Wanted: ultra-cheap, photographer-tolerant country outside U.S.

Discussion in 'Travel' started by lex_jenkins, Jun 10, 2005.

  1. Well, this is my first post (and visit) to the Travel Photography
    Forum and, sure 'nuff, my question is about as lame as most newbie
    questions. Apparently several years of participation on photo.net
    hasn't taught me to ask better questions...

    I want to do a little traveling and photography outside the U.S.
    while I still can. Unfortunately a nasty car wreck in 2001 left me
    with back and neck injuries that are getting worse instead of
    better. I'm worried that if I wait too long I'll never be in any
    kind of shape for travel.

    The problem is that I need to stretch my miniscule savings as far as
    possible. I'd like to spend up to six months at this, assuming I
    don't fall apart too soon.

    Being a fairly spontaneous sorta person I don't have my mind set on
    any particular place or places. In fact, I'd definitely like to
    avoid the beaten track. Several years ago the Czech Republic sounded
    enticing but now it seems overdone.

    Since I already live in Texas going to Mexico doesn't really seem
    like international travel. And I can always view my grandparents'
    slides from their trip to Mexico during the 1960s - I doubt I could
    get any better photos than they did with their Instamatic.

    A couple of folks have suggested Venezuela as tourist-friendly and
    inexpensive (favorable exchange rate). Any comments and, especially,
    suggestions for specific places to visit will be very much

    I'm also thinking Sri Lanka. While it isn't necessarily the most
    travel friendly place for Westerners they can definitely use our
    money since they were hit pretty hard by floods. And the challenge
    of documentary photography rather than the usual travel photography
    appeals to the former journalist in me.

    Since Sri Lanka is a skip away from India I suppose that would make
    sense as well. Over the years I've heard enough in general about
    travel in India to feel comfortable visiting there. I'll just need
    to study up on the culture of South India since that's where I'd
    likely go after Sri Lanka.

    So, there's an approximate idea of the kinds of places I'm interested
    in: Cheap, not too touristy, doesn't have to be pretty (I'm mostly
    interested in the people). I'm not concerned about potentially
    dangerous political sitatuions - as I discovered in 2001, it's just
    as easy to get killed by a careless driver in the suburbs as by a
    bullet during a civil war.

    I'm definitely not interested in places, however cheap, where
    Westerners have made all tourists look bad through misbehavior, not
    respecting the local culture and by exploiting their people.

    Otherwise I'm wide open to suggestions. This will probably be my one
    and only opportunity to travel outside the U.S. (other than Baja
    California 25 years ago) and I don't want to spend it in a Club Med
    or the usual tourist traps in the the Caribbean, Bahamas, etc.
  2. Cuba, cheap and close by for you. Love to go there one day! Actualy, WILL go there in the very near future, probably before 2006 is over.

    Judging by the number of people shot travel photogs seem to come back with, it must be very friendly. You may have to take a detour through Canada or Mexico to get there, though!
  3. For a six month trip, on the cheap, India is hard to beat. In fact India is hard to beat using
    any criteria. It'll blow your socks off - in good ways and bad.
  4. I would put strongly suggest Myanmar (Burma if you prefer) because of its people. The Burmese have been defined "the gentler oppressed people on Earth", and how true this is. Virtually 100% of the population is deeply religious (Buddist) and this make them going through life with a smile and a wonderful attitude - which of course is exactly what the bands of crazy generals and drug criminals who "rule" the country exploit to put them down. Just to give you an example: we spent a day an night on the boat from Mandalay to Pagan, and it is customary that at each of the countless stops local women will board the boat to sell their clothes, vegetables, etc. After buying and buying, my wife was forced to tell a young lady that she could not possibly buy anything from her. She replied that she had two small children at home, and whether we could not give her something for the children. When my wife made the gesture of giving her a little money, she was shocked and promptly refused it. What she was asking for was some sweets or possibly something that could be used as a toy. My wife was moved to tears. An example in the opposite direction: an evening in the hotel we were staying there was a large social affair for or with the local political boss. This guy was sitting at the main table with his back to the main hall, and proceeded to eat his meal and chat with the three or four people at his table while an endless procession of "lower" guys came to his table to each deliver a small salute (to his back) and then bow repeatedly. Not for a single moment did this SOB bother to turn and sort of acknowledge what was going on. I know several other Asian countries rather well, but in my book as a human experience and interacting with people Myanmar is by far the best.
  5. I was born in the UK but spent a large percentage of my teenage years over there.

    You should be able to freely visit any part of the island under government control.

    It is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that anyone will try to harm a tourist on purpose unless they are a robber.Of course if you go anywhere in the world you can run that risk.It is not in the interest of the government or the rebels to harm foreign tourists.

    We had many English friends come over to visit us from the UK many times and we haved toured around the country without any problems.

    With the Tsunami alot of coastal transport routes were badly affected and only now are getting back to normal according to my parents.

    Train travel is not very good in Sri Lanka.Public Transport is OK but being Asia they tend to drive like they are on a deathwish.At least they are on time!:)

    The best thing would be to hire your own vehicle if you intend to do any personal travel.

    Also it is worth avoiding the beaches since there is more to visit in Sri Lanka than this.

    I know this is a very touristy recommendation but you should try to visit Kandy - the "hill capitol" and the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.

    Also you should try to visit Nuwara Eliya which has an olde world feeling to it and the surrounding areas.

    Also it is worth visting the ancient city of Anuradhapura which is over 2500 years old.The GIANT stupas there have to be seen to be believed.

    There are also the ancient statues at Polonnaruwa and the rock fortress at Sigiriya and it's frescos.

    There is also the Yala National Park.

    You money should do OK there too as at the monet on USD is worth a hundred rupees.
  6. BTW if you are travelling to India watch the water you drink.I have many known people from Sri Lanka who have travelled to India and have gotten sick!
  7. Sorry to hear about the neck/back problems - do not become a "horizontalis consultant" - keep working at it as you can often at least stop it getting worse (personal experience).

    Assuming you are not intending 6 months in one location I would offer the following thoughts (I am basing cheap on a UK perspective) :-

    Europe - do not discount the Czech Republic especially Prague great place and still relatively cheap.Portugal is about the cheapest place in Western Europe - Lisbon I loved and is the cheapest big city I know of (bit of a faded lady but with style) and the Atlantic seaboard/western coast is stunning and the Algarve, although touristy has a lot to offer - lovely people as well.Rome is a bit dearer but still a great city so would fit it in if I could.There is a lot to see in Europe but my vote for the "must see" sites are Pompei/Herculaneum and the Alhambra (Granada) if I could only pick two.Sadly the UK is becoming ever more expensive and London (I know it is my own home patch but after much thought it is a great city) is a costly destination.

    East and Southern Africa - the game parks are just something special.Kenya & Tanzania can be cheap but are not easy to do as an independant traveller and getting there can be expensive.It is not only game parks, there are aspects that may well appeal on the documentary level as well (not necessarily happy ones).Needs research.As for Southern (South) Africa I am not sure how it fits in to the cheap category, others may know, but if it still is then give it a thought as well. Madagascar is unique in many ways (I really enjoyed it) but I'm short on upto date information.

    Like you I have still to get to the rest of the world - there is so much to do - and will watch other replies with interest.

    Good luck.
  8. Surprisingly - Karachi is a fabulous city for photographers. It is not the first city that would enter the head of a would-be tourist and this , paradoxically, is what makes it a good choice. Eat like a king for a dollar, speak English to many of the locals, meet the most amazing people (many of whom would be honoured to be photographed). Accommodation is cheap, and you might even try Indian massage for your back. I was there last Christmas and I will be there again this coming Christmas (Insh'Allah).

    I am of obviously Western appearance and met only with friendliness from the Pakistani people.

    Good luck,


    PS If you read the US or UK foreign office advice on their web-sites, you will be put off and miss the experience of a lifetime.
  9. Lex-I can wholeheartedly recommend Chile to you. Fare is a little expensive but cheap once you get down there. The country has three distinct climate zones and all are interesting. The southern part of the country will blow you away. Volcanoes, rushing waterfalls,thermal baths,lots of open seascape.You also have the Andes Mtns. The food is excellant, the wine is cheap and the women are beautiful. You can almost sleep on the beach if you want. There are still beutiful places in the world and this is one of them. I've been there three times and will return again.
    Wherever you go please enjoy and have great time. Thanks for your efforts here at Photo.net
    Best, Peter
  10. Thailand is very westerner friendly, and rather easy to travel in...also VERY cheap. I'd also consider (err, or I should say I AM considering) Cambodia (Ankgor Wat). For some reason Myanmar (Burma) has managed to get off my radar screen, but I do have some plans to shoot there, but need to figure out who to talk to in the military junta to get permission to go into certain areas...hmmm...Laos can be dicey, I do know that certain areas of the countryside are simply to dangerous (from the banditos) for foreigners to go into. What REALLY came to mind when I read your post is Northern Thailand, The Golden Triangle...and specifically, the hill tribes (yeah, yeah...some DO ask for a small payment for photographing them).

    I LIVE in Taiwan, travel here is cheaper than in the U.S., hard to get around without a car...err...and after over a decade, I can't figure out WHAT to shoot (just kidding). In other words, I've been here so long that I can't see the forest through the trees).

    Cuba is actually the place I would retire to if I could get my wife sold on Spanish, so I'd definitely vote for that :).
  11. it


    Sri Lanka is great, the people are extremely friendly and photogenic, but it feels too developed for me. I prefer Cambodia, but I lived there for 6+ years so I'm biased. I returned this year for the first time since the '90s and had a great time. The main thing is to get away from the tourist hordes. Once you do that, the photographic possibilities are endless. Just hire a guide/translator and the place is yours. Burma and Laos are pretty much the same deal, but you have more restrictive govt's in both places. After so long in Cambodia, Thailand feels like Switzerland to me now.
    Lots of shots in this folder .
  12. As part of your adventure, please consider Elderhostel if you are at appropriate age (55 or better, I think): www.elderhostel.org. They are a nonprofit educational outfit that has long provided inexpensive experiences of all kinds and levels in many parts of the world. Some are more organized with education and local trips than others which include more free time. Everything from quilting history to winemaking to mountain climbing. They need our support to keep doing it.

    For example, in September, a couple years ago, we spent 6 days in a fine room on the beach in Florence, Oregon, with topflight instructors in marine mammals and many other fields (masters degrees and up, actually working in the field), for about $630 apiece. Includes room, meals and all local travel once you get yourself there. Boats to whale watch (6 gorgeous blue whales in 2 hours), explore the river, hikes, the works! Subjects included geology, history, marine biology, plants, birds, animals, fish, photography (retired Disney cinematog and producer), etc. Might serve as an orientation and you can go on your own before and after. Good luck and congratulations on the opportunity!
  13. Two thoughts come to mind immediately:

    1) Vietnam - Not many Americans outside of the "conflict" have been there and can now do so. It is cheap beyond belief and they are an interesting lot. The country is beautiful yet you can still easily find war remnants that make for interesting contrast.

    2) Baltic nations - Not too many Americans travel to Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania (west of Russia and south of Finland). An amazing amount of the natives speak English, are very friendly and easily approachable. The cities are a marvel to behold - I loved Tallin, Estonia in particular. I believe it is still quite affordable and you feel safe everywhere you go.
  14. Freighter cruise? See all the small Pacific islands with no air strip or other contact with the world. Cost is low, larger cabin than cruise lines. At least that's my dream way of spending 6 months.
  15. Mr. J. W. Wall has it right.

    Consider Elderhostel for at least some of your travel plans. In addition to
    what Mr. Wall wrote, the people one meets on these Elderhostel trips are
    the absolute best. It's almost a restoration of faith to be with the kinds of
    people Elderhostel attracts. There are both domestic and overseas programs.

    And if it's people you want to photograph, NYC, Sri Lanka, Fresno, Chengde, along the Wicklow Way, Tel Aviv, Sydney, Prague or Dubrovnik - they're all pretty good.

    Wherever it is you decide upon i can't imagine you'll be disappointed.

    Throw a dart at a wall map with the object of traveling to that place.
    Unhappy with the result? Throw again, and again until it lands in the place your "heart" is set on.

    Good luck with your quest.
  16. www.elderhostel.org. They are a nonprofit educational outfit that has long provided inexpensive experiences of all kinds and levels in many parts of the world.
    I wish I were rich enough to think of $3,000 to $4,000 for a two- or three-week program as inexpensive. I'm thinking of spending a couple of months in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos this winter--I should able cover my entire trip (including travel from Korea) for significantly less than $3000. Good thread; it's giving me more ideas.
  17. Vietnam.

  18. Among the poorest of South American nations, Bolivia would not dissapoint. Not only is this country characterized by incredibly varied geography, but the people, and their lifestyles, have had to change accordingly. The high altiplano is an incredibly harsh place to live, yet the locals find away to eek out an existence. Their faces tell the stories of the difficulty. The City of Potosi (the highest in the world) is known for its silver/copper/zinc mine and the workers, and culture, associated with the day to day living-hell (after having been in the mine, this is no exageration) is both shocking and amazing. Bolivia also has the jungle, where you would find yet another completely different way of life. Everywhere you go the people, particularly the ladies, dress in the 'traditional' fashion, the poverty is often hard to ignore, and colorful and exciting markets abound. All this in a country that is relatively small which would allow for longer stays in certain areas, giving you the chance to fully explore the people and the photographic potential they present. Oh yeah, I haven't mentioned cheap yet. Bolivia is very cheap - hostels, food, transportation can all be had for a small fraction of what seems resonable.

    Wherever you end up - have a blast. I think your plan is a great one.

    Andrew Forrest
    Alberta, Canada.
  19. Bonsignore: That's excellent information. I like the idea of taking a few gifts. What sort of treats do the kids like? I'm a chocolate guy myself but I know there different cultures prefer different things.

    SL: Also excellent information, especially regarding the transportation advice. Sri Lanka is one of the few places where I think I'd actually enjoy visiting all the touristy places. And FWIW, I really didn't expect Sri Lanka to be a dangerous place. But since I'm an objective person and don't have any opinion regarding the political issues I'm also aware of how easily I might inadvertently step on toes. It wouldn't matter to me if the person happened to be a Tamil Tiger, but I wouldn't want to offend anyone or place him in danger by being viewed, however incorrectly, as a snoopy American trying to interfere with local affairs. So I'd need to study up on regional news before traveling there.

    Bill: I'm glad you mentioned Portugal. About 20 years ago my mom and I considered traveling there. Her language major in college was Portugese (not much use in Texas, unfortunately, but she enjoyed learning about the culture). At the time you could fly People Express to Portugal for around $100 or some ridiculously low price.

    BTW, I had to laugh recently when watching a boxing match on TV involving a Brazilian boxer. The TV commentator remarked that the boxer wouldn't understand the referee's instructions because "the referee doesn't speak Spanish and the boxer doesn't speak English". Last I heard, Portugeuse was still the primary language of Brazil, and the language is different enough to cause problems for those who are fluent in Spanish.

    Oops, gotta go... I'll respond to everyone else's replies later. Thanks much.
  20. Hi

    Lex don't worry abou taking pictures in Sri Lanka.People in Sri Lanka like taking pictures!:) However the only thing that you should not take pictures off are military installations(applies to both sides) as they WILL get a bit testy!

    Also if you go to areas with religious significance you should act appropriately.

    Good food and clean water are no issues in most of the country.In this respect Sri Lanka is considered better than the rest of South East Asia.Outside local stuff Chinese and European food is pretty good there too.

    If you do go to Sri Lanka please contact me as my parents are there at the moment and they can tell if there are any problems or things to watch out for.
  21. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I agree. Especially the north. People are accepting of photography and far nicer than many Americans expect them to be.
    The Pigeon Lady, Copyright 2004 Jeff Spirer
  22. South India, as you noted, Lex, would be a great place. It covers a fairly large region, encompassing (depending on how you count) some four or five different cultures and endless variety therein. South Indians are easygoing and friendly. You can see cities, villages, the coast, mountains. Travel for a buck or two on the train. Veg food in little roadside canteens will set you back a few dimes. There's a whole world in South India. When I go to India (which is often), I head south.
  23. Lex,

    Most places in the world are "Westerner" friendly. Come to think of it, most places are friendly. As for Asia, which I know the best, it is also very safe, and non-threatening. Sri Lanka is a good place to visit, so also India. Burma is an excellent choice, though I doubt if you would get a 6 month permit to visit. Its a big world out there; happily, most of the world actually hasn't succumbed to the tourist blight because 1) its a large planet, actually and 2)despite outward appearances, most people keep their own counsel.

    Most of the world is also, by U.S. standards, relatively inexpensive to live in. The world is your oyster.
  24. South East Asia (including Vietnam). About as cheap as it gets, and if you go to remote places, you'll find some people who not only will pose for you, but also thank you for taking their picture without expecting anything in return.
  25. Quang-Tuan Luong you should go to Sri Lanka as it is the oldest Theravada Buddhist country in the world!
  26. Hi, I only thought that perhaps India is hard on the back regarding travel since the roads are long and hard. My 76 year old step-father went motorcycling there, ech to their own....Wonderful food I think. Anyhow, I would go to Canada simply for the freedom, fun, and friendly factor.

    I look forward to your photos on return from wherever you choose!

  27. Lex:

    I would recommend a South East Asia loop: Vienam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. I have not been to Laos, but in all the other countries smiles and people's kindness are so predominant that after traveling there, it is hard not to go through a period of self examination, rethinking our own behaviour and actitudes to life.
    People, food, religion, culture and natural wonders make of this area an unforgettable experience.

    Another amazing area for traveling is Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Kazakistan, Turkmenistan (not so photography friendly), etc. These nations cover the silk road, rich in cultural heritage (imagine of places of the thousand and one nights like Merv, Samarkand, Khiva, Bukhara) and people of all ethnical backgrounds coexisting for centuries, they are also amazingly friendly and hospitable. There are nomadic tribes and you can spens some time lodged in their yurts. The only minus in this area is food in my opinion, so it may be a little bit hard to go through here for months, in every other topic it scores very, very high.

    Enjoy your trips

  28. Wow - you are getting quite a few responses. Let me add another suggestion that is well
    worth entertaining: Central America. Since you are on a budget, you'll find traveling
    surprisingly inexpensive in most places - we are talking between USD 3-10 for a clean
    room, USD .50 - 1.50 for long busrides, food for about USD 3-5, etc. There are certainly
    accomodations, food, etc. available at higher prices but if you need to stretch your budget,
    it certainly is possible here. Additionally, your flight from the US can run you as little as
    USD 200 and can last less than two hours. For the money, you get a lot a variety in terms
    of people and culture: from traditional Maya to modern Sabaneros.

    The most expensive country in Central America is Costa Rica (and perhaps Belize) -
    causing many budget travellers to skip it/them. All other countries are cheap and
    generally safe (with a few, usually locally confined exceptions). You could start up north
    and work your way south and see Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize,
    Costa Rica, and Panama - each country is unique in most respects and well worth a visit.
    Most do have some citiy or area that is inundated by tourists (e.g. Antigua, Tikal, etc.) but
    it is easy to go off the beaten track and have unique and interesting experiences.

    I've had a great time photographing children in Nicaragua and Guatemala - they were very
    happy to receive a few treats but were generally even happier when I handed them a cheap
    P&S digital camera so that they could take pictures of each other - we all had a blast and
    walked away happy.
  29. Try these countries:

    Costa Rica
    Southern Spain

    I try to take an overseas trip once a year. Never had a bad expierence anywhere! Just be polite, ask questions and smile. You will be fine.
  30. Lots of great suggestions in this thread. I'll throw my 2-cents in and recommend Argentina & Brazil. The dollar currently goes pretty far there. Very friendly folks, too.
  31. Lex: "So, there's an approximate idea of the kinds of places I'm interested in:
    Cheap, not too touristy, doesn't have to be pretty (I'm mostly interested in the
    people). I'm not concerned about potentially dangerous political sitatuions"

    As you don't mind a bit of political instability have a think about the Philippines
    - a fantastic and strange hybrid of Latin America and Asia. It's cheap,
    astonishingly varied, startlingly beautiful, the people are (with a few fairly
    radical exceptions) friendly and interesting, and - with a little bit of luck - you
    just might find yourself in the middle of a people power revolution as Arroyo is
    due to be swept aside. What more could anybody ask for in a vacation.........?
  32. Another vote for Vietnam. Photogenic, cheap and friendly. Traveling through Vietnam can be hectic, there's ONE highway from North to South and it can be stressful. As Jeff mentioned, stay within the Northern region (Hanoi, Hmong people region, Ah Long Bay...) or Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the South.
  33. Western Samoa is also cheap, friendly and not touristy. For US$30.00 a night you can rent local "fales" (beach huts) in many locations around the islands of Uoplu and Savai. These "resorts" cater for surfers on a budget and tourists looking for real escape. Meals are provided by local villagers. If you're lucky you'll get a fresh lobster for dinner.

  34. Lex - it may take you longer to consider all these suggestions than the trip itself. Glad I did keep watching - it has been very illuminating.

    Just to pick up on the excellent comments from Anthony Oresteen about smiling etc. I would add one thing - always try and learn at least a few basic words/phrases of the local language, it really does help to break the ice.

    Wish I could do better in Portugese - I particularly stumble on the pronunciation especially compared with Spanish.

    Enjoy your reading !
  35. Since the devaluation of their currency, Argentina is pretty much a bargain these days. The beef and wine is excellent. You have Iguazu Falls in the north, Tierra del Fuego in the south, Mendoza, Andes and the wine country in the west, and BA in the east. Very safe!

    I also like Ecuador which is reasonably safe and inexpensive. Great if you are into volcanos. Lots of color!

    Another possibility is New Zealand. Extremely safe! Wonderful scenery. Great people. Not too expensive, but they don't have ketchup!
  36. I'd definitely toss in a bid for Cambodia. Yet another country where things are very cheap once you get there, and it is pretty cheap to get there from Thailand - (about $200 r/t from BKK, but maybe cheaper if you buy the ticket in BKK). Angkor Wat is absolutely NOT to be missed. If you go, I can give you some specific temples and sights to include on your itinerary that are NOT so well known, and so are not quite as overrun, and you'll come back with some amazing shots that most others won't have. Also, the people there are extremely friendly, many speak at least some basic english, and it is very safe. When I went, I did a dingbat thing and A: changed some money at the airport, and B: left my money on the counter at the foreign exchange booth at the airport. By the time I realized what I had done, I was checked in to the hotel, and my driver was gone. I figured I would never see the $500 USD again, considering that that amount of money is equivalent to two years pay for the average Cambodian. I went to the bank, got a cash advance on the credit card, then kept on with the trip. When I went to the airport to go home, my guide suggested that I speak to the airport lost & found, just in case. Well, I did. They had my money. The guys at the currency exchange booth turned in the envelope to the airport security office. I got every last penny back.

    If you get away from the main monuments at Angkor, you'll get to see the people and interact with them in a non-commercial way. I took a trip up to Phnom Kulen, which is a mountain not far from Siem Riep (the town next to the Angkor temples). Virtually unseen by non-Cambodian tourists, as a westerner you'll be treated like any other visitor, and not hounded by children trying to sell you film, postcards and bottled water. Through my guide, I had two teenage boys tending a shrine invite me to engage in a footrace (which I politely declined - I'm 5'9", 240 lbs, and I'm wearing hiking boots, and they want to race me over boulders! I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid :) I like my ankles the way they are. ).
  37. This will probably be my one and only opportunity to travel outside the U.S.
    That's just such a sad statement to me, Lex.
    I've seen it over & over in my life. I've watched folks put off traveling for a number of reasons..."we don't have the money", yet these same folks buy a new car every year or eat out every other night..."we can't leave our children", "we can't get off work", "we can't put the dog in a kennel", "we're scared to fly", "my mother's sick, I can't leave her", "they can't do without me at work",...the list goes on & on.
    I'm not criticizing you, Lex. I'm just wondering why you have just this one chance to travel...and you may well have very valid reasons. Like I said...no offense intended with this post.
    But at least consider taking shorter trips to several parts of the world instead blowing it all on one country. And don't discount the "touristy" places. Western Europe, while currently expensive and touristy, is beautiful, lively and a true joy to experience.
    Westerners haven't given all tourists a bad name. I've found that most people just want to be treated the same way you want them to treat you. There's no single destination that's better than any other single destination. They're all unique.
    Sorry for my little soapbox rant here, but it's a subject I've argued about with many people. I do know that all your reading and planning is no substitute for actually being there.
    Wherever you go, safe travels to you.
  38. Okay, I'm finally able to revisit this thread after a couple of busy days...

    I had considered Pakistan but figured it would be too far out of the way considering my hypothetical starting point of Sri Lanka, then jumping over to South India. As meticulous as I am it's likely I could spend two or more weeks between Sri Lanka and South India, so it's less likely I'd ever make it to Pakistan. But I'll reconsider my plans.

    Regarding Thailand, at the risk of unintentially offending anyone (which I'd never wish to do), I had crossed it off my list because of my impression that the locals, at least in Bangkok, have been exploited by visitors to the extent that I've been doubtful that I'd be able to get a valid impression of the true heart of the country. I've crossed most of Brazil off my list for the same reason - when 13-year-old Brazilian girls appear on videos like "Girls Gone Wild" or hip-hop videos on MTV, cavorting for money for the pleasure of Westerners who have hit the rock bottom of decadence, that pretty much rules out a place for me. I hope I'm wrong about both places but, still, I can think of other places I'd rather visit anyway.

    I would certainly consider Vietnam and Cambodia. For one thing, I know the food would appeal to me. I live in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex, which has a Asian populations in Haltom City and Arlington. I was raised on Chinese food in NYC restaurants but it can't compare with some of the authentic Vietnamese dishes that are surprisingly filling despite being low on meat and heavy on lightly cooked veggies in enormous bowls of soup. Also, I joined the U.S. Navy at the tail end of the Vietnam Conflict, missing the "fun" stuff by a few months (I would have joined earlier but was too young and my parents wouldn't sign off for me). But I soaked up the stories told by veterans who'd served tours in Vietnam. Oddly enough, despite some of the harrowing experiences, I didn't meet a single Navy Corpsman or Marine who didn't like Vietnam and the people. They wouldn't talk much about the war itself or the violence, but they enjoyed talking about the beautiful country.

    Elderhostel is out. I'm 47, tho' my back feels 67. But I'd rather go it on my own than via any sort of organized tour.

    Boris: I appreciate your suggestion to visit the Philippines but while in the Navy I was stationed with many Philippinos (for a while I even knew a few Tagalog phrases, which I butchered badly enough to give my comrades a good laugh) and American sailors who had been stationed in the Philippines. I've heard so much about the place I feel like I've already been there. But I must say the Philippinos are among the most gentle and gracious people I've ever met. I've always admired any people who can be gracious in peacetime and ferocious in wartime. It's a complex and interesting culture but I have my mind set on a place about which I know little or nothing.

    Olivier: As with the Philippinos, I served with Samoans in the Navy and somehow the place holds less mystery and fewer surprises for me now. Again, if I had unlimited time and resources, sure, I'd enjoy visiting. But I'm more drawn to the completely unfamiliar now.

    Alex: I'm glad you mentioned Argentina. I've been a huge fan of boxing since I was a kid and Argentina has long been home to some of the world's finest boxers: the great Carlos Monzon, who defended the world middleweight title more consecutive times than any middleweight until Bernard Hopkins; light heavyweight Victor Galindez who, like Monzon, died in an automobile accident after retiring from boxing (Monzon's was a street accident while Galindez was inolved in motor racing by then); Hugo Corro; and too many others to count. That could make for an interesting tour just visiting the various boxing gyms and venues.

    Again, to all, thanks so much for all of your suggestions and information. This is one of the most helpful discussions I've been involved in during several years of involvement with photo.net
  39. Jim: My reasons for expecting this to be my only chance to travel are fairly complex but here goes. I hope this doesn't sound maudlin because I'm not looking for sympathy, simply describing a situation that is probably familiar to many of us...

    I became unable to work for a while as a result of a car wreck in 2001 that left me with several cracked vertebrae in every region of the spine including the cervical atlas and axis, which continue to degenerate. Fortunately the hip, knee and ankle injuries on the right side haven't gotten any worse, but I know from watching my grandparents that a damaged back will eventually lead to damage to the hips, knees and ankles. My right wrist shooting hand is becoming arthritic too, making it difficult to comfortably hold a camera in the vertical position (thankfully my D2H has a properly positioned vertical release; unfortunately the camera weighs a ton).

    After about a year I was able to get along without a cane except during very long walks. Right about that time my grandmother, now in her mid-80s, began to decline in health.

    I spent the past few years taking care of my grandmother. The last few months of 2003 and early 2004 were particularly difficult as she went into home hospice and I was her primary caregiver. And while I'm a former nurse, if not for my cousin, a nurse's aide who lived next door, I doubt I'd have been able to handle it.

    After grandma's death in April 2004 I spent the rest of the year helping to liquidate her personal assets in order to meet the arrangements of her will as closely as possible. It was a grueling period as we had to separate decades of accumulation of antiques and curios from mere junk in order to be sure the beneficiaries of the will got as much as possible. We were literally down to the wire with the rather unpleasant buyer of the home threatening to evict us (even tho' she was a day or so premature) while a couple who bought the home furnishings, etc., graciously took time on short notice to clear out the belongings as well as hiring men to clean up the house and storage buildings.

    After it was finally over with at the end of 2004, I wanted to do nothing but relax for a while. I've considered returning to work (I'm a former nurse, journalist and federal workplace safety inspector) but, unfortunately, serious back and neck injuries from a 2001 car wreck may prevent ever holding another job in my former fields (other, possibly, than journalism).

    As part of the estate settlement I wounld up receiving more money than I'd expected (I didn't actually expect anything), not a lot but enough to put me into the position of being able to do a little traveling as long as I keep it cheap. The rest I plan to put toward housing and getting resettled later.

    The other consideration is that my mom's health is now declining. So far the main problem has been due to falls - a broken back last year, aggravated by a fall as soon as she got home; broken ribs this year; etc. - and with each fall she loses mobility and balance. I'm also noticing what seems to be a bit of what may be post-traumatic stress disorder, a certain amount of confusion about day and time, and irritation over very slight distractions such as trying to talk while the TV is on but muted, or while a neighbor is knocking on a door several doors down. It may pass as she recovers from the fall, but I have to be realistic and accept that I'll be her primary caregiver within a few years, which will prevent any possibility of travel.

    As with my granddad and grandma, I don't want my mom to go into a nursing home. But, to be realistic, if I wait I may not be in any shape myself for traveling except via the Club Med route.

    That's why it's a now or never situation.
  40. Sorry to hear about your accident...that's a bummer. However, I ocassionaly travel with a blind friend that also has kidney failure and needs dialysis (due to diabetes). He was at first reluctant to go, but now frequently calls me to ask about our "next trip". And he has to arrange to have his dialysis "on the road". He puts it this way, "What else am I going to do? Stay in the house and wait to die?"
    I have my own list of daily duties and commitments. If I leave for two or three weeks, it's all still here when I get back. I suppose that will never change.
    Again, I'm not writing this to pass judgement on your opinions and choices...and non-choices. It's just that this last year I've seen more than my share of folks who have died or are dying, regretting that they never traveled.
    Nobody knows for sure what will happen to them down the road. Tell yourself there will be more trips.
    Hope it all works out for you.
  41. Another vote for Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (especially Angkor). Don't worry about the "street" food (cheap). I never got sick. Just don't eat the flies, LOL. I may be assigned to Vietnam sometime in the near future, after the Paris and KL basic and detailed engineering phases. Three of my favorite places. I cannot imagine a better scenario.
  42. "Regarding Thailand, at the risk of unintentially offending anyone (which I'd never wish to do), I had crossed it off my list because of my impression that the locals, at least in Bangkok, have been exploited by visitors to the extent that I've been doubtful that I'd be able to get a valid impression of the true heart of the country. I've crossed most of Brazil off my list for the same reason - ..."

    Travelling to a foreign land (even staying for months) and expecting "to get a valid impression of the true heart of the country" is unrealistic. A country has thousands of years of history and diverse regional cultures within its borders. Even amongst the natives, few can make the claim that they know their own countries that well.

    I too want to learn something about a country when I travel, but I know whatever I learn would be superficial and plan accordingly to optimize the experience. Even in the most touristy big cities, many locals are not in the tourism business and live "normally" away from the tourist areas. I make an effort to find such neigborhoods to mingle with locals by wandering off the tourist traps. Instead of hitting many spots on a trip, I spend more time in a few cities within a small region. A longer stay gives me more time to soak in the culture, and to return to a spot for better shots.
  43. Also in reference to Thailand, well, you don't go to BKK to get a "true sense of the heart of the people". You go to Bangkok for cheap shopping and nightlife. That said, I think you can actually get a pretty good sense of people there just by talking to them and treating them as equals. I spent two weeks in Bangkok a few years ago, and since I was on a rather leisurely schedule, I spent a bunch of time chatting with the doorman at my hotel, who was more than happy to chit-chat and practice his english. I think you'll find that that is the kind of encounter you are likely to have anywhere in the Southeast Asia region, if you allow it to happen. It sounds like you are going places (or not) based on preconceived ideas - get rid of your preconceptions and go with a completely open mind, and you'll be surprised. If you go with planned notions of what you think you'll see, then you will see exactly that.

    There is a lot more to Thailand than Bangkok. Get up to Chiang Mai to see a different side of the country, or trek down the peninsula to Phuket, and go take a tour of some of their national parks, that can only be visited by canoe. If you're interested in more information, I can put you in touch with folks who can help out in either Thailand or Cambodia (I've got a fantastic contact for Cambodia, who is a licensed guide, and can arrange air-conditioned car transport to and from most sights).
  44. I loved central America. try Costa Rica or Panama. Yes they get tourists, but there are
    beautiful places off the beaten track and one can relax and have a great cup of coffee!
    You might try Canada in general - by train. Long trips, great scenery and multiple
    cultures & climates. Lots of North American history and generally very friendly people.
    FWIW: There are some amazing places in the US that are off the beaten track and
    relatively inexpensive. At least with Panama, Costa Rica, Canada and the US one can
    take years to see everything and still drink the water!
  45. Well, I was a little concerned that if I expressed my particular preferences for travel venues there would be misunderstandings or disagreements. However, it's my trip and my preferences.

    I really don't have any preconceptions about Thailand or Brazil. I'm simply aware of the fact that citizens of certain major cities in those countries have been sexually exploited by foreigners for the profit of internet pornographers.

    I don't object to Thailand or Brazil, I don't object to pornography and it's none of my business what consenting adults indulge in.

    But I don't have to visit places like that. I don't go to Mardi Gras either. It may be representative of a significant part of the population there, but it doesn't mean I have to view it.

    OTOH, if I ever go back to work as a journalist and want to make a grand tour of the world's most perverse hotspots for a specialized publication, by all means, I'll alter my travel plans.

    Regardless of whatever minor disagreements may have arisen here, I'm very grateful to everyone who responded.
  46. Lex,

    Sorry to hear of your travails, however, hope you can pull off this trip of a (or several) lifetimes.

    Obviously, we all are going to suggest places we've been or would like to go to, so I must dive right in with my own biases. My daughter was a teacher trainer in the Peace Corps in Namibia, a mostly desert country, which is in the southwest of Africa, on the Atlantic Coast, just above South Africa, and we visited her there twice. It was the most incredible of experiences for us.

    She was a typical suburban girl, who in high school, I had to fight with to use the $2.00 Suave hair products, when all she wanted was the $10 a bottle Paul Mitchell stuff. Guess who won! Anyway, she went to Africa to a village of huts, with no running water, electricity or phone (and no Paul Mitchell) and loved it, staying for an additional year beyond the normal 2 year tour and still maintains written contact with the "second family" she left behind. Many of the villagers hadn't seen a white person before, and when she got sunburned and started to peel, they were afraid she was going to die!

    The people for the most part are incredibly friendly, however, as with any area in the world, you must be careful in some of the populated areas (particularly the capital, Windhoeck. The official national language is English, although many people only speak their local tribal languages, and it is cheap, especially when converted from the US dollar at 7 to 1. There are areas that look like you're in an old town in Germany, with German speaking residents (a German colony until WW I)and others with Afrikaners (after WW I it was a "protectorate" of South Africa until 1990). It is pretty spread out, and you would probably need to do a lot of driving (might be tough on your back), but it opens up all kinds of possibilities to see village people (notice not capitalized), small towns & cities, and incredible landscapes and vistas. You're also not far from South Africa, Angola, Botswana and Zaire, although the latter 2 particularly, are more for nature, which may not be your thing.

    Anyway, Just my 2 cents, & hope you can make this trip in good health and enjoy it.
  47. Thailand or Brazil. I'm simply aware of the fact that citizens of certain major cities in those countries have been sexually exploited by foreigners for the profit of internet pornographers.
    But I don't have to visit places like that. I don't go to Mardi Gras either. It may be representative of a significant part of the population there, but it doesn't mean I have to view it.

    The sex industry in Thailand (and most likely in Brazil, as well) existed long before the internet, and while Thailand is a popular destination for "sex tourism" (largely because it's so cheap), the majority of the sex trade still depends on "domestic consumption." That said, however, if you don't want to visit Thailand because you think the sex trade is representative of the population, you'd probably shouldn't visit Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, or many other developed nations. For that matter, you should avoid most major cities in the USA (not just New Orleans during Mardi Gras). One my friends visited Thailand three times before he saw any evidence of the sex trade, and the one time he was approached, he was with some other guys who had taken him to a red-light district.
  48. Lex,
    Having been stationed in SE Asia for nearly 15 years, and living
    on the economy, I would say that any of the countries mentioned
    are superb places to visit and photograph.

    In the Philippines, you can head to Legaspi City and capture the
    Mayon Valcano, Kiwi Hot Springs, and the hectres and hectres of
    coconut trees. A train ride there is not recommended do to your
    back but flying is only 30 minutes. Even more interesting, is
    Baguio City; it is nice and cool there. Lots of people working their
    crafts. Don't forget the nuns that make beautiful, intricate silver
    jewerly. You can go down the mountain to Long Beach and
    capture the beautiful sunsets, bancas, and fishermen. The
    people are friendly, the food is great, and the exchange rate will
    make your money go farther.

    Thailand, also gets my vote, even Bangkok. Lots to see and
    photograph; just get off the beaten path as someone suggested.
    I have never been to Chang Mai but I here it is quite nice. If you
    like spicy food then you will find it here. Also, the people are quite
    friendly but as someone suggested, spend some time in an
    area where you can sit and talk and see where that goes.

    That reminds me of a time when I was in Luxor, Egypt, also very
    interesting. I ditched the people I was traveling with so I could
    visit the area the way I wanted, slow and easy, even in the tourist
    areas. I ended up in a jewerly shop where I was trying to buy a
    piece. By not going directly to the subject and talking about Egypt
    and other things that showed my interest in them and the country
    I was soon invited to join them for tea. Later, I was asked to if I
    wanted to watch them solder the Egyptian symbols onto the
    jewerly piece. I did and got well off the beaten path to see the
    piece finished using much older methods.

    I would love to go back to Vietnam, so it gets my vote also.
    In any event, enjoy your trip. Bill
  49. Lex, sorry for the tardiness in answering (away on a business trip). You should be rather careful with gifts for kids, because these things are closely watched and regulated. Basically, you are not supposed to give kids toys or anything other like that, period. This has nothing to do with the awful political system in Myanmar. It is the same in Pakistan and other countries in Asia, and it is intented to prevent whole hordes of kids from becoming beggars, India-style (not to mention much worse things such as child prostitution in Thailand). The rules are that you can only give away school material (pencils, notepads, etc.) and even those should not be goven directly to the kids but rather to a school teacher who will them distribute them to the kids in your presence. Now of course this is not strictly enforced but nonetheless it is the law. We used sort of a mid-road approach with sweets and most particularly some small sweet packages also containing an inflatable balloon, etc. As regards grown up, things like T-shirts, dirty cheap watches (the $3 apiece variety) and plastic cameras (ditto) will make you an extremely popular guy.
  50. Thanks for the info, Bonsignore, I'll be sure to be careful with gifts.

    Mike, I suppose my main reason for ducking places like Bangkok is because I can get plenty of perverted sex in the U.S. So any foreign (to me) country that advertises sex tours in the back of "Hustler" is pretty much off my list.

    However, I may be up for ads in the back of "Soldier of Fortune" magazine.
  51. "Well, I was a little concerned that if I expressed my particular preferences for travel venues there would be misunderstandings or disagreements. However, it's my trip and my preferences."

    It is indeed your trip and your preferences.

    "I really don't have any preconceptions about Thailand or Brazil."

    But you did provide a reason for not wanting to visit these countries:

    "Regarding Thailand, at the risk of unintentially offending anyone (which I'd never wish to do), I had crossed it off my list because of my impression that the locals, at least in Bangkok, have been exploited by visitors to the extent that I've been doubtful that I'd be able to get a valid impression of the true heart of the country. I've crossed most of Brazil off my list for the same reason - ..."

    My response was NOT trying to change your perceptions of these countries, but to express my opinion that a travel photographer attempting to get "a valid impression of the true heart of the country" in a short time is unrealistic. Peace, and have a good trip.
  52. I haven't been, but my girlfriend keeps telling me we should just go live in South Korea because its so cheap. She lived there for a year teaching english, made decent money and did a lot of traveling. Maybe a working vacation?
  53. Matt, at least one good source for info from an American who's lived in South Korea for a while might be a Baptist missionary. The Southern Baptists in particular have active missions in South Korea. Those missionaries I've spoken with have been able to offer interesting perspectives on being a visitor to that culture as well as how Christian missionaries have melded with the South Korean culture and how South Koreans have melded their culture into Western Christianity.

    Some of the most interesting observations were completely unrelated to religion, tho'. For example, one missionary I spoke with said that when a traffic accident occurs an obligatory argument immediately ensures. Whoever loses the argument is considered liable for the damages. I don't know how accurate this is but it's an interesting perspective.
  54. I lived and worked in Korea on two occasions, in total for over a year. It ain't that cheap, was on par with Spain at that time (1991 and 1997). But, the food is great, the partying hardy, and the people nice; most of the young can manage english.

    I ran over a drunk in 1991 who was stumbling in the middle of a main road at the end of my shift, coinciding with the hour that the bars close (midnight). I was put into the Ulsan jail for a month until the law decided the fault was his. But, me (my company through insurance) had to pay roughly $5000 for his lost income, and pain and suffering. Interesting indeed.
  55. Sri Lanka is very travel friendly. It's really easy to get around. Lots of people speak English and almost everyone we met was either very friendly or indifferent to us. You will meet bunches of tourists but, in the cultural triangle area anyway, they're mostly Sri Lankan tourists. Most of the SL tourists were very friendly and happy to start conversations with us about thier cultural treasures. As for western tourists, they were mostly from Europe, very few Americans.

    It's not as cheap as India (or so I understand) but it's pretty cheap. It has a ton of photographic potential - nature, cities, towns, rural areas, ancient ruins, modern development . . . . The only concern would be that it's a bit small for 6 months of travel but you'd get to really explore and spend time in each place you visited.
  56. Stephen: Your experience mirrors what I've heard from other Americans who've spent time in South Korea and Okinawa. If you are on the road, even as a passenger in a taxi, and there's an accident, you'll probably be presumed guilty until bailed out by insurance, family or the U.S. Consulate. I'd probably walk.

    Jennifer: Thanks for the additional info about Sri Lanka. It's sounding more appealing all the time. I doubt I'd spend several months there, tho', unless I could be useful helping to rebuild or doing volunteer work of some kind. It's a little late in the game for that, of course, but they may still be able to use a hand here and there.

    BTW, how's the climate? I've had heat exhaustion (not heat stroke, which is far more serious) a couple of times during the past few years and can't handle the heat as well as I used to. Is there a particular time of year that's ideal in terms of comfort while still being conducive to photography (i.e., not raining all the time - for that I could go to Seattle, drink coffee and look self-important with my notebook PC in public in a mopey sorta way ;> ).

    I hate to be such a wimp but I gotta be realistic - I can't afford to become a casualty while traveling solo far from home. (Unless it involves dodging bullets during a civil war, in which case I'm up for all kinds of irresponsible excitement.) Meanwhile I'm trying to build up my heat tolerance here in Texas. I managed a couple of hours, with breaks and plenty of water, the other day before needing a nap. Actually, I did almost as well as my hyperactive 16-y/o niece who wasted energy griping about the heat rather than napping in the shade of a gazebo like I did.

    Does anyone over age 30 remember approximately when they realized that griping wastes more energy than fixing the problem, or simply ignoring it? I seem to recall being a rather late bloomer myself.
  57. Nepal. Or you can start from there and move along to India & Sri Lanka. You can take Nepal as "India for beginners" - less crowded and much less demanding from a westerner -, and Kathmandu valley has possibly the highest concentration of photogenic stuff in the world.
  58. Having lived in Sri Lanka it is very humid considering that you are near to the equator.
    12 noon to 2PM are generally the hottest partv of the day.Generally daytime temperatures are around 27C to 32C.

    If you are travelling near the coast it tends to be cooler anyway.

    If you travel to the mountanous regions like Kandy the temperature and humidity is much less as you would expect.

    Our English friend(in his seventies at tht time)and his daughter stayed with us in Sri Lanka during summer and christmas times a few year ago.We travelled around the island and they have had no problems.

    As long as you take the appropriate precautions you should be OK.

    It will probably take you a few days to get used to the humidity though.
  59. I'm trying to spend a little more time outdoors at midday by the lake than I usually would during Texas summers. We'll see if I can get acclimated.
  60. So much depends on your personal heat tolerance. I'm oblivious to heat until about when the TV news starts posting health warnings. My husband gets over heated much more easily. So, we went to Sri Lanka in December. I and our traveling companion were fine. I was actually pretty comfortable the whole time in lightweight long pants, short sleeve shirts, and sandals. My husband got heat rash. We were both comfortable at night - the marvels of the ceiling fan.

    At home in DC on summer nights, he blasts the fan and I sleep under two sheets.

    As for offending people, I'm not sure how touchy a subject the political conflict is. There was a cease fire while we were there (still is) but there had recently been some political drama (by U.S. standards) with the president disbanding parliament (I think). Ordinary folks didn't seem shaken up about it and felt it would get resolved. There are young soldiers with machine guns on some street corners in Colombo but I regularly see more firepower in DC. We didn't travel into the Tamil Tiger controlled areas - mostly north and north east (I think there also are ethnic Tamils in the hill country that don't identify with the Tigers but nearly my entire understanding of the subject comes from one friend and the history section of my guide book so you should definitely do your own research.) But Jafna (far north) has been recently opened for tourism and Trincomalli (east coast) is supposed to be gorgeous - we just didn't have time - you would.

    We didn't get into much detail on the conflict with folks. We spent more time talking about life in general, cultural differences, and other social issues. People kept asking about Iraq (this was Dec03). Conversations sometimes when like this "Where are you from" "USA" "Oh, Sadam Hussein" or "Oh, George Bush". One of our tour guides was glad Sadam had been ousted because he was a terrorist "like the Tigers" but I don't know how wide a sentiment that was. In hindsight I kind of wish I'd been braver about digging deeper in issues like that.

    As for volunteering, it's probably not too late at all; there's a lot of rebuilding to do. My housemate is going in August to volunteer in a province on the east coast and plans to travel a bit after that.

    A good place to discuss this with other travelers is thorntree.lonelyplant.com. My only word of warning is the whole forum tends to be a bit alarmist about safety and scams so take everything on that subject with a grain of salt. We never once felt unsafe.

    Sorry to ramble. Good luck.
  61. Oh, I take that back. I did feel unsafe - in traffic. Don't drive and try not to look.

    Also, December is the dry season in the south and west and the wet season in the east and north - I think. You'll have to look that up.
  62. I would be careful about going into Tamil Tiger controlled areas though.If you are part of a NGO you maybe OK but if anything flares up the government cannot help you.Also there is a split in the Tamil Tigers own ranks.

    Trinco and that area are supposed to be nice.Pulmoddai which is in this region has beautiful black beaches.Before the conflict many people used to go there.My dad says it was really nice and the water around the beaches was not more than waist height for upto a mile from it(at least from what he said)!

    However Trinco has been badly hit by the tsuanami.

    Pulmoddai is probably not really safe to travel to at the moment though.The LTTE have a problem with companies extracting this sand(it contains high grade titanium ore) and sunk a ship there a couple of years ago.
  63. BTW most Sinhala and Muslim people hate the LTTE.Also this sentiment is also shared among the more moderate Tamil groups whose representatives were murdered by them.
  64. it


    I was in Trinco a few days after the ceasefire was signed in Dec 2001. Great beach, basically no tourists for 20+ years. Worth the trek up to the northeast IMO.
  65. Thanks again, SL. As a former journlist it would be tempting for me to at least converse about local issues, if not actually get involved in "PJ" or "documentary" photography on any format level.

    As always, self-education and caution should be packed in one's suitcase along with clean underwear.
  66. If you want some history behind the conflict here are some links





    Of course I cannot vouch if any of these sources are truly impartial though!

    I hope this helps!
  67. BTW depending on who writes it the historical accounts can be slightly skewed!
  68. > SL ATTANAPOLA , jun 22, 2005; 06:18 p.m.
    > BTW depending on who writes it the historical accounts can be slightly skewed!

    Agreed. You have to be aware of what filter is on the lens to get a true picture of the subject.

    I was carrying the Lonely Planet in Sri Lanka. That history didn't seem so bad but I had nothing to compare it with and it was useful for me at the time to get a sense of some of the many issues at play. I've read a number of travel guidebook histories that seemed very slanted or judgemental of the country. Still, it makes an interesting contrast to the cheerleading-type history you often hear from tour guides - neither tells the whole story. And while you get another perspective from the people you meet, they aren't necessarily historians and probably are not impartial either. But, it's part of what makes travel interesting.

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