5 Places You Must See Before It’s Too Late.
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Editor’s note: We are really excited to present this story from Nick and Dariece of Goats on the Road. Their travel blog is filled with great writing, photography and has a lot of killer budget backpacking tips, making it one of our new favorites. For more information about their travels, check out Nick and Dariece’s bio at the end of this post.
Unfortunately, every place on our planet has an expiry date of sorts. A time when that fine line is crossed between “off the beaten path” and “over-development.”
For some budget backpackers, finding hidden gems before they are snatched up by the greedy hands of big business and corporate construction, is a sort of treasure hunt that becomes harder with each passing year. To find white sand that has yet to be marked by the footprints of foreigners, to seek out a village where people have literally never seen a white face, to sleep on an island otherwise deserted for years, these are the types of experiences most budget backpackers dream of. A dream of discovery that we all seem to share. Our exploring hearts are rewarded when we seek out these utopias, and although we want them to remain secret, our communal nature yearns for us to share them with our fellow backpackers. To tell those who have found these treasures in the past and those who will hopefully find their own in the future.
That is why we have made this list of 5 Places You Must See Before It’s Too Late. These are places that have come to a major turning point and will no longer be the hidden paradises they once were. So, if you have a need for something new, an eye for exploration and a spontaneous soul, read this article and have your bags packed and ready; you may just want to leave after you’re finished reading.
1. Hsipaw, Myanmar
Myanmar itself is fastly becoming a major tourist destination. Visitors have doubled in the last couple of years and the already limited tourist trail is becoming slightly crowded. But fear not, there are still parts of this path that remain untrodden. Head North to Hsipaw. When you first arrive you may think that it’s too late. Hordes of tourists will be at your guesthouse waiting to join massive tours that trek out into the surrounding villages. Although these treks could be informative, they will not be fully authentic. Instead, leave the crowds behind and head out to the closer settlements like Naloy and Little Bagan. But don’t stop there, this place is surrounded by Shan villages where people will be amazed to see a foreign face and you’re likely to be invited in for tea or a game of wicker hackysack. Get to Hsipaw soon, it won’t be long before other travellers realize how many amazing experiences can be had around this village trapped in time.
2. Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
If you are looking for the perfect beach (and we mean perfect) look no further. 8 kilometers of silky soft, powdery white sand that dips into an aquamarine sea at a gradient perfect for swimming and not a rock or weed in sight. This beach is so astoundingly beautiful that it would be hard to pull yourself away to visit the friendly village or hike to the surrounding waterfalls. Koh Rong lies just outside of Sihanoukville but there are 2 Koh Rong Islands. It seems that one is set as a decoy to keep people from knowing about the true jewel. The larger and harder to get to Koh Rong is the one you’re looking for, but get here fast! Plans for big development including resorts and casinos are well underway. But don’t worry, there are a couple of years left before this affects the island. There are now ferries to Koh Rong and a few excellent bungalow choices, now is probably the perfect time to set sail and discover this little visited piece of paradise!
3. Ibo Island, Mozambique
If any beaches could rival the above stated Koh Rong, it would be those that claim the glamorous shores on the islands surrounding Ibo Island. You can hire a traditional dhow (sailboat) and captain to sail around these stunning islands and sleep on their powdery white sands, under nothing more than the blinding stars and a mosquito net. This is where you can truly live out your castaway fantasies and it can all be done inside of a backpacker’s budget! Just talk to the French owner of “The African Pot” restaurant Stephan, he’ll set you up with everything you need. If you come here and sailing isn’t your thing, don’t worry, the village on Ibo Island is a place trapped in time that you will never forget. During low tide you can walk across a sandbar to the enchanting Island of Quirimba, where you can mingle with village kids that have hardly seen a foreign face and watch the sunset while fisherman bring in their day’s catch. There is enough here to keep a visitor busy for a week or so, but the laid back lifestyle and friendly locals could keep you here a lifetime. Ibo Island may not be changing as fast as Koh Rong or Hsipaw, but you should get here soon to experience a place where life slows to the beat of the African drums.
4. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
You may be thinking to yourself “the Annapurna is already swarming with people”. But this list is not “5 Places To See Before They’re Swarming With People”. No amount of other trekkers could take away from the beauty of this trek. Walking amongst the snow-capped goliaths of the Annapurna region is both challenging and humbling and it’s something everyone should do in their lifetime. Reaching the top of the pass and hearing your victorious cries echo down the valley, taunting a trail that took you 2 weeks to conquer, is a great feeling of accomplishment. This is what travel is all about and having other trekkers to share in your glory is not a downside, it’s a bonus. The reason you must get here fast is that roads are being built that will soon see the demise of this amazing trail. Good for the locals and bad for trekkers, these roads have already found their way up to high-lying villages, so for much of the trail you may hear the buzz of a jeep crawling up the mountain beside you. The government is trying to build new trails that will keep the trekkers away from the traffic, but they don’t see the impact it has on a hiker’s psyche. Hearing vehicles make their way up the mountain in 2 days, really takes away from one’s sense of exploration. The Annapurna Circuit is on her deathbed and it’s up to you to pack your bags and say your goodbyes. For now, she is still an incredible trek and she is waiting for you.
5. Kabak, Turkey
This place is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Upon first glance, when you see the soaring cliffs cut and carve their way down into the turquoise Mediterranean Sea, you’ll think you’ve found the place where life began. The beach that lies at the foot of the cliffs is stunning, and the views from your bungalow that cling to the side of the rock wall will make it hard for you to leave your deck in the morning. This place is a yoga and meditation center where all of the 3 or 4 sleeping establishments offer some kind of mind calming program that suits this inspiring land. But the days are numbered for this quiet, stunning paradise. A resort has been built and there will be more to follow. For now, the beach still remains nearly empty and the serene cliffs keep their calming grandeur, but you will want to get here soon before the whistle of the wind in the trees is drowned out by the hum of bulldozers on the beach. You still have time though and don’t worry, this isn’t the only “off the beaten path” place in Turkey.
So, now is the time when you pack your backpacks, choose one or all of the above mentioned, untouched Edens and head there before it’s too late. The sands, people, villages and trails are still yours for the taking and nothing has ruined them yet. Their expiry date is getting ever closer but you can see them now and bask in their pure, untouched glory. Now’s the time to go, follow your wandering soul and find something new! The world is out there, you just have to find it.
Nick & Dariece have left everything behind in search of cultural experiences, beautiful beaches and off the beaten path adventures. They call themselves Goats On The Road and their website for budget backpackers encourages others to pack their bags and leave the ordinary behind. Visit Goats On The Road and get excellent tips for the adventurous budget backpacker! You can also follow along on their adventures on Facebook.
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