Ko Adang, Ko Lipe, Malaysia, Perhentian Island

The Other Side

Paradise Lost

Today I enjoyed a refreshing refresher scuba dive with Tanja from Finnland, a diving instructor on Perhentian Island! We did some exercises under water in order to freshen up the memory. (Last time I went scuba diving is more than a decade ago!) After that, we went on a short dive around the area called ‘Batu Nisan’ close to Long Beach. During the dive we spotted several clownfish, a fantail ray, an Indian Ocean Walkman well hidden beneath a rock. We picked up some trash we came across, too. During the next four days I did the PADI Rescue Diver Course. So at least by name I am a ‘Rescue Diver’ now, acting as a role model for newcomers at a dive site and carrying more responsibility. It’s exhilarating, exhausting, it’s challenging and it’s funny. Thank God it’s funny, too! Part of me says ‘What have I gotten myself into here?’ while another part enjoys the challenge. It is an experiment with stress, really: simply to jump in and see how I handle it, how I can help myself and others in difficult situations.

The trash we found on the ocean ground reminds me of another island I’ve recently been to, Ko Adang. It’s already two weeks ago that I took a taxi boat to camp there after a couple of days on Ko Lipe. Once I had crossed over it became clear how busily buzzing Ko Lipe really is. As if my ears easily adjust to a certain level of noise. Then it gets quieter, and I come to notice how loud it was before! Such an amazing organism, this flesh body. Like going to the forest after a week of work in the city. (Yes that is an invitation to try it and see listen for yourself…) It’s so obvious how much trash my ears had to endure! How wonderful to give them some rest.

Back to physical trash. When I find cigarette butts, aluminum, plastic etc. on an island, let’s just say it loses its charming quality. From one moment to the next I am humbled and reminded about the downsides of being born into this human family. Eventually, i am responsible for some more water plastic bottles that are later set on fire in some remotely hidden area of the beach. Of course, that doesn’t make them vanish.

   

Chill out with the master cat ‘Coco’ (verrrry cuddly, heel aanhalig) at Art Garden, Ko Lipe

   

Jack joins me up to the view points on Ko Adang

In general, environmental issues are well-known throughout the Western hemisphere. Around Malaysia, not so much. It’s getting better, though. People get informed. Children are educated. Awareness is raised in public spaces and in areas like National Parks. Volunteer networks pop up. Like the one just starting up in a fisher village: Perhentian Turtle Project.

   

Mind-blowing awareness list: How long it takes to break down pampers, for instance: 500 years! And glass: 1,000,000 years! I found that list at Turtle Bay Divers, Pulau Perhentian.

  

That’s Ko Lipe over there (look at all these boats along the coast…)

   

The Norwegian Alchemist

Ok. Enough about me for now 😉

Surely you are familiar with the story of Don Quijote. Well, you’re about to read a story of a modern northern plastic warrior who has found his personal windmills on Ko Adang.

One of the movements that contribute to raising the awareness of environmental responsibility is Trashheroes. That’s a group of people who care for a better environment and are willing and able to work towards that aim. I came across them on Langkawi (Malaysia) and on Ko Adang (Thailand) where I met Andreas. Born in Norway, anubis out of ashes, he has been on this small island for more than two months now. Chilling, yes. But also: Launch a project he calls Travellingtrashhero. Be sure to check out the background and pictures on his website 🙂

Call him crazy, call him adventurous, call him nordic by nature, he probably heard it all before. That guy is turning shit into gold, mate. Believe it or not, he is currently building a raft to cross the border and go from Ko Lipe to Langkawi. What? HOW? With raw materials found on the spot. In other words, he collects whatever buoyancy he needs like plastic bottles, styrofoam… Getting bamboo poles and using a worn-out hammock to set sail in case the rudders or shoulders won’t be sturdy enough. Please check his website (above) and spread the word. This brave guy is definitely worthy of your support.

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Bangkok, Thailand

Suvarnabhumi – Sheremetyevo – Schönefeld

0902AM. Twenty minutes before boarding starts on the plane to Moscow. I sit at the Suvarnabhumi Airport. Munching crunchy monkey cashew almond granola and sipping lactasoy. A guy walks by. His right arm and left knee are bandaged. Probably a motorcycle accident, who knows?! On the night bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok I watched ‘Interstellar’. To see a movie after seven months of travelling is gripping, of course. But it’s all too obvious where the directors and actors show their true nature: it is a big show to keep you entertained. Here at Gate E3 the seats are purple. I am clad completely in blue. It’s 0909AM now. In Pai, I read the first chapter of ‘White Tiger’. I also got an email from the city library. They offer me a job in July. This is good. The plane to Moscow will arrive in the afternoon. Then I have two hours in the world of the ruble. Nothing going for a guy like me. Guess I’ll just sit there and gaze into nothingness. 0915AM. Boarding begins. At this very moment a thought enters the mind – i remember someone confided in me that she once got to the airport and checked in and then did not board the plane. Well what can you do? It happens. Maybe too much gazing into nothingness? It is 0920AM. Guess I have bothered you enough with my ramblings. ผมไป.

The flight is kool to the max. Not only because outside it’s -50°C and I am in wonder above the clouds at 36000 feet. With ultimate Sunset Beach Chill out sound in my ears and a window seat and the seat next to me free. A vegan Thai/Indian meal that I had ordered via online check-in. I wonder what it must be like to be one of these business class persons? I have so much space. With a smile, ‘Mr Weiss, specially prepared for you’ a blonde Russian stewardess serves me a magnificent meal consisting of tofu-potato-daal & naan, salad and fruits and after that coffee. Yeah, right, they could serve it in something more classy than a plastic cup. But I come home from Asia so I’m used to that. I enjoy this flight very much, indeed. Going home. To my family, to my friends, to my loved ones. I am happy. Sad-happy.

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Hello Kabul. Good evening Delhi.

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Veggie meal on board... hmm? ahhh.. some tomato juice, please.


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My first jetlag! Jippie. I feel like Fight Club. So i put on my pink glasses. Instantly, I giggle.

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Dhamma investigation, Mae Hong Son, Pai, Sharing, Thailand

A long cave, a forest temple, a waterfall, a still lake, a border town

The loop turns out to be a trip to a cave, a forest temple, and a homestay before I even reach Mae Hong Son. From May 15 to May 21 I drive around 300 km on all kinds of roads through rain, fresh air, misty mornings, bursting clouds, burning sun. All in all the greatest motorcycle training and the best ride I experienced during my stay in SouthEast Asia. The crowning pinnacle! So happy to have this happen in the last week of my stay here. Breathtaking hillside scenery. Amazing views over valleys and villages on this precious green earth.

Mae Lana

The cave I visit is called Tham Mae Lana. It is allegedly the longest cave in Asia. Twelve kilometres long. We are inside this cave for two hours. A guide, two monks, a child (mini monk) and me. There is water inside but not deep enough to be forced to swim. The cave is OK. Not overwhelming.

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When I get out of the cave I enter Baan Mae Lana. It starts raining. I am hungry. I eat something. Then I find shelter this monastery - Wat Mae Lana - and spend the night there.

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The next morning I leave Baan Mae Lana and drive westwards.

After a while I reach the forest temple.

Wat Pa Tam Wua

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As a meditation technique they use breathing in with “bud” and breathing out with “dho”. And after that developing the knower (cittānupassana).

Given i find so many westerners here I think the place is quite well known. It is located about 35 km before Mae Hong Son. An appropriate place for beginners. Dhamma light is served cool in a wonderful wonderful setting, embedded in nature with river, lake, forest, caves… it makes it easy to be in love with dhamma, with life!

For me it is a nice holiday here. Emphasis on being relaxed and natural about life and practice. Very leisurely. One ‘free time’ follows another. Talk is not encouraged but allowed. There are badges for those who prefer to remain silent. Two times a day formal meditation – morning and afternoon. Including lying posture (no kidding). Happyhappy joyjoy abbot always smiling crackin jokez. University campus atmo. Be your own instructor. Read, chat, sweep, help, or just drink some coffee if you like. You get the idea… one day I also meet a young monk there. During our conversation he highly recommends practising under the guidance of Tan Martin, a German monk, at Wat Pa Ban Tat (Udon Thani). So this is how one thing leads on to another. First we are pleasure seeking robots. And then lost souls searching for peace. In the beginning and the end of course a sincere practitioner is what he seeks and seeks what he is. A peaceful robot? Someone roboting for peace? (Where to begin? Where to end? … nibbāna – cool and bottomless!)

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Meditation Hall

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Take rest. Take rest. Then start again. With a calm and quiet mind.

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Feed the fish.

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Walk the path.

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The teacher only points the way. Too many words will confuse everyone.

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Please remain silent in your kuti (hut).

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Meet jack fruit.

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Papaya before it is eaten and turned into poo.

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Flowing flowing flowing, says Heraklit. Is, is, is, says Parmenides.

Homestay

After three nights of investigation into the centre of the cyclone I get grounded on two wheels and take on the road once more. I go in the direction of Mae Hong Son. About 15 km before that town I take a right turn and head towards the Myanmar border. Again and again I am washed down by rain. I find shelter in a village at Ben&Ten Homestay. Ben also arranges trekking tours and leads an English evening school. He says I can join him and teach the children some proper language skills and that’s what I try to do before joining in family dinner and going to sleep. Rain during the night.

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Baan Huaymakueasom a.k.a. Tomato Village

Waterfall

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Pha Sua NamTho(WaterFall)

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Lake with camp site at Pang Oong

Next morning I get up and get going. Towards Pang Oong, a beautiful rainforest nature trail and lakes to swim in. Oh me Buddha! So beautiful!! Many places I visit are hard to leave and that is about the only bad (?) thing I can say about them.
In the far north there is a place called Baan Rakthai. It was recommended to me by a local woman when I got to Wat Pa Tam Wua. I get there around noon. Have some soup and tea tasting session. There are (too) many Chinese stores. All of them selling the same stuff: tea, accessories, china, dried fruits, junk food and souvenir trinkets.

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Pang Oong Nature Trail around the lake (about two hours)

Border Town

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Lake at Baan Rakthai

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At the Thai-Myanmar border

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Inside the border patrol camp. View over Myanmar woods and village.

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According to my GPS signal: only 500m ahead is Burma. Adventure is kool but I am afraid to get shot - accidentally. Thus, I return to my scooter to go back to Rakthai, Soppong, and Pai. Four-hour-drive

On my way back to Pai there are numerous hills and two mountain peaks to overcome.

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A great motorcycle route on '1095'

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Near Baan Chomphae

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On my way back to Pai I stop to climb a hill and enter a cave wat. Meanwhile, dogs guard the motorbike.

*** *** *** *** ***
After some hours I reach familiar territory again.

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Ling's delicious and healthy meals are prepared here @ Link Restaurant next to Suan Mon Guesthouse.

I get soaked by the rain for so many times that I lose count. One time there is a long long line of police cars and pickup trucks parking at the side of road. Slowing down and halting I see they are a rescuing squad taking care of a jeep that got off the slippery road and crashed down into the thick jungle below. I could only make out a tire. I drive carefully yet swiftly and arrive in Pai in the evening to return the rented scooter. I sleep in a friend’s bungalow. (Thank you so much, Lidia!)

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Bungalows are hidden because of all that green stuff around it 😉

I enjoy my last day in Pai. A bicycle day. Pumpkin curry. Raw chocolate cake. Papaya shake. And so on and so on 😉 There are several reasons to come to Pai at this time. It is low season so prices change. And there are lots of activities and special events to attract people. And: it’s lynchee and mushroom season. Yeah baby.

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*** Beautiful Pai ***

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Backyard of Wat Sri Don Chai


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Inside the oldest temple of Pai

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Pai, Thailand

Pai revisited

In the burning season, some weeks before the rain breaks and clouds burst open more regularly and persistently, the town of Pai aka Utopai aka Pairadise seems rather deserted.

No matter what time or temperature, it simply feels good to be here. There is a river, warm but still refreshing to bathe in, and a dozen cafés and restaurants offering vegan delicacies. A waterfall with basins, a canyon and hot springs are all within reach of some 15-30 scooter minutes.

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The trees are rocked gently by the warm breeze. They bloom in shades of yellow, orange, crimson with a lush green thicket of palm trees and all kinds of bush and grass stretching to the horizon.

It is a quiet place now. Only in the evening flocks of people gather on the walking street of Pai to get freshly prepared food, local handicraft and to meet and exchange stories and plans fellow travellers.

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I enjoy taking a slow walk and rest wherever I find some tree shade. It is a good place to do nothing. Feels empty now compared to my first visit three months ago. The place where I put up the tent last time is abandoned. The entire atmosphere is one of leisure, and it seems to me to take effort to go anywhere, the reason being it is so lovely right where I am wherever I am.

I am sitting on a bench with the river in front of me. A mill to the left and Baan Pai Riverside bungalows behind me. Two brown cows are pasturing on the opposite riverbank. A black bird is perched in perfect balance on the shoulder of one of them. Now it flies somewhere else. Out of sight. Some birds chirping in different voices as if they are talking to one another. Sounds of steps from the bamboo bridge 50 metres away. Cicadas announcing their presence. That’s all.

••• ••• ••• ••• •••

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Two lions guarding the entrance of the oldest temple in Pai. Erected 1312. Renamed 1477. Renovated 2007.

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Wat Sri Don Chai, Pai

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Chiang Mai, Thailand

One day in a group, one day alone

From Maesod I take a bus to Tak and from there one of the buses that go back and forth between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Having arrived I share a tuktuk with a nice Israeli lad and a smiling French lady. I recommend Julie’s Guesthouse to them and go to Wat Sum Pow to meet Jean. I stroll around while he finishes his last massage.

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Buddha caught in barb wire on the border bridge at Myawaddy/Mae Sot

We drive to his place. Wonderful cottage in the Northwest outskirts of Chiang Mai. I stay two nights and then move to Julie’s downtown. We also find the time for an Ohashiatsu treatment at the temple with Thai masseur watching us. I feel a lot better afterwards. There is a definite change in attitude and general sense of being in the world. After my personal Burmese days when I found it hard to do anything because of heat and unstable digestion it is great to be able to take two stairs at a time again now that I am Thailand.

To get around I rent a scooter for two days. And I decide to join a group of people driving 20 km south of the city to go swimming and jumping off rocks into the river at Opkhan National Park. We are thirteen – quite a flock of farang to be seen in a spot like this! It is so kool to ride a (motor)bike in a convoy setting like that. We are looking for a waterfall but what we eventually find is a river. Except us there are only locals. Some do a salto so we do salti, too.

In the evening Kristen and I check out a local market to have a fresh coconut and try some appetising pows (dumplings filled with black bean and custard cream) and then have a feast at an Indian restaurant ‘New Delhi’ where every dish is delicious and the waiter is the most sincere I’ve ever seen. We share our thoughts on life, the universe and everything. We have a great talk about the Middle Way.

Next day some of my friends from the day before drive to a canyon. I stay in the city and chill out. I know I will go to Pai tomorrow morning and then scooter my way around the Myanmar border. It’s a well-known loop around here. It goes Pai -Mae Hong Son – Mae Sariang – Chiang Mai. Takes about 4 or 5 days. I will leave my big backpack at Julie’s Guesthouse.

Before going to sleep I book the ticket to Berlin where a friend awaits me. Then I read some pages in Orwell’s personal Burmese Days. In the morning suryanamaskar – yoga on the roof with a view over Chiang Mai. I feel at home. No need to go anywhere. In the days to come there will be enough motorcycle riding. I take a day off and chill out. Here in Chiang Mai there is always something to do: cooking classes, massage courses, trekking, swimming, elephants to see and touch and ride, rafting, biking, zip-lining, and of course what you can do anywhere and what seems to be so easy to get accustomed to in Thailand… booze your brains with Chang beer, padthai your body and shop til you drop.

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Burma, Chiang Mai, Mae Sot, Thailand, Yangon

Ride on man, right on!

Geeez.. these days I get around…

After only oneday in Mandalay I head back to Yangon with a night bus. Arrival in the early morning. I buy a ticket to the Thai border town MaeSod and wait at the station the whole day. Put up the hammock there. People smiling and laughing. Them Burmese homies never ever seen a guy spending a day in a hammock at the highway bus station.

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The station with the yellow banners... that's where i put up my hammock for 13 hours

It’s too hot to do anything anyway. To chill is hardcore in the lyrical and impossible in the literal sense. I am there the entire day reading, sleeping, getting out in the heat to take some steps and drink something, get some food into the system, then stroll back home to the hammock. In the evening the bus leaves with 3 hours delay. It’s the third night in a row spend in a train/bus.

I arrive in Maesod in the heat of the day. Within ten minutes i find a bro to let me call Albert who lives here. We meet at Heaven Café next to the border bridge. Until he arrives I take a quick shower Thai style at the coffeeshop toilet and order a chocolates-strawberry shake.

Twenty minutes afterwards he arrives. We exchange stories for a while after which he drives me to a great vegetarian food place. Oh how good it is to eat safe and tasty food again after two weeks of Burmese filthy and boring white rice fodder! Albert brings me to the bus station at Maesod. The bus to Tak leaves in only ten minutes. From there I will take a bus to Chiang Mai and arrive in the evening. Meet my friend Jean who let’s me stay at his place for a couple of days.

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Backyard of Jean's place at Chiang Mai. Bathroom hut.

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Jean's dwellings. I sleep upstairs. It smells good. Lynchee trees all around. Lovely neighbours selling textiles.

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Bangkok, Thailand

Astrological passage สงกรานต์

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Let’s get it oooon 😛

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Three smiling girls near Chao Phraya river

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Khaosan Road transforms into Khaosan River

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Wash of all the dirt of the past. Cleanse the body. Clear your ♥. Be refreshed by the elixir of life. Buckets, pistols and bazookas filled up with icy water. Right inna your face. Wake up wake up. Get soaked. Have no worries. Wake up! Love is all around. Let it in. Let it flow. Let all conventions go. Feel free. Touch for peace. Just be! Yeah! Happy New Year!!! สวัสดีปีใหม่!!

Sometimes people ask me when I will go home again. Then the first thing that comes to mind is always: Well I am home. I feel at home here in South East Asia. And like I said be4 I am so confident everything turns out lovely. Nothing can happen. I am safe.

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