Wild Junket » Culture http://www.wildjunket.com An adventure travel blog that brings you on a rollercoaster ride around the world Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:43:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Interesting Tribes from Around the World http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/04/15/interesting-tribal-cultures-around-world/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/04/15/interesting-tribal-cultures-around-world/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:28:34 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=16529 A Huli wigman with face paintingDuring our travels, we’ve had the fortune of meeting numerous interesting tribes who live in isolated, remote corners of the world and have truly preserved their cultures and traditions. For certain places like Papua New Guinea, the intriguing tribal culture was what drew us to visit. As always, I believe it’s the people who make [...]

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During our travels, we’ve had the fortune of meeting numerous interesting tribes who live in isolated, remote corners of the world and have truly preserved their cultures and traditions. For certain places like Papua New Guinea, the intriguing tribal culture was what drew us to visit. As always, I believe it’s the people who make a place. To pay tribute to the amazing people we’ve met, here are some of the amazing tribes we’e encountered around the world.

The Huli Wigmen — Papua  New Guinea

The Huli is the largest ethnic group in the Highlands, with a population somewhere between 300,000 to 400,000 people, covering the whole of Tari. Huli men are best known for their custom of wearing decorative woven wigs, that are used as elaborate headdresses and decorated with bundles of multi-colored feathers during singsings (celebratory festivals). These wigs are specially made by a unique clan known as the Huli Wigmen, who attend wig schools and live together in isolation from the rest of the community. During my visit to Papua New Guinea, I met the teacher and students of Poroiba Akua wig school, and had an interesting lesson on how to grow wigs. According the Kupunu, the teacher, hair can only grow into a wig with the teacher’s spell.

A Huli wigman with face painting
Huli wigmen

Nomadic Maasai Warriors — Kenya and Tanzania

The Masai (also spelled as Maasai) are a semi-nomadic people from East Africa who are known for their unique way of life as well as their cultural traditions and customs. Living across the arid lands along the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania and Kenya, the Masai population is currently at around 1.5 million, with the majority of them living in the Masai Mara. They are reputed to be strong warriors who hunt for food and live closely with wild animals. Dressed in bright red Shuka cloth and colorful beaded jewelry, the warrior men proudly adorn themselves with what looks to Western eyes like women’s attire. According to the Masai people I met in Kenya, they have little interest in the supposed benefits of modern life.

The Masai doing their jumping dance
Making their own fire

Karen Women with Elongated Necks — Burma/Myanmar and Thailand

In the border mountains between Burma and Thailand live the Karen people, a tribal group related to the Tibetans. Today, their tribe numbers around 40,000 people as more and more of them are moving to the cities. The Karen people are most famous for the neck rings worn by the women of the tribe for beautification purpose. The first coil is applied when the girl is five years old and with the growing is replaced by a longer coil. Sadly, the number of Karen women who still practice this custom is dwindling and many people are exploiting them for tourism. We met a few Karen women at Inle Lake, Myanmar/Burma, who had traveled thousands of miles to live there to work in tourism.

Karen people in Myanmar/Burma
Karen women weaving cloth for visitors

The Ochre-Covered Himba People — Namibia

A group of indigenous people live in the harsh, dry deserts of the Kunene region, northern Namibia, and they’ve become well known throughout the world for their practice of covering themselves with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre, to protect themselves from the sun. The mixture gives their skin a reddish tinge, symbolizing earth’s rich red color and life, and is consistent with the Himba ideal of beauty. Himba women like to braid each other’s hair which is also covered in the ochre mixture. There are now 20,000 to 50,000 people left and most of them making a living tending livestock or welcoming visitors into their villages. During my overlanding trip in southern Africa, I had the chance to meet a Himba family in Damaraland and it was definitely an experience talking to them and understanding their way of life.

A Himba lady

The Hardworking Hmong Women — Vietnam and China

Our visit to the Sapa region of northern Vietnam was so memorable mainly because of these strong and hardworking Hmong women we met along the way. Even though the Hmong culture is patrilineal i.e. allowing a husband’s family to make all major decisions, Hmong women have traditionally carried a large amount of responsibility in the family. The children learn gender expectations at a young age and young girls traditionally learned household skills from their female elders by the age of eight. Besides taking care of the household chores, the women also plant and harvest fields with their husbands. Many Hmong women now work in tourism, offering their houses to trekkers for homestays and also giving a helping hand during the hikes.

A Sapa lady weaving art work
Our Hmong host cooking in her home

Bush-hunting San People — Botswana

The San people (or Saan), also known as Bushmen or Basarwa are members of various indigenous hunter-gatherer peoples of Southern Africa (the most accessible groups are in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert). These indigenous hunter-gatherers were first made famous by the movie, The Gods Must be Crazy. Sadly, the San people were evicted of their ancestral land in the 1950s (which went all the way to the 1990s) and they were forced to switch to farming as a result. Banned from hunting, and forced to apply for permits to enter the reserve, they are now being pushed to the brink of extinction.

In Ghanzi, Botswana, we went out to the bush with a group of San people who showed us how they gathered herbs for medication and plants for food. It was really interesting to see the way they behave and speak (their dialect has a lot of click sounds) and learn how they’re using the same survival techniques as they have for centuries.

The San people showing us their way of life
The family

Have you met any of these tribes? How was your experience? What other tribes have you met?

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Meet The Huli Wigmen of Tari Highlands, Papua New Guinea http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/02/12/tribal-culture-papua-new-guinea-huli-wigmen-tari/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/02/12/tribal-culture-papua-new-guinea-huli-wigmen-tari/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 14:27:23 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=16286 Napata, the wig specialistWhen the first European explorers found their way into the Highlands of Papua New Guinea in the 1930’s, they didn’t find the mountain ranges they were expecting. Instead, they chanced upon heavily cultivated valleys and over one million people living here. Today, this part of the PNG is still the most densely populated area of [...]

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When the first European explorers found their way into the Highlands of Papua New Guinea in the 1930’s, they didn’t find the mountain ranges they were expecting. Instead, they chanced upon heavily cultivated valleys and over one million people living here. Today, this part of the PNG is still the most densely populated area of the country and yet it remains the least developed region.

As the most remote part of the province, Tari is one of the new places in PNG where people still live in a very primitive manner and wear their traditional dresses on a daily basis. Clan and tribal loyalties are still very strong here, and tribal traditions live on especially in the rural areas. Pigs and gardening remain the two most important things in life and tribal fighting is still a common occurrence.

The Huli is the largest ethnic group in the Highlands, with a population somewhere between 300,000 to 400,000 people, covering the whole of Tari. Huli men are best known for their custom of wearing decorative woven wigs, that are used as elaborate headdresses and decorated with bundles of multi-colored feathers during singsings (celebratory festivals). These wigs are specially made by a unique clan known as the Huli Wigmen, who attend wig schools and live together in isolation from the rest of the community.

Napata, the wig specialist
 

Meet the Wig School Master

To learn about the Huli wigmen, we veer off a mud path along the Highlands Highway, the only main road that connects the entire Highlands region. I’m surprised that the Huli wigmen actually live so close to civilization, but Steven, my guide from TransNiugini Tours, clarifies that most wig schools are some distance from town and this particular one we’re visiting is about two hours by foot. To make it easier for tourist visits, they have set up a temporary hut here. “Nobody is allowed to go into wig schools — it is strictly for the students and master.”

I am first introduced to Kupunu, the teacher and owner of the Poroiba Akua wig school. An elderly but fit man in his early sixties, Kupunu wears a big headdress stuffed with multi-hued feathers, armbands made of rattan and nothing but a hip belt beneath. He’s warm and chirpy, wearing a broad smile — nothing like the school master I’d imagined.

Kupunu’s father was a wig school master who passed down the responsibility to him. He is now continuing on his legacy. “Not anyone can be a master, he needs to have powers and be able to cast spells.”

“Hair cannot grow into a wig by nature. It can only grow with the teacher’s spell.” Steven says with so much conviction that even I’m beginning to think Kupunu is some sort of wizard.

Kupunu’s father was a wig school master who passed down the responsibility to him. He is now continuing on his legacy. “Not anyone can be a master, he needs to have powers and be able to cast spells.”

Kupunu, the head master of the wig school

The Rules of Huli Wig-Growing Tradition

Kupunu starts to explain in Huli (with Steven translating) how it all works, “In Huli culture, boys live with their mothers until they are seven or eight years old, then they live with their fathers to learn skills like hunting with bow and arrow, building mud walls and making houses. When they are around 14 to 15 years old, they go to wig school and don’t return home at all until they graduate. Sometimes they stay with us for up to 10 years.”

At wig schools, they learn the fundamentals and rules of Huli traditional costumes: from growing their hair to collecting feathers and making armbands. Since these wigmen don’t receive formal education in public schools, they are illiterate and only speak Huli (not even Pidgin, the national language of PNG).

The wise wig master goes on, “To enter my school, the boy’s family pays me 200 Kinas (US$80) or a pig and they stay with me for 18 months to grow one wig. If they want to grow another, they stay longer and pay again. ” As mentioned, pigs are highly valued and treasured in the Highlands, and are often used to pay a bride’s dowry or for other settlements.

A student combs his hair

 

But not everyone is accepted as a student. Only young and virgin males can enter wig school. “I have to put a powerful spell on the student before he comes to my school. The spell will not work on someone who has had sexual relations.”

What about women? Do they go to wig school too?

Steven looks at me with a face of ridicule, “Of course not! Women don’t wear wigs and they don’t go to school.” I keep my silence. (I’ll cover what women do in my next post.)

A student

Rituals and Spells for a Good Hair Day

Once accepted into the school, the students and master perform a special ritual. They reenact it for me and I watch with much awe. First, the master spits (thereby working his magic) into a bamboo pipe filled with water from the creek. The students each gulp down half of the water and spit it into the air so that the water will fall onto them and cleanse their souls. The other half is then drunk to cleanse the interior of the students’ bodies.

While in wig school, students have to keep their hair wet at least three times a day. That is why they usually live near a creek or other water source, to have constant access to water. It is their tradition to sing while using fern leaves to sprinkle water onto their big bouncy hairdo. They also have to follow a diet where certain types of food are not allowed, such as pig’s heart, pig’s fat, and spicy food. They even need to adopt a special sleeping position: perched on one elbow and neck resting on a wooden log — all to ensure a healthy growth of hair.

The Huli wigmen have to follow a diet where certain types of food are not allowed, such as pig’s heart, pig’s fat, and spicy food. They even need to adopt a special sleeping position: perched on one elbow and neck resting on a wooden log — all to ensure a healthy growth of hair.

Wetting their hair

After 18 months of growing their hair out, the wigmen cut their hair out and hand them to Napata, the wig specialist, who then sews and weaves the students’ hair into wigs. Most wigmen have more than one wigs, but they must all be grown before he gets married. Some are used as daily wigs, while others are worn only on special occasions, as ceremonial wigs. These ceremonial wigs are made with two wigs combined together (in opposite directions) and shaped into a headdress that resembles the silhouette of a bird with its wings stretched out.

Once Napata weaves them into immaculate wigs, he goes to the market and sells them. Many Huli men who don’t grow their own hair will buy them to wear for singsings (festivals or major events). The daily wigs can go for as high as 600 Kinas (US$400), while the ceremonial ones fetch over double the price, up to 1,500 Kinas (US$900).

This money helps to go towards paying for the bride dowry, as marriage is always on the horizon when the wigmen graduate from school. On the day that the student graduates and leaves the school, he puts on a layer of ocher paint on his face and heads out to find a wife for himself.

An example of face painting

A Dying Trade

I am curious to know if things are changing with modernization and influence from the outside world. After all, the resource development projects going on in Tari at the moment are set to open the region up.

On the other hand, a look at the primitive way of living here in Tari makes me think that changes won’t occur or impact the locals till at least a few decades later.

Kupunu responds with a sigh, “In the past, I received 20-30 students each term, but now I only get 10 or less. People prefer to go to public schools these days. They want different things now…”

Kupunu responds with a sigh, “In the past, I received 20-30 students each term, but now I only get 10 or less. People prefer to go to public schools these days. They want different things now…”

While normalizing education is definitely a good thing for the Huli people, I can’t help but feel empathy for Kupunu. I wonder how long more his wig school – and most importantly, this wig-growing tradition – will live on for. Regardless of that, I’m sure these Huli wigmen will continue casting a magic spell on those curious enough to visit Papua New Guinea for a long time to come.

How to:

This experience was organized by Ambua Lodges in Tari. To book this tour, contact US based travel company Fly and Sea Dive Adventures who can arrange all your flights and accommodation.


Disclosure: This experience was made possible by PNG Tourism Promotion Authority and Fly and Sea Dive Adventures but all opinions expressed above are my own.

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A History Lesson in San Javier, Mexico http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/12/12/history-lesson-in-loreto-san-javier/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/12/12/history-lesson-in-loreto-san-javier/#comments Wed, 12 Dec 2012 14:30:53 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=12505 San Javier Mission**Our teammate Elica Sue was recently in Baja California, Mexico. Here’s one of her stories from her trip to Loreto, stay tuned for more.** “More than 8,000 people come to visit for the fiesta on 3rd December,” said our guide, referring to their patron saint day. As our van pulled into town,  we were greeted by [...]

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**Our teammate Elica Sue was recently in Baja California, Mexico. Here’s one of her stories from her trip to Loreto, stay tuned for more.**

“More than 8,000 people come to visit for the fiesta on 3rd December,” said our guide, referring to their patron saint day. As our van pulled into town,  we were greeted by a clear view of the impressive San Javier Mission, perfectly preserved and untouched by modern modifications. He told us that everyone in town helps to maintain its pristine condition, and that the padre from a mission in Loreto makes the trek up to San Javier give a service every week.

San Javier Mission

New to the Ears & Eyes

Intrigued by such an impromptu history lesson, I listened more, and followed our guide to the mission’s doors, where he pointed out a white, circular symbol above the open doors that indicated it used to be a Jesuit mission.  It took fourteen years to build. We stepped through the door, and walking past the pews, we saw before us a large, golden altarpiece occupying the front of the mission.

San Javier is located about hour and a half southwest from Loreto, and this town itself only has a population of about 250 people. They received electricity about one year ago, but it is clear that this city is unique in more ways than one. Shocked by the population count and their length of time with electricity, it was definitely unlike anything I was used to hearing.

Electricidad

Ancient Roots

After standing in the awe of part of Baja California’s history, we ventured outside, where there was a small cemetery attached to the side of the mission. Walking past it after examining the names and dates on the tombs, we found ourselves at a tree with twists and knots for a trunk—an olive tree. The olive tree here is the oldest in the area, and still carries olives and creates oil despite being 300 years old.

Beside the olive tree is what looked like a stonewall, but our guide told us that, “It is actually an aqueduct.” He led us to the edge of what we believed to be the stonewall, but saw a groove in the middle of two stone columns, and water trickling in between strands of grass, glistening in the sun.

Olive Trees

San Javier’s Charm

This agricultural town itself is charming, and where there aren’t many people on the streets, you’ll see a few people lingering around and occasionally a car will pass through. You’d more than likely see a handful of small dogs kicking up dirt from their trotting across town, too.

After walking through the town next to fields of growing food, and trees with small oranges and olives,  we stopped to have a snack at the a small and simple eatery. We were served homemade quesadillas with goat cheese, taquitos, and guava paste to eat with cheese, which were absolutely delicious and hit the spot after our late afternoon excursion. Before leaving San Javier, we stumbled across an edifice with some of the men of the town artfully, and diligently carving stone with hammers and chisels–it was something new to see, and something you don’t see every day!

Carving Stone

Without having noticed how much I actually learned in one day, within a few hours, I realized the best kind of history lesson is one you can see right before your eyes; even if you’re on vacation.

*Disclaimer: This trip was made possible by Wild Loreto and Villa Del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto, but all opinions are out own.

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Surprising Peru http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/09/06/surprising-peru/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/09/06/surprising-peru/#comments Thu, 06 Sep 2012 14:22:25 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=11890 **We’re now publishing full feature articles from WildJunket Magazine! Here is a Travel Guide article about Peru by our contributor Esme Fox. From the mystical peaks of the Andes to the verdant Amazon rainforest, Peru defies all expectations with a mix of ancient ruins, colonial cities and endless opportunities for adventure.  By Esme Fox | Originally published [...]

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**We’re now publishing full feature articles from WildJunket Magazine! Here is a Travel Guide article about Peru by our contributor Esme Fox.

From the mystical peaks of the Andes to the verdant Amazon rainforest, Peru defies all expectations with a mix of ancient ruins, colonial cities and endless opportunities for adventure. 

By Esme Fox | Originally published in WildJunket Magazine Aug/Sep2012

Diverse and all-encompassing, Peru is geographically complex and physically vast, packing in lofty Andean highlands, sweaty jungle lowlands, and cacti-clad desert. It is this multi-faceted trait that draws many curious travelers to its shores. Yet, apart from the well-trodden trail to Cuzco and Macchu Picchu, many parts of Peru still remain off the tourist radar.

Peru once lay at the center of the Inca Empire, which stretched from modern day Colombia to northern Chile and Argentina. Today, although the Inca Empire has long been dissolved, the past still plays an important role in the country. Time-warped Inca cities are still inhabited; and the remains of early civilizations are constantly being discovered.

But beyond history, there is so much more to Peru: from adventurous sports for daredevils to cultural walks in its colonial cities and beach-bumming on its shimmering coastline. Whatever you crave – be it traditional culture, elegant colonial cities or myriad adventures – Peru is sure to satisfy.

But beyond history, there is so much more to Peru: from adventurous sports for daredevils to cultural walks in its colonial cities. 

The most famous site in the country is clearly the lost city of Machu Picchu, the main reason most people visit the country. But as always, the journey is more important than the destination. Spend days walking the Inca Trail, threading Peru’s backcountry and visiting local tribes, before arriving to see the sun rise over Wayna Picchu peak. Then head down to fly over the mysterious Nazca Lines and decide for yourself how they came to be.

To veer off the beaten path, head north to the adobe city of the Chimu culture, Chan Chan, the largest Pre-Colombian city in South America; then turn east into the Cloud Forest to visit the unknown fortress of Kuélap.

Those with a penchant for colonial grandeur will find themselves seduced by the charm of Arequipa, the ‘White City’; sucked into the past by South America’s oldest continuously inhabited city, Cuzco; and the pre-Colombian secrets of its capital, Lima.

If it’s adventures you’re after, Peru has them in abundance. Learn to surf the colossal sand dunes of Huacachina, before traveling to time-warped Huaraz for a spot of rock climbing. End your journey jungle trekking and kayaking in Iquitos, the largest city in the world not accessible by road.

Regardless of what your expectations are, prepare to be surprised as Peru will exceed everything you’ve ever heard.

Colonial Capitals

Admire Spanish colonial styles and savor traditional flavors in Arequipa, Cuzco and Lima.

Duration: 2 weeks

To get a taste of what the Spaniards left behind, make a whirlwind trip through Peru’s historical triangle. Start south in the ‘White City’, Arequipa, with many of its buildings made from sillar volcanic stone. This is one of Peru’s most picturesque cities, littered with elegant architecture and cobblestoned streets, and backdropped by hazy volcanoes. The pulsating heart of Arequipa is Plaza de Armas, which sits at the center of the city, dominated by an impressive sillar cathedral.

If you can drag yourself away, take a side-trip to the vast Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest at 10, 470 feet (3,191 meters). Chivay is the hub of the valley; just a four-hour bus ride away. In the valley, sign up for a multi-day trek to remote villages, and watch the rare Andean Condon soaring in the sky and llamas roaming amidst the shrubs.

From Arequipa, hop on an overnight bus or train to Cuzco. This is the gateway to Peru’s most famous sight, Machu Picchu (see opposite page). Once the capital of the Inca Empire, Cuzco has a historical flair and oozes bohemian vibes. The city has an eclectic culinary scene, and it’s the best place to try some Peruvian delicacies like the cuy or barbecued guinea pig, and ocal cocktail, Pisco Sour.

Finish your journey with a visit to the capital city, Lima. At first glance Lima’s strange mix of plush urban neighborhoods and chaotic rundown districts may not seem to offer much to the foreign visitor, but if you’re eager to learn more about Peru’s history, then you’ll be glad to know that Lima is home to some of the country’s best museums, housing an array of Inca and Pre-Colombian art and artifacts.

Threading the Inca Trail

Travel thousands of years back in time to the lost kingdom.

Duration: 2 weeks

For over 2,000 years, Peru was the vestige of famous civilizations that once inhabited this sacred land. Begin in the south at one of the world’s greatest mysteries, the Nazca Lines. The giant geoglyphs and animal designs marked into the desert can only be seen in their entirety from the air – take to the skies onboard a light aircraft for approximately US$45-$60.

From Nazca, head northwest into the Andes to the famed city of the Incas, Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. If you’re short on time, catch a bus to the town of Aguas Calientes, stay the night and start your hike up the mountain at around 4am to see the ancient city at its full glory around sunrise. The ancient city is big enough to warrant an entire day’s exploration. You can wander around by yourself, but to truly understand Machu Picchu, it’s best to book onto a tour.

For those with time to spare, venture up the coast to Trujillo. Many travelers usually skip this chaotic city, but they’re missing a host of fascinating sites, including Chan Chan, the largest Pre-Colombian city in South America; Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, the temples of the sun and the moon; and the Chimú Rainbow Temple, home to Peru’s bizarre native hairless dogs.

Finish your journey in the country’s verdant interior in Chachapoyas, capital of the Amazonas district. Uncover one of Peru’s best-kept secrets, the remains of the Kuélap fortress of the Chachapoyas culture, also known as the Cloud Forest People. Set in a stunning mountainous location, Kuélap even rivals Machu Picchu in size and grandeur – and yet, it attracts less than a quarter of its visitors.

On the Wild Side

Adventure buffs alert! A world of trekking, climbing and sand boarding opportunities await.

Duration: 1-2 weeks

Outdoor-loving adventurers should start their trip near the coast in Ica, just three hours away from Lima. The nearby oasis of Huacachina is a world of its own: a tiny village built in the middle of a desert, flanked by sand dunes that rise up to a few hundred meters. Hop on a dune buggy, go sand boarding, or simply catch sunset atop a dune.

Pack your adventurous spirit and head north to Huaraz, one of the highest cities in Peru at 10,000 feet (3,052 meters) above sea level. Besides its traditional flair, Huaraz is a mecca for climbers and mountaineers. You’ll find plenty of tours to take you climbing into the Andes, as well as shops renting and selling equipment.

After you’ve had your fill of climbing, pay homage to the town of Yungay, site of one of the Andes’ worst natural disasters, the Ancash earthquake. This is the gateway to the Cordillera Blanca, home to Husacarán, Peru’s highest mountain at 22,200 feet (6,768m) above sea level. Get a lift up the mountain or sign up for a guided trek to see the limpid blue pools and emerald lakes Lagunas Llanganuco, a perfect place for hiking and boating.

Finally, leave the highlands behind and head back to Lima for your flight to Iquitos, Peru’s most remote city, deep within the dense Amazon rainforest. Relive your Indiana Jones fantasies with treks through the jungle and kayaking down the Amazon River.

 

Lakes, Rivers and Seas

Plunge beneath the surface and float amidst the water world.

Duration: 1-2 weeks

After a few weeks of intensively travel, kick back and indulge in the beautiful town of Puno, situated right on the sparkling shores of Lake Titicaca. This is a world where Andean peaks collide with green valleys and shimmering sun-drenched islands. Walk the streets of Puno to see local women in layered skirts and fancy bowler hats standing against crumbling colonial façades, then hop on a boat to visit the Uros tribes who live on floating reed isles, sail on a totora (reed boat) and hike to the top of Isla Taquile for a view of the extensive lake.

Next, gear yourself up for some jungle action in the northeastern Amazonian city of Puerto Maldonado. While not a tourist destination in its own right, Puerto Maldonado is one of the best places from which to explore the Amazon Basin and the mighty river itself. Board the Madre de Dios Ferry to get a glimpse of life on the water as you pass ramshackle boats and peki-pekis (canoes powered by small motorcycle engines).

Once you’ve finished exploring the country’s many lakes and rivers, head to the coast to the small, friendly town of Huanchaco, one of Peru’s top surfing spots. Spend a few days here taking lessons from local surf masters and admire the views over plates of Peru’s most famous seafood dish, ceviche. If the surfing bug really gets you, take a detour up the coast to Chicama, home of the longest swell in the world.


About the Author:

Esme Fox is a travel writer who writes for Food&Travel, Real Travel and Time Out guide to Argentina. Esme has lived in six countries including Uganda, the Philippines, and Spain. In this issue, she writes about Peru on our Travel Guide section.


This article was originally published in WildJunket Magazine August/September 2012. Get your copy of the magazine on Zinio or download our Newsstand app.

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Dinner Etiquette: How to Eat Abroad http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/02/25/dinner-etiquette-how-to-eat-abroad/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/02/25/dinner-etiquette-how-to-eat-abroad/#comments Sat, 25 Feb 2012 02:00:07 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=8184 For my first post on WildJunket blog, I thought I’ll start by discussing dinner etiquettes, an issue that I’m often concerned about  when traveling to a new country. If friends and acquaintances are kind enough to show you around their home country and share their culture with you, the last thing you’d want to do [...]

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For my first post on WildJunket blog, I thought I’ll start by discussing dinner etiquettes, an issue that I’m often concerned about  when traveling to a new country. If friends and acquaintances are kind enough to show you around their home country and share their culture with you, the last thing you’d want to do is to offend them in any way. Sharing a meal is a very important social interaction in most cultures and doing it wrong could lead to an uncomfortable experience for both parties. I’m going to share with you a couple of tips I’ve learned over the years that could help you avoid this kind of situation.

Eating utensils

People in different parts of the world use different kinds of utensils to eat their food and some use nothing more than their bare hands while satisfying their hunger.

Asians are usually very understanding to foreigners who are not familiar with using the chopsticks and they’ll be happy to provide you with a fork when needed. However, if you want to integrate and immerse in their culture, I’d recommend learning to use them. In that case you might consider buying a chopstick trainer, or if you are a DIY master you can even build your own in a matter of seconds with just a rubber band and a piece of paper. It’s really not that difficult and anyone can do it with just a few days of practice.

In some parts of the world it is customary to eat with your hands. I doubt anyone would be offended if you ask for some utensils but locals always appreciate the effort when you try. So just wash your hands clean and have fun with it, you will feel like a kid playing with your food and it will make your meal a memorable experience.

Flickr photo by hiyori13

Learn when to stop

This one is the trickiest of them all, because it can vary even within the same country and it’s the one thing that could really upset some people depending on where you are. While in some parts of Asia like Singapore or Malaysia, it’s considered very rude to leave anything on your plate (and when I say anything I mean just two or three rice grains), in places like Italy and Spain, completely clearing up your plate will leave your hosts thinking that they didn’t prepare enough food for you and you are still hungry. If you find yourself getting your plate refilled again and again, consider leaving a tad bit of food in it and show your best “I’m so full” face, maybe accompanied by a hand on your belly.

Flickr photo by fred_v

The sounds you make while eating

In western countries, it’s usually considered rude to eat with your mouth open or make noises while eating. But in some Asian countries, it can be an acceptable behavior and even sometimes encouraged. In Japan for example, the amount of noise you make while slurping a bowl of noodle soup is directly proportional to your amount of enjoyment from the food. Therefore, a perfectly polite western visitor could be unadvertedly offending his host while silently savoring the udon.

As always, if you are unsure about how to behave yourself in a foreign dinner table, look around and imitate.

I found this topic to be a quite difficult one to find information about, so if any of you intrepid travelers know of any special eating customs or have an interesting story to share, please do so on the comment section below.

Happy travels and bon appetite!

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Travel Misadventures in Kyrgyzstan http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/31/travel-misadventures-in-kyrgyzstan/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/31/travel-misadventures-in-kyrgyzstan/#comments Tue, 31 May 2011 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/31/travel-misadventures-in-kyrgyzstan/ Our host with his eagleThis is a guest post by Andy Jarosz. We had walked for three hours to reach a cluster of large yurts. They had been erected only a few feet apart on an otherwise empty mountainside; for warmth I presumed, despite the very pleasant midday sunshine. We would be spending our first night in the Kyrgyz [...]

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This is a guest post by Andy Jarosz.

We had walked for three hours to reach a cluster of large yurts. They had been erected only a few feet apart on an otherwise empty mountainside; for warmth I presumed, despite the very pleasant midday sunshine. We would be spending our first night in the Kyrgyz mountains and had finally arrived at our overnight accommodation.

The concept of a neighbour is very different in rural Kyrgyzstan to how it is perceived to us European city folk. While our neighbours are typically within a gentle stone’s throw of us, here the distance between fellow dwellers on these slopes can be measured in kilometres. It was a chance encounter therefore when our host’s friend from the next valley happened to ride past our little group of weary hikers. After a brief exchange of greetings he disappeared over the distant hill, gesturing that he would soon return.

 

Around half an hour later we heard the sound of a galloping horse and sure enough he was back, this time dangling a goat hide from the back of his horse. Our Russian guide had already told us that an inverted goat skin was the traditional storage vessel for the favourite local brew, kumis. This is fermented mare’s milk and is one of those things that most Western folk will not enjoy drinking but that will always be offered to visiting guests.

Our host with his eagle

“There’s poo in the milk!”

I can’t say that the idea of drinking fermented mare’s milk appealed to me but, never shy to try something new, I reluctantly braced myself for a taste and waited my turn as a small amount of milk was poured from the goatskin into a cup and passed around.

The offending milk

It was at this point that our guide, who was standing next to me and had seen it all before, nudged me and whispered, “Don’t drink it; there’s horse poo floating inside!” Sure enough, as the man was pouring the milk out of the skin we could clearly see brown lumps within the white liquid.

Maybe those who had the first taste couldn’t see this, but as we were unable to warn them without offending our host the drink made its way unannounced around the circle, each taking a small sip before passing the cup to their left. When it came to me I made up a lame excuse about having a stomach ache and passed the cup on. Better to lie I supposed, than to be ill. What would you have done in my position?

The irony of the story is this: that night as everyone in our group slept soundly, I suffered a full-blown bout of food poisoning. I will spare you the details, but it is sufficient to say that I didn’t see much of the inside of our yurt despite the sub-zero temperatures. Perhaps I should have drunk the dirty milk after all?

Loo with a view

 


picajs Andy Jarosz is a lifelong traveller and freelance writer. He writes on his own 501 Places website and also for adventure travel company Tourdust, who specialise in trekking in Morocco. You can follow Andy on Twitter.

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The Ultimate Piping Challenge: Blowing the Asturian Bagpipe http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/04/27/the-ultimate-piping-challenge-blowing-the-asturian-bagpipe/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/04/27/the-ultimate-piping-challenge-blowing-the-asturian-bagpipe/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2011 07:30:00 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/04/27/the-ultimate-piping-challenge-blowing-the-asturian-bagpipe/ young Asturian bagpipe playerDuring my recent trip to Asturias, I gave a shot at playing the bagpipes (you know me, I had to give everything a go). I don’t want to blow my own horn, but for a first-timer, I didn’t do too badly though my travel mates who were there might beg to differ! While I did [...]

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During my recent trip to Asturias, I gave a shot at playing the bagpipes (you know me, I had to give everything a go). I don’t want to blow my own horn, but for a first-timer, I didn’t do too badly though my travel mates who were there might beg to differ! While I did make a fool out of myself, I really enjoyed the experience and found great pleasure amusing everyone including myself.

Prior to this experience, I had never seen a bagpipe in my life. The Asturian bagpipe traces its roots back to the Celtic culture. In certain parts of Northern Spain – namely Asturias, Galicia and Cantabria, some of the ancient Celtic influence has survived despite the long evolution of the local musical traditions.

At the Casa Juan Sidreria (cider house) in Cangas de Onis, we got the chance to watch a young trio play the traditional Asturian musical instruments: the gaita (bagpipe), banderetta (drum) and tambor (tamborine).

young Asturian bagpipe player

At 18 years old, this young gaitero (bagpipe-player) plays the instrument for his pure love of traditional music. With his band, they play in cider bars and at weddings.

Asturian lady playing the tamborine

Here is a video of the trio performing local Asturian music:

Asturian Bagpipe Trio

If you really have to see it, here’s a video of me trying to play the bagpipes. It looked harder than I’d imagined – playing the bagpipes involve a combination of stamina (for blowing) and strength (for squeezing the bag as you blow) – although I did manage to spurt out a note or two at the end of it.  Try not to laugh, will ya?

WildJunket learns to play the Asturian bagpipe

 

The bagpipe is played commonly throughout the region, not only in cider bars but also on the streets. Along the streets of Gijon, I found a performer who was more than happy to strut his stuff for my camera. Here’s a video of him on his gaita:

A street performer playing the bagpipes

To see more of my photos from Asturias, click on any of the images above or go to my online gallery.


This experience was made possible by Asturias Tourism Board and Turismo.as, but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels in Asturias here.

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Photoblog: Flag-waving Ceremony in Lucca, Italy http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/03/22/photoblog-flag-waving-ceremony-in-lucca-italy/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/03/22/photoblog-flag-waving-ceremony-in-lucca-italy/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2011 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/03/22/photoblog-flag-waving-ceremony-in-lucca-italy/ flag-waver in Lucca ItalyKnees bent, chest raised, the flag-waver uses all his strength to thrust his flag high into the sky. Tension heightens amidst the crowd as the Italian national flag soars towards the San Martino bell tower. Whop! The young sbandieratore catches his flags with much precision, and the crowd roars in unison. The intense silence now [...]

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Knees bent, chest raised, the flag-waver uses all his strength to thrust his flag high into the sky. Tension heightens amidst the crowd as the Italian national flag soars towards the San Martino bell tower. Whop! The young sbandieratore catches his flags with much precision, and the crowd roars in unison. The intense silence now explodes into a cacophony of cheers and music.

I am in the medieval city of Lucca to witness Italy’s traditional flag-waving ceremony. It’s a special day for them: Italy turns 150 today and everyone is out on the streets to celebrate. Along with a group of travel bloggers, I’m here to join in the city’s celebrations and explore this region. I’ll let my photos take you through the impressive flag-waving ceremony.

flag-waver in Lucca Italy

 Sbandieratores, as the flag-wavers are called in Italian,  keep the tradition alive these days with occasional performances during festivals and major events. The rationale behind flag-waving is to re-enact the ceremonies that took place during the 1500s. This explains why they are usually dressed in medieval clothing.

Flags high in the air

There is a lead flag-waver who plays the protagonist of the performance. It is said that back in those days, the sbandieratore who could throw the flag highest would win the girl. Judging from the performance we caught, I’m sure the lead flag-waver earned his fair share of fans. Here’s a video of him strutting his stuff at Piazza di San Martino:

Lucca is best known for its flag-waving performances having given the world some of the top sbandieratores.

girls waving flags in Lucca Italy Girls take turns to throw the flags as well.

marching band dressed in medieval clothing The flag-wavers are accompanied by a drumming band.

Participants dressed in medieval clothing

Two-times winner of national flag-waving championships

We were lucky enough to witness the performance of Nikola Cosentino, famous actor and two-times winner of the National Flag-waving Championships.

flag-waving duet The two have a duet of sorts, tossing flags into the air and swopping them from one hand to the other.

Lead flag-waving takes a bowAt the end of the performance, the lead flag-waver takes a bow.

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This experience was made possible by Avventurosa and Casa Gentili, but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels in Tuscany, Italy here or follow me on Twitter with the #TuscanyTrip hashtag.

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Celebrating Italy’s 150th Birthday in Lucca http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/03/21/celebrating-italys-150th-birthday-in-lucca/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/03/21/celebrating-italys-150th-birthday-in-lucca/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2011 11:54:04 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/03/21/celebrating-italys-150th-birthday-in-lucca/ Lucca streets decked in italian flagsSplashed in the national colors of green, white and red, the streets of Lucca are buzzing in a festive mood. Powered up for Italy’s birthday celebrations, locals take to the streets with the Italian flag in hand and pride in their hearts.  Despite the drizzle, the energy is impalpable and the atmosphere contagious. It’s not [...]

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Splashed in the national colors of green, white and red, the streets of Lucca are buzzing in a festive mood. Powered up for Italy’s birthday celebrations, locals take to the streets with the Italian flag in hand and pride in their hearts.  Despite the drizzle, the energy is impalpable and the atmosphere contagious.

It’s not everyday that I find myself participating in Italy’s 150th birthday celebration but here I am, standing amidst the crowd and cheering ‘Viva Italia!’. Accompanied by several fellow travel bloggers, I am in Tuscany, Italy with a mission: to experience local life and explore the offbeat area sandwiched between Pisa and Lucca. Organized by Avventurosa and Casa Gentili, the Tuscany Blog Trip promises to unveil secrets tucked within the region and show us Tuscany beyond Florence.

 Lucca streets decked in italian flags

Lucca’s Streets

Earlier that morning, we had entered the medieval city of Lucca through the old city walls that surround the entire historical quarters. Meandering our way through the cobblestoned streets and narrow alleyways, we discovered a city oozing with character and bleeding with history.

Lucca swoons like an elegant maiden – its medieval streets resemble those in fairytales while its piazzas bring to mind Renaissance settings. At every street corner, we stumble upon a charming church, an impressive monument or historical building. There is plenty to discover here, yet Lucca remains off the tourist radar.

 streets of Lucca in national colors

Our experienced guide, Antonella Marucci, tells us, “Lucca is said to have a total of 100 churches within the historical centre, but according to investigations,” she pauses for effect, “we have just 87.”

Along the way, we find Italian flags draped all over the yellow-washed buildings and people with their faces painted in green, red and white. It’s a special day in Lucca today and within 10 steps into the historical quarters, we get a sense of the excitement.

italians wearing national colors in Lucca

Street Parades and Music

military parade in lucca, italyAlong the main drag of the city, Via San Paolino, a parade is making its way into the city centre. Dressed in military wear and armed with musical instruments, the soldiers take the city by storm.

Antonella tells us that some of these parade participants have lost their children in the war, and the parade is a commemoration of their sacrifice for the country. I snap a shot of a white-haired elder beaming with pride – seemingly for both his country and his son.

We drift further along through the streets of Lucca before arriving at the San Michele church, a stunning Romanesque-style architectural masterpiece standing in the heart of Lucca. Spotting a white facade (symbolizing peace) emblazoned with numerous animal figures, the church was built in the Middle Age and has since been restored to its original glory.

military parade for Italy's 150th independence day in Lucca

At the Piazza di San Michele, bundles of balloons and confetti have been set up to welcome the parade delegates. Here, the parades culminate and everyone gathers to sing, party and celebrate.

parades in Lucca, Italy

Flag-Waving Ceremony

We continue our tour of the city, arriving at the Piazza di San Martino just in time to catch an impressive display of the local flag-waving group. Sbandieratores, as the flag-wavers are called in Italian,  re-enact the ceremony that used to take place since the 1500s.

flag-waving band

Lucca is best known for its flag-waving performances having given the world some of the top sbandieratores. We are lucky enough to witness the performance of Nikola Cosentino, famous actor and two-times winner of the National Flag-waving Championships.

Dressed in medieval clothing, the flag-wavers throwing white-and-red flags (colors of Lucca) high in the air, wowing the crowds with their precision and skills. More photos to come in my next article on the flag-waving ceremony, stay tuned!

flag-waver in Lucca, Italy

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This experience was made possible by Avventurosa and Casa Gentili, but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels in Tuscany, Italy here or follow me on Twitter with the #TuscanyTrip hashtag.

To get in touch with our guide, Antonella Marcucci, find her on facebook or contact her at +39 339 6328832.

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Photoblog: The Last Remaining Tatau Tribe of Sarawak, Borneo http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/01/05/photoblog-the-last-remaining-tatau-tribe-of-sarawak-borneo/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/01/05/photoblog-the-last-remaining-tatau-tribe-of-sarawak-borneo/#comments Wed, 05 Jan 2011 12:34:47 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/01/05/photoblog-the-last-remaining-tatau-tribe-of-sarawak-borneo/ SunsetIt’s a hot and wet afternoon in the tropics of Sarawak, Borneo. The jungle surrounding us is an artful assemblage of bamboo and palm trees, draped over the river banks. We are gliding through the murky waters of Sungei Tatau, flanked on both sides by lush foliage. Our destination: the last remaining Tatau longhouse in [...]

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It’s a hot and wet afternoon in the tropics of Sarawak, Borneo. The jungle surrounding us is an artful assemblage of bamboo and palm trees, draped over the river banks. We are gliding through the murky waters of Sungei Tatau, flanked on both sides by lush foliage. Our destination: the last remaining Tatau longhouse in the region.

I am in Bintulu, Borneo – a destination better known for oil and gas than cultural attractions. Few tourists make it out here except for local visitors but I’ve heard it is all about to change. With newly introduced tourism infrastructure development, giant chains have all set up shop here including the innovative Tune Hotels group. The hotel chain that has made it to the forefront of the budget hotel industry in Malaysia has just opened a new branch in downtown Bintulu and I’m here to check it out and explore the area. On our first day here, we’re going deep into the tribal territories in search of the last remaining Tatau tribe of Sarawak.

Sunset

Tatau lady in her traditional wear

Welcome dance

Hopping off the traditional longtail boat, we received a warm welcome from the Tatau tribal folks. Like most other tribes in Sarawak, they greeted us with a shot of tuah, hand-made rice wine.  The men in the tribe then guide us into their house with a traditional dance.

Tatau tribal ladies

Sarawak, Borneo is a stronghold of tradition. Many tribes still live in various corners of Sarawak and conserve their traditional practices. Although the family we visited is a mixture of Tatau and Iban tribes, they are the last remaining Tatau tribe left in Sarawak and thus hold extreme importance to the Bornean culture.

Tatau tribe

Residing in traditional longhouses (as the name implies, they are elongated houses where 15 to 20 families live under one roof), the Tatau tribes were warm and friendly, asking us to join in the dances and ceremonies. I was joined by a group of over 20 Malaysian journalists, among which many agreed with me that this tribal experience was as authentic as it could get.

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Enjoying lunch in the longhouse

By the end of the dance, we were invited to enjoy lunch in the longhouse. Typical Sarawak food was laid out on the floor as we dug in for a taste of tradition. A Tatau senior in her sixties, explained to me in Teochew dialect, “Everything we eat is from nature or grown by ourselves, such as the coconut core, bamboo and chicken.” The entire tribe is self-sustained by their own crops.

Sunset along Sungei Tatau

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My trip was made possible by Tune Hotels, but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels through Sarawak, Borneo in the next few weeks.

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