags, and plunged into the crowd.
Maybe it was the long bus ride that had warped my ability to make sense of my surroundings, or it could have been my diet of magic realism literature I was on at the time, but the scene I wound through that night presented the kind of phantasmagoria that can induce hallucinations. Was everyone in costume? Was it a warmup for Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead? Colors flashed by, shouts and laughter and the melodious rhythms of Spanish ricocheted off balconied buildings. Smoke from street stalls carried the scent of grilled meat. And I continued to push my way, gently because this was a happy throng, across the plaza to the hotel. Continue reading »
In the late ’60s and early ’70s the thought of a trip down the Mekong was the stuff of nightmares. The place was a war zone, and the only way to see it was courtesy of Uncle Sam. But thankfully times change, and today the great river that runs from China through Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam is accessible to anyone who wants to put paddle to water, assuming you have the proper paperwork and know your way around.
Which is a good reason to find an outfitter who can handle the logistics. Some top adventure companies offer trips on the Mekong, but these are mostly cruises. For journeys by kayak, Bangkok-based river explorer Steve Van Beek brings something extra: 40 years of residence in Southeast Asia and almost as many years exploring the region’s rivers. Continue reading »
Now is the time. The crowds are gone, the days are clear and warm and the nights are cool to cold. Mosquitoes and just about every other flying insect have bedded down for the winter or perished in the chill. Campsites are available. And Yosemite’s vaunted Tuolumne Meadows is as beautiful in the fall as ever.
I spent the 4th of July holiday weekend there, my first visit in 25 years, which told me a couple of things: just how quickly time can pass and a quarter of a lifetime can slip beneath your feet; and how short-sighted I’d been to allow so many years to drift away without making the simple four-hour-plus drive up from San Francisco. I swam in Tenaya Lake, fished the pools and streams that fed into it, got some strikes in the Tuolumne River as it wound through the meadows, and later, at Cathedral Lake, saw a trout with a head as big as my fist emerge from the depths to strike my lure repeatedly before losing interest, too smart to be caught by an occasional fisherman like me. Continue reading »
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Feel like some jet-setting this fall? JetBlue just made it a little easier. For $599 you can fly as much as you want from September 8 to October 8. But you have to buy the pass before August 21, and JetBlue’s release says supplies are limited. So, if you have a lot of traveling to do on JetBlue’s routes, get going.
There may be no animal more impressive to see in the wild than the tiger. These regal creatures that once prowled the forests of Asia in the hundreds of thousands are now down to a few thousand, with human encroachment on their habitat putting more pressure on them.
Yet there are wildlife sanctuaries in India and Nepal where tourists can see them despite their dwindling numbers. Tourism brings money into local economies and can contribute to conservation efforts in and around the parks, and can provide a financial incentive to local residents for protecting the animals. But not everyone thinks tourists looking for tigers in wildlife preserves is a good idea. Continue reading »
Triporati’s Chile and Argentina expert Wayne Bernhardson reports that the future is uncertain for the national park comprising the Juan Fernández Archipelago, which includes Robinson Crusoe Island. The report on his blog for Moon Guides says that the government is considering building a road from the airstrip to the village of San Juan Bautista.
Is a road from an airstrip to town such a transgression? Well, maybe if it’s through landscape Wayne describes as “one of the most scenic and solitary [walks] I’ve ever done.” Right now to go from the village to the airstrip requires a four-hour walk or a one-hour sail, but isn’t that what you’d expect on an island where castaway Alexander Selkirk lived alone for four years to become the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s famous novel, Robinson Crusoe? Continue reading »
Perhaps it won’t be long before the U.S. embargo of Cuba is over and Americans of any stripe can freely visit the island. Until then, Triporati’s Conner Gorry will keep us abreast of developments on her new blog, Here Is Havana, whether cultural, political, or just plain fun.
Here are a few of the many things she loves about Cuba:
- The way the palm trees smell after it rains
- 5 cent cigars
- Drinking little cups of sweet, black coffee around the kitchen table with friends
- Yucca with mojo
- The music – from Pancho Amat to Pancho Terry, Los Van Van to Los López-Nussas.1
- How anything under the sun can be fixed and rendered functional
There’s more, so check it out.
When traveling in much of the developing world, having money in small denominations is important. Even when traveling in the so-called “First World,” having small denominations is helpful for tips and such. But in Vietnam, as Triporati expert Richard Sterling reports, having small money is essential. Without it, getting the simplest things done becomes a chore.
Richard moved to Vietnam last year and sent this dispatch about life in his Saigon neighborhood.
The View From 608
Life as I see it from apartment 608 on Ngo Tat To (”No Tattoo”) Street, Saigon
By Richard Sterling
A DOLLAR AND A DIME
You’ve always got to have “small money” in your pocket. In Vietnam or any other “Third World” country, any poor country, you need small money. There are too many persons who simply can’t or won’t break a five. Or a six, as the case may be. Here in Vietnam, for example, we have the 50,000 Dong note. A laughably big number for a sum that amounts to a three dollar bill. Years ago I asked a beggar here, when he pressed me for alms, for change of a 50,000 Dong note. More the fool I. The poor old sod had maybe one one hundredth of that in his krinkly, wrinkled hands. Then there was the time in Mexico when I was pulled over by a traffic cop. I earnestly tried to convince him that the stop sign was hidden by the tree (so providently placed), and so I couldn’t see it. He politely responded, “It’s not much money, Señor.” The smallest I had was a tenner. I asked him if he had change. He might have had a pocket full of ones and fives, but the answer was, of course, a smiling “Sorry, Señor.” I ponied up the ten-spot. Lesson learned. Carry small money. Always, carry small money. Continue reading »
As swine flu spreads, and fear along with it, more and more travelers are canceling their trips to Mexico. But they still want to get away. So we at Triporati created MexicoAlternatives.com to help travelers discover the locations around the world that are most similar to the popular Mexican destinations they had previously booked. Now travelers can salvage their plans, and find the travel experiences most comparable to the ones they had hoped to find in Mexico, without being in harm’s way.
Instead of Cancun, how about Rimini, Italy or Aruba or Boracay, Philippines?
Instead of Cabo San Lucas how about Isla Margarita, Venezuela or the Bay Islands of Honduras or Gran Canaria, Spain?
See all of the best options at MexicoAlternatives.com.