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Journey of a lifetime: Turkey’s most-travelled man is putting Phuket on the map

A Turkish man walks into an office with an ornamental cat, a coin purse, a torch, a bag of coffee, a compass and a framed picture of a boat… There’s no punchline. That’s what happened last week at The Phuket News.

Monday 25 February 2019, 02:00PM


The man in question is Orhan Kural, Lecturer at Istanbul Aydin and Eseny­urt Universities, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Benin, Vice Honorary Consul of Vanuatu and President of The Traveler’s Club of Turkey. Quite the CV.

However, the most exclusive circle Dr Kural moves in is of those who have vis­ited every country in the world.

Dr Kural has written 17 books, led over 6,000 conferences (which are more like one-man shows, he says) and has his own TV and radio programmes, all advocating that the more a country loses its environmental resources, the more it loses its tourism potential.

He took the time out of his five-day whistle-stop tour of the island to tell us about his lifetime of travel and how he hopes to promote Phuket in Turkey.

Tell us about your travels.

It’s just always been in me to travel. When I was 11 years old, I said to my mother “I haven’t even seen Europe yet!” It went from there. I am the first person from Turkey to visit all 193 countries recognised by the UN. I completed this last year in Samoa aged 68.

I’ve been the first Turkish person to ever venture to certain countries, especially in African states and smaller islands. It’s very difficult to get visas to some places, even with a diplomatic passport.

What brings you to Phuket?

There isn’t sufficient information in Turkey about Phuket at the moment. What is written doesn’t mean too much. I want to promote the island to the Turkish people and invite them here. I’ll write articles and dedicate a chapter of my book about Thailand to Phuket. I’ll also mention on my TV and radio programmes that it’s cheap now that direct flights are available and you can find everything here: history; shows; nightlife; quiet beaches in the north; and islands all around.

How are you spending your time here?

I’ve been to Patong by motorcycle. They said it was very dangerous to do so but God decides about that. And I’m not afraid of anything really; I’ve been to Libya alone and I’m going to North Ko­rea again this year.

In Patong, I visited a local school, talked about the environment and gave them my book – Let’s Save Our Planet Together...Do Something for Earth – in Thai as a present. I went to Simon Caba­ret and I’m going to James Bond Island.

For me, it’s not about temples, ca­thedrals, mosques and archaeological museums. These are everywhere. I like to travel independently and meet and talk to the local people. I go to the back­streets to hear the stories. That’s the real social life. That’s why I’ve opened my house in Istanbul to couchsurfing and Airbnb.

QSI International School Phuket

What do you think of the island and Thailand in general?

I’ve been to Thailand five or six times now and I’m always happy to be here. It’s a multicultural place. The people are very friendly, smiling and helpful. I’m really pleased to hear of the decision to close Maya Bay.

However, I’m against the animal shows, zoos and aquariums. I also don’t think tourism should be dependent on people lying like crocodiles on the beach, spending all their time in bars and luxury places.

Which country have you enjoyed the most and the least?

Definitely the Kingdom of Bhutan. This is the only country where smoking is prohibited, they still wear their tradi­tional dress, hunting is banned, cutting down trees is prohibited, about 60% of the country is protected forest and tour­ism is regulated.

For me, there is something interest­ing in every country. Of course, I’ve had problems in some places. In Afghanistan I was in jail for one day. My money was stolen in Romania. I don’t blame the peo­ple though. It could happen in any place.

Does your environmental conscience come from what you’ve seen on your travels?

Certainly. I’ve been to all 54 African states and there I saw poor people hap­pier and more sincere than rich, famous actresses living by Central Park in New York. A boy living in Africa consumes 20 times less than a boy living in the Unit­ed States. People who consume too much don’t do anything that can be remem­bered. When I die, most of my money will be given to the government to build a new school. I want to give something to the world. That’s why I travel and give information about the environment.

How do you find the time for all of your projects?

I work harder now I’m retired than I did before! I sleep only three hours a day. I’m not married. I never watch football or any TV series. I’m good at mathematics so I can manage my life well. Mathematics is very important and helps you to arrange your time better. I write everything down so I don’t forget anything. These are the things I obey in my life.

What’s next?

I’ve been to Australia, Tasmania, Moldova, Finland and now Phuket this year already. Next I will go to Minsk, North Korea and then Murmansk in Russia to see the Northern Lights.

 

 

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