MICA (P) 039/03/2012
ISSUE 48 Mountain Issue
INCLUDES plus: India Special
Germany | Taiwan | Chile © BAYERN TOURISMUS Marketing GmbH
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The end of the year is looming, and for some, the mountains hold an inexplicable draw. Perhaps it's that time of the year when hiking outdoors is at its best when it's cooler and crisper but not freezing cold. Yet. Maybe it's because this is the season when the foliage changes drastically from lush green to fiery red before they all shed. Or maybe it's time for a mental preparation of powder snow that holds promises of a white Christmas and a good ski season.
Whatever the reason, our Mountain Issue features a bucket list of things to do in mountainous regions around the world. We kick off with Taiwan, a tiny mountainous country that draws countless visitors to its famous highlands of Alishan, Yangmingshan and Sun Moon Lake for their dramatic sea of clouds, amazing foliage and reflective lakes. While Myanmar's been making headlines recently for many things, we're highlighting one of the best ways to explore its amazing culture, historic sites and undulating landscape: on a bicycle saddle. If ancient ruins are your thing, head to Yogyakarta in the shadow of Mt. Merapi, the gateway to the UNESCO sites of Borobudur and Prambanan. Further afield, Europe offers 2 great mountainous holiday destinations of Bavaria and Dolomites. While Bavaria is famed for hiking around its lush valleys and majestic castles that pepper the undulating landscape, the Dolomites is the Italian adventure capital where skiing and via ferrata top the list of things to do. The American continent holds yet more mountainous surprises. The state of Vermont has long been a winter playground of the northeast, with numerous ski slopes and hiking/biking trails that wind through pretty little villages and farmland. Chile may be far flung, but it offers everything you'll need. Miles of coastline, quaint villages and plenty of mountains where you can do everything from hiking and skiing to enjoying a tipple at the many vineyards. We hope these will give you an idea for your next mountain adventure.
Until then, Happy Trails!
NIKE WE RUN SG 10K 2012 On 21 October 2012, nearly 20,000 runners stormed the streets of Marina Bay for the Nike We Run SG 10K, the largest turnout for a Nike race to date. Part of the We Run global movement held in 34 cities worldwide, the winner of the SG portion was Soh Rui Yong (21) who crossed the line at 33:01:20, with the women’s winner Suzy Walsham (38) clocking in at 35:35:53. The names of those who finished within 1 hour were displayed on Nike’s Orchard Central store, and all those who’ve participated can get their digital mementos on Nike Running’s Facebook page. The race series kicked off in Prague on Sept 1, and will conclude in Rio de Janeiro on Dec 15.
Our Team Editor-in-Chief May Lynn Writer Konrad Clapp Samantha Pereira Creative Director Lynn Ooi Designer Marilyn Wong General Manager Aaron Stewart
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Mountains are never far from wherever you are in Taiwan. A land created by the movements of tectonic plates, the country's Central Mountain Range forms the backbone of the country, and is in many ways the heart of the nation. A nursery to indigenous flora and fauna, these highlands are sprinkled with high-altitude farms, maple forests, grassy lakes and hot spring spots that draw plenty of visitors who come to explore the mountains on hiking and biking trails. Thanks to the compact size of Taiwan, mountains are never too far away from cities and access is relatively easy by car, bus or rail.
TAIWAN’S POPULAR MOUNTAINS TTB-AD
YANGMINGSHAN NATIONAL PARK Under an hour's drive from Taipei, Yangmingshan is famous for its network of mountain hiking trails that are dotted with sulphur vents and a variety of hot spring resorts. It is the only national park in Taiwan that has an active volcanic landscape.
trails and roads that double up as excellent cycling trails.
Most of the park is draped in subtropical forest, while scrub-like trees and grassland can be found at elevations of over 1,000m. In winter, you can see the cherry blossoms, as well as some of Taiwan's signature birds like the colourful Mikado Pheasant.
There are hot spring resorts around the park where you can indulge in a soak. Located near Lengshuikeng is the Shamao Mountain area, where there is a cluster of hot spring resorts with white sulphur springs. Further north near the coast is the Jinshan hot springs area, home to one of the few submarine hot springs in the world, where it originates from the Datun Mountains and
Getting to and around the park is easy, as it is well connected by a network of hiking
For more on Yangminghshan, visit english.ymsnp.gov.tw.
flows into the coast. Both Shamao and Jinshan hot spring areas are linked via the Yangmingshan-Jinshan Highway, which is a scenic mountain route linking the peaks of Yangmingshan and the northern coast. You can also head west to nearby Beitou for more accommodation options. The waters in Beitou are of green, white and iron sulphur (55ºC-58ºC), and is the site of the first hot spring resort developed by the Japanese. Because of its proximity to Taipei (it s easily accessible via the MRT), it's a tad more crowded than Yangmingshan.
Thanks to its network of trails, Yangmingshan is one of Taiwan’s most popular hiking areas.
meanders through the mountainside that is dotted with fumaroles and steaming vents a reminder that you are in a volcanicallyactive zone.
Mt. Cising (1,120m) The highest peak in the park, Mt. Cising is a popular hiking destination. The trail that leads to the peak consists of basalt pavers which can be steep in places, and the trail
From the peak, there are panoramic views of the surrounding peaks where you can spot steaming vents that waft from various points around the park. The best way to experience Yangmingshan is by tackling the hiking trail between Lengshuikeng and Xiaoyukeng, with Mt. Cising located about midway. Xiaoyukeng (800m) is probably the most iconic area of Yangmingshan, as it contains a host of volcanically-active fumaroles, a smattering of bright yellow sulphur crystals and bubbling hot springs. Located above the Tatung Bridge, it is an entry/exit point for treks up to Mt. Cising.
can also experience a hot spring bath (or a footbath) here, where the water temperature is at 40ºC. Jinbaoli Trail Built long ago as a shortcut for fishermen to deliver fish from the sea, the route starts at Jinshan before undulating through Yangmingshan and ending at Shilin, where the fish were sold. It was also the transport route for other commodities like tea and sulphur.
6.5km-long trail – sometimes known as the Fishermen's Trail or the Tea Trail – which is lined with plenty of historic relics like Tudigong shrines, stone houses, water canals and stone bridges along the way, giving you a glimpse into part of Taiwan's history.
Milk Lake) is a pool of milky white sulphur that is set amidst steaming fumaroles. You
WHEN TO GO With more than 1,224 species of flowers, Yangmingshan is in bloom throughout the year, with plum blossoms during New Year and cherry blossom (along with apricots and azaleas) from February to March. From April to late May, rhododendrons are in full bloom, especially in the park’s higheraltitude meadows around Mt. Chishing. The annual Yangmingshan Flower Festival runs from February to March, giving visitors an entire month with the focus on Yangmingshan, but also featuring other locations around Taipei like Qianshan and Shuangxi parks, and Lin Yu-tang House. Visit www.english.taipei.gov.tw or www.english.ymsnp.gov.tw for more.
ALISHAN Easily one of Taiwan's most popular tourist attractions, Alishan draws nearly a million visitors annually for five reasons: the sunrise, the sunset, the sea of clouds, the forest and the mountain railway.
that are operational. These are the Sacred Tree Line (from Alishan to Shermu) and the Jhushan Line (from Alishan to Jhushan). For updates on the timetable, check www.railway.forest.gov.tw.
Spread over 37,000 hectares, it runs from nearly sea level in the west, to heights of well over 2,600m at its highest point, Da Ta Shan. The park's namesake peak, Alishan, while picturesque, is a decidedly shorter 2,216m.
The Alishan Range consists of 18 mountains, and covers a diverse array of topography and climates. At 2,274m, Zhaoping Park is the highest point in Alishan, where you can see the entire Alishan Range. The park is home to a high density of alpine plants and flowers, and is at its most dramatic during spring when cherry blossoms are in bloom. Hiking routes within the park abound, and visitors can choose to either take the bus or hike all the way up (generally a 2-day return trip). Less than 1% of Alishan visitors summit on foot from the base. One of the most popular walking trails on Alishan is the Zhushan Sunrise Trail, which is accessible from a trailhead from Zhaoping Park. Most people begin to tackle the trail just before dawn, and the trail takes about 40 to 60 minutes to complete. The famous Alishan Forest Railway narrowgauge train from Chiayi station to Alishan is still closed for repairs, but there are 2 popular lines within the recreation area at the top
The tiny village of Fenchihu (1,400m) marks the trailhead where hikers alight for the Fenchihu-Rueili Historic Trail. Long famous during the Japanese occupation for wasabi farms, the town today leads a laidback existence, harvesting and pickling bamboo shoots. On weekends or holidays, tiny Fen Chi Hu can seem crowded, but walk a mere 5 minutes' along the forest trail out of town and all the non-hiking tourists vanish. For anyone looking to beat the crowds, but not miss the beauty of Alishan and the surrounds, hiking trails around Fen Chi Hu offers the best of both worlds. Running 7km uphill from Fenchihu to Rueili, the Fen-Rui 'Gu Dao' ('Hiking Trail') makes for a steep 3-hour hike, as it climbs through Fenchihu's thick bamboo forests. started as an old trading shortcut between the 2 settlements for the first 400 years when Ming dynasty settlers first encroached on what's
now the former domain of the Tsou (aboriginal) people. Traditionally, there was little settlement inside the forests, so hikers can go 30 minutes or more between isolated clearings, with their occasional farmstead or, more often, stone ruins. Many of Fenchihu's best attractions, including its mountain streams, small caves, strange rock formations and waterfalls can be found just off the trail. While comfortably manageable for anyone of reasonable fitness with a comfortable pair of shoes, it's the trail's gradient that deters the overwhelming majority of city slickers.
From spring to early summer (April to June), the area around Alishan comes alive at night with the presence of thousands of fireflies. There are numerous established viewing locations, including Ruili, Guanghua and Fenqihu. At Ruili, the Ruoh Lan Resort has a firefly viewing area and trail, from where you can see the entire valley glimmering with these fluorescent insects. Surrounded by mountains, the scenic Guanghua-Yima Creek Recreational Farm (1,000m) has large areas of bamboo and cedar forests, which attracts plenty of fireflies. Another good place for fireflies is in
Fenqihu, where you can not only view them in summer but also in late autumn. The Cedar Wooden Plank Trail allows you to view these insects up to 9pm in summer, with appearances much shorter in late autumn.
WHEN TO GO Apart from its sea of clouds and bamboo forests, Alishan is truly at its best from March to April when its 19,000 Yoshino cherry trees are in full bloom. In addition, other flowers like magnolia, rhododendron and crocus also bloom in tandem.
Some of the best spots to see the blossoms are Alishan House, Shouzheng Temple and Zhaoping Park. Part of park s annual Alishan Cherry Blossom Festival, precise dates depend on the weather, but is usually in late winter from February.
With train services still limited, the best way to see Alishan s famous cheery blossoms up close is via the numerous trails. The shortest route is an easy 600m walk that starts from the Alishan House hotel and continues onto the Alishan Police Station before reaching the start of the Zushan Trail. A slightly longer route runs from the Zhaoping Station and Zhaoping Park (Alishan s highest point) to the Tree Pagoda and Alishan House over a 2.5km route. Check www.ali-nsa.net for more.
SUN MOON LAKE Situated in the centre of Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake is shaped like a circle on its eastern part and like a crescent moon on its western side, hence its name. This alpine lake is Taiwan's largest, and takes on a different look at different times of the day, ranging from misty mornings to golden evenings. As plenty of tourists make it here in busloads, the best way to explore the landscape is on a cycling trip. Most people make a clockwise circuit of the lake, starting from Jiulongkou. The next stop is Wunwu Temple, an imposing
structure in the ornate palace style of northern China, with great views of the lake. Next is Ita Thao, a main Thao tribe settlement where cultural performances and exhibitions are often held. Following the route, the Ci En Pagoda (built by the late President Chiang Kai Shek), sits on the 954m Shabalan Mountain, with 9 tiers offering superb views from the top of the surrounding mountains and lake. Completing the circuit, the Meihe Garden is where you can access the red-brick 1.5km Hanbi Hiking
Trail, where many local bird species can be seen, as well as the view of Lalu Island and the Ci En Pagoda.
WHEN TO GO One of the most colourful seasons in Sun Moon Lake is February, when cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Petals of deep scarlet carpet the roads and paths, with night viewing being a special attraction here. Right after the cherry blossom festival comes the lavender festival in March.
Mammut Youko Women’s Jacket
ALL COVERED UP The Mammut Youko Women’s Jacket is an excellent jacket for ladies who are looking for a streamlined and longer cut for extra protection from the elements. It also has an individually adjustable hood that folds away into the collar. Mammut’s DRYtech allows for breathability and perspiration to escape, yet offers wind- and waterproof quality that guarantees longlasting protection from rain, wind and snow. The Mammut Youko Jacket Women is available at Adventure 21, retailing at $399.
WATERPROOF IPAD For those who travel everywhere with their iPads, the Cascade Designs/Sealine iPad Dry Case makes it possible to bring your machine out in the elements. The easy-to-use Exclusive SealLock zip closure withstands submersions of up to 1m of water for 30 minutes, and is individually tested to meet IP-X7 standards. The ultra-clear and supple urethane window retains the iPad's touchscreen, camera and voice functions, while its die-cut lash points at corners provide tethering options. Now available at Outdoor Life at S$50.50.
Swiss Army SwissChamp
CHAMPION POCKET TOOL A top model of Swiss Army knifes, palm-sized Swiss Army’s SwissChamp is a combination of 'Officer's Knives' with 33 including toolbox standards like pliers with wire cutters, a chisel, metal saw screwdrivers and wood saw, as well as specialised tools like a fish scaler, can opener, ballpoint pen, tweezers, scissors, toothpick and magnifying lens. The SwissChamp is available at The Planet Traveller, retailing at S$134.90.
Lowe Alpine TFX Kibo 65
Cascade Designs/Sealine iPad Dry Case
ENTRY LEVEL PACK Lowe Alpine's TFX Kibo 65 is an entrylevel backpack that is made for distance load carrying, overnight camping trips or multi-day treks. The fully-adjustable TFX 4 back system is made to suit trekkers of different heights, helping to provide daylong comfort and great load stability. The main storage compartment has a removable divider for packing flexibility, with the lower compartment accessible via a secondary opening at the base. The foldable bellow side pockets give extra capacity when required. With a load capacity of up to 20kg, additional features include a raincover, walking pole attachment and hydration compatibility. Available now at Adventure Gear Post at S$345.
ARTICULATED SHELL The flexible Arc'teryx Gamma MX soft shell jacket is ideal for backcountry activities in mixed weather. The outer layer is engineered for breathability and wind resistance, while its water repellant finish sheds moisture and snow by making water drops bead up and roll off. Further protection is offered by laminated zippers and windflap, with the quickdrying fleece-lined collar and adjustable drawcord hem providing some warmth. Designed for women, this anatomically-shaped jacket features a slim, athletic fit. Now available at Campers' Corner at S$435. Arc’teryx Gamma MX
BLAZE THE TRAIL A classic trail runner, Salomon's XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX is a versatile combination of light weight, durability, stability and protection for fast hiking or running on rough terrain, including wet, muddy or even snowy trails. The new chevron tread pattern and very stable 3D chassis provide comfort and protection on rough trails, while Salomon's signature Quicklace system supports fast fit adjustments. The Gore-Tex membrane helps keep elements out while letting excess heat escape, and the Ortholite sockliner forms a cooler and drier environment under the foot. Now available at Salomon (Velocity), World of Outdoor and selected World of Sports outlets at S$259.
XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX
Oakley Radar Lock
OPTICAL PERFORMANCE Made for mountains where light and weather conditions can change in an instant, Oakley RadarLock’s patented Switchlock Technology lets climbers change lenses in seconds, adapting to everything from glaring snow to deceptively dim clouds where high-altitude UV can be at its worst. Plus it helps protect your eyes with HDO (High Definition Optics®), making it shatter-proof for impacts up to ANSI Z87.1 (roughly equivalent to a 1/4-inch steel shot impacting at over 160kmph) – giving you added protection against small rock strikes from climbers above you. The Radar Lock’s Three-Point Fit keeps the glasses firmly in place, even when you’re wearing a climbing helmet or winter hat. Available at major optical stores nationwide, retailing from S$530.
© BAYERN TOURISMUS
With its image of pretty alpine villages, fairytale castles and lederhosen-wearing locals, for many travellers, Bavaria is their quintessential “Germany”.
© Wannenkopfhütte Obermeiselstein
Stretching the length of nearly half the country, it borders Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, encompassing medieval castles, modern cities, extensive forests and the mighty Bavarian Alps.
HIKING BAVARIAN ALPS BERCHTESGADEN NATIONAL PARK Situated on the border with Austria, Bavaria’s biggest, most iconic park – the Berchtesgaden – is also home to some of its best hikes. Königssee The “King” of Bavaria’s lakes, the Königssee was hewn millennia ago by ancient alpine glaciers, leaving a dramatic, fjord-like valley behind that literally begs to be hiked. The Alps’ deepest lake, the slender Königssee is ringed by 2,000m mountains, and boasts Germany’s purest water – only electric or rowboats ply the lake. St. Bartholomew’s to Eiskapelle Backed by soaring cliffs and morning mist, the lake’s most famous vista is St. Bartholomew’s. Built on a small island, the tiny 12th century church is not only an annual Catholic pilgrimage site, but also the trailhead to the Eiskapelle or “Ice Chapel”. The 6km hike’s an easy ascent through thick forests passing the former Bavarian royal hunting lodge, and the ancient chapel of St. John & Paul, before finally reaching the ruggedly beautiful Eisgraben Valley.
The Eiskapelle itself is a dramatic, frozen cave – home to the last remnants of the ancient glaciers that carved the Königssee. Changing daily, the cave’s ice melts and freezes forming arches, columns and tunnels; For safety reasons visitors aren’t allowed to enter the fragile structure. With no road connections, serene St. Bartholomew’s is only reached by boat or a long thru-hike across the mountains – the route taken on the annual pilgrimage – with refreshments provided en route at the former hunting lodge-turned-restaurant. Kehlsteinhaus The park’s most infamous hike is up to the Eagle’s Nest (1,834m). Made famous for the wrong reasons in WWII, today it’s a restaurant with immensely rewarding views up to 200km on clear days. Due to its steep ascent and altitude, the route and the restaurant are only open from mid-May to late October annually. There are two ways up, the shorter via Ofneralm (1.5 hours) or the highly-scenic route from Scharitzkehl (3 hours), both merging on a final, arduous zig-zag to the summit.
Lying on Central Bavaria’s southern border with Austria is Germany’s highest peak – Zugspitze (2,962m).
© Pfronten Tourismus
Set amidst a stunning series of mountains, Zugspitze’s peak is part of a network of surrounding, inter-connected ridges. The most popular route up is a cable car to the summit, then hiking down to the famous ski resort of GarmischPartenkirchen (7 hours, 20km). It’s possible to do the reverse direction, but the extended ascent likely means needing to overnight at a mountain hut en route.
Beginning with a steep descent from the summit, the initial downhill includes a bolted via ferrata route with ladders and rails, following Zugspitze’s dramatic southwest ridge past the small Schneeferner Glacier, spilling down the slopes of Germany’s second-tallest mountain, neighbouring Schneefernerkopf (2,875m). The trail then zig-zags down into the Reintal valley, passing Königshaus am Schachen (1,865m), the ornate royal hunting lodge of famously “Mad” King Ludwig II, complete with its “oriental” salon. Finally winding through pine forests, the route enters the dramatic, 80m deep Partnachklamm gorge. Carved by the churning
Partnach River, it was historically the fastest (and most dangerous) route through the mountains, but today it’s the final, dramatic approach before reaching the famous winter resort town of GarmischPartenkirchen – host of the 1936 Winter Olympics where alpine skiing was introduced. Upon exiting the gorge, it’s a short walk to nearby Wildenau and less than 1km to the restaurants and hotels of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
GETTING THERE Bavaria’s at its best for hiking from May to October, with the best weather and crowds at their peak from June-August while winter ski-season peaks are from late December to late January. The regional capital Munich is the international gateway to Bavaria, with direct daily flights via Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeair.com). For more on hiking in Bavaria, visit www.bavaria.by.
ALLGÄU Not one hike, but an interconnected network of 7,000km of GPS-plotted trails, the Allgäu region in southwest Bavaria includes everything from easy forested walks, to scenic valley hikes, to full-on mountain treks to the summit of Großen Krottenkopf (2,657m), the regions’s highest peak.
the northern side of the Alps.
The quaint alpine town of Oberstdorf is the starting point for some of Allgäu’s best mountain hikes. Situated at the foot numerous peaks including the Nebelhorn (2,224m) and the Fellhorn (2,038m), it’s both a summer trekking destination and winter ski centre; Nebelhorn doubles as Germany’s longest ski slope (7.5km) and Fellhorn is one-half of the largest, linked ski area on
Mixing hiking and klettersteig (“via ferrata”), the route starts with either a 3-hour hike up from town to the top of Nebelhorn, or a quick cablecar ride. From there it crosses the inter-connected summits of “West” Wengenkopfs (2,235 m) and “East” Wengenkopf (2,207 m).
One of the most popular climbs from Oberstdorf is the Hindelanger route, following the numerous ridgelines that ring the town’s horizon, connecting it with the neighbouring village of Bad Hindelang – itself a famous sulfer-spring resort.
It then follows a grassy slope up to Großen Daumen or “Big Thumb” (2,280m) and aptly
named Kleiner Daumen (2,190m) or “Little Thumb”, the Heubatspitze (2008 m) and Breitenburg (1,893m) before descending to the Hinterstein in Bad Hindelang. The full-day trek takes in some of Allgäu’s most stunning summit views, crossing flowering meadows, knife-edge ridges and idyllic alpine lakes. While the entire route takes 89 hours on foot, it’s possible to shortcut things via cable car up and down Nebelhorn. The route integrates several via ferrata sections, including ladders and fixed lines, making a guide and harness necessary; Full-day guided hikes range from ¤50/person including equipment. Hikes in foothills of Allgäu are well-supported by local villages that are extremely used to walkers, while mountain trekkers utilise its network of Sennalpen (alpine huts) many of which can sleep hundreds of hikers.
Just last year, the de facto tourism boycott on Myanmar was lifted when a quasicivilian government was sworn in with Aung San Suu Kyi. In the wake of these developments, travellers are pouring in, along with the availability of more flights to the country. As expected from a country that is emerging from a forty-year slumber, Myanmar missed out on the economic booms experienced by many of its neighbours, and it remains a rural nation where visitors can experience a time-warped country.
PHOTOS BY Shangrila Adventure
CYCLING THROUGH MYANMAR
Classic destinations include Inle Lake (with its population of local tribes), and the famous pagoda-littered archeological zone of Bagan. You can get around between these sites on a cycling tour, where you'll not only get to see a side of Myanmar not many visitors get to experience, but you'll also get to pack in some of its signature sights.
INLE LAKE Located in eastern Myanmar, the Shan State is home to the infamous Golden Triangle, as well as a wide variety of ethnic groups. The gateway to this area is Heho airport, with regular connections to the capital Yangon. A jewel of this region is Inle Lake, a 22kmlong shallow lake that is home to floating villages inhabited by the local Intha tribe. Here, you can take a boat ride â€“ or try to paddle your own boat while standing (the
way locals do) â€“ and explore the villages or spot some wildlife. Thousands of waterbirds descend upon the lake as a breeding and migration site from December to January. You can also cycle around the lake along mostly flat tarmac, or take short or multiday hikes around the neighbouring hills.
MANDALAY From Inle Lake, it is possible to cycle partway towards Mandalay (the former capital of Myanmar). Some of the roads may be rough, with uphill portions. A short but challenging climb from Inle takes you to Kalaw, a hill station with a mix of colonial-era architecture and hilltribe villages. From here, a recently-paved road takes you through mountains and jungle-lined roads to Kyaukse for a motorised transfer by bus to Mandalay.
Centred around the Royal Palace, Mandalay is known for its large population of monks as it is the centre of Burmese culture and religion. The city's dedication to its religion is evident in its profusion of temples, monasteries and pagodas. Some notable ones include the Mahagandayon Monastery (school for novice monks), Mahamuni Pagoda (known for gold leaf hammering), Shwenandaw Monastery (noted for wood carvings) and Kuthodaw Pagoda (renowned for stone Buddhist scriptures). Other highlights include the 200-year old U Bein Bridge (the longest teak bridge in the world) and Mandalay Hill, which is a perfect way to end the day as you get sweeping views from Sagaing Hill across the Ayeyarwaddy River.
The ride out of Mandalay towards Monywa features the desert landscape of Myanmar's heartland, where bullock carts are still in use. In Monywa, highlights include the complex of Mohnyin Thambuddhei Paya (dating back to 1303) featuring 300,000 Buddhist images,
as well as a monumental 170m-tall standing Buddha. South of Monywa, the road meanders through a rice-growing region along the Chindwind River and passes many hilltribe villages all the way to Pakkoku, which is situated along the banks of the Irrawaddy River. The old town of Pakkoku features 2 old pagodas (Shwegu and Thiho-Shin), many old tombs and a smattering of 13 and 14th century Buddhist sites, and is considered to be a contemporary to Bagan.
BAGAN From Pakkoku, a boat ride takes you to Bagan, home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist architecture in the world, where thousands of pagodas are spread over 40 sq.kms. Once a powerhouse of Myanmar in the 9th century, only 2,200 of the estimated 13,000 temples remain today in various states of disrepair. Some of the most popular temples include Ananda Temple (Bagan's holiest), Thatbyinnyu Temple (the tallest at 66m) and Shwegugyi Temple (one of the most intact on site).
PRACTICALITIES If you're interested to cycle, the best season to visit Myanmar is from November to February, when the weather is cool and dry. Shangrila Adventure offers a fully-supported 8D Myanmar Cycling Tour from Inle Lake to Bagan. The estimated distance is around 300km (50% of which is vehicle supported), with tours beginning in January 2013. Visit www.shangrila-adventure.com for more.
GETTING THERE A number of airlines now fly direct from Singapore to Yangon, including Myanmar Airways International, SilkAir, Singapore Airlines and Jetstar.
You can travel around this ancient plain on bicycles and explore the primary and secondary temples. Other options to getting around include a hot air balloon ride (where you can get an aerial view of the temples), or ride on a horse cart with a driver.
An extinct volcano, Mt. Popa was where kings of central Burma made pilgrimages to confer with sacred statues about their future reigns. The ride to Mt. Popa is a steep and strenuous 4km climb. The highlight is the Popa Taungkalat, a Buddhist monastery that's dramatically situated at the top of a rocky outcrop. At its base are 37 Burmese 'nats' (spirits) statues. The stupas at the top in the monastery are accessible via a 777-step covered walkway that is flanked by stalls inhabited by monkeys.
comes to mind is Mention Munich, and the first thing that al tribute to it’s Oktoberfest, the Bavarian capital’s annu deeper and you’ll little a favourite tipple - beer. But dig (just) se urbandiver most pe’s Euro find Munich’s also one of cycling trails, of km+ 1,000 it’s her whet ns, adventure destinatio rock climbing routes or even river surfing.
SURF, BIKE AND CLIMB in rivers like the Amazon), while still challenging, riding the Eisbach and Floßlände are more akin to a massive wave pool. Open to all and free of charge, surfers and playboaters queue in turn to ride the wave, zigzagging across the narrow channel, with tourists able to rent temporary surf kit from local shops like Santo Loco.
BIKING TOURS OF MUNICH Laying claim to the title of Germany’s radlhauptstadt or “bike capital”, Munich is criss-crossed by over 1,200km of bike trails and Fahrradstrassen (dedicated cycling streets).
WHERE MEDIEVAL MEETS MODERN Germany’s third largest city, Munich was founded over 850 years ago and is dotted with historic sites like the Altes Rathaus (“Old Town Hall”) and the Hafbraühaus (the world’s oldest brewery). Rising above them all though, is the 99-metre tall Frauenkirche – Munich’s medieval cathedral - which by ancient decree is still the tallest building in the city.
RIVER SURFING While surfing’s normally associated with the sea, Munich can lay claim to its own strong, local riding scene. The city’s two main sites are on the Eisbach and nearby Floßläde – tributaries of the substantial Isar River which flows directly down from the Bavarian Alps. Sporting a 1-metre, manmade standing wave year-round, unlike river surfing on a tidal bore (a powerful natural phenomena found
Numerous routes radiate out from locations like the Central Train Station, readily connecting popular sites like Siegestor (Munich’s famous “Victory Gate”), the Odeonsplatz with its centuries’ old cafes, Königsplatz and the Kunstareal - Munich’s arts district. You can also cycle to Nymphenburg Park for a historic walk, or ride around the bustling Englischer Garten, Europe’s biggest urban park. There are numerous bike-rental facilities including the Call-a-Bike scheme, giving anyone with a mobile access to Munich’s extensive network of pay-and-go bikes from ¤15/day.
CLIMBING THE WALLS Munich’s long-standing tradition of “buildering” (free-climbing urban structures) means there are
numerous spots within the city. For visiting climbers, you’ll only need your shoes, chalk (and possibly a crash-pad) as many of the sites like the Wittelsbacher bridge, with its 7m pitch are fairly straightforward. For more on buildering sites or how to hook-up with local climbers, visit www.builderingmuenchen.de. Situated at the edge of the Bavarian Alps, Munich also boasts several nearby spots for sports climbs, with hundreds of routes in the lakefront town of Kochel am See. Further afield, the Oberreintal valley above the alpine resort of Garmisch (80km) is arguably Germany’s best climbing spot with dozens of bolted, multi-pitch walls, many rising 250m+ over 10 or more pitches.
GETTING THERE Numerous airlines including Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines offer daily services between Singapore and Germany. For more information on Munich, visit www.muenchen.de/tam.
Explore a different aspect of Morocco as you head deep into the cool, crisp environment of the Atlas mountains, where you can cycle through rugged mountain passes and experience a camel caravan to a campsite in the desert. From the bustling capital of Marrakech, the journey to the peaceful village of Ouirgane and the Ouirgane Valley takes you past quiet mountain villages with a backdrop of high mountain peaks. One of Morocco's most incredible road journeys takes you to the Berber fortified city of Taroudant, which occupies a lofty position in the mountains. The descent takes you to the coastline at the Berber retreat of Tafraoute. Surrounded by almond trees, a cycling route weaves you past mountain passes and palmeries. The next day, you can indulge in kite surfing and windsurfing in the harbour city of Essaouira before heading back to Marrakech. Here, MOROCCO explore the the bustling Djema el Marrakech Fna square, with its snake Essaouira charmers, pedlars and Ouirgane Sidi magicians, or head to the city's Kaouki Taroudant maze of streets in this ancient Tafraoute medina to find yourself that special souvenir â€“ donâ€™t forget to bargain!
GETTING THERE This 10-day Morocco Active Adventure starts and ends in Marrakech, and can be booked via STA Travel, with prices starting from USD999 for 2013 departures. You can also arrange for flights to Morocco directly with STA Travel.
FOR MORE INFO: VISIT www.statravel.com.sg/iwant EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org CALL 6737 7188 / 6773 9188
Whether it’s elegantly gliding through the fresh, soft mountain snow or indulging in a warm cappuccino and apple strudel on the world famous Drei Zinnen mountain top, the Dolomites are now Europe’s foremost ski-holiday destination. With a landscape suited to everyone from advanced skiers to beginners, visitors can experience breathtakingly picturesque views by day and retreat to the steamy sauna of a four-star hotel by night.
The area contains 450 chairlifts that give access to 1,220km of downhill ski slopes and over 200km of cross country skiing area. Those who are new to skiing can simply relax in knowing that 83% of the landscape is tailored for beginner and intermediate skiers. The remaining 17% are classified as black runs, which mean they should not be attempted by beginner skiers.
THE DOLOMITES The Dolomites are a mountain range situated in the north east of Italy. Each winter the area experiences heavy levels of snow, which has made the region famous for its many snow sports and activities. The district has peaks between 2,232m and 3,343m. The mountain range has several districts; however by far the most prominent for snow sports is Alta Pusteria. Recognised worldwide for its Drei Zinnen mountain range and being the base of several international competitions including the ski world cup, the area offers an almost unlimited number of slopes and activities.
SKIING THE DOLOMITES Cross-Country Skiing Many skiers agree that one of the best ways to develop balance and feel comfortable on skis is to practise cross-country skiing. Unlike Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing has a smaller difference in altitude, ranging from 30m to 400m. As part of the world’s largest cross country association Dolomiti Nordicski, Alta Pusteria features around 200km of cross country tracks between the villages of Sesto, Candido, Dobbiaco, Villabassa and Braies. Snow is guaranteed from the 23rd of December as well as a unified fee for the cross country tracks. Overall, there are 1,300km of cross country tracks to try out. The cross-country stadium in Dobbiaco is the ideal setting for beginners, with over
TEXT BY Chris Thomas
120km of groomed tracks. It’s also an ideal starting point for various cross-country routes. Experienced skiers can test their limits on the FIS-homologised slopes or along floodlit tracks at night (daily from 6pm - 8pm). Skiing Experiences Whether you take it easy on the gentle beginner slopes or go straight for the vertical drops of the black runs, skiing in the Dolomites is all about choice. Snow sports enthusiasts and beginners can choose between jumping straight on the chairlifts and enjoying the adventure of the smooth cross country areas between mountain villages. For those keen to try out cross country skiing,
PHOTOS BY Dolomiti Superski
there are over 125kms of ground between the different towns to cover. Skiers can begin the morning in Toblach, and then carve through the white dust valleys into the beautiful scenery and other mountain villages. For skiers based in Toblach, easy access to one of the largest centres means they will find exploring the district effortless. Access to the other 7 centres via the mountain top or cross-country paths ensure there are a wide variety of slopes to experience. The district also contains various freestyle skiing areas for those wanting to try something new. Although not recommended for beginners, there are plenty of opportunities to see some impressive ski/snowboard aerobatics.
17 GETTING THERE Whether bringing that heavy ski-equipment with you or renting it on arrival, the best way to reach the district of Alta Pusteria is by road. There are a total of 6 possible airports surrounding the area for travellers to fly to from, including Innsbruck, Bergamo, Verona, Bolzano, Selva and Venice. If there are no direct flights to these cities, connections are possible via Zurich, Munich, Milan or any major European airport. Companies like Compass Holidays (www.compass-holidays.com) offer week long getaways in the Alta Pusteria region during January and February, a perfect chance for beginners to gain some confidence and get used to the skis. The tour offers the chance to ski between the 5 local villages along a track used for international ski competitions. For more in skiing in the Dolomites, visit www.three-peaks.info.
Winter Activities Aside from skiing, travellers can experience both winter and snow shoe hiking. Some popular winter hikes include an easy tour of Dobbiaco Lake (1.5 hours, 2.8 km) to a strenuous hike up to Bonner Hut (2.5hours, 745m altitude difference). There are plenty of signposted hiking trails for selfguided winter hiking tours â€“ just be sure to inform someone of your trip beforehand. Guided snowshoe tours give you access to some of the most picturesque valleys in the Dolomites. One of the most renowned is a journey from Landro (1, 406m) to the world famous Three Peaks via the Rienza valley. This demanding hike takes about 4 hours, with 1,000m difference in altitude. For a bit of fun, there are plenty of toboggan runs in the area. You can hike (1hr to 2.5 hrs) or take a chair lift up to the top and sled
down the slopes. The toboggan slopes range from 1.5km to 6.5km long. Apres Ski A highlight of skiing in the Dolomites is having an Italian cooked lunch in one of the many villages nestled throughout Alta Pusteria. With seven main villages, there is a wealth of places to spend time before, during and after skiing. Cosy Italian bars and restaurants line the streets by day and take on a livelier atmosphere by night. Aside from this, there are also various activities, including an ice rink in Toblach. The Dolomites are situated approximately 1 hour from the city of Venice, making the location ideal for anyone looking to have a dayâ€™s rest from skiing and explore the Italian culture.
GEAR GUY: Ken Berg
GEAR UP FOR Climbing a mountain can mean anything from a somewhat challenging day-long hike to a multi-day expedition that will test the limits of even the fittest and most experienced mountaineers. For the purposes of this article it is assumed that the adventure you're looking at is geared more to lower to mid level of this spectrum. If you're on the upper end, you better either know what you need or be with a very good guide who will have specific gear for your particular climb.
Danner Nobo Mid
START WITH YOUR FEET While there are many activities you’ll want to consider going lightweight, footwear for mountain adventures is not one of them. If you're carrying a heavy pack and are on uneven terrain you'll want a boot that has little to flex through the sole of the boot. This extra weight will pay dividends by helping your lower leg and foot muscles to work less and may help in blister prevention. For most people, a sturdy backpacking boot will suffice. In this case the boot will likely have
a full grain leather which will mean a great deal of durability and a high level of water resistance. A waterproof breathable membrane such as Gore-tex would be a good idea, but not too high on the list of priorities. If you're doing something that requires ice climbing, glacier travel or is a more serious climb, then you’ll want to examine mountaineering boots. These boots are expensive and not good for most of other activities so if you don’t need them, don’t spend the extra money getting them.
SYNTHETIC OR WOOL? For a base layer or maybe even light insulation, you’ll be choosing between merino wool or a synthetic fibre. If you're in a situation The North Face where you'll Baselayer need to dry your baselayer overnight then choose the synthetic. It dries more quickly and does a slightly better job of wicking moisture away if you are doing a shorter, intense ascent. If the climb is only part of your adventure and you want something that will smell a little less on the rest of your trip then stick with the odour-resistant merino wool.
Ken grew up on the doorstep of the Canadian wilderness, backpacking, paddling and rock climbing in this rugged land. Armed with a degree in recreational studies, he has been working at Canada's premier outdoor retailer for the last 9 years, putting gear to the test whether it's cycling in -35ºC winters, running marathons or travelling to the far reaches of the planet.
INSULATION If you do need insulation (even if you might need insulation), you'll be looking at a down jacket. You’ll want one with a high fill power which make the jacket lighter and more compressible than lower ones. Keep in mind that fill power doesn’t make it warmer – that will primarily be determined Mammut by the amount of loft Ambler Jacket it has. Also keep in mind that a jacket with sewn through construction will be less expensive but will have cold spots. If you pinch the seams and there is no insulation there, it is sewn through construction.
Sunglasses: if there's going to be snow or a glacier, get Oakley a pair of sunglasses Radarlock with polarised lenses to reduce glare. A wraparound pair will prevent light from sneaking in the side. Stoves: Canister stoves work better at altitude than liquid fuel stoves. If it is cold out, warm the canister inside your jacket to increase its effectiveness. Trekking poles: Be sure to get poles with adjustable lengths, as they'll help take the pressure off your knees and the rest of your legs on long ascents and descents.
WONDERFUL HEAT If you suffer from sore muscles on the trail, try putting heat on it. Water bottles or heating elements over 40ºC actually activate your body’s own internal ‘heat receptors’. This in turn blocks the ability for damaged or dying cells to turn on their ‘pain receptors’. Essentially, by keeping the cell busy dealing with the increased heat, it can’t cue your brain into its being in pain. While you’re on a trail, consider carrying a hot water bottle or a hot pack (which come in disposable and reusable types).
Running over 4,000km from the scorching Atacama Desert in the north to the windswept Tierra del Fuego in the south, Chile is a diverse destination.
Measuring less than 200km at its widest point, Chile’s geography is dominated by the soaring Andes mountains. Rising up from the sea, they define the land, with a narrow coastal belt that’s home to the country’s beaches (and penguins), while just miles inland the landscape gives way to the deep valleys and vineyards, before climbing straight up to the spine of South America at over 5,000m above sea level.
A city of nearly 7 million, Santiago packs in trendy restaurants, shopping and historic sites, but still manages to be South America’s best-organised and most orderly metropolis.
In most destinations, going from a slalom to seaside would take days, but in Chile’s capital Santiago, it’s just a short drive.
La Alameda El Centro, Santiago’s downtown is extremely walkable, with paseos (pedestrian-only streets) linking Plaza de
Founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistadors, Santiago is a picturesque setting backed by 4,000m peaks.
El Centro Many of Santiago’s best-preserved colonial era buildings are on the Plaza de Armas, the city’s historic central square containing the Central Post Office, the Royal Court Palace and the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral.
Armas with the city’s main boulevard, Alameda Bernardo O’Higgins, or simply La Alameda. La Alameda in turn links sites like the Presidential Palace and Santa Lucia Hill, a quaint hill springing up in downtown Santiago that’s home to historic Fort Hidalgo, numerous monuments and quiet walking paths. Providencia The upmarket Providencia district is home to Barrio Italia, a renovated heritage district that’s home to a young and thriving bohemian arts scene with its concentration of independent design shops and chic cafes and restaurants.
© Michael Neumann
SKI RESORTS Valle Nevado The Southern Hemishphere’s biggest ski resort, Valle Nevado comprises over 100 groomed runs ranging from green to black (beginner to expert); owing to its serious altitude, over half the resort’s runs are red (advanced) or higher. Also one of the region’s newest resorts, Valle Nevado boasts high-speed lift access above 3,500m (including South America’s fastest quad lift), opening up miles of off-piste trails and deep powder snow over its 3 contiguous mountains. Especially famous for its snowboarding, Valle Nevado has the Southern Hemisphere’s
biggest half-pipe, making it a fixture on the world championship circuit. Located just 45km from Santiago in the Farellones Valley, the resort’s proximity and range of hotels (3-5 star) make it a favourite with locals. Portillo The grand dame of South American skiing, Portillo is the oldest and most historic resort on the continent. Centred around the famous Portillo Hotel (2,850m), the resort’s extensive ski fields overlook scenic Inca Lake, while the tallest mountain in the Americas – Aconcongua (6,980m) – lies just over the neighbouring ridge.
Situated along the International Highway heading towards Argentina, Portillo’s an easy 165km (2-hour) drive from Santiago, just 7km shy of the border with Argentina. Road access remains good throughout the year, but there’s also a helipad which is mainly used in conjunction with heli-skiing packages. Other resorts within Santiago include the ski villages of Farellones Colorado and La Parva, just 50km (1.5 hour) via the winding road up from El Arrayan. Thanks to the proximity of the mountains, ease of access, snow quality and affordability, Chile’s “summer” ski season (Jun-Sep) is one of the world’s leading ski scenes.
Chile's geography offers a wide range of environments and climates that range from dry deserts (Atacama) to Mediterranean and Alpine in the south (Torres del Paine National Park). Torres del Paine There are plenty of treks that traverse the country, including the popular Torres del Paine Circuit, which is listed as one of National Geographic's 50 places to visit in your lifetime.
rhea. The 115km, 10-day loop encircles the Torres del Paine (a granite monolith that soars above glacial lakes studded with icebergs), and skirts 2 glaciers: Dickson and Los Perros. You can camp at the edge of Grey Glacier to watch huge blocks of ice crash into the water. There is a shorter version of the trek, nicknamed the 'W' Trek (75km), which can be done in 4-5 days. Sendero de Chile The Sendero de Chile is an ambitious project that attempts to bridge existing hiking routes throughout the country into the 'longest
Along the circuit, you can see bright blue glaciers against a backdrop of soaring mountains, dotted with lakes that feed local populations of wildlife ©Turismo Chile like the guanaco, condor and
hiking route in the world', stretching 9,700km from Arica in the north to Cape Horn in the south. The trail will include waterways and overlaps the country's glacial trails and coastal segments as well as deserts and mountains. The entire route is not contiguous, and no new routes have been constructed as yet, although there are plenty of existing trails you can tackle throughout the country.
GETTING THERE While South America in general is fairly remote from Singapore, the fastest route to Santiago is generally via either Australia or New Zealand, with a flight time of around 25 hours. Singaporeans can stay visa-free in Chile for up to 30 days. For more information on Chile, visit www.chile.travel. Visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/chiletravelguide.
© Michael Neumann
Along with the original settlement of Santiago, many of Chile’s oldest wineries were founded during the conquistador-era on the banks of the Maipo and Mapocho rivers. While many of the Maipo Valley’s oldest vineyards have been absorbed into suburban Santiago, it’s still possible to reach nearby wineries such as Concha y Toro (Chile’s largest) via the metro to Puente Alto station. Some of Santiago’s other neighbouring estates include quaint, smaller Cousiño Macul, and the picturesque Santa Rita
Vineyard 35km south of Santiago on the Panamerican Highway. Built in the 18th century by the Spanish, visitors can tour the original cellars, which are still in use for wine tastings. Chile has numerous other wine regions across the country, with some of the most famous including the Colchagua Valley (known for its red wines) three hours southwest of Santiago and the Casablanca Valley located an hour from the capital.
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While geographically small compared to many states in the US, Vermont's landscape is pretty mountainous ñ it has 223 mountains over 2,000 feet in elevation. The state is dominated largely by the Green Mountains (hence its nickname the Green Mountain State), which form part of the renowned Appalachian Mountains that stretch from Alabama in the south to Quebec (Canada) to the north.
Thanks to its mountainous landscape, a drive through Vermont reveals plenty of historic small towns and pretty villages dotted with barns and farms, all nestled within picturesque valleys. The state is also sliced with many rivers, some of which create breathtaking gorges, while others are crossed with historic covered bridges (another hallmark of Vermont).
outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking from spring to fall, and skiing in winter.
taking on the Catamount Trail (480km) that traverses the length of the state.
VERMONT IN WINTER
There are also winter events to check out, ranging from quirky to hardcore.
Most tourists tend to hit Vermont between September and October, when the fall foliage is at its best. While the state's fiery autumnal shades are the main draw here (lodgings are booked far in advance for leaf peeping season), summer and winter are the best times for outdoor activities. Tourism is one of Vermont's most important industries, where everything from ski resorts to hiking trails are designed to attract visitors year-round.
Vermont is a skiers paradise which draws plenty of New Yorkers out to its slopes. Some of the more popular resorts include Smugger's Notch Resort (which straddles 3 mountains), Stowe Mountain Resort (situated in Mt. Mansfied, the tallest peak in Vermont), Bromley Mountain Resort (a small but established resort), Jay Peak Resort (ideal for beginners), Killington Resort (the region's largest ski area with 7 mountains) and Mad River Glen (one of 3 resorts in North America that allow snowboarding).
So, no matter which part of Vermont you head to, there are plenty of opportunities for
Cross-country skiing is popular in Vermont, with plenty of backcountry and nordic skiers
Thanks to its elevation, Vermont receives a healthy amount of snow each winter. Ski slopes dot the entire state, with over 40 ski resorts that provide Alpine or Nordic (crosscountry) skiing, or both.
The Craftsbury Marathon (2 February, 2013) is a classic-technique ski marathon that traverses either a 25km or 50km trail around Vermont's scenic Northeast Kingdom. This is the largest nordic ski event in the eastern US, with up to 1,000 competitors. For a bit of adventure on skis, head to Mountain Top Resort for the annual Paintball Biathlon (January 26-27, 2013), which combines cross-country skiing and target shooting. The Biathlon spans 2 full days, where competitors shoot with paintball markers around ski laps ranging from 1km to 4km loops. Non-skiers can take part in guided snowshoe walks, including one that samples local cheeses and wines along the way.
Vermont's lush forests are ideal for hiking and cycling, while its many rivers make for some scenic paddling. Hiking Vermont's Green Mountains is an ideal terrain for hiking, and the Long Trail – the oldest long-distance trail in the US – traverses the entire range. This 438km-long trail was constructed between 1910 and 1930 by the Green Mountain Club, which today is still the protector of the trail, and of other trails in the state. Running along the ridge of the Green Mountains, the Long Trail traverses almost all of the major summits, including Glastenbury Mountain (1,139m), Killington Peak (1,288m), Mount Abraham (1,205m), Mount Ellen (1,244m), Jay Peak (1,176m) and Mount Mansfield (1,340m). This challenging trail shoots straight up and over peaks, instead of switchbacking. The trail climbs rugged peaks, passing pristine ponds, alpine ponds and swift streams, with steep portions and rugged areas. The trail is dotted with nearly 70 shelters, and is marked by white blazes. The Long Trail joins the 3,515km-long Appalachian Trail for roughly 160km in southern Vermont.
© Mad Triathlon
A shorter (but no less difficult) section of the trail – the 24km Monroe Skyline – runs from Appalachian Gap to Gleason Brook, lets you enjoy views of the neighbouring Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. Cycling Vermont has a varied terrain for cycling, whether you're looking for slow-paced scenic rides or challenging mountain trails. Bike maps are available for whichever trail you choose. Gravel roads and old logging routes make up some of the state's back country trails, where you can have an encounter or two with some local wildlife. There is also an extensive 'farm to market' back roads that are ideal for quiet road biking between quaint Vermont villages. More exhilarating rides can be had on some of the mountain trails – most four season resorts operate lifts for downhill biking on some of Vermont's challenging bike tracks and terrain parks. Adventure Events To experience Vermont's outdoor to the fullest, you can check out the Mad Triathlon, which encompasses a 11km road run, a 1.6km paddle on kayaks along the Mad River, a 16km cycle and a 5km mountain trail run.
Starting and ending at Sugarbush Resort on Lincoln Peak, the next event is scheduled for 11 May 2013. For runners, there’s also the Mad Marathon (7 July 2013), which takes competitors around quaint villages, historic covered bridges and quiet country roads while tackling some tough climbs and descents.
VERMONT IN SUMMER
If you're into mystery, the Green Mountain Adventure Challenge is a physical puzzle-based scavenger hunt through the towns, forests, lakes and rivers of Southern Vermont's Green Mountains. Participants are given a scroll with a mysterious clue, and from there they will have to find 4 remaining pieces scattered throughout the mountains. Various challenges include hiking, swimming, biking, running and encountering wild animals. This adventure challenge season stretches for 5 months from May 1 to September 1, and you can choose to participate at any time during this period (you'll need to spend at least 2 full days and nights in the Dover/Wilmington area of Vermont). Just one Adventure Pass (US$75) is needed for the entire season.
Biking in Stowe © Stephen Goodhue
© Mountain Top Inn
© Mad Marathon
GETTING THERE Vermont is a stone's throw from New York state, with good road and air connections. Gateway cities include New York, Boston and Montreal, with easy road connections into the state. The Vermont Route 100 is known as the skier's highway, which provides excellent access to plenty of its mountains and villages.
TEXT BY Samantha Pereira PHOTOS BY Eugene Soh
IN AND AROUND YOGYAKARTA Famous for being the cultural heartland of Java, Yogyakarta is both refined and friendly. Nestled between the undulating foothills of Mt. Merapi (an active volcano) and the Indian Ocean, “Yogya” is awash with local beliefs, inherited traditions and fine arts. Renowned as Java’s cradle of civilisation, Yogya is also the gateway to hundreds of archaeological temples and ruins, including the majestic Buddhist temple of Borobudur and Prambanan – a complex littered with some of the oldest Hindu temples on earth.
YOGYAKARTA Dotted mainly with Dutch colonial-era buildings, Yogya also boasts a maze of bustling traditional markets. One of the more popular of these in the heart of the city is the Pasar Beringharjo – a 3-storey central market crammed with hundreds of stalls selling assorted knickknacks, from handmade batik fabrics to traditional elixirs and spices. A symbol of the rich cultural legacy that lives to this day in Yogya is the Kraton. Located in the downtown area 800m from Pasar Beringharjo, this Javanese royal palace is a “living guide” to Yogya’s history, heritage
and the complex relationship locals have with their revered, liberal modern-day Sultan. Kraton offers guided tours, displays and a live band of gifted octogenarian gamelan players. As a relatively compact town, you can get around in 2 of the city’s signature modes of transport: becak and andong. Becaks (trishaws) are three-wheeled bicycle carts that accommodate up to 2 people, while andongs (horse carts) can accommodate 5. Both can be found in most parts of the city, and offer rides to and from the main shopping district of Malioboro.
Approximately 42km from Yogyakarta on the Kedu Plain is Borobudur, meaning ‘Buddhist monastery on a mountain’. Built by the Sailendra Empire (a dynasty noted for its cultural renaissance) in the 8th century on a bedrock hill, Borobudur is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the largest and oldest Buddhist temple in the world, it is also regarded as the spiritual centre of Buddhism in Java. Visually mesmerising and intricately designed, Borobudur which is estimated to have taken 75 years to build is made up of volcanic rock hence its dark bluish-gray appearance. Constructed in the shape of a stepped pyramid, Borobudur is tiered with three levels: a square base, a middle level
of five concentric square terraces which are surrounded by 72 stupas (each containing a statue of Buddha) and at the very top a large bell-shaped mound. This megalithic monument was built specifically to resemble a lotus floating on a lake, and each tier along with the richly decorated walls represents the different phases to attain nirvana. Within the boundaries and constructed in a straight line, there are two other temples next to Borobudur, known as the Mendut Temple and the Pawon Temple. Along with those structures, Borobudur has a total of 2,672 reliefs and 504 Buddha statues. Initially abandoned when locals converted to Islam, then abandoned again because it was buried in layers of ash from eruption at
nearby Mount Merapi, Borobudur was first restored in 1911. It was then restored again to its full glory in the 1970s by UNESCO, only to have it covered in volcanic ash again after the 2010 eruption.
As of April 2011 to assist in the restoration and preservation, visitors looking to view the temple must go in groups of more than 30, and they have to be accompanied by the temple’s staff members. Another rule to note before entering is that visitors are required to be draped in a sarong to respect the traditions and culture of the site.
GETTING THERE Garuda Indonesia has multiple daily direct services from Singapore to Yogjakarta. Visit www.garudaindonesia.com.sg for more.
PRAMBANAN Vastly different in architectural styles, Prambanan is a collection of ancient Hindu temples built in the 9th century by the Mataram Kingdom who were once rulers of Central Java as well as the great conquerors of the Sailendra Dynasty. Often regarded to be a masterpiece of Hindu culture, Prambanan – which soars to 47m high – is the largest temple complex dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Located 14km east of Yogyakarta and easily covered on foot, this religious complex contains 224 temples including the Prambanan Temple, Sewu Temple, Bubrah Temple and Lumbung Temple. The site is divided geographically into three zones, with the inner
zone containing the most visited shrine: the Shiva temple, an iconic landmark of Java’s culture containing statues of deities related to Shiva (Durga, Ganesya and Agastya). Covered in ornate carvings, this UNESCO World Heritage site tells the story of the Ramayana. However, to better understand this legendary Hindu poem, it is best to catch the Ramayana Ballet. Held almost every day regardless of the weather at the Trimurti Open Theatre on the west side of Prambanan Temple, this drama-dance play is a combination of the classical Javanese dance and Hinduism’s most loved tale of King Rama. This performance draws plenty of attention with its combination of nature, culture and surprising stunt-work.
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From snowcapped mountains to tranquil lakes and magnificent ancient sites, the journey alone wonâ€™t be the only thing to take your breath away. With the new Tourist visa-on-arrival facility for citizens of Singapore, India is now so close to home. Be there to discover the charms of Incredible India. India Tourism, #01-01 United House 20 Kramat Lane, Singapore 228773 Tel: (65) 6235 3800 Fax: (65) 6235 8677 Email: email@example.com