I am deliberately having a quiet day today as I head off tomorrow on the bike and I need to spend some time looking at routes and stuff, so I thought I would take a pause to make some reflections of my trip so far -
1. New Zealand motorbike trip - 7500kms, three and a half weeks
I am really pleased I decided to do this before heading offshore as I had an awesome time and it just reminded me how incredibly lucky we are with our beautiful country - the scenery and the wide open spaces.
2. Gold Coast Australia - 10 days catching up with an old friend
Again, I really enjoyed this component of the trip. It was great to be able to be shown around by a local and great to catch up with my old friend after 20 years! Of course, it is merely an Aussie version of New Zealand. (with a few more tall buildings so not much deep and meaningful to say)
3. Bali, Indonesia - 10 days staying with friends
I found Bali an exciting yet slightly strange place. The obvious touristy nature of Bali left me pretty Luke warm however again living with locals I was able to see beyond the tourist hype and get a better picture of life in Bali.
I found it very difficult to get my head around the dual economies and the fact that there were tourists with lots of money and locals with very little money trying to get a slice of the money. I couldn't help but think that there was some exploitation that went on at both ends. The hedonistic nature of Bali for tourists was obvious - partying till all hours of the morning and anything you could possibly want was available for the right price...and running behind all this was a deeply conservative and religious country.
I feel I met people who were at both ends of the spectrum - those who embraced the influx of visitors because it meant money in to the economy, growth and development, and those who felt resentment at this influx of people in to their country. I can also understand both points of view.
Of course the traffic and sheer number of people in a confined space I have already spoken about. The other aspect that amazed me was the juxtaposition of expats with money and the push and pull factor of the local economy - without these xpats and tourists many of the businesses would not survive, however expats were building large homes that locals could never afford to buy and these were tucked away and not so tucked away beside paddy fields and local homes.
Also evident was the importance of family and many of the young men and women going to Bali to try and get a slice of the dollar so they can support their families back home.
4. Malaysia - a week so far
I have only seen a small snapshot of Malaysia so far as apart from my little ride yesterday, I have not left the confines of KL, however, I really like what I see.
It is obvious to me that Malaysia is in a cycle of major development and is forging ahead in leaps and bounds. There are a number of things that I have observed that are very similar to New Zealand, and things that we can take some lessons in.
There are two factors that obviously are at the forefront of this push - the importance of family and education.
Education is everywhere and the importance of moving forward as an individual and a family unit is to further your education. As a teacher I have always believed this to be the case and it is surely a cornerstone of the countries success to date. A major similarity with new Zealand is it's multi cultural makeup and the fact that people are just getting on with life to try and make life better for their children. Also, Malaysia is leaps and bounds ahead of us in terms of technology - well, in the big city at least.
The one area that I think they need to be very mindful of, as we and many other countries have fallen in to the trap - when you get a taste for spending and growth and material success, (and looking at the size of the malls and the availability of choices for people, malaysians love to shop!) is that people do not shop themselves in to debt by overspending and paying "on credit". Banks seem to be pushing the credit card mentality and this is a dangerous slippery slope. Trust me, I have experienced it first hand.
As a side note in regards to the shops - personally I have found the sheer number of choices overwhelming - it might sound silly, but there are like too many choices. Yesterday, it took me an hour to decide where to eat, and when I contemplated buying a new cell phone to take home with me I left the shops because it was just like information overload - there were like 100's of cell phone shops and in each shop there were 100's of choices - just too much for me. I think that's why I don't like shopping malls. When I think about when I was a kid and we used to go to chart well square in hamilton for a new pair of school shoes and there was like one shoe shop - Hannahs to choose my shoes from. How times have changed.
I have found people to be very helpful and friendly.
KL does need to sort out it's terrible gridlock though. This is always a growing pain of a developing city. Pollution with all these cars on the road is and will become a big issue in the near future I think.
When traveling by yourself you are in a privileged position to be able to just stop and watch. People watching is one of my favorite things to do when traveling as you can learn a lot about a society just by observing. Of course, asking lots of questions is the other thing I like to do, as my friends and family will attest to, so whenever I get the opportunity I do this. My goal is always to know someone's life story by the time I leave their company as again it gives me a much greater understanding and appreciation of how a society ticks. This is the joy of traveling to me (and trying all the local food of course) not so much the "tourist spots"
I think that some of the worlds politicians should do what I like to do, because if they just took a moment to look and listen they would understand that Most people In the world want pretty basic things - someone to love, a job, a roof over their heads for the family, enough food on the table and a sense of belonging. It makes me so deeply sad when i watch the news and see the conflict around the world - enough i say - lets just get on with life. How the hell does fighting a war help the taxi driver who works 7 days a week to feed his kids and pay his bills?
Ask any teacher of 5 year olds - when they have 20 kids sitting on the mat in front of them, the kids do not see differences - they don't see colour, or religion or class - they just see a friend, or not a friend. Maybe adults could learn something of this. Yes, I know life isn't that simple and I am an idealist, but why shouldn't it be that simple?
It seems Pretty straight forward to me really - education, jobs, love and a sense of belonging.
Thanks for taking time out of your day to follow my blog. Cheers, Nick.