No two minds dance alike

Warm evening night

Free people are everywhere and they judge no one. The place to find them this time was Koh Phangan. Surpisingly writing about what happened would do no justice to your own explorations and experiences. The island is full of love and to navigate it you just let go of comparison, be happy and go partying.

Braiding before dancing
Braiding before dancing
I met beautiful souls on the ferry to Koh Phangan. They gave me roof over my head, fed me and showed me smiles. When leaving the island I felt in debt, humbled. There were lessons all the time. Actually they were more like blessings all the time. The island puts you into a common wave length with it’s occupiers.
Braiding before dancing
Just around the corner from Eden
Beach and beauty
Beach and beauty
Weeks rolled with no breaks, only love and unity with a human twist. Every moment was a chance to grow if you let go of the assumption of knowing. Where you grew was up to you but when surrounded with loving souls the knots in your ego started dissolving. Call it telepathy or mind reading or what ever – it seemed to be everywhere.
Fishermen heading home
Fishermen heading home
Surely all this sounds a bit over the top crazy, and that is the point of all of it. There is no particular reason why you would want to go to the same beach every sunset to enjoy the atmosphere. There is no point to partying without sleeping. Yet all that and more seemed like the perfect thing to do when the time and place aligned.
Boat rides can get bumpy
Boat rides can get bumpy
Food and views surround the island
Food and views surround the island
Blessings All The Time
Blessings All The Time
After Eden it's too late to sleep
After Eden it’s too late to sleep
Snack stop
Snack stop
The island is mostly known for it’s Full Moon Parties. That is just the tip of an upside down iceberg. Different kinds of parties are everywhere.
Contemplating
Contemplating
Dj David
Dj David
Sunrise at Ban Sabai
Sunrise at Ban Sabai
Music and people give you energy. Applying that energy to external efforts allows creation of new things and ideas. Koh Phangan has many yoga retreats, workshops and temples where to slow down, listen and breath.
Buddha Beach
Buddha Beach
Visa days on my passport were running low and change was in the air.
East coast Sunday
East coast Sunday
Bus to the other side of Thailand was an easy option. I had heard of a place that was great for climbing. Physical exercise was indeed a complete opposite to the previous place yet people were as open and honest as before. Dancing is liberating but climbing required discipline and that was exactly what was missing from Koh Phangan. From free spirits to body control on high walls. Life is beautiful.
Beach somewhere in Krabi on low tide
Beach somewhere in Krabi on low tide
Holding on to a small piece of stalactite or letting the music take over are two sides of the same coin. Being in total control yet adapting to the external stimulus and finding the harmony that keeps shifting. I tried climbing hard routes lacking the strength and the experience and quickly realized how hard the climbers needed to work.
Holding on as hard as I could
Holding on as hard as I could
After weeks of climbing the skin on my fingers started getting harder, grip stronger and fighting against gravity turned into working with it. It was Tonsai at it’s best ( some parties included).
Kids playing

Moment in Mandalay

People had talked about Mandalay and I wanted to leave the place behind before I had even arrived. I thought I’d be happier that way. I was sitting on a bus from Bagan to Mandalay. The driver was pushing the throttle a bit too much.

The dusty and dry air in Bagan lead me to think that a big city like Mandalay would not be any better. It turned out I was right but there where other things that caught my attention. After buying a train ticket to Hispaw I had half a day to explore the streets of the city.
Woman washing herself in river Iravadi
Woman washing herself in river Iravadi
Evening transportation up the river Iravadi
Evening transportation up the river Iravadi

I don’t feel at ease when I walk from an ice cream bar to a shack town. Only questions without answers arise when looking at people using the murky river to wash themselves after a long day. This wide river bank was their toilet, backyard, playground, workplace and home at the same time. I tried but could not find the photo I was searching to do justice for the feeling I was experiencing.

Clash of Clans and Angry Birds got here before me
Clash of Clans and Angry Birds from Finland got here before me
Kids playing
Kids playing
Smaller branch of the river in Mandalay
Smaller branch of the river in Mandalay
Boy washing his feet
Boy washing his feet
Woman selling street food in Mandalay
Woman selling street food in Mandalay

I was passing through on this random search for sunsets and beauty when most of the world was looking to feed their families and stay healthy in conditions where the odds where not in their favor. A stone throw away from a shack town an amusement park was being build.  Roller coaster and karaoke bar with neon lights across the street was too strong of a contrast for me to digest.

Men looking at construction work behind the fence
Men looking at construction site behind the fence
I took the photos and walked away.
4a.m the train rolled out of Mandalay.
Beautiful people lived in that city.

4 a.m
4 a.m
Some guide-book worthy famous bridge
Some guide-book worthy famous bridge
Tourist carriage of the train
Tourist carriage of the train
Mountain village close to Hsipaw

Idols and altars in Myanmar

What is a tv but a modern day altar that we worship by giving it our time and attention. There is no interaction only pre filtered exposure to our senses.

 

Barcelona or some other big European football team was playing at 3:30 a.m local time. The teahouse in the outskirts of Mrauk-U was packed with young men staring at the screen. When our bus pulled over the men rushed to ask if anyone needed an accommodation or a ride somewhere and then returned to watch the game. The +12h bus ride  had been one of the most painful ones I could remember. Stretching first body and then mind with milk tea and moving frames felt like heaven. 

The teahouse in Pyay was full. Myanmar Idols was starting. I pointed my chair away from the screen and started watching faces while listening to the voices of the future. The proven concept broadcasted it’s gospel from the LED altar. People from all ages were glued to their seats sipping tea while the busy road behind kept spreading the dust and gasoline fumes.

Mountain village close to Hsipaw
Women at morning prayer
On the hills close to Hsipaw the the sun was still behind the horizon when the villagers started walking up the hill. At the top is a buddhist temple where people pray each morning for 40 minutes. Many return there to pray several times a day.
Monks walking with their food powls
Monks walking with their food powls
Man meditating in a temple in Pyay
Man meditating in a temple in Pyay
So which altars and tv shows are good for you and which are bad? The question seems irrelevant. Maybe what matters is what we do after this single focused attention. To which direction do we point our thoughts, words and actions? What was learned at the altar? Time was given so something was received.

Yangon fills your thirst

Water of life

You can refill you water bottle almost anywhere, leave your belongings unguarded and trust the words spoken. You can also practice hackling, negotiating and skepticism or even distrust but it doesn’t seem to be part of the culture. Myanmar, as many kept telling me “is not corrupted by tourism, yet”. The leaders and military might act differently but I met none of them. On the streets there is trust.
Water in a clay pot
Water in a clay pot

Booming city with Indian and Western influence

Foreign money is pouring into the country and not just from the pockets of travelers wanting to see beautiful sunsets and pagodas but from big corporations and governments wanting to invest. Yet Yangon is still a chaotic city where skyscrapers are kept at bay by street vendors selling fake smart phones and 20 cent milk tea. Downtown is full of markets, temples and people spitting excessive beetle juice from their mouths. Walking anywhere feels safe and smiles are returned from strangers.

Man leaning to a tree
Man leaning to a tree
Meat markets smell the same everywhere
Meat markets smell the same everywhere
Tea-man
Tea-man
Talkative man who liked taking selfies with foreigners
Talkative man who liked taking selfies with foreigners
Construction worker
Construction worker
Sneak peak to a closed street behind the guest house
Sneak peak to a closed street behind the guest house
Ferry crossing over the Yangon river
Ferry crossing over the Yangon river
Man cooking lunch
Man cooking lunch
2 boys next to Kandawgyi lake in Yangon
2 boys next to Kandawgyi lake in Yangon
3 young mechanichs
Kick volleyball / chin lone / Sepak takraw
Kick volleyball / chin lone / Sepak takraw
Boom box monk
Boom box monk
Streets of Yangon at night
Streets of Yangon at night

Temples of Bagan like seen on guide books

Guide books will list you plenty of things to do in Myanmar. No doubt ‘Get in, see, do, eat, sleep & get out’ -sections will keep you busy. But what if you just got lost and stopped planning what it is that you want to happen next? Well, that was kind of my approach to exploring Myanmar. Maybe I was too lazy to do my homework or didn’t want to plan too much. Either way for me ‘not knowing’ is the exciting part.

I had arrived to Bagan bus station at 2 a.m. It was 6 km to the town. The taxi drivers were few and they knew the power they had. I could tell the guy talking to me was full of boloney so I decided to walk.

4 a.m I was sitting in hotel reception. No need to sleep tonight. 40 cents for a rent bike and I was of to see the pagodas, ruins and temples. Apparently the sunrises were nice here.

Renting an e-bike would have made things less sweaty but it was nice to move the body a little. The distances are long in Bagan so I ended up doing a loop that made my legs a bit shaky.

Early morning sunrise in Pagan with few hundred fellow humans
Early morning sunrise in Pagan with few hundred fellow humans
Yes, the sunrise was beautiful and it took some effort which makes the prize always nicer. Lack of sleep gave a nice overall buzz for the whole experience which was mostly amusing.

The receptionist had recommended an pagoda to see. It ended up being full of people who had woken up too early, skipped their breakfast and coffee to capture something unique for their Instagrams (here is mine).

Amusing part was that I felt like I had surrounded myself with people who had climbed up the stairs of the pagoda to see something life changing. I tried finding eye contact with people around me and greet them but only got suspicious looks.

These people had travelled half way across the world because someone said it would be amazing to sit on top of an old building and watch the sunrise and hot air-balloons.

The view was nice but it was also funny. It was funny because none of us were there alone yet we tried to ignore the fact and definitely not document it. It was funny because the air balloon floating in the distance were full of people paying 350 dollars each for 30 minutes of fresh air above old building before heading back to the airport. It was funny because you, a lovely woman, looked at me like I was crazy when I offer you my tripod so at least few of your photos might be sharp.

I give my respect for the past generations that build these monuments and apologies for the living ones for sneaking down from the side of the pagoda so I wouldn’t have to pay the entrance fee. That saved me enough money to travel one day longer.

The backroad took me further into the plantations filled with smaller payas, pagodas and temples. Don’t ask me about the differences. I know there is one but I doubt anyone really cares anymore.

From the distance I saw the hot air balloons and started cycling towards them. Maybe there would be something on the way.
It was 8 a.m and I was getting hungry. It was going to be a long day.
That night I would sleep in a real bed.
Beautiful.
Oh and the sunsets were nice too.

 

Fisherman and a calm ocean

Traveling days – Singapore to Amed

 

Trip from Singapore to Bali had some moments that made me scratch my head. I keep forgetting the rules and obstacles of traveling to different countries.

 

Singapore
Stations for transport are filled with people who know their destinations. There seems to be this general assumption that one can not travel without a return ticket. For quite a few years now I´ve only bought one way tickets, usually at the latest moment, and trying not to hurt my body too much when ignoring the travel times.

Early morning started with a strong coffee and some sweating with the luggage.

At the airport THE man at the check-in counter asked me if I have a ticket out of Indonesia. I didn’t so I lied and told I had a ticket to Australia. The man looked at me. He called my bluff and asked for proof. I folded and went looking for a Wifi so I could get a ticket. After few extra heart beats I had a screenshot. It wasn’t official but it wasn’t fake either… Let’s put it that way.

While boarding started I found a shiny pen from the ground and asked an old lady if it was hers. It wasn’t, I could tell, but she lied to me and crapped the pen. On the connecting flight another old lady sat on my window seat. Cunning women pretending to be oblivious of the fact… I enjoyed the aisle space for my feet and dozed off.
Bali transportation

In Bali the airport never let’s me go easy. It takes a a while to get a bearing of the transportation options. Too many touts. It was late so I ended up finding a hostel in Kuta Beach, dining while chatting with a prostitute from Sumatra and finding a huge tortoise laying eggs on the beach. The tortoise was surrounded by large crowd of people. Everyone kept using flashlights and touching the poor thing. Not much privacy if you give birth on Kuta beach. Selfies and sand was flying around as the mother finally headed back to the ocean.

Street close to Kuta Beach

As I followed the moon back to the hostel it started raining. Store fronts were occupied by homeless women and children seeking for shelter.

Kuta Beach hasn’t changed in the past few years.

”Taxi!”, ”Weed!”, “Ladies”, ”Mushrooms!”

and more.

 

Fisherman

 

Next morning I was of to Amed.

The plan was to find a freediving school.

You can’t underwater.

You might reach your destination or you might not.

Important for me is to dive down happily & feeling it’s not a one way trip.

 

Diving for photos at Thiang Og Bay

The first day after the freediving course I went to look for sharks at Thiang Og Bay in Koh Tao. The place is also known as Shark Bay. For taking photos I used a Dicapac waterproof bag and Fujifilm x100. It’s not easy. I’ve tried it before and most of the shots were blurry. This time the not-blurry % was better but still too much luck is involved to my liking.

Cropping required until I can hold my breath longer

Taking photos underwater is hard but this time around it was a way easier. I had learned to relax under the surface and it helped. Next long term challenge is to get a water proof casing for my DSLR.

Usually I don’t crop photos but for now these underwater shots require both post production and cropping. Hope to change that some day in the future.

Don’t know the name but I like it
I think I wont crop photos of sharks. Let’s see how close I can eventually get…
I think this is what a bleaching coral looks like.


 

As you might be able to tell underwater world is a new element for me. I think in the future it will occupy a big part of when I’m not breathing.

3:21 a.m, Laike Saimaa in Finland

Kayaking through summer nights at Lake Saimaa

During the two brightest week of the summer there was enough light to paddle through the nights.

finland-saimaa-area-01
Northern Europe
kayak trip saimaa map-3-01
Route in Detail

I’ll write more of the trip later. Here are some photos from the 3 week trip that covered 700 kilometers through small piece of Lake Saimaa and beyond.

Night @ Kosmos Festival

Third KosmosFestival was held in Ristiina. Friends were going there so I decided to tag along. During the first festival in 2014 I was helping with some building. Two years later everything was more superlative with more people and less mosquitos. Good vibes and smiling people.