Posts Tagged ‘travel’

War... it changes people... (into helmets?)

“Bloody, brutal and life changing” they said.  “Changed the face of a generation”.  This is what I was told through film and documentaries about Nam and the 70’s. So was I excited to be going there myself? Was I nervous that I would come back a changed man, that I would be leaving my soul and innocence behind? Perhaps, except I wasn’t going to Vietnam, I was off to NAM-ibia! (An altogether different kind of war).

I arrived on Wednesday morning after catching the 6h30 flight from Johannesburg and was immediately astonished at how boring Namibia was. I’m not sure what exactly gave it away that I wasn’t headed to the Mecca of entertainment. It may have been how everyone would burst out laughing when they asked are you going for “business or pleasure”. It may have been when I was told that I had to go visit some famous sand dunes but it definitely dawned on me when we arrived to see a giant billboard at the Windhoek airport saying “YOU IN NAMIBIA” (welcome to the birthplace of grammar).

Luckily I had decided at that point to simply make up my own “wonderful facts about Namibia” (that may or may not be based on reality) because if I was stuck here I was going to at least make it interesting. The strange thing is that members of my travel party actually believed many of these facts including the following:

Did you know that Namibia has over 7000 varieties of sand?

The streets of Namibia are paved with Dragon Scales.

Namibia brought us some of the biggest fashion breakthroughs such as Camouflaged Evening Wear and the full length Paedo-coat

Believe it or not none of those are true although it would be great if they actually were. Namibia basically reminds me of the Free State in South Africa (which is not necessarily a good thing) except about 20 years ago.

Namibia invented Magic

Did you know the most poisonous variety of Chicken, the “pollo del la muerte” (chicken of death) is indigenous to Namibia

I had my first traditional meal of Mahangu (porridge) and some other things I can’t even hope to pronounce which tasted of salt and regret (and more salt). It was hot, dry and if it weren’t for the fact that I had my imaginary fact book I would probably have lost my mind.

Namibia invented the saying “just desserts” except it was originally “just deserts” which is the dictionary definition of Namibia.

Sadly my visit only lasted a day (sad in that I had plenty more facts to make up), but we were on to greener pastures (not that that’s saying much)

As I sit here at the Namibian “International” Airport getting ready to board through gate “Only” I have to say that Nam certainly did have an effect on me.

Not in the horrific way a generation of young Americans experienced it in the 70’s, but because from this day forward I have never been so proud to be a South African. So next time someone says something bad about South Africa you punch that old lady in the face and you say go to Namibia then! – Land of Sand and Dragons!

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I recently returned from a two week vacation from Thailand hence the reason for no blog updates from April 15th – 30th (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Upon hearing of my vacation people generally ask whether the trip was for “business or pleasure” and for some reason one feels guilty answering the latter given some of the preconceptions about Thailand; particularly, preconceived ideas of the sex trade, lady boys and indiscriminate disregard for the proper use of ping pong balls. How could you blame them, when the capital of Thailand is so provocatively named? I must confess that I had subscribed to many of these preconceptions and had prepared myself to be accosted by sex workers and see lady boys on every corner (when in fact that are only on every alternate corner).

Now having spent some time in this amazing country I’d like to share with you some of my experiences that hopefully will broaden what you know about the former kingdom of Siam.

Upon arriving at Suvarnabhumi International Airport my fiancé and I were immediately faced with the daunting task of trying to direct a taxi driver to our hotel in his broken English and our completely nonexistent Thai. An hour later and 350 bath poorer we arrived at our destination, but not before noticing the manic traffic that is inner city Bangkok. Like a swarm of bees in a hive the streets crawled and buzzed with all manner of vehicular activity; busses, cars, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles the soon to be infamous Tuktuks and several composite variations of vehicle that appeared either to be constructed on the set of Junk Wars or in Salvador Dali’s Garage.

Another thing that you will instantly notice on the streets of Bangkok, is the smells. The streets become an olfactory melting pot of some the best, worst and strangest smells the Western nose has ever encountered. The streets are awash with vendors cooking what I would love to be able to tell you, but I simple do not know. And in that lies half the intrigue. Is it spicy? Is it sweet? Is the reason there is no sign saying what it is because it some sort of taste beyond linguistic confinement (in neither English nor Thai?) Who’s to say, because the better part of valour meant that we decided to get our food from some of the more “established” establishments (read “has a menu with English descriptions”).

While on the subject of food I have to say that Thai food is without equal, there are just so many different flavours and dishes and we were not stretched on our two week stay to find a different dish to try every meal. In fact, given the sheer volume of options, we resorted to sharing meals and ordering two courses in order to experience as much as we could. This statement obviously presumes that you enjoy Thai food otherwise Thailand could be your 9th circle of hell because although you are able to find Western food don’t expect to be amazed by it. We ordered a pizza on one of the evenings (perhaps out of a sense of home sickness or appreciation of the tireless efforts of Western Imperialism) and were completely satisfied in the fact that we would not need to do that again (besides the fact that Western food, be it hamburgers, pizza or similar are without doubt some of the most expensive options on the menu. Obviously the price of nostalgia and a cure for homesickness comes with a price.

This was just a small taste (bad pun intended) of Thailand and I will be sure to keep you informed through future posts…