The West

Stephen Scourfield s special shots of 2012
Dawn over the pagodas of Bagan, Burma / Picture: Stephen Scourfield

So that was it - another year in travel. And what a year it was. Near and far, we were out and about representing you, bringing stories of the world. It is always interesting to look back and come up with highlights. So often they are glimpses - not the obvious, but little moments spotted in peripheral vision.

A mother and child in a market in Burma, their faces white with paste made from the wood of a limonia tree, ground up and used as sunblock. Yaks pulling ploughs in the vast, high agricultural valleys of Tibet, red plumes on their heads.

So often they are scents and tastes. Exquisite buffalo curd, like a very light, creamy yoghurt, straight from the hotel's dairy in Sri Lanka. The pungency of drying fish in a stilted village on an island near Hong Kong. The smell of warm horses in the yards at Home Valley Station, in the Kimberley; an echo of my childhood.

And so often they are captured in a picture. Here is some of my year in pictures.


It is dawn in Bagan and the sun is rising peachy over a misty landscape punctuated by spires and stupas. There are 4000 Buddhist temples in Bagan - pagodas have dotted this rural landscape since the 11th century.

Life is changing by the week in Burma, as the country opens up. In the capital, Rangoon, Shwedagon Pagoda is the sight to see - just under 100m tall, gold plated, shimmering in the sun and built more than 2500 years ago.

I watch the Intha people of the high freshwater at Lake Inle, in northern Burma, leg rowing. It is an extraordinary motion. The whole torso and arms are used for power and leverage - the body swung and twisted.


The rain lends a mosaic-like effect to this picture of people queuing to see the Buddha's relics in Sri Lanka / Picture: Stephen Scourfield

The food absolutely defines and themes the place. At every stop, every meal, it is interesting, exciting and exotic. I love it - especially the hoppers, a Sri Lankan specialty and staple.

Similar to a bowl-shaped pancake, it's swirled around the lip of a small deep pan while cooking, giving crisp vertical sides and a thicker, soft yet spongy centre.

With this, usually, comes chicken or fish curry, kata sambol, seeni sambol and tea.

For history, it is the 5th century irrigated gardens of Sigiriya with the high fortress above them on Lion Rock that leave their mark.

But the biggest memory is of people queuing in the rain. For not only are they celebrating Sri Sambuddhathva Jayanthi, 2600th year since the enlightenment of the Buddha - the moment when, meditating under a tree, this actual man finally managed to let go of earthly things and elevate his mind - but they are waiting to see the Kapilavastu Sacred Relics, bodily relics of the Buddha.


The hurly-burly of the Thamel area of Kathmandu / Picture: Stephen Scourfield

I cross the Friendship Bridge from Tibet and the world changes. Crossing that yellow line throws me into the hurly-burly of Nepal.

Riding a thumping 500cc Royal Enfield, with the other riders on a Travel Directors' Roof of the World ride, I thump down the Sun Kosi river valley to Kathmandu, riding triumphant into the city, having come all the way from Lhasa in Tibet. And in Kathmandu, I am up early the next morning, walking the streets of the Thamel area, loving it.


Old and new Hong Kong remain connected by the ferries / Pictures: Stephen Scourfield

Hong Kong is renowned for its food, its fine hotels and its shopping.

My goodness, the food in Hong Kong … For a start, I dine at Tim Ho Wan Dim-Sum Specialists, the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world.

At Lantau Island, I find new tourism developments and an old stilted fishing village.

But it is the Star Ferries that connect old and new Hong Kong.


I think Singapore has changed out of sight over the last few years. It's like three destinations now - old, colonial Singapore; the Marina Bay Sands area, with its distinctive new 2561-room hotel, with an infinity pool on the 57th floor, and the Gardens by the Bay; and Sentosa Island, which is so developed now that, if travellers stay there, they may never go into the city itself.


Surfers come from far and wide to test themselves off Gnaraloo / Picture: Stephen Scourfield

Gnaraloo Station is embedded in WA's fishing and surfing cultures, though there's more than this for visitors. The swimming and snorkelling on this bottom end of the Ningaloo Reef are complemented by the herby dunes, big sky and dramatic sunset.

Aridity meets the ocean. Red meets blue. It's brilliant. I love the rawness, and was pleased to meet Paul Richardson, who owns and runs the station - a gem of a bloke.

The West Australian

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