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Riding the buses » Why travel » Why travel: Because it makes life more interesting

Why travel: Because it makes life more interesting

When your senses are a little dull from the routines of everyday life, catch a plane and in a matter of hours you’ll be in another world, another culture. You can head to San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico’s southernmost state and have dinner with Lacandon Indians at a scientific and cultural institute there. Or how about watching the sun set in the Great Thar Desert on the Pakistani-Indian border, an experience I combined with discussing the pros and cons of arranged marriage with my guide who, I was told, is a prince.

You can go sailing in Halong Bay, a place where the dragon descends into the sea. There are over 3,000 limestone islands in the bay and their shape is such that you’ll feel like you’re sailing around icebergs. There are junks, hand-carved row boats, floating villages, underground caves.

Or walk around Fes, Marrakesh and Essaouia, walled Moroccan cities. In Fes, the walls of the medina are tall and muddy-brown in colour; the streets are narrow and there are no cars, only bicycles and donkeys and scooters driven by reckless young men. In Marrakesh there’s a huge square called Djemaa el Fna with snake charmers and dancing men and souks. The medina in Essaouia has high white walls, the shutters and doors of the houses are painted bright blue, as are the fishing boats that lay in the harbour just outside the walls.

It can be interesting to compare destinations, particularly if you visit them during the same trip. Hong Kong is not far from North Vietnam but the two places are so different. Hong Kong is shiny, clean, efficient, and expensive. There are signs everywhere telling you what not to do:

Do not eat. Fine $…
Do not drink. Fine $…
Do not spit. Fine $…
Do not smoke. Fine $…

North Vietnam lacks the polish of Hong Kong but it has soul. In Hanoi, the polluted streets are filled beyond capacity with motorbikes and you may have to hang onto the street cleaner’s cart as we did to make your way across them. In Hong Kong, I hid my non-digital camera because it made me look like a Neanderthal; in Vietnam I didn’t want to take the camera out because I’d seem too wealthy.

Last month, we were surprised by the turtles that were birthed in the sand by our rented house in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. We held our breath as each one struggled out of the hole and slowly made its way down the beach to the water, then washed back onshore by a wave until finally released to the sea.

Riding the buses makes for an interesting life.

By Sylvia Fanjoy

© Riding the buses 2011

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