The U.S. State Department published an updated Travel Alert for Japan, lifting the voluntary authorized departure status instituted on March 16, 2011. This allowed the dependents of U.S. government employees to return to Japan as of April 15, 2011. You can read the updated Travel Alert at travel.state.gov.
Experts from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, and scientists on the ground in Japan assessed the situation and concluded that the health and safety risks to those in areas outside of the 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are very low and don’t pose a significant risk. Even in the event of an unforeseen disruption at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, dangerous exposure to those beyond the 50 mile evacuation zone is highly unlikely. The situation at the power plant is radically different today than it was in March. Currently, there are ongoing cooling efforts and planning is in place to control radioactive contamination and to lessen future dangers. The State Department continues to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel within the 50-mile radius of the Fukushima plant.
According to our partners in Japan, as well as a few of our clients who recently took trips despite the situation, things are returning to normal in the major cities, as evidenced in our recent blog on Sakura in Tokyo. Our clients who recently traveled to Japan in the beginning of April claimed "things are back to business-as-usual in Tokyo", as they experienced no delays in ground or subway transportation. They went on to say they are very glad they did not cancel their trip. The major cities in Japan, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, Hiroshima, and most other popular destinations, are safe and welcoming tourists. These regions remain unharmed, as they received no disruption to infrastructure, and Tokyo is no longer experiencing blackouts.
The Tanzania government has made plans to build a commercial highway across the Serengeti National Park that will connect the area around Lake Victoria with eastern Tanzania. This project threatens to destroy The Serengeti National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most incredible wildlife sites in the world. The annual wildebeest migration is one of the greatest wildlife shows on Earth. Nearly 2 million wildebeests and zebras are accompanied by gazelles, lions, and hyenas, among other animals as the herds go on a 500 km round trip from the southern Serengeti to the northern edge of the Masai Mara in Kenya. The Serengeti Highway will have a huge negative impact on the park's ecosystem, cause a decline in the tourism industry of Tanzania, and would result in a terrible loss for the nation.
Vietnam appeals to a wide range of travelers with seemingly limitless options including cruises along Halong Bay, bustling cities like Ho Chi Minh, beautiful beaches, and hill villages. Soak up the culture of Vietnam by exploring some of the off the beaten path locations. Our partner in Vietnam is locally owned and operated, with a focus on sustainable travel and creating a more authentic experience for travelers. The focus on cultural immersion includes treks and excursions to remote areas involving local communities, supporting local economies and observing local customs.
Off the Beaten Track in Halong Bay
Discover the beauty of Halong Bay away from the crowds on a traditional junk. You will go off the beaten track in Halong Bay and take a private wooden junk with its own docking area and cruise through the quieter areas of the bay to Bai Tu enjoying the scenery of floating villages, limestone peaks and hidden caves. The private junk has a maximum capacity of eight people, ensuring you will have an unforgettable cruise along Halong Bay. You will stop along the way to swim at private beaches, kayak the less visited caves, and visit a fishing village.
As mentioned in my previous blog on Tanzania Cultural Norms, knowing some facts about the country you are planning on traveling to can be extremely useful and demonstrates your respect for the culture.
Cambodia is sometimes described as a less developed country in South East Asia. Despite the rough and the tough lifestyle they have gone through, including brutal wars and everyday hardships, Cambodians are extremely warm welcoming people and go out of their way for people visiting their country. Around 95% of Cambodians are Buddhist, which is reflected a lot in their daily lives. Cambodia is a collective culture that emphasizes a hierarchy within society. They live with a common hierarchy where you are taught to respect your elders and almost everything is based on your age. Common hierarchy guidelines are that the parents are superior to children, managers to assistants, and teachers to students. Monks will even walk in rank order, with the oldest in front and most junior at the end. As a foreigner you will notice that certain people will ask you more personal questions to identify your “rank” in their hierarchy. They may change the way they converse with you depending on what they think your status is.
Shannon is the voice behind the travel blog A Little Adrift. She left for a year long round the world trip in 2008 and hasn't stopped traveling since. Her unique stories chronicle her travels, inspire, and offer advice for others taking RTW trips. As a supporter of ecotourism she also offers tips for minimizing the negative impact of travel on the environment. Additionally, Shannon incorporates volunteering on her travels, such as teaching english to monks in Nepal and volunteering at a Cambodian orphanage. Yep, she's pretty awesome and there is is never a dull moment in her travels. Despite her busy schedule, Shannon was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions for us. Thanks Shannon!
1. Where in the world are you now?
Shannon: Hunkering down in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a few months as I explore the northern region of Southeast Asia. The city makes a fantastic base for slow travelers who want to get to know a country a bit better (like me!); it's small enough to be navigable, but has an amazing supply of diverse street foods and cuisines from all of the neighboring regions and cultures.
2. When and how did you get hooked on travel?
Shannon: The first wisps of wander-dreams popped into my head as I paged through the images and stories in my monthly National Geographic magazine as a teenager. My dad has continually renewed our subscription, and even bought the NatGeo Traveler magazine once I hit the road so that I would have research materials every time I pass through the US for a visit.
Those NatGeos were the earliest days of dreaming; my first international travel actually didn't happen until I was 21 and headed to Europe for a study-abroad program. It was somewhere on the winding back-roads of Northwestern Ireland that it occurred to me this is jived with me more than any other moment...we were in a rental car, misting rain on the windshield, and pulled over to ask a Irish man walking his dog for directions. Twenty minutes later we were still chatting, oblivious to the rain, and had yet to get around to the topic of directions. And I thought "Yes, this is good."