Mongolia – off to the annual cultural festival: Naadam

In 2 weeks’ time I’m off to Mongolia, so have been doing a little research. It seems the Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th century was the largest land empire that ever existed – stretching from Korea to Hungary and most of Asia (not India or Southeast Asia) and it lasted for over a century.

While I’m there I’ll be attending Naadam – an annual, traditional festival: which, in 2010, was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.

I’m looking forward to “the 3 games of men” of Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery. It seems women now take part in the archery and horse racing games and I’m expecting to get some great photos in this, the biggest festival in the Mongolian calendar.

One of the things that confused me about Mongolia were the terms Outer Mongolia, and Inner Mongolia. Wikipedia tells me that Outer Mongolia ( where I will be) is an independent, landlocked democracy, between China and Russia. Inner Mongolia was, or is, the part of the country closest to China and is not really part of the country known as Mongolia. I have no doubt I will be learning a lot in the 10 days I’m there!

I’ll be based in Ulaanbaatar, where about half of the of the 3 million population live, and expect to be posting on Instagram and Facebook (The Travelling Writer) while there – my blogs will follow once I’m back in New Zealand and had digested all I’ve seen and learnt.

What is ecotourism?

Not everyone can travel. Living in New Zealand means we have a better chance than many. We have a far higher rate of people with passports than most countries, and countries which are poorer are much more likely to be visited than to produce travellers.row of travel books

I’m a travelophile. Like Asians need rice, Italians pasta, British curry, Kiwi’s fish and chips: I need to travel. When I travel I feel good and being a traveller who writes means I get to visit where I want to go to and not have to go the flavour of the month.

Sometimes it's hard to be a travel writer with view like this. Not! My view from Doubtless bay Villas
Sometimes it’s hard to be a travel writer with view like this. Not!
My view from Doubtless bay Villas

 

This means I often arrive in places that are not on the tourist trail. I get to be a cultural tourist in that I stay longer in places and get to know people; absorb the local flavour.

This means that although I don’t often sign up for an eco-tour, I practise many of the principles of ecotourism. But what is ecotourism?

My understanding of the word and the concepts behind it are, very briefly, that’s it an activity that has least impact while providing greatest benefits.

Independent travellers are the ones most likely be the closest to being real eco travellers. They leave much of their travel money in the country while those who travel on tours have often paid for their whole trip before they leave home – giving very little to the country they are travelling in but adding huge costs – in water, sewerage, rubbish, roads.P1124662 travel tips web

Worldwide many places say they are providing an ecotourism experience but is that really so? It seems that as long as it has a nature component many claim it to be eco-friendly. That has not always been my experience.

Life on a marine reserve sounds wonderful right? A great eco experience? Yes, the natural sites and walks are fantastic; money spent on food and accommodation does stay with the locals providing it. Unfortunately, the big money is creamed the off the islands in diving lessons given by Europeans who come in for the tourist season then leave  – taking the money with them. Because of the lack of a robust infrastructure, the rubbish – that travellers complain about – usually bought to the island by them: water bottles are not refilled, plastic bags abound.

The kiwitravelwriter, arrives on Talang-Taland Island, Sarwawak, Malaysian Borneo. photo by Gustino from Sarawak Tourism Board, who hotested me)
The kiwitravelwriter, arrives on Talang-Taland Island, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. photo by Gustino from Sarawak Tourism Board, who hosted me)

We think of New Zealand as a clean green destination but pollution is not just rubbish on the ground or dirty air. So, are we conservation minded or is it just our low population that produces less rubbish? Have we have sold the visitor a too narrow view of places to visit; given them a list of sights they must see, activities they should take part in? This produces problems such as Milford Sound has. Buses arriving in droves, disgorging visitors (and fumes) to see wonderful pristine sights. An oxymoron? This is not a New Zealand only problem.

It reminds me of Lake Louise in Banff, Canada, where I too was a body disgorged from a bus to see the great views. I have proof that I was there – a photo of me sitting with the lake and mountains as the backdrop – it looks idyllic. However, I know that beside me, waiting for their turn, to record the moment, is another busload of chattering travellers.

eat local
eat local

The problems of being poured into the tourist funnel will continue if we rely on unimaginative travel agents (and of course not all are) and the forceful marketing of those who have invested in areas. While it is more economical for planes and hotels to have us arrive together and stay in the same places it also creates problems for them – not the least is the strong chance of killing the goose that lays the golden egg such as the warning in the child’s story.

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This is not a new problem. Read books written years ago and the same complaints are made. Tell others you are going to Bali (or Timbuktu) and immediately you will be told “you should have gone there ten (2, 5, 50 years ago,) before it was discovered.”

However, help maybe at hand. An organisation called Green Globe 21 is on the rise in New Zealand. Some 200 companies have embraced its ten different indicators for sustainable environmental codes. What is even better is that many local authorities have signed up too. (www.greenglobe21.com)

What can I do? Shop at locally owned places wherever I am; support companies that practice high standards; (e.g. Kiwi Host, Green Globe) are a good start.

Combining the universal codes of pack it in pack it out and take only photos, leave only footprints along with getting off the well-worn tourist trails means I’ll be able to enjoy my travels with a clearer conscience.

A LoveLetter to Malaysian BorneoIf you’re interested in this topic see my small book about travelling in Borneo which looks at some of these issues too.

Wanderlust – a passionate desire!

Do you have wanderlust?  I have and consider it rather like a friendly disease or benign addiction – or are they oxymoronic?

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Maud Parrish 1878-1976 (in Nine Pounds of Luggage) said “Wanderlust can be the most glorious thing in the world. Imagination is a grand stimulating thing, like a cocktail, but to find reality is the full course with champagne”.

As she travelled around the world sixteen times (with very little luggage and a banjo) I imagine she knows all about both wanderlust and reality.

When I read the above quote I wondered, what do those words REALLY mean?  Imagination, wanderlust, reality – they trip off the tongue so lightly and yet maybe when I say I have wanderlust you may not know what I mean, or, when you agree that yes you too have it, maybe the attributes I give it – on your behalf – are way off beam.

Time for some market, or rather word, research: The Oxford Paperback Dictionary & Thesaurus (Oxford.1997) dictionary tells me that wanderlust is an ‘eagerness to travel or wander. Restlessness.’ Yep. Got that.

Christchurch International Airport
Christchurch International Airport

My eagerness takes the form of an obsession with travel programmes on television or radio, travel pages in magazines and press, in fact I even buy magazines with names such as Wanderlust, Sojourney, and NZ Wilderness. Why?  So I can find new and exciting places to visit – places to add to my list – eager to get to places not so well known.  Restless when I feel trapped.

Goal planning, and goal achieving are often different. So often the people who tell me, ‘You’re so lucky,’ also have dreams of travelling. But are they eager enough to do the necessary saving and budgeting at home to reap the benefits of being ‘lucky’ enough to travel?  Usually not.

However I digress, back to the book of words: imagination. This evidently means having a ‘mental faculty of forming images of objects not present to senses.’  Guess that’s me thinking of lazing on an Indian river, or viewing polar bears. Being able to see the dollar or two saved this week as a coffee on the West Bank in Paris. Yes, I have imagination too: imagination that my back will always be able to carry a pack on it and I will stay in good health.

sunset from the Indigo Pearl beach club
sunset from the Indigo Pearl beach club

I also checked wander and lust as separate words and I certainly qualify there. To wander is to ‘go from place to place aimlessly, diverge from the path.’ Well I have done that all my life, and travelling has not changed it at all. I love to get off the beaten track, in fact to be lost is ideal, that’s when the wonderful, the unexpected, the amazing, the different happens. As long as I am found one more time than I am lost, I know all is well.

Lust. Another word close to my heart. My trusty Oxford tells me it’s ‘passionate desire’. Well, been there, done that, still got it, intend to keep it – what else can I say. Passionate for travel, new places, new foods, people, and experiences.

And finally, last on my list of words to check reality.  This seems to be the boring one, the one that people often accuse travellers of trying to escape from. Not so. This is what can separate the traveller (with time) from the tourist (on a schedule) as the dictionary says it is ‘what’s real or exists or underlies the appearances’.

How often I have made some assumptions about people, places, and things, about actions, beliefs, and religions by believing the appearances – what I think my eyes are telling me rather that waiting a little longer and seeing what is real.  We humans love to have order in our lives so make up stories to make sense of things. However, that does not make them real. Knowing the ‘truth’ is like having a secret shared and I value the people who I meet along the way who share their truths, and their realities, with me.

'Have a coffee with me' an old man indicates - I do. Oman.
‘Have a coffee with me’ an old man indicates – I do. Oman.

Nevertheless, ask three people to describe an accident they witnessed and each will be different. We experience things from within our own reality or context.

So do you have the wanderlust? Is your description of it the same as mine? There will be commonalities, and I suspect, for people with the overwhelming desire to wander aimlessly, most will not be seeking a cure.

I agree with you Maud, wanderlust is glorious, stimulating, and it sure does provide the meal of life with champagne-like bubbles.

every page has a tale to tell, a reminder the the tastes, colours, sounds and smells of places
every page has a tale to tell, a reminder the the tastes, colours, sounds and smells of places

 

 

 

How to be a good social media friend. It’s easy peasy – and helpful!

 hh office 2 20160805_133930Here’s a simple message from yet another writer sitting alone in a room: they’re tips on how to be a good Facebook friend, and blog, or another social media, follower. It’s easy peasy and helpful. Firstly, the basics: bloggers love readers who  . ..

 

  • leave a comment
  • click ‘like’
  • award a star or some such thing
  • assign a rating great, poor, fun, informative
  • sign-up to be sent new blogs by email
  • send our blog link to Facebook or Twitter etc
  • answer a question we may have posed
  • recommend the blog to others

It’s often called ‘netiquette’ BUT really is just being a good social networking friend to both the person blogging, or posting on Facebook, and to your other friends too. It’s rare to just ignore something someone says to us – so, me posting on my blogs is me saying something to you.

So how to be that good friend?

Just like all those funny, or cat video clips we watch and repost, it’s really helpful to your writing friend, or photographer, or artist, to repost their work too. Artists and writers need people to read their work or consider the artwork whether this is by pencil, paint or camera, or keyboard.

Another helpful way is to comment on the piece, ask a question, or tag a friend telling them, “hey Pat you will enjoy this” or “how about we go here on our next weekend break Peter”. Your friends will value the fact you were thinking of them, and are introducing them to artists, writers, or bloggers they too can follow, events they could attend, books they may like to read.

So see, it is really easy to be a good friend to your writing friend, your favourite photographer, or local artist – and that tiny commitment will make a huge difference to them, us, me!

Sitting at home – creating without any feedback is difficult, and for travel writers like me, it’s often the interaction I have with my followers that shows tourist destinations or activities that yes, this is a person we should invite to our city, country, or event. The more they can see that people follow me or enjoy my writing the more likely I am to get invitations or commissions to write more for you to read.J

One word of warning though, if you are anything like me, you need to do this instantly you see the blog or Facebook post or it will be gone forever, lost in all our other daily activity and busy minds! This doesn’t have to be a big chore, once a day would be wonderful, or even weekly! Monthly?

And, if you do repost my blog links (or posts) to my pages on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media like StumbleUpon or Instagram I’d be really grateful: so, ‘thank you’ in advance.

And, just for you, here are my social media links – which are you on and I’ll follow you.  Webpage  Facebook  Twitter  Google+ Tumblr  Pinterest  Instagram

HH office

 

 

 

Black flesh chicken and peanut soup

Huasheng Tang, otherwise known as peanut soup, is really popular in Xiamen, as is hailijian, oyster omelette – this is made with sweet potato web 20160530_224150 (1)20160530_224150 (1)flour as well as oysters. This was popular among the group I was travelling with but it was not a taste I acquired.

web 20160530_23163520160530_231635I also tried the sand worm jelly (tusundong), a local delicacy, and although it was not unpleasant I don’t like many jellied dishes, and after reading the article (see link above) about them I’m not sure I would eat them again.

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One of the most interesting dishes (see main photo) was one of black chicken. I thought it had been dyed with perhaps squid ink, but in fact these chickens which apparently originate in Indonesia actually have black flesh, and actually tasted like any other chicken. It was not until my last morning in Xiamen, exploring some local streets near the hotel that I actually saw a black chicken for sale.

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