Zhangye: exploring the colourful mountains of Danxia and ancient grottoes of Mati Temple

Zhangye is a lively yet laidback city located in the centre of the Hexi Corridor, a strategically important corridor on the ancient Silk Road. Squashed between the dramatic peaks of the Qilian Mountains to the south and endless desert to the north, the narrow strip of land that makes up the Hexi Corridor offered the only feasible option to enter and exit China to the west for those journeying on the Silk Road. Historically, Zhangye was one of China’s frontier cities, and an important stopover between the Chinese empire and Central Asia. Marco Polo reportedly spent a year living in Zhangye around 1274. 

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Tagong and the ancient region of Kham, Tibet

Tagong, or Lhagang ལྷ་སྒང་། in Tibetan, is a small town on the Tibetan plateau in western Sichuan province. Visiting Tagong allows you to explore numerous monasteries, expansive grasslands on horseback or on foot and dramatic snow mountains, and to learn about Tibetan Buddhism and culture. At an altitude of more than 3,700 meters, Tagong is one of the highest towns in the world. The town has a remote, wild west feel, its remoteness insulating it from the mass tourism and development seen elsewhere in China, so far. Rumor is that Tagong will soon be connected by a larger highway and even high-speed rail, which will likely change the quiet nature of the town. 

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Hiking Yubeng

Yubeng Village is nestled within pine forests and dramatic snowy mountains, including the 6,740m Meili Snow Mountain. The tallest peak of Meili Snow Mountain is called Kawagarbo in Tibetan, and is considered sacred in Tibetan Buddhism. Many thousands of Tibetan pilgrims circumambulate Kawagarbo each year. Kawagarbo sits on the border between Yunnan and Tibet.

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Exploring the Hakka tulou

The Fujian tulou, meaning “earthen structure” in Mandarin, are nestled in the forested hills of southeastern Fujian province. They were built by the Hakka people between the 14th and 20th centuries. The tulous are made from “rammed earth” – a mixture of clay, sand and limestone. At one point, U.S. officials reportedly mistook the tulous for missile silos from satellite images, due to their circular shape.

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Danum Valley – The Heart of Borneo

Danum Valley Conservation Area is a vast protected area in Borneo’s interior. At 130 million years old, the rainforest in Danum Valley is one of the oldest in the world. It is a lowland Dipterocarp forest that contains a diverse range of flora and fauna. This includes endangered species such as orangutans, Pygmy elephants, clouded leopards and slow loris. Trees in the Dipterocarp family can reach 60 meters in height or more, with the tallest reaching 89.5 meters!

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Kota Kinabalu’s Filipino Markets

The air is hazy with the smoke from burning chicken skewers and the scent of durian. Hawkers shout and wave their menus, drawing you into their seafood stall. Stallholders delicately pile their produce into pyramids, and lay out rows of packaged spices and chilies. The tourists pouring from the tour buses outside barely make inroads into the markets, hanging in clusters and cautiously buying durian from the stalls on the edges.

This labyrinth of stalls is the ‘Filipino markets’ on the waterfront of Kota Kinabalu (KK).

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