Two Guys, Bitching

It's not all idyllic beaches. And it shouldn't be. All those glossy magazines aimed at people who collect beautiful beach destinations and pretentious lists of the world's best this and that (and you know who you are Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler and Islands) aren't for people who are out to see the world as it is.

It's refreshing to have run across two seperate blog posts this past week that run counter to the cliché. In Heaven and Hell in the Phi Phi Islands, Patrick Smith takes to task a lovely spot on the Andaman Sea that he writes has been ruined by backpackers.

I'm sure he's right. We passed through Phi Phi in 1995 and completely loved it. But even in 1995 the little isthmus of land adjacent to the arrival docks was showing signs of coming ruin. Smith suggests that in the intervening fifteen years, Thai tourism officials have used the light touch that has made Pattaya all that it is today. In 1995, at least, Phi Phi was beautiful:

Phiphi

The other refreshingly honest article is called The Tragedy of Nepal 2011, in which Andrew Hyde finds "a developing nation with deep problems becoming worse by the month with tourism hastening the poisoning of the well." We writes that "A deep depression hit me about an hour into my visit to Nepal and lasted for the first two weeks."

We've been in Nepal twice. The first time we were charmed by the country but alarmed by the pollution that hung over the Kathmandu valley. The second time we stayed at Nagarkot (described this way, "At an elevation of 2,195 meters, it is considered one of the most scenic spots … renowned for its sunrise view of the Himalaya including Mount Everest as well as other snow-capped peaks of… eastern Nepal.") and never saw a single mountain through the haze.

Everyone knows the developing world has its problems. Seeing them shouldn't ruin your travel experience. To the contrary, when you're back home it's most rewarding to have gone and seen and to be able to understand. I salute Patrick Smith and Andrew Hyde for their honesty.

(On the other hand, if I picked one of those expensive, delicious Aman Resorts (1, 2) out of one of those glossy magazines, I wouldn't want it to rain while I was there, either.)

See the Thailand Gallery and the Nepal Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

 

 

From the Eventual Book: Blazing Across Tibet with Noodle Boy

Got a long story for you today. As
we continue
proofreading and polishing up the eventual book Common
Sense and Whiskey, 
we're posting the
chapters here. Previous entries: Greenland, Patagonia,
Sri Lanka, Tasmania,
Paraguay,
Climbing Mt. Kinabalu
and Cambodia. Today we're Blazing Across Tibet with Noodle Boy. Click the photos for larger versions.


Potala

Ashray Raj Gautam waited in the dark before dawn. Men worked under the hood of his Toyota Corolla while we stuffed our things in its trunk. We pushed the car down the hill to get it started, and little Gautam took us to a town called Banepa, north of Kathmandu. Mirja bought junk food, I bought cheap Indian whiskey, and Gautam disappeared.

We waited for a long time, and when Gautam came back he had a confession. He did a sheepish, dusty little shuffle.

“We came here with no fan belt.”

He was sure we could get one in Banepa but he couldn’t find one.

“Excuse me sir, we have to wait for new car from Kathmandu one hour.” He went to find a phone.

So we were off, sort of, driving from Kathmandu to Lhasa. Our Tibet travel permits would be waiting at the border. The fellow who booked us said don’t bring pictures of the Dalai Lama (I had five), and don’t be surprised if the police follow you – they’re not too used to private visitors. 

Continue reading

Finding the Remotest Place on Earth

Mg20227041.500-1_1000 Surprising results in the article Where’s the remotest place on Earth? in New Scientist magazine summarized by this map: “less than 10 per cent of the world’s land is more than 48 hours of ground-based travel from the nearest city.”

Having traveled between Kathmandu, Nepal and Lhasa, Tibet (Tibet, like Greenland, looks very remote on the map), I’d note that the “ground-based travel” the article refers to must be by big, hearty vehicles.

Leaving Kathmandu by LandCruiser, we arrived at Xigatse, Tibet’s second city, on the third day.

There’s a larger map alongside the article itself.

(Map from New Scientist magazine.)

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Fifty Photos: #14

Nepal01


This photo comes from Nagarkot, Nepal. It's today's contribution from the Top Fifty Prints collection at EarthPhotos.com. Get top-notch professional 8×12 Glossy & Matte prints of any of the Top Fifty Prints for just $11.50 at EarthPhotos.com.

*****

We left from Nagarkot bound for Lhasa, Tibet.

Ashray Raj Gautam waited in the dark before dawn. Men worked under the hood of his Toyota Corolla while we stuffed our things in its trunk. We pushed the car down the hill to get it started, and little Gautam took us to a town called Banepa, north of Kathmandu. Mirja bought junk food, I bought cheap Indian whiskey, and Gautam disappeared.

We waited for a long time, and when Gautam came back he had a confession. He did a sheepish, dusty little shuffle.

“We came here with no fan belt.”

He was sure we could get one in Banepa but he couldn’t find one.

“Excuse me sir, we have to wait for new car from Kathmandu one hour.” He went to find a phone.

So we were off, sort of, driving from Kathmandu to Lhasa. Our Tibet travel permits would be waiting at the border. The fellow who booked us said don’t bring pictures of the Dalai Lama (I had five), and don’t be surprised if the police follow you – they’re not too used to private visitors.

Continue reading our short story Blazing Across Tibet with Noodle Boy. See also the Nepal Gallery and the China Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.var addthis_pub="libsmr"; var addthis_brand = "CS&W";

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