Wander Woman: A Travel Podcast

Calm in the Chaos

January 10, 2024 Phoebe Smith Season 2 Episode 4
Wander Woman: A Travel Podcast
Calm in the Chaos
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Think Thailand and you usually think two things. The first is the vibrancy and hedonism of the capital city of Bangkok. The second is The Beach - the book-turned-film featuring Leonardo DiCaprio that sent scores of backpackers to a tiny island off the coast of Phuket. I pay the Land of Smiles a visit (in association with the Tourism Authority of Thailand) to uncover a different side to the world's busiest city and the country beyond. From visiting the Green Lung of the capital where monks ask for recycling rather than alms, to journeying by sleeper train to Chiang Mai to check out sustainability projects already underway, and interviewing a ranger about the initiatives that have been introduced to tackle overtourism on the beach from The Beach - wander with me to discover a side to the country that is distinctly green.

Also coming up:
Learn how to prevent and treat sea sickness on all your water-based adventures; Dip into the 10 Best Travel Books to fuel your wanderlust; meet itinerant TV presenter, author and farmer Kate Humble to talk Interrailing, Africa and... magic string; Understand how to buy the best sun cream for your travels - whether in warm or cold climates; join us for a chat with Urban Explorer Greg Abandoned as he reveals some of the most fascinating places in the world; and prepare for a polar expedition with our Wander Woman of the Month - Arnalulunguak.

www.Phoebe-Smith.com; @PhoebeRSmith

Speaker 1:

In this month's Wander Woman podcast.

Speaker 2:

I loved the fact that she was somebody who looked at the kind of social norms of the day and thought bugger it. I'm going to do it my way.

Speaker 1:

I speak to the itinerant TV presenter and author, Kate Humble, about her travel adventures and the women from the past who inspired her. I also journey to Thailand, in association with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, to discover the many sustainable initiatives making the land of smiles cleaner and greener.

Speaker 3:

In the old days. We bring up the tourism so much and we forget about all these things. That's why it gets destroyed. So now we have learned that, so we're trying to keep them going.

Speaker 1:

And I catch up with Greg Abandoned, an urban explorer who travels the wilds of China looking for beauty in abandoned places.

Speaker 4:

I would say 99% of the time. There's always a way in. It's just what sort of effort do you want to make?

Speaker 1:

Also coming up: My regular travel hack reveals how you can beat seasickness on your water-based adventures, learn how to buy the best sun cream for hitting the sunshine or the snow, and travel the world without ever leaving the comfort of your armchair with my recommended Top 10 travel books. Finally, I'll be revealing this episode's Wander Woman of the Month, the traveler whose name is lost in the history books. You're listening to the Wonder Woman podcast, an audio travel magazine, with me, adventurer Phoebe Smith, exploring off the beaten track destinations, wild spaces, wildlife encounters and the unsung heroes behind conservation efforts. Come wander with me.

Speaker 3:

Kingfisher is beautiful.

Speaker 1:

Kingfisher, indian roller it's that one. Coppersmith Barbett and oh, it's sunbird. I am in, if you can believe it, after hearing all that bird song. Bangkok, where most Thailand adventures begin. I wanted to see temples, landmarks, meet people and experience life in the land of smiles. But I was also on a mission with my one and a half year old in tow, to enjoy the classic Thailand sights. But with a twist, I wanted to do it all as sustainably and responsibly as possible. We can't avoid flying to get here, unless we're lucky enough to live in Southeast Asia. But what can make a difference is what we sign up to do once we arrive From transport to hotels, sights and tours. Choosing the right ones can make all the difference. So I eschewed high-rises and Westernised hotels and headed straight to an eco offering.

Speaker 3:

They call it a green lung of Bangkok. It's actually, as you can feel, the breeze coming through, fresh air coming through. You know a lot of Bangkok people who are looking for a calm place, a place to relax and then get a fresh air out of Bangkok like 10 minutes away. They come here.

Speaker 1:

You heard my guide and interpreter, . You'll be hearing from her a lot, by the way. We were stood just 10 minutes from downtown, yet around us were trees rather than buildings. People, us included, were travelling around by bicycle rather than car, and the air felt fresh and unpolluted. Not only is this 16-square-kilometre area lined by thousands of mangrove trees and palms, which suck up a lot of the air pollution from the city and provide shade, it's also home to a major recycling factory.

Speaker 3:

This particular place they're very good and well-known for recycling products.

Speaker 1:

And they're surrounded by plastic bottles, bin bags. So what happens here? Are they sorting the plastic?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, they actually separate the plastic, take the cap out and then take the label and everything out, and then they'll send it to the factory, turn it into a fine trade and then weaving into a fabric.

Speaker 1:

The factory sits next door to a temple run by a very forward-thinking monk. He donated land for them to operate there, providing jobs to the local community, in an attempt to change the mindset in the country about recycling. He also asks for alms, which are donations of used plastic bottles rather than food or cash.

Speaker 3:

Every day there will be boxes and boxes of those. Are the boxes there of plastic bottles or recycling things sent to the temple?

Speaker 1:

You heard it right they use the plastic to make fabric, fabric that will be woven to provide the uniforms for the monks.

Speaker 3:

This one is the monk colour. Yeah. Very soft. You can feel the texture.

Speaker 1:

That's so soft you wouldn't know. True, true.

Speaker 3:

The monk's head is cooling as well when you add it, because they're putting a new technology into it. You know, like very soft.

Speaker 1:

But do only the monks here wear it, or monks all over Thailand. All over Thailand. Suree told me that 65 litres of plastic bottles makes one monk's outfit and takes the volunteers a day to cut and stitch the fabric. It was funny to think that this small man-made island found at the bend of the Chao Phraya River provides environmentally friendly clothing to monks all across Thailand. From there I went to my accommodation, the only one on the isle itself, the Bangkok Tree House a ten room ecolodge, and the greenest in the city. It's made of reclaimed wood that's washed up from the river, uses minimal electricity, using the trees to supply the air conditioning, it gives guests 100% natural shower toiletries made from coconut and tamarind, and makes dishes with all local foods. It also plants trees for every guest staying, and when it was built ten years ago, they were careful to have a minimum impact on the island's natural environment, as the manager Tanipon explains.

Speaker 7:

Bang Krachaoa is the length of Bangkok. So we would like to keep that concept and for us we plan the tree as much as possible and when we have built here we didn't cut any big tree. So you will see that tree that maybe I think more than 100 years about that tree.

Speaker 1:

Allowing nature to frame the entire hotel means I fall asleep in a veritable jungle soundscape. Falling asleep to that sound, it was hard to believe how close I was to the centre of Bangkok, one of the busiest cities in the world. Having gained a taste for the jungle, following a couple of days spent cycling the waterways here and spotting some of the over 100 species of birds in the wetlands and woodlands of Srinakan Kuen Khan Park and visiting the floating market, I took a train, headed east this time, to visit the famous River Kwai. But again, rather than simply looking at it, I was about to spend several days floating on it. I arrived at the pontoon in Kanchanaburi to catch a longboat at the river to my accommodation, the Jungle River Rafts, which have been floating here since the 70s. There I met the hotel manager, Suvi Monggamsi Vilot, who, against the backdrop of boats moving up and down the river upon the background noise, she prepares me for their back to nature way of living.

Speaker 7:

We do not have electricity and we try to do not use internet. So this, I think, is a highlight of us no way, no way like this.

Speaker 1:

Made entirely of bamboo, these floating rooms use candles to light rooms in the evening. The air as it moves down the waterway keeps things cool, and the emphasis is firmly on being immersed in the river environment with as low an environmental impact as possible. It's also about learning more about the ethnic Mon people who call the neighbouring riverbank home and all work at this floating eco accommodation. I met Bly, a Mon man to take me on a visit to his home, but first I needed to look the part.

Speaker 6:

This is the Mon traditional makeup and it's made from the sandalwood, a clay and a cumin. It's kind of traditional makeup and then it's protect of your skin. With my makeup, or rather, sunscreen applied.

Speaker 1:

I followed Bly into the village. I met a woman and children who dressed me in traditional longyi skirt, greeted men who were building a new house for their neighbours and visited a Buddhist temple. It was fascinating to see a different culture here within Thailand's borders. So I asked Bly so how long has this village been here? It started in 1974.

Speaker 6:

The hotel started in 1976 because that time it was in the border. Many Mon people went to school around 600 years ago. We lived in the country. Some of Mon people stayed in Thailand for a long time, but some of them still stayed in the border At that time. They had no job, no work, and then at that time they were still fighting in the border and so many people died and then we ran away to Thailand. But we're going to say thank you for the Thai people who did help us. This is the Mon village but it's not in Mon land, but Thai people. They helped us to keep place for living and then when the hotel started in 1976, the owner from the hotel. They were very kind for us Because they tried to help us to get a job, help salary and bring the children here to have education, like to the school. It was heartening to hear that tourism has been key to helping the Mon people in this area preserve their culture.

Speaker 1:

Thanks to the hotel bringing work to them. A school now sits in the village, meaning children learn the Mon language alongside Thai. They learn their own alphabet and culture. Before this, they would have had to be sent away to be educated. That night we were in the village, we were educated. That night we listened to some traditional Mon music as we ate our dinner, some of it foraged from the jungle, before drifting off to sleep. After a few days river watching, spotting wildlife, learning more about the Mon and swimming in the river, we were then night trained to Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand. At around £35 or $45 US a ticket. That's for a first class private cabin with air conditioning. This 12 hour rail journey is a bargain way to cut down on the carbon emissions that a domestic flight would produce. Chiang Mai is home to many sustainability focused businesses. It's a company employing local villages to make wax food wraps as an alternative to cling film, and another that makes backpacks from recycled bike inner tubes. It also has a growing number of vegan restaurants and zero waste grocery stores. I opted to stay at the 137 Pillars Hotel, where manager Anne Arrowsmith taught me through some of the environmentally friendly initiatives the team has introduced, from eliminating single use plastics to introducing a recycling program, composting organic waste from the garden on site and providing reusable mesh bags to suppliers of their locally sourced fruit and vegetables, while steadfastly refusing plastics and particular bugbear.

Speaker 5:

It's going to take a long time to change the mindset, because you only have to go out into the streets and the street markets and everything is in plastic. They might put it in paper, but then they insist on putting it in plastic. So to change habits is it takes patience, it takes education, it takes the young and it takes incentives.

Speaker 1:

Working with suppliers and other hotel managers, ann is attempting to get part of the city pedestrianized, to phase out single use plastics at all stages of the supply chain and encourage people to embrace the natural world as a draw for tourism, rather than attempting to make Chiang Mai another Bangkok. Boyed by our conversation and a few days spent hiking, temple viewing and relaxing in this bohemian city, I took the train again, this time bound eventually for Phuket, where a waiting boat took me out to Kho Phi Phi Don, an island near to Phi Phi Lei, made famous by the film the Beach, staying up as the Zeavola resort. I spoke to the manager, Leon, about their efforts to be as sustainable as possible and the benefits that can bring, not only to the planet.

Speaker 8:

Many hotels also don't understand that sustainability is also not only something that can create your headache. It actually doesn't at all. It's first of all fun because you see improvements and secondly, it helps also to save money. The shampoo bottles, for example, since 2008 actually got completely made redundant here in this hotel. So we have refillable porcelain ceramic bottles, and because you can buy in bulk, it makes the price cheaper and therefore you don't have to pay the increased price and over a year let's say 10 years you see a huge amount of savings later.

Speaker 1:

It was wonderful to hear that, even from a business perspective, sustainability makes sense. By cutting out all plastics, reusing water and building their own solar-powered reverse osmosis plant on site, meaning they can make their own drinking water, they have saved money as well as the environment. My final stop was Maya Bay, the beach made famous by the film of the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, that came out in the year 2000, which, in the years that followed, became the victim of over-tourism, as Suree explains.

Speaker 3:

They're not prepared for that big number of people, so that's why everything is ruined in such a quick time. The number of people visited, they can't really tell how much, but the whole beach is packed with people, no space at all for swimming or anything. So their main priority is still the same it's about natural resources. They will recover them as much as they can first, and then they will use technology in helping with the visitor Tourists coming in, control them or how to make the thing more sustainable With the tourism and everything it has to go along, because in the old days we kind of like bring up the tourism so much and we forget about all these things. That's why it gets destroyed. So now we have learned that, so we're trying to keep them going.

Speaker 1:

Now the visitor numbers are controlled, boats are banned from docking inside the bay, and swimming directly in it is prohibited, in a bid to regenerate coral and allow wildlife to return. So far, things are looking up. Black-tipped reef sharks have begun to use the cove as a nursery once more. The water is so clear it's virtually transparent, and the beach never feels too crowded. In fact, I did get a small part of it for about 45 minutes at least to myself. But don't just take it from me. What did Suree, a tour guide on local think of the change?

Speaker 3:

Wow, I'm so happy with it to see a nice and clean beach there and the white sand. It's reminding me of one of the isolated islands. It's so beautiful now Love it.

Speaker 1:

That was me in Thailand. For more about the land of smiles, please check out www. fanclubthailand. com. I have to say that, by actively seeking out the sustainable hotels, travelling on trains and visiting places, truly embracing nature and protecting the environment not only made me feel good, but also made for one hell of an adventure, especially travelling alone with my then one and a half year old, who loved every single minute. What I will say, though, particularly for the last part of my adventure, is that boat travel is unavoidable, and we all know that can be often less fun for many of us. That's right. I'm talking about the dreaded sea sickness and, of course, how to beat it. With my travel hack of the month, we've all been there, swaying slightly and steady on our feet, that wave of nausea rising through our stomach and the hope that things won't get any worse. And sometimes, with sea sickness, it doesn't. But sometimes nature takes its course. So why do some of us really suffer from it and others don't? Science aren't exactly sure, but it's likely that it's caused by sensory conflict, a discrepancy between what we see and what we feel. The senses just don't catch up when you're on a boat. Another theory is that we don't change how we sit, stand or walk when we're on a boat. Imagine walking down the aisle on an aeroplane to the bathroom. The first walk is a little wobbly. By the end of a long haul flight, most of us are more stable and a final theory is that it's simply genetic. It's about your eyes, your ears and your cranial development. It's probably a combination of all three. There's nothing to feel ashamed about. Admiral Nelson, Charles Darwin and Christopher Columbus are all said to have suffered from it, and that didn't stop them. But there are some ways to lessen the effects. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, watch what you eat and drink. The effects of too much alcohol and caffeine are made much worse by motion and eat what you normally would and the normal amount. A full English breakfast on a morning ferry to France may seem an indulgent start to the holiday, but will more than likely upset. You. Don't eat less than you would either, and that's for up to three days before you travel. Next, the adage of looking at the horizon, no matter how bouncing it is, genuinely does help. It helps your eyes and inner ears understand the situation. It also helps to face the direction of travel and choose your spot on the boat carefully. Think Kate and Leo at the front of the boat in Titanic. Actually, don't. Also, don't read a book flick through your phone or watch boating disaster movies on your iPad. Stick on your headphones, close your eyes and listen to some music or a podcast. It's worth noting that strong smells and heat don't help either. For me, the worst bit of a ferry ride is being in the car waiting to disembark and smelling diesel fumes. Avoid them for as long as possible and if you can find somewhere calming and dark to lay down and sleep, closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing really helps, and a failsafe that always works for me is getting some fresh air. So what about medications? Big disclaimer: Read the instructions and talk to a professional first. Most are something called anti-colingarics that usually come in pill or patch form, inhibit the central nervous system and calm the muscles in the stomach and bowels. Others are anti-histamines that help block the receptors in the brain responsible for nausea and often make you sleepy too. If you decide to go down this route, definitely make sure you follow the instructions and time the medication perfectly. There are also pressure bands for your wrists. My grunny used to swear by them, but know that they don't work for everyone, but they're cheap enough to try. And as for natural remedies, then there is ample evidence that ginger is an effective and cheap treatment for nausea and sickness. You can take them in pills, biscuits or tea, and actually ginger appears at the top of many lists. So make sure you always pack some, but never stop travelling for the sake of a little sickness. After all, we can be certain of one thing that it will pass. That was my Wonder Woman travel hack the insider knowledge I offer every single episode to help you travel happier and, in this case, with a more energetic spring in your step. And speaking of steps, my next guest, tv presenter, author and farmer, kate Humble, certainly gets plenty of them in each day, no matter what she's up to. I caught up with her to chat interailing in Europe, solo travelling in Africa, women travel writers, and why she never leaves home without a piece of magic string.

Speaker 2:

Well, I had. I always had this huge kind of irrepressible sense of wonderlust, so much so that my mum tells a story of when I was about two or three I was given for my birthday One of the finest birthday presents I've ever had, which was a small blue wheelbarrow. I loved that wheelbarrow and the wheelbarrow and I would go on adventures, and I was very lucky. I was brought up in the countryside in the 70s, so things like health and safety weren't such a big factor as they are now, and kids were thoroughly encouraged to kind of be outside all the time and to have, you know, to go exploring. And so I sort of took that to heart and was found a mile and a half from home just trundling along with my wheelbarrow and said, apparently you know, when I was questioned that I was just having an adventure. So it kind of started. It started early and I think one of the theories that I've come up with, and actually one of the things I explored a little bit in my book where the heart is, which is about home, was, I wonder whether having a really secure childhood, which I was lucky enough to have, gave me the confidence in a way, because I sort of I had that very strong anchor and maybe having an anchor is the thing that then allows you to want to keep travelling. So the very first journey I did kind of on my own was Euro railing in those days, you know, and I saved up and saved up and did and did Saturday jobs and cooked at a local boarding school during the week and got the money together a hundred pounds it was for the ticket, the round Europe ticket and I bought my ticket and then my dad, who hadn't said he was going to do this, said I'm going to match you, to give you the spending money, which is quite a good thing, so literally would have had no spending money at all. So I had a hundred quid and went round Europe after my own levels when I was 16. And it was amazing that that first journey just made me realise how much of the world there was to see. And you know, I was always quite a curious person. I think that was why I went into the, into the profession that I went into. I've always been just Johnny knows you, I suppose. But when I realised, you know, how endlessly fascinating our world is, that was it. I was as well and truly slayed by the travel blog.

Speaker 1:

Amazing, and you didn't you go on a really epic adventure across Africa as well, not long after that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, age 19, I basically travelled from from the Cape to Greece, and it was an extraordinary experience and one that sort of cemented that early wonderlust, I suppose, but also gave me an enduring love for for the African continent, for the people there, for for the wildlife, for the landscapes, the smell of it, the, the whole kind of I don't even know what the word is but the whole kind of sense that you feel, that every part of you feels alive when, when you're in Africa. And and the other thing, I learned some very, very useful lessons, probably the most useful of all, or not useful, but but one that I've never forgotten is it's always the people who have the least who will do the most to help. And there was that and it's and I think that's my bedrock of why I love that continent so much.

Speaker 1:

Are you a bit more mindful about where you go and how you travel?

Speaker 2:

I think, without wanting to pat myself on the back, it's something that I've always been supremely conscious of and it's, it's a difficult thing, this word sustainable because, as you know, you know there isn't a black white solution to any of these issues, but to me, travel always has to count and you know it, it it has to bring value to the place that you're going to. Yeah, and I think, in a way, that's that's the thing that allows it to be sustainable. You look at the, the, the carbon emissions of a flight. It's, you know it, it is enormous. But if you balance it out by doing things well when you're there, when you bring more value than you would if you didn't go, I think that squares it. But I think the idea of just, you know, willingly getting on a plane, yeah, just thinking there's a cheap thing and I can go and stay in an all-inclusive hotel three or four times a year, that isn't sustainable.

Speaker 1:

What is it about walking when you're, when you find yourself in a new place that you enjoy so much?

Speaker 2:

Oh, it's just that instant connection. You know you are literally on the ground, you're in amongst you know you're in amongst everything. You're not shut off in a coach or a car or a taxi. I mean, you know there's great value, as you know, in taking local transport and you know jumping onto little buses or tuk-tuk's or something like that, sometimes taking your life into your hands. But you know, that's why we travel. But there, I think there's nothing that beats seeing a place, walking around a city or a village on foot, you know, as I say, smelling it, hearing it, interacting with people. You instantly start to feel like a local and I think there's a way of you know, I find it much easier to navigate once you've been out on foot. You know, you kind of know where you are, it's where you find yourself.

Speaker 1:

What's the piece of kit that you would always put in your luggage when you travel, that you can't leave home without? I'm thinking it's your walking boots, but you tell me.

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, walking very good walking boots is definitely definitely high on the list. I always have. I do always have a pen knife with me and I do love, I love a physical map. So if I can find a physical map of where I'm going to be, I'll always have a map with me. And my mother-in-law is a great advocate of magic string, which isn't magic at all, it's just string. But you know, if you have a length of string with you, you can kind of do everything. You know that it can double as shoelaces, it can be a washing line, it can, you know, hold something together. It can, yeah. So magic string is a good one.

Speaker 1:

Is there a book that you would recommend people have to read?

Speaker 2:

Well, I would say one of the people I mean there's been a lot of mainly women, I have to say travel writers over the years and explorers over the years that have inspired me. And this isn't a new book and I actually haven't read it for a while, so I hope it's, I hope it's it's it stood the test of time. I suspect it will have done. But it's Mary Kingsley's book about climbing Mount Cameroon and I went to Cameroon about a hundred years after she did in the. I went in the kind of mid-90s and I didn't recreate her journey. But she, you know, it was just amazing reading her accounts of this extraordinary country and then being there myself. But there is something about, you know, she was this very upright sort of Victorian lady who'd lived this very sheltered life but had this, you know, this irrepressible urge to travel. And when she was freed by, you know, her father dying and all her kind of you know daughterly duties and her sort of Victorian women's duties in a way, she, you know, she decided she would go to Africa despite her friends saying, why don't you just try Scotland? I just I love, I loved, I loved that, I loved the fact that she was somebody who looked at the kind of social norms of the day and thought, bugger it, I'm going to do it my way. And that's always resonated with me. And so, and even if it's just if people read it and thought, well, I've never, obviously, I've never been to travel like that, in great big tweed skirts and button-up boots and more cup of mountain in the pouring rain. But there's something about her sense of adventure that I think is absolutely intoxicating and I always think of her whenever I'm, whenever I'm on any journey. There's a little bit of me that thinks what would Mary Kingsley do now?

Speaker 1:

That was Kate Humble. It was such a pleasure to chat to her about all things travel, and I'm definitely going to check out Mary Kingsley's book Travels in West Africa. But that is of course not the only book that can help inspire your wanderlust. This month's top 10 features a treasure chest of great reads to make you feel like you've travelled the world without even leaving your armchair. So are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin In. At 10 is Monisha Rajesh's Around India in 80 Trains. The Around the World in 80 Something or other is a well-used trope. The Jules Verne original is still a great read even today. But in Monisha's hands we feel the heat, smell the smells and laugh along with her journey. As she reacquaints herself with the country she left as a child. At 9 is an African in Greenland by Tete- Michel . This 1981 book by the Togolese author is little known, but should be. It was recently re-released as a Penguin Modern classic with a new translation. Tete Michel, as a teenager in Togo, discovered a book called the Eskimos from Greenland to Alaska and felt the call of the cold and wanted to become a hunter there. It's a story that offers as much insight into Togo as Greenland Through a truly unique perspective. Read it, you won't be disappointed. At 8 it is a classic. Notes from a small island by the exceedingly well-known American author Bill Bryson was first published in 1995. His wry and very well-researched writing has become somewhat of a template for travel writing, but this remains the original and best. For British people it offers a hilarious nod along Travellogue and for those from another country it offers the most representative look at Britain and its culture Still is on the nose today as it was back then. At 7 is Among the Cities by Jan Morris. I could have chosen any book by Jan Morris, such as His Skill with the English Language, her Observatory abilities and her equal sense of humour and indignation. The book is a collection of travel pieces covering a diverse range of cities, including Beijing, beirut and Bath, plus other cities that don't start with a, b and if you don't know her story yet, prepare to be knocked off your feet. At 6 we return to the cold with Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, subtitled Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. This wildly awarded book described five years he spent in the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic working as a biologist. There are fewer more evocative tomes about the great wild north than this poetic and insightful reed. For number five, we're joining Antonia Bollingbrook- Kent in the little visited Pradesh and her book Land of Dawnlit Mountains. An amiable companion, we follow her as she encounters shamans and llamas, hunters and opium farmers a great example of perfectly scripted travelog. At 4, Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mount Everest, is our guide through life. Honoring High Places is a collection of works from Junko, translated into English from her native Japanese. In 2018, two years after her death, it tells the struggle of the early years of her life to her nail-biting account of Everest. It covers some pretty tough subject matters, but always from a point of view of respect and, ultimately, positivity. For number three, we're cozying up with one of the funniest writers of all time, david Sedaris. Me Talk Pretty One Day is a collection of essays from the American humorist that, while not strictly a travel book in the traditional sense, offers a hilarious look at the important places in his life, from North Carolina, where he was brought up, to Normandy in France, where he later lived. At. Two, we're travelling in the heart of Africa with British author Redmond O'Hanlon and his book Congo Journey. The story is a diary about his search for a legendary and living Congo dinosaur, but it's so engaging, funny and insightful that he's become a modern classic of the genre. It's a landmark work of travel, adventure and natural history, and at number one we're heading slowly back in India with Dervla Murphy, who cycled from Ireland across Europe, through Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and into India in six months. In the 1960s she had a revolver in her pocket. She faced down wolves and robbers, and offers a courageous view on a quickly changing world. She was, and still is, way ahead of her time. That was my top ten travel books a collection of tomes that will take you on adventures all across the globe without even having to buy a plane ticket. Happy reading. Now. One thing we don't always take the time to read is the instructions on our bottles of sun cream, with many of us simply picking the one up with a special offer on it in the supermarket. So how do we buy one that will actually work well, protect our skin and not leave us feeling as though we've fallen into a vat of oil? You've guessed it it's time for my gear geek out. So this month we're talking sun cream because, even though it's winter here in the northern hemisphere, one of the main times I get caught out is in the snow, when the powerful sun rays bounce off the icy tundra and skull my upper lip. In short, sun cream is vital year round, but how do we know which one is best? Listen up. First off, we need to understand how it actually works. In the sunlight we are exposed to UVA and UVB rays, which can lead to skin cancer. Uva rays cause wrinkles and speed up the signs of aging. Uvb rays are the ones that cause the sunburns. Seeing as most of us don't want to look old and be in pain, you need to look out for one that offers protection from both of these, called broad spectrum on the label. There are two types mineral sunscreen that works by using minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to reflect the sun's rays back off your skin. Then there are chemical sunscreens, which use compounds like avobenzone and biscotolzole and all kinds of other strange chemical sounding names, all of which provide broad spectrum protection, stopping the harmful rays being absorbed. You need protection against both UVA and B. But then what about the rating? Experts advise a minimum of SPF 30, which protects against 97% of the sun's UVB rays. Higher SPF, such as 50, are better for those with fair skin or those who burn easily. But don't be fooled by the name. Spf 15, for instance, provides 93% protection, so 30 is not simply twice as effective. Remember, no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun's rays. Next, think about what you'll be doing when you wear it. If swimming goes for a waterproof formula. If walking or cycling you want something sweat proof or an all day formula. If prone to bites, you might want to consider one that comes with insect repellent in it too. Finally, and not to be underestimated, application is key. There's no point having the best protection around if you put it on wrong. You'll need to apply an even thin layer, about a palm size amount, at least every two hours. More if you're active, and don't forget key places such as behind and on your ears, folds in your arms and knees and, of course, your lips too. It's worth noting that sunscreen expires after two or three years, so do check the use by date, otherwise you may as well be rubbing moisturizer on your skin. Stay safe all and, as the Australians say, slip, slap, slop. That was my regular gear chat. Hope it helps you stay sunburn free on your next escapade. Now, talking of escapades, my next guest really does get himself into some incredible places, finding unbelievable things. Greg Abandoned, as he's known on Instagram do check out his amazing photographs is what's called an urban explorer or place hacker Someone who seeks out the world's abandoned places to photograph. I chatted to him when he was in China to find out how he got into it, how we can follow in his footsteps and what is the most unusual thing he's ever found.

Speaker 4:

I visit unique abandoned locations. Some of those places are truly remarkable and truly interesting, with amazing stories. Some of them are just so beautiful. I like to find the most unique looking ones.

Speaker 1:

How did you get into this? How did you get into exploring these sort of places?

Speaker 4:

I went to Chernobyl, I must say, when I went there and I stood on top of one of the buildings on the roof and I looked at the panorama of the whole city of Pripyat, it used to be 50,000 people used to live there and it was just a city covered with trees, not a single person there. We were just there alone and at that moment I realized I really want to do this, I really want to find places like this and ever since that's what I've been trying to do.

Speaker 1:

What's been one of your favorite finds.

Speaker 4:

Well, the listeners cannot see me, but on the wall, Phoebe, you can see this there's a picture of a space shuttle and there's a tiny little person on top of that space shuttle. So my favorite location, ultimate location and this is what we call in this community Erbex community, we call this a holy grail In the middle of the Kazakhstan, Russia rents a place to send rockets to space. It's called Baikonur Cosmodrome, and on the edge of this base Now, I'm telling you all this because this is out there Anyone who types abandoned space shuttles will find this place. So it's too late for me to keep it a secret, because it's there.

Speaker 1:

It's out there already.

Speaker 4:

Exact location, the exact coordinates, because this is a massive military base. Exact locations, obviously I'm not going to tell, but at some place in that base there are two hangars, huge, a beyond belief the level of engineering just to build the hangars. It's insane. And there are two abandoned space shuttle sitting there. One was a prototype and one was almost completed to be the next one, because Russians managed to send one to space to orbit the earth.

Speaker 1:

What are the risks? One of is it quite common to be caught when you're trying to get to these places? And two, if you are caught, are there quite severe penalties?

Speaker 4:

Okay. So this obviously depends on the country. Now I have to tell you this in the way I describe it, I say that even pirates had the code and therefore in this urbex community, we also should be guided by some sort of guidelines. So we say that the only thing you take is photographs and the only thing you leave are the footprints. I know it's kinda cheesy, but it's really important for me to say that the actual explorers, they would never break anything and they would never steal anything, and certainly this is something that's you know, because we already trespassing. So to do anything else, just to get inside or take something, it's just no, yeah, it's definitely crossing a line and there are so many abandoned places. If you go somewhere and you cannot find the way in, then just leave it. There will be a next one. But you know what I would say, 99% of the time, there's always a way in. It's just what sort of effort do you want to make? Are you willing to climb to that third floor window? You know that you've spotted there is a window open somewhere there, right, are you going to climb that tree and maybe jump? And so there is a level of effort to get inside without breaking it, and I think that's a kind of part of the adventure.

Speaker 1:

And it really does sound like an adventure, Greg, and I think if anyone's listening to this and thinking, do you know what urban exploration is something I really want to get into? How do you get into it properly without just going? And I mean, do you just go along research place and go there, or do you try and connect with the community that you've described?

Speaker 4:

In the, in UK, for example, in America or in Europe. I would say there is a bit of a elitism going on with this and some explorers do not accept others and there's this kind of like a validation process where you would have to show that you've done something. That's what I hear. So it might be tricky for people to get into it, but obviously there are some really cool people, cool explorers, that you can talk to and then they would show you around or take you. But you have to understand one thing you know, when you go to those places where you're not supposed to go, sometimes there is a security, sometimes you have to sneak, climb. It could be very dangerous. I always say don't do it by yourself, and because of this you're very cool. If you do it with someone else, you very quickly find out who this person is, because and that's why we make such amazing connections between each other because you are doing something that's a bit more extreme and you really have to rely on each other.

Speaker 1:

That was the urban explorer known as Greg Abandoned. As someone fascinated by the wilderness, the places he sees where nature is slowly reclaiming a landscape really do ignite something in me. I can't wait to see where he goes to next. And already it's nearly the end of the episode, so time for me to share with you my utterly incredible Wonder Woman of the month. I hope you've enjoyed what you've heard. Please do subscribe so you never miss an episode, and please, please, please do leave a review. It means so very much. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @PhoebeRSmith. Go to my website, phoebe-smith. com, where you can sign up for my occasional newsletter and get in touch with me. Now this episode, we journey to the start of the Thule expedition to the Arctic with a very brave, kick-ass woman. The year is 1921 and, holding the reins of a dog sled in her hand, a female figure leaves Hudson Bay in Canada to embark on one of the most remarkable polar expeditions undertaken in any era. Temperatures are hitting minus 50 degrees Celsius and anthropologist Nurd Rasmussen is leading an 18,000 kilometre, or 11,200 mile, journey across the northwest passage of the Arctic, covering Greenland, northern Canada and Alaska. Among them is our heroine, a woman known as Anna Rulunguak. Her name means little girl, but the tenacity, resilience, humour and skill she will show are the markings of a great woman. But the journey of how she got here to the start line is as tragic as it is remarkable. She was born in 1896 in Thule, now in northwestern Greenland, one of the northernmost towns in the world. It was a semi-nomadic hunting community. Age seven she lost her father, a devastating blow for the family that relied on his hunting abilities to survive. As the youngest of four children and a girl, there was the belief that she had to be sacrificed for the good of the family. In a story related to Rasmussen, she put a rope around her neck, but her brother and his mother could not let her go through with it. Her life did not improve in the following years but did lead directly to her being part of the expedition. Her brother was supposed to go on the fifth to the expedition but sadly died In his place. Anna Rulunguak and her hunter husband were chosen instead, but he too died of pneumonia before the expedition started. Devastated by his death, she asked Rasmussen to still allow her to stay on the expedition, saying before it was you who needed me. Now it is me who needs you. Rasmussen was relieved. She wanted to stay, stating that she was one of the most skilled members of the entire team. The expedition ship Lefnuk the capital of Greenland on July 9th 1921, and travelled up the coast to Thule. From there and now, with Anna Rulunguak aboard, they sailed across Baffin Bay and into Hudson Bay in Nunavut, Canada. Once there, they built a small base from where the teams could continue their ethnographic research into Inuit cultures. Rasmussen, Arnalulunguak and her cousin Kavigasuak, a hunter, set off on a two year long dog sled journey across unexplored areas of the Arctic, through Alaska and to the Bering Strait. In his book the Great Sled Journey, rasmussen wrote that she and her cousin were the only Inuit who visited all the Inuit in the Arctic. As well as her daily roles of cooking the food, carrying for the skins and furs they wore and looking after the dogs, she also assisted Rasmussen in archaeological excavations on King William Island and made drawings of Canadian Inuit women's tattoos and studied flora and fauna as part of the expedition. The research they made became a ten volume account that is still on display in museums in Denmark. It was also noted that, through Anna Rulunguak's influence. The anthropologist Rasmussen saw the Inuit through Inuit eyes. At the end of the journey they visited New York, a place that she found astonishing. From the top of a New York skyscraper, she said. We used to think nature was the greatest and most wonderful of all. Yet here we are, among mountains and great gulfs and precipices, all made by the work of human hands. It was a journey that garnered interest from across the globe and, at the time, earned her a silver medal of merit by the Danish King, christian X. However, her legacy is often overlooked outside her native Greenland. She returned to Denmark but was suffering from tuberculosis. She travelled back to Greenland in 1925 and married again, but she never truly recovered. She died in 1933, aged just 37. It was a short life, but one that was full of adventure. She is remembered best perhaps by Greenlandic poet , who wrote no one has made a plaque, a statue or a book, but your spirit and your strength are everywhere, like a bond for our people. Without you, the world was only half and the journey incomplete. That was our incredible Wander Woman of the Month. I tell you what? Had I been in the polar regions back then? Forget your Shackleton's or Scots it would have been Anna Rulunguak that I'd want by my side In the next episode of the Wander Woman podcast. I go in search of unicorns in Nunavut, canada, to try and spy the much fabled narwhal. I also chat to a woman who has completed ice swimming in all seven continents, something less people have done than walking on the moon. My travel hack will be considering how to prolong battery life in cold climates. We'll be talking gators and if you really need them in my travel gear chat, and I recommend the best alternatives to flying to get you on your next adventure. See you then, Wander Woman out. The Wander Woman podcast is written and edited by me, Phoebe Smith. The producer for this episode and writer of additional material is Daniel Nielsen. The logo was designed by John Summerton. Thanks to this episode's podcast partner, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and all the people I met on my journey and were willing to talk to me, it's because of you that this podcast is able to happen at all.

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