Asia 1984-1986

Travelling temptations awoken

Temples blinking in golden colours, monks dressed in amber robes, market women rowing along on the city channels in boats loaded with exotic fruits, mountain people up North traditionally smoking opium pipes, working elephants in the teak forests, low-cost hotels with swimming pools, white sandy beaches and delicious lobster meals for only a song – just to list some of the attractions mentioned in a travel guide on Thailand I was given by a friend.

I’m utterly captivated by its recounts on 4000 metres high mountain ranges with plateaus as well as gorges and active volcanoes dropping steeply into the Indian Ocean. It describes an island with an agricultural acreage of only 10%, and with dense rain forest regions providing a home for elephants, panthers, tigers, rhinoceroses, and orang utans to this day: Sumatra, however, does not only offer a unique landscape, flora and fauna, no, you may also get acquainted with an extremely interesting, ancient cultural background, dating back as far as to the New Stone Age.

As if it was a gripping novel, I am unable to put the book down, and so continue reading one page after the other, thus arriving in Burma – a country where time seems to be standing still, the last remaining bit of genuine South East Asia. No neon lights, no Coke culture, no skyscrapers, no motorways, no concrete – Asia at its purest. Television was only introduced in 1981. Men and women alike wear the traditional long loincloth, called Longyi. All over the country, the main means of transport are still horse carriages and bullock carts. This is a nation without road or rail connection to the neighbouring countries, isolated since 1962, but, in contrast, with more partly well preserved temple and pagoda roofs reaching for the skies than inhabitants counted in the villages…

Next I read the description of Komodo, and my adventurer’s heart beats even faster: The time leap to Komodo is, to be precise, a step of 60 million years, a plunge right into the Eocene Epoch. This era was characterized by the worldwide extinction of the giant lizards; not in Komodo, though, the forgotten island in the East Indonesian Archipelago. A sensational announcement went around the world in 1912: “Sir P.A. Owens discovered an extremely long dragon, new developments in the Theory of Evolution!”
A sensation, indeed, as the “dragon”, Varanus Komodoenisis in Latin, Waran in German or Monitor Lizard in English, is a giant version of the ordinary lizard: it has a length of up to 4 metres, a weight of up to 150 kg, and a maximum age of 150 years. It can climb trees, it can swim, it is extremely fast and agile, and it devours its victims rather than eating them. Scientific tests have shown that the monitor lizard is able to double its body weight by food intake within only 20 minutes, allowing it to survive for 15 weeks without food if necessary. It benefits from its tail, which measures 11/2 metres, not only as a supporting organ, but also as a dangerous weapon. It has a split, orange-coloured tongue with a length of 60 cm, making the traditional ancient tales of fire spitting dragons appear somewhat believable…

As I read this book, I become aware of the fact that I must live to see these countries, that indeed I must visit them prior to their inhabitants and cultures being customised to the western world, prior to their multiple exotic wildlife ceasing to exist.

One of many reasons for me to pack my bags and set off to discover the world, both as a normal traveller and as an expedition traveller.


Burma 1986

Here we have one last relic of genuine South-East Asia: No neon light advertising, no Coca-Cola culture, men and women wearing the traditional long waistcloth called Longyi, the main means of transport all over the country still being horse-drawn and ox-drawn carriages… These were the statements that drew Denis Katzer’s attention and interest on the country of temples and pagoda.


Indonesia, Bali, Lombok 1985/1986/1999

Bali – the spell of its nature, the charm of the temple festivals, the Hinduism, the worship of the ancestors, way over ten thousand temples, the coral beaches, the outriggers, men in colourful waistcloths and women with beautiful flowers in their hair – Bali, Tanja and Denis Katzer decided, was the place for them to relax and recover from their expeditions.


The Philippines 1985/1986

Unforgettable impressions that will always and forever be on Denis Katzer’s mind: the manmade natural landscape and mountain area of Luzon, also known as eighth world wonder, the famous rice terraces of Igorot, contrasts between now and stone-age, beautiful islands, wonderful white palm beaches, unexplored jungle areas with lush vegetation…


Indonesia, Java and Komodo 1985/1986

We count 13.677 isles along both sides of the Equator. We have 450 ethnic groups, as well as ancient cultures, different religions, active volcanoes, jungle areas, and lovely beaches – these were the factors making Denis Katzer want to visit this paradise, the paradise of the tropics.