Trish Bongard Godfrey

Travel Bugs

14 November 2013
Trish Bongard Godfrey

Got the Travel Bug?

I hear a lot about people expressing a desire for a quick get-away vacation. RIGHT NOW! is how it is characterized. Usually it’s talk about going south and getting some sun, but I know a lot of skiers who are itching for some snow – a “smidgen” of which we saw recently in Toronto. I have been thinking about my best vacations and travels, and thought I’d blog that for some alternative inspiration to Sunquest Vacations.

Years ago, after taking a corporate-sponsored Outward Bound Course in Northern Ontario, I was bitten by a serious travel bug. I borrowed a good backpack from a really serious mountain climber friend, and within about 7 days, I was headed off to Southeast Asia. In the 12 or 14 weeks I was away, I covered Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, and Nepal, and concluded with a very rough 3rd-class overland trip from Kathmandu to Bombay (Mumbai), India. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently spent two days in one of the coolest places I visited: Burma. She met with Opposition Leader Aung San Sui Kyi, who spent years under house arrest as a political prisoner. I often listen to international radio broadcasts on CBC at night when I can’t sleep. A lot of news coverage is about Burma (Myanmar) and I am delighted to know that these warm, friendly, but incredibly poor people are getting a chance to open up their boarders to trade, education, and democracy. I hope to return there and visit the amazing sites of the Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon; the ancient Temples of Pagan (now Bagan); and Inle Lake, from where I raced back to Rangoon on the roof of an over-crowded passenger train, ducking bridges and a few drunk, exuberant male passengers unused to seeing a blonde, white woman travelling alone.

En route between Burma and Nepal, I was “kidnapped” by Biman-Bangledesh Airline (BBA) on the “it-must-be-Monday-so-our-visas-run-out-flight”. They were obliged to get us out of Rangoon, Burma, because we all travelled on time-limited visas. BBA had just two flights a week departing Rangoon for Kathmandu, and this one wasn’t full. So they got us as far as Dhaka, Bangladesh – where we didn’t even have a scheduled stop-over – and unloaded and quarantined us in some terrible hotel. When the Thursday Rangoon-departing-for-Katmandu flight arrived a few days later, they dragged us back to the airport and loaded us on board. In between, we were treated to a two-hour air-conditioned bus tour of Dhaka, and meals. It was a difficult situation to be placed in with a bunch of strangers without currency, proper visas, proper dress, nor any reasonable way to contact the outside world.

Finally in Kathmandu, Nepal — having lost track of the people I was to meet earlier that week — I met some Brits and set out a three-week trek around the Annapurna Mountain Circuit. About halfway to the Pass, which is over 17,000 feet, I got food poisoning and my casual walking companions moved on. But just as one ad-hoc group left the little guest house I was staying in, another group of interesting people appeared, and off I went with them. I ended up in Pokhara, Nepal, feeling incredibly fit, independent, and filled with weeks of memories of the most spectacular, never-ending views of the Himalayas, which I still love to think about.