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South of the Clouds: Introduction to Yunnan, China

Yunnan ChinaYunnan, which translates as "south of the clouds," is China's most diverse province, and offers travelers extreme variation: tropical lowlands bordering Laos and Burma curl at the bottom of the province, while the unsummited Meili Snow Mountain reigns near Tibet. It's home to more ethnic minorities than any other province in China (25 out of 56), three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the deepest river canyon in the country (Tiger Leaping Gorge).

Long on the informal backpacker's "banana pancake trail," Yunnan shares not only borders but culture and languages with Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and Tibet.

Gadling recently spent three weeks in Yunnan on a trip partially sponsored by WildChina. During that trip, we followed parts of the ancient Tea Horse Road, from the southern Yunnan tea fields to caravan market towns. Over the next few weeks we plans to introduce in detail some of Yunnan's delights.

But first, the basics:

Photo of the Day (12.11.2010)

Photo of the Day

What caught my eye about this photo is that at first the greenery looked like continents - as if someone was spinning a globe or flying a rocket ship around the planet. Alas, it's only a boat ride in India, but I quite like the effects. You can see the whole world in a single cell and all that. I appreciate the way speed is conveyed, as well as the flat surface of te water. The photo was taken by Flickr user Florian Paar, in India.

Have any rad photos from your travels? Upload them to Gadling's Flickr pool, and we just might choose one for our Photo of the Day feature.

Photo of the Day (12.4.2010)

This photo touches on a general feeling I sometimes have about the nature of travel: when I'm jetlagged or simply feeling a little lonely and blue, travel feels like a horizontal line. I've simply gone from point A to point B, and I'm still myself no matter where I've stepped off the metal tube with wings. Of course, my first encounter with a cloud of chile smoke, or first near-accident crossing a road plants me firmly in the three-dimensional world, and I'm always grateful to be plunged into a new environment.

Thanks to Flickr user Fly For Fun (Gadling's own Kent Wien!) for sharing this photo with us.

Have any travel-related photos that cause you, however briefly, to ponder your place in space? Upload them to Gadling's Flickr pool, and we just might choose one for our Photo of the Day feature.

Photo of the day 11.13.10

When I look at this photo, the first word that comes to mind is "clean." Though photo taker jrodmanjr writes that he used a simple point-and-shoot camera, the clarity of the buildings and lights appears to come from a high-quality lens. The air seems crisp, as though it's a winter night. Also, I appreciate seeing San Francisco bathed in varying shades of blue and white.

Have any unique photos of well-known destinations? Upload them to Gadling's Flickr pool, and we just might choose one for our Photo of the Day Feature.

Photo of the Day (11.6.10)

Doesn't this look like the kind of a day that is perfect for a steamy bath? I'm not sure I'd be too comfortable what with all the gawkers looking down at me, but still. Gazing up at those buildings, thinking about how long the tradition of a long hot soak has been in place.... Yummy. Thanks to brianmca for warming us up on a chilly day.

Have any photos from your travels that you want to share with the world? Upload them to Gadling's Flickr pool, and we just might choose one for our Photo of the Day feature.

Top ten overrated international travel destinations

Laurel brought us the US's top ten overrated travel destinations, and we thought it was time to go global. Here are ten international sites, in no particular order, that just aren't worth a two-hour wait in line, fighting the crowds, or covering long distances to get there:

1. Eiffel Tower, Paris
Seriously, your photos of Paris are going to look much better with the Eiffel Tower in them. If you feel like getting high, Notre Dame is a much cooler spot.

2. Oktoberfest, Munich
If getting drunk with a bunch of American college student is your idea of a good time, then be sure to hit up the Hofbrauhaus tent.

3. The Blarney Stone, Ireland
Don't do it. Stay away from the nasty, germ-infested piece of rock. Surely no luck can come of kissing that stone cold sore, right?

4. Cancun, Mexico
Crammed with spring-breakers and holiday makers, Cancun is party-central and really no different than, say, any other beach city in the States.

Photo of the Day (10.30.2010)

What I love about this photo is what's at the bottom of the waterfall, in that I wonder what's there. It looks like the jungle got super thirsty and simply swallowed the creek. Otherwise, if I were those hikers, I'd definitely be hoping for a swimming hole. I also appreciate how the steep, rocky drop contrasts with the lush, rolling hills around it. This Southeast Asian scene was captured in the Philippines Guam by snowjumpr.

Have any photos that make might make us wish for a swimming hole at the bottom of our fantasies? Upload them to Gadling's Flickr pool, and we just might choose one for our Photo of the Day feature.

Photo of the day - 23-10-2010

One of the quintessential photo ops for Americans traveling abroad is, as far as I'm concerned, a traffic jam caused by some kind of livestock. Sheep, cows, horses, whatever: surely you've either taken or seen a photo taken through a windshield, the car's ceiling and sides framing a shot of a herd of animals moseying across a country road. While it's not entirely obvious whether or not these giants are holding up traffic, they're clearly on a road. Flickr user t3mujin captured this scene in Portugal.

Have any crazy traffic jam photos? Upload them to Gadling's Flickr pool, and we just might select one for our Photo of the Day feature.

Ten hot backpacker destinations

Though the backpacker scene feels more hipster than hippie these days, the same formula remains: young travelers plus a small budget plus a long trip. While individuals certainly differ, the stereotype of a budget traveler toting a bedraggled pack to cheap destinations is there for a reason.

So where are the kids congregating these days? Here are our top ten backpacker locations (in no particular order):

Thailand A long-time favorite, Thailand's low costs, relative ease of travel, and scenic beaches are obvious draws. Add to those hill tribes, jungle and elephant trekking, and some awesome grub, and you have a nearly perfect combination - which is probably why the country also hosts a number of expats.

Amsterdam Need we say anything more? Laws are loose, and for those American kids who never had the chance to experiment, the freedom is heavenly. Oh, and there are sex shows.

Guatemala Travelers learning Spanish flock to Antigua, where language schools and home stays are offered in the picturesque colonial town. Jungles, volcanoes, lakes and Mayan ruins round out the offerings.

Goa "Buddha Lounge" music drifts across Palolem Beach, an impossibly cheap swoop of sand on India's west coast. It's easy to drop out for a while here, renting out some small, rickety beach hut and bobbing around in the warm sea.

Photo of the Day (10.16.2010)

Sure, a sunset is a cliche. But really, who doesn't love a good sunset? Especially while on vacation. If I were in this picture, I'd probably be just finishing up happy hour and daring myself to swim out to the boat to make some new friends. Alas, I'm typing this from the carpeted floor of my parents' office, only wishing I was one of the three dipping my toes into that soft water.Thanks, Ka Wai Punahele, for this shot of Australia's Mindil Beach.

Have any sunset photos that spark vacation envy? Post them to Gadling's Flickr pool, and we just might choose one for our Photo of the Day feature.

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