Monday, October 31, 2011

On the Importance of Travelling Companions

As I mentioned in my first post, this summer I went to North Korea. Once I had decided to go, I searched the internet to see which tours were available, searching in both English (my native language, and thus the "easy" option) and Chinese (which I also speak well enough to keep up with my university studies in Chinese). I very quickly found some English-language tours that organised tours that left from Beijing, but with a whopping price tag of $3000. Well, forget that, I thought. I immediately turned my attention to the Chinese-language tours leaving from Dandong, the Chinese border city near North Korea. After contacting one of the companies, I discovered that the price for an Australian citizen to visit North Korea during the Arirang games was 5600RMB - nearly twice the price than that for Chinese citizens, but a 70% discount when compared to the English language tours. Plus, the tour left from Dandong, rather than Beijing, which meant less time in places that I've already visited, and more time in the DPRK. I was sold.

What I wasn't counting on when I chose the Chinese tour was the fact that it gave me a very different set of people to travel with when compared to the English-language tour. Apart from a pair of Hong Kongese, a lone Singaporean and myself, the rest of our group of 30-odd people was from mainland China, and throughout the tour, none of them were afraid to share their opinion on what they saw with the world, and thus give me a new insight into the country.

So much to say...

As a student, I am blessed with long holidays, and I have decided to take advantage of these to go travelling. This summer, I travelled not only around China, the country I live and study in, but also to both of the Koreas. During my mid-semester break, less than a week from now, I will be going to Sri Lanka with my boyfriend who I met in North Korea. (I will wrte about how we met in the blog at some stage later.) After much reflection, it occurred to me that the story of my experiences, and the lessons I learned from this holiday are too important to just be forgotten, and too complex to be relegated to just a few lines, or even just a single essay.

To tell all of this, I decided to start this blog. Don't expect me to give day-by-day accounts of my travels. To me, the experience of travelling is much more than a simple list of "been there, done that". In this blog, I will talk about the people that I meet, the things that I learn, and the impact that my travels have on my life and way of thinking. I will also blog occasionally about my experiences living and studying in a different country and culture from the one I grew up in.