Left Thailand and now in Malaysia~

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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~

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Bangkok and some Island Life

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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. 

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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?

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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. 

 

Current Stop: Pa-Pa-Pa-Pattaya – Thailand

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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…..

Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa Ta yyyaaaaa!

Pilgrimage as a Form of Travel

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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.

Map of the pilgrimage trail the Camino de Santiago. The most traveled route is in Northern Spain, and many routes go to that direction.
Map of the Camino de Santiago. The most traveled route is in Northern Spain, and many routes go to that direction.

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 went to Tibet for the summer in 2002. It proved to be a life-altering experience.
I went to Tibet for the summer in 2002. It proved to be a life-altering experience. Photo by my travel companion Jared Kachurak

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.”

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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.

Image of the sailing trip in Baja, Mexico
Image of the sailing trip in Baja, Mexico

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.

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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?

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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 :)

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Shackletons Incredible Voyage (and Survival) to Antarctica in Color

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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.

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Time to talk about Paris

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I’m sure many have been able to visit Paris at some point. For me though, the first time I was able to explore this famed city was last week.

On my first trip to Europe in 2000, I did go to the Paris airport. But that experience was only limited to eating a croque monsieur, buying Cuban cigars and finagling a customs officer to stamp my passport. Hardly the experience.

And even though I had been to Europe many times after, and spending the better part of a year throughout the continent, Paris never happened.

Maybe I was dissuaded by the tourism of cities like Paris, Rome and Venice. I much rather preferred smaller towns and cities with less cameras and tour buses.

But this is February, in the heart of Winter and not many people travel during this time (at least not to the Northern hemisphere.) I had a friend who had moved to Paris three years ago and I promised to him that when I was in Europe again, I would visit him. So to honor that promise and to finally check out Paris, I hopped on a ride to the City of love, arts and baguettes.

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From Maastrict, Netherlands to Paris I caught a ride share for 22 euros. A train would have cost close to 100 and a flight the same. I had used ride share in the US and am always happy to make new friends through the activity. While some people have an issue meeting and interacting with strangers, I have found it to be quite fun. I also promote the idea of renewing trust between people, so in a way I promote this through the action. If you do find yourself in Europe and want to find a ride, check out the website here.

I arrived in Paris and upon parking the car, I see an artist painting on his easel and hear a semi-pleasant voice singing opera from a 4th floor building. Ah, Paris. City of the arts! :)

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Upon my first walk, I saw the famous Notre Dame cathedral. From a distance it looked massive and the front was one of the most impressive facades I had seen.

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I got to a Metro and met my friend Jason Brown , whom I had been friends with since university days. It was nice to make his acquaintance again after a long 3 years. There was a lot of catching up to do and catch up we did.

The following day I met up with another friend Astra from the UK, who happened to be in Paris studying French. The funny thing about Astra besides her personality, is that we always seem to see each other every time I come to Europe. The past 5 times I have come to Europe, I have run into her. Sometime for just 15 minutes and sometimes for a few days. I have love for her and she’s a good friend.

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Together, we walked to the Eiffel tower and Wow, what an amazing structure. I mean, yes, it’s the Eiffel tower, but some monuments lack the awe upon seeing them (such as the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall for me) but the Eiffel tower really was a treat. We of course went up after waiting for only 15 minutes in line and saw some nice views.

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We walked to the Trocodero, to the Arc de Triomphe and finally to the Champs Elysees. It was sort of surreal day to me because, you are somewhat raised seeing these places and then you actually see them all in one day. It was a good day, I took the metro back to Jason’s and rested that night to prepare for the next couple of days of tourism for me.

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The next day Jason and I traversed around the city. We checked out some nice viewpoints, the front of the Opera house, a really nice Starbucks (you’ll see the photo below) and some art districts. One of the crazy highlights was the consuming of “Steak Tartare.” That’s straight up raw ground beef, mixed with a little soy sauce, tabasco and some other flavor. I don’t know why I did it, I guess Jason sort of “egged” me on. It was his first time trying it too. I didn’t get sick, but I definitely felt weird after and proceeded to eat a whole lemon and get drinking some beer real quick. What the @#@@ was I thinking?? Ah, this is what travel is all about :)

Ah, steak tartare...
Ah, steak tartare…

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Yes, this is a Starbucks
Yes, this is a Starbucks
Ah, Europe
Ah, Europe

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The day was nice and it ended with me of course going to a Couchsurfing meetup in Paris. The pub where it was held got seriously packed out with “CSer’s” and I met many people from all over the world as I always do. It’s always a great and fast way to make friends and get great local advice on the region you’re traveling to. If you’re in Paris, every Monday night at the Lions’ Pub at 8pm is the meetup. Good times~

My last day was spent visiting some museums. I decided to skip the Louvre for the next trip and went to the Musee D’Orsay and Musee Rodin. Together I saw some pieces of art I had wanted to see for a long time and Rodin is my favorite sculptor, so it was a treat to see some of his works. He truly had a gifted hand. I couldn’t take photos all the time of these works, so I’ll post which art I really enjoyed below.

Renoir
Renoir
Van Gogh
Van Gogh
Monet
Monet
Cabanel
Cabanel
Tiffany Vase
Tiffany Vase
Rodin
Rodin

I had an amazing time in Paris, there is so much to see. It was a wonderful 4 days, and I hope to spend more time there soon. Thanks for reading, and if you need tips on traveling there or anywhere, feel free to connect with me on my facebook.

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Time to Go again

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So, I write this post from a Starbucks inside a Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. I see flashing lights on 1 cent slot machines, hear several different languages and wonder what sort of reality this would be if I stayed here indefinitely. Seems sort of like what I imagine hell to be.

Anyways, I didn’t come here to participate in the entertainment of this famed city. I came here because, well, it happened to be the best deal to fly out of this country to where I need to go. Yes, I’m off again and it seems for the better part of 2013 I will be abroad, and while I would like to say I am excited, I just feel it’s more normal than I’ve remembered in the past. It’s not vacation, I’ll be working the whole time while out. And I am in a place where I could be gone for quite a while.

I would like to say, “Yes! I am getting out of the country again, it’s a time to see new things, meet new people, try new foods!” But I guess to some degree, since I have traveled significantly abroad and in the states, and especially in the past three years, I sort of have this feeling of normalcy with the movement.

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I was talking about this last night to someone who asked me about being excited to go. I said yes, I was, but it felt like I was just going to another state in the US. I’ve adapted quite well to navigating anywhere on this planet. I don’t know when it exactly happened, but through the experiences, I’ve gained the “Saavy-ness” to get around, and not just travel, but actually live anywhere. If I wanted to find work in any of these countries, I know how to go about it. If I needed to find those secret places where tourists don’t know about, I could do it. If I needed to find a wife in another country, then I could do…Well, ha, maybe that’s not too difficult, or really a good idea. :)

The thing is, while it is normal, it is exciting. I guess it just doesn’t really hit me until the flight attendant says “We are one hour away from _________.” Then it hits me. I am checking out another foreign land, I am going to witness different behaviors, listen to very different perspectives on family, politics and general life everyday. I am going to experience new food and drinks, I am going to see interesting architecture, and I am going to make new friends, whom I can keep in touch with easier than ever and whose friendship could likely blossom into something I would of never anticipated.

That is exciting. I’m in a starbucks in Vegas in a semi-smokey casino. It’s time to get the #@$% out. Stay tuned.