Thailand: a country where cares and worries ooze away… by Catherine Graham
“Thailand has so much to offer it is difficult to pinpoint just one element and still truly capture its magic. The experience gained from this country culminates from so many separate novelties on so many levels, I guess I just don’t know where to start…the Thai manner, service and friendliness, the temperature, the frantic yet exciting atmosphere of Bangkok, the peace and beauty of southern islands, the delicious cuisine, the quaint stalls and markets, the list goes on.
If I could cover every positive element from my two week holiday in Thailand, I would. However I will have to settle for one outstanding evening on Ko Pha-Ngan, down on party central: Haad Rin beach.
It can be easy to put a foot wrong when we travel, but thanks to our Intrepid Russia team, here are some responsible travel tips to help you get it right…
In Moscow it won’t cost you a ruble to visit the Sakharov Museum, which tells the history of repression and human rights in Russia from the revolution onwards. Another great option is the newly-designed ‘Eco Walk’ to Vorobyovy Gory. The walk to the city’s highest point marks Moscow’s first attempt at recycling bins, bird feeders for the local wildlife and information about the nature of the area.
Ask Intrepid traveller Susan Everton what were her Vietnam highlights and she’ll tell you she loved cruising Halong Bay, exploring the Old Quarter of Hanoi and overnighting at a Mekong Delta homestay – but her special stand-out event was the Hoi An cooking school…
“If you’re travelling with Intrepid make sure you join in the cooking class in Hoi An. It was fantastic – our teacher had a great sense of humour and we all had so much fun learning to cook Sweet & Sour Chicken Soup, Aubergine Claypot, Fish in Banana Leaf, Spring Rolls and Green Papaya Salad. The best thing is now I get to make these dishes at home and the food reminds me of my special Vietnam moments. Here’s my spring roll recipe that’s a favourite with all my friends.”
What could be sweeter than Italy, when the roses are in bloom and the weather is warm? And as Intrepid traveller John Kirk attests, don’t put your Italy trip on ice, because a wonderful gastronomic adventure also awaits…
“Italy offers many tantalising treats, but none so sweet and addictive as its gelato in summer. I pretty much did a gelato tour of Italy with Intrepid’s La Dolce Vita, having at least one, but more often two cones (cono) or cups (coppa) each day.
Within an hour of checking into my hotel in Rome, I was standing at the amazing Trevi Fountain trying to decide which of the many gelateria surrounding the fountain would provide my first taste of real Italian iced confection. I joined the queue in the Gelateria di San Crispino, not knowing at the time that it has reputedly the best gelato in Italy. What a way to start my adventure!
With the arrival of spring, a special festival has just taken place in China and Intrepid’s Sunny Bin helps explain the history behind the local traditions…
“I always think that the Chinese farmer’s calendar is more sensitive, and really makes you realise the passage of time. This calendar divides the whole year into 24 segments based on the slightest change in nature, such as the walking of the insect and the first spring rain.
It seems like only yesterday I was introducing the Spring Equinox customs to my Intrepid group on the way to Great Wall on 20th of March, then all of a sudden, I’m in southern China on the 5th of April telling them stories about Qingming, or Grave-sweeping Day.
Kenya Teaching and Building trips focus on helping communities that lack government funding, but how do you get to these villages? Intrepid’s Samantha Finn takes us on a unique ride in Kenya that leads to a remarkable real life experience…
“Let me take you on a typical Kenyan journey in a matatu, an erratic ride on a Nissan minibus out of Nairobi. Something like a rollercoaster safari amongst the smells, chaos and exciting random nature of Kenyan public transport.
We begin our journey with a friendly, yet persistent, face through the window of the bus, proffering a bewildering mix of strawberry biscuits, hot sausages and lurid plastic jewellery. Having purchased some of these questionably essential travel items, you tune your senses to the upbeat melody of Kikuyu radio or marvel at the tightly-braided heads moving eagerly as mamas chat to their closely-sat neighbour. This is all enveloped in the unfamiliar and exotic aromas of hair oil mixed with dust, that is surprisingly more enticing than unpleasant!
Intrepid’s Laura Carroll knows that sometimes the most unexpected moments are the most memorable, especially in Morocco…
“On a trip through the High Atlas Mountains, heavy rainfall and flooding prevented my group from making our planned mountain trek. After a bit of boredom, we came to an ingenious solution. Apple crumble!
We’d all been missing food from home, and here we were in one of the premier apple-growing regions of Morocco. With this idea in mind we set off to buy flour, sugar, spices and apples with which to occupy our evening.
It’s not easy to find some free time with renowned photographer Steve Davey. In between photographic assignments, writing his new book, Footprint Travel Photography, and launching a new range of photographic tours in conjunction with Intrepid UK, we found a rare moment to catch up with the man behind the lens…
You’ve travelled throughout the world with your camera – where’s your favourite place to photograph?
Undoubtedly it has to be India. I love the pace and the chaos and the love of life. I love the colours and the faces and the exuberance of the religion. I love the people, the history and of course, the food!
Day Seven – Hoi An
Our first day in Hoi An! The bus trip from Hue was around four hours including a couple of stops along the way. We stopped in between Hue and Da Nang at the Hai Van Pass, where our bargaining skills were really put to the test. It’s likely your bus will stop here and you will not be approached, as much as mobbed, by vendors selling necklaces, bracelets, ‘real pearls’ and drinks. But the views were worth stopping for – and most of us ended up with jewellery we didn’t really need too.
For any of you who have been wondering where the rich cover for our 2009 Asia brochure comes from, it was taken by Intrepid traveller Jennifer Broomhall in Varanasi, India.
The woman in the photo was a guest at a wedding and she was going to fill her urn with water from the Holy Ganges. Jennifer says she loves the “brightness” and the way the sun catches the jewels on the sari. “The contrast of her work-worn hands holding such an ornate urn adds to the beauty of this special moment.”