With Olympic fever now dominating the planet, the S.E.A Backpacker Team decided to embrace the competitive spirit and try to win some medals ourselves!
THE EVENT: The Travel Blogger Relay invented by Lowcostholidays.com, who are asking travel writers all over the world to put forward their ‘Personal Bests’ – in travel memories.
THE RULES: Each blogger will share their three best travel memories on their own website before passing the baton onto a fellow blogger who will then list their top three travel memories and so on… The team with the longest chain of bloggers by the end of the competition will win the race!
As everybody knows, it’s the taking part that counts (scoff scoff) so the aim is not only to clench that gold, but also to create a huge bank of travel stories that will inspire future backpackers to raise the travel torch!
OUR TEAM: We rock and roll in TEAM PURPLE, who started the race on 30th July; with our team-mate (and Captain) Neil Barnes, who shared his three top memories on his blog, Backpacks and Bunkbeds. Ready and waiting for his turn, we’ll be passing the baton on to Chris at BackPackerBanter.com. So here goes…
3rd Best Travel Memory: Spears, Spikes and Piercings – All Before Breakfast
In bronze place, Nikki, the Director of S.E.A. Backpacker describes the sights and sounds of one of the largest Hindu Festivals in the world, Thaipusam in Malaysia, which attracts over one million spectators each year.
“Leaving our hostel before sunrise, bleary eyed we made our way to the Batu Caves, where devotees would be arriving after their eight hour march from the Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur that had begun at midnight the previous evening. Once there, we immediately sprang awake! The sights, sounds and sheer passion that engulfed us were overwhelming. The procession consisted of a constant flow of vigorous bodies. Bodies carrying huge contraptions (known as kavadis) inserted with metal spikes into their sides, bodies upon which fruit and flowers hung from hooks pierced through the skin, bodies impaled with spears, bodies constantly spinning, dancing and moving trancelike back and forth amidst the throng. Helpers tried endlessly to hold the devotees up and stop them from falling into the mesmerized onlookers. Captivated, I wandered to get closer to the action and take photos and kept getting hooked back by the collar from our hostel guide who was worried I’d come back impaled myself! All the time my pulse raced and adrenalin flowed as I was spellbound by the impassioned demonstration before me.
We followed the crowd up the 272 steps to the caves, where people gave final penance to Lord Murugan, the deity to whom the caves are dedicated, manifested in the omnipotent statue that was ever towering over us. Tinny music filled the air and babies cried as they hung from material carried on bamboo sticks, a demonstration to say thank you for the blessing of a child in the previous year. The singing, dancing and drumming grew to a crescendo as we neared the mouth of the cave that was lined with hundreds of smashed coconuts. The heat and intensity was exhausting even at this early hour. As spectators and participators mingled, not one of the devotees noticed the presence of us, the tourists, as they remained incredibly entranced in their duties. To witness such a demonstration of the power and fervency of religious faith was an amazing experience to behold.”
2nd Best Travel Memory: I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor – 12 stitches later
In silver place, there’s the tale of our intern-turned-travel magazine guru, 21-year old Laura Davies, whose vigorous dancing at a wedding in Cambodia turned into a travel experience she’ll never forget!
“After volunteering at a rural orphanage in Cambodia for six weeks, I was invited to a local wedding. Not long into the evening, as the bride jumped into the swimming pool in full bridal gear, it became apparent that this was no ordinary affair… No emotional father-of-the-bride speech or sit down meal. This wedding was notching up a gear, swiftly transforming into an intense karaoke session with wild dancing and fully clothed swimming! As a token foreigner I was spun round like a record baby (round, round, round, round) and plied with endless shots of rice whiskey. That’s the point when my memory becomes a little hazy…
The next thing I knew, I was stretched out on the floor of the kitchen, with my feet bundled in what I thought were red tea towels. Why had my bejewelled flip fops been swapped for this basic footwear? Next minute a hand came thudding down on my back, and a large Kiwi bloke called Skippy (no word of a lie) said; “Think you’re gonna need a few stitches pet!”. That’s when it dawned on me. I’d been having way too much fun on the dance floor to notice a broken beer bottle laying await and had managed to jump on it. With both feet.
A quick phone call to wake up the local doctor, and I was bundled into a truck with those (previously white) tea towels. Five minutes down a dirt track and we arrived at the village’s modest hospital. In fact, calling it modest would be a compliment, it can only be described as a shack. The single bare bulb flickered ominously and before I’d even reached the operating table, there was a splutter, a groan and then, kaput. All signs of power had gone. The next few minutes are a bit of blur. All I’m going to say is that I received 12 stitches by candlelight, and I’m bloody glad I was drunk. Although not an experience I’d love to relive, a memorable one all the same. As my Mum would say, character building.”
1st Best Travel Memory: How the Kindness of Strangers in India Turned Me into a Life-Long Backpacker
In gold place, we couldn’t resist this story of Karen, our Deputy Editor, world-traveller, self-confessed party animal, wild child, also owner of Burlesque London nightclub, Volupte, who describes a vivid memory that inspired a life-long love of travel.
“I’d always been more of a ‘two-week adventure’ kind of girl; a veteran explorer of those dark caverns they call nightclubs, considering long-term travelling to further-flung lands scary and dangerous. Then, at the ripe old age of 26, my best mate and I took a trip to India (yes – for two weeks!) where my entire perspective was ripped from its carcass and turned inside out. What happened, you ask? Well, we’d just come to the end of an insanely ambitious week-and-a-half whirlwind tour of Mumbai, Jaipur, Pushkar and the good old Taj in Agra, and were both up at the glorious time of 4am to get the early train to Delhi, where we’d booked our flight back to Goa to spend our last few days…
So, there we were. Stuck in Agra with just enough funds to buy a pound of mangos, and at least four hours from Delhi, our transit point to Goa (which was also, incidentally, our transit point back to the UK in three days). We had to get to Delhi and get on that flight. But how? That morning, I learnt an important lesson: If you ask the question, you’ll always get an answer. More often than not it’s a ‘no’, but look, you just have to keep trying, okay? Something will come up. I mean, it’s not like we would still be there now, is it?
The taxi driver who said ‘yes’ was just number three in our line of prospective aid-workers. He said he would take us all the way to Delhi for no payment (well, ok, he got some mango) on the grounds that we send him a cheque when we got back to the UK (that trust still makes me smile). But it wasn’t plain sailing after that. We were cutting it fine as it was, especially with so many cows insisting on coming to an unhelpful (and infuriatingly lengthy) halt right in front of us. So when the car broke down an hour before arriving in Delhi, it really was quite a disaster. All three of us got out, and, amidst (a disputable number of) traffic lanes, pushed it along the chaotic road. Soon realising the mission was fruitless, our kindly taxi guy decided to cheerily wave us off – but not before flagging down a rickshaw and giving the driver money (yes, I swear down!).
Of course, we made it to Delhi. Of course, we got on the plane. Of course, we got back to Goa, where we rang our family (“You did what? Are you serious? What is wrong with you? Have you still got your passports?!”) – and of course we got them to wire us money to last us those last three days. The experience had been gold; I knew that even then, recognizing as I did that both Denise and I would always remember this to be the favourite part of our trip. Most importantly, though (and aside from the fact there will pretty much always be that option to ask people at home for money if you’re a Westerner – let’s count ourselves lucky), I realized there will always be people in the big wide world to show you kindness, trust, and that complete generosity of spirit – so, really – there’s no need to be scared. The world is actually an okay place. After that, I sat down, took stock – and got out there. And you know what? I’ve never looked back since… To this day, I hope he got that cheque.”