The path from Burma to Thailand is a dark one. In World War II the Japanese invaded British-occupied Burma and started looking for a more secure overland supply route to connect the neighbouring countries.
Ladakh translates as ‘Land of the high passes’, which, on arrival, feels rather appropriate.
It’s easy to feel the world is a shrinking place. Journeys that used to take months now happen in the time it takes us to watch Godzilla and eat a microwaved meal, and we have more information in our pocket at any time than the sum total of human knowledge for the last three thousand years. In such a world it’s easy to think there’s very little mystery left, very little tradition or magic or authenticity.
Shakespeare once said, ‘The sauce to meat is ceremony; meeting were bare without it.’ Basically this translates to, ‘Festivals, they’re pretty cool, eh?’ And those Elizabethans really knew how to party, so I’m inclined to agree with his opinion. Ceremonies and festivals are the cultural glue that binds us as people.
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.
Did I expect to be able to climb Mt Kinabalu to watch the sun rise? Never. Was I planning on joining orangutans for breakfast? Probably not. But then these experiences and more were typical of my unexpected highlights in Borneo.
I chose Borneo for my next Intrepid trip because I loved the thought of seeing amazing wildlife, staying in traditional villages and I was prepared to give the mountain climb a go, but what I didn’t anticipate was just how much of a buzz I would get from exploring this fascinating land.
When an endearing child with big wide eyes implores you to buy the shell necklace her mother made; when a friendly man in a funky bar wants you to join in the local ‘tradition’ of knocking back a shot of snake wine; or when the market stalls have an abundance of very attractive tortoise shell bracelets, hair combs and spectacle frames for sale…what do you do?
On average, three rhinos a day are being killed in South Africa – all because of a lie…
Rhinos are hunted down thanks to the mistaken belief that their horns possess properties that detoxify the body and can therefore cure anything from a hangover to serious illnesses such as cancer. And if there was evidence to support such beliefs – you may as well chew your fingernails!