Everyone, at one time or another, would have probably wished they could travel the world one day (except for the katak-di-bawah-tempurung-types, of whom I used to be one…).
And not just the usual travel-to-a-different-country-or-two-during-vacations method.
I mean the Phileas Fogg style of literally travelling round the globe – starting from point A and heading west (or east, whichever lah) until you return to point A.
Back during uni days (pause for sentimental-reminiscence-sigh-moment), I had this buddy who had a giant map of the world on his wall.
We would sit and talk about all the places to which we’d go, and he had all this red pins stuck on the map indicating places of interest. After a while it began to look like the military map in the movies, where a General would be presenting to a group of men – including the President, who always tends to look far more compassionate and intelligent in the movies compared to the current real-life fella – just how much US territory has come under attack by the nasty Soviets… (And of course, there’ll be this one grizzly military geezer who’d suggest to the President: “Let’s nuke ’em – it’s our ONLY CHANCE!”)
Anyway, we used to have this old atlas at home – old enough to still list the Soviet Union and both East and West Germany (yes kids, back then there were TWO Germanys divided by an ugly-ass concrete wall that was fortunately beautified by some nice people with spray cans). And I would occasionally plot out a route from KL to span the globe (bypassing certain places like the Soviet Union, some South American nations, most African nations and almost all Middle-East nations – after all, the only thing I used to hear/read/watch on the news was how people got killed there. That’s media influence for ya.)
Initially, I planned my route east, heading towards Japan and South Korea and then making for the US via Hawaii. But then, I learned from one of those globetrotting websites that it’s wiser to start with the developing world and than making your way to the first world countries, so that you don’t get the culture-shock one gets when travelling from first world to third.
(E.g. after a few months backpacking through US and Europe, you end up facing a massive transition from very comfy beds to decent-but-not-as-comfy beds in the developing world. Yes, I know this doesn’t apply to EVERY third world country. I’m hoping you get the gist here…)
Then I realised that I was ignoring my own country. I mean, it’s all very exciting to travel the breadth of the planet, but it won’t look good if you’ve never even been as far to Kelantan or Johor (and stopping over at JB on the way to Singapore doesn’t count).
So then I changed my route to criss-cross Pensinsular Malaysia, drop down to Singapore and then jump across the South China Sea to Sarawak and Sabah, maybe even drop in to say hello to Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (I hear he’s loaded)..
Now, having ‘done’ Malaysia (+ Singapore + Brunei), I would need to check on the regional neighbours. I mean, it just wouldn’t do if we went around the world and didn’t even drop by to say hi to our nearest and dea… well, just nearest. So who do we visit first? Indonesia? Thailand? The Phillipines?
How to choose, eh? Well, Indonesia is huge, and people (mosty women) say size matters. I don’t know how it’d apply here, but let’s not question feminine wisdom. In fact, if I can teach you ANYTHING, it’s that you NEVER QUESTION WOMEN ON ANYTHING. They’re always inevitably right – even when they’re wrong. Such is the way of the universe.
Meanwhile, the people of the Phillipines have this delightful American-Tagalog hybrid accent that is probably the equivalent to a Southern accent in the US. Plus they have some very interesting TV programmes.
But Thailand has Bangkok, while the others…. don’t.
Since my route would be expected to take me westwards, maybe it’d be easier to do a circular route, starting with the Phillipines, going down to Indonesia, and then making my up again through Peninsular Malaysia to Thailand.
(Do note that all this planning does not at all take into account logistical difficulties, the reason being that I’m afraid of logistics – no good can ever come out of logistics, I tell ya…)
Now, assuming I make it into Thailand with all my limbs intact, my stomach nourished and my full wallet still in my pocket, I could then take a merry little tour of the neighbouring countries, the ones people rarely talk about and which the media tends to shun (unless people get killed there – the media likes people getting killed. They talk about them often enough…). I’m talking about places like Vietnam (I’d like to see Da Nang – every made-in-Hollywood Vietnam-war movie mentions Da Nang at least once..), Laos, Cambodia/Kemboja/Kampuchea, Burma (out of respect for Aung San Suu Kyi, I refuse to refer to the country as the ‘M’ word. Free Aung San Suu Kyi! Free Burma!), maybe sneak in to Tibet, visit Nepal, check on some Bangladeshis, before heading down to the lion’s den –
People say you should never visit India on an itinerary. You’ll just never keep to schedule. There’s just too many sights to see, too many places to go, too many things to do, too many diseases to catch….
People naturally assume that if you go to India, then you should check out the Taj Mahal. I don’t know about that. I’ve seen the Taj Mahal many times – in print, on TV, on mugs and rugs and plates and posters and clothes and on every surface imaginable. Will it really be a big difference if I saw it live?
No, really, I’m asking you – will it really be a big difference if I saw it live?
In any case, there’s more to India than the Taj Mahal, of course. There’s Bollywood (I wonder if Preity Zinta‘s bodyguards would let me buy her a drink), the swaying palms of Kerala, my paternal ancestral homeland of Tamil Nadu, and of course Bangalore, the high-tech IT city…
Anyway, assuming I make it out of India alive, I’ll probably head over to Sri Lanka. I’ve heard many things about this island nation’s natural beauty, and if there’s one thing I’d like to do before I croak, it is to visit this country. It would be a crying shame if this nation’s tourism industry fall apart after the tsunami tragedy, so if any one of you out there are planning to take a vacation soon, do give Sri Lanka a thought, eh?
Now things get a little tricky. Do I go up to Pakistan and show my face there (for appearance’s sake), and then risk entering the political (and sometimes literal) minefields of the Middle-East? I’d certainly relish an opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of a civilisation as old and colourful as that of Iran (Iraq would unfortunately be out of the question at the present time), as well as see how the former Soviet nations Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan etc are doing. Or I could skip them all and head towards Dubai before moving north to Turkey.
At any rate, I’d eventually find myself at the crossroads between Europe and Africa. Keeping to the Third World first methodology, the plan would be to drop south to Egypt and then somehow find my way to Tunisia (they made it to the World Cup, after all), Morocco (gotta visit Casablanca, right?), Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mauritius, and finally South Africa, before I take a flight out of Johannesburg to London.
OK, so I said I’d check out third world countries first before making my way to Europe and US. Well, it’s not my fault South America is so far away. Besides, it’s always good to touch base with Starbucks and Harrod’s and other decadent western influences once in a while.
Having already visited London once before (pause for sentimental-reminiscence-sigh-moment), I’d probably quickly get out of town and head towards Anfield. Uh-huh. Maybe, hopefully, with fingers-crossed, I could join in the street parade celebrating Liverpool’s third consecutive Quadruple success.
(And then maybe a quick visit to Manchester to
gloat at console Man Utd supporters upset about their team’s relegation to Division Three? A guy can dream, can’t he?)
If there’s one place I’d love to go while in the UK, it would be… outside the UK. I’m talking about Ireland, home of Ronan Keating, The Corrs, beautiful accents and Guinness. Then I may decide to brave the chill winds of Scotland and find a Highlander, because in the end, there can be ONLY ONE.
Finally, just before I escape the wyrd and wonderful weather that Britain is famous for, I should probably check out Alton Towers. Never actually been there, see. For once, I’d like to know what the big deal is.
Finally, I’d zoom off to Paris (is there a Hilton there? You know, so I can say I was in Paris Hilton..). After brushing up on my romancing skills in the romantic capital of the world, I’d head off to Spain (Anuar, boleh bunk at your place ke?), then Portugal and then north to Switzerland where I hope to be able to open a Swiss bank account. Sepuluh ringgit cukup ke to start with?
Europe is such a crowded continent with so many nations bordering each other and clamouring for a piece of the tourist action. I certainly wouldn’t be able to afford to visit each and every European nation (another disadvantage of going First World first – you become broke faster), so ideally I’d like to be able to stop by in Germany, Italy, Greece, Romania (Transylvania!!) and then hopefully still be able to check out Sweden – home of ABBA and Ace of Base. (Yes, I remember them, and I know you do too, so don’t act like you’ve never heard of them…)
Having dispensed with Europe, it’s now time for the long cross-Atlantic flight south to Argentina. Buenos diaz, Buenos Aires!
There’s supposed to be a lot you can do in South America, and I’ll probably do as much of it as I can – once I find out what those things are. But if there’s one thing I’d like to do in Argentina, it is to check out Eva Peron’s tomb. Oh, and learn to tango. OK, so it’s two things.
Funny how most of what I know about the tourist spots of these countries comes from watching The Amazing Race.
I don’t know too much about most of the South American nations, except that Uruguay won the first World Cup, Brazil is the home of the jogo bonito, samba and the thong, Peru’s ex-president is Fujimori, Colombia is home to various drug cartels (and also gave us one of the best telenovelas ever in Yo Soy, Betty La Fea), Venezuela apprarently produces beauty queens on a production line (there’re so many of them!) and Panama has a canal.
I don’t know how many of the South American nations I’d visit (bearing in mind that I’d have just spent some time in the much cooler climates of Europe and I’d certainly be very eager to get out of the sweltering heat of the Americas ASAP), but eventually I hope to arrive in Jamaica – preferably not in a stretcher (although there’s something to be said for travelling lying down)…
After spending an eternity (at least, that’s how it’ll appear once I make some friends who can share some of that sweet stuff with me, ya man…) in Jamaica, I might try to find a way to test the Bermuda Triangle mystery. It has always fascinated me ever since I watched David Copperfield disappear into a tiny triangle in the middle of the bigger Triangle and then reappear magically somewhere else. (As illusions go, it wasn’t as cool as the vanishing of the Statue of Liberty or the escape from Alcatraz, but it was still pretty good.)
If I don’t disappear into the unknown, I’d then make my way towards the US via Mexico. Upon setting my foot on US soil, I’d demand that I be taken to their leader. It’s every alien’s inalienable right.
We all know enough about the US from watching their propaganda that chokes our airwaves 24 hours a day. So I’ll dispense with my thoughts on the sights to catch and just point you to this Lonely Planet guide.
(I must say this, though. A road trip from California to New York would be awesome!)
Finally, I’d like to say bye-bye to the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’ and fly south to HAWAII, BABY!! ALOHA!!
Or maybe not. I anticipate being severely broke at this juncture. It is likely that I’d have to earn some money to continue my journey. I wonder if being a gigolo is a viable occupation in the Pacific islands.
Anyway, whether or not I make it to Hawaii, eventually it’ll be time for me to return to the Asian continent. Having already done most of South Asia, it’s the turn of Japan and South Korea to experience.. err, me. I apologise to all Japanese and Korean citizens in advance for the damage I may inflict upon your country. It’s not personal, I just happen to be extremely clumsy.
Next on the list is Hong Kong (after I’ve dropped in to chat with Kim Jong-Il and assured Taiwan that I recognise their sovereignty). The land of Jackie Chan and quirky fashion. It’d be interesting.
(I have been informed by some people who’ve visited HK that there is some degree of racism exhibited towards people of darker skin. I cannot verify this as much of this testimony is apocryphal, but nevertheless I’m curious if any non-Chinese person has experienced anything like that in Hong Kong).
Anyway, once I leave HK, it’ll be time to jump headlong into a monumental travel experience.
It’ll be time to experience China.
My dad’s been to both Beijing and Shanghai, and he has only good things to say about these places. (Although he did say that the Tiananmen Square was disappointing.) Again, there isn’t a lot about China that I know too well, but certainly Shanghai (the Bund!!) and Beijing will be on my to-do lists. I’m sure someone will suggest other places to check out.
Finally I’ll make my way back to KL. But wait! We haven’t quite finished, have we?
KL would be but a pit-stop before I jump into a plane and head off south to Australia. There’s probably tonnes to see and do there, so it’ll be some time before I’ll be able tear myself away and hop across to New Zealand. Besides, I expect no shortage of company since I know quite a few people living Down Under (indeed, some of you are from there too, I gather from my site stats…)
Whatever the sights may be in New Zealand, the main thing I want to do there is check out the places where they filmed The Lord of the Rings movies. Apparently there are plenty of LOTR tour groups operating there, so this shouldn’t be too hard to achieve.
Once the last hobbit-hole is explored and the last dwarf-mine is excavated, it’ll be time to call an end to the journey. Undoubtedly I’d return to KL a changed person, with a greater awareness of the world around me and an understanding that in the greater scheme of things, we are but insignificant specks. Nature is permanent; we are temporary. There’s no point in pretending otherwise.
By now, if you’re still reading this, I humbly thank you. No doubt, quite a few readers would have left for other locations on the World Wide Web (possibly after having rolled their eyes a few times). All of what I’ve written does sound like so much bull$hit. I doubt if I ever have enough money to go on such a journey, or if the trip could go as smoothly as I may have implied.
But it is a dream, and like most dreams, it just happens to be a tad optimistic.
Time will tell if I could ever achieve even a tenth of the travelling I’ve outlined here, but what the heck, at least I’ll have something to look forward to.