Seven Great Lakes in Asia

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, Feature Highlights, Nature

Who doesn’t like a great lake? No, not those great lakes, but any lake where you can see an amazing reflection or view that forces you to make your own reflection. Whether it’s a serene place or an amazing lake that has a story, these are great places to stop for a rest and think. Write in your journal. Or just relax – isn’t that what lakes are for?

Photo credit - Patrick Kiteley

Photo credit - Patrick Kiteley

Mirror Lake, New Zealand

Sunrise at the Mirror Lake in New Zealand, near Fox Village, is no mean feat. You must drive or bike a few miles from town, then trek in the darkness around the lake to get this view. But it is certainly a noteworthy goal, as a lake clear as glass and silent makes way for this surreal mirror image as light fills the sky. It is a must-see when seeing the glaciers in the area, and even during midday a walk around the entire lake is lovely.

If you’re looking for more reasons to visit New Zealand, look no further than our Dreaming of New Zealand photo blog.

Photo credit - Robert Nyman

Photo credit - Robert Nyman

Tonle Sap, Cambodia

The Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, expanding many times its size during monsoon season. Because of the incredible change in landscape between dry and wet seasons, the people who live near here stay on floating villages – complete with televisions, petrol stations, and other typical amenities. It is a surreal sight to behold, especially since the far shore of the lake cannot be seen, leaving you feeling as if you are afloat at sea. It is possible to visit as a daytrip from Siem Reap.

There is more to this Asian country than sun-baked ruins and temples galore. Retreat to the south and experience Cambodia’s shore, full of beaches and off-beat sights to be explored.

Photo credit - Susonauta

Photo credit - Susonauta

Lake Biwa, Japan

Lakek Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan; because of its location next to the historic capital of Japan, it is well known to Japanese historians, but the lake’s beaches are also popular to those not interested in history or literature. Other popular attractions include Ukimido, the floating temple, the Seta no Karahashi Bridge (especially at sunset!), and biwako Hana Funsui – the world’s largest water fountain.

Photo credit - Delirante Bestiole

Photo credit - Delirante Bestiole

Lake Baikal, Russia

Lake Baikal, just north of the Mongolian border in Russia, is a geological phenomenon. It is massive, containing 20% of the world’s surface freshwater and the deepest (and strangely, clearest) lakes in the world. Because of this and the hundreds of unique species that live here and nowhere else, Lake Baikal is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site. The resort of Listvyanka is also a UNESCO site and popular stopping point.

Not far from there, check out as well our exploration of Kamchatka, at the far eastern edge of Russia.

Photo credit - George Lu

Photo credit - George Lu

Lake Wuhua Hai, China

Wuhua Hai, meaning ‘five flower lake’ in Chinese, is one of several of the amazing lakes in the Jiuzhaigou Valley. The name is appropriate, because just in the span of a few meters the lake changes color, from blue to black to yellow to green and back again. It is surreal, spooky, and amazing. Don’t miss the other lakes here in the valley, such as China’s version of the Mirror Lake featured above.

Photo credit - Thomas Depenbusch

Photo credit - Thomas Depenbusch

Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Would you believe the above photo was shot in Kyrgyzstan? Lakes are a popular tourist attraction in the mountainous countryside of Kyrgyzstan, and Lake Issyk-Kul is no exception. It’s hidden inside a deep valley, giving you endless views of the snowy peaks of the Tian Shan mountains. It was a popular resort destination during Soviet times, and although those resorts fell into disrepair, they are making a resurgence with foreign tourists.

Check out our recent series of posts, where we covered the four “Stans”, starting from Kazakhstan, Tajiskistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Photo credit - yeowatzup

Photo credit - yeowatzup

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake in central Myanmar is the second largest lake in the country and one of its highest. An entire population of people, called the Intha, have built their lives and villages around this lake. Visit in September or October where you can experience Hpaung Daw U Festival, where Buddha images from the nearby Pagoda are paraded around the lake and there are dozens of boat races. This is followed by the Thadingyut festival of lights celebration.

Myanmar is also home to off-the-beaten-path Putao, a destination that is a veritable paradise on earth.

* Note: Some people seem to get held up with my definition of Asia. Asia = all of the destinations featured on Unearthing Asia, which includes places you might call “Australasia” or “Middle East.” Enjoy.


If you are planning a visit to Asia, don’t forget to check out Unearthing Asia, the best Asia travel portal focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. We have got some of the best Cheap Holiday Deal and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of must-try Malaysian foods.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Exile in Remote Putao

May 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Feature Highlights, Mythical Himalayas, Nature

The beautiful remoteness of Putao has a prominent foothold on the Burmese imagination – remote, inaccessible and ringed by snow-capped Himalayan mountains. Truly off the beaten trek, Putao was one of the British Empire’s most remote outposts and due to its isolation, was never conquered by the Japanese during the World War.

Today, the Kachin state attracts adventurers, lured to the place by tales of rare species of orchids, the discovery of new breeds of snakes and the presence of the clouded leopard and the rare thakin. This Kachin state is also home to the world’s only Mongoloid pygmies.

n760669788_1774811_6937 n760669788_1774812_7166

Goegraphically Diverse

The Burmese Himalayas – possibly the least visited and commercialized stretch of the Himalayas combines the lush tropical forests of Myanmar with the cool climates and mountain-scapes of the Himalayas.

Even for geographically diverse Myanmar, Putao is unexpected; a 4 hour flight from humid, hot Yangon. It is a veritable paradise on earth – cool streams, bucolic landscapes, unjaded village children whose entertainment for the day includes following the very rare tourists on their jeeps, with enthusiastic hellos and goodbyes.

Putao. Photo credit - theInaung69.

Putao. Photo credit - theInaung69.

There’s a lot of anticipation building up when one contemplates a trip to Putao. The legendary remoteness, the requirement for a separate visa (above and on top of the visa entry requirement to Myanmar), the insistence on all travelers purchasing travel insurance (with medical evacuation facilities) and your signing a waiver releasing the authorities from any liability should anything occur (with a clause stipulating that you understand that ‘Putao is very remote and medical evacuation facilities might not always be available’).

Once you’re in Yangon, news that you’re headed for Putao is invariably met with a mixture of admiration and envy and a unanimous take on how beautiful Putao is. The bad news is, flights to Putao are erratic and highly unreliable. Bad weather aside, flights within Myanmar are demand-driven and few, if any, visitors travel to Putao. At the Governor’s Residence Hotel in Yangon (the staging ground of choice for many an adventurous trip around Myanmar), I’d heard of many a disappointed traveler who’d never made it to Putao.

The airline with which I was to fly to Putao had ‘confirmed’ the flights but refused to issue the tickets till a later date. I was in Taungyyi for the spectacular, annual balloon festival on that day and my local partner had received a call informing me to the effect that the flight to Putao on my intended dates of travel had been cancelled. A possible alternative would have been to take a much less reliable airline with a worrying safety record which, as the local saying goes ‘you’d need to pack an umbrella inside when it rains’.

The disappointment of not getting to Putao after the months of planning being almost unacceptable, I asked my local partner if, ‘ even if I were to risk my life by taking the less reliable airline to Putao, would I be sure of getting back in Yangon in time for my next trip to Bhutan?’ The answer was ‘no’ and in any case, the less reliable airline wasn’t flying to Putao on those dates either.

We received a call again a few days later – the flight to Putao was going to happen after all!

Putao. Photo credit - phoetar.

Putao. Photo credit - phoetar.

Villagers in Putao. Photo credit - theInaung69.

Villagers in Putao. Photo credit - theInaung69.

Finally, Putao!

Flying from Yangon, the flight transited through Myitkyina and Mandalay. The leg from Mandalay to Putao quickly became like a convivial, small social set. The other travelers compared notes about other off-the-beaten trek destinations in Myanmar, excitedly anticipating Putao.

As with the rest of Myanmar, no photos of the airport and its surroundings are to be taken on arrival. your safari-style jeep transfer awaits to connect you to the resort, where a light lunch awaits.

malikhamalikha2

Malikha Lodge, designed by Jean Michel Gathy of Aman Resorts’ fame, is simply breathtaking. The location of the resort could not be more unlikely for one does not expect to find such a luxury and urbanity in this remoteness.

Discreetly located in the main ‘town’ of Putao, with no obvious sign of its whereabouts, the architecture and design of the lodge facilitates indigenous materials and frames its inspired natural surroundings admirably. The outdoor terrace, available as a breakfast area when the weather permits, perfectly frames the Malikha river running through. From the individual bungalows – each large, luxuriant and unparalleled in privacy, is a private walkway to a stunning view of paddy fields below.

You’ve finally reached remote isolation, free to enjoy the natural beauty of Putao and its surrounding! Other than trekking to nearby villages, there are plenty of activities to help you enjoy the serene landscape of Putao. Raft along the Nam Lang and Malikha river, ending with a picnic lunch on an isolated beach trip. You can also opt for an elephant ride through the village or simply enjoy your own luxurious private space in the stillness of your bungalow.

About the Author. Urbane Nomads. For adventurers looking to climb Mount Hkakabo Razi or going deeper into the Kachin state, there’s the combination of homestays and camping (accompanied by a guide and private cook). Urbane Nomads is able to tailor itineraries for guests looking to add Putao to a trip to Myanmar. More information on Urbane Nomads can be found on – http://www.urbanenomads.com