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Archive for asia

Vietnam’s Premier Nature Reserve

By Linda Tancs

Established in 1962, Cuc Phuong is the oldest national park in Vietnam and is its premier nature reserve. Located on two limestone mountain ranges about 75 miles southwest of Hanoi, its rich ecosystem includes a fossilized sea reptile hundreds of millions of years old. Here you’ll also find over 2,234 vascular and non-vascular plants, 122 species of reptiles and amphibians and 135 species of mammals, such as the critically endangered primate Delacour’s langur. Trekking is a popular activity, and popular trails will lead you to several ancient trees, caves and villages of the minority Muong people.

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The Roof of Indochina

By Linda Tancs

A trekkers’ paradise, Sapa is a small, Vietnamese mountain town close to the Chinese border abounding in iconic rice paddies. It’s where you’ll find the nation’s largest mountain peak, Fansipan. At over 10,000 feet, it’s commonly referred to as the “roof of Indochina.” It’s easier than ever to reach the “roof” thanks to the cable car, but intrepid trekkers might enjoy the multiday tours from Hanoi anyway.

Bath of the Gods

By Linda Tancs

One of the oldest public bath houses in Japan is Dōgo Onsen Honkan, built in 1894 during the Meiji Period. Two public baths are available to visitors, the Bath of the Gods on the main floor and the Bath of the Spirits on the second floor. Different tour packages provide access to one or both baths and relaxation rooms. A tour of the emperor’s bathing facilities is also available. The facility is a four- minute walk from Dogo Onsen Station, the terminus of three tram lines. Just in front of the station in Hōjōen plaza is the Botchan Karakuri Clock. Built in honor of the baths’ centennial in 1994, it comes to life for several hours daily with mechanical figures featuring characters from the famed novel, Botchan. Get to the baths before January when planned renovations will close parts of the facility for several years.

Purple Mountain Majesty in China

By Linda Tancs

An easy getaway from Shanghai, Nanjing is home to Purple Mountain, so-named for the color of the clouds often seen at its peak. Part of Zhongshan Mountain National Park, it’s regarded as one of the most famous mountains in southern China. A cable car ride up the mountain will reward you with great views of the Yangtze River and the city. Pick a sunny day for the best views.

China’s Ancient Northern Capital

By Linda Tancs

Although leading the country industrially (and having been named a model city for environmental protection), China’s northeastern city of Shenyang boasts impressive history and landscaping as well. Its imperial palace might not have the glitz of the Forbidden City, but it was built by the first Qing Emperor in 1625 and served as the seat of that dynasty. Both the palace and the emperors’ tombs are UNESCO sites. And despite being the largest city in northern China, there’s plenty of open space thanks to Beiling Park’s pine forests and lakes and the Expo Garden. It’s worth noting that passport holders of eligible countries are granted a visa-free stay of up to 72 hours when taking an international transfer via Taoxian International Airport. That’s enough time to soak in some attractions.

A Mound of Chocolate in the Philippines

By Linda Tancs

Located on the island of Bohol in the Philippines, the Chocolate Hills are a series of more than 1,268 cone-shaped hills spread over an area of 19 square miles and varying in size from 98 feet to 393 feet in height. A popular legend attributes their formation to a clash between mythic titans. Geologists, however, chalk it up to thousands of years of weathering of marine limestone—or at least that’s the most commonly accepted theory for this anomaly. The chocolate designation arises from their color during the dry season. Whether verdant in the wet season or brown in the dry season, a good viewing point for this natural wonder is from the observation deck in Carmen despite the steep stair climb to get there.

Tokyo’s Oldest Temple

By Linda Tancs

Asakusa Kannon temple complex, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Japan, is one of the city’s most colorful and popular temples. Kannon is the goddess of mercy, and legend has it that two fishermen fished her statue from the waters and returned it from whence it came, only to have it come back to them again and again. The shrine was thereafter built in her honor. You’ll enter through two gates to the five-storied pagoda and main building of the complex. In between these two gates is a large souvenir arcade where you can purchase items such as traditional Japanese fans or sample a local cake filled with red bean paste. Be sure to look upwards at the ceilings in the temple buildings for some beautiful murals.

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