There have been a couple of overwhelming themes I’ve experienced in the past 16 months, but none as powerful as the fear that us humans are ruining the planet at an alarming rate. That being said, there are some places that are yet to be overwhelmed by this virus.
There is a lovely quote from David Attenborough (my all time favourite human being) that goes: “I wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored”. This speaks to me on a cellular level as I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find places on this planet that are free of mass tourism and of misguided, ill-planned and destructive capitalism.
Whilst I’m fully supportive of development and the improvement of the overall quality of life for the planet at large, I have seen for myself the destructive manner in which we are achieving this goal. I feel that this development all happens in isolation to a greater plan, that there is this common belief that the ‘planet can handle it’, that ‘global warming is a myth’ and that so long as I am benefitting now, all will be fine, the future isn’t mine to worry about.
In light of the above, I’ve come across a handful of places during the past 16 months that are still pure, devoid of the tentacles of destructive capitalism but this will not last long. If you’re like me and want to walk along an unbeaten path, to be the only one walking around an ancient temple or simply crave the sound of silence, these places need to be high on your bucket list.
Officially opened to tourism and tourism is rapidly expanding but nowhere nearly as overwhelmingly as the likes of neighbouring countries in South East Asia. I found the people to be super friendly, culturally in tune with their beliefs and generally, kind and willing to help, even if it meant sacrificing a lot of their own time.
Myanmar also has it all – beautiful undiscovered beaches, ancient temples that you can explore without a fellow human in sight, where the chambers within are so quiet you loose total awareness of the outside world. When you’ve had your full of hunting down the ideal sunrise and sunset, move into the Shan province where you can hike through the rural farmland and live with local families.
You can read more about my time in Myanmar here.
To think that this country neighbours China and is yet so untouched is unbelievable. It is one of the largest countries in the world but only has a population of 3 million people, of which more than half live in the capital, Ulaan Baatar. This translates into a landscape untouched by human beings. There is little to no infrastructure outside the capital so it really does feel like you’re the only one there, especially in the Gobi desert which is so flat, you could almost make out the curvature of the earth from the top of the Khongor sand dune.
You can check out my photoblog from Mongolia here.
I rave about Palawan a lot but I felt it was one of those untouched places, especially when sailing around the remote archipelagos where no tour groups go. We were the only boat in sight, sleeping on deserted beaches, eating freshly caught fish and snorkelling until you couldn’t swim anymore.
I’ve said it before, but my mate Manny said to me that once you see a Palawan sunset, every other sunset will be ruined for you. I’m starting to agree!
I explored this region with Tao Philippines – an organisation that promotes the development of local fishing communities that find themselves in dire times as there are no more fish left to fish. The Tao experience was one of the highlights from my entire trip.
You can read more about this here.
Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
As I write this, I actually fear it’s too late. The worst pollution I’ve seen in 16 months was on Borneo and the surrounding islands. I hope someone from the Malaysian government actually reads this – I’ve never seen so much plastic waste on the shores of Bornean rivers and in the sea around these parts. It’s utterly disgusting.
What is sad about it is the wildlife, the rarest animals you’ll see, are being pushed out of the jungles and into ‘conservancies’. It’s not the way it should be. There are a number of organisations doing good work here but they’re fighting a hopeless system.
If you’re looking to find some incredible snorkelling and wildlife, you need to get here now as it’s a matter of time before it’s gone for good.
You can read more about my time in Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo (Sabah) here.
A cultural and spiritual hotspot that will give you goosebumps multiple times a day. The people are pure, totally devout to Buddhism and have hearts the site of small planets. Potala Palace in Lhasa remains one of the most spectacular religious sights I’ve ever cast my eyes upon.
Sadly though, the landscape of Tibet is under heavy pressure from China on all fronts – religion being a major one. China has an insatiable appetite for construction at all costs and it is very clear to see how this development is starting to encroach on the ancient city of Lhasa. Tourism is police-controlled and your movements are limited. I reckon this will only get worse, sadly.
You can see my photoblog from Tibet here.
I just realised all these places I’ve mentioned are in China or South East Asia. Clearly there’s a link between overpopulation and destruction. Instant gratification wins over conservation – very sad.