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Friday, 01 September 2017

Stunning Sapa, Vietnam

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After precariously zig-zagging our way up and between the mountains, we arrive to find Sapa’s beauty concealed in a shroud of mist and darkness. When we awake, the town has too. Its aliveness proves a delight for the senses: the vibrant colours of the traditional dress, the whirl of hustle and bustle, the smell of roasting pigs and motorbike fumes – the west seems sterile and dull in comparison. It is here that we meet Lan, our beaming local guide from the Dzay tribe. Her ancestors arrived here from China 600 years ago. Today her entire family live in the same nearby village, whose eldest inhabitant is 110. “No fast food here,” Lan chuckles. We begin hiking and she assures us that this afternoon will be even more beautiful than Sapa town. “More beautiful?” we exclaim back, eyes widening, as we take in the splendor already unfolding before us. We…
Going to a beach in Mozambique is totally unlike going to a beach in Greece, Italy or the South of France. Its role is different; it’s all about interaction. Maputo beach on the edge of Mozambique’s capital illustrates this in many ways. Obviously, people go there to escape the heat and humidity of the city, but they don’t go there to swim - few can, or to sunbathe - little need to. They go to play, socialize and do business. People jump up and down in the water and frolic at the edges. Groups of young boys and girls play football as they howl and scream. Anyone can join in. They shout, “Come and play”. There are children scooping the sand for the thousands of tiny crabs trapped in dips in the sand at low tide. Women and their children grill fish or chicken to serve with “xima” which is…
A serious bout of food poisoning threatens to put a stop to a desert road trip until a chance meeting with unconditional kindness... I pulled the car over and ran as fast as I could, difficult given the circumstances, up the loose rocky lunar-like scree to the top of the low hillside in search of some privacy. In reality this was lunacy as the only other human for as far as the eye could see was my cousin, and traveling companion, Jack. However, some basic human need to be out of view drove me up and out of sight where I crouched down behind a well-placed rock. Something wasn't right but I already knew that; I'd spent the last hour or so spasmodically vomiting from a moving car's window. I stood up, light-headed, and stumbled back towards the beat-up hire car down on the asphalt below. It was then I…
A serendipitous walk along the spine of Bolivia's Isla del Sol leads to an unexpected and unforgettable festival experience. The TV camera panned across the scene and onto the politician from La Paz. A young reporter fired well-prepared questions from his notebook whilst a group of bemused locals looked on in amazement. It wasn’t every day a film crew from the capital turned up here, but then it’s not every day you celebrate the birth of the Sun, Moon and all life on Earth. We were at what seemed like the extremities of the world; 4000 meters up in the crystalline air of the Andean massif at the northern tip of Isla Del Sol, a small island floating in Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable body of water. No cars, roads, mobile phone masts or chain stores here. We had stumbled across a traditional celebration of the Aymara and Quechua…
How can a place so remote be so alive? Doolin in County Clare, Ireland, is barely a town, but the locals who gather at Gus O’Connor’s pub couldn’t be more of a community, as tightly knit as a woolen Irish sweater. Located on the wind-swept west coast of Ireland, the village is situated between the sea and the Burren, an area covered by flat, barren rock — a desolate place secretly filled with history and song. I spent a drizzly afternoon walking from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher, down a path used by horses and carts, past ruined stone cottages that I imagine had been abandoned for the fair shores of America during the famine. By the time I got to the cliffs, I was soaked to the bone, but the lack of tourists venturing out on such an especially rainy day made the place all the more mystical.…
“Can I show you some rooms?”, the young kid, about my own son’s age, asked. We looked at a few, since he insisted on showing us each type of room they offered in the small hotel. It was midday, hot and sticky, and all the rooms were sunny and warm. When he saw us still hesitant, he took us a next door, to another hotel, where he talked to someone who we supposed was the owner. I couldn’t contain my smile when I realized that they were talking in Mayan! Not that I understand a word of it, but it made me so happy to hear it, to know that this ancient language is still used every day. We found a room in the shadiest part of the building, and as soon as we unpacked, we left to explore the ruins. We only had about an hour left until closing…
Thursday, 30 April 2015

Carving A Piece Of Cambodia

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"Clink, clink, clink". Every strike of the hammer sends my chisel plunging into rough sandstone, dislodging tiny chunks which scatter haphazardly across the table. A tingly ache has begun to creep up behind my hunched-over back while dripping beads of my forehead perspiration dissolve into damp speckles on the red, earthy surface of the stone block. It is Sunday afternoon, and I am learning the traditional Cambodian art of stone carving in the modest workshop of 31-year-old Poy Khet, a professional craftsman. An hour into incessantly chipping away at a square slab, an exquisite Romdoul flower - the national flower of Cambodia - is slowly but surely beginning to take shape. "One by one, not too strong," says Khet as he watches me struggle to control the strength exerted from my hammer. Carving the delicate contours of the flower's petals proves to be the most difficult task for the day,…
The large cross located outside of the Cathedral is the meeting point for a Mayan Village Tour with Alex and Raul Our travels had brought us to the city of San Cristobal de las Casas, and while we were deeply entrenched on the Gringo Trail, we wanted more. We wanted to see what Mexico was really like. What old Mexico was really like. Throughout our travels in Mexico we’d experienced the warmth and friendliness of the Mexican people, but there's a lot more behind the smiles and the friendliness. Mexicans have a deep patriotism and pride for everything that is Mexico and are fiercely protective of their native cultures. While in San Cristobal de las Casas we heard about a small tour company called Alex y Raul who run small, culturally responsible tours out to two nearby Mayan villages called San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. All we had to do…
My husband and I were in Valencia, Spain for a week during the Three King’s Day Festival (El Dia de los Reyes) that takes place in early January. We travel often and opted for a hostel with a private room and bath, which ended up having such a great location that we would have paid triple the price to stay there. Location is key when you are traveling, especially for those on a budget. The less you spend on public transportation and taxis the more you have for other expenditures. We were able to walk all over the city from the hostel and partook in the holiday festivities easily. Three Kings Day celebrates the love and adoration by the Three Kings for baby Jesus. The celebration begins with a huge parade, during which candy is thrown from all the floats and into the hands of the dressed up children in…
Monday, 30 December 2013

The Bajau of Wakatobi, Indonesia

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The Bajau people of Wakatobi national park in Southern Indonesia are perhaps the most smiley people I have ever encountered, but then again… I haven’t met many people. Three months ago I traveled to Indonesia, embarking on a South East Asian odyssey. This was my very first ‘big’ adventure. 18 years old, with a bag so heavy that it made me walk like a new born calf, I set off with a friend, to a corner of the world very different from my own. 48 hours later we had made it to Jakarta. The blast of heat wasn’t the most comforting element of my first few moments off a steamy, sweaty airplane. Forget that, I was in Jakarta! The roads alit with red and orange lights, car horns of course, the soundtrack to an Asian city. We were quickly bustled onto a bus, and off we went, to a hotel…

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