Travellers Tales

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Tales from travellers from around the world with links to the most popular travellers blogs sites.
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Travellers Tales

Robert A Webster – A happy Englishman in Cambodia.

Whilst sitting in an open restaurant in Siem Reap, home to the spectacular Angkor Wat temples, I notice a small cart outside selling books. Nothing odd about that on Cambodian city streets, apart from the man selling books displayed among several small shelves had no hands.

While sipping my Latte I saw a woman stand at the stall and point to a book. The man smiled, took the book off the thin wooden shelf between his stumps, and handed it to the young woman tourist.

She looked at the cover, handed back the book, shook her head, and as she started to walk away, the man smiled and handed her a sheet of paper. Putting the paper in her bag, she walked into the restaurant and, like me, sat under a fan.
Curious, I finished my coffee, walked outside back into the hot street, and over to the book cart.
“Would you like to buy a book sir,” asked the man.
I looked at the shelves that only had a few books along the small shelves and although they were in cellophane and new, they were old titles.
“No thanks… just looking”
The man then smiled and handed me an A4 sheet of paper, which I folded and put in my pocket.
Sitting in my air-conditioned room several hours later, I took out the sheet of paper and was about to throw it away, when I thought. ‘I might as well read it; I’ve nothing better to do.’
The photocopied page had several dark images from photographs of the man and his family, and it read:


Tok Vanna is a 41-year-old Cambodian with a wife, two children and a job as a street seller – but like thousands of other Cambodians, he has been disabled by landmines.
“It happened in 1988. I was a government soldier in charge of three or four men near Banon the western province of Battanabang
It was a mad time – There were three separate resistance groups – The Khmer Rouge, supporters of king Sihanouk, and those following former premier, Son Sann
I didn’t actually want to be a soldier. In face only about half of us wanted to do the job – many people were forced to fight against their will.
On the morning of the accident, I’d been training new recruits on jungle warfare techniques and survival skills
I was taking a break from training when it happened. I went to get some food, but there was thick foliage all around us and I had to clear a path to get through.
I bent over to pick something up in the way – how was I to know it would go off?
I don’t remember much else after that. When I woke up, I looked down and saw that both my hands had gone.
I wanted to kill myself-take away my own life. There was no future for me. What could I do? How could I get a job, get married, support my family/ How could I even eat?
There was a grenade in a bag attached to my waist. It was there from a training exercise earlier.
I arched my body around and tried to reach it. I wanted to pull out the pin, but my friend saw me just in time and took the grenade away.
I was taken to a government hospital in Phnom Penh , where the authorities paid for my treatment because I was a soldier. I didn’t have enough to eat though, and my family had to send me food parcels.
Gradually, after the pain subsided, I stopped wanting to kill myself and dared to think about having a future.
I was in that hospital for nine months. When I eventually left, I was too embarrassed to go back to my family and let them feed and pay for me.
So, I stayed in Phnom Penh and became a beggar there for over a year. I was very unhappy during that time.
My mother eventually came to the city to find me, and she took me home and looked after me. But I had to go back to Phnom Penh for more treatment on my arms and I used up all my money on hospital bills and ended up back on the streets.
This time an aid worker found me and brought me to Siem Reap.
I was given a job working with Rehab craft Cambodia (run by and for Cambodians with disabilities) selling local crafts and gifts to tourists visiting the temples at Angkor Wat.
Life was beginning to get better – I got married and now have two children.
But I really wanted my own business, so in 2000 I gave up my job with the charity and set up my own stall selling books on the streets of Siem Reap.
I’m very happy now I have this job. Life is worth living again. But there are many others who are still suffering as a result of the landmines, both in Siem Reap and throughout Cambodia.
You have to admire Tok’s courage and unselfish tenacity. This is not a begging letter, but words of hope to help him to sell his wares and feed his family on the pittance he may earn, with no help or support from the government or anyone else.
If you think your life is hard, remember, someone is going through far worse.
Needless to say, that was not my last visit to Mr Tok Vannas book cart…. Enough said !

ONLY IN CAMBODIA - And would you like a monkey to go with that?

Go for it they said. I went for it, but it had gone. I therefore decided to write a blog. I wasn’t sure how or what may be of interest to readers. I thought about informing you all about particle physics and the big bang theory, but as I know bugger all about these subjects, I decided against this. I write comedy fiction novels, mainly centred in South East Asia, and as I live in Cambodia where I get most of my inspirational tales from, I will write little blog entitled: ‘Only in Cambodia,’ where it is commonplace place to see a man, woman, a couple of kids, and a pig on a motorcycle. Nowadays that doesn’t surprise me, unless the pig is driving.
My friend, his wife, and I were driving back to Sihanoukville from Phnom Penh. We were driving through a small village when a front tyre burst. Most villages along these roads are in front of large swathes of jungle, this one being no exception. There is no roadside assistance or AA to call here, so we stopped to change the tyre, but the spare was also flat. It was early evening and dark. The stilted houses along the road gave off very little light, with no streetlights. We continued bumping along the road until we neared the end of the village. I then saw a dimly lit shack with tyres piled up outside. We pulled in and my friend’s Cambodian wife asked the man who sat on a rickety porch if he could help. The man smiled and started to heat up something that resembled brown wax coloured gauze and a spike with a hook on the end. He took off the wheel, found the puncture pushed the spike and gauze into the hole, removed the spike and presto the puncture was repaired. He did the same with the spare and filled the tyres with air from a rusty old compressor...perfect. Total time to fix was twenty minutes. While we were waiting, the man’s family came out and gave us a cool glass of water, some urban whiskey and some plates of fried meat, we didn’t ask what meat, best not to, but this is the usual Cambodian hospitality. We stayed another thirty minutes, paid $30, and left with a warm glow, a repaired tyre, a repaired spare tyre, and a monkey.
The poor little creature that had been caught in the jungle earlier that day, was now tied to a railing outside the shack, earmarked for the next day’s lunch. Surprised by our concern, the family happily sold us the little fellow. My mate built him a little shack in his garden and called him Jake. (Cambodian meaning Banana) It’s a strange little monkey and for some reason it only seems to crap on me, and believe me nothing smells worse than monkey poop. Perhaps I should stop showing it a fork and knife.


Visit lesser-known regions of the world and tell vivid stories about their experiences. Their images are incredible and the stories shared in their captions are moving.

Our experience hitchhiking the Leh – Manali Highway in India, one of the highest motorable roads in the world, plus tips for travelers who want to do the same.
There’s nothing so surreal as hitchhiking through the soaring Indian Himalayas, driving over one of the highest mountain passes in the world, breathlessly admiring peaks dusted with summer snows… with the Backstreet Boys’ Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) blasting in the background.
Quit playin’ games with my heart,
I should’ve known from the start…
I can’t help chuckling, but the act is difficult. I’m breathing, but it feels like there’s no oxygen left. It’s almost a problem… except I’m too distracted by the view to be concerned about something as (currently) trivial as oxygen.
You know you got to stop (from my heart),
You’re tearing us apart (my heart),
Quit playin’ games with my heart…
Our ride growls as it pulls up to the top of the mountain pass. Tangles of rainbow prayer flags color the stark mountaintop, thousands of fluttering Om mani padme hums and other mantras blessing the pass and its transient visitors. Our drivers turn off the Backstreet Boys and step out to take selfies. Sebastiaan and I follow suit.
We’re giddy with delight, partly because we’re 5,300 meters above sea level, but mostly because we’ve actually made it somewhere today.

Observing the Slow Life | A Week in Havana, Cuba -
By Jana Jackson

We arrived in Cuba on July 26th and took a taxi straight into Habana Vieja (Old Havana). Along the way I noticed a flag hanging alongside the Cuban flag that was black and read with white text that said 26 Julio on many buildings. I was perplexed but left it at that.

Once we got settled, changed, and came to terms of no wifi, we started to explore, but the city streets were desolate. It was only 3pm , where was everyone? With a little more prying and spanglish we found out that it was a public holiday in Cuba known as Movimiento 26 de Julio.

The next morning we were met by our tour guide Julia, she showed us around Habana Vieja, all the main “hot spots,” plus a few local gems. What I found most interesting about her tour was all of the importance she placed on dates. These dates seemed to have such importance to her. They told the story of Old Havana and how the city came to become what it is today. After a long day we parted ways and I felt more informed, curious and hungry to learn more, lucky for me, we were just getting started.
Day 2 & 3 We drove along the Malecon, explored Central Havana and Vedado, other districts within Havana. These two districts felt similar to what I know caribbean cities to feel like. I saw a few more markets, local stores, and many more local people. By now I had observed a few things:
Everyone is extremely friendly and says“Have a great vacation in Cuba”,“Enjoy our great Country”
Due to the tight restrictions on WiFi in Cuba no one is walking with their phone in hand, no one.
Bring snacks from home if you are a snacker. There are no convince stores.
The way of life is slow(in a good way!)if you go into a coffee shop, you sit down and drink your coffee right there. No to go cups.
On Day 4 we checked out of our Hotel in one area of Old Havana to another. We got on a bike taxi and headed to our next home: a local Casa Particular, which means, “private house”. These homes are private family run establishments , similar to a B&B as we know it here in North America. We stayed on the top floor of a colonial style home. Our host was Ronaldo , an older man who lived in the house with his wife, nieces and nephews. They had four guest rooms in the front hallway and the back halfway, divided by the kitchen, was for him and his wife. The upstairs for the children. I was shocked at the size of the Casa. Each room also had their own washroom. Staying in a Casa was the best way to get to know more about the local way of life in Cuba. I left more connected to how they lived and wish we had stayed in a Casa from day one.
In Hindsight, our short week in Cuba wasn’t enough. On the last night we were tried and ready to go home after early mornings and full days of exploring. However, upon reliving my experiences through these images, I know that I have just scratched the surface of what this wonderful country has to offer. Many people head to Cuba and go straight to a cabana on the beach. I encourage you to explore the cities you travel to, get to know the local people and understand their culture. These cities and countries have so much to offer us intellectually and culturally.
Hasta pronto, Cuba!

Summer on the Coldest Mountain in North America

Professional skier Cody Townsend braves sub-freezing temperatures to tackle Denali in his off-season
Cody Townsend -

On a rare Alaskan clear-sky day, Denali can be seen from hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Its broad shouldered, hulking presence standing solitary, proud, ten-thousand feet higher than a sea of mountains that would dwarf most mountains in the Lower 48. The dream of standing on top of its summit slowly crept more and more into reality for me over my dozens of ski trips to Alaska. Every time I laid eyes on Denali, the pull of its summit drew me towards it for no other reason than what Sir Edmund Hillary said best about climbing mountains, “Because it’s there."
Despite a career as a professional skier that has brought me to wild mountains around the globe, an expedition to altitudes above fourteen thousand feet was a first for me. Even as a professional skier, this didn’t fit into my usual docket. This was a trip for myself. In essence, a vacation.
On June 16th, four friends and I flew out from Talkeetna, Alaska to be dropped off on the lower flanks of Denali’s longest glacier, the Kahiltna, to begin our climb. One of the primary hurdles of Denali when comparing it to the other Seven Summits, is that there are no sherpas, porter, yaks or donkeys to assist hauling loads of gear upward. You alone are responsible for the weight of your gear.
For five days straight, we each humped one-hundred and twenty pounds of food, fuel, camping gear and climbing equipment nearly fourteen miles and seven-thousand feet up to Advanced Base Camp (ABC).
"As I reached the weather station that recorded that -118 temperature I repeated the words of famed high-altitude climber Adrian Ballinger, 'At altitude, everything hurts. But you just keep moving."
Once you’re at ABC, the two main challenges to reach the summit of Denali are altitude and weather. Its reputation for sudden tempests that appear out of nowhere is legendary. Many climbers have succumbed to Denali’s wrath and even some of the best in the world, describe Denali as a weather-torn menace. Despite waking up, day after day, to a unimaginably long stretch of clear, calm skies, the unease of a violent storm appearing, like a tidal wave on a summer sea, was ever-present.
Taking advantage of our good fortune with the meteorological gods, we opted to rush our process of tackling the second challenge of Denali, the altitude. Cutting the corners of the lengthy acclimatization process, we collectively decided to go for the summit on Day 9 of our trip. The risk of pushing to the summit too quickly, before our acclimatization process was done, was highlighted by a Nepalese Sherpa, who the week before our arrival, was going for the summit in a mere four days and perished on the side of the mountain due to altitude related illnesses. He was too quick. We hoped we wouldn’t be.
"Tears welled up, I fell to my knees, looked out to the horizon hundreds of miles away, a sea of heavenly white clouds dotting the mountains below us, the crystalline blue skies that towered above us..."
Our route to the top took us up the untechnical yet indirect, zig-zagging West Buttress route. We ascended at a good pace in the relatively warm, sub-freezing temp. As the views improved and we progressed further, I was energized. Then everything changed.
Somewhere around eighteen-thousand feet, the altitude and air took an exponential effect. Suddenly, the pace of ascent slowed to a near crawl as my thoughts became blurred, my head cleaved with pain and my lungs starved for oxygen.
As I reached the weather station that recorded that -118 temperature I remembered the words of famed high-altitude climber Adrian Ballinger, “At altitude, everything hurts. But you just keep moving.” He was right, everything hurt. But somehow, you just keep moving. The final six-hundred feet of climbing to the summit was nothing more than pure suffering. It felt as if my pack was suddenly filled with lead, as if every step was the hardest movement of my life, my lungs searing while trying to filter every ounce of oxygen out of the thin air as possible. The only thing keeping me going was knowing, it was all about to end soon.
Tears welled up, I fell to my knees, looked out to the horizon hundreds of miles away, a sea of heavenly white clouds dotting the mountains below us, the crystalline blue skies that towered above us and relished in the fact that we did it. We were standing on the highest point in North America.
I’ve found few joys as great as the success that comes from confronting and overcoming a great challenge, whether it’s a dream job interview or the peak of a mountain. As I stood on top of Denali, I realized that this was the best summer vacation I’ve ever had.