Tag Archives: travel

Photo: A Park … In Korea?? With GRASS!?!

Park in Cheonan Korea

Throughout much of Korea, land is used to the maximum extent.  There are 50 million people living in a country that is smaller than the State of Ohio (or the island of Newfoundland, for my Canadian readers).

These people need a place to live, food to eat, and places to work.  Complicating things further is the fact that 70% of the land in South Korea is mountainous, severely limiting what can be built or grown there.

Parks as we know them in North America or Europe are very rare in South Korea for the reasons stated in the previous paragraph.

This makes the green space shown above that much more striking, as it contains an abundance of the parkland we take for granted back home.  Of course, this is South Korea, so signs of urbanity are never far behind.

The towers in the background is the new, dynamic Korea showing its much prettier face, a breath of fresh air from the commie block style apartments that litter just about every town and city in this country.

Cheonan is a rapidly growing area 1 and 1/2 hours drive south of Seoul, so the relatively underdeveloped land here made for an interesting experiment in cutting-edge architectural design, paired with green principles.

Not only is there a spacious park with easy walking distance of this mixed use tower, there are wind turbines and sports facilities on the other side of the hill, making this place the leading edge of a healthier way of life for people in Cheonan, and hopefully in the long run, for all people in South Korea.

The Tangle Falls Area: The Most Underrated Part Of Jasper National Park

The Columbia Icefield, located across from Tangle Falls

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.

I’m not sure if parts of this are even accessible (the pull off from where I took the photo above) anymore without paying an admission fee to the newly constructed Skywalk (opening Spring 2014), but the views are no less stunning in spite of that.  Observe as the ice sheet of the Columbia Icefield spills over the side of the mountain plateau on which it sits.  Trips out onto the ice are available from guides in Jasper, but don’t attempt this yourself: guides have intimate knowledge of the crevasses that crisscross this area, which if fallen into can cost you your life.

Tangle Falls area, Jasper National Park, Canada

Views of the mountains are quite stunning in this area, so don’t be in a rush to get to your destinations further south: stay a while and breathe in the pine needle scented air and relax!

Tangle Falls

A little further down the road lies the lesser known Tangle Falls, despite being stationed at the side of one of Canada’s busiest tourist drives.  This beauty is just hiding in plain sight, begging you to come closer and experience its wild nature close up…

Afterward, it was time to leave and carry on down the Icefields Parkway to the next point of natural interest.  It was with some reluctance, though, as I was graced with this view as I made my way back to my oversized Dodge Grand Caravan…

Tangle Falls area, Jasper National Park, Canada

Ever been to Tangle Falls on your journey up/down the Icefields Parkway? What did you think?

Photo: Hilltribe Farmland, Pai Valley Region, Thailand

Hilltribe Farm Pai Thailand

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.

This part of Thailand is also known for its hill tribes, people who have been traditionally nomadic, having immigrated and migrated across silly imaginary lines on a map for centuries.  Back in the 1970’s, there were at the centre of a troublesome drug trade, growing opium poppies to get by from year to year.

Realizing the importance of getting them out of this destructive trade, the King and Queen of Thailand initiated a program to get them to grow high value temperate zone fruits and vegetables, allowing them to interact with the Thai economy in a legitimate fashion.  Today, alongside a burgeoning handicraft industry, this is what keeps these folks gainfully employed and productive in Thai society.

The pic above is of recently cleared farmland, reached by muddy pathways that needed to be negotiated with great care, as the wet Earth can lead to slippage, and potentially a motorbike on top of your legs! Ouch!

Ever been biking in Pai?  Share your favourite places to go to outside of town below! 

Scaling The Steep Hills Of Itaewon, Seoul, Korea

The Steep Hills Of Itaewon will test the sturdiest of legs

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…

 Itaewon Seoul Korea

As I got into the part of Itaewon behind the business district, I got into the residential area, which is quite a bit older than the modern businesses most people associate with the district.

 Itaewon Seoul Korea

Popping out of the alley and onto the edge of Itaewon Hill, I climbed up this steep street to get a photo of the incredible vista you see above.  But trust me, guys, this climb was seriously tough.  If I had a car, I’d be very self-conscious about parking my car on this road.

You don’t have to take my word for it, feel my pain in the video below … it was brutally steep!

In Motion: The Power Of Athabasca Falls In Jasper National Park

Athabasca Falls In Jasper National Park is a sight that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated

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.

The water is ice-cold and the gorge produces a washing machine-like effect.  Appreciate this force of nature, but respect the barriers and don’t get too close!

If you can’t get away to the Canadian Rockies anytime soon, watch the video and feel the cool mist of this glacial river on your face…!

What is your favourite waterfall?  Feel free to link to your blog post on it, or anybody else’s in the comment section below!

Photo Series: James And Bob The Elephant, BFF’s For Life!

Elephants in Thailand

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.

Feeding an elephant in Thailand

Bob, was hungry, so I fed him some delicious elephant grass…

elephant hugs in Thailand

… and found out that he was more than pleased with my generous gift.  Awww, elephant cuddles!

Have you connected with a friendly pachyderm on vacation in Thailand?  Share your tale below!

In Motion: A Rainy Night In Itaewon, Seoul, Korea

Itaewon Seoul Korea

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.

Below, I make my first foray into this vibrant district, on a moody and rainy night in Seoul

Have you ever been to Itaewon?  Have a favourite bar/restaurant/shop you frequent there?  Let us know about it in the comments!

Maligne Lake – The Hidden Gem Of The Canadian Rockies

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park CanadaMaligne Lake, as seen from a viewpoint on the Lakeshore Trail, in Jasper National Park

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.

Those that plan ahead and make the trip are amply rewarded … this post will aim to get you to steer your sails in the direction of this emerald-green gem in Jasper’s crown, for she will seduce you with her beauty, leading to many returns in the future and rave reviews to family and friends!

Tour boats at Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

After buying a ticket from the head office, stroll down the brick pathway and be boarded by very friendly and knowledgeable guides (many of which I know personally still at this time of writing!)  Take your seat aboard one of seven possible boats, all of which are heated, because it gets cold here …

Snow in July 2010, Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

… even in July (23 centimetres fell over two days in 2010 when this photo was taken)! Most of the time, the weather is quite enjoyable, if a bit brisk.  Maligne Lake is at 5,500 feet (1,700 metres) in elevation, so it is a hill station in terms of weather when you compare it to Jasper, as temperatures are 3-5 degrees cooler than in town.  Bring a hoodie or a coat, just in case.

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

The cruise takes you 14 kilometres down the 22 kilometres long lake, with ample vistas of towering snow-capped mountains everywhere you look, as the boat heads into a rare example of a box canyon (where a mountain range wraps around in a “U” shape) that has a lake in its core. The second photo above shows where our boats cannot go, as Parks Canada limits our operations as a compromise that keeps part of the lake away from the noise impact of our diesel motors.

Spirit Island Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwi_cam/

The destination of your journey is the world famous Spirit Island, which graces the desktop backgrounds of many computers around the world, and after Lake Louise is one of the images most strongly associated with the Canadian Rockies.  Which is amazing, considering how many fewer tourists make it up here compared to Lake Louise, but shhhhhh!  Don’t tell anybody else that, ok?  Don’t want to start a stampede or anything…

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Credit: http://www.whyvisitcanada.com/

If you have a canoe and some camping gear though, you can get a camping permit from Parks Canada and go back there yourself to Coronet Creek, where a backcountry campsite will have you leaving with the idea of what it truly feels like to be alone in an expansive wilderness, apart from all other influences of man!

Canoeing in Maligne Lake Jasper National Park

If you not up to the 22 kilometre in, 22 kilometre out epic paddling journey, you can still see a lot within the northern confines of the lake within an afternoon.  Rent a canoe, kayak or rowboat from the boathouse and explore numerous hidden coves and islands.  Don’t forget to take a rod and reel if you are a fisherman/woman (get a license from Parks first though) and stake out a hidden spot and pull in one of the many brook or rainbow trout in the lake – they were stocked in the lake many generation ago and have thrived since then!

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park

If you’re planning an itinerary to the Canadian Rockies, leaving this place off your list would be a sin.  Even you just hike around the head of the lake and have lunch at the cafe on-site, it will still make for a very memorable afternoon!

Have you ever been to Maligne Lake?  Feel free to share your stories below!

Photo: The Wisdom Of The Buddha

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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.

The above saying is particularly apt in today’s modern world.  Technology has us constantly distracted, deflecting attention from the things that truly matter in the real world: beauty, the taste of food, the laughter of a friend, and so on.  Also, the careful considerations of one’s actions could make a huge difference in the life of many people.  So often, we live our lives on autopilot, making automatic decisions that may be creating sub-optimal results in our everyday lives.  By questioning seemingly easy decisions that we take for granted, we may, as the sign says above, begin to prosper where prosperity had not been present before.

Try it.  What do you have to lose anyway?

A Purrfect Afternoon In Seoul: Visiting A Cat Cafe In Hongdae

This Cat Cafe In Hongdae was heaven on Earth for me...

Seoul, Korea is known for many offbeat, quirky attractions in the expat community, but few places are quite as famous as the Cat Cafe. Located all over the city, with new similar businesses popping up all over the country (and internationally, I recently heard that there is at least one here in Bangkok), it exists as a place where urban dwellers that can’t afford or have a cat due to landlord restrictions can go for some feline de-stressing.

Or for cat obsessed people like myself, it’s a convenient place to surround oneself with the most awesome creature to ever walk the Earth … teh kittehs! (clearly, I’m a bit obsessed, but I don’t care 😛 )

To enter the Hongdae Cat Cafe, you need to buy a drink ... I got an iced chocolate

Upon entry, you remove your shoes and are presented with a menu and a list of rules to follow once inside.  After ordering your drink for 7-8,000 ₩ ($6.30 – $7.20 USD), you are admitted to the kitty wonderland, which boasts an assortment of feline subspecies to play with, feed, and to simply admire as they grace you with their awesomeness.  In case you’re wondering, I ordered an iced chocolate that was incredible, though it killed me to drink/eat the barista art on top of the whipping cream 😛

A sleepy tabby rests on a window at a Cat Cafe in Hongdae

A fluffy white cat sleeps high on a ledge

This cat doesn't want to be touched

I could just end the post here, as the kitties showed above trump anything I could ever write, but I got something better: video footage!  Enjoy 🙂

Want to know how to get to this specific cat cafe that I visited in this post? Check the map below and have a happy afternoon of connecting with man’s favorite master!

Map to the Cat Cafe in Hongdae

Love cats? Think they leave dogs in the dust? Jive with me below!