After being in the quaint and memorable island of Island of Langkawi, I flew to Indonesia to see my friends before heading back to the US.
I remembered there why I loved Indonesia and why I didn’t like Indonesia. For the positives aspects, the Indonesians are some of the most friendliest, caring and hospitable people I’ve ever met in my life. When I came to Indonesia two years ago, I realized this and during my hiatus away from the country, I kept in consistent contact with the friends I made there. I had to see them before going back to America.
I spent the first 5 nights with my friend Yudha and met his new wife and enjoyed having good conversations and trying out other Indonesian delicacies I had not yet tried. After this time, I bussed over to Bandung, where I met with my friends and do what most Indonesians do in their country, eat and chat together!
It was nice to see my friends, but I also realized how much I despise the Indonesia traffic. I mean, I have experienced some fairly bad traffic in my life. Los Angeles, India, Egypt etc… Yet, in the 4th most populated country in the world (300 million) some %75 of it lives on the small island of Java where I was. Traffic is not relaxed in Indonesia, it’s a fight from the time you leave the carport to wherever your destination is. The roads are small lanes and new roads have not been built. Motorbikes abound.
I’m not one to get frazzled easily, but this traffic saps your energy quick. After 45 minutes, one needs to focus on positive thoughts :) I’m sure if I lived in Indonesia, I could adapt, but it got annoying and I preferred to stay close to the places I was staying. Yet even if I wanted to venture 5-10 miles away, it would take an hour due to the streets, one ways, and the sheer amount of cars and motorbikes. You need to go to experience it, it’s quite absurd at times and doesn’t make sense, but hey, this is Indonesia.
After the traffic subsided as I flew away on a plane to Singapore, I took 4 more flights to get to the good old American town of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Here I was in the open plains, wheat fields and single farm houses that dotted this land. I came for my good friends wedding and I arrived after 45 hours of transit just in time for 4th of July fireworks. I had a juicy burger with harvati cheese to celebrate.
Now the wedding it finished and it was good to see my friend and enjoy a weekend in the Dakotas. Now I am in Minneapolis and I’ve decided I’m not ready to fly back to San Francisco and have opted to join a rideshare instead that will take 3-4 days across the western United States. Then after the open roads, camping and beautiful sites, I will arrive in the city by the bay and rejoin with family and friends.
I came to Langkawi in search of sailboats. Until I had come to Southern Thailand, I had never heard of the small 500 square kilometers island in Northwest Malaysia before. Close to the Thai border, Langkawi I discovered has quite a bit to offer. I came expecting to stay 3-7 days and now I’m going onto the 4th week here.
There are some really nice yachts out here and I’ve been hounding the marinas, talking to Captains, brokers and long term expats about getting a larger sailboat here than what I currently have back in Seattle. Basically I’m looking for a 30-38ft cruiser that is able to make coastal passages through the straits of Melacca, the Southern Burmese archipelago and of course all of Indonesia. There are just too many islands here along with genuinely friendly human beings that make such an adventure hard to resist.
This Malaysian island of Langkawi has the potential to be a base for such adventures. There are plenty of business opportunities both on the island and virtually and with an international airport on the island, one can get to practically any major Asian city in less than 5 hours for those occasional city fixes.
There’s sailing, there are beaches, mountains, jungles, bald eagles, high cable cars, waterfalls and lakes, foods of all sorts and literally people from all over the world here. This island doesn’t attract just the western crowd, but there are quite a few tourists from China, India, and the Middle East. Everyday I meet citizens from countries all over. Just yesterday I spent some time with a young Syrian man named Ahmed who fled the country from Bashar and is running a little stand selling middle eastern products in the mall. We’re friends on facebook now. ;)
The longer I spend out the country, the more I realize just how integral it is in my life. My family has a vibrant international history and my upbringing incorporated American, European and Asian traditions. While it’s more natural for me to be overseas than in America, I still appreciate the vastness and beauty of America. What I don’t like about America is that citizens are given only two to three weeks vacation a year. The culture is “live to work,” and it cripples Americans because they work so hard, and even when they take vacation, there are sometimes still the concerns of projects they attempted to leave at home.
This is why in the two months I have been in Asia, I have only met 8 Americans. Four of them quit their jobs to travel, the other 4 were either a post grad or long-term expat. It’s just too much to go to Asia when you only have two weeks holiday and the flights there and back are going to eliminate a couple of days already. So Americans float to Hawaii, Mexico or even Europe. It makes sense, But I tell you, Asia is “where it is at.” This is my 5th time back and I love it more and more every time I come back.
Get to Asia, eat all sorts of food, meet many interesting people everyday and make friends, enjoy the nature of mountains, jungle, oceans, reefs and underwater worlds. It’s all here, and it’s not going away.
I’m doing alright and feeling right at home. Hope Summer is beginning to treat everyone nicely~
Wow. I must say in the past 20 years that I have traveled internationally, I have never come across a place as magical as I just did. I mean, there is Burning Man, and that can be quite a wonder filled environment, yet it’s not its own country (in some ways it is) and it’s temporary. Where I just came from is in another country and has been thriving for some time now.
This place was so special that I’m not even going to disclose where it is. I will just say it was on a Thai island.
It’s really nice when you can discover a beautiful natural environment, yet when one can come to a beautiful place and also have a beautiful community, then it’s perfect.
I came to this bay and met some amazing people, I danced all night, I swam everyday, I ate healthy nutritious food, I laughed, I smiled, I made friends, I loved. I created stars in the water, I explored exotic reefs and jungle, I connected and reconnected with myself.
If you come across this place I describe, it was meant to be for you.
I’m thankful for the memories, the people, the family and will return when the wind draws me near~
Now I’m in the historic Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia and soon I will venture to another island and South ~
Thanks for reading as always~
and…a song that I am feeling is a theme song for the past days~
So it has been a while since I posted, and for good reason too. At the moment I find myself on an island where everything a healthy and able human may need. There is quality nutritious food, physical activities, the sweet ocean air and good people to become friends with. It’s quite a gem I’ve discovered and I’ve enjoyed the better part of a month here, still while working along the way.
After Pattaya, I went to Bangkok and it just happened to be the Thai New Year and the Songkran festival. This is basically one massive water fight in most of the cities and villages of Thailand where everyone including Grandma is armed with a water gun or a bucket and all proceed to engage in battle for 4 days straight. In the month of April, which is considered the hottest month in Thailand, it serves as a nice refresher.
So of course, when I found out this was going on I had to participate. I opted not to tell my friend Ben, who was arriving the day of the start of the festival, and I checked in with the local Couchsurfing community in Bangkok to see if there was any organized activity for the festivities. Sure enough, there was something going on that already has over 120 people confirmed to attend. It was called CS Songkran Bootcamp.
I arranged to stay at the hotel where most of couchsurfers were to be staying and for the next four days, we went out in full force. Can I just say that this festival is NUTS. Thousands of people all over splashing everyone. Ben and I decided the bucket option was a better weapon than the watergun because you really shock someone with a bucket of water in their face. Especially if it happened to be ice cold water, which was available for 5 baht or 15 cents.
Typically we would go out for a couple hours and then come back to recoup and charge for the next session. After one day of being in Khao San road, we went over to Silom, where the waterfight took another level with multiple fire hoses shooting into the crowds. I was on the metro up top looking down and I had a good position to get the firetruck below. I scooped up some water, threw it hard and bam! Hit the truck straight on. Then all of a sudden, the firefighter looked up at me, and proceeded to aim his hose at me! Haha, it’s fun to experience water force from 50 meters away come up at you and everyone around you. Luckily I had some cover to hide behind, but it was on~ I scooped up and did the best I could to retaliate. What a good time, where was I?
I made some great friends, danced a step or two, and enjoyed the city of Bangkok in its most craziest time. Otherwise, I may not feel so inclined to spend that much time in the city.
Ok, back to Island life~ There are truly some amazing gems in the world, you just need to put yourself out there to find them.
It’s April 7th, and I just got in from a 19 hour transit leg from the Netherlands to Thailand. First, a car ride to Brussels, then a 15 hr flight to Phuket, another hour flight to Bangkok, a 2 hour bus ride to Pattaya and a 15 min motorcycle taxi to my AirBnB rental for the next 4 days. The question looms…..Why Pattaya?
Pattaya was known as a fishermans village for many years until more tourism invaded Thailand and the beachfront town became a city and is now notoriously known for its very accessible ways to get massages, happy endings and more in its many parlours. No, it’s not the reason I came here :) The chief reason I came was mostly because of the flight deal ($275 one way) and also to be close to Bangkok when one of my best friends arrives. Together we plan to travel and work while doing so.
I’ve been to Bangkok before and it’s pretty overwhelming. I am already planning on staying there a few nights, and that’s enough for me. The hustle and bustle and everyone trying to score a buck from you gets old quick. So I opted to go to the famous Pattaya beach and brothel city and I got a nice studio overlooking the action below. I’m actually writing from my patio now….I hear some funky Thai music, mopeds driving by, street food vendors cooking their spicy concoctions and chatter from multiple languages. It’s nice to be back in warm weather.
So far some of the stereotypes ring true for this town in the few hours I have been here. I see quite a bit of 50+ old men and some younger ones too, walking with their young Thai companions. It seems many a man comes here searching for that desire they may have lost or could not achieve in their home countries. I’m sure some are actually couples, but by the neutral expressions on the womens faces along with their seductive clothing, I’m guessing not.
I had a wonderful rice dish (40 baht-$1.25), got some water and a small bottle of M-150. That’s like the cheap version of Redbull out here in Asia. Funny enough the cap was not sealed tight, which signals that the bottle was reused, but I don’t care, I drank the yellow liquid anyways and it’s helping me stay up until I can pass out and avoid days of jetlag. I think I’ve got about 4-5 hours of sleep in the past 35. I’ll survive.
Well, it’s good to be back in an area that is noisy, busy and active. I enjoy being a minority ethnicity and seeing what people of local regions do, dress, act with their lovers and work. I’ll plan to be in Asia for a few months, so if you want to keep updated, subscribe and post comments!
Much love, no photos this post, but more to come…..
I just left a mass from a large cathedral here in Holland and its focus was to bless the many “pilgrims” that are walking the famous Camino de Santiago trail. While participating in the service, I felt inspired to write a post about the idea of pilgrimage as a form of travel.
Some of my past travels have been spiritual in their nature or involved traveling to very spiritual countries such as Tibet and India. While some of these travels have seemed distant to me at times, I was reminded today about some of the joys I felt when I was in that place in my life. A young man seeking answers to life’s mysteries and taking a bite of the world in the process.
While I didn’t get all the answers I was looking for then, I found enlightenment in my own way. And I expect each person will find their own as well if they decide to pursue it.
I think the idea of pilgrimage can conjure up thoughts of it having to only apply to someone who believes in deities and a spiritual world, but I think it applies to each human. The act itself can be beneficial to each person. While there can be many ways one decides to journey as a “pilgrim,” I think there are two ways I would like to spotlight from my own experience. Let’s call them the “slow way” and the “fast way.”
The slow way is exactly what it implies; Slow motion. In my mind, this mostly involves the idea of walking for a period of time. Although I think it can also apply to sailing and possibly even tour-biking. There is something that happens in this act that I have found magical. I wasn’t expecting it, but after sailing slowly in the raw and vast ocean away from news, cars, computers and phones, something happened.
While “pilgrims/travelers” may walk for a couples days to countless years, I find that if someone is committed to a journey the slow way, they may start to realize a very different reality that they were used to. I had this epiphany when I was sailing in Mexico for two months.
One of the first things I noticed was I began to lose track of time. The idea of time was invented by humans, and so much of our lives can be determined by time. Yet, in the open ocean it didn’t matter. I found my schedule revolved around waking up when the sun rose and going to bed not too late after the sun went down.
Initially, I lost track of the hours, and eventually I lost track of days and even weeks. But it was of no matter, I was engaged in the present. There wasn’t telling what the wind or weather was going to be like, so focus was on the now. As a result, I felt an amazing liberation and every action of the day was that much more meaningful and exciting.
During this voyage, I remembered a scripture verse in the Bible told that I heard when I was younger and it said:
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
That’s a fairly difficult mantra to live by it seems, but I found supreme peace in living in the present and not focusing a majority of my energy on the future. There’s another verse in this chapter that says:
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
I found a peace with these sacred words as well because instead of worrying about if we are going to survive for years to come, it encourages the idea of trusting that our needs are going to be provided for us, and to focus on the present. Some may consider this a false reality and hope, but I think there is a release on worry and stress to consider such an idea.
If the “slow way” is pursued, detached from the busyness of life, it most likely will prove to be beneficial that person. One may find themselves further “enlightened” by this action if their heart is open to listen and experience daily.
Ok onto the “fast way.”
The “fast way” is in a way another form of pilgrimage. To me, this term involves the act of travel but not solely focused in just one form of transport like walking or biking. It can be that one travels by train, plane, bus and car, but because the individual is seeking something in their journey, they will be inspired in their own way.
For example, someone could be seeking to experience the idea of community. In their journey, there wasn’t a set plan or place to go, it was just a “mission.” And in that journey, that individual may have found themselves accepted by a group of people, sharing meals, dancing, laughing and drinking and finding a satisfactory answer to what they were looking for. Other examples could be seeking friendship, faith, learning others ways of life or even love (though we all know that could be risky :)
There doesn’t even need to be a focus really. Just the idea of going with an open heart and mind to receive is enough. Personally, I always try to travel this way. One can travel with a very set agenda, with all the places they researched before on the schedule. It’s one way to travel, yet if someone has the option to stay and travel longer with flexibility, then it’s rewards will definitely be much more than the short-term option.
In a way we are all pilgrims, seeking answers to life, contemplating ideas of Truth, existence and purpose. There are many opinions, and each person has their own thoughts. The thoughts we are exposed to when we are young in our home environment are just that: thoughts we know at our local environment. The world is much bigger than that though, and when one goes to other environments and exposes themselves to other ideas and ways, one will definitely find themselves more “enlightened,” and maybe that is pilgrimage too.
Thanks for reading, feedback is definitely welcomes :)
In 1914-17, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men endured one of greatest feats of human survival in the past 100 years. With intentions to be the first expedition to land in Antarctica and traverse the entire continent, their ship got enclosed by floes of ice and the ship eventually froze over and cracked. They had no other option but to sail in their small lifeboats in the rough and cold antarctic seas to an island where a whaling station existed. After three long years enduring harsh conditions, loneliness and eating only seal meat, the entire crew of 28 survived. It is one of the greatest adventure stories to exist today.
While stranded stuck in ice, the crew continued their daily routines of keeping the ship in order, gathering food and keeping inventory. Frank Hurley was the official photographer on the expedition and with his camera, he captured the life and the ship as they continued their journey. The blog Retronaut sharpened the original black and white images with color to make the images that more moving.
The ship “Endurance” with it’s expedition leader Shackleton and his crew of 27 is an amazing story about an adventurous crew that survived the harshest conditions in Antarctica. If you are interested in learning more of this historic voyage, check out the book “Endrance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing.