Inspiration and Stories: Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a classic travel destination. It's cheap, has excellent food, incredible temples and beaches, some superb short hikes and a great mix of cultures. It's also perfect for first-timers, as it's incredibly easy to navigate, with a well-established tourist/backpacker trail (and no shortage of partying for younglings looking to do so).

 
 
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Philippines: Ifugao (Northern Luzon)

Trekking

"of the earth and sky"

A LEECH bite bleeds freely for hours. Hematophagic leeches belong to the phylum Annelida, like their less-feared cousin, the common earthworm.

Leech saliva, however, contains a powerful anti-clotting enzyme known as hirudin, which is secreted into the wound, causing blood to pour from a cut the size of a shaving nick.

"Don't worry, you won't lose too much blood," my friend assures me. It is my first morning in The Philippines, breakfasting at a hotel in Manila. In a week we will travel north into Ifugao province to climb the famed Mt Napulauan, and my friend, a fellow mountaineer, is graciously reassuring me in typical Filipino fashion. "The leeches are small," he insists. "They suck for maybe 20 minutes and then they just fall off. Nothing to worry about."

Other visitors have not been similarly sanguine.

 
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Indonesia: Mt rinjani, Lombok

TREKKING

"BEYOND BALI"

Senaru smelled of desperation.

Here on the fourth day of April its was the worst of the lean and hungry times. Mt Rinjani is the lifeblood of this town, a 3,726m stratovolcano rising like a monster from the pancake flats of north Lombok, Senaru's sole nonagricultural resource and 75% of its yearly economy. And with the mountain closed by torrential rains or the past three months, Senaru had been quietly starving.

 
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Philippines: bohol

underwater

"Wandering a Water Wonderland"

The Philippine island of Bohol isn’t one with a lot of international name recognition — yet. Just ninety minutes by ferry from bustling Cebu City, or a cheap one-hour flight from Manila, it’s nonetheless often overlooked by underwater enthusiasts, who flock to better-known dive spots like Thailand’s Ko Tao and Indonesia’s Gili Trawangan.

Despite the lack of mainstream cachet, however, Bohol’s been gaining a steady buzz amongst hard-core divers for years, and when the opportunity came for a weeklong whirlwind tour of the island’s underwater wonders, I put sleep on the back burner and jumped in with both feet.

 
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Indonesia: togean islands, sulawesi

underwater and travel

"the authentic escape"

On a map, Indonesia’s Sulawesi looks like a starfish being blown eastward in the wind. This is the world’s 11th-largest island, a geographical oddity populated by some of the most exceptional creatures and cultures in Asia.

Although I’ve journeyed for nearly three full days to reach the remote Togian Islands in Sulawesi’s heart, I’ve come as much for what the islands lack as for what they have. I’ve come, in short, to get away.

 
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Laos: muang ngoi

travel

"a pocket of resilience"

The cave smells of limestone, wet hard-packed earth and cold water as we swim through the darkness. With one hand held above the water, my flashlight cuts an LED-white fan against the low ceiling of the cavern. Water drips down, musical in its echoing. As the chamber opens up, we climb a mud-slick slope into an expansive hall of crags and stalactites, passages running down like rabbit warrens deep into the earth from its edges, our shadows swallowed by the deeper darkness like ghosts of a past not quite vanished.