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Photography by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Visit some of Elvis’ favorite spots on the property, including the Jungle Room den and the Meditation Garden. More »

 

The Trans-Mongolian train makes its way through the Mongolian countryside.

At the top of many people’s bucket list is a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.  A trip on the railroad allows riders to experience the never-ending forests of Siberia, the lonely valleys of Mongolia, and the Gobi desert in one trip. However, with a trip that can span a third of the globe and take up to 7 days to complete, special preparations are definitely necessary.

The first step in preparing for your journey is to figure out which of the 3 routes you want to take. The classic line is the Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Vladivostok on Russia’s far eastern coast. On the other hand, the most popular route with travelers is the Trans-Mongolian, which crosses through Siberia before veering off the main rail line, traveling through Mongolia and ending in Beijing, China. Lastly, you can take the Trans-Manchurian line, which runs from Moscow to Beijing, but bypasses Mongolia.

The marker on the train indicating its major stops in Chinese, Russian, and Mongolian.

The second step in preparing for your journey is to get the appropriate visas. Nearly every nationality requires a visa for travel to both Russia and China, and while you can obtain them yourself, both are time consuming. To make the process easier, consider using a visa service to like Invisa Logistics for Russia and CSCA for China, both of which are recommended by the respective embassies.

Americans can enter Mongolia visa-free, but most others will have to secure a visa to travel there as well.

It’s also a good idea to arrange your tickets prior to leaving. While you will pay a surcharge for this service, it beats turning up at a Russian train station and discovering that your train is sold out or that the ticket seller doesn’t speak any English (a problem you’re likely to encounter). For trains leaving from Russia or Mongolia, you can obtain your tickets from Real Russia. For trains departing from Beijing, CITS is a reputable agency with English-speaking agents.

Buying your ticket ahead of time also requires you to plan your stops. All 3 train lines pass through Irkutsk, which is a very popular stop close to the mid-point of the journey. This Siberian city is also the gateway to the must-see Lake Baikal. The largest lake in the world by volume, Lake Baikal is so clean that you can drink directly from its frigid waters. There’s no better place to see Siberian culture or nature than the peaceful shores of the lake.

The sun sets over China’s Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia.

On the Trans-Mongolian Line, many like to stop in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, as well, to experience this amazing country. While the city itself is nothing special, a trip to the countryside gives you the chance to stay with a nomadic family in a traditional ger (felt-lined tents) and view the sweeping vistas of beautiful green grass and impossibly blue skies that go on for as far as the eye can see.

The interior corridor of the Trans-Mongolian.

 

Lastly, you need to prepare for the trip itself. Since you’ll spend a total of 6 or 7 nights on the train, make sure that you have plenty of reading material and batteries. Also make sure to pack some wet wipes for cleaning yourself (there are no showers onboard), a thermos and instant coffee or tea (hot water is provided in each car), and some ear plugs.

While you’ll have a nice bed on your trip, most people will share a compartment with others, so a phrasebook will be very helpful in getting to know your travel companions. Even if you opt for a private compartment, having a Russian and Chinese phrasebook will help you figure out when the train is leaving each station and how to order food in the dining car.

The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the journey of a lifetime, and with a bit of preparation, you can ensure that you’ll have the time of your life as you traverse the Far East.

 —–

All photos by author Jim Cheney.

The author onboard the Trans-Mongolian train.

Jim Cheney is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Harrisburg, PA. Jim spent over two years in Asia traveling and working prior to settling back in America. His writing focuses mainly on travel planning advice and unique travel destinations throughout Asia, Europe, and North America.

To find more of his work, visit his site, Tripologist.com.

 

 

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Brony: An adult or teenager, often male and college-age (or older), who is a fan of the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic — a show about pretty, magical ponies who fight evil. Seriously.

In 2011, the very first BronyCon was held in New York City with 100 bronies in attendance. The convention hopped around the city, holding 3 more events complete with visits from the voice actors and dance parties, until reaching 3,000 attendees in 2012. And today marks the first day and a new city for this army of bronies, with attendance expected to be 6,000 brony-strong.

Get excited, Baltimore! Or should I say, Baltimare …

The Baltimore Convention Center, a picturesque location on the harbor for these My Little Pony fans, will be hosting the event all weekend. From the “Mane Events Hall” to the “Portal to Equestria,” there will be videogame tournaments, lectures on voice acting and discourses analyzing the culture of My Little Pony.

Not yet convinced? Head to the Hall of the Moon for a class on drawing ponies. Or visit the Salt Block Lounge for the Brony Karaoke Smackdown.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a bro to enjoy the pony festivities. Girls are welcome, too. Need a little help navigating the city? Check out our Baltimore travel guide for tips!

Can’t make it to Baltimore? Watch the convention’s live stream!

Photography by ROB TILLEY / Spaces Images / Aurora Photos

This city in Guatemala’s highlands, best known for its Spanish Baroque and colonial architecture. More »

Most seasoned travelers have probably heard of (and dreamt about) the amazing train ride through the Tijuca Rainforest to see the 125-foot Christ the Redeemer statue high atop Corcovado Mountain. And who hasn’t heard the gossip about the Brazilians’ buff beach bodies and the droves of scantily-clad women who sunbathe on the world-famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.

Well now, you can get your chance to see Rio de Janeiro – free of charge! Enter to win a trip for 2 to the Marvelous City and see why it’s such a hot vacation destination. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that tourists are flocking to the tropical city not only for its beaches, but also because it will host both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

See Rio for yourself! Explore this Brazilian city and its secret treasures like Leblon, Rio’s most affluent neighborhood with a beautiful beach that’s known for being much quieter than Ipanema or Copacabana. See Rio from above and go hang-gliding off Sugarloaf Mountain, or just lay low and spend the day on Paqueta Island, where it’s not uncommon to see a horse-drawn carriage.

There’s something for everyone in this Brazilian city, so take the first step and enter to win a free trip — your next adventure awaits you in Rio de Janeiro!

“$5000. Take it or leave it.”

“I can’t go above $3500.”

“Split the difference, and make it an even $4000.”

“Deal!”

On an all-new Toy Hunter, Jordan and his amateur toy collecting pal, Travis, head to Massachusetts in search of big ticket items to sell at one of the biggest pop culture events in the country: Chicago’s C2E2.

During his journey in New England, Jordan comes away with a bunch of classic toys he thinks will sell at C2E2, but no toy is more crucial then the GI USS Flagg Aircraft Carrier he picks up for $4,000 while haggling with Rob. In order to reach his goal of selling $20,000 in toys, Jordan must sell the USS Flagg for nearly double what he paid for it.

Will Jordan find someone to take the GI Joe aircraft carrier off his hands? Will he reach his lofty goal of making $20,000? Find out on an all-new episode, tonight at 9|8c.

Plus, don’t forget to check out Jordan’s thoughts on the episode with these exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos of “Toy Tycoon.”

On an all-new episode of Toy Hunter, Jordan heads to Colorado on a Rocky Mountain mission for comedy writer Dave Hill. Most buyers are usually looking for mint condition toys still in the box, but Dave is willing to pay thousands to get his hands on out-of-the-box toys.

Jordan’s biggest challenge is to find opened toys that are still extremely valuable, so his assistant, Steve, gets to work. Steve manages to arrive at Mile High Comics before Jordan and starts to dig – against Jordan’s wishes. Chuck, the owner of Mile High Comics, takes Steve to the back of the store where he keeps some vintage toys, and Steve gets a head start with the collection. Jordan shows up a bit late, but starts searching immediately to reclaim his lead.

After Jordan comes across several toys that he thinks will suit Dave Hill perfectly, Steve makes an impulsive and pricey purchase of his own, banking on a strange action figure that may not even peak Dave’s interest.

To find out what out-of-the-box toys Jordan and Steve collected for the up-and-coming comedian, Dave Hill, tune in for an all-new episode, tonight at 9|8c.

Plus, check out Jordan’s commentary on these behind-the-scenes photos from the episode, Playing With Fire.

“It’s the most WonderCon time of the year…”

Wait, what’s WonderCon? It’s only one of the largest comic conventions in the country, located at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. And not only will Jordan be there, but he’s also set an unbelievably high goal of selling $25,000 in merchandise.

But before Jordan goes to WonderCon, there’s one line of toys that he has yet to find – a line that he knows will be a huge hit if he can track them down: vintage GI Joe collectibles.

Jordan is in toy heaven at his first stop when he checks out Tim’s garage that’s filled to the brim with vintage GI Joe, Bucky O’Hare and Thundercats toys. Jordan quickly snatches up a few GI Joe play sets, a GI Joe Mobile Command Center and a GI Joe Tomahawk. After spending a large amount of money in Tim’s garage, Jordan finally feels like he’s ready to head to WonderCon.

Will Jordan be able to hit his goal of $25,000 in sales, or will he fall short and be forced to keep some of the GI Joe toys for himself? Find out on an all-new episode, tonight at 9|8c.

Plus, don’t forget to check out these exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos from GI Jackpot.

Photography by Clint Johnston

The Philippines is home to over 7,000 islands with picturesque beaches and turquoise seas, which is why the rice terraces of Batad — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — are often forgotten. The terraces are a stunning scene to behold, sculpted like giant staircases from the mountains of Ifugao. Sadly, they have begun to deteriorate due to climate and abandonment. So make the trek now to Batad before the world loses another wonder. I chose to travel there by Jeepney, the local transportation found all over the islands.

My Jeepney was an old military vehicle, leftover in the Philippines by the US army during World War II. The hulking beast had been converted into a passenger bus —  like thousands of others — each jeep uniquely festooned in a colorful and loud fashion. I climbed to the roof of the vehicle when I realized there was no room down below. I gripped firmly on a support bar and swung my legs over the side where they dangled freely.

The road to Batad begins in Manila with a 9-hour overnight bus to Banaue. While Batad is not a long journey from Banaue, it can be a difficult one. Washed out bridges, landslides and neglected roads are just the beginning. Riding on the roof of  a Jeepney may be common practice for a local, but it is a thrilling experience for a foreigner.

Upon reaching the entrance to the village of Batad, a 45-minute descent winds to the center of town. There are no roads that lead to the quiet village of 1,500 people, which means that walking is the only mode of transportation. There are limited guesthouses in Batad, however many villagers will welcome you into their home, cook for you, and share a glass of traditional rice wine.

Trekking around Batad is a challenge worthy of any traveler. The 2,000-year-old terraces require careful navigation and balance. With paths only wide enough for one person  and steep drops of 10 or more feet in some places, I needed to watch my step. But there is no greater reward than reaching the promontory overlooking the magnificent terraces carved from the mountains of Ifugao.

Don’t overlook the road to Batad. The journey from Manila is long but the 8th wonder of the world awaits. The homestays, people, and culture will embrace you. Make the trek so you can call the rice terraces your home, if only for a few days.

Photography by Clint Johnston

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Toy Hunter extraordinaire Jordan Hembrough to appear on the Mike Lawrence podcast, Nerd of Mouth. I repeat, Jordan Hembrough to appear on the Mike Lawrence podcast that specializes in all things nerd!

Word of mouth is a tried-and-true marketing concept, and Jordan plans to take full advantage of spreading the word on the podcast. Of course, nothing comes for free, and Mike is looking for something in exchange. Mike is an up-and-coming comedian and comic book enthusiast who lost his interest in collecting somewhere along the way … until now.

A decent portion of Mike’s stand-up routine includes bits about Batman, so Jordan thinks he may have found the perfect piece for Mike — the original Batman Ray Gun.

What other vintage toy collectibles will Jordan dig up? Will he be able to rekindle Mike’s love for collecting? Tune in to an all-new episode, tonight at 9|8c to find out.

Plus, don’t miss the exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos from Jordan’s trip to Pennsylvania.

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