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by Rick Green
I came across a thought-provoking article on My Mélange that discusses six mistakes people make when planning/taking trips. These are common enough – and big enough to ruin your vacation – that they are worth repeating. I examine them here with an Asian context.
Excessive Itinerary: Hit & Run Travel
It's easy to get excited about your next trip and want to see as much as possible in the limited time you are in another country. But if you have only two weeks of vacation, especially when travelling in a large country like China, it would be foolish to cram as much in as possible. You will have no time to actually appreciate things, much less meet people beyond your fellow travellers and those you interact with on a commercial basis – tour guide, hotel & restaurant staff, souvenir sellers, touts, etc. You'll just be running around, taking a quick look at the most popular sights, shooting some snaps, then roaring off to the next stop to do the same thing. I call this hit and run travel. Is this really that much different than watching a television travel program edited with quick cuts? Is it worth the $4,000+ more dollars that you'll spend living a television experience? Realize that you won't have any time for serendipity, to take advantage of random opportunities to connect with locals that may never be available to you again.
Having made countless trips over the years as a photographer, I have noticed a pattern to my adventures. Getting great shots is more than arriving in an exotic location with a bag full of gear, ready to shoot everything that strays in front of your lens. It's about the experiences.
by Rick Green
Browsing the booths at the San Francisco Book Fair in 2000, a large paperback caught my eye on the Ten Speed Press table. On the cover, a Khmer girl wearing a red and white-checked krama on her head was biting into one of two spiders on a bamboo skewer. Her left hand, grasping the top of the skewer, was partially splayed out in what looked like the "okay" gesture while she held the spider's head between her pearly teeth. She appeared naturally content.
Cambodia was just one of 13 countries that Man Eating Bugs surveyed where people eat insects. Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio had documented in full colour eating the likes of flying ants in Thailand, Japanese caddis fly larvae, and scorpions in China. Needless to say, I bought it.
Although I love food, I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a culinary adventurer with respect to my day-to-day eating habits. I don't actually relish the thought of popping sheep's eyeballs or tucking into pig's intestines. While I have ventured considerably beyond my North American meat and potatoes upbringing, the meat and seafood I cook at home is still supermarket conventional. That changes, however, when I travel. I attempt to transform my mind into a tabula rasa to let go of my inhibitions and prejudices. That way, I can better absorb and understand the culture of my new surroundings.
by Rick Green
When it comes to visiting China, most people I have spoken to have only visited Beijing, the Great Wall, Xi'an, and Shanghai. Some may have cruised the Yangtze, visited the water cities of Hangzhou or Suzhou, seen the karst landscape of Guilin, or included Hong Kong because it's a nearby world city. The rest of the third largest country in the world, however, is a blank, unless some disaster brings the spotlight of international media upon an otherwise dark corner. This is a shame because China is a diverse, multi-cultural country, yet North Americans' view of it is surprisingly uniform in its limited perspective.