Ten iconic travel experiences
Trainees at the 1,500-year-old Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of kung fu where warrior monks dish out hard lessons. (Aldo Pavan/LPI)
From yoga in India to cooking in Hoi An, here are 10 experiences that are as special as the places they are from.
Surfing in Hawaii, USA
Polynesia may have been the birthplace of surfing – he’e nalu (wave sliding) was first observed here by Europeans in the 18th Century – but Hawaii remains the focal point for the world’s coolest lifestyle. Plenty of surf schools and instructors will patiently teach you how to read the ocean for swell, paddle into a wave, stand and ride at beginner spots such as Waikiki Beach and Puena Point. Between sessions you can watch the pros shred heaving monsters at reef breaks such as Pipeline, Off the Wall and Sunset Beach. Learn to bottom turn with the Waikiki Beach Boys; two-hour lessons cost $99 and run twice daily from Monday to Saturday.
Cooking in Hoi An, Vietnam
On the banks of the Hoi An River, the Red Bridge Restaurant and Cooking School is one of many restaurants offering courses to meet the growing demand for tutorials in quality Vietnamese cuisine. One-day and half-day cooking tours will match your culinary skills, from non-existent to Le Cordon Bleu. Classes start with a trip to a local market, where you will select ingredients and learn by observing street vendors. Then, you return to the restaurant for an expert demonstration before putting your new-found knowledge into practice. Expect to serve up rice-paper rolls and marinated beef, decorated with a pineapple boat. Classes usually last about three hours, include four dishes and cost around $40 per person. Take a camera so you can remember each dish you master.
Archaeological research in Crow Canyon, USA
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center offers up to 11 trips each year for those willing to get their hands dirty as they dabble in amateur archaeology. Visitors’ accommodations are in one of 10 “hogans”, circular log cabins built in the traditional Navajo style on the centre’s 28-hectare campus. The campus is part of a site that was occupied by Mesa Verde’s Ancestral Puebloans more than 1,000 years ago. The trips, lasting seven to 10 days, explore the land in relation to what is known about the region’s indigenous occupants. Visitors study the interaction of light, landscape and architecture, or participate in a dig.
Yoga in Rishikesh, India
A trip to the birthplace of yoga is an obvious choice if you are looking for a mystical experience inside and out. Not only does yoga promote relaxation through meditation; research conducted by the University of Texas has revealed it can help alleviate the negative side effects of cancer treatment. At Rishikesh, in the serene foothills of the Himalayas, special retreats invite novices to practice stretching, breathing and contemplation alongside qualified yogi masters. Depending on where you stay, you might also be encouraged to help out in the organic garden and cook for the group, in between soul-enriching excursions into the mountains. Ashrams offer courses to suit varying levels, from a few weeks to three months.
Learning Spanish in Patagonia, Argentina
The small town of Bariloche, surrounded by glacial lakes, forests and the Andes mountains, is so inspiring you will probably learn more Spanish here in a month than you might elsewhere in a whole year. Sometimes called “the Switzerland of South America”, Bariloche is the base for most Patagonian language schools, so there is always a good mix of international students should you wish to slack off from speaking Spanish. There are plenty of optional excursions too, from nearby skiing at Cerro Catedral, South America’s premier downhill resort, to a refreshing day trip through thick forest to the glorious Cántaros waterfall. Select courses from one-week intensives to six weeks of private tuition are available through Spanishinbariloche.com.