Category Asia

The flooded forest

A giant landslide in 1911 submerged a series of trees in Kazakhstan. But below the surface, the forest is still intact.


They look like the masts of ghost ships, relegated to the lake floor since hundreds of years ago, abandoned in some deserted valley. They are the dead trunks of trees flooded with water around a century ago. The Kaindy Lake is relatively unknown among tourists, but many adventurers flock here; not because of the sights on show above the surface, but because of what lies beneath it.

In 1911, a 7.7-magnitude earthquake shook south-eastern Kazakhstan. It became known as the Kebin earthquake. Nearly 800 brick buildings were erased. People died. Fractures and large landslides were observed across an area spanning 200 kilometres (125 miles) in length...

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The futuristic Gardens by the Bay have become one of Singapore’s major attractions since opening one year ago.


It looks like a scene from a science fiction movie. Stroll down Singapore’s Marina Bay and you will see 50-metre-tall trees branch out across blossoming gardens. Two air-conditioned conservatories lurk by the seaside, with glasshouse exteriors akin to giant snail shells. Inside one of them, a 35-metre-high mountain releases the world’s largest indoor waterfall. Welcome to the Gardens by the Bay.

The high-tech facility spearheads a strategy by the National Parks Board to increase the flora and green spaces in Singapore. The wider target is to boost the quality of life. In January 2006 they launched a designer competition for the complex...

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In the shadows

Beside the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort stood as an impregnable bastion under the Mughal Empire.


In 1565, Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, the third ruler of the Mughal Empire – which controlled large parts of India in the 16th and 17th centuries – built the main constructions of the Agra Fort. He erected walls around what became a fortified city. The provincial city of Agra became the empire’s capital.

In 1627, Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan, became the empire’s fifth ruler. Years later he moved to Delhi. He constructed the Taj Mahal, the famous white marble monument, in memory of his deceased wife Mumtaz Mahal. He built it only a few kilometres from the Agra Fort.

Jahan fell ill in 1657 and resigned his throne to Dara Shikoh, the eldest of his four sons. His brothers were jealous...

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Celebration of the lizard

The world’s largest lizard is a shrewd predator that will stop at nothing for its next meal. Meet the Komodo dragon.


Dinosaurs may have been extinct for hundreds of millions of years, but reptiles remain that carry their legacy. That, at least, is the impression one gets of the Komodo dragon, a three-metre-long killing machine whose favourite preys include pigs, deer and large water buffalos. Even humans are unlikely to escape its wrath: in February, two people were attacked by a giant dragon that had somehow wandered into their office. They ended up in hospital.

The home of this sinister-looking lizard is a group of volcanic islands in the centre of the Indonesian archipelago. The government created a national park here in 1980 to protect it, with UNESCO adding its endorsement in 1991...

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City of temples

In a Cambodian forest, the temple of Angkor Wat stands as a grandiose symbol of the mighty Khmer Empire.


In the early 12th century, Suryavarman II, the king of the Khmer Empire, decided to build a temple. Around 50,000 people were sent to work, slaving away for 37 years. They dug a 200-metre moat, bridged by a causeway. They built three square plateaus on top of each other, protected by towering walls. At the top they erected five large towers. Around the temple, they created fine artwork, courtyards and corridors. In 1150 they completed the job. Angkor Wat was ready for use.

The new home of Suryavarman II reflected the power of his kingdom...

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On top of the world

The Great Himalaya Trail is the mother of all hiking routes, and could be used to help impoverished mountain villages.


Nearly five years ago, Robin Boustead, a British explorer and mountaineer, started a journey across the high mountains of Nepal. He had been researching treks there for five years, having fallen in love with the Himalayas back in 1992. In September 2008 he set out. He wrote down routes, trails and distances; using GPS, he mapped water sources, villages and campsites. He crossed the entire country, marking up a 1,700-kilometre route (1,050 miles). It crossed passes as high as 6,200 metres and included 150,000 metres of climbing and descending. In July 2009 he completed the trail, having lost more than 20 per cent of his bodyweight...

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Clean state

With the Maldives aiming to become carbon-neutral by 2020, tourism minister Ahmeed Shameem tells eco traveller about the project.


In October 2009, the Maldivian government held an underwater cabinet meeting. Ministers ditched their ties and dressed up in snorkelling gear. They converged on a seabed at five metres deep, on a small island 20 minutes away from Mahé, the capital. In a 30-minute meeting, they signed a document calling for global cuts to carbon emissions. Only one element remained familiar to the ministers: snorkelling journalists had followed them into the deep.

The meeting was a publicity stunt, staged two months before the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen...

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Taking the high road

The Karakoram Highway was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. Today the world’s highest paved international road makes one of Asia’s most pulsating bike rides. 


Danger and beauty often go hand in hand. For decades, the Karakoram Highway has tempted thrill-seeking cyclists with a route that snakes in between giant glaciers, scenic valleys and towering peaks. The landscape is remote, raw and extremely challenging. Of the world’s 14 mountains that climb above 8,000 metres, the road gives access to five. It can be narrow and unstable, clinging desperately onto the mountain outlines. For the careless, a fatal abyss awaits. Some have seen wreckages lying below. For the risk-averse, the area’s proneness to earthquakes, floods and landslides probably doesn’t help...

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Empty fortress

Towering above the mountainous landscape of Tibet, the Potala Palace is the most prominent symbol of Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama.


It carries more meaning than one can imagine. Placed upon the Red Mountain overlooking Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet region, the Potala Palace is the altar Tibetan Buddhists now turn to in worship. Since the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Gyatso, constructed it in the 1600s, it has been the centre for political and religious leadership. The Dalai Lama always resided there. That was, until the Tibetan uprising in 1959, when the 14th and current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, fled Lhasa for shelter in Dharamsala, northern India. The palace has stood empty ever since.

For most tourists, the Potala Palace is a treasure chest, cultural centrepiece and photo...

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Troubled waters

The limestone pillars of Ha Long Bay have long been admired, but increasing tourism and water pollution threaten the surrounding biodiversity and nearby communities.


In a sense, it’s only right that a place of such mysterious beauty should have its own mythology. Long ago, when local people were building Vietnam into a country, foreign invaders attacked them from the north. But the gods sent help, and a family of dragons came to protect their land, spitting fire and jewels that, once hitting the sea, turned into small islands. These formed a fortress of towering rocks to overwhelm the enemy, which arrived by boat. After winning the battle, the dragons decided to stay; hence the name ‘Ha Long’ – ‘descending dragon’.

Whether the legend is true or not, the near utopian landscape ...

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Still standing

The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordillera Mountains are among the finest examples of human craftsmanship working in harmony with nature. But can this ancient nutritional system survive the challenges of modernity?


They may be called the ‘stairway to heaven’ but to the Ifugao tribe, the 2,000-year-old rice terraces serve a far more sombre function. Skilfully constructed along the outlines of the Cordillera Mountains – on the Luzon Island, the largest and northernmost of the Philippine archipelago – these hand-built ‘staircases’ have provided rice for generations of tribes in the Ifugao province. The building techniques remain unchanged since their invention in pre-historic times, as do the terraces; reflecting a cultural practice that has retained its authenticity over two millennia...

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Forest of peaks

With its towering sandstone pillars, dizzying stone bridges and mysterious caves, the Wulingyuan Scenic Area is one of China’s most aesthetic natural sights.


When Hollywood film director James Cameron constructed the scenes of his successful 3D movie Avatar, he needed a fascinating, otherworldly habitat worthy of housing blue humanoid creatures. The result was a world in which huge stone peaks graced with waterfalls drift baselessly above a dreamy tropical forest. But while that safely ticked the boxes, its appearance differed little from its real-life inspiration; the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

Located in the north-west of China’s Hunan province, the forest is one of several national parks in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, a 260-square-kilometre district rated AAAAA in visual beaut...

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