Happy New Year!

Yes, I'm still in Japan, for now....
It's actually not that bad to spend time with my family (and one big cat) and friends doing nothing special or silly but eating, drinking and making fun of each other. Some of my friends are musically talented and they often invite me to their live-shows or their friends' shows every now and then; music and friends - two of the very essentials in my life and it's even much better when they are in a combo!

In the meantime, I thought that it would be a good time for me to analyze and summarize where I had travelled to and what I had done over the past four and a half years. Here you go.
!!!!! Note !!!!! you can enlarge these map-images by clicking on them.

My 1st Round The World
Air_Esky_20150111_1stRTWdiagram small
Duration: 365 days from 2010/07/15 to 2011/07/14
Direction: Westbound
No. of Visited Countries: 30 [a*]
No. of Surfed Spots: about 36
No. of Times I Became Sick: at least 4
No. of Times I Puked: Uncountable
No. of Girlfriends: 0
a* including Antarctica which is technically not a country.

During the 1st RTW trip I flew a lot and kept on moving from one place to another as my focus was more on travelling than surfing, especially travelling around Latin American countries. Another contributing factor to this many flights was because of my round-the-world ticket by Star Alliance which was valid for maximum 365 days; it wasn't cheap and often made me rush through some of the countries as I had to catch the next flight. I can't believe that I travelled this way in exactly 365 days. Furthermore, I was actually carrying the heaviest burden of all time - an Ocean'Earth board case (7ft long). Huhh.... "We should always travel light." isn't only the wisest idea, but also the most practical way for all travellers. No doubt.

My 2nd Round The World
Air_Esky_20150111_2ndRTWdiagram small
Duration: 463 days from 2011/09/16 to 2012/12/21
Direction: Eastbound
No. of Visited Countries: 16 [a*]
No. of Surfed Spots: about 36 [b*]
No. of Surf-related Injuries: 2 [c*]
No. of Girlfriends: 0 Why?!
a* some of the countries were already travelled before.
b* including the river-surfing in Munich (I should've gone surfing in Cuba too!)
c* once in Dakar, Senegal and the other time in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka.

During the 2nd RTW trip I abandoned my 7ft-long coffin and packed my two surfboards in a lighter bag (still heavy enough to kill my shoulders at times). I also deliberately reduced the number of countries to visit, so my itinerary became simple and I chose my next destination as I went. I'm still very happy about the decision I made in January 2012 while in Senegal; which country should I go to next - Morocco or South Africa? And I chose the latter (I went to Morocco last February and March). My time in South Africa as well as Namibia really opened up my eyes and made me utterly passionate about surfing more than ever. Yet one exception was my visit to India. I never regret going there now and it did open up my eyes in a different way. Additionally, I was able to surf while in India. However, I will probably never go back there again.

My 3rd Round The World
Air_Esky_20150111_3rdRTWdiagram small
Duration: 627 days from 2013/01/05 to 2014/09/23
Direction: Westbound
No. of Visited Countries: 14 [a*]
No. of Surfed Spots: about 65 [b*]
No. of Consecutive-days of Surfing: 66
No. of Police-involved Incidents: 2 [c*]
No. of Encounters with Big Fish: 2 [d*]
No. of Girlfriends: 1 [e*]
a* some of the countries were already travelled before.
b* including four spots in Chiba and two spots in Yokohama before arriving back home.
c* once was in Lombok where I had my rented scooter stolen and the other time was in Cape Town where three guys broke into the hostel I was staying in.
d* once was in Sodwana Bay with a hammerhead and the other time was a scary big shadow in the water of J-Bay (Unfortunately, a local swimmer was killed a few days later.)
e* Yeaaaaah! But it's over now :-(

My 3rd RTW trip became even much simpler but with more days spent than the 1st or the 2nd. My main focus for this 3rd trip was definitely on surfing after surfing rather than spending too much time on the road despite the fact that I visited Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Lesotho and Swaziland for sight-seeing and no surfing. In other words, I would never have travelled this long without my passion for surfing. I must admit, however, that I was often quite sick and tired of backpacking from one place to another and also of meeting new people with the same introduction again and again and again (I was once literally very sick too.) Nevertheless, everything worked out fine for me in the end and I was really able to surf as much as I wanted :D

These map-images with statistical data quite clearly tell it all.
Now by looking at the world map, my feet are getting itchy AGAIN (I can't help it!) So I've come up with a couple of new ideas for my next RTW trip as below:

Ultimate Round The World Trip by Land & Sea (No Flights)
Air_Esky_20150111_4thRTWdiagram small
This itinerary will require me to drive a special vehicle in order to punch through some of the most severe road conditions on earth, plus an ice-breaker will be needed (or another special vehicle with such equipment installed) for super icy and frozen roads at the northernmost as well as the southernmost of this planet. Notably, I should be extremely careful for my own safety when I drive through some of those African, Middle-eastern countries and the Darien Gap. Oh, hang on! This itinerary has no flights, so I shall change this website from "Air Esky" to "Land Esky" then.

Space Travel
Air_Esky_20150111_5thRTWdiagram small
If the Land Esky turns out to be too erratic and too costly and too risky, don't you worry. I have a back-up plan; why not to launch myself into the air? This is truly "Air Esky", isn't it? Or shall I call it "Space Esky"? No waves up there though....

You might be laughing at my two seemingly unrealistic ideas now. But I'm quite serious and I do wonder if there are any sponsors to help me financially to achieve them; if not both, at least one of them.
Please let me know if anybody or any company would like to help me out in order to make these happen.


Since I came back to Japan, people have asked me all kinds of questions:
"Where was the best country for me to visit?"
"Where was the cheapest country to travel?"
"Was Africa dangerous?"
"How cold was Antarctica?” etc, etc....

Many guys have also asked me the most clichéd question:
"Where did I find most beautiful women?"
Um..., that's a good question.

Anyway, guys are guys, and we cannot help ourselves. But when surfie guys come to me and ask questions, they are usually:
"Which country did I have the best waves?"
"Where did I catch the biggest wave?"
"Have I seen any sharks?"
Sharks are everywhere, of course, and good waves are everywhere too (even in Japan). And the biggest wave I have ever caught before? I don't know.... Because I could never precisely measure how big the waves were while I was riding them. Yet one of the biggest waves ever caught was probably at N'gor Right in Senegal in January 2014.

The below are neither the best nor the biggest, but it shows you 10 longest waves I've ever ridden, and I'm sure some of them are really the world's longest waves.

!!!!! Note !!!!!
All the following spots are listed in alphabetical order and deliberately excluding the USA, Australia and Indonesia for no reason.

1. Barra de la Cruz
Where: Oaxaca, Mexico
Type: Righthand Pointbreak
Length: 300 - 350m
Comment: Despite the fact that it was already 5 years after the Rip Curl Search held in 2006, I had so much fun and so much practice with the waves here in October and November 2011. Indeed, it was a little bit soft and slow at times when I was surfing but was still less crowded than Puerto Escondido.
I've heard recently that the sandbank here is fxxked even more than before, therefore, it might only be good to practice with ongoing cut-backs after cut-backs... A pity!

20150225 Air Esky Longest Waves 01

2. Chicama
Where: Ascope, Peru
Type: Lefthand Pointbreak
Length: 500 - 900m+
Comment: This is said to be the world's longest wave, but I personally doubt it because the waves I scored here back in March 2011 looked jaw-breakingly long from the outside, but once I paddled out, they often closed out halfway through or it was nearly impossible to make the next section unless you were a Kamikaze-rider like Kelly or Mick...
My own way of length-measurement on Google Map only shows up to 900m+ for Chicama which turned out to be shorter than a nearby spot called Huanchaco and some of the following spots in this article.

20150225 Air Esky Longest Waves 02

3. Draculas
Where: Morocco in North West Africa
Type: Righthand Pointbreak
Length: 500 - 1,000m+
Comment: Morocco has hundreds of pointbreaks and this is definitely one of the longest in the country and in the world too. I only caught a couple of waves here in February 2014, and it took me over 30 minutes to come back in by paddling endlessly afterwards. It was simply because the entire coast-line was surrounded by steep cliffs and the safest place to come into was the nearest village located at least 2.4km down south from the take-off section. Huhh.... I was over the moon when I finally had my feet touch on the ground.
By the way, getting-out is also tricky, especially when it's big here. The jump-off & paddle-out spot is covered with full of spiky rocks. This is why it's called Draculas.

20150225 Air Esky Longest Waves 03

4. Factory Point
Where: Namibia in South West Africa
Type: Lefthand Pointbreak
Length: 400 - 500m
Comment: Needless to say, that legendary left near Walvis Bay and the outside section of Cape Cross called Main Break are longer than this Factory Point, but I did not (and could not) surf either of them in May 2012. Therefore, Factory Point was a compromise then for me....
The scenery along the Namibian coast was rather melancholy and the water was freezing with some playful seals and suspicious big fish around. Keep in mind that even if you don't get eaten in the water, you still have a chance to be eaten by naughty jackals or hungry big cats on land. That's how nature works. At least in Africa.

20150225 Air Esky Longest Waves 04

5. J-Bay
Where: Jefferey's Bay, South Africa
Type: Righthand Pointbreak
Length: 500 - 1,000m+
Comment: If you've ever surfed here, you know it. It's fast, hollow, powerful and long. "Perfect" is the most perfect word to describe this world-widely famous spot. There are quite a few sections in J-Bay and if you take off from Boneyards or the outside of SuperTubes and ride all the way to the beginning of a section called The Point, that should be just around 1km in total. And even if you pull off halfway, don't you worry: There will still be plenty of waves on the following sets which might be bigger and hollower and longer.
Waves in J-Bay are often mechanical, and that's why I spent 3 months in 2012 and another 3 months in 2013 with almost no rest but surfing every single day :-)

20150225 Air Esky Longest Waves 05

6. Mundaka
Where: Biscay, Basque Country (aka Spain)
Type: Lefthand Rivermouth
Length: 300 - 500m (on a rare good day)
Comment: I was completely skunked by this lady the first time I was here in October 2010. In revenge for that, I managed to score some waves during my second visit in August 2012, but it was hardly epic then....
If this is not the longest wave, it's one of the biggest river-mouth spots in the world without a doubt. And it's very fickle too. Hello Ms. Mundaka, come back alive for us!

20150225 Air Esky Longest Waves 06

7. Pavones
Where: Costa Rica in Central America
Type: Lefthand Pointbreak & Rivermouth
Length: 500 - 1,000m+
Comment: In my personal experiences (visited twice - in May 2011 and in September 2014), the waves here were as long as those I scored in J-Bay. The middle section here is a fast racing wave and this is where a river mouth is located, though it rarely becomes hollow enough for a barrel.
One big tip for you from me is that this is not the only spot to surf in Golfito Bay: I actually surfed a couple of other spots in the same bay where the waves were almost 500 - 600m long, I swear! But I don't mention the names in this article :-)

20150225 Air Esky Longest Waves 07

8. Ponta do Ouro
Where: Mozambique in South East Africa
Type: Righthand Pointbreak
Length: 350 - 400m
Comment: Not very well-known world-widely, which is what I like about this spot and no wonder I had a couple of solo-sessions in early August 2013: it was off-season in Mozambique. I found the waves here similar to those in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka but with more sharks.
Tofino is another quality pointbreak further north from here, but Tofino turned out to be just over 200m on Google Map. Oh, there is actually one more spot which is said to be as long as the waves in Kirra, Australia. But once again I don't mention the name here :-)

20150225 Air Esky Longest Waves 08

9. Punta de Lobos
Where: Pichilemu in Cardenal Caro, Chile
Type: Lefthand Pointbreak
Length: 400 - 600m+
Comment: A big wave contest can be held here as this spot apparently holds 20ft+ waves, which is definitely not my cup of tea. I still remember having my balls frozen when surfing here in February 2011 for the first time, not only because of the low water-temperature then, but also because of the super monotonous scenery around this spot which made me feel sad and scary. Those two iconic giant rocks on the outside are a clear landmark and work as bouncers to keep faint-hearted guys away.

20150225 Air Esky Longest Waves 09

10. Punta Roca
Where: El Salvador in Central America
Type: Righthand Pointbreak
Length: 300 - 350m+
Comment: Surprisingly, it was not as long as I thought it might be on Google Map. I surfed here in June and September of 2011, and yeah I don't recall having a very long ride here then.
There is an inside section called La Paz which I never saw connected with Punta Roca. If they were ever connected, it would easily surpass 500 meters. Yet it's still not comparable in terms of the length with that of Draculas or J-Bay or Pavones.

20150225 Air Esky Longest Waves 10

Coincidentally, the above list turned out to be evenly 5 right-handers and 5 left-handers. So a claim by many guys - "The world's best waves are all lefty." - should be questionable in my opinion, at least when we debate over the best waves with length.

There are a few more long waves that I've surfed around the world in the past such as Anchor Point in Morocco, Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka and Lafitenia in France, but they all turned out to be less than or just over 300 meters in my own way of length-measurement on Google Map; Anchor Point can sometimes be longer than 300 meters, but the sand was gone when I surfed there in February 2014 just after that super storm - Hercules.

Lastly, this article is purely based on my biased opinion. There must be heaps more spots and some of them can be longer than what is mentioned above. All we need now is to pack our stuff with proper gears and surfboards (and a couple of good wetsuits) and get the hell out of this cyberspace ASAP.
Oh, we need money too :-(

My recent post in February was about some of the world's longest waves. And now this thought is suddenly coming to mind: "What if I were a very beginner?" because some of the spots mentioned in that article are neither for beginners nor for inexperienced surfers unless the waves are less than 2 feet then.
Assuming that some beginners are desperately searching for easy spots to learn surfing with sand at the bottom, not too crowded, not too cold, not having to paddle or duck-dive too much, etc,.. I'm listing 5 spots in the below and they are very ideal for beginners to learn surfing:

!!!!! Note !!!!!
All the following spots are listed in alphabetical order and deliberately excluding the USA, Australia and Indonesia for no reason.

1. Addington Beach
Where: Durban, South Africa
Crowd: On weekends and whenever surf-schools are held.
Hazard: SUPs
Comment: Located between Addington Hospital and Ushaka Marine World in Durban. If you are here for the very first time with no proper equipment, you can easily rent boards at a couple of surf shops in the Marine World. Waves here are quite consistent almost all year around. You might need at least a spring wetsuit between May and October, depending on how thick your skin is and how much fat you have gained by eating yummy local Bunny Chows :-)
Don't worry about sharks while you surf here as Durban's city beaches have shark-nets and there haven't been any attacks here for the past 50 years. Instead, keep an eye on some potential SUP-missiles launched into your face.

Air Esky Friendly Waves 01

2. Baby Point
Where: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka
Crowd: Can be crowded from July to September
Hazard: Clueless beginner-surfers mostly from Europe
Comment: Unlike the main break located on the outside of Arugam Bay, this spot is nicely tucked into the south end of the bay. Therefore, the waves tend to be mellow and you can easily paddle out from the beach: I say "paddle out" but you can literally walk with your board into the water and just jump on it to catch waves.
Board-rental places are everywhere in Arugam Bay and another great aspect of this spot is that during the main season, between late May and early October, the water is super warm. You just need to watch out for other clueless beginners and your own board as you don't want an injury like the one I sustained.

Air Esky Friendly Waves 02

3. Nha Trang Beach
Where: Vietnam
Crowd: Completely Empty!
Hazard: Sewage in the water mostly from mainland China
Comment: I can't believe that two years have passed since my visit here in February 2013 when I saw knee-high waves breaking at a long stretched sandy beach. Mind you, I'm not talking about the main beach located right by the city of Nha Trang. You have to hire a scooter and drive about 20 minutes down south through a small mountain along the coast. A pity that I didn't surf here as it didn't look inviting to me then. Yet I still assure you of scoring waves here between December and March when the North Shore in Hawaii is pumping.
Surprisingly, you can also rent rusty boards here at the beach. So you don't have to carry around your bulky boards in this communist/socialistic country! Additionally, a city called Da Nang should offer a couple of spots to surf too.

Air Esky Friendly Waves 03

4. Playa Coronado
Where: Panama in Central America
Crowd: On weekends and during Panama's public holidays
Hazard: Heat and high humidity
Comment: It's becoming like a little resort area for rich Panamanians and crazy ex-pats. While the outside-section of Playa Coronado (pictured below) is where waves break in parallel to all the big rocks, the inside-section has no rocks or reefs but only sand at the bottom. Waves here tend to die out as you keep riding closer to the shore. In other words, they are soft and slow which is what beginners need.
As of June 2014, there were not any surf-shops for board-rental here. However, there appeared to be a couple of shops in town where you could rent boards and leash-codes. But best to bring your own gears and your own car. You must also have sun-screen and lots of water with you. If you find no waves here, drive down to Playa Venao, you always find waves there.

Air Esky Friendly Waves 04

5. Tofo Beach
Where: Mozambique in Africa
Crowd: Only crowded when South African holiday-makers flock in here
Hazard: Sharks and thefts
Comment: Waves here are similar to those at Baby Point in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka, and even the geographical features here are quite similar because this spot is located at the south end of a bay with sand at the bottom and very clear warm water. I was here in early August of 2013, which was generally off season for surfing in the region. Nonetheless, there were 1.5 - 2ft super mellow waves breaking almost every day but with onshore winds blowing most of the time :-(
Keep in mind that in the water you wanna be careful with big fish, whereas, on land you wanna be extra cautious about some people: I noticed that there was a bit of Wild Wide West going here even in the 21st century....

Air Esky Friendly Waves 05

Okay, this is it for you!

I actually know a few more spots around the world where beginners and alike can surf without any hassles, but I don't list them in this article. Email me in person or make a comment if you'd like to know :-)
Meanwhile, I have no guarantee for your complete safety when you go surfing at any of the above spots. So whatever happens to you in the spot stays in the spot. Please take your own responsibility and no blame on me, but just claim it to your friendly travel-insurance companies.

Have a good one!

A few years ago I was utterly saddened when the news of the destruction on Bamiyan's Buddha statues in Afghanistan came out: I had been longing to visit there one day. But too late now....
Palmyra in Syria, which has already been exposed to greedy looters for a long time, now seems to have fallen into the hands of the ISIS. My hope is nil and I only keep asking myself: "How come I didn't go there in September 2010....?"

The below are ten of the greatest archaeological sites that I've visited and really enjoyed before. They are listed in alphabetical order and I am intentionally excluding Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat here because all of them are the most clichéd and most popular tourist attractions these days.

!!!!! Note !!!!!
The entry fees written below are of when I visited the sites, thus not up-to-date.

Ajanta & Ellora, India - アジャンタ & エローラ (インド)
Difficulty to Reach: Relatively Easy
Entry Fees: INR250
Comment: When people generally try to picture the most well-known monument of India, it must be the Taj Mahal, right? I would also do the same because it is admittedly the most iconic as well as the cleanest place in India. Whereas, the cave-temples of Ajanta and Ellora are somehow not world-widely recognized and they can get you with a little yucky smell of moles when stepping inside them. Nevertheless, both Ajanta and Ellora feature such detailed sculptures and paintings, all of which are probably more meticulous than any pieces that you can find at the Taj Mahal. Furthermore, both Ajanta and Ellora were created by carving out of enormous rocks and plateaus while the Taj was simply built on the ground, so we can easily tell which way was much more technically difficult than the other.
Keep in mind that Ajanta and Ellora are not located in the same spot: better to go to Aurungabad first and take a local bus from there for each one of them. Be extra careful with scammers, extreme heat, mad traffic and, of course, food. I never ever got sick while in India though :-)

Borobudur, Indonesia - ボロブドュール (インドネシア)
Difficulty to Reach: Easy
Entry Fees: USD20.00
Comment: This is said to be the world's largest Buddhist monument in the world's most Muslim populated country. Gigantic is the best word to describe it. Yet, once you take a close look, there are so many charming stupas on the upper platforms, some of which actually hold (or hide?) a statue of Buddha inside. Furthermore, its location is breath-taking as you can see from the top level an active/inactive volcano called Merapi blowing some ashes up in the air. I did not know this archaeological site at all until I went to Angkor Wat, Cambodia in 2004 and there I met a couple of backpackers who tipped me off about this mythical architecture lying in the middle of Java.
I highly recommend that you rent a scooter to visit Borobudur; it's so much fun riding a motorbike all around in Indonesia and also in the rest of South East Asia. Oh, Prambanan, located much closer to downtown Jogja, is also worth a visit for you.

Cappadocia, Turkey - カッパドキア (トルコ)
Difficulty to Reach: Easy
Entry Fees: Basically free of charge unless you join a tour
Comment: I was initially tempted to detour Antalya and Pamukkale before going to Goreme, a town of Cappadocia region. However, I decided to head straight to Goreme because I didn't want to squeeze my time in Cappadocia. I was glad that I did so. The town of Goreme is tiny, whereas, Cappadocia region is vast with lots of things to see and lots of trails to hike for you. Hot and dry during the day but it becomes chilly at night: even in summer. If you are fit enough, go hiking on your own and make sure you take plenty of water with you as well as a proper map to track yourself down as the monotonous landscape combined with those remarkable fairy chimneys might actually disorientate you at any time.
Lucky me. My sense of orientation was good enough back then and Goreme eventually led me to Syria afterwards (not by hiking, of course.) I never felt destined for the now war-torn country, but my instinct was telling me to go to Syria no matter what it would take. And I'm glad I did.

Crac des Chevaliers, Syria - クラック・デ・シュバリエ (シリア)
Difficulty to Reach: Very Difficult & Super Risky
Entry Fees: SYP150
Comment: Still today I am feeling extremely fortunate that I visited this spectacular castle/fortress while I was in Syria back in September 2010. It was, of course, before the civil war and even the Arab Spring erupted. Now even the UNESCO is uncertain whether or not this archaeological site still remains intact. Most likely not... Crac des Chevaliers is extraordinary in many ways not only because of its location, but also because of its elegance as a lone witness who has been through all the Middle Eastern conflicts and wars since the medieval period.
Mind you, I did sense a glimpse of political oppression, under which all Syrian people were "seemingly" living in peace, but I never guessed that this country would ever be in such disorder today. I sincerely hope that this castle will be standing still once all those blood-drenched morons are gone. "Only the dead have seen the end of war." as the saying goes... But not this exquisite lady and all those innocent Syrian people, please!

Djenne & The Great Mosque, Mali - ジェンネ & 大モスク (マリ共和国)
Difficulty to Reach: Difficult
Entry Fees: XOF1,000 (Additional charges apply if going inside the mosque.)
Comment: Yes, I did enjoy the 3-day hike with a local guide in Dogon region, but the highlight of my time in Mali was undoubtedly this rather unique mosque in the middle of nowhere. I went to Mali simply and only because I was dying to see it: the world's largest mud-made mosque and I'm sure it's the world's largest mud-made building. Funnily enough, the town of Djenne, as far as I could see, consisted of all mud-made houses anyway. And If you really wanna visit here, I highly recommend that you avoid the (irregular) wet season because the whole town might be eroding then. Hahaha. With that being said, what you should avoid the most is actually the dry season (almost all year round) as Mali is said to be one of the hottest areas on earth. WTF?!
My only regret now is that I did not go up to Timbuktu then due to a growing safety concern caused by an incident in which one German guy was shot dead and two French tourists were kidnapped there by Al Qaeda in broad daylight a couple of months prior to my visit in Mali. Yes! Timbuktu is not legendary, it does exist in the middle of the Sahara. Soooo faraway though.

Easter Island, Chile - イースター島 (チリ)
Difficulty to Reach: Relatively Easy (if you are in South America)
Entry Fees: No fees required but pay for your own transport to the island and while on the island
Comment: In March 2011 you could either fly from Santiago, Chile or from Lima, Peru. Alternatively, taking a regular ferry (a cruise ship?) or a flight from the French Polynesia was also possible. Easter Island, aka Rapa Nui, is super isolated in the Pacific but somehow still a part of Chile. This is the only place in the world where you see these jawbreakingly long-jaw statues. Moreover, the history of this island and of its inhabitants is as very intriguing as the statues.
A pity that it happened to be the worst time of my RTW trip: the terrible news of the Tohoku earthquake and Tsunami came out while I was on this tiny island (and my camera broke down too.) Feeling hopeless and helpless, I even started pondering the demise of everything.... Ironically, Moai statues were the finest example to teach me how we could own things today but might lose them all tomorrow as they were standing voicelessly without their masters. Easter Island is melancholic more than mysterious to me.

Lines of Nazca, Peru - ナスカの地上絵 (ペルー)
Difficulty to Reach: Easy (if you never puke)
Entry Fees: USD110 with additional PEN25 for airport tax
Comment: Machu Picchu should not be the only reason why you visit Peru. There are heaps more ancient civilizations' archaeological sites found or still under excavation in this country. Amongst them the lines of Nazca are absolutely a must for you to visit and if you travel by land from Cuzco or Arequipa to Lima and vice-versa, Nazca should be on your way anyway.
Recent archaeological research apparently came to a near-conclusion of how these enormous drawings could have been made without having to fly above the ground. However, to determine the true purpose of these drawings to the Nazca people still seem to baffle many scientists. Well, like those voiceless Moai statues, the lines of Nazca might be better to remain unsolved forever in my opinion. And I'm also still puzzled today about why I puked so much on that day in Nazca.
Air_Esky_20150615_07 (2)

The Ruins of Jesuit Reductions, Paraguay - イエズス会伝道所 (パラグアイ)
Difficulty to Reach: Fairly Difficult
Entry Fees: PGY25,000
Comment: Did you get fed up with all the crowds at Machu Picchu? Here you find serenity. Encanacion is the nearest town to two of the sites: "Santisma Trinidad del Parana" and "Jesus de Tavarangue", both of which only had a handful of visitors: less than 5 including myself. One more ruin-site called "Santos Cosme y Damian" was included in my ticket, but was located quite far from the other two, thus I did not go.... Essentially, whichever one(s) you choose to visit, I can assure you that they will be completely deserted or even ghostly: very few backpackers and tourists try to go to these ruins, and sadly, Paraguay itself isn't the most popular destination for tourists.
Despite the fact that I had spent three weeks in Spain before South America, I had zero knowledge in the Spanish language when I stepped into Paraguay. I didn't even know numbers in Spanish then, but somehow managed to hire local drivers and asked them to take me here and there!

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka - シギリヤ (スリランカ)
Difficulty to Reach: Easy
Entry Fees: USD25.00
Comment: A palace and a citadel built on a huge rock. I mean HUGE! What more would you want as a king in the ancient time? There must have been a decent-size city constructed around this palace too as the remains of shelters, caves and gardens could be seen when I was here. The most impressive archaeological aspect to me was the Lion Gate: the entry point to the palace located on the top floor. Unfortunately, the head-part of the Lion fell off years ago, but I could still tell it wasn't just an ordinary gate that anybody was allowed to walk through but only nobles. There is actually a throne still intact on the top floor, which everybody can sit on today :-)
I went to Sri Lanka just one year after the officials declared the end of their long-lasting brutal civil war. It was definitely a little obscure country to me at that time. So I wasn't feeling very comfortable while travelling there, partly because the central and northern parts of the country were still No-No zones for foreigners and also because I was dragging that shoulder-killer coffin everywhere - a 7ft long surfboard case with two boards in it. Never do that again!

Tikal, Guatemala - ティカル遺跡 (グアテマラ)
Difficulty to Reach: Relatively Easy
Entry Fees: GTQ150
Comment: Mexicans would love to claim that Tikal is in Mexico, but it's not! They just don't wanna admit that even their beloved Chechen Itza could be shadowed by those majestic pyramids of Tikal in northern Guatemala. Elaborately structured and resting in the middle of a dense rainforest, Tikal would welcome you with lots of colourful birds, loud monkeys and big venomous spiders, and possibly scammers too. Temple I and Temple II look absolutely amazing, and there are heaps more temples here, but many of them are yet to be excavated. Like Sigiriya, there must have been a kingdom in this region, but it's now completely abandoned and even today's Mayan descendants don't live here anymore.
Flores, a tiny town in a lake called Lago Petén Itzá, is your best choice to be based in and you take a day-trip from there to Tikal. I remember there was a gruesome massacre in the region in the early 2011 and it backed off many tourists: no wonder it wasn't crowded at all while I was there. But look! Guatemala is generally safe just like all other countries as long as you don't go off the beaten track too much both geographically and socially. You know what I mean?

One question for us now is: "Can we build the same things with the technologies that we have today?"
My answer is: "We might be able to." However, when I pragmatically think about it, the question should be: "Can we ever unite ourselves to carry out such life-long projects?"

Some people claim these magnificent pieces of architecture could only be created by extra-terrestrials or divine intervention. Whatever and whoever created them, our "modern civilization" hasn't inherited their great skills and knowledge at all. Instead, we are so stuck with tiny cellphones, laptops, cars, houses, jobs and money, all of which only help us become more limited in our abilities and imagination than ever before. Are we truly advanced....?

The below are five of the greatest nature reserves that I've visited and thoroughly enjoyed before. They are listed in alphabetical order and I highly recommend that you visit them as soon as you can before the climate-change/global-warming permanently damages them.

!!!!! Note !!!!!
The entry fees written below are of when I visited them, thus not up-to-date.

Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica - 南極半島(南極)
Difficulty to Reach: Difficult
Entry Fees: No fees required to enter, but the cost greatly varies depending on your means of transport.
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Comment: It's super windy, freezing and intense everywhere at that southernmost of our planet. It's also barely habitable unless you are assigned to stay in one of those mad scientists' labs or you are reincarnated as a penguin in your next life. Therefore, tourists and backpackers alike are only allowed to visit the peninsula during the short summer: usually between late November and early February. Even so, the Drake Passage, an all-time cranky channel between South America and Antarctica, was still tremendously ruthless when our vessel crossed it in January 2011. Moreover, for the preservation of its unique ecosystems and for your own safety you are not supposed to stay overnight on any part of the continent. Instead, you stay on your ship at night and land by a boat called Zodiac in the daytime with rented boots on (not your own shoes). I was never ever bored during my entire expedition as tons of birds, penguins, seals and big fish always kept me entertained. Plus there were so many enigmatic-shaped icebergs and spectacular mountains which just amused me every day.
I gave myself two options when I landed in South America in November 2010: one of them was this expedition and the other was to go to the Galapagos Islands. Both were very pricey and I chose the first (so I still haven't been to the Galapagos.) Although my choice has turned out to be the most expensive expedition ever taken in my life, it was not about money in the end. It was absolutely a priceless experience for me. And now all the fond memories of my time in that planet of Ice will live on inside me till the day I die :-)
If this article is tempting and you really decide to go, you'd better hurry up because the ice is melting :-( A friend of mine actually sailed across the Drake Passage by yacht and successfully reached Antarctic Peninsula a few years ago. Would you like to try it?

Etosha National Park, Namibia - エトーシャ国立公園(ナミビア)
Difficulty to Reach: Relatively Easy
Entry Fees: NAD80.00 per person, plus extra charge for your car and accommodation
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Comment: Etosha is the completely opposite version of Antarctica as there are no ice, no snow and no mountains, but dry bush land with the blazing sun above it at all times. One mutual ground, however, is that there are animals everywhere but very few people or none in sight. Unfortunately, I could not spot any big cats while I was driving around the park. Yet I was very satisfied with a variety of animals Etosha offered: elephants, giraffes, rhinos, jackals, baboons, zebras and many more! Needless to say, this park is not an ordinary park in your city. It's so wild and unimaginably vast! The whole land including the horizon can become seemingly immaterial if you keep staring at them for more than a few minutes: I personally call this natural phenomena "Savannah's Magic". Furthermore, you cannot jog around in this park with your iPhone on, and always make sure to keep your distance from any animals: even a tiny hog. I also recommend that you try not to drive your car after dusk because visibility becomes helplessly low in Namibia's beautifully delusive landscapes. And you don't wanna get lost and become easy meat for those beasts in the middle of nowhere.
Despite having visited other national parks in Africa, I'm writing about Etosha for this article on purpose in order to draw more people's attention to the fact that this is one of the best examples of what Africa is really like: basically, more animals than humans inhabiting. And I'm sure there are many parks similar to or even much wilder and larger than Etosha in other parts of Africa, and they must be as equally good.
While our different political views and religious beliefs still cause so much trouble to ourselves, this part of Africa might be the safest place on earth from now on as there are no religions, no politics and no wars. But only nature dictates us. I miss Africa.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - ハロン・ベイ(ベトナム)
Difficulty to Reach: Easy
Entry Fees: No fees required to enter, but the cost varies depending on your tour-boat.
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Comment: A funny thing is that whenever I picture what would be a typically classic countryside of China, it would be more or less what I saw in Ha Long Bay, though this bay is located in Vietnam. It's this unique terrain here: a combination of the tranquil dark-green sea with uncountable limestone pillars, some of which contain deep caves. It seemed slightly mythical or almost haunted because it was foggy and eerily quiet while we were cruising around the bay. Something in the atmosphere even made me wonder if Kung-fu masters were dwelling in some of the limestone caves; do you understand what I mean...? Well... I didn't run into any Yin-yang masters in fact, but Eli, my ex-girlfriend from Colombia, and I met three German women in Cat Bat, one of the starting points for cruising Ha Long Bay, and we ended up taking a private boat together to cross the bay. The tour was USD33.00 for each one of us, which was quite expensive by local standards, but it included delicious Vietnamese lunch. Additionally, I was with four beautiful women on the vessel then. So no complain at all.
As of January 2013, Japanese nationals were able to obtain a tourist visa on arrival for free of charge (maximum stay of 15 days) by presenting a proof of a means for your outbound transport at the immigration on arrival: no e-ticket on a laptop or cellphone was accepted, it had to be printed out. Vietnam was still heavily adhering communism / socialism back then. And I'm sure they still do today. The big brother is watching us, yo!

Iguasu Waterfalls, Brazil - イグアスの滝(ブラジル)
Difficulty to Reach: Easy
Entry Fees: BRL37.00 (Brazil) & ARP85.00 (Argentina)
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Comment: Just letting you know that I've been to Niagara Falls, but still haven't been to Victoria Falls in Southern Africa or Angel Falls in Venezuela. So I'm no expert in waterfalls at all, but I can still tell you confidently that Iguasu Waterfalls are so much larger and more impressive than Niagara Falls (and all other minor waterfalls I've visited before.) It's the wateriness with power and noise in such a gigantic scale that Iguasu stands out amongst the rest. Such turbulent water is generated non-stop and it's cascading through the river in a ferocious way: you might be feeling overwhelmed by her as well as threatened at the same time, especially when you try to step along the walkways built over the Devil's Throat, the core and epic-centre of Iguasu Waterfalls.
One unfortunate thing during my visit was that the water-colour was hardly turquoise, it was actually as murky as your disgustingly sweet Starbucks Frappuchino. And this murkiness was said to be mostly caused by deforestation. Thus, I'm assuming that it is still the same colour or even much murkier today....
Since Iguasu Waterfalls are shared between Brazil and Argentina, you can visit the falls from both sides. What I did back in November 2010 was that I stayed in a small town in Brazil called Foz du Iguasu and from there I did a day-trip to the Brazilian side on my first day and then I went over to the Argentinian side on my second day: the details of how-to are written here.
Whichever one you visit, I emphasize once again, there is so much water running and spraying everywhere in Iguasu, therefore, you will get wet 200%. Moreover, there's no chance for you to take your cellphone out of a pocket or a bag for one single second and you have to bring a water-proof camera with you.

Uyuni Salt Lake Flat, Bolivia - ウユニ塩湖(ボリビア)
Difficulty to Reach: Relatively Easy
Entry Fees: No fees required to enter, but the cost varies depending on your means of transport.
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Comment: Unlike Africa's dog-eat-dog land, there are no angry hippos or hungry crocodiles in this lake. If you are lucky enough, you might spot lovely flamingos here instead. It's the world's largest salt flat and it's also the world's most magically beautiful lake (in my opinion.) This salt flat, locally called Salar de Uyuni, can be mind-twisting with its surreal landscape as her face constantly changes just like your wishy-washy partner keeps changing his/her order at an upmarket restaurant. Depending on the time of the day and the season, Uyuni tricks your eyes with millions of different colours and forms and you will definitely end up taking so many more photos than you thought you might, therefore, having a couple of extra batteries for your camera is recommended. In return for all your tireless efforts in shooting at the lake, you'll need very little time to arrange and edit photos afterwards because Uyuni provides all special effects more than the latest version of your Photoshop can.
This lake is simply beyond all words and expressions we can ever think of: I really mean it because she is so stunning and also because you become speechless by her spell anyway.
An ignorant Esky back in February 2011 became very sick while on my way to Uyuni by ascending from the Chilean coast without going through substantial acclimatization: I seriously thought that I was going to die then. Luckily, I recovered from my acute high-altitude sickness on my 3rd day of the tour and managed to enjoy the magic show of Uyuni just in time. If I have a chance to visit here again, I would spend at least a couple of days to acclimatize myself beforehand and spend a few days in Uyuni for my self-indulgence.

Did you know that Salar de Uyuni is not listed amongst UNESCO World Heritage Sites yet?
It might have something to do with the amount of Lithium in this lake (the largest ever found in history) and the Bolivian government must be seeing it extremely lucrative.... I highly suspect that this is the reason why the lake hasn't been registered as a heritage site by UNESCO. Otherwise, they would no longer be able to dig the salty land for lithium which is now highly valuable for most batteries used in our cellphones, cameras, laptops, hybrid cars, electric cars, etc.
Apparently, some American, Japanese, Korean and French companies are behind this extraction. What was once said to be "eco-friendly" is actually not eco-friendly at all. Sooner than later Uyuni's magic spell will fade out.