Archive for May, 2012
Walking through the Thai-Khamer border into Cambodia a sly Cambodia border official tried to trick me in to paying him extra to get my visa… despite the sign directly above him stating the standard $20 USD rate. After 10 minutes of haggling over what the “official” fee was he gave up and stamped my passport. There were easier targets coming in the bus behind us.
The hustle is understandable though, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. After enduring years of the Khmer Rouge’s brutality, it is once again finding it’s feet and moving forward, but scars from the regime still remain. Despite clean up efforts, land mines continue to severely injure and kill people across the country. Because the country is so poor, living and traveling through Cambodia is cheap. I stayed in a nice hostel for just $1 US per night, where Angkor Beer was served for the steep tourist price of 50 cents a can.
Fascinated by the ancient temples of Angkor Wat and how nature was slowly digging back in to them and taking them back, I rented a bike for a week getting lost in what seemed like an epic..ly slow moving struggle between civilization and nature:
After spending a few weeks in Nepal, and realizing how close I was to Tibet I figured “Well I came this far… I may as well make an unscheduled trek across The Roof of The World.” After 2 and a half weeks of waiting on a Chinese visa in to The Tibetan Autonomous Region, I was almost ready, but first I needed to suit up in a counterfeit North-face jacket and some warm gloves. In a back room of seemingly every trekking shop in Thamel there is a Nepalese guy sewing a ream of “North Face” patches on to outdoor apparel). It was now December, and I was heading to one of the coldest places on Earth with a bag full of board shorts and sandals, so I was hoping this “quality” gear was going to do the trick (it only had to last a week). At the border crossing in to Tibet we were thoroughly searched and reprieved of any materials mentioning The Dalai Lama.
We spent 7 days driving over Himalayan ranges and mountain passes, reaching elevations as high as 5,260m (17,257 ft.) above sea level over the Gyatso La pass. At those elevations the altitude starts affecting you in terrible ways, and I was hit pretty hard with the feeling of a chronic hangover, general malaise… and the squirts. We actually drove right past Everest base-camp, but weather didn’t co-operate, and the mountain was boxed in my thick and violent cloud cover.
My guide was a local Tibetan who was surprisingly open about describing atrocities that the Chinese government had and continues to purport on the people and culture of Tibet. I thought he would have been worried about badmouthing the government, and I think he was, but he wanted to get the word out to as many foreigners as he could.
When China invaded Tibet, soldiers would force Tibetans to disavow The Dalai Lama, if they didn’t their children were forced to shoot them dead. These children would later receive a bill for the wasted bullet that was used to kill their parents.
Today China continues to push into Tibet with a strict military curfew, restricted travel, and restrictions on religious practices. A high-speed train continues to flood the plateau with Chinese immigrants in an effort to indoctrinate Tibet with Chinese culture.
After wandering through India for a month I realized Nepal was only a few rupees and a (uncomfortable / sleepless) train ride away. After spending almost 8 hours in a Delhi train station, dodging swindlers and cheats and trying to locate the right train I was finally off on another last minute adventure.
Kathmandu is probably the dirtiest place I’ve ever been. The air runs thick with diesel exhaust, the lingering scent of sewage runoff permeates what it can, and my mouth was constantly full of dust, soot and miscellaneous airborne particulate. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there had been a political power struggle going on and the monarchy had been disbanded less than a year before my arrival. Maoist rebels were violently challenging the newly formed government… and chaos was about to erupt in pockets of the country, Kathmandu included. The Maoists violently imposed a Bandh (general strike) burning and looting any establishment that opened its doors, and for 3 very unproductive days there wasn’t much to do. As a westerner I was able to walk around with some degree of “chaos immunity”, but even that got dicey a few times when I was shoed away with the whipping motion of a large stick.
I took this photo during the peak of the violence, a lucky shot of two kids perfectly attired outside their parents shuttered and locked shops… waiting patiently for the Bandh to come to an end.
With a mild case of “Delhi Belly”, and with a farm injury that had finally caused my thumbnail to puss and separate from my thumb, I opted out of a spontaneous trek to Everest Base Camp, and instead rented a bike to solo ride 40km up a mountain to Nagarkot… where I ended up meeting some locals, drinking homemade raksi with them in their yurt, and essentially getting lost for three days in the Hills outside Kathmandu. I was lucky enough to happen across a local yam farmer who liked my bike, and in exchange for a few rides around his hillside farm, generously provided me with a delicious meal and let me sleep in his barn (all somehow communicated without the use of English).
India I miss you and you overwhelming smells, delightful head waggling and Bollywood dance moves. Most of the rules directing law and order in Western civilization just don’t apply in India. Traffic lines are meaningless but cows have the right of way, there aren’t any utensils, and nothing happens on time… ever. Only in India could I be awoken in an outdoor train station by the moist lick of a wayward goat, then unable to sleep for fear of more goat licking… wander (and subsequently get lost) miles outside of town only to have a rifle pulled on me by an embarrassed army guard who’d been dozing at his post just long enough for me to creep past his checkpoint and sneak some photos (all before sunrise).
Sure it may be a bit daunting when it comes time to squat over a messy cutout hole in the floor of a rusty train as the tracks clatter by below, but embraced one realizes that such a scenario is just a great way to multitask your way through an amazing “thigh exercise”. Going to the bathroom has never been so exciting. Even buying stuff is an ordeal in and of itself. The haggling process is more an interpretive dance than a competition: prices hang in limbo while unresolved arms sway as smoke incense and the scent of Darjeeling tea wafts through the air. The choreography ends only when one partner promenades away or both acquiesce on a price for those crudely burned Bollywood DVDs with the side to side waggles of the head that I still don’t fully understand.
India is a country of extremes. It’s raw and constantly in your face, you can’t escape the noise, you’re never really sure what that smell is (probably for the best), and there is a huge gap between the wealthy and impoverished. One of the main reasons I went to India was to visit Child Haven homes across the country, where poor or destitute children are provided with the bare essentials. The stark contrast between their lives and the material extravagance of a others were overwhelmingly put in perspective. That said, even though these kids had nothing, they were some of the happiest kids I’ve ever met. Refreshingly aware and thankful for everything little thing they did have.
Wow… Just wow…
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many wardrobe (mal?)functions in one night. I got hit with a well aimed headpiece, and my head is still spinning from the hypnotic twirling of countless nipple tassels…
Words can only do so much… hopefully some photos will help explain the sordidly mesmerizing madness that went down in The Vogue Theater last night. VIBF 2012, you have outdone yourselves. More photos up at The Snipe.
Some viewers may find the nipples in this post graphic…
I originally threw this website together as a place to put all the photos I ended up with after I came back from a 16 month meander through Asia. I’ve been thinking about doing a major overhaul of the site for a while now, and in the process I’ve been forced to start delving in to my archive of old photos.
Since I’ll be re-working the photo section of the site, and I never really posted them before, I figured I’d start posting some of my favorites from different countries here each week until I’ve gone through them all:
From time to time I’ll get an email about some interesting new show or event that is happening somewhere in Vancouver. I never really know what to expect, so I usually encounter a surprise or two along the way. This time the show was at The Rio, and the surprise was that it consisted of a series of choreographed wardrobe malfunctions and featured a wide variety of thematic nipple tassel and pastie designs… it was a great show.
Visit the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival website for a full schedule. And check The Snipe for more photos
After spending a week in December driving through the Himalaya I figured it might be a good idea to defrost a bit. I booked a flight in Lhasa back down to Thailand, and the familiar atmosphere of sea level. Stopping off in Guangzhou, China for a brief 25 hour layover, the airport authorities tried to trick me into leaving the airport for the night. Unfortunately for them I’d been reading up on www.sleepinginairports.com , and found myself a nice nook to camp in behind a vending machine.
Bangkok was a busy but orderly city, and despite the scheduled Mauy Thai fights outside downtown malls, everybody else seemed friendly and cordial with each other. That’s why I was so surprised to hear about the chaos that overtook the city briefly after I arrived back home. Although I guess was surprised by the chaos that broke out at home as well.