Bhutan’s dark secret to happiness

Bhutan's dark secret to happiness

Citizens of one of the happiest countries on Earth are surprisingly comfortable contemplating a topic many prefer to avoid. Is that the key to joy?

On a visit to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, I found myself sitting across from a man named Karma Ura, spilling my guts. Maybe it was the fact that he was named Karma, or the thin air, or the way travel melts my defences, but I decided to confess something very personal. Not that long before, seemingly out of the blue, I had experienced some disturbing symptoms: shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness in my hands and feet. At first, I feared I was having a heart attack, or going crazy. Maybe both. So I went to the doctor, who ran a series of tests and found…

“Nothing,” said Ura. Even before I could complete my sentence, he knew that my fears were unfounded. I was not dying, at least not as quickly as I feared. I was having a panic attack.

What I wanted to know was: why now – my life was going uncharacteristically well – and what could I do about it?
“You need to think about death for five minutes every day,” Ura replied. “It will cure you.”

“How?” I said, dumbfounded.

“It is this thing, this fear of death, this fear of dying before we have accomplished what we want or seen our children grow. This is what is troubling you.”

“But why would I want to think about something so depressing?”
“Rich people in the West, they have not touched dead bodies, fresh wounds, rotten things. This is a problem. This is the human condition. We have to be ready for the moment we cease to exist.”
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5 Reasons You Need to Freestyle Travel

5 Reasons You Need to Freestyle Travel

It feels like we go through our Facebook timeline and only see pictures of people “having kids“ and “getting married”. But have you seen the other half? You know who I’m talking about. They are the spontaneous, the I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m booking a one-way ticket to Italy, friends.

You live vicariously through their Instagram feed and you wish you were wining and dining in Rome. Oh and get this, not only did they book a trip to Italy but—they went alone and with no itinerary! What?! Most people wouldn’t even think about going out to dinner alone. So what gives? What could possibly make people get out of bed and decide to book a solo trip? Easy—to live. From someone who’s been freestyle traveling close to 10 years, here are 5 reasons you need to be freestyle traveling now:

Genuine Experiences

Freestyle travel opens doors. Behind door #1 you have culture. I’ve never been quite amused about reading about people in magazines or in textbooks. If you want to learn about “culture” close the book and experience it yourself. Some of the best stories will not be found in books but in dusty old travel journals and memories imprinted in your heart. Some of my most memorable times have been staying with host families, couch surfing or Airbnb-ing. I would have never been able to share the stories I have now had I sat home and watched Nat-Geo.

5 Reasons You Need to Freestyle Travel

Expanding Your Network

freestyle travelSome of the best friends and people I’ve met have been on my trips. I once met a guy at a park in Barcelona and after I left the city we’ve maintained our friendship and have continued to stay in touch after 5 years. Imagine being able to say you have friends all over the world? You want to go to Thailand…great you may have a friend studying abroad there. It’s becoming easier to meet other people abroad. Thanks to technology that possibility is right at the tip of your fingertips and just a flight away.

Life Is Not A Checklist

freestyle travelMany times we get wrapped up into creating the most epic bucket list. I need to do “X” before I do “X” and then I need to see “X”. While you travel, be flexible. Schedules are meant to be broken. If you try to fit everything in an itinerary you will be highly disappointed. Freestyle travel requires something to go wrong. Like the time I had my bags delayed for 2 days and almost canceled a three-week backpacking trip to Central America. Have a backup plan in case something goes wrong. If worst comes to worst learn to wash your only clothes in the sink, pray for bags to show up and walk into town for a cafe con leche.

Getting Lost Is Real

freestyle travelThe phrase, “Get lost!” takes on a whole new meaning as a freestyle traveler. It’s more of challenge than it is a threat. Turning corners in alleys don’t frighten me, they excite me! Learning the language in a foreign country requires high skills of charades because asking for the nearest toilet is at some point life or death as it is comical. You are more in tune with your five senses when you’re out of your elements. Food is more delicious, the colors are more vibrant and people genuine seems more interesting than back home. Following the yellow brick road led Dorothy to The Emerald City. Where will your road take you next?

Me, Myself and I

freestyle travelDespite all the cheesy travel quotes you find on Pinterest about travel, doing some globe trekking on your own WILL prompt you to ask yourself and question the world around you . Being alone is okay. Take advantage of those small moments and learn a little more about yourself. They say no one knows you better than you know yourself. I challenge you to test that with a solo trip. Maybe you find yourself while climbing to the top of a mountain or you finally learn how to feel peace and serenity afloat on the sea. Be selfish. This is time for you to learn wisdom in thy youth.

5 Common travel fears and how to overcome them

5 Common travel fears and how to overcome them

One of the most surprising reasons that people don’t travel isn’t a lack of money or time, it’s the fear and anxiety about all of the what-ifs? Even people who claim to have a strong desire to see the world have often never traveled more than a few states away from their homes because they just can’t seem to get over the idea that something bad will happen that will ruin their trip, or worse, put them in danger.

There are surely horror stories about terrible events happening to people traveling abroad in unfamiliar countries, but these are actually very rare events. You are statistically in more danger just driving to the grocery store in your home town. Read more to find out some of the most common travel anxieties, and how to overcome the fear of the unknown.

Going abroad is dangerous

Well, it can be, but so is getting in your car every day and fighting your way through rush hour traffic on the way to your mundane office job. You’re no more likely to encounter a dangerous situation abroad than you are staying right where you are, although how you deal with a crisis may need to be handled a bit differently.

Do a bit of research and educate yourself about the particular dangers at your destination, and take steps to avoid any known issues, like people that try to scam tourists. Get in touch with the local embassy when you arrive, and make sure you know who to call if you find yourself in need of assistance. Make sure you’ve researched the monetary system, so you know whether or not you’re getting a good deal when making a purchase. If you use common sense and plan ahead, there’s no more danger in traveling than there is in staying put.

I don’t speak the language

While it’s always intimidating to go to unfamiliar territory, going to a new place where you think you can’t communicate with the locals can be a terrifying prospect. English is becoming more and more common throughout the world, and most people in populated places will have a working knowledge of basic conversational phrases. People working specifically in tourism-related industries, such as hotels, airlines and tour guides will almost certainly have a higher level of English fluency.

Spend a few weeks prior to traveling learning some essential phrases, especially “please” and “thank you”. There are very few places in the world where you can travel that you will simply be unable to communicate, and as a novice traveler you should probably avoid venturing that far from populated cities. Begin your travel career in countries that are similar to your own. Enjoy European destinations or the UK. There is plenty to do without the inherent risks of culture shock or inadvertently offending the locals.

What if I get sick or hurt?

Most of the governments keep a travel advisory list for countries around the world. There you can find information about recommended vaccines, and what types of food and drink to avoid while traveling. Odds are if you do become ill, it will be a minor issue. For the record, diarrhea is the number one complaint of travelers. Make sure you bring some over the counter medications for common ailments and a small first aid kit, and you should be fine.

Prepare ahead of time and contact your insurance company about coverage for emergencies when you are abroad, as well as researching the hospital facilities available so that you can give some direction if you do wind up needing emergency medical care. In truth, most doctors and professional medical staff will likely be well versed in English no matter where you go, and there are good facilities that can be found even in the poorest of countries, as long as you know where to find them.

What if disaster strikes?

Disaster can mean many things to many people. Loss of identity papers, thieves, scam artists, terrorism, natural disasters, and the list goes on and on. This is where it’s important to remember that disaster can strike anywhere, even at home. You’re much more likely to have your credit card information stolen while sitting at your office than you are having your passport stolen while traveling.

If you’re truly concerned about violence or other political unrest, do your homework before you travel and avoid places with a higher risk. Stay in touch with family and friends, and have someone you trust back home keep some emergency funds for you – ready to wire to you instantly in the case of a theft or loss of critical documents. Again, remember that you can contact your embassy to assist you at any time when you are traveling abroad, but that incidents like these are truly very rare.

What if I get homesick?

It’s not really a “what-if?” It’s a what do I do when I get homesick?. It’s nearly impossible to make it through any journey without a longing to sleep in your own bed, or to curl up with your dog who is boarding at the vet’s office. Remember that it’s temporary and you’ll be home soon enough. Try to remember the reasons that you decided to take this journey, and consider the memories you’ve already made. Make appointments to regularly Skype with friends and family and stay in touch via social media. By the time you do return home, you’ll probably feel like it was over too soon, and wish you could have stayed longer.

If in the end you’re really unhappy, you can always cut your trip short and head home sooner, but you’ll probably find yourself wishing you hadn’t sometime in the future. Traveling is a wonderful way to bring excitement to your life, and once you get started you’ll most likely spend all of your free time looking forward to the next great adventure.

A Quick Tour of Spain

A Quick Tour of Spain

With over fifty million tourists visiting Spain each year, this popular West European country must have something special which attracts the visitor. What exactly is it…?

The main beauty of this lovely land can be summed up in just one word – variety – and, as you all well know, variety is the spice of life!

Whether you are referring to its climate, geography, history, culture or cuisine… there is something to appeal to all tastes, ages and pockets.

The tourist explosion which took place in the 60s was originally due to its marvellous beaches. And, with good reason, for the Foundation for Environmental Education states that “Spanish beaches are the most environmentally healthy in Europe” and has awarded the much-coveted Blue Flag to 450 of the country´s beaches – more than any other participating country.

But maybe lolling about on the beach all day is not your thing and you prefer more action… a touch of sophistication?

Should this be the case then Spain´s major cities are ideal for you… jam-packed full of history, and an art-lover´s dream. Yet, with their abundance of parks and wide open spaces, good shops and pulsating night-life, they are a joy for everyone – children included.

So … mooch around the truly marvellous museums and monuments of Madrid. Enjoy the bustle of stylish Barcelona bursting with vibrant Gaudí influence. Savor the delights of romantic Mediterranean cities such as Valencia and Alicante. Or journey further south to the exotic cities of Granada, Seville and Málaga. Immerse yourself in their haunting Islamic palaces, the brilliant colors and sounds of flamenco, and in the birth-place and works of Picasso.

Maybe you hunger for the peace and quiet of a hideaway hotel in an unspoiled village? Then rural Spain is for you: full of forgotten villages, bursting at the seams with medieval castles, and offering prolific flora and fauna, it is ideal for walking holidays, painting, photography or just plain “get away from it all” holidays. Not to mention ski-ing opportunities for the more active amongst Spain´s snow-capped peaks.

Should you fancy a mix of all three – beach, city and rural – then that is also easy to arrange. Although Spain is the largest country in Western Europe after France, it is certainly no problem to get around. Littered with airports – both national and international – it also offers a good train service, though the cheapest and most convenient method of internal travel is by using the national bus / coach system.

For those who are a little tired of the stereo-typed hotel chains, Spain has a unique alternative on offer in its state-established “paradores”. In these, you will find accommodation in converted castles, palaces, fortresses, monasteries, convents…

The aim of the “paradores” is to offer high standards at reasonable prices in a noteworthy building or location and to help preserve the traditions of regional cooking by serving the best of local cuisine in the “parador” restaurants.

Which brings us on to yet another delight that Spain has to offer – its rich and varied cuisine. Whichever region of Spain you decide to visit, you will surely encounter scrumptious Spanish food!

What´s more, the traditional Spanish diet, with the liquid gold of its olive oil, its rich supply of wine (in moderation!), its wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, plus an abundance of seafood, all mean that it is extremely good for the heart. On top of that, it is affordable!

Even their “caviar” of cured hams – “jamón Ibérico” – has fat unusually high in oleic acid which is known to lower cholesterol levels! Now I ask you, where else can you get something pleasurable, that is cheap, and also good for you?!

Even if you fancy picking between meals you can opt for their tempting “tapas” – much healthier for you than a packet of crisps or a donut!

Tapas originate from the large, southerly region of Andalucia and it is this region that we also have to thank for flamenco and the Spanish guitar. Which holiday would be complete without visiting an authentic flamenco show or dancing the night away to the beat of romantic Spanish music?

So… come visit this land where the warmth of its climate is only surpassed by the warmth of its people. You are bound to have a great time!

World’s Most Unique Travel Destinations

World's Most Unique Travel Destinations

A big part of travel is that feeling you get when experiencing something completely new, something you haven’t seen or done before. Many travel destinations offer an amenity or two that other places don’t–but there are only a few locations in the world that offer a truly unique experience.

Some of these places are wonders of nature–a spot where the flora or fauna can’t be found elsewhere, or where the mountains stretch the landscape to impressive formations. Other destinations are unique because of man-made features–entire islands created out of sand, underwater museums designed to decay, or hotels shaved from ice.

Hot or cold, undeveloped or overly elaborate, these locations offer something you can’t get anywhere else, which is as good a reason as any to plan a trip.

The Azores

Explore the dramatic natural beauty and bounty of crater lakes in this collection of nine volcanic islands in the middle of the North Atlantic. Portuguese by language, it has a culture and cuisine all its own. Feast on the geothermally heated hotpots called cozido das furnas, which consist of mixtures of meats and stews and are a feature of the area near Sao Miguel.

Bhutan

High up in the Himalayan Mountains sits the world’s newest democracy, whose 30-year-old king has been instrumental in developing the country’s parliament, and injecting a democratic voice into Bhutanese affairs. The term “gross national happiness” was coined by the country’s former king, who began the Buddhist country’s path to modernization. It now straddles both the old world and the new, and has earned the nickname, “the last Shangri-La.”

Grindavik, Iceland – The Blue Lagoon

Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, recommends the stark beauty of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. “They call it ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ for a reason,” says Banas. “It’s one of those things that you have to do in a lifetime. You’re swimming in these silica mud waters, but then it’s snowing outside.” Stay at the Blue Lagoon Spa, where you can take a geothermal steam bath, or have drinks while you soak in the lagoon.

Cancun Underwater Museum – Cancun, Mexico

The brainchild of the artist Jason de Caires Taylor, the world’s largest underwater museum features 400 statues by the artist, in a dizzying array of poses and features. The just-opened sculpture park sits in shallow waters in Cancun, allowing snorkellers, swimmers, and scuba divers alike to witness the sculptures grow seaweed and barnacles, and begin to form a supplementary reef for area fish.

Madagascar

Madagascar, sitting approximately 225 miles off the eastern coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, is so remote, it’s been host to many one-of-a-kind evolutionary developments. Ninety percent of its native plant life is found nowhere else in the world. “It still feels like a lost wonderland, with unique and diverse plant and animal life,” says Tom Hall, a U.K.-based writer for Lonely Planet.

Secret Beaches of Phuket, Thailand

Secret Beaches of Phuket, Thailand

Phuket’s beaches are world-renowned and tourists flock from across the globe to visit the famous beaches at Patong, Karon, and Kata. So much so that many people complain these beaches have lost their charm. They say Phuket can no longer claim to be an idyllic tropical island getaway.

The beaches are too crowded. Sun loungers line the entire length of the beaches, sometimes in rows three or four deep. Jet skis, banana boats and parasail boats plough through the water while vendors ply their wares up and down the beach. They say Phuket is finished as an island getaway destination and only caters to the party crowd.

These people have not spent enough time exploring Phuket. There are more than 40 beaches around Phuket Island and there is something to suit all tastes. If you want a beach with good holiday facilities but not too crowded then Nai Harn, Kamala, Surin, Bang Tao and Nai Yang all have good hotels and restaurants yet do not draw big crowds. If you really want to get away from the crowds then Nai Thon and Mai Khao beaches in the north of the island are usually very quiet.

Still all these beaches are well known in Phuket and firmly in the tourist travel guides. In this article, we will look at some beaches that still remain undiscovered to most tourists. We will not even include Laem Sing or Yanui in this list. They are both charming beaches but they have become well known and usually have plenty of visitors. Some of the following beaches are not even known to many of Phuket’s residents. These are Phuket’s secret beaches.

Secret Beaches of Phuket, Thailand

Banana Beach

This beautiful beach is in the northern half of Phuket between Bang Tao Beach and Nai Thon Beach. It is a lovely two-hundred meter strip of sand, studded with rocks in the middle and ringed with trees. It is a good swimming beach and there is some great snorkeling. There is no accommodation and just a single beach restaurant with a handful of sun loungers at the southern end.

There are usually only a handful of visitors at this beach. The majority of them arrive by longtail boat from other beaches but in fact, you can see the beach from the coast road above and there is a trail down.

Pansea Beach

Right at the northern end of Bang Tao Beach is beautiful and peaceful Pansea Beach. There are two up-market resorts here yet the location retains its refreshing tranquility. Just offshore is Kala Island (or Kata Island depending who you believe) which shelters the shallow bay from waves so it is always calm. The waters are too shallow for swimming and when the tide is out you can walk to the island. It is a great beach for paddling and ideal for children to play. There are no refreshments here so it is a good idea to bring a picnic.

Pon Beach

This secluded little beach is in the headland north of Patong. The locals know it as Nai Yair Beach. It is amazing how few people find this beach considering it is located so close to the hordes at Patong. There is nothing here but a couple of rural shacks and a few grazing cows. It is a sandy beach but not good for swimming due to the rocky seabed. There is some good snorkeling.

There are usually a couple of locals renting sun loungers and selling refreshments. They can also provide you with a small barbecue to cook your own. There may be a small charge for crossing the private land to reach the beach.

Paradise Beach

In the headland south of Patong, there are two beautiful beaches that remain relatively unspoiled. They are not as undiscovered as the other beaches we mention on this list but still a break from the heaving masses at Patong. The first is Paradise Beach. Right at the tip of the headland, you can reach it by road (track) or boat.

It is a beautiful beach with overhanging trees. There is no accommodation but there is a restaurant and there are plenty of sun loungers. The beach is not the best for bathing due to the rocky seabed close to shore but there is some excellent snorkeling. There are usually plenty of people around but still it is surprising how many people in Patong do not know this beach is here.

Freedom Beach

You can only reach this stunning beach by boat. It is in the headland south of Patong all the way around and back towards the Karon Beach side. Still it is well worth the boat ride with fantastic bathing and snorkeling.

There are a couple of restaurants and plenty of sun loungers under the trees. The locals take great care of the beach and it is always pristine. Plenty of people do make this a day trip from Patong but the beach is never crowded and again it is surprising how many people in Patong do not know this beach is here.

Nui Beach

This beach is most known for how difficult it is to reach by land. Located between Kata and Nai Harn, the only way to reach it by land is down a two-kilometer dirt track that is almost impossible to traverse in a car. You can just about do it on a motorbike but it is better to walk or let one of the locals take you down on their ATV for a small fee.

It is also known as the most expensive beach in Phuket because you have to cross private land to reach it and they charge 250 baht for the privilege. This fee does get you a sun lounger and drink. When you do arrive, it is a beautiful secluded spot with good swimming and snorkeling. There is a rustic restaurant overlooking the beach but no accommodation. It is never crowded.

Ao Sane Beach

This beach is in the headland at the north end of Nai Harn Beach. You need to go through Le Meridian Phuket Yacht Club’s car park to reach it but they do not stop you. There is a restaurant here and some budget bungalows by the beach. There are usually a few people around but it is never busy.

It is actually a series of three small beaches split by little rocky headlands. None of them is good for swimming due to rocks and corals close to shore. There is some excellent snorkeling.

Laemka Beach

This little beach is at the southern end of Phuket between Rawai and Friendship Beach. It is not signposted and a little difficult to find but a beautiful spot. The Evason Resort and a small bungalow resort are nearby but still the beach remains quiet. It is one of the few southern beaches where you can have a swim and there are nice views out to the southern islands.

Ao Yon Beach

Nestled deep into Cape Panwa is Ao Yon Beach. This is the best beach on the southern side of Phuket. Although it is well developed with residential property, there are no hotels or restaurants by this beach. It is home to Phuket Yacht Club and there are always plenty of boats moored in the bay. It is a beautiful stretch of sand and a good bathing beach. It is usually very quiet and a real getaway.

Arizona: Hot climate, desserts and very mild winters

Arizona: Hot climate, desserts and very mild winters

Arizona is the 48th state of United States of America. It is located in the southwestern region of United States. The capital of Arizona is Phoenix which is the largest city of Arizona. It was the last state declared by the government of United States in the United States of America. Arizona does not have a very moderate climate and therefore it is liked by the people who are interested in spending their vacation in hot summers.

Arizona is known for its hot climate, desserts and very mild winters. It was also termed as the fastest growing state of United States of America in terms of population. It consists of about 4 million people. Phoenix is the most popular part of Arizona and also its capital. The other important cities in Arizona are Mesa, Glendale, Peoria, Chandler, Sun City, Sun City West, Fountain Hills, Gilbert, Avondale, Tempe Tolleson and Scottsdale.

Arizona is a state which solely follows American culture. However, the weather affects its culture. The food pattern is the same as that of the rest of United States of America. Arizona is very famous for its cooking patterns. The tourists here can also enjoy desserts. Arizona is one of safest places in United States of America. The infrastructure is developed in a very good and secure manner. Arizona is also very famous for its sports. It has its own teams for different sports, just like the other States of United States of America. Arizona is a very wealthy state in terms of education and sports. People who like educational and sports activities come to Arizona to study and learn.

The top attractions in Arizona are Bisbee, Canyon de Chelly, Jerome, Lake Powell and Monument Valley. These are the most beautiful places to visit in Arizona. The most famous hotels in Arizona are Anthem, Bellemont, Page, Paradise Valley, Parker, Oak Creek Canyon and Oro Valley. These hotels are the best and most luxurious hotels in Arizona. They are very well developed and have the best and the latest amenities.

These hotels serve various types of cuisines to their guests. The hotel management takes care of maintaining different types of cuisines according to the type of the guests from different countries. The music is also very diverse in Arizona. It is based on the native English music which is followed all over America. However, it also contains some French and Spanish words in it.

As far as sport is concerned, there are many popular players who are now playing as professionals in the American teams. These teams play at the world level championships and leagues. Arizona is also famous for having the maximum number of female governors, than any other state in the country. It follows a very rich education pattern. The universities and schools are very sensitive about their education level and student management. The state government is also very active in maintaining law and order in the state to make the natives as well as the tourists feel safe and secure.

Amsterdam: A Quick Orientation

Amsterdam: A Quick Orientation

Amsterdam, in its physical aspect, is almost entirely a product of the so-called “Golden Age” of the Netherlands-that period in the 17th century when Holland surged to the near-pinnacle of world power, after its victory over Spain in the brutal Eighty Years War. It was during this period that the merchants of Amsterdam-then the dominant element in the city-laid out a pattern of gently-curving, concentric canals that occupy the central section of Amsterdam and constitute the city’s particular glory today. Amsterdam performs an essentially capital city service function for the rest of the Dutch economy.

The canals run in a fairly regular pattern that makes it quite easy to orient yourself. Starting at the Central Station, the first of the canals is the Singel. Then comes the Herengracht (“Gentlemen’s Canal”), then the Keizersgracht (“Emperor’s Canal”), and finally the Prinsengracht (“Prince’s Canal”). Along these canals the merchants of 17th-century Amsterdam then constructed what seem today like endless lines of gilded, patrician mansions and homes. These have, in recent years, been occupied by business firms, but their façades are absolutely untouched-and it is in this most beautiful centuries-old setting that you’ll want to spend most of your time in Amsterdam.

Crossing through this pattern of parallel, concentric canals, like the spokes of a wheel, are avenues, the most important of which is the Damrak, which starts at the Central Station and heads straight to the Dam Square, site of the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), and National Monument. From the Dam Square, this street becomes the Rokin, and veers a bit as it heads to the Mint Square (Muntplein), where the famous old Mint Tower Amsterdam stands, and where the Amstel River begins.

Near the Mint Square is the Rembrandtsplein (Rembrandt’s Square), one of the two major entertainment areas of Amsterdam; a bit further out, and to the west, is the Leidseplein (Leidse Square), the other entertainment section of Amsterdam, and the site of the Stadsschouw-burg (Municipal Theatre). And beyond this central area is a slightly more modern section where you’ll find the two great art museums of Amsterdam-the renowned Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum- as well as the famous home of its much-acclaimed orchestra, the Concertgebouw.

Why Americans travel to Europe for what?

Why Americans travel to Europe for what?

Americans go to London for social triumph, to Rome for art’s sake, and to Berlin to study music and to economize; but they go to Paris to enjoy themselves. And there are no young men of any nation who enter into the accomplishment of this so heartily and so completely as does the young American.

Paris determined to see all that any one else has ever seen, and to outdo all that any one else has ever done, and to stir that city to its suburbs. He saves his time, his money, and his superfluous energy for this visit, and the most amusing part of it is that he always leaves Paris fully assured that he has enjoyed himself while there more thoroughly than any one else has ever done, and that the city will require two or three months’ rest before it can read just itself after the shock and wonder due to his meteoric flight through its limits. Paris, he tells you, ecstatically, when he meets you on the boulevards is “the greatest place on earth,” and he adds, as evidence of the truth of this, that he has not slept in three weeks. He is unsurpassed in his omnivorous capacity for sight-seeing, and in his ability to make himself immediately and contentedly at home.

The American visitor is not only undaunted by the strange language, but unimpressed by the signs of years of vivid history about him. He sandwiches a glimpse at the tomb of Napoleon, and a trip on a penny steamer up the Seine, and back again to the Morgue, with a rush through the Cathedral of Notre Dame, between the hours of his breakfast and the race-meeting at Longchamps the same afternoon. Nothing of present interest escapes him, and nothing bores him. He assimilates and grasps the method of Parisian existence with a rapidity that leaves you wondering in the rear, and at the end of a week can tell you that you should go to one side of the Grand Hôtel for cigars, and to the other to have your hat blocked. He knows at what hour Yvette Guilbert comes on at the Ambassadeurs’, and on which mornings of the week the flower-market is held around the Madeleine.

While you are still hunting for apartments he has visited the sewers under the earth, and the Eiffel Tower over the earth, and eaten his dinner in a tree at Robinson’s, and driven a coach to Versailles over the same road upon which the mob tramped to bring Marie Antoinette back to Paris, without being the least impressed by the contrast which this offers to his own progress. He develops also a daring and reckless spirit of adventure, which would never have found vent in his native city or town, or in any other foreign city or town. It is in the air, and he enters into the childish goodnature of the place and of the people after the same mariner that the head of a family grows young again at his class reunion.

The Château Rouge was originally the house of some stately family in the time of Louis XIV. They will tell you there that it was one of the mistresses of this monarch who occupied it, and will point to the frescos of one room to show how magnificent her abode then was. This tradition may or may not be true, but it adds an interest to the house, and furnishes the dramatic contrast to its present wretchedness.

Japan: From Kyoto to Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Kyushu Island, Korea

Japan: From Kyoto to Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Kyushu Island, Korea

From Kyoto

Thanks to its perch in the relatively high latitudes, northeast Asia is the only part of the region that enjoys four distinct seasons-a climatic oddity that makes it curiously familiar for Westerners traveling in Japan, Korea, and parts of northern China. Cherry-blossom time is perhaps the best season to visit Japan (though beware of the crowds), and fall the best for Korea (where the colors easily rival those of New England). In China’s north and Russia’s far east, high summer or midwinter are best-warm sunlit evenings in July or magnificent snowy vistas in December.

Forget Tokyo as a base: Its monstrous international airport, Narita, happens to be so inconveniently sited-at the very least, two and a half hours from the average Tokyo hotel room-that it is actually the very last place to choose. By contrast, Osaka’s handsome new airport proves a very good jumping-off point and is well connected to its neighbor cities, and not least to the exquisite old Japanese capital of Kyoto-which means that you can spend a meditative morning communing with the stones in Ryoan-ji Temple or strolling the Philosopher’s Walk from Eikan-do to Ginkaku-ji before setting out, via what is called the new Kansai airport, on your adventure.

There ate–two further practical advantages to Osaka. First, flights from the Kansai field to Tokyo land not at the far away Narita but at the much handier Haneda Airport, only minutes from Tokyo’s city center; and second, Osaka-where there is a brand-new Imperial Hotel that is well worth seeing-is nearer to the major centers of South Korea, essential destinations for anyone wanting to have the full picture of what northeast Asia is all about.

To Tokyo

This, of course, has to be the prime destination, but it is invidious to offer specific sites of pilgrimage-the Imperial Palace, the Ginza, the 5 A.M. auctions at the Tsukiji fish market. Better to suggest things to do, such as Kabuki theater (marathan sessions are held at the Kabuki-za Theater in Ginza), or No drama (at the nearby Ginza No-Gakudo), or simply the amazing nightlife in such areas as Shinjuku or Roppongi. Whereas in smaller Japanese cities and towns it’s a good idea to have the (incredibly expensive) experience of staying in a local inn, a ryokan, in Tokyo you are better advised to stay at a Western-style hotel, of which the Seiyo Ginza and the Imperial remain among the best.

To Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji and the nearby hot spring region of Hakone are well within the two-hour range for train journeys from Kyoto. You climb the mountain (in Japan they say the wise man climbs it but only the fool climbs it twice), taking about four hours up, two down; warm clothing is essential if you climb at night-as you should, in order to witness goraiko, the sunrise, from the summit.In Hakone, where you can stay at astonishingly costly hotels like the Fujiya, one ofthe oldest Western-style hotels in the country, the attractions are legion-lakes, mountains, mud baths, ancient forests, and, if you’re lucky, morning views of Fuji-san looming over all.

To Kyushu Island

Here is where you come to know Japan best of all, however, by experiencing her traditions and her curiosities rather than by seeing her cities and her sights. But doing this demands same valor on the part of the casual visitor-nowhere more so than in the sampling of the onsen, the open-air bath. Try Beppu, where you can either bathe in a variety of types and temperatures of water or be buried up to the neck in hat sand on a volcanic beach. In Yufu-in, inland and near-by, the scene is more genteel and more beautifully and classically Japanese, and there are plenty of smaIl hotels with adjoining baths.

Also on Kyushu is the reborn town of Nagasaki-famous for its role as the first open city in pre-Meiji Japan and as the second city to be devastated by the American nuclear attacks in 1945. Hiroshima, two hours by train southwest of Osaka and still on the main island of Honshu, is equally well worth visiting.The two other main islands of Japan-the small and temple-filled Shikoku and the large and largely agricultural Hokkaido-are less frequently visited. For those with time (six weeks if on foot, a day if by bus), there is a memorable pilgrimage route that takes in all 88 temple site s on Shikoku; and for those with wintertime energy, the skiing around Sapporo is excellent. The Shikotsuko Hokkai Hotel here offers one of the few affordable Japanese ryokan experiences in the country.

To Korea

From Osaka Airport, it is quick and easy to reach Seoul, Pusan, and, with a little more effort, the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. While the sight of the Cold War, still very much alive and well at the armistice village of Panmunjom, may enthrall some, the little-known countryside of South Korea remains spectacularly beautiful: The unforgettable temple of Haein-sa near the city of Taegu is among the most notable places.Within locked rooms and guarded by monks lies one of the original Buddhist woodenblock libraries, the Tripitaka Koreana, carved in the thirteenth century; and the temple itself sits in a dreamlike panorama of misty mountains of unparalleled beauty-the perfect spiritual link to the fragile loveliness of the Kyoto temples.