Himalayan architecture in the capital city Thimpho, Kingdom of Bhutan – Photo by Gig Gwin
A Life of Travel and Adventures
“Drawing on four decades of adventure and over three million miles of travel, I hope you will enjoy this anthology of my world explorations.”- Gig Gwin
Afghanistan - With rifles aimed at my head, by approaching Taliban soldiers, stepped across the white line into Afghanistan, and then retreated to the safety of Iran.
Armenia - Before the fall of communism, helped a local volunteer brigade create a military Identification card for their new, secret national guard.
Azerbaijan - Drove by the world’s first oil fields near Baku.
Bali - Passed terraced rice fields and entered a temple as monkeys climbed over my shoulders, then in the evening, watched a hundred swaying dancers perform the intoxicating monkey dance.
Bangladesh - In Dhaka, observed crowded dilapidated trains with passengers riding upon the train roofs.
Bhutan - Found Shangri-La high in the Himalayan Mountains, a remote country that nurtures the kindest people on earth.
Borneo - Blew a dart from a tribal blow gun into the jungle; and at an animal reserve, was punched in the chest by an orangutan mother when I got too close to her baby.
Burma - Never will forget the sunset from Mandalay Hill as Buddhist monks prayed at a thousand white pagoda shrines; watched working elephants load teak wood on river barges and rode a local ox cart between the red and white temples of Pagan; in the city of Rangoon, viewed the shimmering pagoda of Shwedagon, towering 365 feet and decorated with 60 tons of gold.
Cambodia - Walked barefooted on the solid silver pagoda floor in Phnom Penh; drove to the killing fields, where a 50-foot tower of skulls stands as a reminder to the genocide of Pol Pot and the Khemer Rouge; continued to the deep Southeast Asian jungle to explore the world’s largest religious shrine at Angkor Wat.
China - Climbed the Great Wall, devoured Peking Duck, then three months after the shooting in Tiananmen Square, found myself the lone tourist as I walked through the Forbidden City; will always remember the terra cotta soldiers of Xian, Middle China; cruised the three gorges of the Yangsee River. Years before, in 1979, took Rolls Royce executives to Canton’s best hotel, featuring mosquito netting and fish head entrees, when all of China was dressed in Mao style outfits.
Georgia - Soaked myself in an ancient bathhouse built by Ottoman Turks in Tblisi.
Hong Kong - Was invited aboard a millionaire’s junk in Repulse Bay, and fitted for tightly tailored suits that I quickly outgrew.
India - During the full moon, experienced the unparalleled splendor of the Taj Mahal; rode a lumbering elephant up to the Amber Palace in Jaipur, watched devoted Hindus immerse themselves in the rejuvenating Ganges River, could not believe the massive hand-carved ruins of Ellora and Ajanta near Bombay.
Japan - Raced past Mount Fuji on the Bullet Train, then meditated at the golden pavilion in Kyoto; flew to the north island, Hokkaido, and bought a ticket on a steam train to visit mystical people. Planned a formal dinner in Tokyo for Mitsubishi executives, observing Japanese high protocol; bathed nude with other local Japanese at Ryokan Inn, watched Kobe cattle being massaged for future tender steaks, shot the rapids on a mountain river near Osaka and ate wild boar in a private hunting lodge.
Kashmir - Toured the volatile border area between India and Pakistan, and then slept with one eye open in an old British houseboat in the Vail of Kashmir on Lake Dol.
Korea - During a travel conference, ran a five-kilometer race around the Korean capital building, toured Panamumjom at the 38th parallel, and walked around the conference room into North Korea for a quick adventure into the Stalinist-type communist world.
Kyrgyzstan - Bargained with local merchants bedecked in festive fur hats, near the border town of Osh.
Mongolia - Sat by a nomad’s ger tent, and with great trepidation, drank Yak milk soup with his extended family.
Nepal - In Katmandu, drove past miles of orange and charcoal-colored markers honoring the royal family, saw the living goddess in her pagoda, watched Hindu holy men cremate bodies by the rivers, then, with a friend, chartered a plane and circled the snow-capped Mount Everest.
Pakistan - Dipped my hand into the reflection pool of the fabled Shalimar Gardens of Lahore.
Philippines - In my early career, during a site inspection, floated down a river into the movie set of Apocalypse Now and was berated by Francis Ford Coppola.
Sikkim - Hired a four-wheel-drive vehicle with a buddy, but got caught in a monsoon avalanche in the Himalayas; as the road washed out, was saved from a thousand-foot drop by an Indian officer and his bulldozer.
Singapore - Drank a “Singapore Sling” at the fabled Raffles Hotel.
Sri Lanka - As the full August moon shown on the holy city of Kandy, hundreds of dancers, drummers and jewel-covered elephants passed by in the Parade of Perahara for the Festival of the Temple of the Tooth, then bribed my way upon a sacred temple elephant.
Taiwan - Escorted an RCA business group of distributors through the television assembly plant in Taipei.
Thailand - Got a traditional massage in Bangkok, took a river barge ride at night to see the Temple of Dawn illuminated the royal city, went north by train and crossed the Bridge on the River Kwai; rode elephants into the jungle in Chiang Mai, and stood respectfully by the side of the road as the queen’s limousine passed.
Tibet - Coming off of the plane near the capital, felt dizzy because of the 10,000-foot elevation of the city and sucked oxygen as I toured the magnificent Potala Palace.
Turkey - Wandered through the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and marveled at the jewels at the Sultan’s Topkapi Palace, climbed into the cone-shaped pinnacles in Cappadocia where early Christians lived; looked at the natural white pools of Pamukkale and wandered the streets of the ancient Roman city of Ephesus.
Turkmenistan - After laborious customs procedures, found my way to the best hotel in town and ate eggs with black caviar fresh from the Caspian Sea, then, with a small, adventuresome group, drove the five “stans”, a total of 2,600 miles through the Kara Kum Desert.
Uzbekistan - Stood in awe of the turquoise blue madrasa’s and towers of Bukhara and Samarkand, two of the most important cities on the old Silk Road.
Vietnam - At the age of twenty, went from a boy to a man as a soldier with my sentry dog, Ginger; near the Saigon Airport; spent time in the Iron Triangle, learned a new culture, and eventually became an Asian history major because the experience of Southeast Asia.
Andaman Islands - South of Calcutta in the Bay of Bengal, wandered among the stone ruins of a former British penal colony, now consumed by snake-like banyan trees.
Christmas Island - Walked through thousands of red crabs slowly crossing the roads on their way to the sea.
Diego Garcia Chagos Islands - With other Travel Century Club members, 15 in all, chartered a mid-sized dive boat and plied the open seas for days to reach this restricted military island; was arrested by the British authorities, backed with Royal Marine helicopters, but, through quick talking and cold beer on a hot day, negotiated for the boat to be released on a promise never to return.
Madagascar - Watched long-tailed lemurs spring through the trees and prehistoric-looking chameleons climb over my outstretched hand.
Maldives - Dashed in a speedboat towards the Four Seasons Resort as the sea exploded with hundreds of flying fish.
Mayotte Island - Missed the only plane for four days from this remote French-African Island, so settled in and fed native fruit bats who wandered up to arms length to eat tropical fruit.
Reunion Island - Saw impressive waterfall canyons near the active volcano valley.
Seychelles Islands - Saw the world’s largest seeds on the French-British-African resort island.