The 2007 Grand Raid put the focus East, trying to capture the myths, the charm and the heritage of centuries-old cultures and fascinating people living in that part of the world.
In the middle of July the Donnavventura team landed in Kuala Lumpur, receiving a breath-taking accolade by the sights of the magnificent Petrona Towers, adjacent to the first hotel used by the expedition, the Trader’s.
Five blazing-red Mitsubishi pickups had been set up for actual beginning of the raid, so the special reporters enjoyed a nice evening downtown, tasting frog delicatessen in China Town.
On the next day, the team paid a visit to the glorious Royal Palace, the Chinese temple and Little India – true unforgettable and most unique sights.
After the usual press conference at the local Mitsubishi showroom, everybody set off to Fraser’s Hills, then to the border with Thailand, driving across endless tea plantations and beautiful orchards.
Some great pictures were shot, along the way, during a brief stop at a strawberry farm near Cameron Highlands.
Driving along Alor Setar, near the border, the team stopped in Kuala Kangsar, the royal city famous for its fine pottery and the fabled mosque of Ubudia. A brief visit was also paid to many Thai-styled buildings and the Moorish mosque of Zahir. The team set off to Krabi after this most fascinating sightseeing and eventually crossed the border, drove across the Saracin bridge and eventually arrived in Phuket, Thailand. The devastation caused by the 2006 tsunami were still clearly visible, thus creating a striking contrast with the renewed thriving of the locals.
Wonderful pictures were shot at Sao National Park, then the reporters moved along the Burmese border, followed the Mekong river and then entered Laos. Challenging muddish roads and treacherous fords prove extremely difficult to tackle, but the whole team did their best and safely reached the frontierland in Dien Bien Phu – they were granted special permits to access this remote and most secluded part of the Country. A special police escort took the Donnavventura caravan around Vietnam, zipping past dozens of colorful, but extremely humble villages, often pounded by Moonsoon rain. Endless rice paddies appeared glorious, every now then, in the blessed moments of tropical sun shining all over those painting-like fabled landscapes.
After a brief cruise in the Ha Long bay – a truly enchanted place – the Donnavventura caravan headed back South, following the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail, a network of off-road tracks which runs parallel with the border with Vietnam. Our intrepid travel reporters met with some Burmese refugees and witnessed the incredible skill of local women who knit while rowing with their feet on tiny barges.
After an exciting accolade in Saigon and following celebrations and good-luck toasts, the whole team sailed down the Mekong river, discovering its fascinating floating market – one of the biggest in the world.
Accessing some water villages on the Mekong river proved quite difficult, mostly because of muddy, off-road tracks criss-crossing the jungle amongst endless dangers. Right there, humble and extremely poor people live, creating a striking contrasts with 5-star hotels nearby, like the one where the team spent one night, before visiting the magnificent Angkor Wat temple. A quick treatment in a local hospital proved necessary for some members of the team who had fallen sick with dysentery.
More floating markets and impressive golden temples built by the monks welcomed the arrivel of the Donnavventura caravan once it reached Bangkok.
Later on, the reporters used a small boat to travel across Burma, thus avoiding mass protests and dangerous riots in the streets, fueled by some monks insurgence against the local regime. Many people had the same idea, thus opting for small boats literally packed with refugees, fleeing the hottest areas of the Country.
Few days later, the caravan went back to Malaysia and reached Borneo, Saba and Sarawak. It was a very difficult and demanding journey across the very thick of forests and patches of jungle, mostly on off-road, dusty tracks to be challenged with extreme care. It was worth it though, as the Donnavventura reporters managed to capture some beautiful sights on the Mantanani island – with luxurious lodges – and in the wild and extremely nice Mataking, north of Kota Kinabalu. Orangutans, different types of monkeys, wondrous flowers and dozens of different living species welcomed the passage of the caravan across Borneo – the giant, rugged island in Southeast Asia Malay Archipelago.
While in the heart of the jungle, our brave reporters also came across the biggest and heaviest flower in the world, the Rafflesia. The plant has no stems, leaves or true roots. The only part of it can be actually seen outside the host vine and it’s the five-petalled flower. It may be over 100 centimetres in diameter, and weigh up to 10 kilograms.
Last but not least, the team paid a visit to the Sultanate of Brunei, welcomed by thunderous celebrations and much curiosity. What a great raid, once again, and thanks to our travel reporters thousands of people back home could enjoy all that excitment and such unforgettable experience!