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March 2017

Killing time in Cambodia

Let’s face it, not all places are fantastic and super fun. Even though, when you travel around and meet people asking about different destinations, in this case Cambodia, you usually get a bunch of superlatives like amazing, fantastic, wonderful and the list goes on. However, my theory about this is that people are afraid of telling the truth when it can be looked upon as negative – what I  call realistic. Most people are obsessed by being politically correct then actually being correct and not only when it comes to “review” destinations. Anyways, in my book one of those places is Cambodia. Drowned in superlatives, but ended up being pretty boring.

Despite it’s a little boring and far from the best place I’ve been, I still find it interesting and fun to visit new places. But perhaps I spent a little too many days here, even though it was just a week (and I didn’t go go the coastal areas which might are nicer and cooler). The big reason people go to Cambodia is the Angkor Wat, the worlds largest religious monument with temples covering an area of 163 hectares – trust me, it’s HUGE. And of course, it’s nice for a couple of hours but you get tired of looking at symmetric stones after a while, especially in gazing sun and 40 degrees. And after Angkor Way, there is not much to do – except “enjoying” those 40 degrees and no wind.

When it comes to the people, it’s as everywhere, some people are fantastic and some less fantastic – or to say it straight out:  douchebags. The girl pictured below was one of the funniest and most memorable locals I’ve met on the entire trip. After exiting Angkor Wat I walked to the parking to my motorbike. This little girl, maybe 10 years old, came up to me and tried to sell me a bag of fruit. Super friendly, smiling, funny and being polite. As always I said no. Not only one or two but ten times, but that didn’t stop her! She kept on asking and asking, and what’s even more impressive is that she still was smiling and behaving very well. So finally, I asked her: how much? She said 1 dollar. I gave her a 10 dollar bill and said keep it. She gave me a big hug and I asked for a photo. Then we both walked away, smiling. As a former salesman myself I could almost recognize myself in her – stubborn, but still behaving well and working hard. I know the nice feeling of a good sell, but to make someone else happy (to give) can be equally as nice. On the opposite side of the friendly-scale, I bought a bus-ticket and got really ripped off. I was told I was paying for a 12 dollar comfortable direct VIP-bus with big comfy seats, air condition, wifi, toilet – the best bus there was in Cambodia. Turned out that guy probably put 11 dollar in his own pocket and gave me a ticket to the local bus. Not direct, no A/C, not even fans, 40 degrees Celsius, many stops, took twice the time, no toilet, locals carrying chickens on the bus and the list goes on. But, of course, I survived and was VERY happy to finally arrive the capital Phnom Penh after that ride.

Again, travelers always say “Oooh, the people there are so nice!”. But that’s just your mind playing a trick on you. If you say to your self: “This is nice!”. You will like whatever you are doing. If you say: “This SUCKS!” you will dislike it, our minds work that easy. After so much traveling as I’ve done, I’ve learned that people work the same way everywhere. We want the same things (money, house and partner) and everywhere there are good and bad people.

Right now I’m in the airport in Kuala Lumpur where I have a transit on the way to my next destination: Myanmar, or old Burma. Unfortunately I’m feeling a little bad. Nausea and headache, fingers crossed I’m not getting sick. As far as I’ve heard, Myanmar is not a place you want to get sick in.

 

Laidback Luang Prabang, Laos.

The bad thing about having expectations, is that you can easily be disappointed. On the other hand, the good thing about surprises is that you never know when they are coming your way. I went to Laos and Luang Prabang with none (or perhaps low) expectations, but guess what, a good surprise was waiting for me.

Actually so good that I can say that this is one of my favorite stops on the entire trip. It’s fair to wonder why. One of the reasons might have been that I went through Vietnam pretty fast by bus and motorbike, and was ready to stay in one place for at least 4-5 nights. Also Vietnam was pretty hectic, and Luang Prabang the straight opposite; very calm and laid-back!

Sounds idyllic, right? And it was. On the other hand I know myself pretty well and would usually get bored staying 4-5 days in a small place, but the good thing about Luang Prabang is that the nearby areas offer so much to do. Hiking, swimming in  waterfall, lots of culture, elephants, architecture and to just drive around in the countryside is an experience in itself. Every day was rounded off by a majestic sunset. The heat and humidity (it was warm but not superhumid) made the sunsets incredible. Really red, orange and pink. It was very cheap as well and you could easily get a dinner for 3-4 US Dollar. Back home I never go to cafés, but it’s something I’ve done a lot on this trip, especially lately. If I like it, I probably go there again and again. Very often I end up eating at the same place 2-3 days per day for 2-3 days. First of all this creates a feeling of “home” in a way, having YOUR table and you also get to know the people working there.

Here in Luang Prabang I chose to treat myself with a little luxury. It wasn’t much, but well-spent money and time. For a day I went to a nice hotel and used their swimming pool to relax and cool down in the heat. For a price of 8 Euros I could spend the entire day there, use the gym and also got a 10 minute massage for that price. Well-spent money I would say and a perfect way to recharge a little bit between the adventures. The good thing about traveling the world when you are 30 years old and not twenty is that you can probably tolerate a higher budget and have some comfort from time to time. Trust me, I’ve never lived as a simple life as the last 7 months, but 3 times I have treated myself with a some comfort. And in the end, what’s the point of having a little so called “f*ck-you-money” if you never gonna say f%$# you?

There are lots of Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang and after spending 5 days here I’ve done some reflections and take-aways. I would say Buddhism in one way is a radical religion – not in the way of terror, but the limitations for the life of the monks. Imagine you get brought into this world and without knowing better, you are being raised as a monk – with LOTS of limitations denying you some of the joys that life offer. You can call it being raised, I say it’s being brainwashed. Let kids do what they want to! A reflection is that I NEVER saw a single monk smiling, but I saw lots of other kids and teenagers (non monks) that looked very happy and full of joy. I also think that it’s a shame that muslim girls need to cover themselves at a young age, just because of some old book. Religion, in addition to money, is often the root of all evil and I think we need less of evil – and radical religions – in this world. Let kids be kids and use common sense when raising them. If there is one thing I have got from growing up on a farm, it’s common sense and rational thinking, even though my mom probably doesn’t think so 😉

Vietnam by bike

Of all the adventures I’ve been on, motorbiking through Vietnam is one of the best of them. The motorbike itself provides a little bit of adrenaline, fun and last but not least the freedom of going wherever you want, no matter how small or odd the road might be. Just as Mel Gibson “mentions” in the end of Braveheart, freedom is one of the most fortunate things we have – or some of us have.

Motorbiking through Vietnam got popular after a certain kind of publicity, no lesser than the British motor show Top Gear (you can see the episode here:Top Gear Vietnam Special). There are of course many ways of doing it: north to south, vice versa or just some legs of it – which I did. I drove from Hue to Ninh Binh, about 600 kilometers on which I used more or less 3 days. It’s very easy to find a place to either rent a bike and drop it off or just buy one. The struggle might be transporting your big bag, which I sent separately but fortunately it went well.

Depending on which route you take, you will drive through some amazing sceneries, coastal roads, small villages on the countryside and big hectic cities. Does it sound dangerous? Well, traffic is the biggest contributor to deaths in Vietnam, but honestly I must say it was very easy to drive. There are so many motorbikes in Vietnam which gives you a feeling of safety in numbers and even though it’s hectic they aren’t very aggressive in the traffic. The best part about this bike trip, already hinted to, is the ability to just go wherever you want. If you find a way and you want to take it, just do it. The Vietnamese ride their bikes everywhere so you won’t get stuck. This freedom is something I really appreciate when I travel. It’s also something I appreciate in life in general, but some say life is a journey so maybe that’s why.

So, what does actually freedom and being free mean? There are many aspects of this and freedom might be a individual as well, but what goes for everyone, rich or poor, is being free from diseases. It can’t be said too many times: health is the greatest wealth! Yet there are millions of people with good health being far from free. Depending on where in the world you live, you might be haunted by corruption and political circumstances limiting your freedom and of course the most obvious and worst one: war. I probably don’t have many readers at all, but I would estimate that 95 % come from Norway and Sweden – some of the best countries in the world to be born in, raised in and to live in. Free from pretty much everything: war, extreme climates, nature disasters, any bigger political corruption and the list goes on. All the conditions needed in order to live a free life.

I’m feeling quiet fortunate being able to travel the world. For me it’s ultimate freedom to go where I want, when I want and do what I want. But sooner or later, approximately about 6 months if everything goes as planned, I will go home and hopefully create a life that I don’t need vacation from – and the keyword; freedom. I’ve made a promise to myself to do everything in my power ever to be employed again. I might be wrong and regret this later, but at the moment that’s what I’m feeling. I have my plan on how and what, and it will be hard, challenging and another kind of adventure. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll write a blog about that too – if it goes as well as I hope it will. Time will tell!

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