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It’s now or never

September 20, 2008

Now or never does sound extreme but can it really be that way with travel? When is the best time to travel to those exotic destinations you have longed dreamt about. Leave it too late and you could end up with more than you bargained for:crowds, high prices, enormous “look at me” resorts, noise or worse, political tensions.

Go now and you could have a completely different experience. It’s a difficult decision to make. Most likely it goes on the back burner, too late for today, hmmm lets think about it tomorrow.

Tomorrow can’t wait and I’ll tell you why: change. Going by the head spinning fast paced world we currently live in, situations change all the time. Those exotic destinations come and go, open up and shut down, have democracy one year and suffer a dictatorship the next. And when the country you have longed dreamt about visiting, stabilises, it’s hit face on with development, investors and dare I say package tours, usually all at once.

Of course this is all good news for the economy and locals, superficially. Take some time out to talk with locals and they will often tell you a different story. A story of corruption, greed, decreasing rights and increasing poverty.

One destination that has recently been in the news comes to mind:Tibet. I visited Tibet in 2004, spending almost 3 weeks there looking around. To the naked eye Tibet was in a stage of ‘calm before the storm’. And it had appeared that way for several years before I went. Which is why I went. The Chinese government had recently relaxed its entry into Tibet via China, to independent travellers. You had to pay for an invisible visa, and pretend you came in as part of a tour, but you had access to the kingdom. Not all, but enough. I was glad I went because I learnt more about the situation in Tibet by being there, than I would have by watching or listening to the media reports. In the conversations I had with several Tibetan business owners, I sensed tension in their voices. Yes the Chinese government was injecting money into the Tibetan region, yes they were trying to kick start growth, but at what cost? I asked myself this question in 2004. In 2008 it was answered.

If I hadn’t gone to Tibet, I would have missed visiting places sacred to the Tibetans. Places like Johkang Temple, Barkhor market, places that have unfortunately become victims to the early 08 riots. Wandering around Johkang Temple and Barkhor Market was like stepping into a different world from what I had known. A world where religion meets capitalism, on a small scale. Where Tibetans prayed freely (to the naked eye), and tourists walked around prostrating Tibetans, in awe.

by Cate

by Cate

by Cate

by Cate

In Tibet I did have to set myself rules, rules on where I should and shouldn’t go. I steered away from most of the Chinese part of Lhasa city (it was pretty ugly and noisy) and I felt uneasy about going into the Potala: the Dalai Lama’s residence. I was content to look at it from a distance and dwell on the situation the stood before me.

by Cate

by Cate

Being a curious person by nature I find myself drawn to places like Tibet. If I had an opportunity now I wouldn’t hesitate to venture north of here, Seoul, just to see if little Mr Kim were still alive. When a place has a noticeable calm quality to it, thats when I make the decision to go now, because tomorrow will be too late.

Cambodia…. will have to wait till my next post, I need to ponder my thoughts over a delicious cup of Joe.

Caffeinated Traveller

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4 Comments
  1. Zowie permalink
    September 24, 2008 1:55 am

    I remember when you went on that trip. I especially loved it when you were trying to take a picture of the old monk. I think the “now” has passed for alot of countries of late. By the time anyone will get to go, they will have turned into Disneyfied tourist destinations.

  2. September 24, 2008 9:32 am

    Yes which country are you thinking of here? I know of several. I’m glad you remember when I went on that trip. My new Nikon snapping away all the monks it could find in its path…ahhh those were the days. Things have changed in Tibet now. Hopefully for a better future for the Tibetans.

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