If you go to a touristic place, the locals will try to make their living by selling souvenirs and show generally not much interest in you. In less popular places though, the locals will be excited to learn about your culture and are incredibly happy to meet you (given you have the right attitude and show them respect).
Now you probably all know this, so the purpose of this thread is not to educate anyone about this. It is rather a call to you to share these kind of great places here with our community. To bring it down to one sentence: Please tell us about a great place youve been to, that isnt popular at all. I maintain a list with places I want to visit and I imagine this thread might be able to bring up great additions to it!
It makes sense that I kickstart this thread with one of the greatest travel experiences I ever had.
Last year I was working in Shanghai. During October the WHOLE COUNTRY gets a one week national holiday. Imagine 1.4 billion Chinese either trying to visit their families or travelling within China. This is total overkill for public transportation and every touristic destination.
Thats why I decided to find the most remote and distant place that China has to offer. I wanted to find the adventure of a lifetime. In the end, I wasnt disappointed. I decided to go to Xinjiang, the biggest of Chinas 33 provinces. Its HUGE. This province alone can fit Germany more than 5 times. It borders countries such as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and several others. It also populates several minorities you have never heard from in your life. Promise.
While the whole province offers amazing opportunities for vagabonders, I want to share the particular days I spent in the north of Xinjiang. I went to the Kanas Lake, which is located on a pointy end of land in between Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. The whole area is home of many Tuvans and Kazakhs. They are still living a very traditional life, partially as nomands with tents and partially in small villages consisting of wooden huts. Its an amazing environment, with hundreds of wild animals, snowy mountaintops, teal rivers, beautiful forests and of course the breathtaking Kanas Lake.
When I got in the bus that was taking me to Lake Kanas in Urumqi, the capitol of Xinjiang, I didnt know about all this. Actually I didnt know anything about this place at all. My Lonely Planet didnt provide much more than half a page, but it sounded interesting so I decided to go. Urumqi is a really hot city. Its an arabic setting and the climate fits appropriately. I was sweating all day long, while the sun was burning relentlessly! But when I entered the bus with my wool shirt and shorts with nothing more than my little backpack, the crowd went furious!
First I was confused, but after a while the other passengers were able to explain to me in Chinese that I was going to freeze to death. I didnt take this very seriously and was more worried about the sunburn I had gotten that day. Guess what, turns out the locals know better than you! Needless to say, that when I left the bus, I was indeed freezing to death. I greatly underestimated the impact of altitude difference and the long distance we were driving.
I even learned another lesson quickly after. Be careful what you wish for. After arriving I immediately realized I found a place that could truly be called remote. To find an English speaking person was out of question and I even needed to be in luck to find someone who was able to speak Chinese. Although they were living in China it was a foreign language for them too, and barely anyone spoke it. If you think I was fluent by the way, consider reconsidering. 2 months prior to my trip my lips have never formed a Chinese syllable. When I managed to ask someone where I could find the next ATM, he laughed and told me it takes 200 kilometers to get to the closest ATM. Oh great, gets better and better, I thought. I truely reached the end of the world.
So I was wandering around, shivering and worrying what Ive gotten myself into. Thats when I decided to make the most out of this mess, instead of choosing the easy way and simply taking a bus back. Turns out, this was the best decision I could make.
I quickly found a local who was willing to sell me his Chinese army coat (that explains the hilarious pictures you are going to see) for less than 100 yuan, about 10 Euro. From that point on, my trip went uphill.
I found 2 Chinese tourists that couldnt speak any English either and together we started our hike towards the first Kazakh village. On our way there we found a single tent in the middle of nowhere. A very nice Kazakh family welcomed us and offered us fresh bread and Chinese milk tea. Except that, for the next 8 hours, we were not going to see any other person. We spend those 8 hours walking in an amazing setting, passing hundreds of wild horses, cows, goats and countless other animals. If you want to get a rough idea how the beautiful forests and rivers looked in real life, take a glance at the pictures below.
Eventually we arrived in the village and I was going to spend the night with a local old woman. Some of the wooden huts had electricity, none had water connection. Most houses contained only 1 room and I ended up sleeping on some sort of giant couch next to that old woman. Living with someone from another culture is as close as you can ever get to truly experience that culture. You see how they spend their days, you see how they prepare food, obviously you eat what they eat, etc. It was amazing!
The village was the hub for many amazing hikes I did and within the next few days, I ended up staying with several other families. One of them even threw a party for me! To do that, the father simply put a ghetto blaster on the ground, turned it on and started dancing with his wife and kids. The village quickly showed up and was fighting over who could teach me dance moves next. We were dancing all night long.
During my whole trip I didnt see any other Western human being and only a few Chinese tourists. Like you would expect, everybody was very excited to meet me and share his culture with me and I think thats what made the trip so special.
Here is a Flickr Album, containing some of the best pictures I took around Kanas Lake.
It was a long read, but hopefully worth it for you. If you consider going, note that its closed in winter time due to bad weather. The whole area is not accessible after mid of October. Generally you can reach it best by flying to Urumqi and taking a sleeper bus to there. Contact me if you need further information.
Now its your turn. Please share your favourite remote destination with us :)
Great topic and great trip report. I love those kinds of places too.
I did a hike from the Nujiang river to the Mekong river in the top north west of Yunnan Province in China near to the border of Burma. Especially the Nujiang side is very remote and virtually sees no tourists at all. There were remote mountain villages with Tibetans who were surprisingly not Buddhists but Christians due to a French missionary who went there many decades ago.
Though it is not about one place but cycling from Kunming in China to Luang Prabang in Laos was a great experience. Exploring the many ethnic minorities of southern Yunnan as well as the very remote mountain villages of northern Lao.
In 2003 I hitched a ride on a Chinese cargo boat on the Mekong river from Chiang Saen in north eastern Thailand to China. It was dry season and upriver so the trip took 3 days on the Mekong, dividing Burma and Laos. Lots of memories from that trip: KTV in small bamboo huts on Lao side; Opium stops on Burmese side; the captain buying game animals from Lao hunters to sell in Chinese restaurants. (At that time cargo boats were the only option of transport - since a couple of years there is a fast "tourist boat" and it seems cargo boats won't let foreigners on board anymore - but you might want to give it a try. Nothing is for certain in that area.)
Though I was on a Tourist-Tour (because of the lack of other options), North Korea is still a very un-touristy place. And well worth experiencing and seeing through your own eyes.
Im glad the thread is going so well :) Yes Yunnan province is a great place. Arguably its the best China has to offer. Yuanyang Rice Terraces (AMAZING!! View – google it), Meili Xueshan (Tibetan villages, picturesque mountains, COLD) and of course Xishuangbanna (Djungle, Tea farmers) are all located in Yunnan. But dont expect any comfort or modern civilization except in Kunming.
If you want adventure and are interested in China though, Yunnan is the place to go. Here are some more impressions from the southern part. Most people there are actually tea farmers and you can see fields everywhere. People are great, especially kids. They are incredibly curious and afraid at the same time! They were really going crazy when I showed them the first touch screen of their lifes in my NEX-5N lol :)
Best way to reach this place is to take a plane to Kunming, then a bus to Jinghong and from there on you need to find a guide because the places are really remote in the middle of a jungle. I went together with a woman from Hong Kong and a local guide so in total we were 3. We were hiking in the area for several days and got charged 300 yuan per day. He knew all the locals so food and sleeping were included.
Village in Xishuangbanna:
Panorama of MANY tea fields:
Kids in Xishuangbanna:
I second the Yunnan recommendation. I liked it so much that I actually stayed there for a few years.My favorite way of transport to access really remote places:
There are many remote river crossings using “rope-bridges” only. It is a lot of fun. I highly recommend to get your own hook, so you can use them whenever you want.
I live in China right now and went to Yunnan during the October holiday... But the city I went to was not remote... I spent a few days in Lijiang... The Old Town in Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is very beautiful, but that place gets PACKED with tourists during Golden Week.
I also went to a nice place called Guan Yin Xia a little bit outside of the city, that was not so touristed and was pretty beautiful.
Been meaning to to set up an account and reply to this thread for a while.
I recently went to Georgia. No, no that Georgia, the other one. The Republic of Saqartvelo. Tbilisi rather than Atlanta.
The idea of Georgia appealed because of what it wasn't as much as what it was. It's not Europe. This vaguely defined continent is supposed to end at the Bosporus. Istanbul has a European side and an Asian side. Georgia is 700 miles east of that city. It's not archetypically Asian; Christian churches; the cross of St George and a capital built with classical architecture. It's not middle eastern and it's certainly not Russian. It is omitted from the major guide books, featuring in neither the Eastern European or Central Asian editions of Lonely Planet, which is sorta what sparked my interest in going there.
Now. can I post some photos on my tediously slow net connection....
Hey-hey! it worked. This is Kazbegi, in the the Caucasus mountain range that spans the Russo-Georgian border
And this is Georgia's cosmopolitan westward looking capital Tbilisi
Kazbegi is actually the easiest to reach and thus most visited bit of mountain wilderness, being as it is, just three hours out of Tbilisi. Apparently there are some truly epic week long hikes to be had in the north-west of the country, but I only had 5 days holiday left. The perils of being a salaried worker...
None the less I saw no one as I trekked up to the glacier in the distance. Most visitors only go as far as the church that over looks the town below.
Given that I only had a week, I spent most of my time in Tbilisi and Kazbegi. I'd like to return and see more of the Caucasus, but then I really want to go to Uzbekistan too next. Decisions, decisions...
I joined "The Inca Rally" in August with a mission of driving all the way from Lima, Peru to Georgetown, Guyana while doing charity on the way. 6 counties, 5000 miles in only 3 weeks!! So with a 1981 shitty Lada and a 1977 bright blue Beetle, we where more then ready to hit the road. Well, after only two hours driving, the Lada had her first break-down. And it continued.. In 4 weeks of driving, there where only one day she didn't break down. The Beetle on the other hand, had one big breakdown the first day (as well).. But after be bought a bright new, shiny engine for him, he could go on forever..
But with the Lada breaking down on silly places, we got in touch with so many people that probably never had seen white people before - and they where more then happy to help.. There where always someone that knew someone that had a decent knowledge about cars. And amazingly, we always got back on the road again..
We also became an expert in finding brilliant places to sleep. There where nights where all the 5 of us had to spoon together, but still not fit all of us on the tiny madras. And having baby-chickens in the corner and hearing rat walking by your ears just made the whole situation more interesting. We also invited our self for a tasty lunch at this cute lady in the middle of nowhere of Ecuador. She looked pretty shocked when we knocked on her door.
Even though we didn't make it all the way to Guyana (The Lada's breaks and gear stopped working - downhill!) we kinda succeed the trip. We got so off the beaten track there where time we was wondering if we ever would find the way back again.. And we also raised 2000$ for one of the organizations we're supporting.
http://www.theincarally.com/ This is the web-site if you wanna know more about the rally..
And if anyone is interested in joining us in July 2013 for another try, just send me a mail and I'll make it happen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations, this is the winning post of the Earth Runners contest! Send a private message to Earthrunner1987 with a link to this post to get your sandals made!
This is a bit rushed, so it's very short without any stories, anyway here is my best trip:
I live in Sweden and this summer me + two friends decided to to take the car and make a roadtrip to the far north of Norway (Alta, Tromsö, Senja, Lofoten) to climb and hike mountains. We basically just drove north to Alta first, then continued through Tromsö and Senja on our way to Lofoten, staying only about a day at each, then spending about two weeks around Lofoten.
Lofoten is really amazing if you like to hike and climb mountains, and it's incredibly beautiful. It is basically a bunch of islands that are connected with bridges, and there are mountains and water everywhere. It's not out in nowhere land though, it has modern small cities and a big fishing industry, and every modern thing you'll need.
After Lofoten we drove to Kvikkjokk in northern Sweden and hiked in Padjelanta national park, which was very beautiful as well. We were out for about 8 days (we planned on 11 days) before I got problems with my knee, and with 110km to the nearest roads we had to take a helicopter back to our car.
The best part of this whole trip (1 month) was to just drive around in the north, stopping where we wanted, and having access to all these beatiful places to camp, hike, and climb)
Here are some pictures (I just put it up so it's not sorted, the pictures from lofoten and padjelanta are a little mixed):
The latest pic of the set is the biggest city of Lofoten, taken from the top of a mountain 600m high.
Out of the 300 people that read this post and following this "Blog about World Travel" there is no one able to share a cool place? Come on guys :) It doesnt have to be a super long story. Just post a nice place youve been to thats not super obvious and maybe add a picture. Thanks.
Wow! Seriously awesome story! I love that sort of stuff.
Probably the most remote place I've been to is the Darien Gap in southern Panama. Apparently it's so rare for tourists to go there that the police actually stopped us and brought us to the station, half to figure out why we were there, and half to register us because it's apparently very dangerous.
We walked around the little town of Yaviza, jumped off a bridge into the river, meandered through a hospital, and then set out into the jungle. The Darien Gap is used for a lot of drug trafficking between Colombia and Panama, so when we finally saw a large tent in the middle of the jungle, we approached it very carefully. Sure enough, the people in it spotted us and started talking with us-- they were shocked to see us on their property, but they were just a family, not guerrillas. We walked further and further until the jungle became impassable, and then finally turned back.
I was just thinking about fifteen minutes ago, "I don't think I've ever personally used the word foist before". Not that I remember every word I've said, necessarily, but I think I'd remember if I said foist. Today I resolve to use the word foist at least once in a natural context - so watch out for that.
When we last left our heroes, we had just taken all of the seats out of our mighty new school bus.
To get this party started, check out the official BtyB-Time-Machine satellite photo of the bus. This is in no way blantantly ripped from google maps :
Having lived overseas and being integrated my school in Belgium as a child, I would say I am a veteran at confronting race issues abroad. Despite these experiences, nothing could prepare me for China.
Bear in mind that China is a closed state and as such, they don’t get many outside visitors. Don’t get me wrong; Shanghai is a rather international city so they are much more used to foreigners, or Laowai as they call us. Hong Kong however, doesn’t count. The truth of the matter is that many Chinese have only ever seen Black people on television and as a result, their conceptions of us are quite skewed. They believe that all colored people are either basketball players or rappers/performers. Needless to say, the mere glimpse of a Black person can send a whole village of people into a frenzy.
From the moment I set foot on the ground at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport, I knew I was in for quite a ride. I sensed my impending gloom as I looked around realizing that out of the hundreds of people in line in front of me, I could only count 3 or 4 who looked like me. This is typically the case everywhere I go.
This poses quite a problem when trying to get around in China. At first, there are the awkward stares and the pointing and quite frankly, many Chinese will treat you like a zoo animal. Then, depending on where you are, you will suddenly be rushed by a group of Chinese all attempting to take pictures of you on their phones (without asking mind you) and next thing you know, they are asking their friends to take pictures of them with you. You may even be handed a baby or two. That isn't an exaggeration. Chinese people love a foreigner and many consider it good luck to have you hold their baby for a picture.
Aside from the pointing, staring and pictures, you get the mobs that follow you around everywhere you go. Sometimes, a photo shoot can last for 20 minutes if someone doesn’t stop them. It happened to my friends and I as we were visiting The Bund in Shanghai. Out of nowhere a guy approached a black member of our group and asked him if he was “NBA.” He assumed because my friend was tall and Black, that he must be an NBA player. And so the photo shoot commenced and lasted for quite a while.