We never made trips longer than 4 weeks. After that time you are emotionally full, and it is good to go home and back to work again. My motto has always been: work hard, play hard.
Today everybody travels, and the internet is overloaded with pictures and travel stories. Travelling has become into 'visiting what you have already seen during the planning'. In our early times, there was no internet (!), we had paper maps, no Rome2Rio yet, only a few Lonely Planet guides to plan the trip, and we asked around everywhere. Having a rough travel plan, it was easy to bend if something needed a detour or a longer stay, as a local festival, a minority wedding or funeral ceremony, or a special theatrical event. It is best described with discoveries and marvels.
We virtually always traveled with our backpacks, always with public transport, staying in local hostels. When we arrived somewhere, I usually set down at a local terrace with a beer to guard our backpacks, and as Hetty was much more picky than me on the cleanness of the hostels, she went looking for a nice place, asking the locals or some taxi drivers. She always came back with: “Bart, I found paradise again!’
Entering the Schwedagon, Yangon, Myanmar
Chongqin, China: Wanzhou Grand Waterfall, July 2006
of adventures is too much to describe, so we leave it to a selection of
pictures, with sometimes a story. Today many many people have such stories.
We started our discoveries early, before the masses, and so many times we were lucky: whether it is a romantic dinner at the base of one of the gigantic temples in Bagan, Myanmar, sitting on the roof of a train between the hippies descending 2.5 km the Andes from Quito to Guayaquil in Ecuador, walking in amazement in empty Petra, as well as in an empty Machu Picchu or a hot pool in Pamukkale, or celebrating the beginning of the 21th century high on Felix Rooftop Bar in Hong Kong: luck is an attitude. Of course we had occasional setbacks, but we always stayed positive: ‘maybe we sleep in a barn tonight!’
Curacao, Jan 1996
Yangshuo-Guilin, China, Jul 2011
Cuchicara, Ecuador, Jan 1995
Schwedagon, Yangon, Myanmar. Dec. 2005.
so far has been on the Middle East, all of Asia, Europe and the Americas. The
hospitality in the Middle East is amazing, and the tropical forests in Asia,
Africa and in Middle & South America are mind-blowing. In Europe we
chilled, discovered and marvelled in most of its romantic capitals. We also
acquired our diving license (Bart ‘advanced’) and made extraordinary dives,
such as at Sipadan Island, the Yongala wreck, the Red Sea, Bunaken, Boracay,
Cuba, Coron and Curacao, to name a few.
Damascus, mosque, May 2001
We love the big musea of this world. Our most favorite are the grand musea of Mexico City, National Palace Museum in Taipei, Damascus National Museum, Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Ufizi in Florance, Kremlin in Moscow, Acropolis Museum in Athens, Prado in Madrid, Orsay in Paris, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Pergamon in Berlin.
Our earliest trips were with paper maps, and no internet, no mobile phones. It is nice to make an effort to go somewhere, and discover unexpected things. Traveling today is almost too easy: you recognize what you have seen during your internet planning and review reading. We only once traveled with a group (Kerala 2003). Of all other trips I remember the city names, bus / train stations, etc., but for this trip I hardly know where we have been...
In general we avoid the ‘Western Hotel’ style luxury hotels, as it is far more charming and romantic to stay in local specialties, such as in Chinese courtyard hotels with lanterns and red sheets, in ‘Lonely Planet’ style hostels where you meet lots of fellow adventurers, or palm-leaves cottages on the beach, or as exotic as in a Bedouin tent or a cave dwelling.
Beijing Courtyard hostel, Jan 2015
It is really nice to learn to improvise, when a bus is cancelled, or you are with 24 people in a van meant for 9, or hang outside a city bus door in crazy Cairo, on two fingers ...
Sometimes we made the occasional splurge: when in Oman we learned that the most luxurious hotel in the Middle Easy was in Muscat, so we booked an ‘Islamic room’, which was extraordinary: we still talk about it. The terrace dinner featured a bamboo Eifel tower, mirrors with chocolat bonbons, etc. In Brunei we stayed in the opulent and showy Empire Hotel, a out-of-hand project of the sun of the Emir. Or in a Maharadja Palace in India, or a luxury safari lodge in Serengeti, Tanzania...
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.”
~ Mark Twain
lesson of travel is the respect you develop for different cultures and customs, for the
fragileness of nature and animals in particular, for indigenous people, and the
most fascinating is the bewildering variety of people that we met.
Penang, Malaysia, Dec. 2010
Bangalore, India, Dec. 2003
Most travels were safe, and we hardly encountered problems. Of course there was the occasional pickpocketing: in La Paz old ladies bumped on me, and one cut open my pocket with a Stanley knife, in Barcelona a guy on the electric stairway out of the metro made fuss that he lost his glasses, and pushed me to find it, and rolled my wallet. And one time in Guayaqil we ended up in completely the wrong place as we miscommunicated with the taxi driver. When people made a throat cutting signal to us, we immediately took another cab to get out …. In the night trains in India we tied up our backpacks to our body with long velcron strips, as we heard that backpacks were stolen in these dark trains overcrowded with poor people. And always tie up your backpack on the roof of the bus yourself. But normally everything was safe.
In those days (the eighties) there was no mass tourism yet.
Can you believe that we had the warm baths of Pamukkale in Turkey virtually for us alone? That we walked alone on the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, or were exploring Petra in Jordan with only a few Bedouin shepherds with their sheep?
We are now experts in haggling, it’s fun. And sometimes you need to help the process a little: the stamps were finished at the post office in central Cairo, but when I shoved a single dollar into the booth, he suddenly found some overlooked ones in a drawer. We have always eaten at local food stalls, small local restaurants, and only in the first 2 years or so we had some one-day stomach inconveniences. The best places to eat are restaurants that are crowded, often the cheapest and best. In the expensive ones the steak may be waiting there already for three days. We have our vaccinations for the serious diseases, and importantly, we are not extremely picky on hygiene, as most people are. I guess we developed a wide range of resistances as it was meant to be by nature: we eat local delicacies everywhere without any fear.
Street food in Kolkata, India, Nov. 2012