Angkor Wat

When I was in living in Asia I would often bump into avid explorers proudly clutching a tattered but well-travelled copy of Lonely Planet. Their future footsteps commonly included a short trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. UNESCO has described Angkor Wat as one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia and it’s not hard to see why it’s so popular. The temple is nestled amongst the Angkor archaeological park and was built in the first half of the 12th century.  Angkor Wat was originally dedicated to Vishnu and Hindu worship before later switching to Buddhism. It has a remarkable and mystical background that’s intrigued many countries who have tried to claim its vast ruins for their own. Nowadays tourists flock to the site intrigued by its beauty and its impressive reviews.

Angkor Wat (Image: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, Wikipedia)

Angkor Wat (Image: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, Wikipedia)

The tourism board of Cambodia proudly declared that Angkor Wat is an impressiveness greater than that of the Pyramids, and has an artistic distinctiveness as fine as that of the Taj Mahal. The temple itself even sits proudly on Cambodia’s national flag.  Such emphatic promotion of a single location has unfortunately led to some more serious recent concerns. Angkor Wat is now in danger of being completely overcrowded and seriously damaged.

Official figures show there were around 2.3 million foreign visitors to Angkor Wat in 2013 compared with just 4000 in 1994. That makes for a staggering 57,000% increase in just under 20 years. It’s simply not sustainable to have such a high volume of people going to the same area year after year without proper zoning and management. Mass crowds are damaging the temples foundations and local hotel construction is harming the environment. Sadly Cambodia  hasn’t had the resources to properly maintain the park due to large political unrest throughout the 20th century.

Ta Prohm, where Tomb Raider was filmed, next to Angkor Wat (Image: UNESCO)

Ta Prohm, where Tomb Raider was filmed,
next to Angkor Wat (Image: UNESCO)

In recent times however, increased tourism development in Angkor has been encouraging for Cambodia’s economy as it continues to expand. In 2012, Cambodia’s economy grew by 7.3 percent but it’s still somewhat hampered by financial leakage and increased profits going to multinational companies.

We are entering a critical phase in Angkor Wat’s illustrious history. If Cambodia is to flourish under reasonable political stability it needs to emphasise other locations in the park, and other locations around the country. More rigorous management programs and better infrastructure should be a matter of top priority. Sustainable initiatives make Angkor Wat a more attractive destination in the long run. The last thing they want to do is discourage people from going altogether.

Dave Hunter
(GMIH Beneficiary)


If you love London like I do, then this is the career for you!

Hello folks and welcome to my FIRST EVER GMIH blog post (Yikes! Be easy on me, please).

Firstly, I’d like to say a huge thanks to Keith who runs this fantastic charity for the help he has given me and other young people in pursuing their dreams in the tourism world. It’s great to have this support right from the very start of any new pursuit so for that I am truly grateful.

So, where do I begin? Well, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Dominic and I have recently embarked on the adventure of a lifetime and started my training to become a London Blue Badge Tourist Guide. What is a Blue Badge Tourist Guide I hear you ask? Well, according to The Guild of Registered Tourist Guides they are only:

‘Britain’s BEST Guides’

No pressure there then!

Over the next 2 years, I along with 35 other brave souls will be testing all our cranial might to achieve this lofty accolade and join the ranks of Britain’s guiding Order of the Garter (ask me what the Order of the Garter actually is and thanks to the course I will now be able to talk to you at length about it).

I’ll be keeping you posted along the way about all our escapades to faraway places such as Bath and Warwick and how we get on with the dreaded coach pano practices (that’s panoramic to you and me) where we are launched centre stage onto a coach and expected to deliver a crisp, clear and entertaining commentary on whatever may be outside. The first one really wasn’t that bad, honest!

If you have the slightest inkling that you may too one day wish to join us in entertaining the millions who visit London & Britain each year to enjoy our fabulous heritage then stay tuned!

What a group!

One of the greatest things about Blue badge training is that you have another chance in your life to be in a great group. This feeling brought me back to my undergraduate and high school time that when we got all different kinds of tasks which need group working together. During Blue badge training, you don’t do group presentation, but it’s much more than that.

We have in our group 4 different nationalities, half male and half female, wide range of age from 20s to 60s. It seems to be a rather complicated combination to blend well together, however with our senior group leaders Sean and Barry leading the way, setting the good examples and contributing a large amount of knowledge and the rest of us following the right direction, every Saturday practice has turned out to be in great atmosphere! To be honest, the thought of trying not to lag behind the group has now become the ultimate driving force of my Blue badge learning now instead of passing the exam. This group has made me feel that the process of training is really enjoyable and full of good memory.

Last week we had our first formal group meal at Rob’s new home. Great food and interesting game about the famous people who have connection with East London. Non-stop BBG training!

My New York adventure

Hi, my name is Nathalie and this will be my first blog post on here. I will write about my big adventure I was able to do earlier this summer, thanks to Go Make It Happen.

I have very recently finished my undergraduate degree in Tourism Management at Bournemouth University. Back in 2012, I was diagnosed with cancer and had to take over a year out for treatments etc. Despite this I did decide to return to university and although it has taken me longer than I intended to, I am immensely proud to have had the strength to go back. I have a great interest in the tourism industry, but with a particular passion for disaster management. For those unfamiliar with this concept, disaster management is essentially the management of responsibilities and resources to lessen the impact of disasters. So when I retuned to uni I was dedicated to work towards getting a foot in this particular field. As a result, I was accepted on to an international diploma course in Humanitarian Assistance at Fordham University, New York. The course was run by the Centre for International Humanitarian Cooperation.

It was a four week long and very intensive course, and one of the best experiences of my life. Being in New York for four weeks alone was incredible, but the knowledge I gained, the people I met and the confidence boost it gave me was invaluable. Our tutors were all very experienced from the field and we had many guest lectures from organisations such as the UN and various NGO’s. My fellow students also came from all over the world with individual knowledge and experience from the field. I was surrounded by so many inspiring people and the experience I gained by just being in this environment will stay with me for a very long time.

Although it was really hard work, I enjoyed every minute of it and it has made me even more determined than before that this is the field I want to work within. It may sound very far off from tourism, but I believe it is a field which the tourism industry should have closer relationships with. As tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing industries, it has a significant power to influence a range of stakeholders. For my final paper of the course I did write about this and the importance for the tourism industry to acknowledge the implications of humanitarian and environmental disasters on the industry.

Due to my medical condition, I was unable to work alongside my studies in my final year. Therefore the contribution I was very kindly given from GMIH made it possible for me to attend this course. So I want to give a great thank you to GMIH for making it possible. And to anyone struggling: Go Make It Happen, nothing is impossible as long as you have the drive.

Nathalie xx

Class is over, Holiday begins!

Although still having an anxious feeling that the background knowledge test result may be a bit dangerous for me, receiving email telling us that the result will be delayed until next month, how cruel! Anyway, the holiday for Badgers finally come after handing in the tour project.

Having taken advice from tutors, newly graduated badgers that this is not a holiday to forget about the blue badge, I constantly have all my blue badge related material and books on the lowest shelf of my bookcase. Read them whenever I’ve got some boring time to pass. However I think I am having a brand new feeling about them. I still remember the summer time last year after our induction day. I was really eager to go through as many books as I can but ended up reading none of them more than one chapter. Everything was so remote to me that I got tired in less than half an hour.  Now things are rather different! Having a general idea about the historical clue and geographical map of this country and also Europe in mind makes it easier for me to start those monster books I bought last year when I was in a thrilled mode of becoming Ms Know it all!

Well, I want to recommend some books really good for foreign badgers who are not brought up in English-speaking world. One called “What on earth happened” telling all the major civilization and offering great comparison and interesting fact. The other one is a series of books called 50** ideas you really need to know, it covers architecture, literature, paintings, etc. Easy to follow and again has great link between eastern and western world.


I’m qualified!

I’m a qualified Field Guide!

All the training that I’d received over the past two months had been leading up to a final assessment drive with real guests to look after. On the morning of my assessment I got up at 4.30am to prepare the Toyota land cruiser with snacks, hotboxes and blankets for the freezing cold morning. It was a slow morning for sightings as a dominant male lion had been reported in the area, which meant that most of the game had cleared out. So I decided to spend my drive tracking the lion and we were fortunate enough that after we had found him, he stayed walking along the main roads for most of the drive! The male was exhibiting some great behaviours for me to talk to my guests about, such as urine marking and scent tracking every few meters, so I had a great opportunity to conduct unique drive. After my assessment drive was finished I was given a post drive evaluation and told that I had passed!

It’s such a relief to have finished (and passed!) the course and I’m feeling happy to have gained this new qualification. The last few weeks seem to have flown by in a flash; before I knew it I was sitting at my graduation, getting handed my certificates and munching away on some of the local delicacies.

It already feels odd to have left the reserve and to be back in a city, not surrounded by trees and wildlife on a daily basis. I’m also missing the lectures that we had on this course as I have really loved learning about the bush. Learning and seeing something new every day was an opportunity like no other and I’m missing being a student (crazy I know!).

Shamwari Game Reserve has been an amazing experience and I’m really grateful to GMIH for helping me get onto this course and gain this great qualification. Thank you so much!

Incredible Lion Kill

I just wanted to share my most memorable experience on this training course with you all! It occurred on one of my game drives when we came across an amazing lion kill by two sub adult lions. I say this was amazing because lions are known not to be the most ‘ethical’ killers. This kill in particular was an incredibly rare sight for being both quick and clean and we were lucky enough to have captured it on the video below:

and the view from our vehicle:

The Story So Far

Just over a year ago, my cousin Natalie emailed me and told me about a great new game “HintHunt”. She had played it and thought that I shouldn’t just play it, I should apply to work there. She was right, I loved the game and it was a pleasure to work for the company.

The idea (strange as it sounds) is to lock a team of 3 – 5 people in a room in Euston and give them an hour to escape. They have to search all around the room to find keys and clues to help them get out. My job was to sit outside to send in hints, which would appear on the screen. I could also watch the teams on CCTV, which was often quite entertaining!

For over a year HintHunt were the number one London attraction on Trip Advisor, which is no mean feat. They are still in the top three of the rankings, unfortunately a single review of 2 stars was all it took to knock them off the top spot!

Their popularity got me thinking, why not open more, similar games? I went away to develop a whole new game, which would become Agent November. I called on my woodworking skills that I haven’t needed since primary school to knock up a prototype device that would be the centrepiece of the game. I also researched the parks around Euston and found the perfect place to set the game. I decided to set the game outside as this reduces the complexity of setting up the game (in theory at least! As you’ll see, there are additional problems I hadn’t expected). I tested this game on several groups of friends, and to my delight they really enjoyed playing.

The basic story of my game is that an evil genius is trying to destroy London, and teams have one hour to stop him! Clues and items are hidden all around the park, which combine to defuse the nuclear device. I’ve had some great feedback from playtesters, which has helped me to add some really interesting features to the game.

With a workable game concept set up, I sent my business plan to HintHunt, to see if they would be interested in taking on my ideas. Sadly they said that they were tied up with franchising their existing game rooms and couldn’t take on any additional projects. At this point I had to make a call; abandon the project or keep going. On the one hand it had always been my plan to work with HintHunt, and losing them was a major blow. On the other hand, I had worked so hard on the project that I just couldn’t leave it there.

Since then I’ve continued to refine the game design and have got quite a bit of interest from the media. It seems that puzzle games are a real growth market in London, and I’ve been surprised how many there are. It makes me think that there may be the possibility to link similar games together into a network, where complementary businesses can recommend each other. After all, most of these games can only be played once, so it would make sense to pass on customers to each other.

I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the project, and had 26 backers, which was a great result. My friends and family have been brilliant at supporting me, with their time and money, and I’m looking forward to repaying their trust with a game or two of Agent November once it’s all ready. One of my first backers were Go Make It Happen, who I met about this time (May) last year. Back then I was still trying to set up my own business, working for myself as a tour guide. Although that plan hasn’t happened (yet!) going through the process did lay a lot of the foundations for this new project. The best part of that process was meeting GMIH, who agreed to pay for part of my Blue Badge training course if I passed the exam (which I didn’t!) however they are now helping me with Agent November.

I’ve also been speaking to Camden Council about getting permission to play the game in their park(s). It’s quite a challenge dealing with the bureaucracy, and will take a few weeks at least.

It’s frustrating not being able to move forwards with the game, as the final product may cost several hundreds or thousands of pounds and I don’t want to spend that before I am sure I can actually run the game! In the meantime I’m keeping busy; I’ve spoken to a few local pubs, who are keen on acting as a meeting point for players prior to my games, which will be a nice feature. I’m also working away on the website, making sure it looks sparkly and wonderful, and is set up and ready to take bookings when the game itself is ready.

I’m also planning a big launch party to set things off with a bang, so watch this space for more details on that…

In the meantime, Keep Calm and Trust November

The missing flight and Heathrow terminal 2

Hi !

I am more than sure that recently everybody heard about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It’s really bizarre that despite the fact that we live in XXI century, advance computers and latest technologies these kind of mysteries still happen. I think that entire investigation lasted too long and still a lot of questions have been left without clear answers, like for instance: where is the black box? It is an electronic recording device placed in an aircraft for the purpose of facilitating the investigation of aviation accidents and incidents. Flight recorders are required to be capable of surviving the conditions likely to be encountered in a severe aircraft accident. For this reason, they are typically specified to withstand an impact of 3400 g (g-force) and temperatures of over 1,000 °C (1,830 °F)!!! For me it’s really scary as it reminds me my favourite TV series – Lost. Passengers and a plane which vanished into thin air.


Lost the American television series that followed the lives of the survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious tropical island.

But there is also good news for UK aviation! The new Heathrow Terminal 2 will be open on 4 June 2014. Partner airlines will move closer together to improve flight connections and there will be more natural light and space than you are used to seeing in an airport. It will be an extraordinary new space in its own right – great for airlines and the staff who work there and great for every single passenger. I have already had a chance to see it form the inside as I participated in the Heathrow T2 volunteering team. That was a pleasure and fun to see it before others and meet greet people with similar interest 🙂


Testing Heathrow terminal 2

I am about to finish my first year of the course so I will spend quite a lot of time making sure to get great marks but it’s so much easier when you learn about things you really enjoy 🙂