"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it."

For me it's not necessarily about the destination but about the people you're there with.  They make the moment that you share in together.  Read my "...when suddenly..." section below for some of my many anecdotes that support the way I feel about travel.

So there I was, minding my own business, when suddenly...


 

India outside the temple

So there I was minding my own business outside a temple in Western India when suddenly I vomit violently uncontrollably.  Now this is as much a shock to me as it is the owner of the street stall whose eyes I find myself staring directly into as I look up from the ground.  You see, I've only been in India for less than a week.  I'd been feeling absolutely fine up until that fateful point.  I think it only courteous to take a step back away from his stall.  I'm trying to gather myself and keep up with mum and dad visiting the temple, when suddenly, my stomach gets worse.  I manage to take a step or two further from the stalls.  Luckily the ground was just dry dirt because I feel so sick, my body forces me to bend down and strengthen my stance by placing my hands on my knees.

At this point you may be thinking that this is just a mild case of delhibelly, something everbody gets visiting subcontinental Asia after a week or two.  That's just the place, so why should Mark feel that it is the people that make the place. Well dear reader, this is where the hero of the piece comes in.  The local tour guide, full of confidence that he has seen far too many white tourist do this sort of thing before.  He brings me to one side, to a drinks stall and asks the bartender for a glass of lime juice and salt water.  Sounds interesting?  My stomach didn't think so and I could not stop how it felt.  I was not sure if the locals were shocked at the candid way I took the whole experience in front of them or because they had never seen so much liquid come out of a whitefella before!?!  That's what I remember most, the people.  I have no idea exactly where I was or what temple we were at nor even whose religion the temple was for but the tour guide and the stall holders really made the whole experience so memorable.

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India at the beach

So there I was minding my own business playing cards with my mum on the beach when suddenly we're both surrounded by locals taking photos of us both, just sitting there playing cards.  We're both a little nervous about being the local attraction at the beach.  Not sure if it's the act of card playing on the beach that they're finding so exciting so we just continue.  Then some of them get a bit more courageous and ask to have their pictures taken with us.  Neither of us are used to such celebrity status and we're not getting used to it either, when suddenly the attention of the entire beach shifts its focus towards something in the surf.

What can it be?  You may think it's just the beach, must be spectacular surf, splendid waves, an elegant ship passing by or perhaps some wildlife unique to that part of the Indian Ocean?  None of the above and that's what was so fantastic.  This had nothing to do with the place itself but the people who were there that day.  Everyone's attention was on the white guy stalking out of the surf in his speedos and goggles.  Who else?  My dad.  I had to rush over to him to explain that everyone wanted his picture and to also have their picture taken with him.  It turns out that the bluff in the middle of the beach divided the tourist half of the beach from the local half of the beach.  We must have stumbled down to the local's side.  Only when we got to the bottom of the bluff before climbing back up to the car park did we realise that we were in fact the only whitefellas on the entire beach, hence the celeb status, no doubt?

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China and the luxury brandname hotel at Chongqing

So there I was minding my own business walking down the road just outside our hotel in Chongqing when suddenly I notice out of the corner of my eye that there are a group of people playing mah-jongg in the front room of the shop we just walked past.

I took a step or two closer to find out what could be going on.  It’s not usual to find people playing mah-jongg in the front of a shop.  Now it turned out that this was no ordinary shop like the one we had just bought some bottled water and crisps.  In fact it was quite unusual with serious lack of wares being displayed.  Granted, there were a number of friendly staff and the manager seemed confident and friendly.

I’m about to ask him some more information about the mah-jongg sets that they might have available for sale when I notice that my parents and friends have walked on past the shop.  I bid my farewell to the goodly manager and quicken my pace to catch up to the group when I notice that they too have also stopped in front of another shop.

This shop is remarkably similar to the one that I have just hesitated in front of myself.  It is set-out in a similar fashion, with mah-jongg table, manager and staff.  However, it strikes me that I have just trotted past several very very similar shops in a row, from the first I stopped at to the one that I am now perusing through the front door.  What becomes most evident is the lack of anything on sale despite the number of scantily clad ladies staffing the shop.

What is so remarkable about this occasion, you may ask, dear reader?  Well, for me it was not the fact that I had found myself in the heart of the red light district of Chongqing not a step outside the main entrance of our hotel.  Red light districts have their own customs and atmosphere depending on the place but this visit was marked most notably by the people that were there that day.  My family and friends and our combined synchronous reaction to the realisation that our package had granted us an unadvertised excursion to the red light district of Chongqing and the local charms of its inhabitants and the eager management therein.