I am a huge fan of the travel experience. I experience it as a foundation for peace and understanding. In simple terms, we grow up in a house with a set of practices and we assume (at least for a little while) that “this is how life works.”
Only to hit the road—be it school, college, a job, or actual travel to other destinations—and discover people doing the same things in very different ways. Rinsing dishes with cold water instead of hot. Eating with flatware, or chopsticks, or fingers. Driving on the left or on the right. The list is endless.
When I traveled to Southeast Asia in 1997, I discovered that I really love “luxury in nature.” Good luck finding those together. If you want to be in nature, you have to really rough it, and if you want luxury, you’re most likely to find it in a large city. And luxurious travel for me includes interacting with the locals, in addition to having a beautiful clean room and comfy bed. The luxury of making personal connections.
But as usual I start to digress. My starting point for this post is a hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, “The One Hotel”:http://www.theonehotelangkor.com/. It has one room. For a maximum of two guests. It is luxurious in decor and amenities. (Room includes an outdoor bath, outdoor massage on your private balcony, 32″ flat screen, iBook and mobile phone or local SIM card – your choice.)
It triggered a definite attraction plus guilt response. Siem Reap is a small village near the amazing “Angkor Wat Buddhist ruins”:http://www.angkorwat.org. I’ve read about the big 5-star hotels that have sprung up there, in sharp contrast to the surrounding poverty. It conjers up images of travelers who could care less about the local experience. I mean, a major part of the 5-star experience is to be catered to as one of only a few, a sequestered, special class of people who prefer to mingle with each other and not the locals.
But at The One, you can choose the Good Karma package that includes going out and meeting the locals, helping local NGOs, or the Khmer Arts Discovery package and visit art galleries (there is a rich art culture here), and so forth. There are no others to mingle with, except the locals. This is my kind of travel. 🙂