I want to emphasis that the moments in this list were not all enjoyable. The moments in the list were ‘special times’ rather than ‘super awesome times’, in some instances there is overlap. These are all moments that simply could not be repeated at home in any capacity. All these moments made me think about my life and the world we live in.
Elephants and Orangutans in Borneo
Going to Borneo was a spur of a moment thing. I was considering stopping in Kuala Lumpar for a few days while flying from Bali to Ho Chi Minh. I researched Kuala Lumpar on Nomadic Matts page and discovered Borneo was shared between three countries, Malaysia being one of them. My auntie had been to Borneo 10 years ago, I called her up, made some notes and then in the space of two weeks went from not knowing where Borneo was to landing on the island.
You see elephants everywhere in SE Asia. Sadly in most places they are locked in physical and mental cages. It is gut wrenching watching videos of how elephants are trained before they work in the tourist trade.
In Borneo though I came within 100m of a wild mother elephant and her baby. It was an unexpected and incredible moment. Elephants have a domineering presence, you cannot ignore these creatures. Encounters like this remind you that ‘our’ planet is not just ‘our’ planet. Actually we share it with an amazing assortment of wildlife.
Deserts, Glaciers and Rain Forests
In the space of 2 – 3 months I got to explore the Australian Outback, hike Franz Joesf in New Zealand and see elephants in Borneo Rain Forest. All three environments were very contrasting. Hot verses cold. Trees and water verses dry barely habitable land. You always see TV presents going to the far flung corners of the world, these three encounters made me wake up and realise that these places are open to all.
Earthquake Hit Christchurch
I knew Christchurch had been damaged by an earthquake a few years before I was there but had no idea of the scale of the damage. I went down to my hostel reception and asked if there was any places in the cities where the damage is still visible. They started drawing circles on the map, after the 10th circle I ended up wandering why they did not just cut to the chase and say the whole city was still under repair.
A lot of the ‘buildings’ fitted into three categories.
- Suspiciously modern (presumably the building had crumbled in the earthquake and been rebuilt)
- Decapitated and waiting to be bulldozed
- Bull dozed (presumably the earthquake rendered the building unusable) and the land was waiting to be re built on
In Australia I saw the damage caused by forest fires and spoke to people whose houses had been surrounded by fire on all sides. Fortunately in Australia the large cities seem to fairly unaffected by the forest fires. Whereas Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s major cities. I was talking to the airport shuttle bus driver about the earthquake and he said it was so severe that the army were brought in and people were forced to evacuate.
Each white chair represents a victim of the February 22 2011 Earthquake. .
Visiting the Cambodian War Museum
I have been to a number of war museums in SE Asia and a few years ago went to Auschwitz in Poland. These places are never fun. At these places you encounter the absolute worst of man kind. These places always leave me confused and angry.
None had quite the same effect on me as the Cambodian War Museum in Siem Reap. My tour guide gave a personal account of the war but at the same time, probably without meaning to, he was talking on behalf of everyone who has ever been caught up in a war. He came home one day and his family had all been killed. He joined the army and one of his fellow soldiers accidentally left him with major burn marks when he fired a rocket launcher. He stood on a mine, lost his leg and had shrapnel in his arm.
He insisted we felt the shrapnel in his arm. I will never forget the tingly feeling that ran through my arm as soon as I felt the shrapnel. This single moment illustrated the reality of war in a way that no News Documentary or History Teacher will ever be able to.
Great Australian Bight Marine Park
I have read a few lists about the ‘Top Beaches in the World’. I always look at the top 10 and have never seen any which look as the Great Australian Bight. This beach was thousands of miles from any whiff of civilization. The sand dunes were pristine, free of people and went on as far as the eye could see.
The sand dunes provided the beach with a stunning backdrop. The backdrop stole the limelight from the beach itself.