Travel Writing Competition 2011 Entries

A break in the haze

You'd have thought the gnarled, snaggle-toothed old man in his tiny wood-and-tin shack was several days' trek from the nearest village, such was the aura of isolation about the place.

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A breath-taking Amazon Experience

My passion for travel and my love for new things, saw me take a big step in my life, when I started to live life to the full. To take each day as it comes and to experience life to the max!

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A Cambodian Road Trip

“Time to go” the small, sparkly eyed Cambodian known quite traditionally as ‘Jim’ hollers at us, whilst plucking not one but both of our ridiculously heavy backpacks up onto his tiny shoulders.

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A copshop cuppa

Loitering outside the austere concrete monolith that were the police headquarters, instinct told me we should be lying low. Instead, we were trying to draw attention to ourselves while hopping around on the...

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A Deep Appreciation of the Last Frontier

Visiting Alaska has always been a dream of mine. So when I had the opportunity to go on a work-paid trip for one week, I was ecstatic.

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A Flea in the Ear at Anjuna Market

Anjuna market in Goa was very different to belly surfing off Candolim’s tourist beach and I could feel my boyfriend’s, “I told you so” look, bore down the top of my head.

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A Fresh Powder Day in the Japanese Alps

There’s nothing like waking up to the sound of silence…the sound of a fresh snowfall. That’s how I feel as I hurriedly jump out of bed and onto the chairlift taking me up to the top of Happo Mountain.

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A Goatly Encounter

The goat turned its head and looked at me. It was small for a goat, black, with dainty little hoofs. Its eyes, however, were like all goats’ eyes – yellow and evil. It was perched on a small wooden trolley in the middle of...

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A Laotian New Year

“So what’s so special about Pak Beng that we have to spend a night there then, genius?”

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A Lasting Harvest

The vines clung to the trellis in their last attempt for salvation. So heavy with fruit they hung, enduring their labor pains, thirsty for one more day of sun. The final days of August revealed scorched...

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A Manobo Morning

“Eat more!” I laughed and took another spoonful of rice, vainly fighting off the hungry ants who were sharing my plate. Breakfast in Tagpo had an air of busyness. Far away from the sticky humidity...

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A Meeting of Compatriots in a foreign land, rich in cultural allusions

Dear me, that I have to recount my traveling adventures in Italy, along with my erstwhile friend Mr. Nikolaou (un ami de rencontre).

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A memorable encounter in Antigua and Barbuda

Walking back along the warm sand covered beach I felt down, despite my beautiful surroundings.

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A Place To Be

South Africa was my dream tour destination and when an opportunity to visit one of its luxurious five star resorts presented itself, I couldn’t wait.

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A rainforest rendezvous

We don't need the caffeine on offer at Don Pedro's; adrenaline is already running high, like the Penas Blancas river itself, swollen after days of rain and littered with broken branches some of which...

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Africa song

The sun sets quickly in Kenya, like a weary child nodding once, twice, before surrendering to the night. On the Masai plains, where the world seems both older and somehow more wild, darkness comes like a thief.

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An Encounter in the Desert

A stream was the last thing we had been looking for in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Expected or not, there it was, and our mini-van was stuck right in the middle of it...

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As in villages the world over

Rogbonko Village Retreat was the furthest inland that I would venture on my trip to Sierra Leone, 4 hours and a world away from Freetown’s noisy gridlocked traffic, from the street-sellers of wares ranging from imitation...

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As we exit the minibus

As we exit the minibus, a heavily Cuban-accented voice says, “You go. Down step.”

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BANG! BANG! BANG!

We lay in our beds trembling as the door to our room was vehemently attacked from the outside. Images of *Hostel *and *Taken* flashed through my mind and Liam Neeson’s words echoed in my ears...

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Blinded by the city of light

She had an innocently angelic complexion, juxtaposed by the crimson vivacity of her Parisian smile. A beauty, lips gilded by the Montmartre sun and a countenance that had the power to intrigue.

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Budapest to Sofia in the twilight hours

After being warned that an evening as a lone traveller on the night train from Budapest to Sofia was inadvisable I had been sure to book a private cabin.

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Buttered And Smoked, An Odd Ethiopian Beauty Treatment

A year ago I visited the Afar tribe in Ethiopia. My local guide, Firew, took me into a small, dim reed hut, where inside I could make out a baby lying on a stick and goatskin bed...

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Cheese hats in Green Bay

“You won’t get a room,” Brenda says, shaking her head. She taps her immaculate red nails on the steering wheel and, for the first time since getting in the cab, her smile wanes.

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Cheetahs and Trucks

It must have been day four or five, though I’m not really sure. I was on top of a lorry, sitting on a three-inch wide metal bar that formed part of the frame over the top of the goods below.

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Courage to walk

You can travel the world and see so many different wonderful things but sometimes you need something to put it into realisation. Coming back from travelling I got my realisation by saying “Back...

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Crossing Over

As soon as we had crossed into Algeria, it was clear that something wasn’t right. Our shared taxi was slowing down and speeding up, and staggering from side to side like an overloaded, drunken donkey.

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Crouching Tiger, Broken Camera

It was still early morning in the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan but just thirty minutes after leaving the hotel we had struck gold. Gold and black actually. None of us expected to see a tiger so...

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Curse Of The Sea Gypsy

Well, er, the problem was, I thought I saw a real live mermaid. Get that? Loping on Bali’s Lovina beach one day, I came across a troglodytic Indonesian man...

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Defying Gravity

I couldn't even remember who had suggested this crazy idea. At that point, I didn't care. I could feel my breakfast from two hours ago sitting heavily in my stomach. God, was it only two hours ago?

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Delight in Durbar Square

My first impressions of Kathmandu were nothing to write home about. Scenes of suicidal drivers hysterically tooting loud horns, buffalos crossing the road and open sewars reeking of stale urine did very little to...

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Desert Angel

Kayenta, Arizona, with a population of less than 5,000 sprang up from the desert floor, a brief dusting of small, rundown buildings as we whizzed through the Arizona landscape on our journey home from Santa Fe.

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Dining Roma Style Grazie!

My husband and I went on a Bus Tour through Europe, and we finished off our holiday in Rome, staying another 10 days...

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Down and out in Dharamsala

My calves were stuck to the mat and my back felt broken beyond repair. Rivulets of sweat gathered in the wrinkles of my forehead and my cheeks shivered with the strain. I focussed on the window but the...

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Encounter with The Beast

“The Hilux can be temperamental, the electrics need some work, but it’s the farm workhorse.” Isaac’s words rang in my ears.

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Encounters with the boss

‘And where’s that?’ was the most frequently encountered response to my saying I was to travel to Gabon. Over months of studying ill-drawn and out-dated maps I had narrowed the answer to the geographically...

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Everything stops for tea!

Klaus would sit still for hours. It became a game to see if he moved, like spot the difference. He would stare straight ahead, his hand resting on an ebony walking stick. Despite the stifling heat, he wore a navy blazer...

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Finding Culture in Barcelona

“When in Barcelona!” “What?” I snapped. “You know, like ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do…’” “But we’re not in Rome. That’s not the saying.” “Yeah, but I think it applies to wherever.”

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Friendly France

“Um... Where are we?” I wondered out loud. We'd been walking up and down a little side street for a while, utterly lost. After arriving at the Gare de l'Est train station in Paris, we had taken the Metro to...

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Friends I cant wait to meet

Sometimes when I am on my way to a new place, I have a little fear and a little sadness thinking about things and people I have left behind. The nostalgic wrench can be quite consuming and can easily overpower...

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Giving a lecture in a new Shunyi hotel

As with most opportunities and experiences in China, there is an element of just run-with-it and smile and this was pretty much the job specification for my job, as a 22 year old customer services...

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Gunpowder on the rocks in Colombia

Our taxi pulls up in a narrow, dimly lit street next to a decrepit concrete building covered in graffiti – our destination. We step out onto the urine-streaked road and take in our surroundings...

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Happy Birthday

The Summer of 2000 was not a good one for Memorable Travel Encounters. At least not pleasant ones, at least not at my airline, where the pilots and management locked horns in a labor dispute that made a mockery...

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Havana bad experience

We must’ve stuck out like a sun-deprived thumb, my boyfriend and I as we walked through the streets of Havana at eight am, unnaturally alert.

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Himalayan Hermit

Pilgrims cradling heavy baskets followed the steep trail up to a grassy knoll for the annual Drak Yerpa Festival. Red robed monks chanted a puja while extended families pitched tents embroidered by hand with sacred...

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I love it here

“I love it here,” said the old American lady, “this is the 3rd time I have visited.”

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I Will Not Forget

I will not forget.....the sweet Alphonso mango. I cannot forget…..children selling wares everywhere. I find it hard to forget…..open spaces becoming homes and toilets.

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In Search of Dugong or exceeding expectations in Mozambique

My husband and I have come to Mozambique in search of the rare, almost extinct dugong but what we found was so much more fulfilling and exciting that the dugong search has become just one more thing to do...

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Kathmandus Finest

For within each of us lies a tale, some tell of fairies and headless horsemen and others scream of injustice and oppression.

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La Vida Loca; travel encounter

Mexico Valle Nacional at four in the morning was silent save for the chirping of a cicada and a dog barking in the distance. We cycled south over a mine field of deep rain-filled potholes and crossed the Cosomoloapan River.

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Lifes a Picnic

Kyrgyzstan is a once-in-a-lifetime destination with spectacular mountain scenery and outstanding trekking but it’s the people who make it an experience you’ll never forget.

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Lights, Camera, Action!

I entered a tiny room alongside a dozen fellow ‘actors’ to meet the casting director of an Indonesian coffee commercial - ‘Kopiko’.

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Meeting Sonu

Sonu, unpretentious and hushed in the delivery of his sentences, hoped I found Kathmandu to be homely.

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My Unforgettable Holiday to Hong Kong

In January 2011, I went to Hong Kong with my mom. The weather was very cold. Me and my mom forgot to bring out winter coat so we were freezing. I went to Disneyland for the first time. I was very very happy.

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NeilIsland, The Andaman Islands

The sea was warm and calming like a luxurious bath. It lapped up against my skin and cooled me as I floated there on the surface. The sun beat down, scorching my skin.

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Oh Chiang Mai Goodness

A 26 hour Tuk-Tuk, boat, bus, train and van ride was all that separated Koh Tao from Thailands second city Chiang Mai. We headed north to see off the drinking as our livers were becoming as weak Monty Burns after a workout.

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Old Gold

By the time the conquistadors arrived in Peru to conquer the Inca Empire civil war had depleted the reserves of the Inca’s army. Pizzaro took the Inca’s ruler (Atahualpa) captive and pillaged the capital city...

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On the fringe of Thaipuam in Batu Caves

Couldn't sleep on Thursday morning. Went to Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur at about 5 a.m. Left Rupert and Paddy in the hotel. The limestone is said to be 400 million, yes 400 million, years old.

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One-Man NGO

I’m on a volunteering stint in Vientiane, and today I found myself on the crumbling campus of the National University of Laos. I was waiting outside for my boss when a middle-aged man stepped off of the road and...

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Palolem Paradise: Back to Basics

It was ten o’clock in the morning and already 27C. We clambered off the so called luxury sleeper bus bleary eyed and hungry. The only thing frequenting the hazy beach was the gaunt looking cows that...

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Petanque and Pink Paper

High in the mountains of La Balagne in northern Corsica, the only people in a hurry are reckless Italian tourists in sports cars. In the timeless village of Ville Di Paraso...

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Proper Parenting, With Lizards

Here we go again: grandpa's going to scruff us and shove a raw lizard in our mouths. Craig laughs at the memory, but he's quoting it as an example that now, as a father and grandfather himself, he's...

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Pump It!

It was my last day in Ilmenau, more than 10.000 km away from my hometown Jakarta, Indonesia. I have been there for nine days to participate in International Student Week in Ilmenau, held by Technische...

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Pura Vida

On my last morning in Costa Rica, I found myself in a bit of a pickle. Deanna, Jeannie and I had arrived in Manuel Antonio three days before, our last stop in the country that we had fallen head over...

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Sacred Sand

The crisp wind whips around my body as I look out onto the ocean that lies before me. Closing my eyes, I hear peace and feel the serenity that encompasses this sacred sand.

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Scaring the demons

In Delhi the tempo increased as the third night of Diwali -the Indian festival of light - approached. There was excitement in the air and a buzz of expectation.

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Singapore Stopover

Singapore is a sterile city: antiseptic and unabiding, and runs like a well-oiled unbreakable system. Everyone goes about their business happy or not, everything in place, sky-scrapers look down...

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Snake Village

Snake Village. To some, it sounds like hell, to others, the least imaginatively named area in the world, but to us, it represented the ultimate test of our manliness. Just getting to the village was hard...

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Southern Man

Ah the South, with its slow paced glamour and whispered secrets, playing hide-and-seek amongst the sigh of Magnolia blossoms. I was in Charleston, imagining shades of Scarlet O’ Hara, elegant plantations and mint juleps.

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Tear-Stained Message

The Steward gently shook me, requesting I turn off my electronic device for landing. I slowly gained consciousness and massaged the kink in my neck.

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Thai food, in a shack, up a mountain, in a thunderstorm

A part of a two-week road trip around the USA we found ourselves at the top of a mountain in the middle of Tennessee. After chatting, ice tea, cookies and a hike we decided we needed some food.

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That was really something man

“Francis,” I whispered across the hillside. At least I think I whispered.

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The Answer is Blowin in the Wind

They whistled and giggled in gay abandon, like girls not yet out of adolescence, although their well-developed womanly forms clearly indicated shapely specimens of that exquisite species – French mid-twenties females.

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The Charmer

It’s happening! I am diving in headfirst and embracing, or rather facing, my biggest fear in life. And when I say facing, I don’t mean I woke up this morning and took it upon myself to be courageous and actively...

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The Dolmus

Didim, Altinkum: A magical journey somewhat tainted by erratic driving, continual "salesmen," frequent wisps of cigarette smoke, screaming children (mostly Brits) and sticky, stuffy night temperatures.

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The Face That Launched A Thousand Clouds

Quickly darting through the fiery black sand between a set of dunes I spy you sleeping

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The Greatest Fear, but the Greatest Reward

My entire trip across South Africa had been leading up to this moment. As I treaded across the seemingly precarious metal grate towards the middle of the bridge, my hands trembled nervously while I wondered if I...

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The Host

He slept with the dogs. His name was Willie and no-one seemed to know his last name. He wore nothing but blindingly white Y-Front underpants and he washed in the sea on Portsmouth Beach...

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The Hot Summer

The sense of time is easy to be neglected. Meanwhile, it’s the one aspect of reality that people can’t abandon completely. We count the length of life and become older and older out of hand...

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The Impossible is Possible!

We were coming into land on a bumpy approach, the wings gliding through the turbulent air. Glancing out of the window I saw nothing but darkness and sand; thousands of tiny grains bouncing over the leading edges of...

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The Lofoten Archipelago

We walked through the silent village, the streets covered in wild flowers, the arctic summer light suffusing the sky and sea, low and warm and constant.

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The money exchange in Myanmar

The trials and tribulations of exchanging money in Myanmar (Burma)'Min-gala-ba' beamed our taxi driver with a sky wide smile and bug-eyed enthusiasm. In clear opposition of his perceived natural...

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The Polish Express

One of the driving forces behind inter-railing is the freedom. A single ticket provides you with a sense of freedom, which you inhale at each train station, each platform, with the flickering...

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The Potent Rituals of San Juan Chamula, Mexico

Gasping for air as I enter the sacred church of San Juan Chamula whose intense energy takes my breath away.

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The President and I

I attempted in vain to move my blazer hem over the mayonnaise stain that now marked my lower crotch on my beige chinos. The President offered his hand:

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The priceless emerald isle

My idea of heaven is to play golf on the West Coast of Ireland in mid-summer. Except the last time I tried it, I was battered by 30mph winds and horizontal rain that stung my face like miniature darts thrown...

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The shadow of the son

Only fifty years ago Koh Samui was a very different island.

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The Soul of a People

The most fascinating person I ever met was a village.

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The Spiders Web

Sozzled, pissed, twisted: just some of the words which could be used to describe my state when I first met Pablo. I had just been told that by the volunteer organisation for whom I had flown all the way to Nicaragua...

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The Tragedy of Chernobyl

The three of us were about to enter the highly restricted exclusion zone around Chernobyl's reactor. Myself, a science teacher friend, and our guide - Yuri, in his noisy Lada, complete with pine cone air freshener...

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The Unique of Dayak Kanayatn

The sound of gongs sounded from the speakers on the left and right betang (long house) in the hill of village of Sadaniang, Sadaniang District, Pontianak Regency, West Borneo, Indonesia, on Wednesday, May, 4th, 2011.

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Three Girls And A Combi

Last summer I went to Zambia and Botswana for an adventure trip with an Italian tour operator. Unfortunately after three days I was already fed up with my noisy and litigious fellow travellers. Plus, I...

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Tickling A Tarantula Up The Tambopata

The business end of the snake was already inside a hole in the bank but enough of it was still sliding across the path, shiny black in the torchlight, to make me to wonder why I had fancied a few days in Peruvian Amazonia.

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To the Bath and Beyond: Exploring Syrias Ancient Hammams

With a single shot fired by a repressive government on a population intent on revolution, the tranquillity and fragile reputation of an emerging travel destination is shattered.

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Toaster Blues

Every hotel that I have ever been to, from the most opulent five star paradise (now and again) to the down-at-heel, next to the railway station, flea-pit (in my back-packing days) seems to have one and here in Tenerife...

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Travel To Spain; My Unforgettable Experience

My travel to Spain to see the historical places and other Spain attractions was not only a dream come true but turned out to be the most unforgettable experience while on travel abroad of this island...

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Travelling through the Axis of Evil

I was travelling solo through the Middle East, and all my family and friends were worried about my travels to Syria. Living in Canada they had all read about Syria as ‘the axis of evil’ – a place of horrors.

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What Lies Beneath

Parisians are going about their daily Parisian type things. Such favourite French pastimes like talking politics (loudly), drinking coffee from miniature mugs and putting the moves on pavement poodle poo.

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