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MY NEW EBOOK:
A Love Letter to Malaysian Borneo. Or, can this travel writer be green? ($us4.99 from all ebook sellers)
Fiji - boutique cruise (May 2015)
Melbourne (February 2015)
Tasmania (February 2015)
Florida (June/ July 2015
Georgia (July 2015)
California (July 2015)
Sarawak, Malaysia (August 2015) Rainforest World Music Festival
Dubai (October 2015)
Oman (October 2015)
Northland, New Zealand (Jan 2016)
& MORE POSTS TO COME FROM
Kapiti Island (NZ)
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Opposite the infamous Tong Sleng prison, amid the dust, heat and noise of Phnom Penh, I found an oasis of green and peace. The Bodhi Tree Guesthouse and Café have welcomed people for meals since 1998 and for the past three years (written early 2000’s) have also had guest accommodation. The ten rooms are individually decorated with traditional Cambodian materials: all are extremely tasteful and most have an en-suite.
I know the food is great, not only because I tried it, but also because some 70% of their customers are locals who eat there .
The main idea of the Bodhi Tree, as well as being commercially viable, was to give a comfortable working space for young Cambodians who find themselves in challenging circumstances.
I talked with a young man who has worked there for two years.
‘I could find another job with more money but it would not be good like here’ he says ‘I like to stay here. Everyone is friendly and all are equal. I have learnt so much. Before I worked at my Auntie’s shop and could speak some English but I did not understand anyone talking it. The accent was too hard – now I can talk to many people.’ He continues ‘I want to study management. My boss wants me to help others improve too. We only have people here who have a good attitude.’
Another young man tells me he has worked there for five months and that it was ‘ . . . a good place to work. I get two meals a day and it is a nice place to be. People are kind to me and I am learning many things. I stay in a house with some of the others who work here’ He also told me the restaurant was named after the tree in the story of how Buddhism started. (See sidebar)
The cook, who has cooked for three years, produces wonderful meals. She had been a cleaner at the Bodhi Tree before learning to cook and now her menu and skills could be used at any international restaurant she chose to work at. Along with the Asian and continental breakfasts from the kitchen, these became my favourites during my stay:
- Slow roasted honey and cinnamon Asian pears – topped with fresh blue cheese and walnut – served with balsamic vinegar.
- Red bean and steamed spinach salad with black pepper grilled bread with grated Parmesan and summer vinaigrette.
- Spanish potato omelette served with tomato, olives, and mint salad and garlic bread.
After a week of travelling on the back of a truck in the remote north-east of the country, being served these, while sitting on cane furniture, leaning against silk cushions, under a Bougainvillea tree in an outdoor room, and with a Buddha gazing serenely on the scene, was heavenly.
Surrounded by the delightful artwork, birds of paradise, orchids, lotus buds, and other floral arrangements or plants it was hard to imagine the horrors that had occurred right across the road in the prison S 21. (See sidebar 2 below)
Note: I wrote this many years ago and have just refound it!
Sidebar 1. (As told to me by one of the young workers at Bodhi Tree )During the 16th century, in what we now call Nepal, Prince Siddhartha Gautama became curious about what life was like outside his comfortable court existence. When he saw people suffering it caused him great pain and he decided to alleviate their suffering.
Giving up his comfortable life, and his wife and child, he set out to study various religions for the answers.
After some time he adopted a life of self denial and fasting until, on the verge of death, he realised that this was not the way to end suffering: in fact he was perpetuating it.
During this time he was meditating under a Bodhi tree and this was where he received the revelations which led to his enlightenment. These were on three successive nights: on the first night he saw his former lives pass before him; on the second he came to understand the cycle of life death and rebirth, and on the third night the four holy truths of suffering.
Despite receiving enlightenment he chose to remain on earth and help others.
Toul Sleng (known in the Pol Pot years as S-21 or Security Office 21) is now The Museum of Genocidal Crimes. This was Angkor’s’ primary security institution: designed for the interrogation and extermination of anti Angkor elements. Originally a high school (Ponhea Yat) and built in 1962 it was enclosed with corrugated iron and electrified barbed wire during the Khmer rouge regime. Prisoners came from all over the country, all walks of life and included different nationalities including British, American Australian and new Zealand.
Over 12, 000 people were killed at S-21. While in the cells prisoners were shackled to iron bars and on arrival had been photographed and details of their life recorded.
The museum is not only a reminder of Cambodia’s very recent history, but also serves as a warning about how badly very ordinary human beings can treat each other.
Off out for a day tour with Grayline (Melbourne, Australia) as well as visiting a wildlife sanctuary and riding the Puffing Billy, we had food in many ways, including for some fellow passengers feeding birds.
Interestingly the chef at our dinner stop -‘for the best roast beef you will ever have’ our driver had told us – insisted that the alcohol in the jus would have been ‘cooked out’ – an old chefs myth that’s repeated all the time so I was not surprised she didn’t know. (See here for the facts from the US Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data Laboratory which calculated the percentage of alcohol remaining in a dish – based on various cooking methods)
Interesting stats (June 2015) about where my readers have come from – in order of numbers … thanks to you all!
|United Arab Emirates|
|Hong Kong SAR China|
It seems there’s no universally accepted definition of ecotourism, and there are considerable overlaps in the meanings. It’s perhaps the most over-used and misused word in the tourism industry – often deliberately misused for marketing purposes.
Hapeta says in it, “I’m a self-taught writer, not a journalist, or an ecologist. This is not a scientific paper with lots of facts and figures, merely the musings about green issues by a traveller who wants to walk as lightly as possible on Earth”
She uses her trips to Malaysian Borneo as a way of exploring the issues. She also says she is “Time-rich, I’m a slow traveller, so stay longer in more places than most, trying to absorb the culture and flavours, to sit and watch people. It also means that although I don’t always sign up for an expensive eco-tour, I do try to practise the principles of ecotourism.”
This small book starts with her surrounded by noisy, diesel-fumed boats, nudging each other, racing their engines, drivers manoeuvring so their passengers get the best view. It made her wonder “can a travel writer, or any traveller, really be green – or is this just an oxymoronic dream, given the air miles needed to get to destinations?”
In this essay-cum-travel memoir she considers how green she was, or wasn’t, while exploring this ‘seething hotspot of biodiversity’ of an island. (Quote: Planet Earth. BBC TV).
She obviously agrees with Malaysia’s tourism tagline. ‘Malaysia – truly Asia’ and this booklet is a good introduction to the island of Borneo and green travel issues around the world.
This book has been entered in the annual Malaysian Tourism Awards (2014/15)
The Fiji Princess, which I sailed on last month, is about to be part of one of the greatest mysteries of all time. With sixty guests on board, plus the crew, the catamaran becomes part of the “Voyage in Search of Amelia Earhart“.
Earhart,(1897-1937) was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and was an early supporter of the USA Equal Rights Amendment.
During her attempt to circumnavigate the world in 1937 she disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean and fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day.
Talking with some of the crew about their upcoming voyage to Tahiti it was obvious they had not realised the historic significance of being involved in the possible finding of her plane.
The Captain told me he would be on board for the thousand-mile journey but would not be in charge as the open, international waters require higher qualifications than he has.
One day, deciding not to go snorkeling on one trip out from the boat, especially as manta-ray had not appeared I sat in the little boat and chatted with two of the crew as they followed the snorkelers while they explored a reef.
Imagine being part of history I enthused, fancy being able to tell your grandchildren “I was there when they found Amelia Earhart’s plane.”
We also talked rugby and dreams of the future. Jona tells me he comes from the last island in the Fiji chain of islands and its nickname is ‘little New Zealand’ as it’s the closest to NZ. He also tells me he supports the NSW Waratahs as he has a cousin in the team.
He other young man, Colin, had been a carpenter before joining the Princess some three years earlier, and was studying to further his career: dreams of being the Captain of an even bigger vessel than the Princes is in his future.
Another topic I bought up was my concern about bread being fed to fish at Nanuya Lailai Island, that bread is not good for the fish. I suggested that they (i.e. the company buy) have fish food for them.
Although ,as Dan, a marine biologist who came on board to talk about corals and the local reefs, said ‘I’ve bought this up often but nothing has changed – however, I’d rather them feed the fish than kill them.”
Back to Amelia and the Princess, this month (June 2015) a research vessel will investigate the area with a remotely operated vehicle, while divers will search the surrounding reef for other possible bits of wreckage and other researchers will scour the island for remains of a possible campsite.
I hope the crew of the Fiji Princess will be able to tell their grandchildren ‘I was there’.
Visiting the First Landing Resort in Fiji was an unexpected bonus after cruising on the Fiji Princess. It’s a lovely resort with many levels of accommodation and it appealed to me: unpretentious and friendly. Check out their website as there are some luxurious parts within the resort to stay also – including having your own pool.
But an even bigger bonus for me was the Chef’s Tasting Selection after a kodoko (Fijian raw fish) making lesson. Without a word of exaggeration it was the tastiest time I have had for a long time. I wish my photos did the six plates justice: the tempura coral trout was the prettiest, most impressive, dish I’ve seen: why is it food that looks so good to the eye fails the lens test?
Let your taste buds imagine what mine had, and, if you get to Fiji make sure you have a meal at the First Landing Resort – make sure you tell them the KiwiTravelWriter sent you.
While many on the day tour I took (Bruny Island Safaris) wanted to see a white kangaroo – they, like animals everywhere, refused to turn up for us to see. We did learn there is no such species as an albino kangaroo, they are simply variants within the normal species of kangaroos and an albino can occur in any species of kangaroo red or grey kangaroo, wallaby or a pademelon.
The tour is an eclectic mix of food, nature, and history. At the top of the Bruny Island Neck Game Reserve we see a monument to an Aboriginal woman, Truganini, and on my return home I did a little research.
Firstly, Bruny Island is called Lunawanna-alonnah in the native language and
Truganini is said to have been born around 1812, a Nuenone woman.
The arrival of Europeans brought violence, brutality and disease to her world and she had two alternatives – adapt or die.
Like much of history there are conflicting opinions about the veracity of her story. Nevertheless, her history sounds appalling: she was the daughter of an elder of the Nuenone people; saw her mother stabbed to death by whalers and her sisters abducted by sealers. It doesn’t finish there. Her uncle was shot, her husband-to-be was murdered by timber-workers who cut off his hands and left him to drown before she was repeatedly raped. And still it continues, her brother was killed and her step-mother kidnapped by escaped convicts and her father died within months. She’d lost her entire family.
The Nuenone people, a band of the south-east tribe have connections with Lunawanna-alonnah (Bruny Island) and the D’Entrecasteaux Channel which separates it from Tasmania’s mainland. The first white settlers landed in Tasmania in 1803 and by 1836 the surviving first Australians were thought to be about 300. Another estimate says only 150. Either way the result is a humanitarian nightmare. Most of this information gleaned from www.Wonthaggihistoricalsociety.org.au
Here are few photos from the most enjoyable day …. esp as we were all picked up and dropped off at our Hobart accommodation
Another story I’ve written about Bruny Island include cheese, oysters and berries