Category Archives: Travel

The Golden Road to Samarkand

The Romance of the Silk Road

Shah-i-Zinda Samarkand

Samarkand – the name conjures romantic images of the ancient Silk Road that stretched from China all the way to Europe. It was the subject of a famous poem by English poet James Elroy Flecker. It was at the heart of one of the mightiest kingdoms of Asia in the Middle Ages, a crossroads between East and West. But where in the world is Samarkand?

If you have not heard about Samarkand, it is not a lost mythical city, it does exist and is still called by the same name today. In case you’re wondering, Samarkand is a city in Uzbekistan, a nation that was part of the former Soviet Union and is now an independent Central Asian nation. Uzbekistan is a landlocked nation that is bordered by the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

Not many tourists consider Uzbekistan as a destination, unless they are familiar with the Silk Road, the kingdom of Tamerlane (Amir Timur) or fascinated with Soviet architecture. But to those who do, they will be rewarded with amazing edifices built with intricate mosaic patterns and in a grand way.

What is there to see in Samarkand?

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Across Russia on the Trans-Siberian railway – Vladivostok (Part 1)

Across Russia on the Trans-Siberian – Vladivostok (Part 1)

Part 1 – The Beginning : Vladivostok

Vladivostok Train Station sign
Vladivostok Train Station sign

The longest rail journey in the world – the Trans-Siberian railway. It crosses 8 timezones and covers almost the entire breadth of the biggest country in the world, Russia. The classic route from Moscow to Vladivostok or vice versa have been a thing of many travellers’ imagination from all over the world. The vast land with varying landscapes of steppes, taigas and the odd small town found every now and then along the way is one that draws people in, but more importantly, the experience of being in the midst of ordinary Russians, watching them go about their daily life as the train passes by is more of the adventure that travellers are after.

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Photoblog: Temples of Bagan

The Temples of Bagan are a compilation of thousands of ancient temples spread over the vast plains along the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar (Burma). It’s been applied to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is easily accessible from the town of Nyaung Oo (Nyaung U). To get there, you can fly from Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon to the town of Nyaung U, which is around 15-20 minutes away by car from the temples of Bagan.

While these temples have not yet been listed officially by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, the sheer number of 3,000 temples strewn across the plains is a sight to behold. Many of the temples date back to 11th Century, with many of them containing ancient frescoes and impressive statues of Buddha.
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Chasing the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

Northern Lights in Lapland, FInland
Northern Lights in Lapland, FInland

Aurora Borealis – a.k.a. “Northern Lights” -is one that is in many people’s bucket list these days, and one can understand why. It is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring light displays, caused by the collision of the sun’s solar flare particles and the earth’s magnetic field that produces these beautiful light displays around the polar regions. In the northern hemisphere, it is called “Aurora Borealis”, and it is called “Aurora Australis” in the southern hemisphere.

Due to the latitude and availability of accessible land mass in the region where this phenomenon occurs, the Aurora Borealis is much easier to see than its southern counterpart, the Aurora Australis. Countries like Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Canada and the US state of Alaska are the best places to spot the Northern Lights.
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