[Editor’s Note]: I met Masayuki in September 2013 in the small Tajik town of Khorog. We were both staying at the Pamir Lodge and were planning our route through the Pamirs and the Wakhan Valley. Together with a Japanese friend, Tetsuo, we hired a four-wheel-drive vehicle and driver and then set off to the east of Tajikistan. We travelled together over a few days from Khorog, through the Wakhan Valley along the Afghanistan border all the way to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan. At Sary Tash Masayuki went to China and I travelled north to Osh in western Kyrgyzstan. After China, Masayuki continued on to travel to far away places around the world. A year later and he is still on the road. He is such a friendly guy with a big smile. Great travel partner indeed!
Globerovers (GR): How many countries have you been to?
Masayuki Ono (MO): 57
GR: What are your top 5 most preferred countries for leisure travel?
MO: Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and China.
GR: Which is your most preferred country for travel and why?
MO: Yemen. The old city of Sana’a is such a pretty place. Walking down the streets feels like you have wandered into a fairy tale. The buildings are unique and quite high, the narrow alleys are like mazes and most of the men walk with a curved dagger knife (janbiya) clipped to their belts as an accessory to their clothing. Here you won’t get tired of walking all day. People passing by often say “Welcome to Yemen” with their wonderful smiles.
GR: Where do you wish you were right now?
MO: In the old town of Djenne, Mali. The Great Mosque of Djenne is the largest mud brick building in the world. I have not yet been there but I want to see this unique building before I die.
GR: Among those countries you have not yet visited, which ones are at the top of your “must do” list?
MO: Mali, Chad, Cuba, Brazil, and Bolivia
GR: If you could spend the rest of your life somewhere other than your current home country, which country would that be?
MO: Bhutan. I have never been to Bhutan but their GNH (Gross National Happiness) indicator is very interesting. The key areas of GNH fall within the domains of psychological wellbeing, health, time use, education, culture, good governance, ecology, community vitality and living standards. The indicators aim to check whether government programmes and policies are consistent with the values of GNH. I don’t want a hectic life living in a stressful society. I want to live my life with happiness and lots of smiling 🙂
GR: In about 50 words, please tell us about the most incredible and memorable experience you have ever had while traveling?
MO: In India my bag was stolen due to my own carelessness. I asked for help from somebody nearby and after about an hour my bag was back in my hands. Amazing!
GR: Based on your travel experiences, if you were to recommend the one most amazing destination for intrepid travellers, which place would that be, and why?
MO: The Kalash Valley in northwestern Pakistan. Many of the people here are not Muslim. In fact, people are divided almost equally between those who follow Islam and those with their own religion which is similar to the religion that was practiced by Rigvedic Aryans. They have preserved their traditional life styles and culture over the years. Their clothes, in particular, are so beautiful. As there have been kidnappings of foreign travellers in this area, you have to be accompanied by an armed policeman.
GR: Which people by nationality or subgroup e.g. Greeks or the Tartars, would you say have been the most hospitable during your travels and why do you say so?
MO: The Bangladeshi people. When on the streets and looking on my maps or guidebooks the locals would gather around me offering help. Even though they don’t speak much English, they would try to be as helpful as possible. Several times the locals invited me into their homes. These people are so curious, straight forward, and kind.
GR: How do you think traveling around the world for independent travellers has changed over the past 20 years?
MO: It has become easier to travel around the world because so much information is available online. At many places, including guesthouses, hotels, and coffee shops you can get access via wifi. However, it sometimes reduces occasions of face to face communication.
GR: Lets get a bit more personal. Do you have any “must take” items which you travel with that you think most travellers don’t have?
MO: A small bucket for fishing. It is very strong, light and compact. I also wash my clothes in it. For me personally a very useful item!
GR: What is your favourite travel resource on the internet?
MO: Several travel blogs for tips and information. I also find Facebook very useful.
GR: Lets talk about food. Which one country that you visited has the best food in the world?
MO: China. Chinese food comes in such a variety, its fast, cheap, tasty, and comes in big portions. Just perfect for me.
GR: Where was the best meal you have ever had during your travels?
MO: Laghman noodles (拌面) in Turpan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. There are various kinds of noodles in China but for me the Laghman noodles is the best one! I also love Japanese Udon noodles (うどん).
GR: And where was the worst food during your travels?
MO. That’s “Injera” in Ethiopia. Injera is a sourdough-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. Its just too sour for me and sometimes makes me feel sick! (Apologies to the Ethiopian people).
GR: What is the strangest or weirdest place you have ever spent a night?
MO: Sleeping under the stars, especially in the desert. Sleeping high in the mountain is also great but sometimes too cold for me.
GR: Based on all your travel experiences, what is the best tip you can offer to new travellers?
MO. Sometimes just do nothing and then “leave the face of your heart”. Escape from your usual life.
GR: What is the single best lesson you have learned about the world during your travels around the world?
MO: Nothing really. Travel is just travel. For me its a good way to live my life.
GR: Do you have any strange, weird, or even bizarre travel rituals which you can share with us?
MO: I always keep my bag touched somewhere by my body while waiting for the bus, eating something, or even when sleeping in a bus. Just want to make sure nobody walks away with my bag. If I can’t touch it I become quite anxious.
GR: What is the main focus of your travels?
MO: To be in touch with different cultures, foods, and people. Its makes me feel so extraordinary to travel and experience the world.