When I read ‘monastery stay’ on our Intrepid Japan itinerary I was a little sceptical about what I’d find. Truthfully I was picturing some 1980s brick building staffed by Canadian expats with names like ‘Floating Leaf’ or ‘Jarod’, and dotted with plastic Buddha statues and inspirational posters.
What is it about Asia that throws up strange and unusual places to rest your head? It’s as if there’s some inaudible signal being broadcast causing architects and hoteliers to try and one-up each other in a race towards the weird and wonderful. Hey, I know, let’s make them sleep in a giant elephant! No, why not in tiny cubicles stacked like sardine tins! It’s like Lewis Carol and Gaudi decided to get together and start a small interior design business.
“Star light, star bright, first stay I see tonight”… but what if you couldn’t see that star the next night? In this International Year of Astronomy there is a rally to recognise the wonder of stars. New Zealand is a mecca for stargazers and if you’ve travelled on our South Island Explorer and stayed in the heart of MacKenzie Country you’ll understand why. Intrepid’s Kim Bowden is amongst the many who are making a wish to protect our stars…
“We used to call it ‘Onemana Sky’ – we would lie on the scratchy grass outside our caravan and look at a starry night that curved dome-like right down to the horizon. We could follow the ghost-like trail of the Milky Way, spot the Southern Cross and the Pot (which is actually an upside-down Orion’s Belt), then trace together our own imagined constellations.
Would you like to try life as a nomad out in the wild landscapes of Mongolia? Intrepid travellers get to overnight in a traditional ger, and on a recent trip Tina Gerets’ group enjoyed Mongolian real life experiences that made them feel right at home…
“On the way back to Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar from our stay at the ger camp in Terelj National Park, we stopped at the summer camp of Lotus Children’s Centre.
During the warm months the kids stay in a ger camp, not unlike our previous night’s accommodation. About forty kids were staying there at the time, ranging from two to sixteen years old. The kids were excited to see us and we were invited to their little singing and dancing show. The girls dressed in adorable costumes and visibly enjoyed their dance routines. Two boys talked about their trip to Japan as part of cultural exchange. After the show, everyone was so excited that music kept playing and a spontaneous open-air dancing session broke out! Several hours were enjoyed playing and talking with those wonderful kids.
In June, Gayle Martin and her husband travelled on Intrepid’s Central Europe Encompassed trip and wondered if Barry had made this journey before…
“This photo was taken at a monastery while we holidayed in Montenegro. Now remember, this was a holy place where there were rules i.e. men and woman slept in separate rooms, 10pm curfew, lights out by 10.30pm followed by silence. In general, our tour group of 12 were expected to walk around calmly and quietly in this holy place!
At the monastery there were various holy pictures dotted around the walls. We noticed that religious people who were staying here would walk from picture to picture and pray beneath them. As Barry and I had one bag between us, I had to sneak into the ‘boys’ room to grab a few things from time to time. When I walked out of the ‘boys’ room I noticed this holy picture staring down at me from the wall. I thought, “this is a picture of Barry!”