Friday, March 16, 2007

Alaska's Must See Sights

Alaska is the 49th and largest state in the United States of America, and is twice the size of Texas!

If you are on the inside passage traveling north to Anchorage, your first port of call is Ketchikan, or “the First City” as Alaskans call this town. Here, if you are interested in native art, you’ll find a Totem Heritage Center.

As the “Rain Capital of Alaska” Ketchikan gets an average of 156 inches of rain per year. It is also the closest port to visit the Misty Fjords National Monument. Ketchikan is also well known as the “Salmon Capital of the World”, as there are a number of hatcheries and canneries.

How about some shopping, Ladies? There are a large number of jewelers in Ketchikan with very good deals for Diamonds, Tanzanite, Amolite, and other precious gemstones. Some of the larger cruise ships offer lectures on what to shop for in the various Ports of Call. If shopping is your thing, then don’t miss these talks.
Ketchikan at Sunrise, Alaska
Photo Image © Karen Toh
You may also spot a number of Bald Eagles as they swoop in to feed on the whatever parts of salmon that the canneries discard.

The state capital of Alaska is the port of call for every cruise ship, ferry and airline that comes to Southeast Alaska. There are no roads leading to this interesting but remote city, as it is surrounded on three sides by the Juneau Icefield (which is the face of the Mendenhall Glacier), and the fourth by water. Car thieves won’t get very far in this city! :p

Juneau Icefield, Medenhall Glacier, Alaska
Photo Image © Karen Toh

Why found a city that is inaccessible by land? Well, apparently Gold was the reason the city’s location.

There are a couple of things that you must do in Juneau.

Mendenhall Glacier
You can take a flight seeing tour of the glacier. If you’d like to experience a landing on the icefield, opt for the helicopters carriers – they provide equipment too.

Bear Encounter @ a Hiking Trail near Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska
Photo Image © Karen Toh

I liked the hiking trails, as there were a rich variety of flora and fauna. Just remember that if you aren’t used to hiking in North America, you need to watch out for the wildlife – keep your distance. Watch out for Bears, especially if you see cubs – sure they’re cute, but Mama’s not far behind, and they’re very protective of their young. It is best to go with a local guide.

Whale Watching

Having a Whale of a Time in Auke Bay, Juneau, Alaska
Photo Image © Karen Toh

Juneau’s Auke Bay is a perfect place for whale watching as the waters in the bay is relatively calm, due to the protection from the nearby islands. Catamarans with experienced crew spot whales for you, so all you need is to catch sight of those elusive whale specimens at the place and at the right time, especially if you are taking photos or even with your binoculars – it can be a challenge, believe me. Do note that your batteries in your digital equipment can go flat in extreme cold weather (do factor in wind chill).

Skagway reminds me of a cowboy town in a Hollywood set or in Disneyworld, where the buildings are in great condition, painted like it was in the past, with its natural surroundings of forest, mountains and water. It was founded by the Klondike Gold Rush, as it was the jumping point to those who wanted to seek a fortune in gold in the Yukon. Being accessible to the mountains from the sea, thousands made their way up the coast and bought supplies before taking the hike through the mountain pass.

On the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, Skagway, Alaska
Photo Image © Karen Toh
The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad laid its tracks from Skagway to Whitehorse in the Yukon territory. Visitors can now take a ride into the past on well maintained steam or diesel engines, and on a clear day that gives way to a view of how the railroad was cut into the mountain, you’ll be ever grateful to those who toiled and died to build the route through the mountain pass.

No comments: