Tag Archives: must see

The Valley of Nine Villages.

Next stop on the route of my hidden China vacation – the Valley of Nine Villages, aka, the Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟) nature reserve and national park: Yet ANOTHER absurdly astounding Chinese natural beauty!

Cascades of lakes and waterfalls, crystal clear – albeit fluorescent turquoise! – water in lakes, and a freakish forest of horizontally growing trees under that same crazy colored water, and all that set in the most picturesque of mountainous landscapes. And in the fall there’s a bonus: the blends of reds and yellows and oranges of autumn leaves. Oh my gigabytes.

#No filter – no, really!#No filter – no, really!

Read on: Jiuzhaigou walkthrough…

You can’t go wrong in Huanglong.

Half an hour away on a plane from the not-so small (14-million-peopled!) Sichuan capital, Chengdu, in Southwest China, there’s yet another masterpiece of Chinese natural beauty: Huanglong. Basically it’s a cascade of brightly colored lakes and waterfalls made up of highly mineralized (calcareous) water. But that’s enough words. Better just check out the pics…


Read on: Bewildering beauty…

Sunset in Zhangye.


The below pics haven’t been doctored with Photoshop. Well, the colors were brightened just a little, but that’s not full-on Photoshopping really – more like putting Polaroid sunglasses on. Incidentally, such sunglasses are advised to be worn when looking at these here views in the flesh. Everything’s a little brighter, fuller, sharper and more contrasting. Like so:


Read on: From dusk till dawn in Danxia…

On the Avatar set – in China.

Believe me – in China there’s plenty to look at. I gave myself  a present for my for 50th B-Day and spent a few days there recently. Get ready to say ‘wow!’ when you see some of the upcoming must-see spots!

As I’ve said before on these here cyberpages, the funny thing is – most of that ‘plenty‘ is practically unknown to non-Chinese folks. The conspicuous historical monuments that were lucky enough to have survived the Cultural Revolution are known about, like those in Beijing and around, like the Great Wall of China, Lhasa and plenty more. But there’s a lot more besides, most of it unheard of outside the country. Just ask around – you’ll be met with blank stares. Maybe a few folks know about, say, Mount Kailash but that will be about it!

Oops. Yes, I’m certain I’m repeating myself somewhat here. I’ve already bemoaned this state of affairs not long ago. Accordingly, without more of ado, let me get on with another bit of Unknown China!…

Today’s bit of Unknown China shouldn’t be referred to as a mere bit. For it could well be one of the Top-20 most beautiful places in the world. It’s Wulingyuan – a ‘scenic are that comprises several national parks, one of which is the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park‘.

From somewhere out of sight waaaaay down below rise up huge rock columns. Jagged, naked sheer sides, with green vegetation on top. Utterly mind-blowing and jaw-dropping, moreover – in any weather: can’t say that for many similar natural installations, especially those in Kamchatka.

In overcast murkiness these stone columns get wrapped in a white fog. The actual scale and distances involved get totally lost, with the brain just giving up attempting to gauge them. They can’t be viewed with the rational mind; only with emotions. Then all of a sudden the sun will come out and the scene is transformed: all the detail and colors come to the fore, but still the brain isn’t able to cognize! Check out these contrasts in some of the pics below…

The heights of these columns are just silly: hundreds of meters tall they are. This one in the next pic is a whopping 1080 meters tall – more than a kilometer! Incidentally, it’s called Avatar Hallelujah Mountain, but more about that later. And the stone arch in the pics – that’s also daft-high: around 1000 meters up. You can walk across it too, if you’re brave enough.


Read on: Gulp!…

Off-piste and off-the-ground in Iceland.

Herewith, the penultimate installment on the enchanting island of Iceland; namely, on traveling off the beaten track on the ground, and up off the ground too – in a helicopter.

In just four days we covered more than a thousand kilometers of Iceland, but these were anything but boring kilometers. From one place of – particular – interest to the next, there are hundreds more exceptional sights to be seen: ludicrously breathtaking landscapes made up variously of volcanoes, cliffs, glaciers, waterfalls, dark gray fields of volcanic slag, and lava fields coated in seas of green or the lilac of lupine, plus distractingly dazzling dusks and dawns, pastoral scenes with sheep and horses… in short, a veritable feast for the eyes!

The Ring Road's total length is 1,332 kilometres (828 mi)The Ring Road’s total length is 1332 kilometers (828 miles)

Ring Road crosses a few glacial outwash plains, which is subject to frequent glacial outburst floodsThe Ring Road crosses a few glacial outwash plains, which are subject to frequent glacial outburst floods

Icelandic roads

Read on: How we very nearly found ourselves in a drowning incident…

Have an Ice day!

All right folks, now for glacial Iceland

Now, Iceland’s glaciers aren’t the biggest in the world, but all the same, the grand glacial vistas, the glacial lakes with icebergs, and the phenomenon of natural might… in sum it’s all fairly spellbinding.

We checked out two glaciers while on the island. First up: Langjökull (here).

It was here I had a go on a snowmobile for the first time! Have to say, I was expecting an easy, comfortable glide across the snow… Turns out snowmobiling at 50+ km/h on wet and powdery snow – neither comfortable nor easy.

There are two highland tracks in Langjökull, but we used none of them. We drove snowmobiles!There are two highland tracks in Langjökull, but we used none of them. We drove snowmobiles!

Read on: more glacierities…

Icelandic tectonic.

Everyone’s got a basic idea of how this planet of ours is constructed, even primary school kids. It goes something like this: in the middle of the planet is the core – the nucleus; then there’s the mantle, and on the outside there’s the hard crust, upon which you’re reading this blog.

But the earth’s crust isn’t a single whole piece – it consists of tectonic plates, which float around mostly imperceptibly on the surface of the magma. And they float around in different directions – into one another, perpendicularly, or away from each other. That is, they converge, chafe one another, or diverge from one another. Along the edges of the plates there are frequent earthquakes and all sorts of volcanic activity. For those interested, check out the links above.


Where plates converge are to be found mountains, volcanoes, and their associated features of terra firma. We’re talking: Japan, Kamchatka, the Kurils, the Aleutians, the Andes, the Cordillera, the Himalayas, etc. Places where plates diverge are usually are on the seabed, visible on maps of sufficient quality and detail: here, under the Atlantic for example is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It’s here where tectonic plates move away from one another, with the space between them being filled with magma.

One of the few places where this divergence of plates occurs on land is Iceland: it’s situated along the seam between the North American and Eurasian plates. The former is moving ever-so slowly to the west, the latter ever-so slowly to the east – at a speed of 2cm a year. That is, the width of Iceland increases by two centimeters every year (not taking into account coastal erosion or, just the opposite, the expansion of the land mass on account of lava flows). 2cm a year – that’s two meters a century, 20 meters a millennium, 20 kilometers in a million years. So, if things keep going as they do, in 200 million years Iceland will become the length of Chile, and in in 300 million – the length of Russia!


The crack in the ground along the fault line is best observed in Iceland at Þingvellir (Thingvellir).

Map of Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

There’s an uneven and craggy crack around five kilometers long that crosses the landscape here, plus a nice lake. This is how it all looks:

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Read on: Canyons, canyons, canyons!…

The tiniest biggest country in the world.

Hi folks!

This here post is the last in my mini-series from St. Petersburg. It continues the ‘places to visit‘ theme, but with a difference; for the place it describes resembles a museum, but it isn’t a museum really, I think. Or maybe it is. It claims to be one… Hmmm, whatever it is, it’s unusual, unique, and a must-see!

It is a bit like a museum or art gallery in that you’re not allowed under any circumstances to touch the… exhibits, even though they’re not really exhibits… Confused? You won’t be…


'He touched the exhibit/model!'Sign: ‘He touched the exhibit/model!’ On shirt: ‘I’m being punished’

This is Grand Maket Rossiya! Maket is a Russian word with numerous, similar meanings, but choosing the right one to translate into English can be tricky. This is perhaps proved by the people behind the maket having left it as just that – maket, even though it isn’t an English word. When they describe the place on the site it’s put as a ‘layout’. They mean a scale model of the Russian landscape – a miniature version of the layout of the country, making it the smallest maket of the largest country in the world for sure. It’s also the second largest scale model of its kind in the world – behind Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg.

This is a truly unique, mind-blowing, thoroughly enjoyable place. From the outside it’s nothing much – a not-so-large, unassuming building; inside – OMG. It’s like Dr. Who’s TARDIS! A massive miniature (!) scale model – an impossibly large kid’s toy; an impossibly large adult’s toy. Again though – not really a toy; what sort of toy is one you can’t touch? :)


Read on: railroads and highways, cities, towns and villages, factories, power stations… everything!…

A quick guide to Utah arches.

Why this national park is called the Arches is a rhetorical question. But if you haven’t been following this mini-on-the-road series from Utah, then read this.

Yes, you want huge natural rock arches – you need to come here. There’s just so much awesome archness here. Wikipedia says there are as many as 2000 here, ranging from the meager to the massive, and from the weird to the wonderful. In our day here we managed to see just nine! They were: Surprise, Skull, Delicate, Tower, Skyline, (the two) Windows, Turret and Double Arch.

Let me jump in here at the deep end: the most beautiful and most famous (and that takes into account desktop wallpaper:) arch of them all is… this one here – Delicate Arch:

Arches National Park Utah

Read on: 70 spellbinding sights…

The Utah Saints: Crimson columns and massive mushrooms.

Since the previous day my brain had been variously boggling and boiling. This was eased a little by steam being emitted from said boggling and boiling brain out via my camera, but that alleviation process then went too far, leading poor brain into a state of half dehydration.

The diagnosis sounds like this:

I’ve (finally) been to the canyons of Utah!

Eyeballs fairy exploded, jaws drooped down to waist level, tongues hung out of mouths, minds… simply blown. Cameras – white hot with non-stop use! The latter in fact were the only things that didn’t completely lose the plot. The human beings and their mentioned body parts however just conked – unable to the take in unencompassable – in the red and white canyons of Utah.


Read on: Not bad, eh? This pic was just for starters…