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Posts tagged ‘travel advice’

last-second planning

A few years ago, the NY Times ran an op-ed encouraging travelers to plan less, ostensibly to reduce stress. It stuck with us, not because we found the advice helpful but rather because we thought the piece thoroughly infuriating and completely out of touch, a flippant acknowledgment that “for most travelers, particularly those with families, such an extreme lack of planning seems impossible, even inadvisable” notwithstanding. We traveled like this during our backpacking days, but that was before grad school, marriage, kids, and careers. Once adult responsibilities entered the picture, such travel became out of reach. During his recent visit to Nepal, D found an opportunity to practice what the article preached. Whether arriving in country with only half of his work itinerary booked led to less stress is debatable, but D did manage to turn a potential bureaucratic nightmare into an enjoyable adventure.

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morning with the monkeys

Kathmandu has a peculiar time zone – coming from Manila, D had to set his watch back two hours and fifteen minutes. It wasn’t enough to cause major jet lag, but the time difference did work in D’s favor when he set his alarm to go off before dawn his second full day in Nepal. After wandering around the heart of the city the previous evening, D wanted to venture farther afield – and see some of the Kathmandu Valley’s seven UNESCO world heritage cultural sites during daylight hours – before his work meetings commenced.

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Kathmandu after dark

Certain countries possess an undeniable mystique, holding sway over one’s imagination long before one has the opportunity to visit. For D, Nepal was high on this list, though his fascination had more to do with the country’s landscape than its reputed spirituality (as one travel guide puts it, “Nepal is a one-stop spiritual destination: every activity here revolves around finding yourself, seeking your roots…”). Ever since D got into mountain climbing during his Peace Corps days in Ecuador – and especially after reading a handful of mountaineering books – he had longed to see the Himalayas.

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strangers in a strange land

Since returning from Japan, we have visited Vietnam and Laos, and D has also traveled to Nepal for work. Those trips did nothing to dispel a notion that began forming in our minds as we made our way from Kyoto to the Japanese Alps and back, and which has solidified with our subsequent travels. Part of Japan’s mystique, and the reason we think Western travelers find the country at once alluring and bewildering, is that it feels uniquely foreign in a way that other foreign countries do not.

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escape from the kids

It took us a couple of weeks to recover from our kids’ antics in Japan. Once we did, an irrepressible desire to get away, even for half a day, set in. We revisited our list of hiking destinations in the Philippines, made dinner and massage reservations at a nearby hotel, arranged for childcare, and hit the road for a day trip outing without the kids. Our destination: Mt. Maculot, an hour-and-a-half south of Manila.

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chasing fall

One of the reasons we had chosen Japan for our late October trip instead of the numerous destinations in Southeast Asia that are on our travel list was our nostalgia for autumn. Kyoto, in particular, was rumored to be breathtakingly beautiful in the fall, with its ancient temples surrounded by colorful foliage. We got a heavy dose of autumnal weather, but not much in the way of scenic landscapes during our five-day stay in the Kansai area. Fortunately, we found what we sought in the mountains.

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crossing the Alps

After a pleasant half-day in Matsumoto, we got up early for the most ambitious undertaking of our Japan trip: a full-day traverse across the Hida Mountains, which are known as Japan’s Alps, via the Tateyama-Kurobe alpine route.

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tingling tastebuds

Sampling various cuisines is one of our favorite aspects of traveling, though at times the local fare can be disappointing. Given the popularity of sushi, teppanyaki, and udon, we were certain this would not be the case during our recent visit to Japan. In fact, we were practically salivating at the culinary prospects that awaited us.

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castle fever

Unexpectedly, the turning point of our journey around Japan – when the trip ceased being a hellish nightmare of parenting frustration and actually became enjoyable – came on a rainy day in the unassuming city of Matsumoto, located in the foothills of the Japanese Alps.

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the sacred deer of Nara

Much as we loved Kyoto, after a couple of days of jam-packed sightseeing, it was time for a change of scenery. The crowds might have been less oppressive had we planned our stay midweek. Instead, as luck would have it, our visit to Kyoto fell on the first pleasant weekend after a massive typhoon had rocked the country. After two days of battling the crowds and trying to squeeze in a representative number of sights, we realized we needed to take the intensity down a couple of notches. Instead of spending a third day shuttling between temples in Kyoto, we headed south for a day trip to Nara.

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