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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Water of life
Booming city with Indian and Western influence
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.
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.
That night I would sleep in a real bed.
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.
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.
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.
Kuta Beach hasn’t changed in the past few years.
”Taxi!”, ”Weed!”, “Ladies”, ”Mushrooms!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.