Sunday, April 22, 2012

Singapore: 10 Things to Do

singapore sity skyline  
Moodboard / Corbis

Singaporeans moan that besides shopping, dining and the movies, there's not a lot you can do here. Ignore them. The must-see list for the one-day visitor to Singapore, especially the first-timer, is absorbingly long. There is very little chance you'll get bored. Most tourists tend to gravitate first towards the famed retail stretch of Orchard Road. Fine, get your fix of bold-faced names like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and every other couture label under the sun. When you've gotten that out of your system, dump your purchases back at the hotel and head out into the 'burbs where the real charm of Singapore lies. We're here to guide you to the top 10 places where tourists don't normally go; in short, the places where Singaporeans in the know live and play.

1. Singapore Botanic Gardens

So, you've arrived. It's early and nothing really opens for business until around 11 a.m., so how are you going to kill time? Slip on the trainers and head out to the Botanic Gardens (open 5 a.m. to midnight). At this time of the day, downtown Singapore's last remaining green lung is a cool, bucolic retreat filled with joggers, dogs and tai-chi practitioners. Wander through the swaths of virgin rainforest (the main boardwalk through it is entered from Upper Palm Valley Road) and then take in the National Orchid Garden's many-colored collection of 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids. When you're done, drop into the food court near Tanglin Gate for a traditional local breakfast of soft-boiled eggs, coffee and toast slathered with coconut jam.
singapore botanical gardens  
Picturenet / Corbis

2. Artwork at the Ritz-Carlton

It may seem a little strange to head to a hotel to look at artwork, but the Ritz-Carlton is no ordinary hotel. The massive three-ton Frank Stella installation at the entrance and the pair of Dale Chihuly crystal glass sculptures that anchor both wings of the building kick off one of Southeast Asia's finest (and under the radar) collections of modern and contemporary art. The majority of the pieces were specially commissioned for the public spaces and guest suites. The treasures on view include Andy Warhol and David Hockney's exuberant colors, Rainer Gross's geometric compositions, Henry Moore's restrained monochromatics and the lush botanicals of Robert Zakanitch. It's all free to view, and you even get an iPod-guided tour.

singapore Ritz Carlton Art

3. Chinatown Heritage Centre

Let the other tourist hordes charge over to the newly minted Peranakan Museum or the gloomy Asian Civilisations Museum. If you do only one cultural thing during your 24-hour Singapore layover, it must be a tour of the unheralded Chinatown Heritage Centre, where entire sets of bedrooms, kitchens and street scenes from the late-19th century and early-20th century have been faithfully recreated. It's an authentic slice of Singapore's history that's made all the more fascinating by the gleaming skyscrapers just a few blocks away. And if you must, pick up a kitschy souvenir from the gift shop on your way out.
singapore chinatown 
 Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty

4. Plastic Surgery

In case you missed the memo, the place for plastic surgery is Asia. While many people head to Bangkok and Seoul for assorted nips and tucks, the locals make a beeline for the ultra-swish, Richard Meier–designed Camden Medical Centre. You may not have time for a full makeover, but squeeze in a spot of Botox or a non-surgical facelift with local celebrity surgeon Woffles Wu. And then adjourn downstairs for snapper pie and Pavlova at Whitebait & Kale.
singapore plastic surgery doctors medicine  
Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty

5. Electronics for Cheap

Tokyo may have the latest in electronic gadgets, but Singapore has the widest range, and luckily for the time-pressed shopper, they're all clustered in two massive multistory emporia. Handicams, portable DVD players, mobile phones, hi-tech cameras, MP3 players and laptops in just about every imaginable configuration are up for grabs at Funan Digitalife Mall and Sim Lim Square. The prices are usually about 10% to 20% cheaper than at other commercial outlets. At Sim Lim Square especially, good deals can be had with some serious haggling, and many retailers will knock off a few extra dollars if you pay in cash.
singapore electronincs cell phones electric dreams  
Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty

6. Haji Lane

This tiny lane, hidden away in the heart of the Muslim quarter, is a fashionista's paradise. With very little fanfare, the collection of narrow shop-houses have, in less than a year, been transformed into an aggressively hip retail stretch recalling Le Marais in Paris or New York's Meatpacking District. Know It Nothing is a stylish industrial space that stocks beautifully tailored dress shirts stitched with silver skull buttons by Japanese label Garni. Next, pop into Pluck for its shabby chic collection of Austin Powers–inspired cushion covers and a cute ice-cream parlor. A few doors down, Salad boasts a range of home accessories like laser-cut table mats and Hong Kong–based Carrie Chau's quirky postcards. If you're feeling peckish, have an authentic Middle Eastern lunch around the corner at Cafe le Caire.

singapore Haji Street Road Shopping

7. The Singapore Flyer

The 165-meter-high Flyer is Singapore's answer to the London Eye. For the moment, it is the world's largest observation wheel (that title will go to Beijing when its version opens in 2009). Despite much fanfare and hype, the locals have never really taken to the Flyer, grousing that it's too far from anywhere (it's not) and S$29.50 is a lot of money to pay for a 30-minute ride. Lucky you, since this means you'll almost never have to wait in line. The best time to hitch a ride is at dusk when the entire row of downtown skyscrapers is softly lit. Back on the ground, head for a dinner of chili crabs at Seafood Paradise.
singapore flyer ferris wheel  
Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty

8. The White Rabbit

Back in the '50s, Dempsey Hill was home to the British Army. These days, the former barracks, set amidst lush jungle, have been transformed into a fine collection of restaurants, bars, art galleries, epiceries and spas. Recently, the long abandoned garrison church was reopened as the White Rabbit, a restaurant and bar serving up Euro comfort food. After extensive renovations, its lofty interiors are now a mood-lit bolt-hole that heaves with tout le monde. When people aren't busy air-kissing and waving to one another across the crowded dining space, they're tucking into chef Daniel Sia's cleverly re-imagined classics, like macaroni and cheese drizzled with truffle sauce and a deconstructed Black Forest cake. After dinner, head up the hill for a chilled mojito at Margarita's.

singapore white rabbit food

9. Geylang

Once upon a time, Bugis Street was Singapore's premier red light district (and forever immortalized in Peter Bogdanovich's Saint Jack), but the crown has long since passed to Geylang, an atmospheric quarter on Singapore's east coast that bristles with great period architecture, leggy street walkers and some of the best local food on the island. On offer is a greedy grab of Peranakan, Indian, Malay and regional Chinese standards including the coconut rice and curry chicken at Bali Nasi Lemak, spicy noodles with roast pork and prawns at Kuching Kolo Mee and the Hakka favourite of rice, vegetables, tofu and peanuts in a tea-based broth at Lei Cha Fan.

singapore geyland  
Munshi Ahmed for

10. Zouk

Despite its prim, straight-laced reputation, Singapore's nightlife is actually quite racy, though compared to Barcelona or New York, the party ends early (around 3 a.m.). After nearly two decades, Zouk is still the throbbing heart of the action. The pulsating institution is a strobe-lit, rambling warren of dance floors, figure-hugging outfits, swagger and seasoned moves. For many of the pretty young hipsters here, it's a rite of passage. If it isn't enough to satisfy your urge to groove, drop into the mammoth Ministry of Sound for a quick shimmy.

singapore zouk dance clunb  
Justin Guariglia / Corbis

The 100 Most Influential People in the World

They are the people who inspire us, entertain us, challenge us and change our world. Meet the breakouts, pioneers, moguls, leaders and icons who make up this year's TIME 100

The nature of influence changes. The word originates from the medieval idea that a magical liquid emanates from the stars to influence our actions on earth. Modern influence often comes from the magical ability of technology and social media to overcome time and distance and reorder our perceptions. Before microphones and television were invented, a leader had to stand in front of a crowd and bellow. Now she can tweet a phrase that reaches millions in a flash. Influence was never easier — or more ephemeral.
Which is why we try to choose those people whose influence is both lasting and, with a few notable exceptions, laudable. The economist Elinor Ostrom, who is on our list this year, has written about the tragedy of the commons, which is the idea that self-interest can undermine the common good. We look for the antidote to this: how individuals can start a chain reaction of virtue, shaping events in ways that can become both viral and enduring.
We are living in a transformative period in which leadership and influence emerge in unlikely places. Manal al-Sharif posted on YouTube a video of herself driving in Saudi Arabia — women are barred from driving in the kingdom — and was jailed for nine days. Our categories — Breakouts, Pioneers, Moguls, Leaders and Icons — reflect the different types of influence demonstrated by people on the list. We look for those whose influence is at a tipping point. In Russia, Alexei Navalny is harnessing the growth of Internet use to connect protesters via blogging. While there are new types of influence, some are as old as Adam. In Egypt, Samira Ibrahim demonstrated old-fashioned courage by standing up to the military in a court of law over forced "virginity tests."
This year, as in the past two, the most influential person in putting together the TIME 100 list was executive editor Radhika Jones, who edited the issue with her characteristic devotion to both breadth and depth. Managing the thousands of details that this entails fell to associate editor Feifei Sun. The fresh, inventive design was the handiwork of senior art director April Bell.
Statistician Hans Rosling made this year's list not only because of his years on the front lines of public health in Africa but also because of how he uses statistics to change people's perceptions of the world. "I am not an optimist," Rosling says. He describes himself instead as a "possibilist." The TIME 100 list is about the infinite possibilities of influence and the power of influence to change the world.

View the full list for "The 100 Most Influential People in the World"

Mexico : Puerto Vallarta Travel Tips

Puerto Vallarta
This is more than just a coastal resort getaway. Somehow Puerto Vallarta -- also known as "Vallarta" or just "PV" -- maintains a small-town ambience, while still boasting one of the most unique and sophisticated oceanfronts in Mexico. The dining options and the hotel choices reflect more of the same -- you'll find both elegance and efficiency mingled together within the hotel and restaurant areas.
Most people associate this west-coast town with its boundaries -- the Banderas Bay that snakes along the coast, or the palm-tree tinted Sierra Madre Mountains that stand tall in the east -- but Puerto Vallarta is more than its scenery. Take some time to discover its other perks for yourself -- through sampling the delicious food, discovering a hidden boutique in the Zona Romantica, sipping a signature cocktail at a bar along the Malecón, or jiving to a salsa beat in a Havana-style nightclub.

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Diving to the Deepest Spot on Earth

Deepsea Challenger

On March 25, 2012, James Cameron spent more than three hours at the bottom — 35,576 feet or nearly seven miles — of the deepest place on earth, the Mariana Trench. With Avatar and Titanic director Cameron as its pilot (yes, a film is planned!), the 12-ton lime-green sub Deepsea Challenger reached the bottom of the place known as Challenge Deep in about two hours, 36 minutes. The Mariana Trench is roughly 200 miles southwest of the Pacific island of Guam. Cameron is only the third man ever to reach the depth. In 1960, two men — Navy Lt. Don Walsh and the late Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard — piloted the Swiss-designed bathyscaphe Trieste to the bottom of Challenge Deep. Below is Don Walsh's account of the 1960 expedition. Photograph: Associated Press
image-wil cameron
What It's Like ... To Dive to the Deepest Spot on Earth

The loud boom could have signaled death. The impact shook the deep-diving bathyscaphe Trieste as Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard and I reached 30,000 feet — just the beginning of our descent to Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the ­Mariana Trench off Guam. Only the fact that I realized I’d heard it assured me I was still alive.
Our team had been training for the past seven months. We knew what to do. The instruments confirmed that everything was OK. The Plexiglas window that had just cracked under the immense weight — 8 tons per square inch — was not a pressure boundary.
Ours wasn’t a scientific mission, but we knew it would prove invaluable. The vessel had been designed as a radical platform for new research, but before scientists could climb inside, we needed to prove its safety.
We continued on.
The temperature inside dipped to 45 degrees F — only slightly warmer than inside a refrigerator. We were in the perpetual blackness of the abyss, save for the vessel’s lights. Given our targeted destination, we expected to see things nobody had seen before. We watched jellyfish and translucent invertebrates with light-generating organs dance past the porthole.
Then the bathyscaphe settled on the bottom — around 35,800 feet — releasing a mushroom cloud of white silt. It was as if we were swimming in a bowl of milk. Even after 20 minutes, it never cleared. No photographs of our achievement exist. I wish I could say we had said some profound words, but we just shared a quiet moment.
It has been 52 years since our mission to the deepest point of our planet’s oceans. Ever since, people have been asking me if I was scared or excited that day. I wasn’t. It was simply another day at the office for us, albeit one that required eight hours of unrelenting focus. What we felt was akin to what a pregnant mother feels just after delivery. In the end, every bit of energy had been drained from our bodies, but we had done it.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Taking The Plunge: A Scuba Adventure In Belize (PHOTOS)

As a newly certified scuba diver, I was looking for a getaway where I could try out my new skills -- then kick back on a rope hammock and watch the boats go by. Mexico? Hawaii? My choices seemed endless, but then a diver friend told me about Belize.
My first thought? Way too far. Still, his enthusiasm spurred me to check the map and the flight schedules ... and that was when I realized that Belize was only a four-hour flight from Newark or two short hours from Houston.
I was on a plane quicker than you could say "Mask and fins."
The hardest thing about heading to Belize was deciding just where in this small country I wanted to dive (and where I wanted to relax on the two days before my flight when I couldn't swim with the fishes). But because the country was so small -- only about 180 miles long -- I worked with United Vacations to plan an eight-day adventure in several different spots.
I was itching to hit the water, so fresh off the plane, I caught an "island hopper," a water taxi, and a golf cart to Ambergris Caye, recognized by many to be home to one of the world's premiere coral reefs, plus a marine reserve full of turtles and rays. My hotel, Las Terrazas, shared a white sand beach with White Sands Dive Shop, an outfitter accustomed to showing new divers the ropes.
Seriously, for those heading to this part of Belize for the first time, you couldn't do better than the Las Terrazas/White Sands combo. The hotel is casual and comfortable, with condo style accommodations and an outdoor restaurant. (Don't miss the fryjacks, a sopapilla-like Belizean specialty, and the butter chicken is as good as the menu claims). For both the hotel and the dive shop, service comes first: The chef made homemade French fries just because I was craving something salty, and Elbert, the owner of White Sands, rearranged the staffing for my second dive because I'd liked my first guide so much.
My very first dive. Just typing those words -- it's kind of wild! Let's just say I took the plunge. I rode out with White Sands to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a shallow five-square-mile underwater park where rays, barracudas, eels and dozens of varieties of fish glide by, oblivious to the tourists who come to share their space. I've been into turtles ever since I saw Finding Nemo with my kids. Sitting on the ocean floor while a sea turtle grazed and snacked? It was one of those moments when you just wished the kids were there to see it. And while I liked the Shark and Ray Alley, where dozens of marine animals scoot around your knees, the Marine Reserve was something special: peaceful and still, gentle but for the moray eels opening and closing their jaws behind the coral.
After my first day of diving (and encountering sharks in their natural habitat), a drink sounded like just the thing -- and Hidden Treasures, an airy restaurant in San Pedro, was just the place. My cantaloupe martini was frosty and sweet, perfect with fried plantains and Caribbean shrimp. And my bed back at Las Terrazas? Let's just say that while a rock slab would have offered a good night's sleep -- that's how exhausted I was -- the comfy bed and overhead fan hit the spot when I hit the hay.
Three days of diving and eating fryjacks at Las Terrazas, and it was time to move on. Two puddle jumpers -- so small that they actually do U-turns on the runway -- and an hour later, we were half-way across the country, in Placencia, a town on the country's southern coast. Let me tell you: Francis Ford Coppola's Turtle Inn is the place to be for rest and relaxation, great food and peace and quiet -- and luxury like I've rarely seen in my travels around the world.
Yes, the staff left homemade chocolate chip cookies in the jar in my room, and no, I was not able to stop eating until they were ALL. GONE. Yes, the Inn offered bikes to ride out and about in Placencia, and, no, I doubt anyone could find a better massage, ceviche or Belize lime pie than at the Secret Garden, a tiny spot in town that lived up to its name. And yes, the Turtle Inn had countless hammocks on the beach, and, no, I wasn't able to stay awake after the massage and chocolate chip cookies, so I slept by the ocean under palm trees for a good portion of my stay. Oh, and then there was the diving. I was starting to understand why my diver friend had insisted I head to Belize.
I had only two days left, and I could not dive for the 24 hours or so before flying back to Philadelphia. Cave tubing and ziplining, though? No risk of the bends from those. On my way to the Cayo District, an inland portion of Belize known for its Mayan ruins and beautiful landscapes, I tried a whole new kind of adventure, at Cave Branches Outpost, an all-inclusive outdoor park where I flew over the jungle attached a steel cable and then floated through caves sitting on an inner tube. Best of all, educated guides described the rock formations, art and jungle life as we went along -- an afternoon well spent.
Although I had been waiting all week to get to the Lodge at Chaa Creek, a luxury eco-ranch in the middle of the Belize jungle, I thought I had to stop at the Saturday morning market in San Ignacio, the biggest town in Cayo. I'd heard that I'd find native Belizeans and Mennonites (both of whom have settled in Cayo in large numbers) selling folk art, produce and street food. As a toy lover, I was excited to pick up some tiny embroidered animals made of colorful cloth; as a food lover, the custard apples (a kind of soupy fruit eaten with a spoon) and the hot grilled pupusas (dough with beans and cheese folded in) put me in gastronomic heaven. Even better, the market made for some of the best photo ops in Belize. The peppers were bright, the children were adorable and the spices! I've never seen spices like that.
And then, finally, I was there ... the Lodge at Chaa Creek. The Lodge -- committed to sustainable tourism -- spreads out through the jungle and boasts numerous individual cottages (most with Jacuzzis, all with native art and luxe bathrooms), plus a river camp where those on a budget can enjoy the property's amenities. And amenities they are, from an outdoor pool to an early morning bird watching walk (where we saw toucans) to horseback riding tours through the jungle (where we saw Mayan ruins) to a butterfly farm (where we walked among Belizean blue butterflies) to nature hikes (where we learned about holistic medicine). Almost everything is included in the price. While spa treatments are extra, they are special, incorporating native ingredients and offered with Belizean hospitality. No wonder this is the spot where Prince Harry and Bill Gates have both spent time in the past few months.
When it was time to leave Belize, I was so sorry to go that I booked my next trip back, this time to Chaa Creek's River Camp for Maya 2012, the celebration of the end of the Mayan calendar in December. I'll be taking my younger daughter along. Time to sign her up for scuba class.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Janakpur, a holy city in Nepal

Janakpur, also known as Janakpurdham, which denotes a sacred place, is unquestionably Tarai’s most fascinating and mystical city just 165km to the east of Birgani. It is at religious sites here that those traveling the Hindu pilgrimage circuit are required to make a stop to show their respect.
Janakpur has been identified through Hindu mythology as the capital of the ancient kingdom of Mithila. It was here that much of northern India was controlled during the tenth and the third century BC. Mithila finally came under the strict control of the Mauryan Empire in the third century BC. Thereafter it came under hardships and was neglected for two millenniums until the arrival of Guru Ramananda, founder of the sect of the formidable Sita and in doing so revived the city to its former glory as a religious center during the seventh century.
It can be quite disconcerting as everything in Janakpur is immersed in the Indian culture to the point that one could mistakenly think they were in India. The only difference is the political government governing the area. Janakpur is a great delight to visit. Traffic is all but non-existent with all motorized traffic banned from the center of the city, which means you can have a relatively peaceful stroll around the city.
At the same time though, Janakpur is a thriving city with so much going on its hard to keep up, so if you are thinking of a limited stay its best to rethink and allow for a couple of days to fully absorb this amazing atmosphere that will surround you for the duration of your stay. It must be noted that accommodation, restaurants and other facilities for tourists do not really exist in this area and so its important to speak to your travel agent, do research and make sure your prepared. Something else of great fortune to the city is its only operational railway in existence in all of Nepal just so happens to resides here making for an entertaining adventure to say the least!

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Essential Photo Editing

Digital cameras have come a long way. The pictures you take now are so much better than they were ten or even five years ago, and you may not think you need to do any post processing, or out-of-camera photo editing, before you print or share your photos. But there are just a few, simple things you can do to make those good photos so much better. These actions don't require much time or technical knowledge, but can greatly enhance your pictures.

Cull the Bad Shots

Digital cameras allow us to take lots and lots of pictures, but that does not mean we have to keep them all. I confess--I used to keep every shot no matter how lousy it was. Thank goodness I got past that mental block! The first thing you should do after you take the pictures off your camera is to give them an initial review and mark the bad ones in some way. Most software includes a rating or tagging function to help you do this. Then just get rid of those bad pictures!
There may be one or two photos that are technically bad, but you see some potential there for a special effect or art treatment. Go ahead and flag those in some way and keep them for later experimentation. And if you just can't bring yourself to delete the bad shots completely, mark them hidden, or mark them for later review, but please don't show the world every single shot you took from a particular event.

Ensure Proper Orientation

If you turned your camera properly when taking the shot, rotation is usually not something you should have to worry about in post processing. Most modern cameras will have a rotation sensor which writes a tag into the file to tell your software how to display the photo. However, there are some situations when you will find your photo is not rotated properly, and you can read the following article which addresses this:

Auto Balance and Tone

Sounds complicated, but if you can click one button, you can do this. Almost every photo editing software package, including the free ones, offers a one-click "Auto Tune" function. It may be labeled Smart Fix, Quick Fix, Auto Adjust, Auto Tone, Auto Color, Auto Balance, I'm Feeling Lucky, or something else. Whatever it is called, it's a good idea to always click that button and see what it does to your picture. Sometimes it will be an improvement and sometimes it won't, but it only takes a second or two to give it a try. If it doesn't improve anything, just undo the change and be happy that you got the settings right when you took the shot!

Remove Red Eye

Today's photo software makes it so simple to remove red eye--there is no excuse for not doing it. There is nothing I hate seeing more than shared photos with red eye in them. Some software does not even require you to select the red eyes. Just click one button, and it finds the red eyes and fixes them automatically. At most you will have to click on each red eye in the picture, or drag a selection around the red area, but removing red eye is no longer the chore that it once was.

Crop and Straighten

Not every photo will need cropping, but sometimes a simple crop can make a big difference on the impact of a photo. When taking pictures, especially in action situations, we don't always think about the best way to frame a shot, or whether we have employed the rule of thirds for the best composition. But we can take care of that later with a simple crop. Cropping your photos before sending them off for printing is also important, as you can get unexpected results if you don't crop for the specific aspect ratio of the prints you will be getting.
Crooked horizons are another pet peeve of mine, and most photo software makes it a very simple thing to fix. Often the straightening function is combined with the crop tool so you can take care of both tasks at the same time.

Resize for the Audience

While I always encourage capturing the maximum resolution that your camera allows, I don't advocate sharing those multi-megapixel photos online. All that does is waste bandwidth and annoy people. But most of the time, you only need the full-size pictures for printing and perhaps some future purpose that hasn't been revealed yet. Learn how to reduce the size of the pictures you will be sharing or using online.
But don't be too skimpy… receiving tiny thumbnails is almost as annoying as getting huge pictures. 1600 pixels for the longest edge is a good viewing size for most users with high-speed connections. If you know your recipients are on a low speed connection, have restricted internet access, or usage caps, you'll want to cut it down to about 600-800 pixels.

The Next Level

You don't have to stop there, of course! If you have the time and inclination, there is so much more you can do to improve and have fun with your pictures. Just start browsing this site for loads of tips and ideas. My resource on Quick Photo Fixes is a great place to start! 
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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Nepal’s rocky mountain highs

Short treks from Pokhara

Trekking in Nepal does not need to be a major undertaking. From Pokhara there are short treks to Ghachok, Chisopani and other spots. Most villages in the area have basic tea-houses where you can find a meal and a bed for the night, and the only gear required is a sleeping bag and a warm jacket for the evenings. (Jane Sweeney/LPI)

Helambu trek
Easily accessible from Kathmandu, and taking no more than eight days, the Helambu trek offers a great introduction to trekking in Nepal and is a good winter choice. Since it stays at relatively low altitudes it does not require bulky cold-weather equipment and clothing. (Chris Klep/LPI)

Annapurna Circuit
The spellbinding valleys around Manang and Jomsom create a breathtaking backdrop on this ever-changing trek -- one of the world’s classic walks. It takes nearly three weeks to walk the entire circuit, which follows the Marsyangdi Valley to the north of the main Himalayan range and crosses a 5,414m pass to descend into the dramatic and desert-like Tibetan-style scenery of the upper Kali Gandaki Valley. (Tim Hughes/LPI)

Annapurna Sanctuary trek
The relatively short trek of 10 to 14 days packs a powerful punch as it takes in a breathtaking mountain amphitheatre of peaks and glaciers. Highlights include sublime views of Annapurna (pictured), fish-tailed Machhapuchhare, and one of Nepal’s largest and prettiest Gurung villages at Ghandruk, which is a short detour off the main trek. (Richard I'Anson/LPI)

Everest Base Camp trek
Appropriately enough, the trek to Base Camp on the highest mountain on earth is a challenging trail, taking you from the lowlands into the mighty Himalaya. A round-trip journey from the airstrip at Lukla to Everest Base Camp takes at least 14 days, but you are better off budgeting a further week to take in some of the stunning and less-visited side valleys. (Scott Darsney/LPI)

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A watery weekend from Buenos Aires