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Our Team Editor-in-Chief May Lynn Writer Konrad Clapp Creative Director Lynn Ooi
This issue is all about ‘culture’ – a spice of travel that makes almost any trip more rewarding. Whether you’re into experiencing age-old traditions, or simply love exploring landscapes that have been touched by human habitation, this issue is all about some of the most iconic combinations of people and places out there. We kick off with a special feature on alcohol tourism – which, by the way, isn’t just about drinking. We explore the history and unique culture surrounding certain places’ iconic drinks, including whiskey in Scotland, cava in Catalonia, cognac in Cognac and port in Portugal. Next, we highlight New Mexico in America’s sprawling Southwest. Home to ancient pueblos, stunning scenery and a collection of frontier towns, it’s a quintessential place to experience the Old West. Then we dive into the in the heart of Honshu in some of Japan’s most traditional destinations: the prefectures of Gifu, Nagano and Toyama. Home to equal parts ancient history and adventure, they boast historic towns and castles amidst breathtaking mountains. After that, we tour all of Taiwan’s 14 native aboriginal tribes, each with their own unique culture, customs, food and festivals. Then there’s a snapshot of some unique ‘cultural’ marathons, including the Angkor Wat Marathon, the Great Wall Marathon, the Inca Trail Marathon, and of course, the mother of them all: the Athens Marathon, which dates back to 490BC. Next up, it’s cycling and wine touring through South Africa’s stunning Cape region, where you’ll find everything from rolling vineyard rides to epic single-tracks. If you’re more into beer, then check out a snapshot of some of the world’s best beer destinations, including Cologne, Belgium, the US, Czech Republic, and Japan’s craft-beer capital: Yokohama. We also explore Latin America’s unique wrestling culture, including Mexico’s luchadores and Bolivia’s cholitas – the latter is the embodiment of female empowerment in a country that until recently wrestled with itself over issues like domestic violence. Lastly, it’s off to China to check out some of its oldest and most historic villages, many of which you can not only visit, but even stay in, including water villages, fortified villages, and a cave village. Visit our website for our blogs, or drop us a line if you want to give us some feedback or contribute a travel story! Until then, happy trails!
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Classic Tipple Tours | 03
When you think of world culture, alcohol is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. Although when you look back through history, right up to the present day, for many countries their own unique tipples are an intrinsic part of their cultural identities, making estate tours a great way to get closer to their rich history and culture. By tasting (or even just visiting) the estates and cellars of makers of wines, brandies, whiskies, and beers, you’re literally exploring the history of a place through their age-old production techniques passed down from generation to generation. In fact, those traditions are so intrinsic to many countries’ cultures, that they’ve gone as far as setting regionally-specific rules for producing them (eg. cognac can only come from Cognac, Scotch can only come from Scotland, etc.).
Even within these regions, each distillery/vineyard produces vastly different aromas and tastes depending on their processes, traditions, and even terroir. In short, alcohol tourism is an interesting look into the traditions of a region, whether you partake in imbibing the liquid or not. Along with the booze comes the local communities. From family run to international sellers, each maker has their own unique story to tell, and like most craftsmen, are all too eager to give you a tour of their property or talk about their trade. Then there’s the backdrop – an intangible cultural asset that comprises historic cellars, medieval villages, and breathtaking scenery, whether it’s dramatic vineyards perched on cliffs, or rolling farmland with views of the ocean.
Beyond the distilleries or vineyards, the beauty is that these regions almost always offer more activities than just visiting tipple-makers. Many destinations are ripe for the adventurer, offering bike trails, mountain hikes, festivals, and more, against a scenic pastoral backdrop that’s been cultivated for centuries.
Scotland and whisky go together hand in hand, but unfortunately, for most people their whisky experience ends with Johnnie Walker. The reality is that Scotland offers a vast variety of different whiskies within their regions, each with its own unique flavour. The best way to experience Scottish whisky is on a Scotch tour for tasting, which most distilleries offer.
The region of Speyside is the world’s most populated whisky region with 56 malt whisky producers. This region mainly bottles two different categories of whisky: one is light and grassy, while the other is sweet and rich. The village of Dufftown has an old rhyme, “Rome was built on seven hills, Dufftown stands on seven stills” which captures Dufftown’s pride in their town’s whisky history. The Spirit Of Speyside Whisky Festival (May 3-7, 2018) showcases private distillery tours, tastings and more. Speyside is also home to the Malt Whiskey Trail, which takes 3 days to complete. It covers 9 whisky distilleries (ie. The Glenlivet, Strathisla and Dallas Dhu) and the Speyside Cooperage, the only working barrel maker in the UK. There are a number of hiking trails linking multiple distilleries in the Speyside area, including one from Craigellachie to Ballindalloch which passes 5 distilleries, including Macallan and Glenfiddich.
The Highlands is the largest region within Scotland and is generally known for its smokier whiskies. The Highlands region has both the highest single malt distillery, as well as the smallest in Scotland. Dalwhinnie Distillery is the highest distillery in the country at 1,164m above sea level. Its unique distillery tour pairs single malts with highland chocolates. The Edradour distillery is Scotland’s smallest, dating back to 1825, which impressively has more than 25 distinctly different Highland Single Malt whiskies; furthermore, it is one of the last distilleries to use traditional equipment.
This region is known for its malts being triple-distilled, allowing for much more elegant flavours. Triple distillation allows for the removal of almost all the impurities, making the liquid much more susceptible to the wood casks whilst carrying through the more fruitier and citrus tones.
However, these days, this region has embraced blended whisky, focusing on grain whisky. Auchentoshan is one of the few single malt scotch whiskies to still be produced in the Lowland area – it is also the highest distillate of any single malt in Scotland. The distillery tour includes a dram and a serve of ale.
Within the Islay there are only a total of 11 different distilleries producing single malt whisky. Due to their barren location and proximity to the ocean, the malts in this region tend to have both smokey and salient flavours. It is said that the whiskies from the Islay region mirror that of Speyside characteristics, because of the immense amount of peat on the island. To get to Islay you can either fly to Islay Airport or take the ferry across to either the north or south of the island. Once on Islay, it is recommended to rent a car. Besides the 11 distilleries, Islay is also known for its surrounding marine life, and unmistakably Scottish landscapes.
Classic Tipple Tours | 05
Just as champagne can only be called “champagne” when it is brewed in that specific region of France, “cava” (or DO cava; Denominación de Origen being the classification for regionspecific high quality produce) refers to the Spanish sparkling wine produced mainly in Catalonia. Overlapping both the Barcelona and Tarragona regions is the Penedès wine region, where most cava – both white and rosé – are produced, along with other wines. The Penedès region is roughly an hour’s drive from Barcelona (40km), making it an ideal day trip destination. Most of the cellars are located between
SANT SADURNI D’ANOIA
The main village to visit is Sant Sadurni d’Anoia (aka the capital of cava), which has the largest concentration of cava cellars in the area, most within walking distance. The village is easily accessible by train from Barcelona (under €10 euros round trip), with two trains every hour. Most cellars run tours of their vineyards and cellars, and end with a cava tasting session, including some of cava’s bigger names like Codorniu and Freixenet.
the towns of Vilafranca del Penedès and Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. While Penedès produces most of the cava, there is also a DO Penedès classification for cava exclusively made in this region – and it’s the first 100% organic sparkling wine appellation in the world. Most cava produced here use the Xarel·lo grape variety, which produces a smooth, medium body, with fruity and aromatic characteristics. A sub-classification of DO Penedès is the Clàssic Penedès, reserved for cava matured for at least 15 months in the cellar, effectively making them Reservas.
(Cathedral of Cava), the “Celler Gran” Museum and winery, and underground cellars. You can also visit a number of small, family-run cellars that produce wine and cava, including Pares Balta, Gramona, Cavas Nadal, and Albet I Noia, which also produces Clàssic Penedès cava along with Loxarel, whose cellar is located in an old air-raid shelter used during the Spanish civil war.
During the fall harvest season (Sep-Oct), wineries and accommodations along the Penedès Wine and Cava Route – like Castellroig and Cavas Nadal – offer visitors the opportunity to observe the production process, while the Jean Leon Winery has workshops on how to differentiate wines by their aroma.
Established in 1861, Freixenet’s tour involves a mini train tour through their vineyard and the cellar which dates back to the 1920s. Codorniu holds more than 450 years of history, featuring some of the town’s best architecture and cellars. The tour takes you to the Sala Puig
the Cava Week festival which celebrates everything cava, with events including concerts, carnival, and a bike race. During Cava Week a smaller festival, Cavatast, is held in the centre of town and focuses on pairing gastronomy and cava.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
Every year on the second week of October, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia holds
Sant Sadurní d’Anoia has a total of 7 different trekking routes, ranging from a 3km cultural walk to a 21km trek to other villages around Penedės. There are also plenty of guided bicycle tours of the Penedès region which take you past cellar doors and vineyards in the beautiful rolling countryside.
Just as Champagne only comes from France’s Champagne region, Cognac only comes from Cognac, a region that produces some of the world’s best brandy. The Cognac region is divided into 6 sub-regions (Cru) which outline where the grapes must come from to be classified as “cognac”. These regions are the Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires, listed from best to worse.
Region Nouvelle Acquitaine @ P. Baudry
Region Nouvelle Acquitaine @ M. Anglada Region Nouvelle Acquitaine @ M. Anglada
The Grand Champagne region is home to over 100 distilleries, while the medieval town of Cognac itself is home to big brands such as Hennessy, Remy Martin, Camus etc.
established bike route, you can easily hit a number of distilleries in the area on two wheels, all along the shady trails of the scenic Charente River.
What classifies a brandy as “cognac” is not only the region that it’s grown in but also the grapes used for the distillation, a process that lasts about 5 months beginning in November. The Ugni blanc grape must make up at least 90% of the wine whereas the other 10% can come from another list of grapes including Semillon, Montils and Jurancon Blanc. The area surrounding Cognac (Grande Champagne region) has many picturesque vineyards and medieval towns, making it ideal leisurely tours down the Charente River in a traditional gabare (flat-bottomed oak boat). It’s also a great area for cycling; numerous operators offer rental bikes, and some companies deliver them to your accommodation. While there is no
You can cycle a circular route (about 40km) starting from the town of Cognac, following the Charente River eastward towards Jarnac where you will find two distilleries located along the river. Thomas Hine & Co offers free tours and tastings (open weekdays, reservation recommended), while the bigger Courvoisier offers a number of different
tours from May to September. As you head south from Jarnac past countless vineyards, you’ll pass the family-run Michel Forgezron vineyard and distillery (free entry) on the way to Segonzac, a town with numerous restaurants and accommodation where you can spend the night. In this heart of the Grand Champagne region is the family-run J.Painturaud vineyard & distillery, which has been operational for just under 100 years. J.Painturaud offers a free tour of the distillation process and vineyard (Mon Sat, reservation needed). From here, a 13km (45mins) bike ride north will bring you back to the town of Cognac. Cognac is accessible from Paris by car (5 hours), or via the TVG (high speed train) from Paris Montparnasse station to Angouleme, from where you take a local train to Cognac.
Classic Tipple Tours | 07
Portugal’s endlessly undulating plains is home to some of the oldest vineyards in the world. A producer of wine since Roman times, it’s perhaps best known for its port wines which have been produced here since the 1700s. Ironically, it was the British who ‘invented’ port as a solution to preserve wines for the journey from the vineyards in Portugal to the consumers in the UK.
The terraces of the magnificent UNESCOlisted Douro Valley is one of the oldest demarcated regions in the world (dating from 1756). Hugging the Douro River that runs through deep valleys from the Spanish border until Porto along the coast, this region of schist mountains is ideal for port wine vines. Tens of thousands of terraced vineyards line the steep-sided valleys, each vine planted by hand. Port Wine Route Plenty of quintas (wine estates) dot the Douro Valley, with most of the vineyards reserved for port. The biggest attraction happens during the grape harvest season (Sep-Oct), when many quintas offer visitors the chance to participate in the wine production – from harvesting to grape stomping to bottling. For their help, visitors are treated to a big feast and of course, plenty of wine. Douro’s Port Wine Route (Rota do Vinho do Porto) encompasses around 50 quintas (40 open to public), with options for accommodation, dining, and wine tasting. Due to the size of the region, the port wine route is divided into 3 parts: the Lower Corgo covers 30 sites (including unique manor houses and taverns), the Upper Corgo is known for its handicrafts, while the Upper Douro offers stunning landscapes with ancient sites.
Porto, built along the Douro River, is where wine barrels from the Douro Valley used to arrive on barcos rabelos (flat sailing vessels) – today they arrive by train – for aging at the various wine lodges in the neighbourhood of Gaia.
You can tour the Port Wine Route by car, train or boat. You can start with a boat from Gaia pier in Porto and follow the river to Régua. Here, you can catch the old steam train for a historic journey to Pinhão, a Douro village with a concentration of famous port brands, from where you can also explore the vineyards by car. You can also opt for a cycle tour (selfguided) around the steep and winding back roads, with itineraries spanning both sides of the Douro River and including stops at paleolithic sites and castles.
Gaia is home to the port wine lodges of big brand names like Graham’s, Croft, and Taylor’s. Here, you can take a tour through the cellars, learn about the port aging process, and of course, taste (and buy) a variety of ports, including Tawny, Ruby, Branco (white), and Rosé. The UNESCO-listed city of Porto features some amazing architecture, including Porto Cathedral (the oldest surviving structure) and São Bento Railway Station with its blue azulejo (tile) panels. The unique bookstore Lello and Majestic Café are now also firmly on tourist maps, thanks to the city’s association with JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
MAMMUT Trion Tour
COVERING YOUR BASES
Montane’s newest Primino baselayer combines a highly comfortable, ultra-fast drying blend of PrimaLoft yarns and natural merino wool, making it ideal for year-round mountain use. It’s performance-driven, with a “two-weight” system where the merino wool draws sweat-vapours away from the skin before they can condense, while the PRIMALOFT yarn directly wicks liquid-sweat to the outer surface, allowing it to dry quickly. The Primino comes in men’s and women’s cuts, in both 140g and 220g weights, in either crew neck or zip-neck. Available online at Gearaholic (gearaholic.com.sg) from S$110 to S$150, with further discounts of up to 30%.
ALPINISTS’ ALL-IN-ONE BAG
The Mammut Trion Tour’s sleek, close-fit cut (despite the ample 35+7L volume) makes it ideal for well-stocked day-trips or multi-day climbs, via ferrata or other situations where you really don’t want to get snagged on something bulky. Its outer is brushed 600D Nylon Textura base fabric, which is extremely abrasionresistant and PU waterproof-treated. It comes with ice axe carriers, gear loops on the belt, a rope-fixing strap concealed in the top flap, in-built daisy chain loops, and lateral compression straps that can be fixed with further gear, making it literally an Alpinists’ personal carry-all. Available from Adventure 21 at S$249 with additional discounts during GSS.
PHONES WITH 360
The Giroptic iO is a device and companion app focused on the capturing and live streaming of 360º videos. This iPhone and Android compatible attachment allows for seamless 360º video to be broadcasted to compatible social media platforms such as YouTube Live or Facebook Live in 360º format. Its design is sleek and compact, with minimal extrusions from the phone, using the lightning cable/micro USB connection. The Giroptic iO is available from Outdoor Sports Travel at S$399.
JACK OF ALL TRADES
The Work Champ is a Swiss Army Knife packed with over 21 functions for almost any situation. Alongside the locking blade, the Work Champ features wire cutters, wire crimpers, a metal saw, a metal file and three different screwdrivers to name a few. Its textured polyamide material ensures a strong grip. Weighing in at 228g with a length of 111mm, the Victorinox Work Champ is available at The Planet Traveller at S$156. SWISS ARMY Work Champ
OAKLEY Latch Polarized
FILTER THE BLUES
Like most sunnies these days, the Oakley Latch Polarized is 100% UV filtering (including UVA, UVB and UVC). Importantly, it also filters out blue light (up to 400nm) – the most optically damaging light in the visible spectrum. Originally developed for skaters, it’s light and snug-fitting enough for hiking, or even medium-intensity running. Its stress-resistant frame is durable, and a hidden inner clipping mechanism fastens tightly to the average t-shirt collar. Available from Oakley retailers islandwide from S$235.
FUSS-FREE TENT ASICS GEL-Quantum 360
RUNNING ON GEL
The Asics GEL-Quantum 360’s upper is made entirely of seamless mesh that’s breathable, flexible and soft, making it extremely comfortable, especially on longer runs. While not the lightest shoe (370g), that’s more than made up for by the level of comfort – its gel cushioning runs the full length of the mid-sole, giving it good impact absorption and cushioning over uneven terrain (curbs, smaller rocks and tree roots) without being too springy. This makes it ideal for runners with bad arches, or even a strong neutral running shoe. Available in men’s and women’s models at all ASICS stores and selected running outlets in Singapore at S$289.
The MSR Carbon Reflex 2 Ultralight Tent is an extremely lightweight (at 840g) and roomy 2-man tent. It’s fast to set up, and its internal pole configuration maximises headroom. Highly durable thanks to its robust fabric and carbon fibre poles, the double-vestibules are zipper-free to reduce unnecessary bulk, so it packs down as small as a tarp. The micromesh canopy gives maximum ventilation (for better interior moisture-control), while its seam-taped floor and rain cover keep things dry in downpours. Available from Outdoor Life at S$1,300.
MSR Carbon Reflex 2
Perhaps nothing is more synonymous with America itself than the “Wild West” – a region steeped in romantic notions of cowboys and Indians, frontier towns and wide-open spaces. And arguably the best place to experience that in its truest form is New Mexico. New Mexico, specifically its northern half, is home to a vast landscape ranging from scorching deserts to the soaring summits of the southern Rockies, interspersed with old Spanish towns, artist colonies and centuries-old Indian settlements. First settled by the ancient Pueblo people, then the Spanish, and finally Anglo-Americans a century ago, New Mexico’s unique culture is a blend of all three and completely different from anywhere else in the US. This is reflected in its architecture, distinct cuisine (a question at any meal is simply “red or green [chili]”), and even its unique dialect of Spanish.
EXPLORING NEW MEXICO HERITAGE PUEBLOS New Mexico is home to 23 different Native American tribes, including the Apache, Navajo, and its most iconic, the Pueblos – a collective of 19 tribes spread across the northern half of the state. “Pueblo” also refers to a settlement comprising distinctive flat-roofed adobe houses that date back over 1,000 years, with hundreds of tribe members still living in these unique mud-brick villages today. One of the most striking aspects in multi-story adobes is the fact that ladders – rather than stairs – are used to access
upper (or lower) floors. For many Pueblo Indians, the ladder is a practical tool and a metaphor, used to descend, ascend, and to cross multiple worlds. They’re also easily moved as a defense against invaders. One of the best ways to experience the ancient, living culture of the pueblos is to visit on feast days. Happening throughout the year at each pueblo, they honour various saints and native spirits (buffalo, deer, turtle, etc.), combining the tribes’ traditional religions and Catholicism with traditional dances and music. If visiting in August, you can catch the world famous Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, the longest-running event in New Mexico, in the town of Gallup. The festival features Native American dance, and crafts, with tribe members dressed to the nines. There is also a Ceremonial Rodeo performed by tribe members. Visiting Pueblos There are several pueblos that you can visit, including Acoma and Taos.
Acoma Pueblo is built atop a sheerwalled, 110m-high mesa in a valley studded with towering monoliths, hence its nickname ‘Sky City’. Established in 1150, it is the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America. Today, about 300 adobe buildings cover the top of the mesa. Acoma’s pottery dates back 1,000 years, recognised for fluted rims, thin walls and geometric design. The UNESCO-listed Taos Pueblo has been continuously inhabited since the 13th century; it rises 5 stories high, and has numerous underground kivas (ceremonial chambers). Members of the Tiwa tribe live here today in precisely the same way as their ancestors, banning modern contrivances like electrical lines, water pipes, and even doors. The pueblo’s association runs guided tours daily (US$16/person), taking in homes, kivas and the ruins of its first 16th century chapel.
WILD WEST EXPERIENCES
Few experiences are more quintessentially Old West than dude ranches and cattle drives, and one of the most famous happens at Burnt Well Ranch in Roswell.
By some estimates, New Mexico is home to more than 400 ghost towns – most are nothing more than a few foundations and some occasional mining equipment. Most were once mining towns dealing in gold, silver, turquoise, copper, and coal; there were also farms that flourished for a time. Over time the mines started closing, and hundreds of these towns didn’t just die – they vanished.
Dude ranches are essentially B&Bs on working (free-range) cattle farms, where guests can get involved with farm work, or partake in horse riding, learning to rope cattle, horseback trips, and dining under the stars. Burnt Well also offers seasonal 1-week cattle drives – like the Chisum Challenge Cattle Drive (2-8 Oct 2017) – with most averaging 15-25km per day.
However, some of these towns still cling on to a few residents in spite of the passing of time. Between Raton and Albuquerque are a number of towns you can drop by, including Cerrillos and Madrid.
Another quintessential Old West experience is to watch a rodeo performance, with events – like bareback bronc riding and calf roping – happening in towns like Gallup, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque, between June and September.
Cerrillos was once known for its turquoise, but these days, this town still retains its original architecture that house shops, a post office, and riding
stables, and it’s a stone’s throw to Cerrillos Hills State Park with 8km of hiking trails. Madrid was once famous for its Christmas Lights from the 20s to 30s, but it’s now a creative community with more than 40 shops and galleries.
HISTORIC ROUTES New Mexico is criss-crossed with historic routes, like the classic Santa Fe Trail and the iconic Route 66, which are some of the best ways to experience the state.
The fabled 3,900km-long Route 66 connects Chicago with Los Angeles, including a 600km section through northern New Mexico (parts of New Mexico’s I-40 highway sits atop older stretches of Route 66). Along the way, it passes desert towns, national parks and Native American sites. Tucumcari Tucumcari is the Route’s largest town, known for its famous signboard, “Tucumcari Tonight!” The town’s historic main street is home to numerous vintage-era buildings, including the Blue Swallow, the Odeon, and a 1920s train station.
American village) culture. Hundreds of structures stretch over 15km along the canyon, including Pueblo Bonito (with 650 rooms) and Pueblo Alta on the mesa overlooking the canyon. The Pueblo Alto Trail (7km, return) is the best way to take in Chaco’s vastness.
Raton The sleepy town of Raton was featured in Jack Kerouac’s seminal novel On The Road, and was one of the more notable stops along the Trail, with wagon trains descending via the Raton Pass (2,390m) on their way into Santa Fe. Cimarron The tiny Cimarron was also a major stop. Like other regional towns, the arrival of the railroad and dwindling gold mines in the early 1900s started its slow decline. Today, its historic district is home to the St. James Hotel, one of the West’s most historic hotels with guest rooms (some supposedly haunted) named for their famous former occupants including Wyatt Earp and Jesse James.
Inscription Rock Named for its thousands of inscriptions dating from ancient inhabitants up through to the colonial period, Inscription Rock in El Morro was a landmark for early explorers. The Headland Trail (4km) leads up to the summit of the mesa and the 900-year old ruins of its crowning Atsinna Pueblo. Nearby is the town of Gallup, home of Red Rock Park which hosts annual Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial.
Chaco Canyon Situated on Navajo land 3 hours northwest of Albuquerque, Chaco Canyon is home to the most extensive ancient Anasazi ruins in the US. Dating back over 1,000 years, Chaco was a nexus of Pueblo (Native
THE SANTA FE TRAIL
The Santa Fe Trail was pioneered in the 1820s, connecting Santa Fe (in what was then Mexico) to the US. A part of this 1,900km trading route cuts across northern New Mexico from Raton to Santa Fe.
Santa Fe Santa Fe is New Mexico’s state capital, and also the cultural capital of the region, thanks to its bustling art scene, historic architecture and constant stream of festivals and events.
NOTABLE TOWNS SANTA FE
Founded in 1607, Santa Fe is not only the US’s oldest state capital but its highest, at 2,130m. Like most Spanish-era towns, it has a placid Plaza that remains its core, and walking through its adobe neighbourhoods you can feel its timeless, earthy soul. Its artistic inclinations are a principal attraction – there are more quality museums and galleries than you can visit in a day – although it was once a site of bullfights, gunfights, and public markets since the 17th century.
Situated at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo range, it makes a fantastic base for hiking, mountain biking, backpacking and skiing. After that, you can indulge in its fiery cuisine, or stroll along its remarkable architectural heritage – a large number of the city’s structures are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the 17th century Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in the US that once served as the main capitol building and now houses an excellent historical museum.
The city is dotted with many historic churches, including the simple, adobe-styled San Miguel Mission, thought to be the oldest surviving mission church in the United States, as well as the Loretto Chapel, built in 1878 with an intriguing feature: The Miraculous Staircase, a winding staircase that looks like it’s floating in the air, said to be built by St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters.
is the 13km Williams Lake Trail from the ski village to the summit of Wheeler Peak. An easy forested hike up to the lake is followed by a steeper summit climb, with bighorn sheep and elk regularly spotted en route. Local operators also offer horseback tours, as well as hiking trips accompanied by pack llamas.
MTB trails, with the most infamous being The Northside (of Taos Valley) with its big drops and very steep descents. There are also excellent high-altitude rides like the South Boundary (35km), widely regarded as one the best single-tracks in the state with its long downhill and rolling meadows. The granddaddy of them all is Cerro Vista, which ranges from 65-100km long and climbs to over 3,600m.
Centred on the town’s 300-year old plaza, the historic city of Taos combines some of the state’s best outdoor and arts attractions. Taos Art Colony Over a century ago, Taos became a magnet for artisans and painters, thanks to its stunning landscape and iconic pueblo, becoming especially known for its carpentry, oil painting and tinwork, developing into distinct Hispanic, indigenous Taos, and Modernist schools (seen in the works of luminaries like Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe). Taos Ski Valley Just 30km north of town is the famous Taos Ski Valley, situated at the foot of New Mexico’s tallest mountain – Wheeler Peak (4,013m) – and is home to the highest town in the US (2,800m). Ski season runs from December to mid-April, with a total of 110 runs (25% intermediate, 50% advanced) accessible via some of the highest lift access in North America at over 3,800m on Kachina Peak. Green Season in Taos Taos has numerous hiking trails. One of the best, moderately-challenging routes
Taos is also home to New Mexico’s best
These days, every traveller has a large variety of tools at their disposal when it comes to photography/videography. Whether you want to capture the destination from the skies, live it again in 360, or film it through a mounted action camera, the only obstacle in your way is price. When planning your trip, you have to think about the destination, the environment, its weather and the activities you will be doing, as these will influence what gear you bring along to capture each moment.
Drones are no longer a stranger to many travellers, so there are plenty of regulations to ensure public safety no matter where you fly. Within Singapore, a permit is not needed to fly a drone under 7kg as long as you are out of a restricted area (check CAAS). Once your drone exceeds 7kg, or if you’re flying commercially, you need to have both an Operator Permit and Activity Permit to fly. A CAAS operator’s permit costs $600 for the first drone and $400 for every other drone, which is valid for 1 year. Travelling overseas is a whole other process – each country will have its own rules and regulations and a Singapore CAAS permit is not automatically valid elsewhere in the world. Most countries will not require you to have a license unless you are droning for commercial needs. What drone do I need? As the market interest continually grows, so does the product diversity. Shenzhen-based DJI drones are very popular due to their sensors and features (QuickShot, ActiveTrack, etc). The Hobbyist The DJI Spark is affordable and small enough to fit into your pocket. It also has all of the intellectual flight modes built into other DJI models. However it has a limited flight range (100m via wifi, 2km by remote control), 16 minute battery life, lack of 4K (no issues for hobbyists), and less stable video photography. The Amateur The DJI Mavic Pro is also small, with better features like 27 minutes of flight time, 4K video resolution, 3-axis gimbal for stability and 7km of control range. While it folds away into a handy size, the joints have a limited lifespan.
The Professional The Inspire series is classed as a professional drone for those who need extra crisp video quality with interchangeable camera units. It also has the option of dual control: one for the drone and the other for the camera. Its size makes it much less portable than its counterparts, but it is very stable in almost all weather conditions. Weighing roughly 3kg, permits are required to fly it in most countries.
There is an abundance of action cameras in today’s market. A number of factors may go into your decision: video quality, durability, water resistance and battery life, to name a few. At the end of the day, the decision usually comes down to price and your level of adventure. The All Rounder GoPro has been in the market since 2004; the latest Hero5 Black has built-in stabilisation, is waterproof (up to 10m), durable and can be voice-controlled. It captures in 4K resolution, and has a large 2-inch screen for instant playback and framing clips. The maximum battery life with all features on is roughly 80 minutes. The Athlete Garmin’s Virb Ultra 30 has the same resolution as GoPro Hero5, with the added ability to record data such as speed, elevation and g-force overlaid on the footage. Other Garmin devices can also control the camera. Not waterproof without its case, the maximum battery life with all features on is about 75 minutes.
The Videographer The Sony FDR-X3000 4K features Zeiss lenses for a sharp image whilst recording. It shoots up to 4k at 30fps, with an image stabiliser. Its drawback is in the lack of screen, and maximum battery life with all features on is about 1 hour.
The 360° camera is one of the newer pieces of tech that is finding its way into the hands of everyday consumers. The Outdoor Adventurer The 360fly4k is for the outdoorsman, packed with water- and dust-resistance for durability. It also includes an electronic compass, GPS, gyroscope and accelerometer to track every moment of your trip. The drawback is that it is not a true 360° camera as since it can only capture 240° of footage, so a large part of the footage is obscured. The Stylish Traveller The sleek Ricoh Theta 360 is supported by both iOS and Android apps. It has great compatibility with social networking sites and its app is simple to use. It films in full HD (1920x1080), has has two image sensors capturing 12 megapixels each, and an 8GB built-in memory card. The Mainstream The original Samsung Gear 360 is considered to be one of the better 360° cameras, but it only operates with Samsung devices. The new Samsung Gear 360 (2017) will launch later this year, with upgrades that support all mobile devices while offering true 4K video and 2K video livestreaming.
Centre of Attraction | 15
The Central Japan region may not contain the usual tourist-favourite cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, or Kyoto – but it’s definitely worth considering as a detour deep into the heart of traditional Japan. Probably the region’s most defining characteristic, is its mountains. The mother of them all, Mount Fuji (3,776m) is Central Japan’s most famous and tallest resident, while to the north-west, the Japanese Alps form a massive wall that affects the climate of the entire country – making winters on the Pacific side mild, even sunny, while the Sea of Japan side is awash with snowfall.
TOYAMA, NAGANO & GIFU TEXT AND PHOTOS BY Yusuf Abdol Hamid Altogether, Central Japan’s nine prefectures sprawl across 72,000sq.km., a landmass that is the size of Holland and Switzerland put together, situated in the middle of Japan’s Honshu island.
mal pools, the areas around the Alps are dotted with hot springs that feed Central Japan’s many ryokan.
Central Japan’s different prefectures collectively share some of Japan’s oldest cultures and traditions. For example, the residents of Shirakawa-Go, a World Heritage site with nearly a thousand years of history, claim the first samurai to ever cross swords were from their region. Cutting through the region is the long-extinct Tokaido roadway, which once connected Edo (the historic name for Tokyo) and Kyoto, the old imperial capital of Japan, leaving behind a number of old restored postal towns that are frozen in a bygone era.
Heavy snowfall in the Japanese Alps makes the rivers of Central Japan, especially those flowing out to Toyama Bay, ideal for river sports like rafting or kayaking. The Kurobe River cuts across the region and is the lifeline of Central Japan’s high-quality agricultural produce including its renowned wasabi, sake, and even wine. While for those who enjoy soaking in ther-
The unusually deep waters of Toyama Bay are home to an abundance of unique marine life, like the velvet shrimp (better known as ‘the Jewel of Toyama Bay’), renowned for a deep sweetness that is perfect for sashimi. Joining the buffet is Yellowtail, caught during winter when the fish is at its fattest and oiliest, and the succulent, bright flesh of the red snow crab. While another species which may be too beautiful to eat – the bioluminescent firefly squid (hotaru ika) – lights up Toyama Bay by the millions between March and June. Together, Toyama, Nagano and Gifu, in particular offer travellers a wealth of natural wonders, unique seafood, and many stunning cultural sites, making them a perfect alternative to the bright lights of Tokyo.
Japan: Toyama, Nagano, Gifu
TOYAMA PREFECTURE RAFTING THE KUROBE RIVER
The Kurobe River flows quickly in the summer as snow melts off the Alps, and Minakami Adventure X-plorer runs a popular rafting tour that takes paddlers 12km down the river and out to Toyama Bay.
The river swells and dips unexpectedly over hidden boulders, and each bump sprays bracing water straight into your face. The one-hour joyride normally runs from April to October, depending on the water level, and if the levels are low, stand-up paddleboard tours are available. In between the hard paddling along the Grade II-III river, there’s plenty of time to take in the surrounding hills and local birds like cranes and eagles as they swoop down to fish in the river.
Toyama sits inland of the bay that bears its name, and is renowned for the variety and quality of seafood that dwells in its deep offshore waters. While Toyama City itself is quiet, even on weekends, given its great natural setting it is home to a very active population, whether it’s climbing and hiking in the surrounding mountains, or simply jogging (and picnicking) in the scenic Funan Canal Kansui Park. Given its location, the real pleasures of Toyama lie outside of the city – from right up in the peaks of the Japanese Alps, to down the length of the Kurobe River out to Toyama Bay. TATEYAMA KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE
The Japanese Alps were so-named for their similarity to the European Alps, and are visible from as far west as Toyama City on clear days. The peaks remain snowy for 7 months per year, giving snow-starved tourists a chance to feel powder right up to early summer. The famous Alpine Route cuts through Tateyama National Park, with lush green hills and occasional waterfalls all the way up until the imposing Yuki-NoOtani snow wall, which rises up to 19m in winter and lines much of the road
UNAZUKI HOT SPRINGS & KUROBE GORGE TROLLEY TRAIN close to the Murodo cable car station (2,450m) at the top. There’s a hotel with an onsen at the station, which is perfect for spending a night before making the early morning climb up Mt. Tate (3,015m) for sunrise. The route ends with a spectacular journey down through the mountains to Kurobe Dam, the highest in Japan at 186m. A trolleybus goes through the heart of Mt Tate, followed by a ropeway that has spectacular views during autumn, and a funicular that descends 500m to the dam. The dam itself is a wonder of engineering – with massive plumes of water cascading 186m into the lower Kurobe River, and one of the highlights of the journey.
Along the Kurobe Gorge lies the quiet town of Unazuki – a famous hot spring spot on the grounds of a former industrial town for transporting bridge-making materials up the gorge. Several large hotels have sprung up in the area, each with lavish onsens using water piped in from the natural springs further up the river. While Unazuki’s onsens are famous, most visitors head higher up the hills to ride the Kurobe Gorge Trolley Train – a nearly 3-hour round-trip in an open-air carriage, crossing 20 bridges that straddle the rugged gorge below. Visit in autumn (September-October) for a spectacular burst of yellow-red tones in the landscape.
Centre of Attraction | 17
NAGANO PREFECTURE DAIO WASABI FARM
Wasabi looms large in Japanese cuisine, and the Daio Wasabi Farm is the largest in Japan, at over 15 hectares. Now in its 102nd year, the farm still produces up to 150 tonnes of the sharp-tasting, sinus-searing plant annually – with most of the sales conducted right on site at the shop in front of the farm. There is a pleasant walking route around the farm, including a spot by the river with wooden waterwheels – memorably used by Akira Kurosawa in his movie, Dreams. The wasabi is grown in fresh snowmelt from the Alps, and the farm store sells it in a variety of forms, from raw produce to fiery crackers, ice-cream and even wasabi beer.
Nagano lies to the east of the Alps and has a humid climate in the summer months that is not unlike Singapore. The Alps and the rivers coming down from them give Nagano a climate suited for growing buckwheat and wasabi – perhaps why the most common breakfast food is Shinshuu Soba noodles. The region has its share of historical treasures – from the beautifully preserved and restored Matsumoto Castle to centuries-old postal towns like Tsumago-Juku. TSUMAGO-JUKU
The village of Tsumago-Juku had its heyday in the Edo period, when powerful shoguns and daimyōs would spend a night at the village inn during journeys between Tokyo and Kyoto. While the town itself goes back nearly a thousand years, the current village and its distinctive preserved row houses can be traced to the 19th century, which straddles the Edo- and Meiji
MATSUMOTO CASTLE periods. There are still descendants of the original townsfolk living in the village today. The accuracy of restoration works makes Tsumago-Juku stand out among the 10-15 former postal towns along the old Tokaido Roadway. Nowhere is the preservation more stunning than in the Wakihonjin-Okuya, the town’s secondary inn and residence of the Hayashi family in the late 19th century. The cyprus that holds up the building is now over 140 years old, and the rest of the home is in remarkably good condition, right down to the handmade glass panes that allow views of the garden when the doors are shut in winter. A visit by Emperor Meiji in 1880 led the Hayashi family to furnish a room specifically to the emperor’s tastes, and even construct a special bathroom for his use. The Emperor, however, only stayed for 30 minutes to have a cup of tea before leaving.
Matsumoto Castle is the oldest and best preserved castle in Nagano Prefecture; built in the early 16th century during the Eisho period, it is a designated ’National Treasure of Japan’. Its distinctive black and white tones help explain its nickname, ‘Crow Castle’ – and the strategic holes and slits in the walls for firing weapons is a stark reminder of Japan’s turbulent feudal past. Most picturesque is the 5-storey castle tower surrounded by manicured pine trees – which is stunning during the cherry blossom season with the snow-capped Alps in the background. About 500m from the main castle is Nawate Street, the former first gate into the castle, and now a shrine with a quaint shopping alley lined with wooden shops.
Japan: Toyama, Nagano, Gifu
GIFU PREFECTURE TAKAYAMA CITY
Takayama City is home to Japan’s best carpenters who use techniques passed down over a thousand years from ancestors that worked on the famous wooden temples in Kyoto and Nara. There are several examples of their craftsmanship throughout the city, like at the Sakuraya Hachimangu Shrine. The 4th century shrine is surrounded by tall cedar trees and is a contemplative spot where locals come to get their fortunes read. Nearby is the festival floats exhibition hall, which hosts a surreal festival (April 14 & 15) where large, intricate floats with dancing marionettes are pulled through the town.
Landlocked Gifu is blessed with rich forests, particularly cedar trees that have been worked on by skilled craftsmen as far back as the 7th century.
longevity. Hundreds of villagers pitch in together to replace the roofs every 20-30 years, clambering on wooden scaffolds; it’s a practice still carried on today with great fanfare and festivity.
Historically it was the centre of Japanese sword-making, but in the absence of a sword fighting culture other industries have come to the fore. Takayama is famous for lacquered wood, Hida beef (which is of a similar standing to Kobe’s), and award-winning sake.
Strict preservation guidelines keep the town as close to the original architectural designs as possible, and residents have to request permission to make even the smallest changes to their homes. The largest of them all is the Wada house, which belonged to the city mayor and was somehow simultaneously a silkworm and gunpowder factory.
A different kind of tradition lies deep in the mountains – Shirakawa-Go, a UNESCO-listed village dating back to the 12th century.
Walking paths through the town allow for a closer look at Gassho homes, about half of which are still inhabited by descendants of the original townsfolk.
The best view of Shirakawa-Go is from the Shiroyama observation deck, at an altitude of 500m. It’s beautiful all year round, but even locals get excited about the winter light-up in January.
Gassho-style homes dot the landscape of Shirakawa-Go, comprising 114 thatched roofs in a valley surrounded by 4 mountains. The roofs look like hands in prayer, hence the name ‘Gassho’. People have lived in this harsh landscape for over 800 years – especially tough when battling the cold winters in homes made of wood lashed together with fibres. The communal spirit of ‘yui’ has given the village an unusual
Historic parts of the town stick to a disciplined colour palette of black and brown, and the oldest buildings are about 200 years old. The Sanmachi Suji District has its clock set to the late 20th century, with traditional black-and-brown houses lining the streets. Takayama has award-winning sake breweries, wood-carving shops, and cafes – all best to see early in the morning.
MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET
The Miyagawa Morning Market runs along the Miyagawa River and is one of the biggest morning markets in Japan, with over 60 shops and stalls hawking local snacks and fresh produce. The market has been running continuously for 400 years, and locals still come to buy direct from farmers. Highlights are black garlic (garlic pods roasted in a rice cooker for 2 weeks), Genkotsu (macha or soybean paste mixed with lightly sweetened candy), and Tamaten, a fluffy meringue coated with honey-glazed grilled egg yolk.
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The modern day perception of Taiwan includes its beautiful landscapes, bustling Taipei city and unbeatable street food. What many people don’t see is the rich history and culture in its aboriginal communities. Taiwan is home to 14 recognised tribes, with strongholds stretching the entire country, each one uniquely different to the other, with separate rituals and ceremonies.
The Amis are the largest of the tribes (pop. 166,000), spread along Taiwan’s east coast in Taitung and Hualien counties. The Amis differ from other tribes by being a matriarchal society. The largest Amis festival is the Harvest Festival, which each village conducts on their own between July and August. The festivities continue for up to a week, broken into three stages: welcoming, feasting and sending of the spirits. Other activities have been added to the festival over the years, such as archery and tug-of-war. Once exclusive for tribal members, the festivals are now open to the public.
The Paiwan (pop. 81,000) can be found in the southern regions of Taiwan, specif-
ically in the Laiyi Township of Pingtung County. Known for their gender equality and decorated costumes, it is one of the only clans to have females chieftains. Like the other tribes, the Paiwan have an annual Harvest Ritual (Masarut) involving the storing, seed-selecting, and tasting of millet crops. Their largest cultural festival – Maleveq – occurs only once in every 5 years and is a 15-day ceremony which thanks the deities for their blessings.
The Atayal tribe (pop. 80,000) hails from the northern regions of the Central Mountains around Yilan and Hualien Counties. Historically, the Atayal were best-known for their facial tattoos, which did not only deter evil spirits, but were also considered beautiful. The Atayal hold an annual Ancestral Worship Ritual between August and October, right after the millet harvest. This festival requires the men of the village to take offerings of food to ritual sites and upon returning home they must cross over a line of fire, leaving evil spirits behind them.
The Bunun tribe (pop. 47,000) can be
Rukai Harvest Festival
found around the Central Mountains in Nantou County. Their distinctive trait is their eight-part chorus, a group of 8 vocal parts which come together to create a unique harmony. The Ear-shooting Festival is the Bunun’s most important celebration, held between April and May – the biggest festival is held in Taitung County’s Yanping District. This 2-day event brings together the millet planting and hunting season, where both men and women show off their skills such as wood chopping or pig catching. The ear-shooting is an archery contest where tribesman shoot the ear of a pig or deer from 30m away. Nowadays, visitors use bows and arrows to shoot at large animal-shaped cardboard targets.
The Rukai tribe (pop. 11,000) is mainly found in the southern region of Taiwan’s Central Mountains, especially in Pingtung County’s Wutai Township. Today they are well-known for their artisanal textiles and sophisticated dyeing techniques (popular motifs including deer, snakes and the sun), as well as their traditional stone carvings and slate houses. The Tsatsapipianu (harvest festival) is the Rukai’s biggest event, held annually in August in Beinan Township – the highlight of which is the men-only baking of millet cakes, which are used to predict the harvest conditions for the following year. The women-only swing ceremony involves Rukai women being swung on giant swings as other tribe members dance and sing.
The Puyuma (pop. 10,000) are found throughout Taitung County along Taiwan’s remote southeast coast, with the majority residing in Beinan Township. They are traditionally the most warlike of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples.
unique rite of passage for young men: the Monkey Ceremony and the Hunting Ceremony. The former involves the piercing of a monkey (today, it’s made of straw) with a bamboo staff, while the latter is a hunting ceremony where a young man should hunt down a wild animal within 5 days; his success indicates his eligibility for marriage.
The Tsou tribe are primarily in the Alishan Township (pop 6,400) in Chiayi County.
The Puyuma’s main festival is the ‘Annual Festival’, held toward the end of December, which consists of 2 main trials as a
Their holiest ceremony is the Mayasvi, a war festival traditionally held before a hunt to show off the strength of the tribe, involving the rites of triumph, rites for the heads of the enemies, and welcoming rites for the gods. The ceremony is held in the tribal male gathering house in February in Dabang and Tefuye, Chiayi County.
YAMI (TAO) TRIBE
Residing on Orchid Island off the east coast of Taiwan is the Yami Tribe (pop. 5,000) who rely on fishing as a source of food. Their main festival is the Flying Fish Festival, which coincides with the mass arrival of flying fish that follow the Kuroshio current from January to June. Running for about 4 months, the festival starts with the blessing of their beautifully hand-crafted boats. This is the biggest celebration, involving men – donned in loincloths – who strike and toss the boat into the air several times to drive away demons. The boat is then launched into the ocean.
The Kavalan tribe (pop 1,700) is situated in Hualien and Taitung Counties. The Palilin is their most important ceremony, where each family focuses on worshipping ancestors by serving them wine and food during the New Year.
Fewer than 800 Thao members live around Sun Moon Lake on Ita Thao island. Their most important celebration is the Harvest Festival which is characterised by a unique ‘pestle song’, created by knocking different-sized bamboo pestles onto rocks to create different notes.
The Saisiyat tribe, with 5,000 members, are concentrated in Taiwan’s northwest in Hsinchu and Miaoli counties. Recognised by their red-whiteblack attire, their main festival is the bi-annual Pasta’ay (Dwarf Spirit Festival) held in mid-October every second year (the last one was in 2016), at Xiangtian Lake (Miaoli) and Wufong Township. Commemorating the tribe’s ancient conflict with a “dwarf” tribe called the Taai (which anthropologists posit may have been negritos), the festival is held to placate the spirits of their formerly vanquished rivals to ensure a good harvest and prosperity. The multi-day festival involves hundreds of tribe members – and occasional visitors – dancing in large circles.
The Truku tribe – once fierce headhunters – reside around Taroko Gorge in Hualien County. Their annual Mgay Bari is a celebration where myths are retold through traditional songs (played with the mouth harp), and aboriginal crafts are sold.
SAKIZAYA TRIBE & SEEDIQ TRIBE
The Sakizaya and Seediq tribes are both newly recognised tribes, joining the list in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Both live in Hualien County and have ties to existing tribes; Sakizayas share a similar language to the Amis, while the Seediq have many similarities to the Atayal. Because of their recent recognition, their ceremonies have remained within the communities.
ADVENTURE MARATHONS COVERED BRIDGES HALF MARATHON, USA Date: 3 June 2018 Distance: Half Marathon Route: The route starts just south of the quaint village of Woodstock at the Suicide Six Ski Area, and makes its way through the town and over the famous Woodstock Middle Bridge which was built in 1969. The race then rolls through open farmland along the Ottauquechee river through Quechee town, ending at at Deweys Pond. The route is paved throughout the course, offering an easy run with minimum elevation for competitors. Sights: Along the run you will see Vermont’s scenic, pastoral beauty and its famed covered bridges, including Woodstock Middlebridge, Taftsville Covered Bridge, and Quechee Covered Bridge.
ATHENS MARATHON, GREECE Date: 12 November 2017 Distance: 5km Road Race, 10km Road Race, Full Marathon Route: The race starts in the town of Marathon and ends in the Panathenaic Stadium. Along the way, runners are face with slight hill climbs as well as downhill sections, passing through the cities/ districts of Nea Makri, Rafina, Pikermi, Pallini and many more before ending up in Athens. Sights: Along this historic route, you’ll pass the Marathon Tomb, Athens Music Hall and the Park of Liberty. The 10km and 5km fun run participants have more historical sights along their route, including the Temple of Zeus, Acropolis, Lycabettus hill and Syntagma. The race ends in the famous Panathenaic Stadium, where you’ll run through the same areas the ancient Greeks once held their athletic events.
INCA TRAIL MARATHON, PERU Date: 4-12 August 2017 Distance: Full Marathon Route: This marathon is a 9-day adventure run, where each day features a different course leading up to the main marathon. The Full Marathon begins at an elevation of 2,636m, increasing to 4,206m as you climb up and down cobblestone pathways and dirt roads of the Andes mountains. Hiking this route normally takes 3 days; you will complete it in 1. Sights: The marathon traverses the Andes mountains, affording exceptional views throughout the whole run. The highlight is at the end of the run at the ruins of Machu Picchu. Along the way, you’ll pass other historical sites such as Phuyupatamarca, Sayacmarca fortress, and the Runkurakay watchtower ruins.
BIG FIVE MARATHON, SOUTH AFRICA Date: 23 June 2018 Distance: Full Marathon, Half Marathon Route: This route through the Entabeni Safari Conservancy (Limpopo) begins on red dirt with a few small hills to combat. The challenge begins at the Yellow Wood Valley with its extremely steep (paved concrete) 3km downhill; then the road turns to sand for 9km (2km for Half Marathon). The loop brings you back to the Yellow Wood Valley, this time with an uphill climb. Half marathoners return to the valley to the finish line, whilst the marathoners take an extra detour, ending in a hilly section with large rocks and stones. Sights: You will be running alongside zebras, giraffes, antelopes, buffalo and through lion country. If that doesn’t satisfy you, then the vast African landscape should, as you run between dry savannas and lush greenery.
With a proliferation of marathons and themed runs worldwide, there seems to be a trend that combines scenic travel with a love of the race. These are just a small selection of adventure marathons around the world that combine cultural aspects and challenging runs.
THE GREAT WALL MARATHON, CHINA Date: 19 May 2018 Distance: Fun Run (8.5km), Half Marathon (21.1km), Full Marathon (42.194km)
Albatros Adventure Marathons
Route: The race begins at the Yin and Yang Square in the old Huangyaguan fortress, near Tianjin city. The run begins as an 8km loop around the square, covering 3km of the Wall, before reaching the villages of Duanzhuang and Xiaying across the river. After Xiaying township is another circular route through farmland and villages which brings you back at Duanzhuang after 26km, where half-marathon runners finish back at Huangyaguan fortress. Full Marathon runners face the Great Wall for a second time, completing the 8km route again before the finish line. Sights: Youâ€™ll be running partly on the historic Great Wall, as well as through villages in rural China.
ANGKOR WAT MARATHON, CAMBODIA Date: 6 August 2017 Distance: 3km Family Run, Road Race (10.5km), Half Marathon, Full Marathon Route: The running route begins in the central sanctuary of Angkor Wat, where it splits up for the 4 different races. The Full Marathon takes a large detour away from the historical sites at the beginning of the race with the first 20km passing a couple of temples, while the Half Marathon takes a similar path, passing a number of temples at the 10km mark. The Road Race (10.5km) is a return run from Angkor Wat to Angkor Thom, and the Family Fun Run takes place entirely on the outskirts of Angkor Wat. Sights: Participants will be running past a number of historical temples such as Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Sras Srang Lake, Ta Prohm and many more.
LARAPINTA RUN, AUSTRALIA Albatros Adventure Marathons
Date: 11-14 August 2017 Distance: The Namatjira (short course) 11km-30km, The Malbunka (long course) 20km-45km Route: This is a 4-day, 4-stage trail run across the Larapinta Trail in Northern Territoryâ€™s Outback. Both courses have 4 stages, starting from Alice Springs and ending at Glen Helen Homestead, following different courses of different lengths in Rapid Ascent style. These undulating trails involve rough but scenic ascents and descents on sandy and rocky terrain, made especially tough by the harsh and unshaded environment. Sights: Both routes offer scenic views of the famous Australian outback, passing scenic areas of the MacDonnell Ranges such as Simpsons Gap, Fish Hole Gorge and Ormiston Gorge, to name a few.
Set against the backdrop of the iconic Table Mountain plateau and bright blue Table Bay, Cape Town is more than just its buzzing harbour, picturesque parks, and a base for wildlife-spotting. Coupled with jaw-dropping scenery, the Mother City is dotted with historic settlements, wineries and rugged mountain bike routes. CAPE TOWN
There’s plenty of historic places within the city itself to keep you busy for a weekend. You can drop by the famously colourful neighbourhood of Bo Kaap, which is not only the spiritual home of the Cape’s Muslim community but a place with its own history of over 3 centuries. While today it has a more gentrified feel, the brightly-coloured houses and cobbled streets make for a picturesque walk. For a sobering view of history, Robben Island just offshore is one of the most significant historical sites in South Africa – it was used for detaining political prisoners, and to date, three former inmates have gone on to become President of South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe and current President Jacob Zuma. The Western Cape is famous for its wineries, and Groot Constantia – with its iconic Cape Dutch-style manor house – is
HERITAGE TRAILS IN CAPE TOWN those looking for singletracks set against dramatic backdrops comprising the Winelands, Table Mountain and the ocean. Most of these trails take you right through wine estates where you can explore the local flavour (and some craft beer), with permits obtainable from various wineries along the trails.
South Africa’s oldest winery and has been producing wine since 1685. Part of the Constantia wine route, Groot is known for its red wines. However, Constantia is just a small part of Cape Town’s winegrowing history. Wine and ride The entire Western Cape is practically made up of wineries, with famous regions including Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. These areas are also rife with excellent MTB trails of varying difficulties for
Cape Town has a reputation for its mountain bike races – both Downhill and Enduro – through countless scenic vineyards. Plenty of races dot the calendar, including the Absa Cape Epic and the Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB Challenge, which also offers fun rides. To the east of Cape Town is Cape Helderberg, a visually dramatic area with the Hottentots Holland and Helderberg Mountain creating a backdrop against the rolling vineyards of the Stellenbosch and Helderberg wine regions, both with their own wine routes and cellar doors.
Helderberg Trails has some of the most scenic mountain bike routes, ranging from green to black, set amidst the wineries in the region. The trails are accessible at Helderberg Farm, which is also the access point for numerous hiking routes (ranging from 1km - 20km through forest and vineyards). There are 4 options for MTB trails – from 15km to 25km – which are typically dry, dusty and very rocky, but still great to ride, having seen their share of Downhill and Enduro events in recent years. Just outside Stellenbosch is the Bottelary hills area which is also dotted with wineries, and 76km of mountain bike trails. This relatively new network of 4 route options feature vineyards, farmland, conservation areas and trails comprised of farm roads, jeeptracks and singletracks. The trails are suitable for beginners to experts, with challenging climbs and downhill sections, and are at their best during summer and spring when the leaves change colour.
rentals should you wish to explore the trails on your own; of course, there’s also the option of hiking along some of these trails.
mountain biking, through vineyards that include food-and-wine tasting in areas like Stellenbosch, Elgin Valley, Franschhoek, and more. All of these tours can be done as day trips out of Cape Town, although there are also multi-day MTB itineraries that take you through the wine regions along rugged singletracks. Operators also offer bike
If cycling or hiking aren’t your pace, you can also explore the wine region of Franschhoek, originally settled in 1688 by French Huguenot refugees, along a unique tram tour through this ‘food and wine capital’ of South Africa. The Franschhoek Wine Tram takes you through rolling vineyards in open-side trams and tram-buses, stopping at some of the country’s oldest wine estates along its 5 routes.
For those interested in more leisure cycling across vineyards, there are numerous bicycle operators that run guided bike tours, both road cycling and
HISTORIC CEDERBERG CONSERVANCY
The Cederberg region, 2.5 hours drive from Cape Town, is a spectacular mountain landscape littered with over 2,000 pre-colonial San (Bushmen) rock arts and a rich botanical diversity, being part of the Cape Floral Kingdom of South Africa. It’s also home to abundant birdlife and the rare Cape Mountain Leopard.
In addition, the area is home to picturesque mountain farm villages and rooibos tea growers, established in the 19th century by Moravian missionaries from
Bohemia. Here you won’t find any phone reception or traffic, only star-filled night skies. Amazing red sandstone cliffs and rock formations, weathered by nature, offer scenic mountain bike trails and overnight hiking routes. There are 5 MTB trails, each featuring fast and flowing sections, with patches of tight and technical sections amidst a landscape of boulders. The Cederberg Heritage Route is over 70km long, where you overnight in Moravian Mission villages along the 8-day hike (4 day option also possible). Another way to experience Cederberg is along a Donkey Cart Trail – the donkey cart is a traditional means of transportation for the villages to carry their produce to the town of Clanwilliam.
You can either hike the trail or ride on traditional donkey carts to the village of Heuningvlei, a Moravian Mission outpost with a community of 25 families renowned for their rooibos. The Donkey Cart Trail can be done as a day-trip from Pakhuis Pass, or as a 3-day itinerary from Wupperthal, a picturesque Rhenish Missionary Society founded in the 1830s, consisting of whitewashed homes and a pretty church.
SNAPSHOT: CRAFT BEER CITIES The US has over 5,000 breweries and counting – California alone has over 600 craft breweries, while Vermont has the most breweries per capita. There’s no state that doesn’t brew. In Colorado, you can combine Rocky Mountain adventures with craft brews. It also hosts The Great American Beer Festival (Oct 5-7) that brings together hundreds of breweries. Washington hosts the Fresh Hop Ale Festival (Sep 30) in Yakima during the harvest season, showcasing over 100 beers brewed with hops picked within 24 hours before brewing. Plenty of craft brewery trails are spread across the US, ranging from scenic regional routes like Jackson Hole and the Finger Lakes, to long-distance journeys like the Craft Beer Trail, a 4,000km road trip from Montana to Arizona where you can sample local brews amidst dramatic desert and mountain scenes, combining local culture and hiking trails. There are also plenty of craft beer-themed marathons and fun runs, like Buffalo’s Taptrails 6K.
The world’s first blond lager, Pilsner Urqell originates from the city of Plzeň, and continues to be produced today. Around Plzeň, a number of microbreweries have popped up over the last few years, including Purkmistr Brewery, best known for organising the annual Slunce ve skle (The Sun In Glass) festival (Sep 15-16). Plzeň’s other attractions include a pretty town square and historic underground tunnels of up to three levels under the whole Old Town area. Nearby Prague is also home to a number of bars – like Zly casy and BeerGeek – that serve up local craft brews; while the original Czech style continues to be associated with the pale pilsner, new breweries tend to be more experimental. With over 300 craft breweries, there’s no shortage of variety.
Belgium is home to more than 1,500 different types of beer, including Belgian-style Abbey, Flanders, lambic and Trappist beers. Trappist beer is especially revered as there are only 11 Trappist breweries worldwide, with Belgium being home to 6 of them. Rebuilt in 1998 after being damaged in WWI, the St. Benedictus Abbey in Achel is one of the only monasteries in Belgium with a brewery that welcomes visitors. The Belgian Beer Routes includes a number of itineraries that take you through breweries, as well as historic villages and cities along the way. The Flanders region, covered by the bike routes, is known for its unique sour-flavoured Flanders red and brown ales; the latter is brewed primarily in West Flanders and can be found in most breweries.
In almost every corner of the world, beer is a universal language and each country has their own unique take on it. From the age-old brewing traditions in Bavaria to experimental brews in the US, beer isn’t just about socialising, it’s about experiencing a local culture.
Bavaria may be the most famous beer-brewing region in Germany, known for its weissbeir and rauchbier (smoked beer from Bamberg). The Bavarian Beer Trail Cycle takes you through the brewery-laden Aisch Valley, dropping by medieval towns like Bamberg, Rothenberg and Nuremberg. There are also ancient abbey breweries to visit, like the Andechs Monastery (est. 1712), owned and operated by Benedictine monks, and the Weltenburg Abbey (est. 620), the oldest monastic brewery in the world, famous for its black beer. Cologne – or Köln – may be famous for its cathedral (one of the largest in the world, taking 700 years to build), but its other traditional attraction is its local brew called kölsh, a pale-coloured beer similar to pilsner that may not be brewed outside the Cologne region. It’s served in numerous centuries-old brauhauses across Cologne, including Früh, Sion, and Pfaffen – each with its distictive brew – making brewhouse-hopping a great way to explore the city. Kölsch is served only in 200ml glasses, and often drunk in groups of mixed social standing to eliminate any exclusivity in its drinking culture – this also means that no kölsch has titles like ‘Premium’ or ‘Special’. Another social culture here is that ordering anything other than beer at a brauhaus is frowned upon by the waiters, who are known to jest customers according to custom. Breakfast of halve hahn (rye bread with cheese) is more commonly served with kölsh than coffee, the former served in a unique tray that holds 10 glasses. Another delicacy is Reibekuchen, a potato pancake served on select days of the week during fall and winter.
Yokohama is the home of Kirin beer, which paved the way for Yokohama’s – and Japan’s – now thriving craft beer scene. Spring Valley Brewery, a microbrewery in Kirin’s beer factory, offers brewery tours, tasting and pairing. Yokohama is also home to Japan’s oldest craft beer brewery, Yokohama Brewery, a brewpub with a unique crew of operasinging staff, as well as tiny Yokohama Bay Brewing. Both Baird Beer’s Bashamichi Taproom and Thrash Zone also serve their own brews, and there are plenty of craft beer bars spread around the city centre, serving brews from around Japan. Yokohama hosts several beer festivals, including the large-scale Oktoberfest at the iconic Red Brick Warehouse (with over 130 types of beer) and The Great Japan Beer Festival (or BeerFes, Sep 16-18) bringing in hundreds of beer from all over Japan. Smaller craft beer events, like the BinCan Fes, add to the vibe that makes Yokohama a magnet for craft-beer lovers.
A contact sport adapted to different cultures worldwide, wrestling is not just a modern-day performing art, but one that is deeply rooted in history, especially in Latin American communities. Two vastly different styles of wrestling can be seen in Bolivia, where indigenous women in puffy skirts are the stars of the show, and in Mexico, where one’s mask serves as their spirit animal.
TEXT BY Violet Koh
BOLIVIA’S CHOLITA LUCHADORAS The word “cholita” was once a derogatory term for the indigenous Aymara and Quecha women of Bolivia who were seen as the lowest strata of society, rural peasants who worked menial jobs. Cholitas are easily identified thanks to their flamboyant outfits, usually comprising the sombrero (bowler hat), la pollera (pleated skirt) with colourful enagua (multi-layered underskirts), joyas (accessories and jewellery) and flat round-toe shoes. Today, being a cholita stands for something altogether different – it’s a positive term that celebrates the country’s cultural heritage, women’s confidence and is a badge of honour.
CHOLITA+DOMESTIC ABUSE = LUCHADORA Wrestling in their vibrant flouncy skirts and pigtails, cholitas have been throwing each other around under the spotlight for almost two decades. Cholita wrestling first started as an initiative for victims of domestic violence to release their frustration and stress. It was only after the mid 2000s that it became commercialised, providing a side income for the women wrestlers.
Furthermore, the distinctive Cholita fashion that used to denote marginalisation has become a celebration of the women’s femininity, elegance and dignity. These women wear their shawls to white collar jobs and even participate in fashion shows – something unthinkable just 15 years ago. Cholita fashion worn in various ways conveys different meanings. For instance, a woman’s marital status is signified by her bowler hat’s position: centre for married, to the side for single/widowed, and to the back to jokingly mean ‘it’s complicated’. Wardrobe aside, these days the women – and their flamboyant outfits – are known more for their fighting spirit.
ence to their ‘flying moves’ with a mix of acrobatics and martial arts. Women mostly fight against women, but occasionally, they also fight men.
KICKING ASS IN FANCY SKIRTS
A 2013 study by the Pan American Health Organisation found that 53% of those surveyed in Bolivia were victims of domestic violence, one of the worst rates in Latin America. In response, these women wrestlers have not only helped redefine what it means to be a cholita, but also throw light onto the issue of domestic abuse. The rise of the cholitas has also coincided with that of Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first ethnically indigenous president, with the country seeing improvements in the lives of the Aymara and other indigenous groups, as well as the toughening of domestic violence laws.
Like other forms of wrestling entertainment, cholita wrestling is also staged. In the ring, the women in multi-layered skirts turn into fighting machines as they execute good girl vs bad girl routines with whimsical confrontations. As the sport caught on, the women wrestlers earned the nickname The Flying Cholitas, in refer-
WHERE TO CATCH THE MATCH?
Cholita wrestling matches are held every Sunday evening in a stadium in El Alto, near La Paz. Tickets at the door go for USD7. There are also wrestling tours from La Paz (USD1250 depending on what is included).
MEXICO’S LUCHA LIBRE Located 6,000km north of Bolivia, Mexico is the birthplace of Latin America’s most famous wrestling style, lucha libre – or “free fighting” – where wrestlers dressed in colourful body spandex and intricate masks execute acrobatic moves and dramatic throws.
The Mask This entertainment sport is most widely associated with its infamous luchador masks, an element borrowed from Aztec warriors who, centuries ago, donned masks of mighty animals they admired to battle their opponents. Decorated in vibrant colours, the mask serves as a crucial part of lucha libre’s storyline, by maintaining the anonymity of the wrestler. To the luchador (wrestler), the mask is his/her
identity, representing his/her persona and aura. It is the most sacred item to a wrestler, so much so that removing an opponent’s mask is penalised. The history of wearing a disguise during a fight dates back to 1933, but it was only in 1942 when El Santo, ‘The Man in the Silver Mask’, made his debut that the fascination with masks caught on. Today, lucha libre masks are universally recognised as a symbol of Mexican pop culture, and almost every young wrestler begins his career masked. In rare fights, losing the match means having to unmask and reveal their true identity – a luchador’s greatest fear. The longer one can remain masked during their career, the higher their status in the ring.
WHERE TO CATCH THE MATCH?
The easiest and most popular place to see lucha libre is at the Arena Mexico in Mexico City. Tickets at the door range from USD6-21 depending on your seat.
UNIQUE VILLAGES IN THE MIDDLE KINGDOM DONG VILLAGE
TEXT BY Violet Koh
With over 5,000 years of history, where does one begin when it comes to exploring the culture of the Land of the Red Dragon? As the development of civilisation requires expanding infrastructure to house a growing population, a good place to start is with one of the most basic physiological needs: shelter.
EARTHEN HOUSES FUJIAN TULOU
Southwestern Fujian, between Yongding and Nanjing Counties A tulou, or “earthen building”, is a traditional circular building that was once not only home to the Hakka people, but also served as a fortress and marketplace. Although most earthen buildings are circular in shape, there are also square ones, known as sijiaolou (four-corner building). Built between the 12th and 20th centuries, UNESCO World Heritage included the 46 earthen buildings for their innovation and harmonious relationship with their environment for over 7 centuries. To serve its original purposes of communal living and defense, tulou are built such that the
There are tulou homestay packages, inclusive of meals, transport, and entrance fees. There are also inns within the tulou itself, with traditional furniture, basic amenities, and in some, a common bathroom.
Guizhou Province Zhaoxing is one of the largest of the Dong villages, with 800 houses made of Chinese fir with blue tiles.
first two floors serve as functional spaces such as kitchen and grain stores, while the third to fourth floors are bedrooms. The shape of the building allows for an all-round defense to fight off land-hungry neighbours and armed bandits as its walls are able to withstand cannon shots. Furthermore, tulou only have a single ironplated wooden door. The walls of Yongding tulou are made from a fermented mix of sticky rice, lime, egg white and clay, while the base is made of stone. The best places to visit these are in the three main clusters in Fujian: Nanjing, Yongding and Hua’an.
Zhaoxing is characterised by 5 elaborately-carved drum towers and 5 ‘Wind and Rain’ bridges – which are a testament to this woodcarving tribe. Built to link the village with the paddy fields, the bridges have wooden corridors lined with benches, constructed without using nails. While it may look like one large village, it is actually divided into 5 sections, each with its own drum tower which represents a particular clans’ power and wealth. These days these towers function as a spot for social gathering, mainly for the elders.
Thanks to recent upgrades, there are more guesthouses available for visitors in the village.
CAVE VILLAGES LIJIASHAN VILLAGE
Shaanxi province Dating back to the Ming Dynasty, this village is a settlement of 400 cave dwellings known as yaodong, which are carved out of loess cliffs scattered over the hillside. Some of these traditional loess cave houses have been strengthened by stones and bricks, typically with arched entrances.
ZHONGDONG MIAO VILLAGE
Guizhou Province Zhongdong village is located in an aircraft hangar-sized cave on a hill 1,800m above ground in the mountains of Anshun along the Getu River. Accessible via a serpentine trail uphill, it has been housing fami-
lies (and the livestock) of the Miao minority for countless generations. There are roughly 18 houses, made with woven bamboo walls. The nearest town is 15km away, where the villagers stock up; fresh water comes from a stalactite in the cave. There was a primary school here that once held classes in wooden classrooms and even had a basketball court. These villagers are some of the last cave-dwelling tribes in Asia, and some villagers have converted their homes into guesthouses.
Villagers sleep on kangs, a platform of bricks or stones with an area beneath to allow for a heating system during winter. The town of Qikou (10km away), with its well-preserved ancient loess courtyards, was once an important port along the Yellow River during the Qing Dynasty.
Some of the yaodong in Lijiashan and Qikou have been turned into accommodation for visitors, with basic amenities and the chance to sleep on a kang bed.
ANCIENT WATER TOWNS
FENGHUANG ANCIENT TOWN
Hunan Province Built in 1704 during the reign of the Qing Emperor Kangxi, the 300-year-old town is built along the river banks of the Tuo Jiang River. The Southern Great Wall of China is 15km away, and is accessible by bus. Scenic spots in Fenghuang include the Yang Ancestral Memorial, Tuojiang River and Ancient East Gate. A typical house, diaojiaolou, is built from wood and from afar, seems as though it is hanging over the river.
Homestays are available and best experienced in houses built on stilts along the Tuojiang River.
NANXUN WATER TOWN
Zhejiang Province With over 1,400 years of history, this town dates back to the Tang Dynasty and was once an important commercial centre as well as home to wealthy Chinese businessmen. Some highlights of the town include a daily wedding performance on water, Little Lotus Garden and Liuâ€™s Family Compound, a Chinese imitation of a Western-styled residence. Nanxun Water Town is an ideal day trip from Suzhou (1.5 hours), Hangzhou and Shanghai (both 2 hours) by car. Nanxun Water Town is said to be one of the least-crowded and commercialised canal-side towns around Shanghai. However, if crowds donâ€™t deter you, there are many other scenic water towns to explore, such as Zhujiajiao, Xitang, Zhouzhuang and Wuzhen.
The outdoors beckons. You are captivated by its breathtaking sights, fresh air, blue skies and endless possibilities. When you get out there you can feel the pure intensity and excitement that comes from following your passions but the allure of the outdoors is different for everyone. Outdoor Channel unlocks a rich collection of stories, personalities, challenges and motivational forces that reflect the desire to get out there and be a part of passionate communities of outdoor lifestyles and events. #WhatGetsYouOutThere? Share your favourite outdoor images and stories with us on www.facebook.com/OutdoorChannelAsia
Published on Jul 20, 2017
Published on Jul 20, 2017
Our latest issue is out now! This issue focuses on cultural tourism, from destinations steeped in brewing traditions to regions that are sti...