Category Archives: Asia

When I take out travel insurance, I always assume “I won’t need it anyway”, but buy it “just in case”. Luckily I haven’t been in any major accidents that racked up hospital bills, but I do have some interesting doctor experiences abroad. I once spent a night in a hospital in Australia, got experience with Laotian, Cambodian and Peruvian doctors when I got bitten by dogs and I discovered Burmese health care. In this last case I am still unsure of what was actually wrong with me, although I have a feeling it had to do with exposure to the sun. Although the Burmese are wonderful people, my doctor visits were well, interesting… Merry Christmas? For my Christmas in Myanmar I decided to go on a 3 day trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake. It was the most amazing experience and my hiking group became a little family. But when…

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Venturing into the Khao Sok national park My boat sped up on the big lake of Khao Sok national park in Thailand. Water splashed in my face since I was at the very edge of the boat. I tried to protect my camera and bag, while looking around me mesmerized by the landscape. Massive yellow blocks of limestone rose from the water, covered in the green of the jungle. Above them thick, grey clouds loomed, threatening to ruin our adventure. I was on my way to an idyllic place in the middle of the lake, where small bungalows connected through wooden walkways floated on the water. It would have been spectacular on a clear day. After an hour the boat dropped me and the other travellers off at the bungalows. The small huts floated on big logs. They were simple, but I felt like I was in a luxurious resort.…

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Even on my way to Phonsavan I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the trip. But that’s the thing about traveling, if you take a chance, at times you’re rewarded with unique experiences you never expected to have. Phonsavan is the capital of the most bombarded province in the world! Not just Laos, but the world! Still thousands of bombs are scattered around the landscape. In Laos, people still get hurt by unexploded ordnance on a daily basis. So why on earth was I heading this way? It took me over 6 hours to get here from the popular Van Vieng. At the North bus station I boarded a big family car. What!? Yeah, this was my bus. My bag ends up on the roof and I sit on a fold-out seat next to the window. There are 3 rows of people and 2 people squeeze in next to…

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Our guide Lo started awkwardly introducing himself on the ride to Paksong. He sounded a bit like a robot, coming through in pieces, as if I had a bad Skype connection. As it turned out, this was just his style of talking and had nothing to do with nerves. He explained a bit about the great adventure we were embarking on. When we arrived in the small town where our journey would start, harnesses were already spread out on the ground. Around the property lay loads of big tarps on which coffee beans were drying. The harnesses looked strange in this setting. But we needed them for our ziplinging jungle adventure. Our group consisted of myself and 2 other solo female travelers, an Italian family and some Korean men. Some carabiners and a pulley were attached to our harnesses, we got a helmet and were ready to go. We had…

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In Europe we are quite used to history being intertwined with our present and future. We shop in heritage buildings, visit towns with ancient city walls and don’t always take the time to appreciate it. It isn’t until we visit a place that’s missing this history that we realise what we’ve got. Yet when we are abroad tend to seek out the history of foreign places. Rarely have I experienced history, as in Zein-O-Din caravanserai. Until the 1500s the silk road was a major network of trading route running from East to West, or China to Europe. People travelled in caravans and traded goods along the way. But they also exchanged their cultures, like art, religion and language, and unfortunately also disease. A caravan travelled on a familiar path and would pass on their goods at certain transfer points and then pick up things to take the other way. Along…

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After a beautiful morning exploring the ruins of Persepolis, we were filling our bellies and processing all the beauty at local buffet restaurant. We had just finished our after-lunch tea when our tour leader said it was time to go. Whereas we were usually pretty relaxed since we had a small group, our leader was now a bit agitated when some people browsed at the book shop a bit too long. He urged us to make our purchases and get on the bus. Something was up. Once we were on our way back to the city of Shiraz, our tour leader explained what was happening. The Iranian government had increased the petrol prices by 200% overnight and the people were not happy. All over the country people had taken to the streets to protest and we weren’t sure if we could reach Shiraz. As we drove in the direction of…

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Around 550BC Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire. He first defeated the Medes and from there the empire grew conquest by conquest. It became larger than any empire had been before. Cyrus himself built a palace at Pasargadae. His successors preferred other locations. Darius I founded a new capital in Persepolis and an equally large city in Susa. Persepolis was great in summer and mostly a ceremonial place. When the snow came, the administration moved to Susa. The best preserved of the ancient cities in Iran is Persepolis. It’s a super interesting place to visit. I’d read a small book about it and when our guide took us around, I remembered many of the passages. There is so much history behind these pillars and walls. We entered and climbed up the big staircase. This whole city is build on a plateau. It’s hard to imagine what it must have…

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Zoroastrianism is a religion I had never heard of until I went to Iran. And yet it influenced many of the worlds main religions, like Islam, Judaism and Christianity. It is one of the oldest religions still practised and the oldest one believing in one god: Ahura Mazda. It became more widespread during the Achaemenid empire, founded by Cyrus the Great. Zoroastrians believe in good thoughts, good words and good deeds. At the end of your life you’ll be judged based on that. While we were in Yazd we learned about the Zoroastrians and visited some of their important places. We saw two towers of silence, the old place for funerals. The four elements are sacred and when a person dies, the body is tainted by evil and cannot be burned or put into the ground. Therefore the Zoroastrians had their own rituals. They built towers on top of hills.…

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Before our plane landed, a warning sounded over the speakers: “We strongly recommend you to wear a head scarf before exiting the plane.” I felt uncomfortable, constantly checking if it was still on my head as I walked to the terminal. I as nervous because I didn’t have a visa yet. I had wanted to have a visa, but the only procedure rejected me with a phrase in Persian that obviously wasn’t very helpful. When I entered the visum lounge, I only saw a guy and a couple. I started filling in a tiny piece of paper. Then a lady came to take my paper. She took my passport, checked my insurance and told me to sit down. Then a big group of French people entered. They had done some pre-work and just had to pay. They were out of there in no time! Not long after, the couple and…

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After 4,5 months in South East Asia, I must admit I got tired of temples, especially the modern, golden ones. But when I first arrived in Bangkok, this was exactly what mesmerized and fascinated me. In those first few days I made a day trip to the Grand Palace and surrounding temples. I took the boat and entered the chaos of Bangkok transport. “Come on, come on. Keep going. All the way to the back. The back! Go to the back!” an angry sounding man yelled at the tourists. I had to get off at pier 9. I felt like I was cattle as I shuffled through the boat, pushing my way through the rows of people, trying to reach the shore. I swapped the busy boat for the busy streets around the palace. It was not long after the Thai king had died and I was surprised it was…

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