As you approach the southern border of Jasper National Park, the mountain scenery begins to get more epic. After crossing the flood plain of the Sunwapta River near Beauty Creek, the road begins to climb towards the Columbia Icefields. Before reaching this national park’s best-attended attraction, nature puts on a spectacle on the side of the road.
Travelling to any area is made infinitely better when you have a local contact that knows about the many hidden secrets it possesses. For me, that was my friend Katie, whom I worked with at Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park back in Canada for three years. In the winters, she typically lives in Pai, located three hours northwest of Chiang Mai on a winding mountain road (762 puke-inducing curves, yeehaw!), a pastoral mountain valley with a series of small friendly towns and villages, and a lazy river running through the middle of it all.
After the rain of the previous night had cleared away, I returned to the foreigner district of Itaewon in Seoul, Korea to do some shopping. I was in serious need of new shirts that actually fit me without them stretching to the bursting point as if I were a sausage, and the shirt was the casing.
After I successfully accomplished my mission where I dusted off my haggling skills in the basement clothing markets, I went for a wander, as I didn’t have to catch the train for several hours. So I took to the labyrinth-like back streets of the neighbourhood, trying to find hidden gems and excellent views…
After a fun-filled long weekend catching up with friends in Hinton and Jasper, Alberta, Canada, it was time to head back to the big city of Calgary.
The great thing about this is that the way back home traveled on one of the most beautiful drives on Earth, The Icefields Parkway.
One of the first major attraction of this scenic byway is the powerful Athabasca Falls, which inspires and humbles the soul all in one go.
It is a sight to be admired, but from a distance: many people over the years have slipped on the wet rocks and fell to their untimely deaths.
On my first trip to Thailand, I spent a lot of time in the mountain paradise of Pai. About two weeks to be exact.
During that time, I experienced many of the things that the Pai Valley had to offer, including one of many elephant camps.
Thanks to my friend Katie, who seemingly knows half the people in town due to spending seven winters in this sleepy place, I was able to meet my new pal shown above.
Bob, was hungry, so I fed him some delicious elephant grass…
Standing out like a patch of North America in the middle of South Korea, Itaewon is the preeminent foreigner hub in Seoul, and by virtue of this, the biggest gathering place for expats in the entire country. Western-style bars, restaurants, and stores with appropriately sized clothing are all available in relative abundance, leading to frequent trips to this area by desperate teachers from the provinces. Also, many Koreans find it to be the best place to experience foreign cultures in the whole country, made all the more significant by the fact that this country is very homogeneous (Korea is 98% ethnic Korean), making it hard to connect with all things international outside of this area.
During my transformation from your average working man to a global and outdoor adventurer, I took a job driving boats and giving tours on Maligne Lake, located at the end of 55 kilometre dead end road in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies. The nature of its location, away from the main tourist trail further south near Banff, and the journey to get there turns off most time-constrained or lazy travelers … that is their loss, as Maligne Lake is a place of raw beauty, of peace, and of abundant wildlife.
Buddhism has a huge influence in Thailand, with 95% of the population claiming Thervada Buddhism as their religion. As such, there are many exotic (to us foreigners, that is) golden and brass houses of worship across the country, along with countless centuries old brick stupas. When you walk into these sacred places, there are a number of different things you might see, ranging from idols that honour various animals, to gold leaf covered Buddha statues. One thing that I always scope out a temple for though are the sayings of the Buddha. Frequently, you will signs in Thai and English, imparting the wisdom of the Buddha to visitors.