entering into the unknown

Mumbai, November 2008. The iconic 5 star Taj Palace hotel in the Colaba district of the city comes under attack from Islamic militants. So does the main railway station, Chhatrapati Shivaj, as well as Leopolds café, a favourite drinking haunt of many a western tourist. Hundreds of people are killed.

Colombo, 2007. The fierce Civil war between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tigers is building towards a crescendo. A lone suicide bomber attacks the main railway station in the capital city, causing obvious carnage, murdering many innocent Sri Lankan folk.

The reason for this cheery post?

Well in 2008 I was literally days away from flying into Mumbai on a England cricket tour when the above atrocity took place. I was undoubtedly going to be drinking in the Café Leopold and had previously dined in the Taj Palace in 2006. A train was already booked and paid for a trip to Ahmedabad from Chhatrapati Shivaj station the following week.

In 2007 I had just returned from a month on the beautiful isle of Sri Lanka when the Colombo railway station news broke. I’d been stood on that same platform weeks earlier and caught the same Kandy-Colombo train that was targeted.

Fast forward all these years and it seems I’ve dodged another bullet, albeit this time a proverbial one.

For tomorrow we fly out to the Philippines. That’s right, that will be the country that has just been hit by typhoon Yolanda today. This hasn’t just been any old typhoon though, oh no. That would be boring. This has been described as ‘the strongest typhoon to ever hit landfall’. Winds of up to 235mph have been reported and not happy with being called a ‘super’ typhoon’, it is now being described appropriately as a ‘monster’. The tiny paradise island of Boracay has been closed off for over 24 hours now as boats and ships have been cancelled by the coastguard for obvious reasons. We are due to arrive here on Monday morning. Hmmmm…..

If this wasn’t enough to make you think it might be time to start holidaying in Cornwall then it’s a good time to mention we have already dodged one bullet when it comes to this Filipino adventure. Just over a fortnight ago the islands of Bohol and Cebu were hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that killed 140 people and hit many of the tourist sites we planned (plan?!) on visiting. Guess which two islands we are spending the second half of the trip exploring? You guessed it….

We have been waiting for over six months for this trip. Minus a weekend in Bristol, me and Naomi have been working and saving non-stop since our last trip to Amsterdam way back in April. I know that sounds terribly selfish to say that given the awful pictures on the news plus the first hand accounts surfacing on twitter from the people over in the Philippines going through Yolanda. Our potential holiday plans being uprooted and changed for an extra few hundred quid pales into insignificance given what millions of Filipinos have been through this past month. Still, I’m sure you can appreciate the frustration felt before the guilt takes over.

Being stuck in the unknown yesterday as the storm approached was difficult. Twenty-four hours on we are still in the dark if it is at all possible to get to Boracay on Monday as flights to the nearest airport have been cancelled. Just as importantly we still don’t know the true extent of storm damage because the power has been out for many hours on the island. What is looking more and more likely is we will be able to fly into Manila on Sunday night as scheduled. That didn’t look likely this time yesterday.

Rewind to 2008 and after much deliberation we still got on that flight to Mumbai, changed our itineraries around to meet the cricket boards needs (Chennai to Chandigarh is a bloody long way) and had a fantastic, and crucially safe time. We need not have worried. The hundred or so of us that followed the cricket in India so soon after the country was written off as being grossly unsafe were treated like heroes and kings by the locals. We were often thanked for coming to their country, supporting them and helping them move on with their lives.

Would I still go to Sri Lanka today and ride public transport despite that ‘near’ miss? Of course I would. I would have done whilst the Tigers were still an active threat. It’s one of my most favourite countries I’ve experienced; full of some of the friendlies people you could imagine.

OK, so this time maybe slightly different given it’s an ‘act of god’ as opposed to a human created problem. But the one thing that rings true in my mind is that now more than ever the Philippines will need travellers, in the same way both India and Sri Lanka did during those darker days. We might not be able to do all the things we wanted but we are in a fortunate position – lets see what happens over the next few days and go from there.

If there is one thing I have learnt though from travelling across wide parts of Asia is the incredible resilience of the people. Lets hope we can play a small part in bringing some normality back to the place.

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3 Responses to “entering into the unknown”

  1. November 8, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    look forward to reading your blog richard.fingers crossed there are no more bullets to dodge.

  2. November 8, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Looks like you have made a thoughtful, but still brave, decision matey, hope it is a relaxing holiday x

  3. 3 Damo
    November 9, 2013 at 9:47 am

    ere rich old lad ever considered what the common denominator is? ha ha enjoy………………

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