We're heading to the Far East, a region that offers an incredible diversity of adventures. From the Himalayas to the Laos Hill Country to the steep Chinese peaks that inspired Avatar, Asia is a veritable playground for hikers, explorers and climbers. As if that isn't enough, the diving near Indonesia is incredible, the canals of southern India are always beckoning and Mongolia is full of very rideable horses.
Welcome to adventurous Asia, a continent apart.
Images courtesy of Wild Junket
Swimming with whale sharks was an experience unlike no other: the behemoth creature glided just inches away from me, oblivious to my presence as I stared wide-eyed, indulging in this intimate encounter. It was surreal, intimate and extremely moving. This was definitely one of the best experiences of my life, and definitely my favorite memory from <a href="http://www.gadventures.com/trips/philippines-adventure/AQPP/2012/" target="_hplink">visiting the Philippines</a>.
In the heart of Southern Thailand's Khao Sok National Park lies the pristine Cheow Larn Lake, framed by jagged limestone cliffs and dense rainforest. We spent our days paddling in the jade green water, spotting gibbons and hornbills in their natural element. This patch of forest is one of the last remaining wilderness in Southeast Asia and definitely my favorite part of <a href="http://www.gadventures.com/trips/thailand/" target="_hplink">Thailand</a>.
For every diving enthusiast, Sipadan is the Mecca, providing some of the best diving in the world. What makes Sipadan a world-famous dive site is its majestic drop-off that seems to cascade down to endless depths (700 m). We were treated to a visual feast of marine life: from intimidating white-tip sharks to an abundance of hawksbill turtles. Up to this day, our dive at its magnificent drop-off remains one of the best we've ever had.
Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is a well-known adventure hub, where you can go jungle trekking, mountain biking and riding an elephant (which we do not recommend). One of the most popular day trips is combining a jungle trek with a whitewater rafting experience down the Mae Taeng River. We've rafted in several parts of the world, and while this one was not nearly as challenging as the others, it was definitely one of the most relaxing and fun experiences.
After a tiring hike to the top, hurdled by what seemed like thousands of local tourists, the arrival at the peak of Mount Emei felt magical: with the sea of clouds beneath us, we felt like we were floating above the clouds. The temples and statues made the experience even more rewarding, making it one of the highlights of our <a href="http://www.gadventures.com/trips/china/" target="_hplink">trip to China</a>.
In the northern reaches of Vietnam stands emerald green mountains with beautiful rice terraces cut into them, almost resembling the stairways to heaven. With its mountainous terrain and highland climate, Sapa makes for an excellent hiking destination. While this trail was clearly well-trodden, it didn't fail to impress -- we experienced Vietnam's backcountry on treks that weaved through tiny villages, bamboo forests and muddy terrain. The best part about the trek was that we met plenty of Hmong people (who all offered a helping hand during the challenging trek) and stayed at a local's home.
Bagan is the palpitating holy heart of Myanmar, with over 4,000 stupas strewn across its sandy plains. <a href="http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/06/05/bagan-myanmar/" target="_hplink">Biking around Bagan</a> was a great way to comb its temples and explore its desert terrain inch by inch. Exploring on two wheels was fun, but after spending days under the scorching sun with 50ºC temperature, it became quite a challenge. But on our last day, we had the opportunity to watch the sun set atop the Shwesawdon Pagoda -- and it made all the hard work worthwhile.
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