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Joseph Rosendo's Travelscope

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Joseph returns to Taiwan to follow in the path of Taiwan's Matsu Pilgrimage, said to be the largest religious procession in the world, and to explore the islands named in the deity's honor. Blessed with magical powers, Matsu, Taiwan's superstar deity teaches creating balance in our lives and the lesson is illustrated in the nine-day Matsu Pilgrimage, which melds an exuberant worldly celebration with a mindful spiritual journey. It is literally an explosive event that encompasses the many sides of the Taiwanese nature.

From its serpentine coastline and towering mountains to its verdant forests and remote offshore islands, Taiwan's natural beauty is surprising. Yet, while it may be far from what the casual visitors expects, Taiwan's nine national parks and 13 national scenic areas have much to attract and mesmerize the nature lover. In this Taiwan adventure Joseph climbs into the mountains to explore the country's forested sanctuaries replete with soothing hot springs, he harvests the riches of the seas with a local chef and joins Taiwanese and foreigners alike at a great bird watching contest.

Taiwan is an island country of 23 million people and the majority of them live in a handful of cities. When they seek to leave their hectic urban life behind they escape to their country's villages, mountains, forests, and islands. Joseph returns to Taiwan to visit the Penghu Archepeligo in the Taiwan Straits, a chain of 64 isles and islets; 20 inhabited, and 50-minutes by air from the capital of Taipei.

On the Bonin or Ogasawara Islands Joseph is reminded that travel is a treasure hunt. Even though one is told where the riches are buried, the real gems have to be discovered on their own. On this voyage to Tokyo's most distant possessions - more than 600 miles and 25 hours by ferry from the mainland - Joseph partakes of kayaking, snorkeling, trekking and whale watching. Yet, in spite of all the activities, he discovers that interactions with the islanders and what one learns by exploring their heritage are the most cherished souvenirs.

While "paradise" is a word freely bantered about in the travel world, the Cook Islands is a traveler's paradise. With its turquoise waters, sugar white beaches, colorful history, special island lifestyle and a homegrown welcome beyond belief, it is a genuine breath of fresh air in a universe of travel-brochure hyperbole. During Joseph's visit to Rarotonga and Aitutaki, the Cook's most popular islands, he enjoys "tourist attractions" that choose to educate visitors as well as entertain them.

Los Cabos is actually two resorts: Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of the Baja California peninsula, and San Jose del Cabo, 23 miles north along the coast. Joseph covers both and the sea that binds them - the Sea of Cortez - on his Los Cabos, Mexico adventure. Activities include whale watching and seaside dining, hiking through the desert to hidden waterfalls and swimming with dolphins. Besides taking part in the fun-and-sun experiences like fishing and snorkeling, he also heads out to the Baja Peninsula's outback and meets ex-pat farmers and artists living off the grid.

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