The city of 60 gardens

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When Shanghai residents are looking to escape, they head to this tranquil city of gardens and canals.

Life in one of the world’s most populous cities can be exhausting, which is why Shanghai residents are always looking for ways to escape the skyscrapers and traffic.

A favourite option lies just 100km to the east of the Chinese megacity – and only 30 minutes away by high-speed rail: the historic city of Suzhou.

Founded in 514 BC by King Helü of the Kingdom of Wu, Suzhou is one of the Yangtze Delta’s oldest and most prosperous cities. Its position between the Yangtze River in the north and Taihu Lake to the west meant that the city always had an abundant water supply, which fed the canals and classical gardens that Suzhou is world famous for.

The tranquil Master of the Nets Garden is a popular attraction (Credit: Credit: Rita Heine/Flickr/CC-BY-ND-2.0)

The tranquil Master of the Nets...

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The trip that transformed me: The student at sea

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Rebecca Isaak attended the same study-abroad program as her mother – but her experiences were uniquely her own.

In January 2014, 21-year-old Canadian Rebecca Isaak boarded a ship in San Diego, California, eager to start what would be a five-month journey around the world. She was embarking on a Semester at Sea – a program where university students live and learn while stopping in ports across the globe – just like her mom did in 1981. And in many ways, she set sail expecting to have a very similar experience.

The author's mother on a Semester at Sea trip (Credit: Credit: Rebecca Isaak)

The author’s mother on a Semester at Sea trip (Credit: Rebecca Isaak)

“I wanted to hug the same statue she did in China, get a little too tipsy in Japan, make the same lasting friendships,” Isaak said.

But as she voyaged across the sea, she realized that her journey w...

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Footage of a death-defying ride

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adventure, Danny Macaskill, Scotland, Cuillin Range, extreme sports, mountain biking

Danny Macaskill takes on Scotland’s Cuillin Range – with a twist. He tackles the 13km-long range on two wheels.

Don’t look down.

These were probably the words running through extreme cyclist Danny Macaskill’s head when he biked the Isle of Skye’s notorious Cuillin Range. The above video – streamed more than 12 million times since its debut on 2 October – showcases the professional athlete’s death-defying ride along the jagged mountain ridge.

It’s a feat that – for obvious reasons – not many people attempt. Scotland’s Cuillin Range is a dramatic and challenging ascent for most mountain climbers, let alone an adventurer navigating on two wheels. The 13km-long range is home to some 20 peaks, with the highest point reaching an intimidating 992m...

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Military secrets in north Scotland

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In the Scottish islands of Orkney, the waters of Scapa Flow hide more than 150 wrecks – from German World War I battleships to a Spitfire. The eerie world is one divers can explore.

As we sat on board a retrofitted fishing boat drifting where the North Sea meets the Atlantic, each member of our group ran through a pre-dive checklist. Yes, my dry suit and vest inflated. The 12kg of weights on my hips to keep me submerged were unmistakably present. I sucked on my regulators. My air worked fine.

Readying for the dive (Credit: Credit: Amanda Ruggeri)

We readied for our dive aboard a retrofitted fishing boat, floating where the North Sea meets the Atlantic (Credit: Amanda Ruggeri)

But even as we went through the kind of safety procedure that can stave off – or at least mitigate – underwater disaster, my mind was already deep below the surf...

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How to travel when you’re not rich

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“I wanted to prove to others and to myself that our life circumstances should never hinder us from going after our dreams.”

My “how I quit my job to travel” story is different. I’m from a developing country with a “powerless passport” — as a Philippine citizen I can only visit 60 countries visa-free — and I was brought up to believe that world travel is a luxury meant only for the privileged, the rich or the retired. Yet, in my early 20s, I’ve visited more than 15 countries in two years, all while building a profitable and stable online business that funds my lifestyle and enables me to work less than three hours a day.

It all started two years ago in a dingy cafe in Makati, Philippines...

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A painting that predates modern man

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Walk – and crawl – through El Castillo cave to see the 40,000-year-old painting that has scientists questioning the origins of human creativity.

I gasped at my first glimpse of a cave painting: a crude red outline of a deer with one wild circle for an eye. Its iron pigments blazed under the lamplight. The illusion of a breastbone emerged, ingeniously, out of a hump in the limestone wall. After a while, a cave becomes a long black tunnel of sensory deprivation; the sight of this tender image jolted my breath back to life.

“Can you tell you’re in a sacred place?” asked Marcos Garcia Diez, the archaeologist who had agreed to show me some of the most breathtaking rock art ever created...

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The world’s safest cities

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In these five cities, residents can rest easy walking home late at night and leaving their laptop unguarded. But they also know that safe doesn’t have to be boring.

Leaving your wallet or laptop unguarded in a cafe may not be recommended for most, but residents in the world’s safest cities could likely do it without a second thought.

For many, feeling safe can be key to feeling at home. So to understand what it might be like to live in a super safe place, we sought out residents living in some of the most stable and secure cities in the world, as ranked by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The list considered factors such as personal safety, infrastructure stability, health stability and digital security technology...

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Vietnam’s prison-island paradise

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Despite being a quick 45-minute turboprop flight from Ho Chi Minh City, Con Son is a world away from Vietnam’s well-beaten tourist trail, with inexplicably few Western travellers.

At 5 am and 6 pm, government loudspeakers crackle to life all over Vietnam. Relics of an era before homes had televisions and radios, these public address systems – broadcasting news, propaganda and weather reports – are usually barely audible above the din of this modern nation: a mix of motorcycle engines, truck horns and construction.

But on Con Son, the news carries loud and clear over the tiny township of just 5,000 residents, two sets of traffic lights and one seaside promenade...

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The world’s smallest kingdom

CR2W5B Europe Italy Sardinia Tavolara Island  port

When he’s not fishing for squid or gardening outside his squat bungalow, the king of Tavolara lords over this tiny island’s 11 part-time residents and 100 nimble mountain goats.

Just south of Sardinia’s world-famous Costa Smeralda, the lonely island of Tavolara rises wildly from the cerulean sea like a jagged mountain. There are no roads or hotels, and the only inhabitable stretch is a white-sand tongue that’s best measured from end to end in steps.

Tavolara's jagged 565m limestone stack (Credit: Credit: Eliot Stein)

Tavolara’s jagged 565m limestone stack (Credit: Eliot Stein)

This is where I found Antonio Bertoleoni as our ferry sputtered to a float. Better known as “Tonino”, the 83-year-old former fisherman owns Tavolara’s only restaurant and is the reigning ruler of the island, which happens to be the smallest inhabited kingdom in the world...

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An unlikely refuge above the trees

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Although dwindling in number, thousands of fire towers still dot forests across the US. Stay in one during off-season for unparalleled views from high above.

When Joey and Shannon Hodgson used their last match to burn the pages of a book titled How to Take Six Months Off, they didn’t know if they’d survive the night.

The couple had been hurrying home from a winter weekend getaway at Warner Mountain Fire Tower in Central Oregon, but the storm moved in fast, dumping 3ft of snow on the trail. Frostbitten and scared, they were eventually rescued by a search party just a mile from their car after spending a long night in sub-freezing temperatures.

Some might be deterred after such a dangerous experience, but the adventurous couple were spurred on to fulfil a dream that Joey had been enterta...

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