South East Asia with its emblematic and exotic landscapes has long seduced Hollywood: Angkor Wat, Cambodia in Tomb Raider; Koh Phi Phi, Thailand in The Beach; or the karst formations of Phang Nga bay, Thailand in the 1974-James Bond movie The man with the golden gun. If the sites are stunning, visiting them can often be disappointing Keep reading
Discovering Paris running is a fantastic way to enjoy some of the major landmarks and take the pace of the city. It is better though to have a few routes in mind before venturing out as the traffic can be hectic and its nice cobble stone streets that are great to discover on foot can be a runner’s ankle nightmare. These top running routes tend to avoid these hazards and will also take you to some of the nicest parks of Paris. Keep running!
The engine of our wooden canoe with long tail echoes in the large room while a cool wind makes me shiver. In total darkness, I vaguely distinguish rocks shaped as faces or animals briefly lit up by the beam of the headlamp of our captain. He is constantly scanning the limestone walls, as the slightest miscalculation on these shallow waters would be fatal to our boat. With great skills, our boatman manoeuvres up the winding subterranean Hinboun River which flows through the geological wonder of South-East Asia, the Kong Lor cave in Laos. Keep reading
Lime stone karst formations are gradually revealing themselves as the morning mist on the Cheow Lan Lake slowly rises. The sun bathes the rocks in warm colours and highlights the jungle growing on their steep flanks. I slowly crawl out of my bed to take a morning swim in the surprisingly warm lake. While climbing back up to the pontoon of my floating bungalow, I notice a familiar rising and falling of shrills that gives me goose bumps: a family of gibbons starts to sing, Keep reading
Sihanoukville is the hub to reach tropical Cambodian islands such as Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, famous for their warm waters and laid-back atmosphere. Sihanoukville itself lacks charm, but a few kilometres south of the centre, the beautiful beach of Otres makes up for it, and is easily accessible by tuk-tuk. Being quite touristy, horseback riding it is an off the beaten path way of exploring the countryside and the beach, leaving the crowds behind. Keep reading
Cambodia is not as famous as Thailand when it comes to islands, paradisiac beaches, coral reefs and scuba diving. And this is all for the best, I am telling myself as I am writing this article from the fishing village M’Pai on the small island of Koh Rong Samloem in Southern Cambodia. Feet in the sand, Keep traveling!
I am running down a gentle slope before I am flying through a tunnel of green leafs and vines opening on the canopy. I am now gliding over treetops with a bird’s eye view on the rainforest that covers the surrounding mountains. Right in front of me appears my everlasting childhood dream: Keep reading!
My eyes catch something massive crossing the river in a slow but steady pace. It is an Asian elephant carrying a man on its neck, seated in a lotus position. Fresh water from the river splashes my face and startles me. “Paddle forward! Keep reading
The sun has warmed up my skin more than I can bear while the warm wind spreads a scent of pine through the air. My backpack is filled with delicious fresh fruits from the market of the Cour Lafayette in Toulon, ready to be munched away during a picnic at a secret cove, by one of the most beautiful beaches of the French Riviera. Keep reading
I am loosening my helmet to wipe the sweat from my face while putting my sunglasses back in place. I take a few sips from my water bottle while enjoying the view on world’s third largest bay, after Hong Kong and San Francisco: the bay of Toulon along the French Riviera. From the top of the 584-metre high Mont Faron, the view on France’s forgotten city and massive military harbour is Keep reading
Old and rusty train tracks half-hidden by blooming flowers on which butterflies and bees feed, joggers drinking from refrigerated fountains, passers-by photographing modern art, tourists enjoying their coffees seated on design benches, white collars on Keep reading
The UNESCO World Heritage site “Le Mont Saint Michel” in Normandy, France, is visited by over 3 milion visitors a year. Keep reading
It has been a long trip, walking for hundreds of kilometres. Setting off about a month ago, we have just arrived at the foot of the last obstacle. It is so close and yet, it seems impossible to reach. The high tide covers up the whole shore and I fear greatly for this life-threatening crossing on foot to the sacred island Keep reading
“It’s a red!” I scream while I hit the breaks and see my Parisian girlfriend maneuvering her bicycle while crossing a three lane road in the city centre of Paris. I swear as cars start accelerating while I’m waiting for them to pass. Being born and raised in a small village in the heart of the Netherlands with safe bicycle lanes along every road, biking through the heart of Paris with a Parisian is a truly adrenaline-packed experience!
The Mont Saint Michel (Saint Michael’s Mount) is a marvel of medieval architecture set in one of the most beautiful bays of the world in Normandy, France. Keep reading
The young ayudante holds his balance gracefully when the colectivo (the mini-van turned local bus), sets off to the next bus stop on the winding road. The engine makes more noise as the gradient of the road gets steeper and the view on the rolling hills surrounding us more beautiful. Behind the next curve lays the remote mountain village of Santa Fé, about five hours South-West of Panama City.
Often, I thoroughly enjoy reading a book preferably by a local author to put me in the mood before traveling to a country. André Brink and Coetzee gave me my first impressions before traveling through South Africa, teaching me about the contemporary struggles of the rainbow nation. Paul Auster was my dark guide to New York City, Maupin took me through San Francisco and the entertaining mystery novels of Donna Leon had me discover the hidden canals of Venice. I didn’t really have that luxury traveling through Central America, with a hectic schedule prior to our 3-month trip. It is only arriving in Boquete, Panama, that I find myself reading a mystery novel taking me to the landmarks of this country. Keep traveling!
The small town of Santa Elena has expanded massively since the Monteverde Cloud Forest gained popularity, and Costa Rica became the destination for biodiversity. Hesitating between exploring the very touristy Monteverde Cloud Forest, or the off the beaten path Keep traveling!
One of Central America’s most picturesque hikes runs between the mountain town of Boquete and the lesser known Cerro Punta in Pamana. Both lay in different valleys putting them a good three-hour bus ride away from each other. They are also linked by the famous 9-kilometre Quetzal trail, squeezed between two dead end roads, for a total of about 23 kilometres. Given the elevation gain, Keep traveling!
Since the archipelago of Bocas del Toro was discovered in 1502 by Christopher Columbus, the island of Bastimentos has served as a base for vessels; hence its name that literally translates as “supplies”. Its fertile soil and tropical climate are ideal for a wide variety of plants to grow plentifully as we are about to discover, setting off for a jungle and beach hike with our specialized guides. Keep traveling!
The Sarapiqui River is powerful and brownish, as it has been raining non-stop for the past 24 hours. Seated in a kayak, resting on the river bank, I observe how David flips himself over with his kayak in the current. The short red embarkation is now floating downstream, upside down. Within a few seconds though, David appears from underneath the water, with a huge smile. “So this is how we do the underwater exit”, he says. “Your turn now!” Keep traveling!
Chiriquí Viejo river, Panama, 1991
I finish pumping up the raft before boarding it with a small team of daredevils. I check the safety gear one more time. We are about to start the first white water rafting descent of the Chiriquí Viejo River in Panama. No one has ever done so. Keep traveling!
“Where are they?” I think concerned while guarding the bags containing our camera gear. A few guys with machetes keep an eye on me from a distance, so I cannot leave the spot. The half of best regards from far has disappeared in a low, narrow and dark tunnel filled with water, dug into the rocks. Its entrance is barely visible as it is hidden behind a curtain of water. It has been almost 30 minutes and Keep traveling!
The whistle from the ayudante (the helper of the bus driver) signals that the overcrowded bus must stop. We get off quickly, and not even coming to a complete halt, the bus drives off. A few bright red tuk-tuks, which surround us instantly, indicate in which direction to go. “Up to the park entrance, very far, cheap price, want a ride?” We are at the foot of the Mombacho volcano in Nicaragua, and we don’t want a ride. Instead, we have decided to conquer the 1344 metres of this dormant volcano, from bottom to top with our own little legs! Keep traveling!
Nicaragua is crossed by a long volcanic chain running from north to south, with volcanoes such as Telica, Masaya, Mombacho, Concepcion, Maderas… many of which still active. Close to Granada, a 6-kilometer-diameter and 100-meter deep crater is filled by fresh water: this is the stunning Laguna de Apoyo, and most likely one of the most enjoyable swims in the country! keep traveling!
The sun burns my exposed skin while I am making my way among fumeroles. A slight smell of sulphur fills the hot air as we walk on a dusty trail. The backpack, stuffed with a tent, a few litres of water and some more gear to spend the night in the wild, presses on my shoulder. We are on our way to the top of the active Telica volcano in Nicaragua, in a quest to observe its massive crater. Keep traveling!
The delicate brown little bird with its bright yellow beak dances elegantly on its high grey legs on a large waterlily leaf. It is a challenge to capture it from my unstable 1-person kayak that rolls violently on the waves caused by a lancha (a small passenger motor boat) passing by. I am kayaking around Las Isletas de Granada, (the islets of Granada), in Nicaragua. According to the legend, there would be 365 islands scattered around the peninsula, one for each day of the year… Quite a lot to explore!
Passing a few women washing their clothes in the river and drying them on the warm volcanic boulders on this sunny Sunday morning, we are entering the Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua, a beautiful playground of soft boulders, steep cliffs, clear pools and wild rapids for a 6-hour self-guided canyoning adventure. Keep traveling!
“Whose idea was this, again?” I barely hear the question over the loud flapping of the freezing cold 200km/h wind against the sleeping bag I am tucked into, fully dressed in the multiple layers of the warmest clothes I have. Indeed, after the life-threatening Daikiretto in the Japanese Alps, the Grand Traverse of the Daisetzusan in Hokkaido, the mosquito-infested 5-day Mirador trek, thrilling skiing itineraries in the French Alps, caving in the Cayo destrict of Belize and playing the Robinson’s on a lost and remote island, etc, I have to admit this was again one of my ideas… It didn’t sound that bad at first: a 7-kilometer hike up the Acatenango volcano to observe the active Fuego volcano at sunrise. Keep traveling!
A light is switched on, waking me up. With earplugs in my ears, my jacket and bonnet on, I am slowly extracting myself from my sleeping bag. It is early! 3:15a.m. Around me, other sleepy trekkers start to pack their sleeping bags and mattresses that cover the floor of Don Pedro’s dining room in a remote village in Guatemala. Only a few hours ago, the 15 of us from all over the world were singing songs Keep traveling!
Wherever you are coming from, reaching the natural limestone pools of Semuc Champey involves a long road trip, as it is lost in Keep traveling!
“Step out slowly, step out slowly, step out slowly!” The voice of Pedro, one of our guides for the day gets louder to reach an almost screaming order that is quite unexpected from this strongly built and very jungle-confident Maya. While I was stepping cautiously on an anthill to observe the leaf carriers, I pointed out to him a small snake coiled on the hill, about half a meter from my foot. As I am backing off, apparently way too slowly for Pedro, he starts telling me with a slight panic in his voice that this baby snake is the deadliest of South and Central America: the fer-de-lance. After a very bumpy ride through the Belizean citrus fields in a former US school bus turned military-graded 4×4, this is how our caving waterfall adventure to the Footprint Cave starts.
The teeth-less Maya man stares at me and laughs. I must look a bit clumsy trying to open the top of the green coconut I have just found, with a huge blunt machete. I did it before so it should work. I keep smashing the metal into the sturdy green coconut shell. The man shakes his head and takes the machete. Keep traveling!
“There we go, this was it…” I don’t want to die yet and I start praying to avoid a panic attack but I cannot longer fight my tears. “I am scared!!”, I scream to Keep traveling!
My face hits the white cold substance when I fall down as my body gets out of control going down a small hill in the mountains of Austria. I have the hardest time getting up without falling again, as my feet are in the most uncomfortable shoes to which the rental skis are attached. I am surrounded by people who speak a language I cannot understand and during the lunch break I eat food I have never seen before: I was three when I started to learn how to ski… Keep reading
The black cloud seems to move faster than me, while I puff and sigh trying to get uphill along the patchwork road in Biei on my rental bike. The sound of thunder is getting closer Keep traveling!
While hiking along the slopes of Mount Aso, this curious badger decided to play hide and seek with us. Keep traveling!
The sea of Okhotsk… Just the sound of it makes me shiver. Only a curtain of fog separates the Russian Kuril Islands from Japan along the narrow straight. Getting out of the car Keep reading
It is early morning when the doors of the visitor centre in Shiretoko National Park open and we receive our bear certificates.
We are about to Keep traveling!
A huge crack wakes me up in the middle of the night. I jump from the bed and open my eyes widely to see a bright light illuminating the Japanese-style room. About 5 seconds later Keep reading
“Okay, don’t panic! There is a stone about 20 cm below your left foot, and a cavity for your left hand behind that rock. Yes, slightly lower. That’s it! You can put your weight on it.”
I don’t see anything but the mountain ridge on the horizon above that rock I need to descend from and a lethal ravine below my feet, while hanging on my arms trying to divide my weight at best. My legs start shaking when I feel the stone underneath my right hand moving! My 12+kg backpack drags me down and bruises my hips and shoulders, limiting my degrees of freedom. I really wish I had a parachute or a zip line… For a few seconds, I don’t see how I can help myself down safely and I fear for my life. Keep traveling!
Arriving on Shikoku we drive inland, as one of our main reasons to visit the island is to hike up the sacred Mount Ishizuchi. We pitch our tent on a completely lost campsite next to a beautiful river in the scenic Ogomei gorge, a perfect spot to start the ascent early the next day. Keep reading
When the Heike clan lost the Shido-no-Ura battle in the 13th century, they were forced to Keep traveling!
Mount Aso’s huge volcanic eruptions have thrown out what is deep inside the Earth. Red hot lava flowing along the slopes and into the valley leaving its traces. Dark ashes Keep traveling!