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The Hooker Valley Track in New Zealand’s Mount Cook National Park offers perhaps some of the best views of the country’s tallest mountain.
You will see Mount Cook standing tall over fields of tussock grass, reflected clearly in still lakes, led to by rivers of rushing glacial water and perhaps glowing in the warm afternoon sunset.
Along the way, you will cross a series of rope swing bridges, pass glaciers high up in the mountains and icebergs floating in the lake. The Hooker Valley Track is surrounded by views of majestic mountains until the end where you come face to face with Mount Cook.
A 10KM walk (round trip) will take you about 3 hours. Allow an extra half hour to hour to relax at the end of the trail with a fantastic view of Mount Cook.
The Hooker Valley Track starts from the White Horse Hill Campground, located about kilometers from the Mount Cook Village. The trail makes its way into the Hooker Valley via a series of three suspension bridges, which cross back and forth over the Hooker River.
The path is well graded and flat. Steeper inclines are stepped, so this is an easy trail to complete for people of all ages.
The Hooker Valley Track ends at the Hooker Valley. No surprises here. At the end of the trail, you will get an amazing view of Mount Cook towering over the lake. On a still day, you will also get a nice reflection of the mountain in the water.
It is common for Mount Cook to be hidden behind a thick layer of fog or cloud. If this is the case when you turn up to start the walk, do not fret. Give it a bit of time, perhaps even a few hours and the fog should clear up.
Photos of the Hooker Valley Track
Road to Mount Cook National Park
Swing bridges on the way to Mount Cook
Swing bridge on the way to Mount Cook
Panorama views on the Hooker Valley Track
Scenic boardwalks in the Hooker Valley Track
A glacier meets the lake – Mount Cook
Mount Cook over the Hooker Lake
Mount Cook over the Hooker Lake
Views of Mount Cook over grass fields
When is the best time to walk the Hooker Valley Track?
The Hooker Valley Track is busy. It is probably one of the most popular walks in New Zealand. The peak period is from 9 am to 5 pm with many day trippers visiting the area.
I found the best time to walk the Hooker Valley Track was after 5 pm. This way you will get to the base of Mount Cook just before sunset (in summer).
Check when sunset is on the day you are visiting and plan to start the walk two 2.5hrs before that time. There will be far fewer people and the views will be even more stunning.
Staying near the Hooker Valley Track
There are a couple of lodges located two kilometers from the Hooker Valley Track in the Mount Cook Village such as:
Many of these are booked out in advance. If you intend to stay in the national park in one of these lodges, be prepared to book ahead.
A more flexible option for those with tents or campervans is to camp at the White Hose Hill campground.
The White Horse Hill campground is located right at the start of the Hooker Valley Track. Fees are 13 NZD per person per night. There are flushing toilets, drinking water, kitchens and phone reception. There are no showers or power available. Be prepared to rough it.
However, here’s a photo of the mountain that we camped right under…
White Horse Hill Campground
What is your favorite hiking trail in New Zealand? Let me know in the comments below!
Sangkhlaburi is one of my favorite destinations in central Thailand. I have visited this hidden jungle village five times in the past few years. It has always been fantastic.
Traveling to Sangkhlaburi is a great way to get really off the beaten track in Thailand. For many visitors, Sangkhlaburi is just too far out of the way.
However, that is food news if you are looking for an adventure destination.
The most difficult part about traveling to Sangkhlaburi is simply getting there. The town is at a dead end of a 200km road north-west of Kanchanaburi. It is the one road in and out, no loops to be made from here.
Once you make it to Sangkhlaburi though, there are few great destinations to visit. In this Sangkhlaburi travel guide, you will discover what to see with two or three days in this remote jungle town.
The wooden Mon Bridge is the most iconic attractions in Sangkhlaburi. This huge 850 meter long bridge spans North to South across part of the Vajiralonkorn Lake. It is the longest wooden bridge in Thailand and the second longest in the world!
The Mon Bridge connects the Thai and Burmese cultural sides of the town.
The best time to visit the Mon Bridge is for sunrise or sunset. There are fewer people around and the bridge is a great viewpoint looking over the lake. For a unique perspective on the bridge, try to get at ground level looking up with the sunset in the background.
Sunken Temple (Wat Saam Prasob)
Sangkhlaburi wasn’t always where it stands today. It was actually located in what is now Vajiralonkorn Lake. One day the Thailand government approved this region to be converted into a dam to provide the water supply for Kanchanaburi.
These days, the only visible part of the old town is the top of the sunken temple (Wat Saam Prasob). Visiting the temple is easy with a long tail boat.
Boat operators charge just 200 to 300 THB (USD 10) for a one hour trip out to the sunken temple. That is a pretty fair price for a quick trip.
During the wet season, the temple is almost completely submerged. However, if you visit in the dry season around December to March you may even be able to walk around the temple.
Three Pagodas Pass
The Three Pagodas Pass is the final road out to the Myanmar border. At the end of this 25km road, there are Three small pagodas which stand in a row. They were built to commemorate the battles fought between Thailand and Myanmar, although this doesn’t seem to be completely over yet.
The pagodas are nothing exceptional to visit, but perhaps worth a photo.
Besides the Three Pagodas, there is a small border market where you can find Burmese goods such as whiskey, cigarettes, food, and furniture for sale. While the stalls as in Thailand, the back of the shop is open to Myanmar so that goods can be passed through the back wall duty-free.
Along the way to the Three Pagodas, there are a few discrete side trails which veer off into the jungle. Follow one of these routes for about 5 to 10km and you will likely find a small isolated waterfall to enjoy by yourself. One of these is the Takhiantong Waterfall.
Entry to the waterfall is free. There is a small carpark for motorbikes across the road. Once you hike down a short path there are a few levels at the Takhiantong Waterfall to enjoy. However, don’t expect anything as big as the 7 levels at the Erawan Falls in Kanchanaburi.
We stumbled upon this amazing waterfall by chance. The Kratengjeng Waterfall is deep in the jungle of the Khao Laem National Park. It is actually located 50km south of Sangkhlaburi, just off the main road heading into town.
Though nearly impossible to find, once you do it feels like you have dropped in the middle of the jungle, without the three-day hike.
The Kratengjeng Waterfall is one of the most beautiful and remote waterfalls I have had the pleasure of visiting in Thailand.
Tubing on the River
You don’t have to go to Vang Vieng to go tubing down the river. There is a great spot to go tubing just 10km north of Sangkhlaburi along the way to the Three Pagodas.
I have no idea what the river is called, but as you cross the small concrete bridge heading north of Sangkhlaburi, watch out to your right-hand side for a small set of wooden huts. Here you can grab a traditional Thai lunch such as som tam and pork larb with a big cold bottle of Singha beer to wash it all down.
How to Get to Sangkhlaburi
The best way of getting to Sangkhlaburi is by minivan from Kanchanaburi. Buses leave every couple of hours from the Kanchanaburi bus terminal. A one-way trip takes about 4 to 4.5 hours and costs roughly 250 THB (USD 10).
Another option is to rent a motorbike in Kanchanaburi and ride the 200km road out to Sangkhlaburi. This is one of the most amazing motorbike routes in Thailand. The roads are super windy as they make their way over the mountains, much like the motorbike route from Chiang Mai to Pai.
Motorbikes can be rented in Kanchanaburi for about 200 THB per day.
Recommended Hotels in Sangkhlaburi
Sangkhlaburi has a huge range of budget accommodation available from 100 THB to 2000 THB per night. Personally, my favorite hotels are those right up against the Vajiralonkorn Lake such as the Pornpailin Riverside Resort.
It is amazing spending the early morning or late afternoon paddling around the lake on a bamboo raft or kayak. When the day is done, you can chill out with your feet in the water and a cold beer or fruit smoothie in hand. This is where you realize how amazing Thailand truly is.
When to Travel to Sangkhlaburi
Sangkhalburi is a good destination to travel all year round. However, it should be noted that in the wet season it is exceptionally wet. In the hot season, it is damn hot.
Remember, you are in a remote jungle town therefore not all guesthouses are equipped with airconditioning. If you truly want to be an intrepid traveler you have to adjust and get used to these conditions. Do not go complaining to the guesthouse owner it is too hot for your liking, or the roof is leaking a few drops of water!
Sangkhlaburi is a very popular destination for Thai tourists to visit on a long weekend. If you choose to visit on a Thai public holiday, be sure t book your accommodation weeks in advance.
I made the mistake once of not booking on a Thai public holiday and had to sleep in a small tent in the kitchen area of our resort. It was the last bed left in the entire town; even the public school was full!
Malaria in Thailand
Often I see the question asked, should I take malaria tablets? Generally, I would answer no. However, if you are going to Sangkhlaburi I would suggest yes.
Sangkhlaburi is rated high on the list for Malaria n Thailand. If it is more common than rare, you should take your pills just a precaution.
If you’ve read the story about how I got Dengue Fever in Thailand, you will know that I only have to learn my lesson once.
This is the tallest in the north of Thailand. A destination you must visit! While I lived in Chiang Rai I actually visited the Khun Korn Waterfall more than 10 times!
Here we’ll show you how to get to the Khun Korn Waterfall easily by yourself, and suggest some other cool destinations nearby.
Riding out to the Waterfall
The Khun Korn Waterfall is located about 30 kilometres (45 minutes) south-west of Chiang Rai town center. It is an easy half day trip from Chiang Rai with your own motorbike, or by local taxi.
The road to the waterfall explores Chiang Rai’s outskirts through small semi-rural villages where the sabai sabai life is even slower paced than in town. Further on you’ll ride among endless rice fields, which depending on the time of year may be a lush green field or a pile of smoldering ash.
Along the way, you will pass some side of the road restaurants. Be sure to stop off here for lunch if hungry. The food is clean, really cheap and tasty. It is common to find a plate of fried rice or a Massaman curry for just 15THB, add another 5THB for a fried egg on top.
As you approach the Khun Korn Forest Park, dense green jungle surrounds the road. Sometimes the overgrown jungle gives the feeling there are not many visitors out here. However, you would be wrong to assume that.
At the end of the 10 kilometre jungle road, a small park headquarters signals the end of the road, and the start of the hiking trail. From here, it is time to get walking.
Hiking up to the Waterfall
Hiking in the jungle to the Khun Korn Waterfall is peaceful. While there are a few visitors here, the trail does not feel crowded. You will probably see just a couple of people along the way.
The trail winds through the tall bamboo jungle and alongside a small stream flowing from the waterfall itself. The trail crosses the stream in sections by bamboo bridge
As you walk, look around carefully. There is more wildlife than you expect here. You are unlikely to see an elephant or tiger, but there are lots of butterflies, birds, and lizards along the way to the Khun Korn Waterfall.
Nearing the Khun Korn Waterfall, you will hear the overwhelming sound of crashing water. Around the last bend you will get hit by the spray of the waterfall even from over 200 meters away.
If you brave the cold, the waterfall makes a great jungle shower. The water falls so hard it feels like a Thai massage on your back. Be careful not to lose your GoPro or glasses as I did.
The bottom of the waterfall is a great jungle swimming spot. I highly recommend going for a dip.
How to Get to Khun Korn Waterfall
Follow Route 1211 South West at of Chiang Rai. Pass the sign for the Boonrawd Brewery (Singha) by about 4 kilometers
Turn right onto route 1208 towards Khun Korn Waterfall (Namtok Khun Korn). After about 2kilometre you will pass the Canary Natural Resort on the left. Then you’re on the right track
Follow Route 1208 for about 10kilometre heading northwest. The road gets smaller and the condition deteriorates, but you are still going the right way.
The best way to visit the Khun Korn Waterfall is with your own motorbike. Motorbikes are available for rent in the Chiang Rai town center, next to the clock tower, for about 150THB per day plus fuel.
It is also possible to hop on a songtaew for the day. This is the Thai style pick-up truck taxi where up to eight people can sit in the back. A round trip should cost about 500THB and the driver will wait in the carpark for a few hours. You’ll have to negotiate how long he waits there.
When to visit the Khun Korn Waterfall
The Khun Korn Waterfall is open daily from 8am to 5pm.
During the middle of the wet season, the hiking trail can be closed for safety reasons. In the middle of the heavy rain, the path is quickly flooded. The amount of water flowing in the waterfall can also make it too dangerous to go swimming in the pool at the bottom.
How much does entry cost?
Entry to the Khun Korn Forest Park and waterfall is free. Yep, that’s right, free!
Most national parks in Thailand have a hefty entrance fee, but this one is a forest park, so technically different. The main cost associated with the Khun Korn Waterfall is getting there.
A trip out to the Khun Korn Waterfall can be joined with a visit to the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and the Boonrawd Brewery (Singha Park). Both attractions are along the way to the waterfall and will turn your day into a full-day trip.
There are also a few other great waterfalls in Chiang Rai including; Huay Keaw, Huay Mai Sai, and Pong Phrabat. All of these are definitely worth visiting while in Chiang Rai.
Why you have to Visit Pai, Thailand. Go for 2 days, stay for 2 weeks.
I had never heard of Pai before I visited the north of Thailand. It was while sitting in the Giant Guesthouse in Chiang Maichatting with a few new friends that the came up.
The common term I had heard about Pai from then on was “go for two days, stay for two weeks.” I hardly knew anything about this secluded village in the mountains. I doubted I would actually be around that long. However, I soon discovered there are so many things to do in Pai that I couldn’t leave!
I went to Pai for two days. Then I stayed for two weeks, and what an amazing place it was.
Pai is a place like no other in Thailand. It is backpacker friendly yet authentic. It is hardly talked about, yet so well known. It is a small town with nothing to do, yet so much to explore. Waterfalls, great food, an obscure canyon and really friendly people.
Here is my full guide for one week in Pai. Mix this with a few rest and recover days and you will easily spend two weeks here.
Waterfalls Near Pai
Exploring waterfalls is not only one of the best things to do in Pai, but one of my favorite activities in Thailand.
There are loads of waterfalls in the area surrounding Pai. To get out here you will need to hire a motorbike at about 150 THB per day, which can be picked up at one of many shops in town.
My favorite waterfalls to visit were Pam Bok Waterfall, Mor Paeng Waterfall, and Mae Yen Waterfall.
Pam Bok Waterfall has a great 3-meter ledge which you can climb up the side of. The water is deep enough that you can jump off the ledge and into the waterfall below. This waterfall is a bit more difficult to get to due to the poor quality winding road, however, it is still located just 8km from the town of Pai.
Mor Paeng Waterfall is the easiest waterfall to reach from Pai and has the most people. The waterfall has a few levels to explore over a short hike. The rocks are slippery so beware. There is actually a big rock which you can slide down and into a cold freshwater pond at the end. Warning: sit up while you slide down the rock to avoid hitting your head. The Mor Paeng Waterfall is about 12km north-west of Pai and is easily accessible by motorbike.
Mae Yen Waterfall is the most difficult waterfall to visit near Pai. There is a 2.5hr jungle hike each way to and from the waterfall. Get your hiking shoes ready. When you arrive there will be hardly any other people around, and the swimming hole there is fantastic! This is one of the most adventurous things to do in Pai.
The area surrounding Pai is home to ethnic villages in the mountains. The people out here are from the Shan culture (From Myanmar) or Lisu culture (from Yunnan).
If you want to visit an ethnic village but avoid the tourist traps, you should hire a motorbike and continue west along the road past Pam Bok Waterfall. I’m not sure of the village names, but you will come across the ethnic cultures out this way. The further you get from Pai, the better.
Explore Pai Canyon
The Pai Canyon is one of the most popular things to do in Pai. It is located about 15 minutes north-west of the town. You can walk some trails around the top of the canyon or down into the canyon itself. The best time to visit is around sunset after you’ve finished exploring waterfalls for the day.
Eat Khao Soi
Khao Soi is the famous creamy, spicy, crunchy, chicken noodle soup of the north. However, in Pai, it is just that much better. Get a bowl at one of the many local restaurants in town for about 80 THB, and you will probably order a second.
A bowl of Khao Soi comes with a few condiments such as onion and chili. Be sure to add these in to bump up the experience.
When you’re done, make sure you wash all that creamy soupy goodness down with a cold bottle of Leo. This is my favorite beer in Thailand too!
Discover the WW2 Memorial Bridge
The WWII Pai Memorial Bridge is no longer the original, that was destroyed by a huge flood back in 1973. However, historically the WWII Pai Bridge was a significant transport route for the Japanese in their invasion of Myanmar. While visiting the bridge you will be able to read further historical information about its use.
The bridge is also a great viewpoint over the river which runs through the outskirts of Pai. We were fortunate enough to see a farmer cross the river with his herd of buffalo.
Chill out at some really, really cool bars around Pai
One of my favorite things to do in Pai is to just to chill out heaps of cool bars. You can find daily live music sessions at Edible Jazz, watch some awesome fire shows at Don’t Cry, or just chill out and enjoy the sunset at Sunset Bar Pai.
Another cool spot is the Pai Circus School. Some afternoons the guesthouse throws a barbecue with cold drinks. It is an awesome place to see the sunset from up on the hillside.
Motorbike the road to Chiang Mai
The road from Pai to Chiang Mai, route 1095, is known as the road of 762 turns. This 120-kilometer route, which winds its way through the mountains, is a paradise for motorbike adventurers.
After leaving the highways surrounding Chiang Mai, the road to Pai passes rice paddies for a while, then makes its way into the mountains and through the forest. The ride from Chiang Mai to Pai is a great way to see a stunning part of Northern Thailand. An area which seems to be endlessly green.
The ride from Chiang Mai to Pai (or vice versa) takes about 5 to 6 hours one-way.
Note: it is best to motorbike the road from Chiang Mai to Pai in the dry season. During the wet season, it can rain quite hard out here.
Eat Mushrooms (if you are looking for this)
I will not label what type of mushrooms these are, but they are great. Some of the best you will find in Asia. Mushrooms in Pai grow in abundance in piles of Elephant poo. Ask around and you shall find the source. Having a few mushrooms while lazing out on the grass in Pai is an incredible experience. However, take my advice and don’t do it at night.
Don’t end up in the hospital
With all these things to do in Pai, there must be a few accidents along the way. Be careful, don’t end up in the hospital like I did.
During my trip to Pai, there were so many hospital incidents. The hospital in Pai must be one of the busiest in Thailand I had come across on my travels. Here are a few things to avoid:
I was bitten on the eyeball by some bug. The bite got infected overnight after scratching it. The next day I spent 3 hours in hospital with a hose under my eyelid flushing out the infection
A friend had a bug crawl down his ear and make a nest. Back to the hospital to flush it out with water and tweezers before there was a colony of bugs down there.
A mosquito bit an elderly woman at our guesthouse and gave her with Dengue Fever. She blackout and collapsed while walking and ended up in the hospital for a week to recover.
Another friend crashed a motorbike while it was raining and cut his right eye open. Stitches and two days in hospital
Given how dangerous Pai seems to be, I recommend getting some travel insurance. Check out World Nomads for a free quote. You can customize the cover to suit your trip including your destinations, duration or cover, and activities.
How to Get to Pai
The best way of getting to Pai is from Chiang Mai. Most people take a minivan from the Chiang Mai van terminal. At the time of writing, a ticket cost 150-200 THB per person one-way. Be warned, the minivan has been known to make many travelers vomit along the way.
Adventure travelers might consider hiring a motorbike in Chiang Mai for a week or more, then riding out to Pai. The road to Pai is one of the top motorbiking roads in Thailand, and an experience you will not forget.
Where to Stay in Pai
There are plenty of cool guesthouses are Pai. I personally stayed at the Pai Giant Guesthouse. The private wooden bungalows are on the budget end. Rooms are basic with a mattress on the floor, mosquito net over your bed and a hammock out the front. There is a great outdoor community kitchen where travelers can enjoy hanging out.
Another unique option is the Pai Circus School. This guesthouse is located up on the mountainside overlooking the village. It has a great sunset view, often throws fun communal barbecues and has cool circus equipment if you want to learn a few new tricks like fire spinning. You don’t have to be a circus geek to stay here!
Note: these are affiliate links to my preferred booking website Agoda. I personally use Agoda for all my bookings in Asia. It has the best rates and availabilities. Booking will send a tiny commission to The Lost Passport but will not affect the price you get.
Best Live Music Bars in Bangkok to Party Like a Local
If you have all your Bangkok nights out on Khao Sarn Road, then you have really missed out. Here we will introduce you to 10 of the best live music bars in Bangkok.
Once you get to these venues, it is easy going. There are usually no dress codes, cheap beer, good food, and a great live music scene.
When your hangover has recovered tomorrow, use my Bangkok Travel Guide eBook to explore over 50 destinations in and around the city.
Here is my guide to my top 10 local bars in Bangkok. If you find this article useful, please share it on social media for others to enjoy!
Despite the name, Old Dirty is neither old nor dirty. In fact, it is a new live music venue on Soi Aqua in the trendy Ari neighborhood. The bars consist of two levels. The ground floor and outdoor seating is a great place to watch live bands playing on weekends. Head up the spiral staircase to level 2 to enjoy a game of pool with some friends.
Old Dirty has live music on weekends from 8pm onwards. There are occasional shows during the weeknights. Check out their Facebook page for more information on live music events.
This is a great live music venue located in Bangkok’s Chinatown. There is a range of regular bands here, which play soul, funk, jazz, and blues. Soul Bar is open from Wednesday night to Saturday night. Doors usually open at 9pm and kicks on until late. When we say late, we mean late.
Check out their Facebook page for more information on live shows.
Skytrain Jazz Bar is an easily accessible, yet discreet rooftop bar. Skytrain Jazz has cheap drinks, good city views, and great music. There is also a basic menu of Thai foods available, in case you have not been able to find street food anywhere else. What more could you want?
Skytrain Jazz Bar is located up a dark dingy staircase on the 4th and 5th floors of a multipurpose building right by Victory Monument BTS. Although you might feel a bit lost halfway up, just continue until you reach the rooftop.
Location: 46 Rang Nam Alley, Khwaeng Thanon Phaya Thai, Khet Ratchathewi, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10400, Thailand
Wanderlust Rooftop Bar
Wanderlust is another discreet rooftop bar in Bangkok. The bar is accessed via a lift at the back of a sushi shop down Thong Lor (Sukhumvit 55) Soi 13. Don’t let the sushi shop downstairs fool you, there is nothing Japanese about the rooftop bar, perhaps apart from an Asahi on tap.
Wanderlust Rooftop Bar is open 7 nights a week from 6pm. There are live music acoustic nights on weekends. A great way to chill out in a trendy part of Bangkok at a decent price. Check out their Facebook page for more info on events.
Location: Thong Lo 13 Alley, Khwaeng Khlong Tan Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand
Lan Lom is a typical suburban Bangkok beer garden. This is a huge open plan bar with loads of great Thai dishes available. Lan Lom has incredibly cheap beers from 100THB for a large bottle. Do it Thai style and buy a few beers with a bucket of ice cubes to throw in your glass. Alternatively, go for the 3L tower of beer which is cooled by an inner ice stack.
It is located in the lower Sukhumvit neighborhood of Udom Suk (Sukhumvit 103). Lam Lom is open 7 nights a week from 5.30pm to 1.30am, with live bands playing Thai music.
Brick Bar is one of the more popular live music bars in Bangkok with the backpacker crowd. This is a huge double story venue located midway down Khao Sarn Road. Brick Bar has local Thai bands playing live Rock and Ska with a really lively atmosphere.
Brick Bar is open every night of the week from7pm to 1.30am. Bands usually play on stage between 8pm-8.30pm, 10pm-10.30pm and midnight-1.30am.
Saxophone Bar is one of the most well known live music bars in Bangkok. This venue, which has been open since 1987, specializes in Jazz and Blues. There is a range of western and Thai beers and food available here. Expect to pay a bit more than the other live music bars mentioned in this article.
Saxophone Bar has a mixed crowd of tourists, expats, and locals. The crowd changes every night. The bar is open 7 nights a week with the first live shows starting at 7.30pm and ending around 1.30am. Saxophone Bar is located right at Victory Monument Station, a short walk from Skytrain Jazz Bar.
Tuk Su Ra is one of my favorite live music bars in Bangkok. There are actually two of these venues in Bangkok, both with a similar vibe. Tuk Su Ra is a small style Thai beer garden with a mainly local crowd, though there are quite a few expats about too.
The food and drinks at Tak Su Ra is about as cheap as you can get in Bangkok, and it is amazing. Try the Larb Moo Tot (deep fried minced pork) or the En Kor Gai Tot (deep fried chicken knuckles) for a get Bangkok style beer snack.
Tak Sura is open every night from 6pm until 2am, however, it is common for the bar to stay open considerably later.
Location (RCA Venue): พระราม 9 ซอย 26 Khwaeng Bang Kapi, Khet Huai Khwang, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10310, Thailand
Like Tak Sura, there are multiple Heap venues around Bangkok. My favorite is the Victory Monument venue, location given below.
Heap mainly sees a local Thai crowd, however, there are also expats which frequently visit. The bar offers a wide range of local and European beers and the food menu is huge. I definitely recommend having dinner here.
Music at Heap is a mix of both Thai and western songs. Whatever is playing, you will love this bar. Both bars are open 7 nights per week from 6pm until 1am.
Keeping one of my favorite live music venues for last. CoCo Walk is an alleyway right of Ratchatewi BTS Station packed with live music bars. There are at least eight bars and restaurants in this lively space. Popular bars here include; Retro Bar, Guts Bar, Chilling House and Skate Café.
The music at CoCo Walk is mostly local bands playing and mix of Thai and western cover songs. The bads will also play songs upon request.
CoCo Walk is open 7 nights per week from 4pm until 1am, thought bars are commonly open later than 1am if you are after a late night out.
Taking photos while traveling is what started The Lost Passport, even way back when it was called JShep-Photography. Over the past five years I’ve figured out what the best travel photography gear has been for me, and I’m sure it will relate to you.
This guide to the best travel photography gear covers; cameras, lenses, tripods, camera bags and other essential travel photography accessories.
This article contains affiliate links to equipment which I personally use and highly recommend. Any purchases made via the links provided will send a small commission to The Lost Passport. The commission is paid by the supplier and does not increase the price, which you pay for the product. In fact, the prices suggested here are lower than in the store.
Essential Travel Photography Gear
Firstly, you need a decent camera. There are travelers out there taking selfies on their iPhones, but honestly, it just won’t give you the same image quality and flexibility as a really good DSLR does.
You don’t have to go with the most expensive camera first. The first 3 years of The Lost Passport were shot with a Canon 60D which uses a crop sensor. I highly recommend this camera for any beginners or intermediate. The picture quality is fantastic and you get all the controls of a full pro DSRL.
Recently I have upgraded to a full frame sensor on a Canon 6D. This is my first camera stepping into the professional league. If you have a few years photography experience and want to go far then you should really consider this camera.
If you’re not looking to go DSLR yet, then I also recommend the Canon EOS M10. I use this camera for producing a lot of my vlog content on YouTube. It has a nice flip screen, which assists in setting up each of your shots, solo.
Travel shot set up on tripod with remote trigger
If you want to take awe-inspiring photos then a tripod must be in your travel photography gear.
A tripod is incredibly useful in so many situations. Getting long exposure shots is almost impossible without a tripod. Think waterfalls or rugged coastlines with the super smooth, foggy looking water. Even shooting motion fire shows or fireworks events. If you want to be serious about your shots, then you need a tripod.
The second major use of a tripod is taking better travel selfies. The standard iPhone selfie shot is a time gone by. You won’t build followers doing that. With a tripod, you can set the scene up, move into the shot, then take the photo with a remote trigger. Easy.
I recommend using this Manfrotto tripod. It is made of lightweight aluminum which is great for getting around and uses a ball head which adjusts much quicker for your shot.
Now let’s talk real business. Camera lenses are where travel photographers spend the most on gear. Far more than we spend on a camera body or accessories. Before coughing up a few thousand dollars on the best lens you can get, you need to consider what you are shooting.
Landscapes: Wide Angle Lens are essential for capturing the 3 primary elements; foreground, mid and background. I recommend the Canon 10-22mm lens for a crop sensor or the Canon 16-35mm lens for a full frame sensor.
Street Photography: In street photography, you want to get up close and personal to capture the emotion in a scene. Whether you go for a 35mm or a 50mm (nifty-fifty) is personal preference. I find the Canon 50mm f1.4 is a comfortable lens on a full frame sensor. For a crop sensor, it feels jurist a bit too telephoto and would opt for the Canon 35mm f2.0.
Wildlife and Journalism: here you need a quick telephoto lens that can keep you inconspicuous while getting the perfect shot. As a rule of thumb, more focal length combined with a wider aperture is going to result in a higher price tag. But a serious travel photographer cannot go past Canon’s 70-200mm F2.8. This lens will perform quickly in low light and add a real creamy bokeh to your shots at a wide aperture.
What type of travel photographer are you? Consider which subjects you want to shoot. This will help you determine which lenses you need to build the best travel photography gear for your travels.
Graduated Neutral Density Filter reduces overexposure
Don’t go thinking you’re only #nofilters. Real camera filters have much more use than those you find built into photo apps. Long exposure shots, sunrises, sunsets and deep green jungle shots are achieved by filters.
Neutral Density 8 Stop (ND8): This filter reduces the amount of light reaching your camera’s sensor and allows for longer exposure shots during the day. I recommend going with a Hoya ND8 Filter. Different size filters are made for different lenses, be sure to choose the right one for your needs.
Circular Polarising Filter (CP): This filter either permits or cuts off glare depending on which way you spin the glass. If you want to get those shots of crystal clear water at the beach then you need this filter. I recommend going with the Hoya range of CP filters.
Graduated Neutral Density Filters (ND Grad): These filters reduce the amount of light reaching your camera’s sensor on either the top or bottom. These filters are necessary if you want to shoot amazing sunrises or sunsets. Shooting without will blow out the highlights in your shots and lose any detail or contrast that was in the sky. I recommend going with this set of ND Grad Filters from Cokin.
The Best Travel Photography Accessories
Wireless Shutter Trigger
Play this scenario, which I’m sure you will have run into. You set up the scene on your tripod, enable the 10-second timer and run into the shot. When checking the shot you find that you are caught still running into the photo.
Let’s eliminate that with a remote trigger by Yongnuo. At just $30 this is money well spent. A remote trigger is one of the best travel photography accessories to add to your kit. You won’t regret.
The worst thing about being a travel photographer is when you reach an amazing destination at the end of a long day out, and your battery is dead. Once you get into film, the camera draws your battery even quicker. This is why you need to carry spare camera batteries. I carry a total of four camera batteries everywhere and make sure they are all fully charged by the start of every morning. Check here on Amazon for the best prices on all Canon camera batteries and Nikon camera batteries.
Spare camera batteries are one of those travel photography accessories that you cannot live without.
Multi-Country Battery Charger
Ever arrived in a new country, gone to charge your batteries and realized you just can’t fit the charger on the wall? Instead of carrying an adapter for every country, I use a universal battery charger from Hahnel. They are about $20 cheaper than an original Canon or Nikon charger and always fully charge my batteries. They are compatible with multiple battery types too.
With a huge bag of the best travel photography gear around, you will need a decent bag to carry it all. What is the best camera bag for a travel photographer?
As travel photographers, we get around a lot. Long days out in the sun, hiking through the jungle, maybe riding a motorbike or just getting around town. From my experience, the best camera bag for a travel photographer is a backpack style with a waterproof cover. Ideally, the bag will offer some pockets for additional accessories, not only your camera gear.
What do you rate as the best travel photography gear? Let me know in the comments below.
The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s top road trip destinations. Discover these 14 recommended stops on the Great Ocean Road in this detailed guide to Australia’s south coast.
The Great Ocean Road is a 248-kilometre road which winds its way along Australia’s south coast from Torquay to Warranambool. It passes iconic attractions, sweeping ocean views, enchanting national parks and beautiful coastal towns along its way.
Here are 14 recommended stops for your Great Ocean Road itinerary. These destinations are from east to west (Melbourne to Adelaide) which you should definitely include on your trip.
This is where the Great Ocean Road itinerary begins. Torquay is an great little coastal town just one and a half hours drive from Melbourne. It is a popular surfing spot with a few great beaches scattered around the coast. Hire a board at Go Ride a Wave for AUD 20 for two hours, then head down to either Surf Beach or Jan Juc Beach to catch a few waves.
After a few hours surfing, grab the best burgers and milkshakes in town for lunch at the Bottle of Milk. Be daring and try the Blue Cheese Burger for a serious cheesy kick.
Split Point Lighthouse
For Aussies who grew up in the 90’s, the Split Point Lighthouse is where our childhood show called Round the Twist was filmed. It is a bit hidden from the view of the main road, however, the signs will guide you up a back dirt road where you can easily access the lighthouse.
There are daily tours running at 11am, midday, 1pm and 2pm. For AUD 14 you can climb to the top and enjoy the 360-degree coastal views. Add the Split Point Lighthouse to your Great Ocean Road itinerary for that bit of 90’s television nostalgia.
Lorne is one of the larger towns and recommended stops on the Great Ocean Road. it is a popular surfing beach, also surrounded by waterfalls in the mountains to the north. Lorne offers plenty of accommodation options from camping to holiday houses for weekend travelers escaping Melbourne. The entire road west from Lorne to Apollo Bay is coastal and offers amazing views of the Bass Strait below.
The Erskine Falls is the first forest destination in the recommended stops on the Great Ocean Road. These waterfalls are set back 10 kilometers north of Lorne. There is an easy five-minute walk from the carpark to either one of two Erskine Falls lookouts. For more enthusiastic hikers try the full 23km circuit hike from Lorne right up to the falls.
Apollo Bay is located at the foothills of the Otways Mountains Ranges, and Is one of the top surfing beaches along the Great Ocean Road. The beach here stretches 3.5 kilometres in length. That is a huge beach!
Similar to Lorne, Apollo Bay is frequented by weekend trippers escaping Melbourne. It is also a top destination for the masses of tours buses to stop for lunch along the way to the attractions further west. Expect it to get busy here around lunch time.
Wild Koalas at Cape Otway
The wild Koalas at Cape Otway National Park make sure this destination gets added to the recommended stops on the Great Ocean Road. If you want to spot Koalas you will still have to drive slow and look carefully, but this is your best place to find them. Drive slowly with one person looking up to the treetops hanging over the road.
When a Koala is spotted, it is common for plenty of cars to stop around the same area. If you come across one of these middle of the road style carparks, make sure you get out and have a look.
Cape Otway Lighthouse is Australia’s oldest lighthouse, built back in 1848. The lighthouse is located 15km down the Lighthouse Road which branches off from the Great Ocean Road. Entry to the lighthouse costs about AUD 16 per person. Opening hours are from 9am to 5pm. The best to visit is in the later afternoon for sunset.
Johanna Beach is a more secluded spot on this Great Ocean Road itinerary. The beach itself is nestled between the sand dunes, hidden about 5km back off the main road. Johanna beach is a popular spot for surfing and has a campground for travelers after a nature retreat. There are no shops around so make sure you come fully prepared if you plan to stay the night here.
Princetown Beach and Lagoon
Swimming with the strong south Australian current can be a bit daunting. If you are looking for a more relaxed option you have to head down to the lagoon at Princetown.
To get to Princetown, you will take and inconspicuous left turn at the Old Coach Road 17km east of Port Campbell. Continue down a 1km dirt trail until pop out at a calm lagoon which h is actually the Gellibrand River. Just down the road, there is also a secluded camping ground. Princetown Beach is a great way to spend the day lazing in the sun, and it one of my top recommended stops on the Great Ocean Road for a beach escape.
The Twelve Apostles
The most iconic destination has to be on the list of recommended stops on the Great Ocean Road. The Twelve Apostles, now actually eleven apostles, sees hundreds of visitors flock to the viewing platforms all day round.
The middle of the day is packed with tour buses and therefore not so enjoyable. The best time to visit the Twelve Apostles is actually at sunrise or sunset. There are less people around and the view looks so much more amazing in the warm sun’s glow.
Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge is located just 4km up the road from the Twelve Apostles and is an easy addition to your Great Ocean Road itinerary. Loch Ard Gorge is one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, but it is for looking and not for swimming. The ocean current here is strong and will drag you out beyond the bay before you know it.
Much like the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge is very busy during the middle of the day with loads of day trip buses arriving. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit this destination.
If you are looking to spend a night on the great Ocean Road then Port Campbell is definitely the place to visit. This small town is located just up the road from the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge.
Head just down the road to Port Campbell Bay for a swim in the afternoon. At night the Sow and Piglets Brewery serves up some great craft beers made locally in town. Whether you are camping in a tent, traveling by campervan or looking for a cabin the Port Campbell Holiday Park is the best option in town.
London Bridge is another one of these stunning rock formations along the coast. London Bridge was still connected to the mainland until 1990 when erosion from the sea caused part of the “bridge” to collapse and leave two tourist stranded on the new island.
The London Bridge rock formation is located just 7 kilometres up the road from Port Campbell, an easy trip out in the morning for some fantastic sunrise shots.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is the farthest west rock formation we visit in this list of recommended stops along the Great Ocean Road. There is a handful of limestone stacks scattered through the bay. The Bay of Islands looks similar to the Twelve Apostles but much less crowded.
The Bay of Islands is located another 10 kilometres up the road from London Bridge. It is a stop worth making if you are heading further west towards Adelaide. If your journey ends of Port Campbell it would not be a necessary attraction.
What are your recommended stops on the Great Ocean Road? Drop a comment below, and I will be sure to check it out in my next trip along this amazing coastline!
This Whitehaven Beach Half Day trip takes us to one of the most stunning destinations in the Whitsunday Islands Region.
The Whitsundays are a collection of 74 islands off the coast of Central Queensland. They are some of the most beautiful islands you will find in all of Australia. White sand, clear water and blue sky. The perfect Aussie summer escape.
The most famous island in the region is Whitsunday Island. On Whitsunday Island, there is a perfect 7km stretch of the finest and whitest sand in Australia. This is called Whitehaven Beach.
In fact, the sand at Whitehaven Beach is so white that it never gets hot. Almost all the sunlight reflects off the sand. That means you can walk around barefoot, even in the middle of summer, without ever burning the bottom of your feet.
The water at Whitehaven Beach is the clearest you will find in Australia too. As you swim out in the ocean, you will notice the water is just like swimming in a huge pool. Even from the boat, you will see straight down to the bottom of the sandy white ocean floor.
Behind the beach is a tropical forest of mixed palm trees and eucalyptus trees. It is a proper Aussie bush setting which really makes this island feel like something straight out of castaway.
The last time I had found an island this remote was in Thailand. A secluded island in the Andaman Sea called Koh Adang.
What to do on Whitehaven Beach
Though Whitehaven Beach is located near the Great Barrier Reef, there is actually no snorkelling or scuba diving here. The ocean is just fine white sand for as far as you can see.
One of the popular activities for the Whitehaven Beach full day trip is to visit the Tongue Point Lookout, which overlooks the stunning Hill Inlet. A short hike leads to the top of the mountain, which offers a fantastic view over the estuary below.
Note: the lookout is not included in Whitehaven Beach half day trips.
The most common thing to do on your Whitehaven Beach half day trip is just chill on the beach. The southern end of the beach, where the boats typically drop you off, offers beach volleyball, music and tents for some shade.
If you want to get some cool drinks like beers, then you will have to head back to the bar on the boat where a drink will typically cost you AUD 7 or more.
Do you plan to go swimming off Whitehaven Beach? Between November and May is stinger season (jellyfish season). If you did not know already, northern Queensland is home to two of the world’s most deadly marine animals; the Box Jellyfish and the Irudkanji. A sting from either of these can kill you in minutes.
If you plan to go swimming in the ocean off Whitehaven beach during stinger season it is advise to wear a “stinger suit.” It is pretty much a full body swimsuit, which covers even your toes and fingers.
How to get to Whitehaven Beach
Whitehaven Beach is located on Whitsunday Island, about 1.5 hours from Airlie Beach by boat. The most common way of getting to Whitehaven Beach is by charter boat.
There are no standard ferries running between Airlie Beach and Whitehaven Beach, so unfortunately prices are going to be a bit higher than you expect. Cruise Whitsundays is the most popular ferry company running full day and half-day trips.
Another way of getting to the Whitsundays is to rent your own sailing boat for the weekend. Though it may sound expensive, boats are available from Airlie Beach from AUD 700 per night, which sleep up to 8 people. Not too bad if you manage to split the fees.
How Much Does a Whitehaven Beach Trip Cost?
A full day trip with multiple stops around the island and lunch included costs about AUD 179. A half-day trip with only one stop on Whitehaven Beach itself costs about AUD 99. These prices are booked directly at the ferry terminal at the Port of Airlie.
Booking a half or full day trip at a tourist agent or backpackers on the main strip of Airlie Beach adds a 10% to 20% margin for the agent.
Insider tip: make your booking direct at the ferry terminal to save
Where to Stay in the Whitsundays
Whitsunday Island is uninhabited. That means there are no hotels available on Whitehaven Beach, or the rest of Whitsunday Island. While that may disappoint you now, you will soon notice this is part of what makes the island so special.
If you are looking for accommodation under AUD 100 per night, your best bet is to book in Airlie Beach. There are backpacker dorms available in town from AUD 29.
Just a few kilometres outside of Airlie Beach you will find “tourist parks” such as the Kipara Rainforest Retreat where single rooms are available from AUD 59, or the Island Getaway where you can park your campervan from AUD 30 per night with all amenities provided.
Where to Next?
What are your plans after Whitehaven Beach and the Whitsundays Region? If you are heading north to Townsville, be sure to check out my guide to Magnetic Island. This is one of Australia’s most underrated attractions.
Taipei is the capital and largest city on the island of Taiwan. It is quite commonly the entry and exit point for many travelers on their trip around Taiwan. However, Taipei is much more than just a gateway destination.
While Taipei may seem like yet another Asian city metropolis, there is actually far more to experience than meets the eye. Taipei is a diverse city surrounded by mountain ranges, stream and hot springs. It is a city made for the outdoors.
Daniel from Dan’s Travel Guide has traveled to Taipei so many times over the past six years that he is effectively a local abroad. Here are his tips pm the 10 top things to do in Taipei and the surrounding areas.
Hike the Mountains
Taiwan’s mountains are not just in Hualien’s Taroko Gorge. Two of the most beautiful mountains to visit in Taipei are Yangmingshan Mountain and Elephant Mountain.
Yangmingshan Mountain offers a wide variety of scenic points, hot springs, and hikes. It is definitely a half to full day activity with numerous places to explore. The best way to get to Yangmingshan Mountain is to take the MRT Red Line to Jiantan (exit 1), followed by either R5, S15, or S17 bus up the mountain. At the main bus stop you can find a map and information on where to go once you’re up there.
Elephant Mountain is another beautiful mountain to hike near Taipei. It is a relatively simple hike (20-25 minutes) to get to the main scenic lookouts and has some of the best panoramic views of Taipei. Along the way, you will find a few vendors selling freshly squeezed orange juice for 50NT (less than $2) which is definitely worth a try!
Beyond the main lookouts, there are numerous paths take you to one of the other “Four Beasts” mountains. Tiger Mountain is just another half hour hike from Elephant Mountain!
Elephant Mountain is located at the last stop of the Red Line going to Xiangshan. Once you exit Xiangshan, follow signs until you see the pathway leading up to the mountain.
Relax in Taipei’s Hot Springs
Taipei is home to many natural and private hot springs situated in the Beitou and Xinbeitou districts (Taipei’s MRT Red Line). These hot springs are perfect for a soothing and rejuvenating the body, especially after a long day hiking through the mountains.
The Beitou Hot Spring Musuem in Xinbeitou is free and worth checking out for some interesting hot spring information. Walk a few minutes further and you will find the largest public hot spring in Taipei on your right – the Beitou Hot Springs. You will need to wear a swimsuit which you can also buy there if you do not have your own.
The Beitou Hot Springs were my favorite destination for an authentic Taiwanese hot spring experience. It is clean, as everyone must shower before entering. It is cheap. And there are 4 different levels (literally) from the cold to super-hot natural springs.
If you’ve never tried going from hot to cold, you need to try it. It is unexplainably therapeutic.
Public springs are just 30NT (about $1 USD) and private springs start at around 400NT (about $12).
Beitou Hot Spring Opening Hours:
Enjoy the View from Taipei 101
Taipei 101 is the second tallest building in the world and offers an incredible view over Taiwan’s largest city. Taipei 101 is also known for its hundreds of shops downstairs, which attract millions of visitors each year. If you want to get some shopping done in Taipei then this is the place to go.
Right outside Taipei 101, you will find the popular sculptures of large block letters spelling “Love” and “Heart.” This exactly describes Taiwan’s friendly and welcoming culture.
You can take an elevator straight to the top or shop in the hundreds of high-end stores located inside 101. To get a great view of Taipei 101, you can get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful building from Elephant Mountain (off Xiangshan station off the Red Line).
Visit the Famous Night Markets
Taipei’s night markets come to life with visitors and locals looking to eat some of the best local dishes. Night markets are also with fun games for all visitors and plenty of inexpensive shopping for clothes, toys, and gadgets.
Shilin Night Market
Shilin is a popular night market in Taipei. Here you are bound to find something interesting to eat. Hundreds of stalls sell seafood, hot foods, and Taiwanese favorites like shaved ice, stinky tofu, oyster omelet, and fried noodles.
You’ll also inevitably run into the gigantic fried chicken – one of my favorite things to get at Shilin. The chicken is bigger than my head!
Aside from local cuisine and delights, there is also a huge range of carnival styled games which cost around 100NT ($3 USD) to play and of course endless stalls that sell little trinkets, gifts, electronics, and clothing.
The easiest way to get there is to take the MRT Red Line to Shilin or Jiantan station. Most shops and restaurants open as early as 4:00pm but people usually start going around 5:00-6:00pm.
Raohe Night Market
A smaller, local, and arguably better night market to visit is Raohe Night Market (Xinyi Anhe on Taipei’s MRT Red Line).
It’s open similar hours to Shilin (starting around 4:30pm to 5:00pm each day) except it’s smaller and catered more for locals rather than tourists. Here you’ll comes across harder-to-find Taiwanese delights such as ice cream crepes, Taiwanese styled steak, authentic stinky tofu, and one of my favorites – cheap, teppenyaki styled grills where they cook hot Taiwanese food right in front of you!
Set off a Sky Lantern in Pingxi
Pingxi is the place in Asia to set off a sky lantern with friends and family. Walking through the old city you will find hundreds of street vendors selling snacks and sky lanterns ready to set off in the sky.
The origins of the sky lantern came from farmers who believed the gods would bless their harvest if they sent a lantern to reach the heavens. These days, some still believe that setting off a sky lantern at the beginning of the lunar year will bring prosperity. Many Taiwanese believe setting off a sky lantern symbolizes a wish to give birth to a boy. The Taiwanese Hokkien word for adding a boy sounds like the word for sky lantern.
Pingxi is a short 30-40 minute ride from the heart of Taipei. To get there, you can take any northbound train (except Keelung-bound trains) from Taipei Main Station towards Ruifang. Then transfer to the Pingxi line (Brown Line).
Alternatively, you can take the MRT brown line to Muzha, followed by bus 1076 to Pingxi. You can go anytime during the year! Most people go at night so you can actually see your lantern as it sets off.
Buying a sky lantern starts at just 100NT (or $3 USD) and is truly a unique Taipei experience you can share with friends or loved ones.
Eat Amazing Local Food (Dongmen Station)
Taiwan is known for some of the best food in the world. There is a wide variety of snacks, hot foods, and interesting dishes to try. Some of the common local dishes include Beef Noodle Soup, Oyster Pancake, Wontons, Hot Pot, Mango Shaved Ice, Boba tea and Stinky Tofu.
Popular breakfast items such as Soy Milk, Soup Dumplings, and egg pancake are must try while in Taipei.
Local tip: One of the best places to get authentic, local Taiwanese food is right outside of Dongmen Station (off the Red line on the MRT).
Walk along the seaside at the Tamsui River
The Tamsui River is located at Taipei’s northern tip, and is an area you do not want to miss.
Hundreds restaurants serve up fantastic local Taiwanese dishes by the river. One notable (yet non-Taiwanese) vendor you must check out is the Turkish Ice Cream. It is quite famous in Tamsui because it is uncommon to see Turkish people selling food in Taipei to begin with.
The Tamsui River is best to visit at night when the promenade is filled with vendors. However, on weekends is it great to visit at almost any time of the day!
Right opposite the restaurants is the seaside and Bali Island line. If you have the time, it is well worth taking the ferry across to Bali Island. The ticket costs just 30 NTD ($1 USD).
Explore Bali Island
Bali Island is beautiful and place to visit just outside of Taipei. Here you will find plenty of food stalls similar to the river walk along Tamsui, however there are a lot less people. It is a great escape from the crowds.
The best way to get around Bali Island is by renting a motorbike. You will find many bike shops in the area, which will required a form ID as a deposit for the rental. From Bali, there are trails that take you through some incredible scenic points along the bay.
It is easy to get to Bali Island from Taipei. Take the MRT Red Line to Tamsui, then walk to the river promenade where you will find pier with ferries going across to Bali Island. Tickets are just 50NT (Around $2 USD) and run from about 9am to 7pm.
Cycle Around Taipei
Cycling is very popular in Taiwan and there are plenty of places to rent bicycles all over Taipei. To accompany this, you will also find bike friendly trails stretching right across and around the city.
Along the popular trails, you will visit friendly neighborhoods, creative street arts, outdoor food markets, popular hotspots, and meet locals enjoying all kinds of outdoor activities.
Some of the best cycling routes are:
Xindian (MRT Green line),
Taipei Zoo (MRT Brown line) and,
Tamsui (the furthest northern station on MRT Red Line).
Enjoy the Sunset
The last on the list is perhaps the simplest and most underrated pleasure that the locals get to experience everyday. Enjoy a beautiful sunset in Taipei.
Taipei is a mountainous city; therefore, it is easy to get a great sunset from a high viewpoint. Alternatively, if you are on the beach, relax in the soft sand and watch the sun dim its lights. Some notable places to enjoy the sunset are; Elephant Mountain, Tamsui River, Bali Island and Yangmingshan Mountain.
Are you continuing on a longer journey around the island of Taiwan? Be sure to check out our guide on what to do with 10 days in Taiwan. From hiking through the mountains to hanging out a surf beaches, there’s something here for every type of traveler.
As Myanmar is opening its doors to tourism, travellers have the opportunity to marvel at its treasures. Most rush to Bagan and the thousands of surrounding pagodas.
However, more in-the-know visitors head to a blue jewel nested in the green mountains of the Shan State. Here we discover the things to do at Inle Lake.
Inle lake is huge – 116 square km, but surprisingly shallow. Its average depth is less than 2 meters. This has enabled men to settle on the lake, living in harmony with this fragile ecosystem and build their villages over the water.
The best season to enjoy the lake is from October to March, the most ideal being November to February. I personally visited in October and had very pleasant and sunny weather. There were only occasional showers in the mountains, which didn’t bother me.
How to Get to Inle Lake
Almost invariably, the town of Nyaung Shwe serves as the base for visitors to Inle Lake. This small and quiet town is easy to explore by foot, and there are a number of affordable, backpacker-friendly hotels in town.
It is likely you will rush out of your hotel to catch your first glimpse of Inle Lake. However, here you will only find a bridge over a narrow canal. Nyaung Shwe is not built directly on the shores of the lake, but is linked to the lake by this 5km canal.
On this bridge, I discovered the perfect way to explore Inle Lake at my own pace stopping wherever and whenever I want to.
A young man came to me, telling me he has a boat and is willing to take me on the lake. I ended up using his services for two full days of private exploration on Inle Lake.
Meticulously planned group tours are often crammed with an inflexible schedule and end up a disappointment. However, by simply renting a boat from a local, I had the best experience possible. Therefore, I recommend this is what you do!
Things to do at Inle Lake
Now you know how to get to and around the lake, let’s talk about the various attractions here. There are plenty of things to do at Inle Lake and the surrounding areas from floating villages and gardens to markets at pagodas.
While there may be more things to do at Inle Lake that I have not listed, here are a few of my favorites.
Inle Lake’s fishermen have become an iconic sight, with their cone-shaped nets and amazing paddling technique (they paddle standing at the back of their boat with one leg on the boat and one leg on the paddle). They have become a bit of an attraction for tourists on a photo safari.
There are plenty of these iconic fishermen near the exit of the canal from Nyaung Shwe. Here they will just pose whenever they spot a boat with foreigners, however, this is just for show.
Insider tip: head deeper into the lake and you will find those who are actually fishing.
Inle Lake Floating Villages
Visiting the floating villages is one of the most fascinating things to do at Inle Lake, and part of what makes it so special. The villages are often built in the middle of an intricate network of canals or directly on the lake. They are a delight to explore!
You are taken into a maze of wooden houses, bridges, and power line poles. By the way, don’t get fooled by the fancy “floating villages” phrase that is often used. The villages are not floating at all, they are built on stilts. Of course, it doesn’t make them less interesting!
A remarkable attraction worth mentioning is the Phaung Daw U Pagoda. It certainly doesn’t have the grandeur of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, but it is the most important in the region and the most frequently visited – a must-see.
The village of Nam Pan is another recommended option. It is located in the southern part of Inle Lake.
The boat is a very intimate way of exploring these villages. As you make your way through the narrow passages, you are totally immersed in their world, and you are a privileged witness of their particular lifestyle over the water.
Inle Lake Floating Gardens
The Inle Lake floating gardens are a logical extension of your visit of the villages. If you look at a map of the lake, you will realize that a whole area south west of the lake is actually covered with gardens.
The floating villages may be on stilts, but the floating gardens are actually floating. The gardens are kept in place by long bamboo poles, preventing the floating plantations from drifting away.
Do not hesitate to tell your boat driver you want to spend some time exploring the floating gardens. You will cross some other smaller, hidden villages on the way. Be sure to add the floating gardens on your list of things to do at Inle Lake.
Thaung Tho Market & Stupas
The Thaung Tho Market was suggested by my boat driver, and is a quite off the beaten track destination. Indeed, it feels far from the world!
To get there you first have to get to the south of the lake, which is already some 20 km from Nyaung Shwe, and then follow a canal for another 12 km or so. It means that if you want to go there, it should be your first destination in the morning on the lake.
The market itself is a bit of an exotic curiosity. It looks like a makeshift area for a temporary market as the stalls were just simple roofs propped on wooden pillars on the dirt floor. It is not very big but sells a few things, from fruits to clothes.
However, as you stroll in the market, the one thing you can’t help noticing is the pagoda at the top of the nearby hill. Take the long covered stairway up the hill to arrive at this typical Burmese pagoda, surrounded by a real forest of stupas.
Inn Dein is a village and a pagoda complex west of Inle Lake. You can tell by the number of souvenir shops that it is definitely aimed at tourists, but it doesn’t make it less of a highlight of this region.
It is not the shops that make Inn Dein special, but the astonishing number of stupas and pagodas. There are more than a thousand pagodas here! It is above all an archaeological site, with groups of pagodas dating back to the 12th century.
There is a mysterious atmosphere around these ancient brick constructions partly covered by vegetation.
Not all pagodas in Inn Dein are ancient though. There actually are a whole lot of modern constructions. It is interesting to see how architectural and construction techniques have gradually evolved since the 12th century.
Do not hesitate to go all the way to the end of the area with the most modern stupas – you will notice a small isolated pagoda accessible by a clean path. Here a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding mountains will reward you.
How Many Days to Spend in Inle Lake
I spent two consecutive days exploring Inle Lake with my boat driver. It felt just right. With two days to spend in Inle Lake, you have enough time to both see the most common sights and go a little off the beaten track.
If you like to travel slow and want to explore Nyaungshwe, you should stay for three days.
In Nyaung Shwe, I strongly recommend the Nanda Wunn Hotel. It has large, comfortable, wooden bungalows. Its location is great, right in the heart of Nayung Shwe. It is also easy to walk to the canal following the main road.
Final Thoughts on Inle Lake
There are some amazing things to do at Inle Lake and the surrounding area. This blue jewel should be one of the top priorities of your Myanmar itinerary! Along with Bagan, Yangon or Mandalay, Inle Lake clearly is a highlight of Myanmar.
Myanmar is still a very traditional country, yet the development of tourism is rapid. I really recommend going to Inle Lake as soon as possible, if you wish to experience the remnants of this traditional atmosphere.
One can never know how much or how quickly the influx of tourism could change everything, as we have seen in many other countries. I believe we still have some time before it happens.
In any case, Inle Lake is so gorgeous that I guarantee you will come back with your mind packed with wonderful memories.
Guest Blogger Bio:
Julien Mordret is an exploration addict with a special love for the great outdoors, adventure, Latin America and South East Asia. His insatiable curiosity gives him a big appetite for remote and little-known destinations. He is secretly dreaming of visiting every country on the planet.
He shares his experiences, travel tips and what he learned about the world at Exploration Junkie through interactive virtual tours, articles, travel videos and inspirational itineraries. You can follow his adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.