Rediscover Yourself: Hiking in Asia
by Juliet Martin
Rama Lake in Pakistan
The Asian landscape is varied and dramatic, and there is, perhaps, no better way to enjoy it than on foot. Hiking is, in general, one of those rare activities that bridge the body, mind and soul. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, we believe that travelling on foot is one of the most intense and rewarding ways to experience a destination. To that end, let’s take a few moments to consider the benefits of hiking (or trekking, rambling, tramping, bushwalking, etc.) in Asia.
Walking is the ultimate form of slow travel. It is, in every respect, the oldest and most authentic mode of human transport. When you travel on foot—whether in your own backyard or overseas in Asia—you experience the world in its proper scale. But more on that in the next section.
Trekking Presents the World in its Proper Scale
Given our size, senses and physical abilities, we humans get the most out of life when we’re able to properly process the world that we encounter. When you’re sitting in a window seat on a train or bus, the world whizzes by faster than you can take it in. Sure, you experience sights in rapid succession, but there’s really no way to properly enjoy it. Likewise, when you board a passenger jet and take off, you are, in effect, hurtling yourself through multiple time zones and across oceans and myriad boundaries—both physical and imagined.
However, trekking in Asia places you at the heart of your destination. As you move through the jungles of South-East Asia, follow the perimeter of China’s Great Wall or even scale the heights of the Himalayas, you can literally feel the ground passing underfoot. Perhaps more importantly, you establish relationships with your porter, fellow trekkers and the villagers you encounter along the way. In the process, you’re going to develop a better understanding of yourself as well.
Preparing for Treks in Asia
If you’re eager to embark on a trekking journey of self discovery, the first thing you need to do is make sure that you’re in shape. In the weeks leading up to your hike, make a point of taking the stairs whenever possible. If you’re buying new hiking boots, you’ll also need to break them in before striking out. After all, your feet are the most important equipment you have on a trek.
All that’s left is to decide where you are going to plan your hiking adventure. Asia’s preferable for many reasons, including the following:
• Favourable exchange rates
• The chance for cultural exchange
• Ancient ruins hidden in the jungles
• The chance to learn and practice new languages
As far as where you ultimately decide to stage your adventure, there are a few stand-out destinations. For high intensity and serious rewards, nothing compares to Nepal’s Great Himalayan Trail. Opposite this, South-East Asia offers myriad short walkabouts and two- or three-day excursions. And in this part of the world, you can give your feet a rest by chartering a bamboo raft down a river in Thailand or even ride on elephant back around the magnificent ruins of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.