We’ve all faced travel delays before, and things like strikes, bad weather and road closures can wreak havoc on the best-laid plans. But spare a thought for the tourist who found himself stranded on a remote Australian island for two weeks –- not because his flight was cancelled, but because a giant crocodile was eyeing him down.
New Zealander Ryan Blair had been visiting Governor Island in Western Australia on a kayaking trip when he became trapped by the large reptile. A boat had taken him to the isolated island and dropped him off so he could explore, but the kayaker soon realized he didn’t have enough food to last his visit. He tried swimming back to the mainland but was quickly stopped in his tracks by a 20-foot long crocodile.Although the mainland was only three miles away from the island, Blair couldn’t make the journey back without attracting the attention of the presumably hungry croc. After two weeks of repeatedly attempting the swim — as well as setting fires to attract the attention of passing boats — Blair was getting desperate.
“He was about four meters away from me, and I thought, ‘This is it,'” the kayaker told an Australian television station. “It was so close, and if this croc wanted to take me it would not have been an issue. I was scared for my life. I was hard-core praying for God to save me.”
It seems those prayers were heard because a boatman eventually spotted the 37-year-old and brought him to safety.
Greenland is the 12th largest country in the world, yet its entire population would just barely be able to fill Michigan Stadium to half of its capacity. Virtually all pictures taken on the enormous island encapsulate this sparsely populated, remote nature, such as this one taken by Mads & Trine on Flickr. Greenland is a place with towns so small they have almost no signs, as residents already know where everything is. This photo was taken in Sisimiut, a town with a quaint population of just over 5,000 where the local school turns into a hostel for the summer. Located just north of the Arctic Circle, it’s an ideal place to catch the Northern Lights.
“Hey, batter, batter, batter . . . saa-weeeeng!” doesn’t translate directly, but the Greenlandic word for it is Anaasilluni, meaning to swing or to hit.
When I saw these kids batting around in the schoolyard, I smiled and thought, “Hey, isn’t that cool? They’re playing baseball!”–but actually no, it’s not baseball. The game is called Anaalerooq, or “hit ball” and it’s played all across Greenland. It might look and feel like baseball-here they’re using an aluminum bat and a yellow tennis ball-but the rules are a little different. For one, there are only two bases, or “points”.
I happened upon this outdoor gym class right at the start of the school season in a village so remote it took me three flights, two helicopters and a two-hour boat ride to get there.
When you arrive, Tasiusaq feels like it’s the last village in the world. In fact, it’s not even a village, but rather a “settlement” at the edge of Tasermuit (“small fjord”). A single dirt path runs between two lines of compact wooden homes, all brightly colored and with steep roofs. There were fish drying out on the clotheslines next to the clothes, and a few perky dogs tied up. Beyond that, the world was just bright blue sea and the grey granite pinnacles of a million unnamed mountains. In the far distance, there was a hint of white and the coolness sweeping off the ice cap.
I was told that only 67 people live in Tasiusaq and that 13 of them were students in this bright red schoolhouse. It’s impossible for me to fathom what life is like in such an isolated place, but I do know that the inhabitants of Tasiusaq can’t ever complain about the view. %Gallery-102341%
When it comes to travel, Greenland has its own rules-which are nature’s rules really. In fact, nature rules so completely that the weather report determines your itinerary, as do the tricky logistics of Greenland’s giant glacial geography.
For starters, Greenland is the least densely populated country in the world: for every human being who lives on the coastal fringe, there are 15 square miles of silent, empty ice rising up in the middle of the country. More than 80% of the land is covered by permanent ice cap, which can only be crossed by air or by skis.
Also, did I mention? There are no roads between any two towns. Getting from A to B in Greenland is very much an adventure in its own right.
What is most shocking about traveling in Greenland is how remarkably empty a place it is. Most of us have never confronted such vast, undisturbed landscapes–no matter how well-traveled we pretend to be. The feeling of being this tiny singular person up against such gargantuan nature is odd and overwhelming. Our intellects tend to panic a little–where are the highways, streetlights, the telephone wires, the ambient glowing dome of the suburbs at night? After you’ve arrived in some town, your mind ponders the landscape and begins to realize that the only way out is to hike–and then to where? On foot, most villages are a good 4 to 5 days apart–and that’s in the summer when the weather is nice.
If you’re the kind of traveler who enjoys wandering in their rent-a-car or hopping from one place to the next in some tightly-packed trip, please skip Greenland. For the others out there–those of who sit all week at desks with computers and crave the open outdoors, then Greenland is the pinnacle of our big hiking dream. Back at home, you might drive a few hours to reach the closest state park that’s overrun with hot-dog roasters living in RVs with blasting rap music. In Greenland, a two-minute helicopter hop puts you into true and utter wilderness where if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll die.And so, Greenland separates one kind of traveler from another. In my hotel lobby, a giant wall map of the country spells out the tiny fishing villages around the coast, then announces the big, white center of the country in bold letters: IKKE OPMÅLT (“Unexplored” in Danish). If that makes your mouth water a little, then Greenland’s gonna be good to you.
Just bear in mind that getting to Greenland is the easy part. There are only two major international commercial airports in Greenland: Narsarsuaq in the south and Kangerlussuaq, right above the Arctic Circle. Both were built by the US military back in the days of the Korean War, and both runways are laid out in glacial deltas of grey silt that lie at the base of tremendous fjords.
From either airport, smaller flights connect to various regions of the country–north, south, east, and west (the most populated area). But due to the rugged landscape, and the overall remoteness of so many towns and villages, a lot of these “flights” take place in helicopters, scheduled daily, like busses that stop in one town and then the next. They are also very, very expensive.
Air Greenland is the country’s flagship carrier. With a virtual monopoly, very low passenger numbers, few and scattered airports, highly seasonal travel and even higher costs, a ticket on Air Greenland can be depressingly pricey. For instance, flying from Greenland’s west coast capital Nuuk to the east coast town of Kulusuk will set you back $1,800 round trip (yes, in economy class). Air Iceland offers several (cheaper) seasonal flights from Reykjavík, but it means leaving the country every time you want to reconnect to a new place.
What that means is that Greenlanders don’t travel so much in their own country. Many Greenlanders who live in one part of the country have never visited another part. When flying to Spain is cheaper than flying to the next town over, most Greenlanders choose Spain. For that reason, family reunions sometimes happen outside the country-it’s usually easier and cheaper to gather relatives for a week of shopping in Copenhagen then for everyone to meet up in some chosen Greenlandic town.
Similarly, the reality of transportation in Greenland is a major limiting factor for visitors. Many come with the erroneous belief that they will “do” Greenland, darting around the country like a tour of England, only to realize their budget or a flight schedule confines them to one tiny corner of the country or even a single town. Accept the reality of Greenland and enjoy what you can see. Pick an area–say the South–fly there, and then invest your budget in shorter jumps between towns. This might be on the subsidized helicopter rides (about $100 a pop) to boats and ferries between “closer” towns, ranging from $50-$100.
Another word of advice–always get a window seat. On helicopters, that means being a little pushy since the seats are not assigned. You’re spending a lot of money to be in this country, and while the flights and boat rides might seem long and functional, they are always scenic. It’s how you will see the in-between places that define the country as the great arctic wilderness that it is.
Air Greenland provided transportation for the author during his travels in Greenland, for which he is very grateful. He still thinks their tickets are very, very expensive.
There’s a lot to see in Southeast Asia. Over the past five months, as I’ve traveled through this amazing region, it’s something I’ve experienced firsthand. From mind-blowing jungle ruins to outstanding food and world class beaches, there’s a never-ending wealth of curiosities for visitors. But with so much to see and do, it’s hard to know what to prioritize. Is Angkor Wat really as awesome as you’ve heard? Where should you go in Vietnam? Is it safe to eat the street food?
If you’ve been thinking about that dream trip to Southeast Asia but didn’t know where to start, today’s post is for you. We’re going to run through ten of Southeast Asia’s most amazing attractions, from the outstanding food to the best adventures and most awe-inspiring sights. Expect to find a few of the Southeast Asia’s most famous spots, along with my favorite “off-the-beaten path” Southeast Asian destinations from more than five months on the road. Ready to visit one of the world’s most fascinating regions? Keep reading below for our top ten picks…#10 – Bangkok’s Khao San Road
You simply can’t make a top 10 list on Southeast Asia without mentioning Bangkok’s Khao San Road. Love it or hate it, it’s the standard first stop for most Southeast Asian itineraries. The sheer volume of travelers, sizzling street food and range of shady characters ensure there’s always a good time and a story waiting to happen.
#9 – Street food in Ho Chi Minh City
The variety, quality and value of eating in Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is beyond compare. From the freshest ingredients to crispy French baguettes to the most extreme culinary adventures, the food scene in Saigon is sure to amaze and delight. Check out Gadling’s “South by Southeast” investigationof eating in Saigon if you want to learn more.
#8 – Thailand’s Tarutao National Marine Park
It’s really hard to pick a favorite island in Thailand. There’s literally hundreds of them. But when we saw the secluded beauties that make up the Tarutao National Marine Park in Southern Thailand, we were hooked.This chain of wild, jungle islands offers beach camping, peace and quiet and some amazing snorkeling.Though Ko Lipe has gotten rather busy, Ko Adang, Ko Tarutao and Ko Rawi remain delightfully undeveloped.
#7 – Exploring Angkor Wat
With almost two million visitors a year, it’s clear that Angkor Wat is one of Southeast Asia’s most popular tourist attractions.When you first set eyes on the stone giant that is Angkor’s main temple, you’ll understand why.The intricate carvings and sheer size of this ancient archaeological marvel are simply mind-blowing. If you’re heading to Cambodia for a visit make sure to check out our 5 Angkor Wat tips.
#6 – Burma’s Taunggyi Balloon Festival
Burma (Myanmar), is the forgotten country of Southeast Asia.Visitors stay away because of the country’s hard-line military government. But those who make the trip inside this cloistered country come away awestruck by the sights and humbled by the friendly, welcoming citizens.This is particularly true at the annual Balloon Festival at Taunggyi, where hundreds of giant hot air balloons are launched into the skyover an eight day event. Make sure you read up on responsible travel to Burma if you want to go.
#5 – Wandering Luang Prabang
Is Luang Prabang the world’s most beautiful city?Achingly beautiful colonial French architecture, serene Buddhist temples and elegant palaces make this former royal capital of Laos a must on any Southeast Asia itinerary. Make sure to enjoy the town’s top-notch eating at spots like Tamarind and enjoy Luang Prabang’s buzzing night market.
#4 – Motorbiking the Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle, a remote region bordering Northern Thailand, Laos and Burma, just might be one of Southeast Asia’s last great exotic destinations.The area’s curvy mountain roads and remote villages make it haven for motorcycle trips. Increasingly popular routes, reliable maps and cheap bike rentals make it easy for even novice cyclists to grab a helmet and hit the open road.Check out our guide to motorcycle trekking to get started.
#3 – The Gibbon Experience in Laos
Want to feel like a kid again? Try sleeping in a tree house and flying around on zip lines in the jungles of Northern Laos, home to the legendary Gibbon Experience.This one-of-a-kind eco park is pioneering a new model of forest conservation and sustainable tourism.Not to mention you might get to see some wildlife and it’s a crazy good time too.
#2 – Trekking in Luang Namtha Chiang Mai has Southeast Asia’s most popular treks, but they are often overcrowded and disappointing. Instead, head to Luang Namtha in Northern Laos, an increasingly popular base for hikers looking to visit remote hill tribe villages.Imagine waking to the sound of roosters, bathing in a river and drinking moonshine with a village chief.
#1 – The ruins of Bagan
Move over Angkor Wat. There’s a new champion in town. The ruins of Bagan, a stunning complex of over 2,000 deserted temples in Myanmar, is quite possibly the world’s most amazing sight. Spend your days exploring the ghostly structures by horse cart or bike, discovering ancient Buddhist murals and climbing hidden staircasesto gorgeous 360 degree views.If you want to read more about Myanmar, check out our guide to ethically visiting this fascinating country.
Gadling writer Jeremy Kressmann spent the last five months in Southeast Asia. You can read other posts on his adventures “South by Southeast” HERE.