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Travel in Tibet (4): Fighting the Altitude Sickness

The Fourth Day

In the morning, Xiaoyu’s sister in law walked in our room, worried. Xiaoyu got a fever last night and it seemed that a hospital visit would be necessary. Wucong suggested a couple of places where Xiaoyu could go for the treatment in Lhasa. I started to feel sorry for her. Our road trip to Ali region was about to debut and we would reach 5000m very soon, what a pity if Xiaoyu couldn’t make it.  It was  her who organized the trip after all. She deserved a chance.

In the noon time, our drivers picked us up. The two SUVs were fully loaded by the luggage and we squeezed in to save the space for others. It was really tight indeed.  In China, there is an old saying: three women can play a show… Since we had eight ladies, I snickered:” we are going to play a great show together …”  Finally, we departed. At the Yarlung Tsangpo river, Xiaoyu joined others in photo taking just as usual. It seemed that she was fine then.  The car continued to climb up to the 5000 meters above the sea level, where we got to the Yamdrok lake. Just as how it was praised,  the lake was breathtakingly stunning. A minute ago, we were whining about getting hungry, but then, the only feeling we had was the amazement.  Pictures and words just couldn’t show the beauty of the lake.

Walking at such a high altitude place is strenuous, especially for a person who is not in her perfect health condition. Xiaoyu got sick, seriously, this time. We decided to have lunch nearby to give her sometime to recover.

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Unfortunately, even with the oxygen and anti-high altitude medications, Xiaoyu was getting worse. She had to terminate her trip,  right away.  Luckily, a driver heading for Lhasa offered to take Xiaoyu back, as his minivan still had one seat left. Everyone felt relieved, except Xiaoyu’s sister in law. Panic and worried, she couldn’t feel right to let Xiaoyu go alone.  She tried to persuade others to let them take one of our two hired cars back to Lhasa. She didn’t succeed, as others were already upset by  the fact that only Xiaoyu needed to go.  What’s more, the team agreement was to share all the expenses on the road. With both of them departing, the share of the car hire would increase significantly for others.  Girls started to whisper, and, Dengfenglai couldn’t hold herself anymore and blurted out: if they both leave, only Caiyu and I are going to share one car’s expense… That couldn’t happen!”  “Don’t worry, we share the two car expense evenly” Wucong and I consoled her right away, which calmed her down a little bit, though not completely.

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Knowing that taking one of our two cars back was a tough sell, Xiaoyu’s sister in law started to make calls and finally  arranged a car to get them back to Lhasa, we left, relieved, though it meant that our budget would go high with their departure. But, it made sense, anyway.  Wucong, Caiyu, and Deingfenglai sat in one car, Chujiand, Yujian, and I got in another car, we departed for Xigaze. It was already 5pm. The drivers called a few lodges in Xigaza then realized that all hotels were already sold out because of Panchen Lama’s visit! Where to stay, we worried. Last time, when I was in Quito, my trip didn’t get in trouble because of Papa Francisco’s visit. But, this time it seemed that I didn’t have that kind of luck any more.

Already 10pm at night, we were still not in Xigaze. Chujian started to look for hotels on the road, using the Baidu map. I found it pretty funny that many people give too much trust in today’s technologies, such as Baidu or Google. Actually, these internet things are just tools that have many flaws. For instance, Baidu did show numerous hotels, even hotel chains, along the road we were driving, where it was completely dark at night. To me, this must be a bug, I shrugged it off. But to Chujian, she would rather trust Baidu than what we saw with our own eyes. She kept complaining the car ahead of us not even stopping to check out the lodging options while trying her luck with the Baidu map persistently.

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When we got to Xigaze, all hotels were sold out with no surprise. We walked in a bath center. The owner simply indicated that we could either pay, 185 RMB per bed, or walk away. With no other options, we took the offer and walked inside. Lots of beds were placed in a huge lunge and there were male and female guests. I got to say that the feeling was quite awkward. Good thing was that the beds were pretty clean and guests were very quite. What else could I ask for at the middle of night?

Going through so many things in a day, I started to feel headache and struggled most of the night to fall asleep. This was exhausting indeed.

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Jumping Into Local Culture: An Interview with Lauren Studen

For most people, travel is the perfect way to explore another place. No matter what the destination, travel affords us the opportunity to experience the local culture, to get out of our comfort zone and try something new and different. At the very least, it gives us a chance to step into another life, even if it is momentary.

Here at LeafCanoe, we love talking to other travelers and hearing about why they travel. Recently, we chatted with LeafCanoer, Lauren Studen, who writes about her travels on the blog, “Girl x Departure.” Lauren is a student living and studying in Istanbul, and writes about her experiences traveling abroad. She also has some great reviews of destinations and hotels in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and provides plenty of helpful tips and resources to get you started on your own travels. Lauren’s blog has been featured on other blogs, including Tripoto and Perrero Travel. She certainly has a lot to share when it comes to travel!

local culture

In addition, Lauren has written several great leaves on the LeafCanoe app, including her most recent one, “15 Things to do in Bangkok.” In it, she shares her suggestions for temples to see and things to do, as well as the perfect place to get the best view of the city or the best street food. It’s a great leaf to refer to for anyone interested in a trip to Bangkok.

When we reached out to Lauren, we wanted to hear about what it that is she loves about travel, and how she experiences the local culture during her travels. Here’s a snippet of our interview:

When did you start to travel and get the travel bug?
I started traveling as a child due to my multinational background (my mom is from Poland and my dad is from Serbia), but I really got the travel bug after living a year abroad in the US at the age of 16.

What do you look for when you travel?
I love to get a sense of how the people actually live in their countries. I try to have a local experience by trying the country’s foods, exploring local spots and learning about their culture.

local culture

How many countries have you visited, which one is your favorite and why?
I’ve been to probably 18 countries and it’s so hard to pick a favorite. I think I have to go with Thailand and Turkey. Both countries have amazing landscapes, the nicest locals and delicious food!

What’s the most amazing travel experience you have had so far?
I really loved flying in a hot air balloon over the otherworldly scenery of Cappadocia in Turkey, bathing an elephant in Thailand, swimming with dolphins in the Red Sea and living abroad in the US and Istanbul.

What leaves can we expect next from you?
Definitely leaves about my hometown Berlin and my current location Istanbul.

We loved the insight that Lauren gave us about experiencing as much of the local culture as possible. This is most certainly the best way to learn about any country that you’re visiting. Besides her leaf about Bangkok, Lauren also has a leaf called “10 Free Things To Do in Istanbul,” as well as “Things To Do In Cappadocia, Turkey.” In these leaves, she gives us plenty of helpful suggestions to experience Turkey when you’re on a budget, as well as beautiful pictures to fuel your wanderlust for travel. To read more about these leaves, check out our posts, “How to Explore Istanbul for Free” and “The Best Way to Experience Cappadocia.”

local culture

Ready to do your own exploring? Download the LeafCanoe app to get more ideas of how to experience the local culture in your next travel destination.

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Seven Can’t Miss 2016 Travel Destinations

Traveling the world is not just about seeing a destination, it’s also about experiencing the culture. One of the best ways to experience a place is by attending a local festival or event. 2016 is full of international events, both large and small. From high profile events like the Olympics Games, to lesser known festivals like the International Festival in the Sahara, we’ve compiled our favorite events and destinations to experience for 2016.

2016 travel

So get your bags packed and cameras ready, here are the seven can’t miss destinations for 2016 travel.

Thailand
By far, one of the more playful festivals to experience this year is the Songkran Water Festival, which takes place all over Thailand in April. Songkran marks the beginning of the new year in Thailand, and is also the start of the summer season. Revelers traditionally celebrate the festival by splashing water on each other as a way to wish each other a year full of blessings. Bangkok has one of the largest celebrations of Songkran, but other cities such as Chiang Mai also have pretty big celebrations.

2016 travel

France
France has always been a destination on many travelers’ list. This year, it’s also the destination for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament, also known as the Euro Cup, which will take place in June. In addition to Paris, matches will take place in cities like Bordeaux, Lyon, Nice, and Marseille. Even if you’re not planning on attending any of the football matches, there’s always a good reason to visit France and explore this beautiful country.

2016 travel

Pamplona, Spain
Every year in July, the city of Pamplona comes together for the eight day festival of Saint Fermin. Although the most famous event of festival is the Running of the Bulls, the festival of Saint Fermin has plenty of other events worth checking out. The city of Pamplona itself is also worth exploring, as it has several Roman ruins as well as ruins dating back to the early Middle Ages.

2016 travel

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Besides being the site of this year’s Olympic Games in August, Rio de Janeiro has always been known for its beaches, music scene, and Carnival, the city-wide celebration just before Lent. This seaside city in Brazil has a lot to offer its visitors, from high end upscale resorts to down-to-earth hotels. These days, Rio has also become a gathering point for LGBT travelers, who number over one million each year.

2016 travel

Albuquerque, New Mexico
The annual International Balloon Fiesta is a perfect excuse to visit the city of Albuquerque. Held every year in early October, the balloon fiesta showcases hot air balloons from all over the world, and provides a colorful addition to the already stunning background of the area’s mountainous landscape. Albuquerque itself is rich with Southwestern culture, and some of the nearby cities like Santa Fe or Taos are also worth visiting.

2016 travel

Mexico
For a deeper taste of Mexican culture, head south of the border to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead. Considered a national holiday in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is a day to honor the deceased. This holiday is celebrated around the days of October 31 to November 2, and is characterized by the colorful sugar skulls and bountiful food that is served during this time.

2016 travel

Douz, Tunisia
The final event to cap off the year is the International Festival of the Sahara, which takes place in November in Douz, Tunisia. This festival began in 1910 and is a four day celebration of Bedouin culture. The event attracts over 50,000 people, with more and more Westerners attending each year. The highlight of the festival is the camel race, but there are also music and dancing, as well as a Bedouin marriage ceremony, all set within the backdrop of the desert sand dunes.

2016 travel

These are our top 2016 travel destinations and events to check out. To see what LeafCanoers have to say about these destinations, download the LeafCanoe app.

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Seven Reasons to Visit Taiwan in 2016

For us here at LeafCanoe, Taiwan is the up and coming destination to visit in 2016. Once referred to as Ilha Formosa, or Beautiful Island, by the Portugese, Taiwan holds plenty of intrigue and curiosity for many a traveler.

LeafCanoer, ladyd, can attest to the wonders of Taiwan. With several leaves showcasing many of the country’s attractions and sites, including “Taiwan – 7 Days in Paradise” and “South of Taiwan is full of surprises!” ladyd shares some of her favorite destinations in Taiwan and tips for how to get the most out of your visit.

visit Taiwan

For those itching to experience a new destination this year, here are seven reasons to visit Taiwan in 2016:

Aboriginal culture
Nearly 2.3% of Taiwan’s population, roughly 530,000 people, refer to themselves as part of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. Unlike the majority of Taiwanese, who originate from the Asian mainland, the aboriginal people of Taiwan can trace their roots to the islands of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and even as far as out as Madagascar. Though in the past, these groups have experienced pressure to assimilate with the majority of the Taiwanese, many aboriginal villages have held on to their cultural uniqueness, and their existence represents the diversity of Taiwanese culture.

visit Taiwan

Cuisine
Taiwanese cuisine is highly derived from Chinese cuisine, but there are several nuances and influences from other countries such as Japan. Popular dishes in Taiwan include beef noodle soup and congee. Many of the dishes highlight the use of seafood, which is abundant and common for this island country, and due to its sub-tropical location, fruits such as papaya, starfruit, melons, and citrus have made their way into the cuisine as well.

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Hiking opportunities
Despite being sub-tropical, Taiwan is also quite mountainous. The multi-level terrain of the country makes for some interesting and memorable hiking experiences for visitors to Taiwan. The best time for hiking in Taiwan is in the autumn, from late August to early October. The weather is usually much cooler and drier during this time. Some of the parks with the best hiking include Shei-Pa National Park, Taroko National Park, and Yushan National Park.

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Architectural marvels
One of the reasons behind Taiwan’s selection as an up and coming place to visit is its commitment to inspiring wonders in architecture. One of the country’s most popular buildings is the 101 Taipei building, classified as the tallest building in the world. But there are other buildings around Taiwan worth visiting, including the glass slipper church, a building shaped to look like a blue glass slipper. visit Tawain

Rich history
Taiwan’s history dates back to tens of thousands of years. Formerly colonized by the Dutch, Taiwan then came under the influence of the Chinese, which transferred some of their own cultural traditions to Taiwan. These days, Taiwan is a hodge-podge of cultures. But the old buildings and temples around Taiwan still remain, and offer plenty of opportunities to explore the country’s cultural history.

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Modern art
With so many historical temples and buildings to visit, it’s easy to overlook the role of modern art in Taiwanese culture. Taiwan, particularly the city of Taipei, has a large selection of modern art galleries that are worth exploring. Some of the best modern art galleries include Aki Gallery, 1839 Contemporary Gallery, and Angel Art Gallery, all of which are located in Taipei.

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Hello Kitty love
The Taiwanese have a strong fascination with Hello Kitty. The airport in Taipei has a gate dedicated to Hello Kitty, as well as several rooms filled from floor to ceiling with Hello Kitty decor. But the best example of Taiwan’s Hello Kitty love is the existence of the Hello Kitty hotel, where lovers of all things Hello Kitty can pay to stay in a room decorated in their favorite character.

Hello Kitty Room

Taiwan is a wealth of interesting sights. With a fascinating history, spectacular natural and man-made views, as well as a unique culture, a visit to Taiwan is sure to make any trip memorable and worthwhile. For the adventurous traveler, this country is your choice for 2016.

For more ideas of where to visit in Taiwan, check out more of ladyd’s leaves by downloading the LeafCanoe app.

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Seven Reasons To Visit Shanghai in 2016

For the traveler, a new year represents an open road, a blank journal just waiting to be filled with travel stories. There is something exciting about the uncertainty of a new year. Where will your travels take you? What new place will you discover this year? The possibilities are unimaginably endless. This year, instead of the usual tourist destination, why not go for the unconventional?

visit Shanghai

There are dozens of tried and true destinations to choose from, but in our opinion, the place to visit this year is Shanghai. A blossoming metropolis, Shanghai has been growing in popularity and presence over the years, and is worth the visit. Leafcanoer, searchingforyourzen, recently shared his advice on what to do in Shanghai in his leaf entitled, “Top 8 Things To Do in Shanghai!” For those looking to add more travel to their new year resolutions, here are seven reasons to visit Shanghai in 2016.

The old meets the new
The area in China known as Shanghai dates back to around 700 BC when it belonged to the Kingdom of Wu. Since then, it has grown from a small village to a large market town, and finally to a full-fledged city, with its city walls erected in 1554. In Shanghai, you can find historic gardens and temples, juxtaposed with some of the city’s newest buildings, including the Oriental Pearl Tower, which offers 360 degree views of the city. It’s the meeting of the old and the new that makes this city so unique and special.

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A shopper’s haven
The strong US dollar makes spending money in Shanghai relatively easy. In fact, the city is often called a shopper’s paradise. Two of the major shopping roads in Shanghai are Nanjing Road, which still has shops that are centuries old, and Huaihai Road, known for its high-end designer stores. In 2015, the city adopted a tax refund policy, in an effort to entice more foreign travelers to visit Shanghai and shop.

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The festivals
Shanghai has a number of festivals worth experiencing. Just a few weeks away is the Lunar New Year, usually falling in January or February. In the spring is the Dragon Boat Festival, which celebrates one of China’s national heroes, Qu Yuan, and often features boat races. Summer time festivals include the Shanghai Film Festival, the Shanghai Television Festival, and Shanghai Tourism Festival. And one of the more notable fall festivals is the Shanghai International Art Festival, which falls in October.

The Bund
The waterfront area in central Shanghai, stretching a mile along the Huangpu River, is known for its stunning skyline. With over 50 buildings representing a variety of architectural styles, this stretch of waterfront, known as the Bund, is one of the most visited destinations in Shanghai. Here, visitors can marvel at buildings showcasing Romanesque, Gothic, Neo-Classical, and even Baroque style architecture, as well as some more modern architecture.

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The culinary scene
Shanghai cuisine has been around for over 400 years. Characterized by its frequent use of seafood, the cuisine found in Shanghai has traveled well beyond its borders to places like New York City. Yet, with its influence outward, it has also been influenced by the many cultures that have visited Shanghai. Many of the newer restaurants in Shanghai take traditional Shanghai and Chinese cuisine and rethink it in more modern terms. In this way, the culinary scene of Shanghai is much like the architecture and design of the city: a meeting of old and new.

visit Shanghai

Water town excursions
Sometimes the best way to experience a city is to get out of the city. There are about 8 towns just outside of Shanghai that are built around water and are worth visiting. Many of these towns date back centuries, and still have some of the original architecture remaining. Qibao Ancient Town is the closest water town to Shanghai, but is arguably one of the smallest. Zhouzhuang Water Town, on the other hand, is one of the most visited water towns, although it is approximately 79 kilometers from Shanghai.

The metro system
Speaking of excursions, one of the best ways to get around Shanghai is by metro. Considered one of the longest metro systems in the world, with a total route length of 420 kilometers, the Shanghai metro system has had several upgrades over the last few years and is expected to grow. Four new lines were added in 2014, and nine other lines began construction in 2015. This growth and development will make getting around the city a lot easier.

visit Shanghai

With the new year coming up, it’s time to think about where you want your travels to take you. For 2016, why not visit Shanghai?

For more ideas on what to do in Shanghai, or to consider other travel ideas for 2016, download the LeafCanoe app     .

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10 Destinations to Unspoil Your Spoiled Kids

Whether we like to admit it or not, our kids are growing up in an age of privilege. With fast internet at their fingertips, and the latest technological advances readily available to them, today’s kids have been raised to think that life is relatively easy. In short, they are becoming spoiled kids.

One of the best remedies to unspoil your kids is through travel. Travel exposes your kids to different lifestyles, and can often challenge the ways they currently view the world. LeafCanoe has a plethora of leaves that can provide ideas of where to take your kids. However, here are our picks for 10 destinations to unspoil your spoiled kids.

Costa Rica
With its abundance of animals, beaches, rainforests, and outdoor activities, Costa Rica is the perfect destination to take your digitally connected kids and help them reconnect with the natural world. Pura Vida, which means pure life, is the country’s motto. That laid back attitude is evident in every inch of the country. Life moves at a slower pace, and the rich natural environment can turn even the most die-hard city-lover into a fan of the great outdoors.

Unspoil Your Spoiled Kids - Costa Rica

Paraguay
Today’s kids have been raised on constant stimulation from televisions, computers, video games, iPads, and iPhones. They aren’t accustomed to living life without these types of stimulation. A trip to Paraguay, where the majority of the population are subsistence farmers, can open your kids’ eyes to a much simpler way of life.

Unspoil Your Spoiled Kids - Paraguay

India
The structure and organization that our society’s kids have grown accustomed to can sometimes be at an almost detrimental level. In real life, kids must learn to deal with chaos and confusion. A country like India, with its frenetic energy, is a great chance to expose your kids to the chaos of life. With its cacophany of sounds, colors, and tastes, India is a rush to the senses.

Unspoil Your Spoiled Kids - India

Singapore
Spoiled kids can sometimes be picky in their tastes, especially when it comes to food. A great way to introduce your kids to diverse cuisines is to visit Singapore, with its melting pot of Chinese, British, Arab, Indian, and Malaysian influences. In Singapore, kids can sample samosas from India, goat curry from Malaysia, or Singapore’s own famous chili crabs.

Unspoil Your Spoiled Kids - Singapore

Ghana
In our society of excess, kids can often seem wasteful, demanding the latest toys and gadgets. A trip to Ghana, where kids have learned to be resourceful in their play, can turn your spoiled kid around and make them appreciate what they have. Though still considered a developing country, Ghana is surprisingly rich in natural resources, and has a fairly developed tourism industry, which makes it an accessible country for families and kids to visit.

Unspoil Your Spoiked Kids - Ghana

Turkey
In an age where internet memes and trends come and go every fifteen seconds, kids can sometimes lose sight of the importance of history. Turkey, a country with a diverse and storied history, is the perfect antithesis to today’s transient and ephemeral trends. Straddling the cultures of both Europe and the Middle East, Turkey’s history dates back to prehistoric days, and can be explored through the various historical landmarks scattered throughout the country. Check out the leaf, “My favorite spots of our Turkey trip” for ideas of where to go in Turkey.

Unspoil Your Spoiled Kids - Turkey

Philippines
Spoiled kids are used to living in comfort, and often forget that not everyone in the world lives this way. A trip to the Philippines, particularly to see the provinces beyond the big cities and resort towns, can help your kids see the disparity between the rich and the poor. Philippines is a beautiful country, and in the rural areas, kids can see families living in small huts on family farms. Such a stark difference from the bustling cities of Manila and Baguio.

Unspoil Your Spoiled Kids - Philippines

Cambodia
For parents wanting to expose their kids to an even more rural environment, consider the country of Cambodia. Known for the beautiful Angkor Wat temple complex, Cambodia is still very much a pastoral based society. Kids and families can witness this rural environment at a much slower pace by renting bicycles and exploring the temples and surrounding villages over the course of several days.

Unspoil Your Spoiled Kids - Cambodia

Thailand
A common complaint of parents regarding their kids is their disconnection to cultural traditions. In Thailand, kids can get a glimpse of Thai culture through the dance, food, temples, and religious ceremonies. A Buddhist country, Thailand has a large selection of temples throughout the country that kids and families can visit and learn more about. To get ideas of where to visit in Thailand, check out the leaf, “Thailand in 10 Days.”

Unspoil Your Spoiled Kids - Thailand

Poland
Kids who are spoiled sometimes forget how privileged they are. They forget that in many parts of the world, and throughout history, kids have been denied the opportunity to live a normal childhood. Places like Aushwitz camp in Poland, are a stark reminder of the dark sides of human history. Formerly a Nazi concentration camp, Aushwitz is now open to visitors, so that people may never forget what people are capable of doing to each other. To see a more nature-oriented side of Poland, check out the leaf, “Spring flowers – Botanic garden, Cracow, Poland“.

Unspoil Your Spoiled Kids - Poland

Travel is more than just going to a destination and checking activities off a list. It can be an opportunity to show your kids how people around the world live, and instill in them a deeper appreciation for the life that they have. By doing this, you can slowly begin to change your kids from being spoiled to being actively engaged global citizens.

For more ideas of where to take your kids, check out the various leaves on LeafCanoe by downloading the app.

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