For many, travel is an escape from day-to-day life, a chance to explore other countries, and whether it’s the freedom of the open road for months on end or a quick holiday, it’s a way to leave behind the troubles and responsibilities of home. For me, it has always been a taste of unparalleled independence and liberty. Most tourists will therefore dedicate their time to seeing the sights, relaxing on a beach, or finding adventure — but in order to understand a new country and culture, it’s not enough to explore their art or cuisine. The truth of a country lies in its history, and while it’s tempting to see only the glory and gloss over any uncomfortable episodes, it’s not enough.
A prime example of this is Cambodia, home to the magnificent Angkor Wat and paradise beaches — but also to the terrifying dictatorship of Pol Pot. During the 1970s, his regime saw approximately 25% of the Cambodian population drawn from society either for manual labour or into concentration camps before eventually meeting their death in a 4-year period commonly remembered as genocide. And yes, it’s heart-rending. It’s awful. But in order to truly appreciate the beauty of the country and the spirit of the people, it is necessary to see what they have suffered and survived — in truth, it makes the beautiful parts shine brighter.
I left Pakistan four years ago to pursue my bachelor’s degree in English from the UK. One thing led to another and now I am pursuing my master’s here too and, thus, haven’t lived in my home country for four years. The decision that I made in the beginning still stands, however living in the UK and only visiting Pakistan in the holidays has led me to discover new things about the UK, Pakistan and myself.
Easily the highlight of any visit to Cambodia — and perhaps even South East Asia — the temple complex of Angkor is an ancient sentinel deep in the forests of Siem Reap province. At one point it was almost entirely lost to the trees, but following extreme reparations in the 19th and 20th centuries, it has become more than just a tourists’ dream; it is a startling testimony to the advanced Khmer Empire. Along with such wonders as Machu Picchu or the Great Wall of China, the crumbling majesty of this 12th century temple is an unforgettable experience. Continue reading
India. A place far from the perceived normalities of Western culture. A place where colour is vibrant, loud, and constant; so constant and loud, that your senses combine to a point when you can almost hear, taste and smell what defines its physical nature. At eight years old, when I first travelled to South India, these were the things that stood out to me the most and I have found that a child reacts to their surroundings by what they see rather than what they hear or understand. Continue reading
I had just come from the kind of place where you do not look under the sink and you do sleep on top of the bed covers, and now three men were screaming into our head lights; even if this wasn’t the end of the road it looked like the car was going no further. I can hear the low growl of a dog and as the passenger door is flung open, just a thin strap of leather keeps the snarling beast from puncturing my skin. This is Taiwan and I am out of my comfort zone.