Rajan Datar goes trekking off the beaten track in Myanmar and Carmen Roberts explores the tunnels of Vladivostok that were once the hideaway for the Russian secret police.
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Now it's time for The Travel Show.
This week, I'm exploring Russia's hidden underground military
history in Vladivostok.
I can just imagine the dark deeds that would be done here.
Oh, my God. Something dropped on my head!
We go shopping in Myanmar.
It's actually quite difficult to walk through here.
It's so busy.
Simon Calder has tips on what to do if you're heading to Rome
with toddlers in tow.
Hello and welcome to The Travel Show, with me, Carmen Roberts.
Coming to you this week from Russia.
And a little later on in the programme,
I'll be going underground, into the tunnels beneath
the streets of Vladivostok.
But first, we head to Myanmar, a country off-limits for decades
because of military rule.
But now, it's opening up, and tourism is booming.
We sent Rajan Datar on a trek off the beaten track to find out
about a project aimed at helping local people benefit
from the increase in the number of people now visiting
their previously off-limits country.
Dazzling pagodas and ancient temples, these are the iconic sites
that are attracting more people than ever before to Myanmar.
But I'm here to get away from the main tourist sites and see
a way of life that's remained unchanged for centuries.
I'm heading to Pindaya in the Danu Zone of the Shan State
to follow one of a new series of trials that it's hoped will
kick-start tourism in the region.
I've just arrived in Pindaya and its market day.
And it's bustling, it's full of people selling their wares,
loads of different vegetables, loads of fruit, meat,
the whole thing.
And if we go down this channel here, we'll see
what else we can find here.
It's actually quite difficult to walk through here.
It's so busy.
The market is the starting point for many of the new Danu trails.
There's an incredible array of stuff on offer,
but the thought actually trying to buy anything in the crowds
of people is a little overwhelming.
Do you know what, I can't figure out who's selling and who's buying here!
Even though it's kind of like anarchy,
you don't feel any sense of danger.
No one is trying to rip you off. No one's trying to steal anything.
it's a nice atmosphere.
Back into the throng.
There are more than 20 different walking routes
that've been mapped out through this region,
with different levels of distance and difficulty.
Expert guide Doh joins me to lead the way.
Tell me why it's good for the Danu people to have this trek.
For Danu people, they will get extra money from tourism.
Like, let me say about a supply change.
So, tourism creates, and many people they can get jobs.
So, shopkeepers, hotel owners, waiters.
Maybe we can create more and more jobs.
The trail network winds through villages
that have rarely seen tourists.
Please, take off shoes, sir. Yes.
Thank you very much.
This farming family produce bamboo hats as a sideline business.
They can make up to 300 a week.
And then put on and cut.
They need ten pieces to make one hat.
This is a hat for the man. A hat for the man.
And this is the hat for the woman. OK.
Different. Ah, OK.
A bit too far on the other side.
I'm not so sure!
Let me get that exactly right.
Are you laughing at me?!
So, in here, you can make one size. Very nice.
Well, one size fits all. Let's see if it fits me.
Shall we? Can I try?
She must have guessed the size of my head,
because it fits perfect.
She said this is for you.
OK, I will, then.
The rest of the hats are bound for the market.
So, what's the legend of the spider?
So the spider capture the seven...
And last on our trek, this major site of pilgrimage.
Statues of a huge spider and a prince sit at
the bottom of these stairs.
Figures from ancient legends.
Look at this.
It's like a...wow.
These caves are home to 9000 statues,
some dating back hundreds of years.
They're all brought and donated by devotees hoping for a blessing.
It's just Buddhas galore, and they're made of, what?
What material underneath the gold?
Like a concrete. Concrete?
So, when making a good image, what did the people hope happens
in terms of Buddhism?
Is it to give them a better life, afterlife?
This is like a good deed.
Yeah, like merit making? Yes.
And maybe for the next existence, to get to a better place, you know?
People to be up and into Nirvana in one day.
And if Nirvana is not an option, I, for one, am happy after years
of this country being in isolation to settle for a slice of this
magnificent landscape and culture.
And if you're thinking of visiting Myanmar in the near future,
here are our list of the best things to see and do.
The Shwedagon Pagoda has stood for 2500 years,
a tribute to Myanmar's Buddhist faith.
Catch it at sunset to see it glow.
At 42 square kilometres, Bagan is one of Asia's largest
Access was restricted under the military junta,
so most tourists are still to discover its
monasteries and temples.
Nearby, Mount Popa is another less-visited holy spot.
At over 700 metres, prepare yourself for a steep climb.
Also, watch out for thousands of macaque monkeys
that live on the mountain,
and some don't take kindly to visitors.
Keep any food you have sealed if you don't want them running
off with your lunch.
Next up, it's our thirsty explorer Brad Cohen,
who this week is off to Kosovo in search of some home-made rakija.
So we embarked on a whirlwind trip to learn about the drink
known as raki or rakija.
Though language, culture and religion may divide Kosovo
and other former Yugoslavian countries, they all share a love
for this ubiquitous fruit brandy.
Everywhere we went there was raki -
a judge's party, a lingerie shop, even a monastery.
Monks here produced wine since the 14th century.
What makes it good?
Taste it and you tell me what you think about it.
For nearly 700 years, wine and rakija helped
support the Serbian monks.
Here it has to be soft, but here it is to be strong.
I imagine this can get you through a pretty
rough Balkan winter.
And a nice Balkan summer!
As we toasted, I couldn't help but wonder how often a Serb
and Albanian Kosovar actually shared a drink these days.
You guys seem pretty peaceful right now.
We grew up in the same country.
His friends needed more rakija for his bar.
So we headed to his producer's house.
A town renowned for its rich soil and production of rakija wine.
Here, we got a lesson in home-made distillation.
We were greeted in typical Kosovar fashion, with a warm handshake,
something to drink and far too much food, which was quite
literally from the table.
Two hours now of eating and drinking home-made drink and food.
Life is good.
Sakib's story is common in the Balkans.
During the Yugoslav wars throughout the 90s, jobs became scarce.
But there was plenty of fruit, and people used it to turn
centuries-old family traditions into a business.
Supplying bars with home-made rakija.
That is tasty.
That day, Sakib was making plum rakija, and friends,
neighbours and the entire family rushed to help with
the precision of a pit crew.
At its best, rakija tastes anywhere between a tasty
grappa or fine cognac, depending on ageing
and type of fruit.
At its worst, rakija tastes like embalming fluid.
I think you could preserve bodies with.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to know before you taste it.
Stay with us, because later on in the programme,
I run into some unexpected visitors deep beneath the streets
And our global guru Simon Calder is here with his advice on the best
things to see and do in Lisbon, so don't go away.
Welcome to the slice of the show that tackles your questions
about getting the best out of travel.
Coming up shortly, the ideal way to see Rome with toddlers,
and the challenges of rail travel in Laos.
But first, there's been lots of interest in the first
nonstop scheduled flights between Europe and Australia.
From March 2018, you should be able to fly from London Heathrow to Perth
in Western Australia in 17 hours.
One of the world's very longest air routes.
Tickets don't go on sale until April, 2017, and we don't yet
know how much the trip will cost.
Next, Emma Fletcher treated a cheerful video message to BBC
travel show asking...
We are the Fletcher family in Chester.
We're off to Rome in a week in the middleof January,
and wonder if you've got any tips for us with toddlers.
First, visit Explora il Museo dei bambini as it calls itself,
full of fun, interactive exhibits for small children,
and free for the under fives.
Next, there's the Villa Borghese Bioparco.
Aalthough Rome's zoo is modest, the reptile house is always fun,
and warm in January, too.
And for an ice cream at a price that won't send you into financial
meltdown, Giolitti, an elegant institution at the heart of Rome
and well worth the inevitable queue.
Dr JS Baug is heading to Europe from his home city of Mumbai.
I'm travelling to Lisbon for a business meeting,
and I have a full day free.
Can you suggest the best tour options to see Lisbon?
Start in the elegant city centre, known as Bayelsa, mostly built
in the 18th century.
Then explore the hills to the east with the original Moorish
quarter of Alfama.
From there, Tram 28 planks it way westwards across the city
and clambers up to the Giappo district, perched on a hill high
above the noise and bustle of the Centre.
Along the way, you can barely move for eating and drinking
opportunities, including my favourite coffee spot in Europe,
the Cafe A Brasileira, a feast of mahogany and mirrors that
has been serving sweet, strong coffee for almost a century.
Finally, John Rose was in Cambodia last year, and says...
we met a couple who told us they had travelled from the very north
of Laos to the south by train.
Have you any information regarding this, as we'd love
to pursue it?
John, the couple you met had perhaps been travelling too long.
Unlike neighbouring Cambodia and Vietnam, Laos has just six
kilometres of railway.
The line runs from the Friendship Bridge over the mighty Mekong River,
which marks the Thai border to Thanaleng station,
13 kilometres from the capital, Vientiane.
a shuttle train me to the express from Bangkok to run
across and into Laos, where you can get a Visa on arrival.
To reach the capital, you then have to take a bus
or a taxi.
Until the rail network expands, the ideal way to travel in Laos
is by riverboat on the Mekong, though go downstream from the fine
city of Luang Prabang to Vientiane.
unless you've got plenty of time on your hands to travel
against the current.
Whether you or after a slow boat or a fast train,
the travel show is here to help, so e-mail your question
to the Travel Show at bbc.couk, and I'll do my very best to find
you an answer.
From me, Simon Calder, the global guru, bye for now and see
you next time.
Vladivostok in Russia's far east is home to over 500,000 people.
And it's no stranger to traffic jams, partly because there's no
subway system here.
But what do live beneath the live stock's hills are the remnants
of what used to be one of the most powerful maritime fortresses
in the world.
Abandoned the decades, some areas are now open to tourists.
This is the lad in, he's an author whose interest in Vladivostok's
military past was sparked as a young boy growing up in this area.
is this where you used to come as a child?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Today, Vladimir and I are exploring his childhood stomping ground,
also known as Stronghold Number One.
So those holes there, whether made by guns?
They are holes made from quick firing guns.
At the turn of the 20th-century, Tsarist Russia went to war
with Japan over who controlled Korea and Manchuria to the south
and the waters surrounding them.
Vladivostok was home to the Imperial Russian fleet,
and that made it a potential target.
Vladimir, why was Vladivostok such an important military point?
It was the only gate of Russia in the Pacific region,
and it was the only port on the Russian Pacific shore
connected with Siberia and other Russia by trans-Siberian Railway.
I didn't expect the ceilings to be so high.
It was proposed as a shelter of peoples, and not only
as access path.
That is why there is a lot of space.
Space for people.
Although many parts of the Fort were used during the Cold War,
this particular stronghold was abandoned after World War II.
It's safe to say it has seen better days.
To be honest, I find this place quite creepy.
Maybe I read too many crime novels, but I can just imagine the dark
deeds that would be done here.
Something dropped on my head!
You know what?
People are still allowed to come in here.
There are no doors barricading people.
You can see from the rubbish on the floor that people
still use these shelters.
That was gross, that thing that fell on my head.
During the Soviet era, Vladivostok was closed
from the outside world.
It only opened to visitors in 1992.
As the Cold War thawed, a new generation of enthusiasts got
interested in the abandoned fort and sprawling underpasses,
some of them with more Western influences.
Today, Sasha takes tours around Fort Number Seven.
In good condition, it is one of the easiest forts to visit.
But although it is well looked after, it's still best to go
with a guide.
Fort Number Seven was completed in 1916, and it housed troops
until 1923 when the city was demilitarised.
During Soviet times, the Fort was used as a political
prison, after which it was deserted.
But, despite years of neglect, Sasha tells me the Fort still has
many of its original features.
Tell me where we're going.
Fort Number Seven is used by locals and visitors who come
here for guided tours and for leisure activities,
such as skateboarding and laser tag.
There's a guy with a gun pointed at me!
What am I meant to do?!
I'm not jumping at all!
Although many of the military structures in Vladivostok
are still derelict, it's great to see more people getting
interested in them, because whether its history
or a fantasy game that gets you here, these structures that once
aimed to make Vladivostok impregnable, deserve
to be preserved.
That's all we've got time for this week, and don't forget,
if you want to follow us on our travels in real-time,
you can sign up to our social media feeds, where you can
share your travel too.
Coming up next week, we head to the US to go whale
watching off the coast of New York.
There's a lot of excitement on the boat, because someone...
There it is!
And Addy sees how far he can get exploring a massive cave
network in Oman.
There's flights and flights of stairs, even I'm not
going to attempt to go up them.
It would probably easier to get up to heaven than to get up that lot.
That's on the show next week, but for now, for me,
Carmen Roberts, and the rest of the Travel Show team
here in Russia, it's goodbye.
Rajan Datar goes trekking off the beaten track in Myanmar, Carmen Roberts explores the tunnels of Vladivostok that were once the hideaway for the Russian secret police and Simon Calder has tips on what to do in Rome with toddlers.