A year in the life of a travel writer equals gratitude

While searching for a document I found this email summary of 1999  which I’d sent as a Christmas letter.  What a privileged life I’ve led, one I value and treasure it’s a sort of GRATITUDE LIST from just one year!

“I have swum in the Nile and Mekong rivers, in the South China and Aegean seas; and in swimming pools in Egypt and Thailand; Scuba dived and snorkelled off the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia;

I’ve studied Islam, Buddhism, Hindu and Chinese religions; was silent for ten days in a Buddhist temple and did a cooking course in Thailand.

food features large in my travels

Learnt to say ‘no problem’ in four languages, read junk novels, inspiring stories and travel tales as well as keeping copious notes for my own writing.

Been offered jobs in Thailand, Malaysia and Laos, and worked for 5 weeks in Athens, Greece. Had a proposal of marriage, a few propositions and some foxy flirtations.

Celebrated four new year’s: on the calendars for Christian, Islam, Buddhism religions and the Chinese one.

Stayed in little villages, large cities and islands.

Climbed: up into Buddhist temples, and down into tombs, up to sacred caves and over narrow planks to boats.

Travelled on planes, camel, horse, bus, songthaew, cars, trishaw, bicycle, dingy, fishing boat, felucca, truck, river taxi, train, and cargo boat.

Slept in beds, bunks, hammocks, fleapits and 4-star hotels, on a concrete slab; on a mattress on the felucca, and on the roof of a hostel in the old city of Jerusalem with 29 others!

I’ve danced. . . on beaches in Malaysia and Israel, in a Cairo hotel, on the banks of the Nile, as well as in Hindu and Buddhist parades.

Experienced monsoon rain and dessert dry; from 48 degrees centigrade in the Valley of the Kings, down to 12 degrees in the hills of Malaysia and needed a blanket for the first time for ages

Been blessed by monks and had water thrown over me by school children, ladyboys and farangs. I’ve played volleyball, frisbee, backgammon, scrabble, cards and petanque.

Eaten pigeon, fresh fish, fruit shakes on the beach, coconut straight from the tree, and copious amounts of rice and noodles. Drank water from the tap everywhere including on the streets of Cairo and am still waiting for tummy problems! Had my hair cut in men’s and women’s hairdressing shops, by people who spoke no English, as well as under a palm tree in Malaysia and in a garden bar in Athens by an Aussie

Made music with bongo drums, spoons sang Pali chants and both Thai and Egyptian love songs as well as playing drums in a traditional Malay cultural band.

Moonlight. Perhentian Islands

Taught English and swimming; became a grandmother in Malaysia and a mother-in-law in Thailand. And I’ve been called mum, sister and auntie, renamed Hedda, Hezza, Fox, H, as well as Pouhi (which I think is chubby in Thai!)

Ate in night markets, street stalls and fancy restaurants, in people’s homes – including the Minister of Health’s’ home in Malaysia!

Prayed in mosques, temples and churches of many religions. Chatted with monks, children, tourist police, street people and shopkeepers.

Witnessed funerals in Malaysia, Thailand and Egypt.

Swam with turtles and tropical fish and the most poison-ness snake in the world! In clean water, clear water, and polluted water; warm and cold water, calm and rough, blue and green; fresh, salty and chlorinated water.

Been to the toilet: on a boat -watched by kids on the riverbank; on swaying trains, in smelly dirty rooms; off the back of boats and developed good thigh muscles on the Asian squat toilets (which I missed when I arrived in Egypt.) Learnt to forgo toilet paper for months and used my right hand for eating and greeting!

Heather (L) joins in the fun of Thai Buddhist new year festivities

Sold beer and bananas on the beach in Malaysia, served pancakes, nasi-goring and BBQ on the same island and cooked countless meals in an Athens hotel cafe.

Been offered hash, opium, and marijuana and changed money and brought cigarettes on the black market.

Met people from all over the world was proud to be a Kiwi, ashamed of many westerners’ attitudes and behaviour. Joined the inverted élite snobbery of being a traveller, not a tourist.

Given blood in Malaysia, broken a toe, had an allergic reaction [written in 1999 and I now can’t recall what it was!]  and apart from insect bites have been disgustingly healthy.

And have kept developing my courage and resilience despite fears!

National park India

 

 

Post COVID-19 we will travel again – so solo, or with others?

Do you travel with others or alone? What are the pros and cons? And once this virus is under ‘control’ how will you travel? Alone or with others?

Which do you prefer – on a bus with strangers; with a friend; with your partner, or independently?

Whichever you choose, your travel journey becomes different because of that choice!  I mostly prefer solo, independent travel – however, I have friends who think there could be nothing worse!  I once travelled in parts of Europe on a bus with strangers – at every stop, we were always waiting for someone and that drove me nuts.

When travelling with a friend, we have to be very specific about what is, and isn’t, acceptable -especially if you’re sharing a room.  Of course, it’s very easy to say, but sometimes it’s hard to do -leaving one of you, sometimes constantly, inwardly fuming.  It’s very easy for one of you to minimise your requests, wants, or needs.

Over the years, during times of travelling with another person, these have been the issues of being confronted with.  Not always easy to solve – although if you both can compromise 50% of the time things work out.

  • Someone with a well-developed fear of germs and food that’s ‘different’
  • Night owls who want to talk – I’m an early bird
  • Coughing, but not taking, or refusing to buy, medication
  • Proposing things to do, we agree, then changing their mind – resulting in more convoluted conversations about option A B or C
  • Struggling while carrying  many bags instead of one or 2
  • Train travel only because ‘a friend said the buses were dangerous’

What has been your experiences of travelling alone, or with others?  What problems have you encountered, and what advice would you give to someone who was planning travel?

Britomart

Photos from Hong Kong’s protests

It’s 2 weeks since I flew out of Hong Kong.  I’d been travelling for 5 weeks around the region,  (Taiwan, Vietnam, and Cambodia) and, despite all the warnings about getting to the airport really early, there were very few protesters – and they were all in the arrivals area.

So, for me, apart from having to show my travel documents, there were no disruptions.  However, I was frustrated that Air New Zealand, and no doubt other airlines, had encouraged us (by text messages) to check in early – but the check-in counter didn’t open until the normal time!  My plan, and others I spoke to at the airport had been to check-in, get rid of our bags, go through security, and then hang out in the peace and quiet of the gate areas. It was not to be – we had to hang out by the boring check-in counters.

I wrote a little blog about it (see it here) and someone complained that I didn’t talk about the real protests, however, I am a travel writer, not a journalist, and all I do is give a snapshot, an opinion of a moment in time, what I experienced, notices, or observed – and those airport photos showed what it was like for me (quiet) on the morning of  10th August 2019.

There are many reputable sources of informed articles about Hong Kong, China, the protests, the results, and concerns.  My travel blog is not one of them :).

Nevertheless, here a is a small photographic tour of what little I saw of the protests in Hong Kong – apart from the airport one, all were taken on my first day ( of my first ever trip to HK) in Hong Kong ( 7/7/2019)

 

 

 

Encounters with creatures in Udaipur, India

In India, architectural heritage is often linked to the major religions of the country: Buddhist stupas and monasteries; Hindu and Jain temples in  many styles – many share structural characteristics such as stone columns and horizontal blocks carved with sacred imagery or decorative motifs sculptures of the vast pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses are everywhere the various deities have many manifestations which becomes confusing as their names, like many Indian cities, are interchangeable.

Udaipur, Rajasthan, is a fairy-tale city with marble palaces and lakes – and I will blog about them later. In the meantime, here is a slideshow (23 pics) some of the local wildlife.

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Pics from around the backwaters of Kerala

I first came to Kerala many years ago after reading God of Small Things.

It’s a beautiful part of India and here are a few more photos – more will follow – with words 😀- when I return to New Zealand in about 10 days.