Time in search of the self
With a recorded history that stretches back centuries, Asia has always held a mystical allure in the eyes of many. From the great dynasties of China to the Ayuverdic practices of South Asia, there is so much to see, do and learn that a lifetime could not be enough time. A tasting portion, however, could take just 111 days. At least, that’s the idea behind Exotic Voyages’ ‘The Razor’s Edge: A Spiritual and Cultural Quest’, an epic travel package that spans over 13 countries and almost four months.
Inspired by the title of W. Somerset Maugham’s 1944 novel – where the protagonist travels overseas in search of a deeper meaning to his existence – Razor’s Edge connects the dots of Asia’s vast spiritual heritage in an attempt to introduce neophytes to the many facets of Eastern spirituality and kindle inspiration in devotees.
The all-encompassing pilgrimage begins in the Middle East, in the desolate sands of Oman, before threading its way to Japan, passing through Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and South Korea along the way. If that span of time sounds daunting, worry not. The trip can be parcelled out into individual smaller segments, or broken up into multiple trips taken over the course of a few years. Bespoke itineraries are also available.
In Oman, experience the solitude of nomadic Bedouin life with a tented stay at the Wahiba Sands desert, while pondering on the origins of Islam in the historical port of Muscat and the vertiginous peaks of Jebel Akhdar. In Sri Lanka, immerse yourself in Buddhism at the Ritigala monastery perched on a sacred mountain where angampora, the national martial art, is practiced, before visiting Kandy, a holy site in Buddhism where the temple of the Buddha’s tooth is located. Nepal is next, staying in the lower elevations of Kathmandu and spotting rhinos in Chitwan National peak, before moving to higher altitudes to view the Himalayas and sites sacred to the Buddhist and Hindu faith. The trail then crosses over to Bhutan – the happiest place on Earth – and Paro Taktsang, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery that is the country’s holiest, and certainly most spectacularly positioned, site. India brings its bounty of historical monuments – the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort – and Varanasi, the holiest point on the Ganges river.
Onward to Myanmar, where Bagan and its thousands of temples is a major highlight. Explore this serene landscape on bicycle, then cross the border to Thailand where the mix of cutting edge urban life and Zen Buddhism as practiced in Plum Village will prove a balance between modern and the mystic. In Laos, take part in a Baci ceremony, a Buddhist ceremony to offer health and protection, then weave your way down to Cambodia, where the immense Angkor Wat and its rich history unfolds. From there, travel south to north across the expanse of Vietnam, including stops in the former capital Hue and the Tu Hieu Pagoda. In China, a caravan of horses draws you deep across the Tibetian Plateau in the land of Shangri-La. South Korea offers Mount Gyejok, where a 14km red clay trail through dense pine forests allows for extended moments of self-reflection. Then finally, Japan, where Shinto Buddhism is condensed into a carefully curated itinerary that includes a trip to Itsukushima, home to the ‘floating water’ torii gate.
The length of stay in each country ranges from three nights in such destinations as Cambodia and Laos, through to a 16-night multi-city/town tour through China. Prices vary depending on options chosen but for those who partake in the full odyssey rates begin at US$48,189/RM214,900 (exclusive of international airfares). There are no fixed date for the trip and may be taken individually or as part of a group.