A Summer of Travelling / Matthew Starr
Guest writer Matthew found travelling entertaining - and educational.
After graduating in International Tourism Management at Leeds Metropolitan University I spent four months travelling.
I started with two back to back organised trips to Africa visiting Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Lesotho.
Following on from this I completed a similar four week journey through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Next came backpacking for six weeks across Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and the east coast of Australia.
This blog illustrates how much I enjoyed my travels and contains a vast range of highlights.
Every country had its unique breathtaking scenery. One of my favourite places was Blyde River Canyon in South Africa. Standing here, I felt as if I was on top of the world.
The Great Ocean Road near Melbourne has to be one of the most scenic roads I have ever travelled, with numerous clean and unpolluted beaches, ideal for surfers.
Wonders of the World
I have visited some of the world’s spectacular natural wonders including Victoria Falls, where I had one of the scariest experiences in my travels. I decided to tandem (ie shared) gorge swing and I still to this day cannot believe I jumped off a cliff, freefalling for several seconds then swinging back and forth over the raging Zambezi river.
Whilst in Australia I visited the Great Barrier Reef where I went Helmet Diving. It involved walking underwater with a hose attached to the back of my helmet. Whilst being submerged for twenty minutes I was up close and personal to many colourful types of tropical fish.
I also spent time at some of the planets most significant manmade wonders including Angkor Wat, in the touristy countryside town of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The stone carvings stood out as they contained detailed accounts of Cambodian, Hindu and Buddhist history.
On the other end of the scale is the Forbidden City, located in the bustling, busy Chinese capital of Beijing, where westerners are outnumbered by tourists from all over China. The architecture is eye-catching, with dragons and the colour red dominating, signifying both power and royalty.
Visiting these ancient sights made me realise the importance of responsible and sustainable travel in the protection and preservation of the world's natural and manmade wonders.
Africa was dominated by wildlife, where I watched Zebra, Impala, Jackal, Buffalo and numerous other species, but sadly no wildcats. One surreal night, I camped only 50m away from a watering hole where wild elephants wandered freely. Imagine eating, drinking and sleeping whilst these massive animals move silently around the campsite. Everyone fell in love with Elephant Sands. With nothing around but wilderness it certainly felt a long way from home.
Asia is more about culture than wildlife. However, Australia is known for its Koala, Kangaroo, Wallaby, Snakes, Spiders and other native species. Koala are overpopulated in certain areas and are destroying the local fauna by feasting on gum and eucalyptus trees.
I have come to realise, providing there is no lasting effect on the local environment, wild animals should be left to roam freely in their natural habitat.
Countries and Cities
Every country and its capital city had its own unique characteristics. This is no more obvious when comparing Botswana, with its easy going cities and vast areas of wilderness to historic, cultural and touristy Cambodia.
In Hanoi, I took my life into my hands trying to cross the road avoiding hundreds of motorbikes carrying water bottles, children and live pigs amongst other things.
Sydney felt too similar to home, lacking in any individuality and is one of my least favourite major cities.
Sadly, I learnt whilst travelling through various countries that there is still civil conflict and genocide taking place today. It is evident that public awareness is a necessity in resolving these issues.
In order to get to the Okavango Delta in Botswana I travelled in a mokoro, which is a narrow boat similar to a gondola. It was peaceful traversing our way through waterways surrounded by reeds, but after several hours it got fairly painful having to sit in the same position! Poling is a lot harder then it looks and I was allowed to have a go, but to the delight of my companions I went straight into the reeds!
Whilst in Asia and Australia I travelled in planes, trains, buses, cars, boats, tuk tuk, minivans and even a cyclo. Sleeper trains through southeast Asia were a great way to see the countryside and to interact with locals who ate and slept wherever they could find a space. Tuk tuk were an easy way to get around some of the bustling cities in Asia and reflect the local culture.
Infrastructure and societies vary across the world and I soon learnt western and eastern ways are each unique and acceptable in their own right.
I met people from all over the world including Eritreans, New Zealanders, Aussies, Dutch, Scottish, Taiwanese, Danes, Canadians and many more nationalities. They came from all religions and backgrounds and we shared and discussed each others beliefs and opinions. I learnt from my fellow travellers that every religion is entitled to its own place in society and religious education is vital to encourage cultural awareness.
I had many unforgettable moments, indeed, far too many to mention but here is a particular highlight from each continent.
In Lesotho, where the landscape is mountainous and untouched by tourists I was taken into a village and given the opportunity to meet local children. I was concerned that the authenticity of the local culture would be influenced by tourists, but to my delight the villages were traditional. I will always remember playing with the children in the kindergarten and seeing their faces light up when I showed them their pictures on my camera.
In Cambodia, I was given the chance to stay with a local family, sleeping on a mattress on a wooden floorboard in a traditional house built on stilts. Admittedly it was one of the worst night's sleep I had but the experience was phenomenal. I enjoyed spending time within the community and learnt that people with far less material wealth can be just as happy.
Byron Bay, on the east coast of Australia is a peculiar place where contrasting types of people intermingle, from hippies to families. The vibrant atmosphere was typified by sitting in a bar watching children dance to Bob Marley without a care in the world. The ambience was positive with surfers, backpackers, seniors and people from all different backgrounds laughing and joking with each other.
When things go wrong on a trip they become part of the adventure and can often be the most memorable moments. In Shanghai, I was caught in a typhoon which led to my flight being transferred, delayed and cancelled, resulting in a ten hour stay in the airport.
Below are some more of the 1000 photos I took throughout my travels. I have also created a slideshow containing my top 100 and if you are interested in travel I highly recommend viewing.
Please click on the link below:
A Summer of Travelling: My Slideshow
Finally, if anyone would like to get in contact with me for advice or further information on where I have been please send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank You for reading my blog, I hope you have enjoyed it.
Left to right:
A baby white rhino and its mother in Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Botswana. This was day one of my African adventure back in March 2012, the first of many wild animals I was going to see.
The Okavango Delta, where I spent two nights camping on a remote island with no facilities, not even a toilet, and surrounded by nothing but nature!
This picture illustrates locals offering food to the monks in Luang Prabang, Laos. This takes place every morning, and is centred around spirituality, whereby an individual must carry out good deeds in order to reach enlightenment.
There are two passes linking Hue and Hoi An. The low route as seen here contains quiet, soft, sandy beaches and the occasional awe-inspiring view. The alternative is the mountainous way which became famous in BBC TV's Top Gear.
Left to right:
Tsitikama National Park is located on the wild coast in South Africa and was where I first sighted whales. I went on an exhuasting three-hour trek with my guide, but the astonishing views made it worthwhile.
On a day trip from Luang Prabang I was taken to these beautiful waterfalls. Cascading down several levels and with crystal blue water it is unsurprising that they have become popular with tourists.
The best place I visited in Sydney was Watson's Bay as few tourists journey across on the ferry. It contains arguably some of the top beaches in the city and is without doubt the best place to see the city's skyline.