17 Interesting Facts About Thailand

Interesting Facts About Thailand

Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world. Yet, there are many facts which people might not know about the “Land of Smiles”. Even though I’ve spent almost a half year here in total, there are still things I’m learning about the country. 1) It used to be called Siam For most …

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How to cross the border overland between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

How to cross the border overland between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Traveling to Papua New Guinea is like exploring the last frontier. It might sound cliche; it’s not. Papua New Guinea is one of the less-visited countries in the world. The road system is limited, the tourist infrastructure still developing, and the safety a primary concern. However, the country is home to rich forests and jungles, untouched beaches and marine life, and of course, to hundreds of different ethnic groups talking over 800 different languages. Each of these groups has its traditions, all featuring incredible and colorful masks, traditional headgear, and dances.

Most travelers arrive in Papua New Guinea into Jacksons International Airport (also called Port Moresby Airport), in the country’s capital. Those wanting to visit Mt. Hagen and the Highlands, or Port Moresby, should indeed fly into the capital.

Those looking to explore Northwest Papua New Guinea around the Sepik River region have the option to cross the border from Indonesia into PNG. The journey requires more preparations and a solid adventurous spirit but is an exciting way to learn about the local life.

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Treking in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan

Treking in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan

Today’s post is by Joan Torres, who is writing about the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan. I was in Tajikistan in 2016 but I didn’t make it to the Pamir Mountains. I know several people who have visited, and from everything I’ve heard, it is an amazing place.


At almost 5,000 meters (16400 feet) above sea level, we finally reached the Gumbezkul Pass, where we were blessed with a 360º view of the Pamir range, surrounded by tens of peaks, which I am pretty sure, they were all above 6,500 meters (21,000 feet).

The Pamir range was like we had read in books: a deep feeling of remoteness, solitude and strikingly sharp mountains. The frozen wind was blowing extremely hard and we had not seen a single soul on the whole trek, besides the occasional nomadic camp and herds of Pamir yaks. There were no signs of vegetation and, at the end of August, all you could see were snow-capped, gray mountains.

It was simply beautiful and not only because of all those gorgeous peaks but also, because of the strong symbolism which, for centuries, the Pamir Mountains have carried. Home to some of the most off the beaten track nomadic camps in Central Asia, these trails had been an important part of the Silk Road, which can be seen in the numerous fortresses and Buddha carvings in what is today a Muslim country.

Trekking the Pamir plateau is the ultimate adventure and a destination only suitable for the most adventurous travelers.

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Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir

Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir

From the World Heritage inscription:

Battir is a major Palestinian cultural landscape, the adaptation of a deep valley system for agricultural purposes as a result of a good supply of water. The complex irrigation system of this water supply has led to the creation of dry walls terraces which may have been exploited since antiquity. The agricultural terraces, exploiting this irrigation system, were the basis for a strong presence of agriculture through the cultivation of olives and vegetables. The area still today has the same use.

The water distribution system used by the families of Battir is a testament to an ancient egalitarian distribution system that delivers water to the terraced agricultural land based on a simple mathematical calculation and a clear time-managed rotation scheme.

The village of Battir is not far from Jerusalem and is right on the Israel/Palestine border. In fact, there are Israeli train tracks which go right past the terraces at the bottom of the hill.

I could not find any organized tours to Battir, which was a shame. Nearby Bethlehem gets most of the attention in the region. That being said, it wasn’t that hard to get to Battir from Bethlehem. I had my tour guide in Bethlehem call a taxi for me which took me to there. It took about 15 minutes and cost about $10.

Battir is a fairly new world heritage site and as such the tourism infrastructure isn’t well developed. There are a few souvenir shops and cafes, but that’s about it.

The terraces are easily accessible if you are on the main street of the village. Expect to spend 30-60 minutes walking around the area. This site is probably going to be of interest to world heritage enthusiasts more than anyone else. Nonetheless, I think anyone visiting Jerusalem would be well off to come and visit a small Palestinian village, which Battir fits perfectly.

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Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

Overview

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

From the World Heritage inscription:

Bethlehem lies 10 kilometers south of the city of Jerusalem, in the fertile limestone hill country of the Holy Land. Since at least the 2nd century AD people have believed that the place where the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, now stands is where Jesus was born. One particular cave, over which the first Church was built, is traditionally believed to be the Birthplace itself. In locating the Nativity, the place both marks the beginnings of Christianity and is one of the holiest spots in Christendom. The original basilica church of 339 AD (St Helena), parts of which survive below ground, was arranged so that its octagonal eastern end surrounded, and provided a view of, the cave. This church is overlaid by the present Church of the Nativity, essentially of the mid-6th century AD (Justinian), though with later alterations. It is the oldest Christian church in daily use. Since early medieval times, the Church has been increasingly incorporated into a complex of other ecclesiastical buildings, mainly monastic. As a result, today it is embedded in an extraordinary architectural ensemble, overseen by members of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Custody of the Holy Land and the Armenian Church, under the provisions of the Status Quo of the Holy Places established by the Treaty of Berlin (1878).

During various periods over the past 1700 years, Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity have been, and still are, a pilgrim destination. The eastern end of the traditional route from Jerusalem to the Church, known as the Pilgrimage route, marks the road that connects the traditional entrance of Bethlehem, near King David’s Wells with the Church of the Nativity, and extends along the Star Street through the Damascus Gate, or Qos Al-Zarara, the historical gate of the town, towards the Manger Square. The Route continues to be celebrated as the path followed by Joseph and Mary during their trip in Bethlehem during Christmas ceremonies each year and is followed ceremonially by Patriarchs of the three churches at their several Christmases, and during their official visits to Bethlehem.

The Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Palestine. It was inscribed by UNESCO in 2012 as a religious/Christian structure. However, it was also added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger in that same year due to the damage incurred at the property due to water leaks.

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Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev

Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Incense Route was a network of trade routes extending over two thousand kilometers to facilitate the transport of frankincense and myrrh from the Yemen and Oman in the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean.

The four Nabatean towns of Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat, and Shivta, with their associated fortresses and agricultural landscapes linking them to the Mediterranean, are situated on a segment of this route, in the Negev Desert, in southern Israel. They stretch across a hundred-kilometer section of the desert, from Moa on the Jordanian border in the east to Haluza in the northwest. Together they reflect the hugely profitable trade in Frankincense from south Arabia to the Mediterranean, which flourished from the third century BCE until the second century CE, and the way the harsh desert was colonized for agriculture through the use of highly sophisticated irrigation systems.

Ten of the sites (four towns – Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta; four fortresses – Kazra, Nekarot, Makhmal, and Grafon; and the two caravanserai of Moa and Saharonim) lie along, or near to, the main trade route from Petra, capital of the Nabatean Empire in Jordan, to the Mediterranean ports. The town of Mamshit straddles the northern parallel route. Combined, the route and the desert cities along it reflect the prosperity of the Nabatean incense trade over a seven hundred year period, from the 3rd century BCE to the 4th century CE.

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Caves of Maresha and Bet-Guvrin in the Judean Lowlands as a Microcosm of the Land of the Caves

Caves of Maresha and Bet-Guvrin in the Judean Lowlands as a Microcosm of the Land of the Caves

From the World Heritage inscription:

The presence in the Judean Lowlands of thick and homogeneous chalk sub-strata enabled numerous caves to be excavated and managed by Man. The property includes a complete selection of chambers and man-made subterranean networks, of different forms and for different activities. They are situated underneath the ancient twin cities of Maresha and Bet Guvrin, and in the surrounding areas, constituting a “city under a city”. They bear witness to a succession of historical periods of excavation and use, over a period of 2,000 years. Initially, the excavations were quarries, but they were later converted for various agricultural and local craft industry purposes, including oil presses, columbaria, stables, underground cisterns and channels, baths, tombs and places of worship, and hiding places during troubled times, etc. With their density, diversified activities, use over two millennia and the quality of their state of preservation, the complexes attain an Outstanding Universal Value.

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The Lakes of Band-e Amir, Afghanistan

The Lakes of Band-e Amir, Afghanistan

Any car can drive on any road, as long as the driver is determined enough.

Travel has taught me this lesson time and time again, and the drive to the sapphire lakes of Band-e Amir, Afghanistan’s first national park, is yet more proof.

The road begins innocently enough. Fresh black asphalt cuts through the sparse plains around Bamiyan, a town high in the Hindu Kush mountains, only half an hour from Kabul by plane. The road from Bamiyan to Band-e Amir feels new… and probably will remain that way for years to come, given the only signs of life on the road are shepherds, their flocks, and the occasional motorbike. But all good things must come to an end, and the new road to Band-e Amir is no exception.

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