Wednesday, 2 January 2013

My Recent Travels

After three months of colour, culture, sunshine and sights, I feel like I've been abruptly dropped back into "the real world" with a rather mournful bump. To be fair, England wasn't exactly showing me it's best side when it welcomed me home. Raindrops on the aeroplane window told me it's been one grey and miserable festive season and, whats more, it's one that looks set to stay whilst I acclimatise to my homeland again.

I have to admit that I feel a little heart broken - I feel as if I have been swept along in a three month love affair with asia, and that it ended all too soon. I'm not even sure I know where to begin, and whether I'll be able to hold back the clichés when I do. You've been warned: read on with a cynical pinch of salt.

Colourful Nepal

Firstly there was Nepal, and yes, I'm going to say it: it stole my heart. Such a spiritual land where every extreme can be found; tropical rain forests, a dusty and chaotic capital and huge, unbelievable mountains. Oh Kathmandu, I never thought I would take to you, but you swept me away in your noisy, polluted arms. I loved the narrow streets, full of music and food and shrines with incense burning and that walking them meant sharing space with baby laden mothers, holy men and cows. An assault to the senses definitely, but so so full of life.

Away from the capital, we explored hill side towns full of cheeky children shouting "Nameste!" to us and pressing palms in front of their faces and Pokhara, a town beside a huge and peaceful lake. A real highlight for me was trekking through the mountain range of the Langtang region, and waking every freezing morning in a different tibetan village, mountains looming all around.

Pokhara

A day hike in the hills.

Next we flew to Thailand. A big contrast from spiritual Nepal, as Thailand is a well trodden country, swept up in the tourism industry - and not altogether in a positive way. But we shied away from the full moon parties, and instead visited the laid back islands of Ko Chang and Ko Yao, where we slept in bamboo huts with no electricity, and found empty stretches of beaches to roam. We celebrated the Loi Krathong festival in Kanchanaburi, where I released a baby terrapin into the river for good luck and we watched lanterns and floating candles lighting up the river kwai. Oh and the food. I ate a coconut curry so good it nearly reduced me to tears - and I can't blame the chilli for that.

The beautiful island of Ko Yao.

Lastly there was Burma. Before my trip, and whilst reading vast amounts of travel blogs, I never really got why writers gushed so much about the people of countries they visited. Silly, I know (and I can hear well-travelled folks screaming "Noooo!" at me). I suppose I'm not really a people person, in crowds I keep my head down, I am shy and often inside my own head. And surely one travels to see the landscape of a place, first and foremost? I couldn't be more wrong. It is all about the people, and the people of Burma will stay in my memory forever.

Fishermen on Inle Lake

Steeped in tradition, and yet so very welcoming to us western visitors, the Burmese overwhelmed me with their smiles, their beauty and their kindness. Just as an example, my sister and I were sampling some fried quails eggs cooked on the street, and a burmese man walks over, with a cloth for us to wipe our hands, and two cups of water. A small gesture, but one that I marvelled at - would an English person ever go out of their way like that, for a complete stranger? I doubt it.

In Burma we saw some amazing sights; ancient temples, floating villages, breath taking beaches - all of which I felt so lucky to be visiting whilst tourism is still minimal.

We had this ancient temple to ourselves all morning. We climbed to the top.

Bagan at sunset.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my travels. I tried to keep it as short and sweet as possible (but couldn't quite refrain from clichés), and hope it hasn't been too much off topic - this is an illustration blog after all.

Regardless, my travels have inspired me and inspiration is so important for an illustrator, so I'm going to post this here and say: if you are ever so lucky to find opportunity to travel - grab it greedily and say goodbye to the grey, if only for a little while.

NB: Photos taken by my very talented sister (I take absolutely no credit for them!)