Flying over the island of Kauai, Hawaii

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The island of Kauai in Hawaii is beyond breathtaking. We knew that if we had to splurge on one helicopter ride of our lives, it had to be over Kauai.

It is hard to recapitulate in words the landscape that we saw during our 1 hour helicopter ride, but it was nothing short of majestic. The Na Pali coast on the north was my highlight of the scenic flight, and boy did it blow us away. It might seem familiar as the setting for one of the earlier Jurassic Park movies. The cliff faces are distinctive and unmistakable, and resemble the buttresses of cathedrals you would see in Europe. Talking about art imitating nature possibly?

The Waimea Canyon on the west is equally stunning and in contrast to the rest of the island. This canyon, also known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ stood out in deep orange hues, peppered with lush greenery.

And let’s not dismiss the countless waterfalls that flow through the island. One an average day, hundreds of waterfalls can be seen coursing through the landscape of this garden island as they call it. I’ve never been a huge fan of waterfalls, but the waterfalls on Kauai are quite a sight to behold.

 

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Sugar Pine Walk

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Here’s a very belated post and announcement for 2016. We’re expecting a little one in May and I’m hoping that this bub will be a traveler in the making 🙂 After all we don’t plan on giving up on our passion for travel. If anything I’m already scheming up a 3-6 month family trip in a few years time to South America or Africa. Am I being overly ambitious already?

These pictures were taken just before Christmas last year in a secluded corner of the Bago State Forest roughly halfway between Sydney and Melbourne called Sugar Pine Walk. It’s a very short walk but the picturesque pine trees make for a pleasant photo stop on our drive down to Melbourne. I’d expect it to look even more stunning in the golden glow of autumn or covered in a blinding white bed of winter snow.

A paradise in Yading

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Yading was one of the those places we heard about only after traveling through China and doing some extensive research about the region. It does not get mentioned in the same sentence as the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Jiuzhaigou or Huangshan when you talk about China’s big ticket items. It has however been touted as the real Shangri-la of China by locals, deemed a beautiful untouched paradise likened to utopia. Yading is for travelers looking to go a bit off the beaten path. Best of all, Yading is less touristy and crowded due to its location in the remote parts of Western Sichuan. We were game.

A lot of research and digging led us to more information about this paradise. It is hard to reach (averaging 10-12 hour bus rides on unpaved mountainous roads) and the towns close to Yading have poor amenities. Unless we were willing to spend a bomb on flight tickets or private drivers, public buses were the only way to go. A little bit daunted, we went ahead with our planning into Western Sichuan. We braced ourselves for the horrendous bus rides and sure enough, they delivered. I swore never to take another long bus ride again in China after three 10 hour bus rides to get into and out of the region. Did I mention that the roads were bumpy and winding and that passengers smoked and puked onboard? *shudder*

But the payoffs? There was so much we saw that could last us a lifetime. This region is rich in Tibetan culture and it proffered us a taste of Tibet before we ventured further west of China. Yading was definitely one of the highlights. At an altitude of 4400 meters, Yading’s scenery was breathtaking. Snow dusted mountains, lush green pastures and the clearest lakes and rivers you can possibly imagine. Add to that colourful prayer flags strung haphazardly around rocks and stupas, you get Yading in all its glory and exoticism.

Though the hike was strenuous due to thin air, we managed to see one of the many lakes in the reserve. The clouds were also kind enough to part a few times during the day to reveal majestic peaks.

Yading is fast becoming the chinese tourists’ premier holiday destination. When we were there we could see hotels being built and roads being developed. It will no doubt be more accessible in the future, but like all the other major sights, once developed, Yading will become touristy and crowded. I’m only thankful I got to see it now while it is still considerably ‘untouched’.

Experiencing Huangshan in Anhui Province

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Huangshan or Yellow Mountain is an incredibly popular scenic spot amongst the mainland chinese tourists. If you’ve seen the movies ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ by Ang Lee or ‘Avatar’ by James Cameron and wondered if that bizzare landscape exists in real life, there you go. Huangshan deserves its fame, and its had it for years before movie makers even thought up their scripts. Huangshan had often been depicted in paintings by Chinese artists for centuries. It’s no wonder why throngs of chinese tourists visit every summer holiday.

The rocks have been described as grotesque with some resembling human faces or body parts. The type of trees found in Huangshan are unique and exclusive to this region, called the Pinus Hwangshanensis!! I kid you not, that the name even bears the location of where it was first found. These pine trees complement the grotesque rocks and make for beautiful silhouette shots.

As for the experience itself, I would reconsider going during the peak holiday season if we were to do it again. Though special and deserving of a visit, the mountains were brimming with chinese tourists so there were long lines to go up the cable cars and even a queue to walk down the steps when we went. Overall it was an experience that could have been improved but hey, that’s part of traveling after all. We can’t get it right all the time 😉

A walk in the woods

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees takes off his shoes,

The rest sit round and pluck blackberries

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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How can something as simple as a walk in the woods bring such pleasure and delight? It’s when we walk with purpose, taking in our surroundings and observing nature at its best that our soul rejoices in such beauty and creation.

The fall season is undoubtedly the most beautiful as many would agree. Golden leaves scattered everywhere and some still afloat in the air, making their way slowly but surely to the ground. Trees, bare as they may be, display such poise and stature, ready to be clothed with the next season’s gifts of snow and ice. Such wonder, my soul sings. Such beauty in simplicity that I leave the woods feeling rejuvenated, soothed and revived.