Asia is exotic, quirky, bizarre, beautiful and above all completely captivating. In fact Ange Takats was so betwitched by Thailand during an Intrepid trip that it led her to many more amazing adventures throughout the region and eventually the writing of her very own book…
“It’s not every day that an Australian girl finds herself attending a funeral for a water buffalo in Thailand… but that’s exactly what happened when I took up a job as a foreign correspondent in Southeast Asia.
The buffalo’s name was Boonlert and his big dead body was hanging inside a shed in a remote Thai village, with fairy lights wrapped around his horns and flowers stuffed into his ears. There were Buddhist monks, draped in orange robes, praying in front of him when I arrived with my cameraman and the spectacle of that story proved to be so memorable that it inspired the title of my memoir: The Buffalo Funeral: Soundbites from a Songbird in Siam.
Three million people in and around the Cambodian city of Siem Reap will benefit from a new eye hospital, built with the support of The Fred Hollows Foundation (FHF) and the Australian Government. The Intrepid Foundation is a longtime contributor to the success and development of FHF’s Cambodia Program.
The recently opened Siem Reap Regional Hospital is a three-story facility that will quadruple patient intake and provide treatment for cataract, glaucoma, refraction (the need for glasses) and other eye conditions. The hospital will also be an important training centre for surgeons and eye health workers, teaching them the skills they need to restore sight.
Western Australia’s magnificent Kimberley is an ancient world of indigenous culture, unique flora and fauna and spectacular landscapes virtually unchanged since prehistoric times, yet this region is currently under threat. Intrepid’s Eliza Anderson explains why we need to act now…
“It’s said of the Kimberley, that once the red dirt has coloured the soles of your feet you are forever connected to this precious part of Australia. Having just spent four days exploring the Kimberley with Don Henry, Australian Conservation Foundation’s CEO, and traditional owners, Dillon Andrews and Anne Poelina, I can appreciate the truth in this saying.
We are pleased to share some news with you from our friends at one of the most popular Intrepid Foundation supported projects of them all, the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre. Their Laos program managers, Jane and Jude write:
“We have had a busy few months with the completion of our fantastic bear nursery area and bear house refurbishment. Our five cubs, confiscated by the Laos government last year, are now happily settled in their new home packed with all kinds of fun enrichment items, such as a pool, twig boxes and lots of hammocks! These bears have had a lucky escape and would almost certainly have been sold to bile farms in neighbouring China or Vietnam had they not been rescued and brought here. These cubs bring the current number of bears rescued to 23, all of which keep us very busy and constantly expanding our facilities so that we can provide safe sanctuary for them.
How we address the issue of climate change in Australia and who pays is a hot topic right now, but enough with the carbon tax scare tactics! There are many reasons for Australian businesses to support action on climate change. Intrepid Travel has been ‘taxing’ our customers by including the cost of carbon offsetting into the cost of our trips (on average only 34 cents per passenger per day) for the last three years and guess what? The sky hasn’t fallen in! It’s had no negative impact on our sales and has meant we’ve been able to fulfil the expectations of our travellers – we surveyed them and over 94% said they expect us to take action on climate change.
There’s so much to see in Hanoi that you’d be struggling to do it all in 24-hours without the help of a local. Then in addition there are the outlying provinces that also have so much to offer, as Casey Wallen discovered on her Citadels, Karsts & Cycle Urban Adventure…
“I’d not actually heard much about the province of Ninh Binh before, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go there. After leaving behind hectic Hanoi we hopped on bikes to wind our way along the narrow roads through the stunning valleys of the karsts. This was a wonderful highlight. We saw duck farms, buffalo having mud baths, plenty more gorgeous scenery, but there were no other tourists in sight. We rode through several small villages where the kids were happy to say “hi” or high-five us as we cycled past – what fun!
South America is a paradise for meat lovers. Argentina is a main player in the restaurants offering great quality meat, but some would argue that Brazil plays in the same league as a serious contestant. David Rousseau is one who sides with Brazil…
“One huge difference lies in the service, not the quality of service but in the way the meat is offered to the ravenous customers. While Argentinean restaurants would offer a traditional service (order your meat from the menu, wait for it, eat… smile), the Brazilians came up with: Rodizio or the ‘Art of Rodizio‘.
When you come away from a lovely dinner with our Russian hosts it won’t only be your full belly and the vodka nips that give you a warm glow. Intrepid’s Boris ‘Bob’ Golodets explains why a home-cooked meal and meeting the lady of the house are always a highlight…
“She is one of our superstars. I know tonight our Russia Highlights group will go to Lena’s house for dinner and they will love her and have a wonderful evening. She lives in old town Suzdal on so called ‘Grape Street’ – one of the oldest and most famous in the city. Lena can show you the book with photos of her grandfather standing in front of their house with fanciful decorations on its facade.
Intrepid Japan trips are now running as normal and our return to the country is helping local people get back on their feet. There are still many challenges for the northern regions and sincere thanks to Intrepid Express readers for supporting our appeal to bring light to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
Along with Intrepid’s donation of 200 solar lamps, an estimated 50 units were donated by Intrepid Express readers and all up 350 lamps (valued at US$5,250) were sent via Virgin Atlantic to Tokyo. Once arriving in Tokyo, the lights were then delivered to a local not-for-profit collection office, NPO, who form part of the coordinated Japanese response for supplies and equipment being sent to families in affected areas. NPO operates closely with the people most affected and managed to get the solar lights delivered as quickly as possible into the hands of people in need.
Ask travellers to Costa Rica what they love most about the country and 9 times out of 10 they say the diversity. Elly Athey couldn’t agree more and her trip highlights were worlds apart…
“There have been two things I have always wanted to do – take a surf lesson, in waters so warm that I didn’t need a wet suit, and walk at the base of live Volcano! Two extremes I agree, but those two activities were what drew me to Costa Rica.