First it was the heat.
32 degrees Celsius at 9.30pm. Walking onto the sky bridge at the airport provided a blast of heat – a warning. Enough to make you worried about acclimatizing, but not enough to actually prepare you for the outside – the real world. It was all over as quickly as the passengers could scurry off into the safety of the air-conditioned arrivals hall.
The next shock was stepping of the train on the way to the hostel. Walking down the grimy staircase to street level and being hit with the pungent smell of rubbish bags sitting on the side-walk for Christ-knows-how-long.
If you stood back and watched you’d have picked those new arrivals out from the throng of commuters easily – unaccustomed bodies almost being thrown back when the pungent punch landed.
Somehow the odour combines with the oppressive humidity to form an invisible weight pressing the tourist’s bodies into the ground, invading their pores and making you realise you’re not at home. That this could be the start of something very special – or scary.
Alone, in a different hemisphere. Being assaulted by day old trash and the threat of rain.
The Sun’s out and the heat, whilst still oppressive, is drier.
Initially walking past the carts barbecuing the chicken skewers and whole fish was another shock. Not because of the barbecue itself, but because of the familiar smell of char-grilled meat mixed with spices never experienced back home.
But that’s not the only thing that makes the tourists stop and notice these carts. The blast of heat from the glowing coals – whilst at first completely unexpected – soon becomes refreshing.
Just like the air conditioning in the ubiquitous convenience stores that tourists flock to for the cool, filtered air as much as they do for the cheap beer and bottled water.
Travel is not about the sights you see. It is much more than that. Using all of your senses can help you delve deeper into the places you visit. Don’t expect to appreciate something just because you’ve seen it through the LCD screen of your camera. Make notes. Take the time to smell, feel and listen. Your journey will be better for it.