This time I’m going to share a secret without revealing the actual secret. The four of us accidently got off the bus on the right time. The more than five hour during scary bus drive took us to a small villages near Kathmandu, high in the mountains. It may be one of the nicest places on earth. Not because it’s the most beautiful or anything, just because we discovered it.

After almost falling out of the local bus we watch it drive away. One restaurant on top of a mountain and for the rest; a road, some trees and clouds. The lovely Sherpa lady showed us our house about a few hundred meters up the road. A big house with large balconies. Everything was painted in light blue, but worn away by the weather. And the best of all it was quite and cool.

A nation bus strike forced us to stay there much longer than expected. Every day we woke up early, opened the doors and did nothing at all. We survived on cookies, red bull, chips and water. At night we could choose one thing at the only restaurant there; dhal bhaat. Rice, lentil soup and some vegetables. We ate like the locals with our hands and played cards afterwards with a nice cup of masala tea. For once we felt like we lived were we traveled, a home away from home.

Only after three nights the dhal bhaat started to work on our stomachs, the time of our visa is started to run out and the fun of being stuck somewhere nice was al of a sudden not so nice anymore. We needed to go. With a privet jeep we were brought to the heart of Nepal again for our last days of this wonderful country.

-  I like secrets to remain secrets.

Rik

#008 Choices we make.

May 15, 2011

Once in a while my mind drifts away to the matter of: making choices, or most of the time, choices made for you. If I want to, I can have hours of discussion about this matter with my brother. But, usually I avoid them, cause he’s so fucking stubborn. Well, I guess I’m too. Now I’m traveling with him in my company this discussions can’t always be avoided.

We don’t always have a choice. Whether it’s a matter of life or death or just a choice made for you. Sometimes we make choices which affect other people’s lives. Like here in Nepal. On a trekking through the Himalayas we stayed at some villages to spend a night. The people who live there are fully selfeficend. They grow their own rice and vegetables. Everything they have is made by their own hands. Since we, western people, come to visit them, we bring our ‘problems’ with us. Because we would like to drink that beer and eat that candy bar, they end up having a big garbage problem. Nobody tells them what to do, they just toss it away. So, because we choose to want western products everywhere, we choose for others to polluted their environment.

In a country like the Netherlands, I got a great range of choices to make. Choices I’m happy to make. Do I walk, cycle or go by car to the store? What kind of food will I buy? Which program will I watch on the television tonight? A lot of questions with always an answer. I only never think of the people who only have so less choices to make. No questions at all, just choices to survive. Choices between live and death.

Again shame raised upon me and my brother still doesn’t get it. I’ll hope he’ll learn just as much of it, like I do. My life will never be the same.

-  I choose to choose wisely, from now on.

Rik

As a sort of contrast, there is for every good thing something bad. Is it a need for this world to produce some evil in revenge for the great things in life. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth? If this is one of the universes we live in, is this the universe where we learn right and wrong?

On this very moment my thoughts are recovering from air pollution. My brain is full of dust and my soul is broken. In one city I’ve seen the best and worst things of my life. But the worse are getting the overhand and broken the love for that city, Kathmandu.

After a 7 hour jeep ride from the border of India we finally saw Kathmandu in its valley with the beautiful Himalayan background. The multicolored houses on the waves of hills tied together with busy streets. Our hunger for culture was beyond everything before. As soon as we arrived in the centre of the town, we realized that is was dirty and dusty, busy and crowed. Every breath you take outside feels like you’re breading sand. Every step you take is another challenge not to get disturbed by hassles.

At first we really liked it. The best food ever and everything was really cheap. It’s easy to walk and the touts are easy to smile away. In a way it felt like home immediately. But, it began to go downwards when we walked to the river to see the water float down de city. The river turned out to be the biggest dumb you’ll ever see. Everything is just thrown in there and everybody is looking the other way, don’t caring about where it might go. It made me sick and sad. Sad because people just don’t know the consequences. They grow their vegetables on the polluted river banks and feed their children with it. Miles away from the city other people are washing themselves in that toxic water where death animals lay in.

It made me sick just because it was disgusting. And because of that it made me feel ashamed. Ashamed of how good my live in the Netherlands is. How angry I get if the garbage men are a day late. How easy I think of garbage, because at home my government knows what to do with it.

We stayed there for a few days. It wasn’t enough time, but we needed to escape. The thick brown layer of smog above the city was taking weeks of the end of our life’s. The shame was too great to see any men from Kathmandu in their eyes. I needed to run away from it. Still there is a dot in my heart to get me back there, in a few weeks.

-  I pollute my soul with shame and anger and clean it with love and desire.

Rik

There are things you can prepare yourself for and there things you won’t be able to prepare for. How much you will read, how many photographs you will see, how many stories you’ve been told. Sometimes none of those things will show you the truth.

Since Vietnam I’m reading the book ‘Shantaram’ as an preparation for India and after all those months of reading the stories of Lin, I thought I was prepared. A few days ago I met this amazing country for the first time and from the moment I stepped outside the airport I knew: you cannot know a country as India by reading a book. Although we’ve been to countries like Mongolia, China and even Iran, India is like every place I ever been, every smell I ever smelt, every saturated color I ever seen, every taste I ever tasted and every pressure I ever managed to suppress, times ten. And still, if you read this and never been to India you won’t be able to know how it really is.

We walked the streets in Kolkata finding ourselves exhausted by the things we saw. For two days it sucked the energy out of our bodies, out of our minds. The hot and humid weather wasn’t helping either. But we managed to get through. We lived it and we loved it, for now. We left the country in a hurry to be on time in Nepal to hook up with my brother. For those two days we got an sneak preview. Just a peak to make us want more, to get back there.

First, Nepal. A smaller, slightly quieter country. A good place to get to know the Hindu culture and to get into the habits. Maybe it will be a preparation, or maybe just some great experience.

- I think I know what India is all about, I think..
Rik

Conversations help figure it all out and give me more thoughts to think about. But sometimes I bleach my thoughts. I cannot help it, sometimes I just need to reset my brain. You know, like when your computer is a mess. You cannot find anything were it supposed to be? Just like that.

Like on this journey, I do and see so many things. I just can’t place them in the right order. Pieces of months ago fall in place, now. The things I loved seem to hide the most, just like the things which impressed me the most. But now the bad things start to fade away and only the things that matter are a bright light in my mind.

A second chance is the best way to give a country another try. Never going back is no option for no country. Things you don’t like are possibly always able to be turned in something positive. For example; Thailand. My first impression was horrible. A party place for young westerners who come to abuse a country so bad were only the people who live there treat it worse. I hated it.
Now I come to realize, on our second visit, that my thoughts and judges were false and selfish. How can I have such a strong opinion about a place I only spend two weeks, who am I to judge the people who try to make money in a country which is still poorer than most think.
Even Bangkok I started to like. I started to like it when it showed me its secrets. When we went up the Baiyoke tower it showed me remorse. It was like Bangkok looked me in my eyes and said ‘this is who I am’. I gaze back in deep dark alleys of his heart an told him that I understood him.

In the elevator down I decided to reset the Thailand part of my brain. I threw out the things I did not need and keep the beautiful memories. And from there on, start again from scratch.

- Everything deserves a second chance.
Rik

I sat down at a greasy chair to check my emails. Again the connection failed to connect me with the rest of the world and I noticed how bad I always want to stay in touch and don’t want to disappear.

We’re staying in a place called ‘Le Village’, a budget guesthouse in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. The first night was horrible, we stayed in a room attached right to the living room. Until really early in the morning we were bothered by drunk and stoned people. We just wanted to take a rest after a long drive, but it wasn’t going to happen that night.
We changed our room in the morning and I must admit, that morning I hated the place. It was noisy, dirty, warm and full with people who try so hard to disappear and blend away in the furniture. I couldn’t help thinking how sorry I felt for them. I thought there wasn’t a reason to try so hard.
After a day or two that thoughts became to fade and I realized that ‘Le Village’ should be a place where everybody must be unjudged and respected. So I stopped judging and started to like the place.

However in the six days we stayed there, we got to know it a little bit better. A lot of people come and go, but most of the people get stuck in the habit of staying. My thoughts came back. Even though I liked the place, the people who live there didn’t seem to be true to themselves, I don’t like that.
I found it strange that most of the ‘stuck people’ cook their own meals, while outside on the street you can get the best meals for less than when you buy the ingredients in the supermarket. So it is not a budget thing. I guess it’s all about feeling at home, when you’re not.
But it didn’t felt right. Why want to get stuck? My brother always sais ‘stopping is not moving at all’. That’s right. Getting stuck is not the way to disappear, getting stuck is only a way to fall back.
Fall back into someone you are not, fall back in staying when the best thing to do is, to leave.

I don’t want it but I think we found a way to disappear. We go places, we feel home, talk with people and leave quiet through the backdoor without leaving a mark. Nobody will notice we are gone. We disappear. So I guess I’m not scared about disappearing, but about getting stuck.

- I don’t want to get stuck, never.
Rik

I stumbled back to the station where I left my wife. After a 4 hour minivan drive my stomach is again upset. Why are the air-co’s so cold, probably because it’s so warm outside. I can’t stand it. All sweaty I saw my wife pointing to the clock, the train from Hat Yai to Sungai Kolok was about to leave. We were running to the platform with our bags on our shoulders, only to find out that we ran for nothing. The train was delayed for half an hour. Yeah, traveling by public transport is fun.

The train was perfect, though. Wooden benches back to back. Enough space to put your bags and feet. The windows could open easily all the way down and best of all, you can see the backside of the country along the track. We slowly roar down the back of the cities. Seeing all the dirt and rubbish thrown away on places nobody care about, all the streets which look nice on the front are shelter for homeless people on the back.

When you’re out of the city with the train you’ll see places no cars will go. Were only we, the people on the train, could see the beauty of undisturbed chaos of trees and plants. Like there’s no-one else in the world but we, on this train. If this train would stop and never could continue, we are alone in the wilderness. Then we need to live to survive and conquer the chaos of the rainforest.

My thoughts drift away in the escape of nature. But after a few minutes we already passed another small station. Even in the greatest wilder, people could live.

Then I started to look around in the train. We came from Krabi, Thailand, that day. Where you see a lot of tourist or tourist-minded Thais. But now on the train they seem to be disappeared. They made place for Thai people who don’t like to be seen. People you don’t expect to see in Thailand. Woman with long sleeves and scarves. Men with turbans and Korans in their hands.

The stations where highly secured by soldiers with their fingers on the triggers of their guns. Ready to fire, ready to fight against the Islam. I must say, we were a little bit terrified by it.

After five hours my ass still didn’t hurt, surprisingly, because on most chairs I wouldn’t make it that long without moving. Probably I was to busy sniffing culture and enjoy this part of a country where I really wanted to leave as soon as possible. But after thinking my ass still didn’t hurt I lost my thoughts and only could think about leaving this train.

-          I ride slow trains with my mind on high speed.

Rik

 

 

 

Traveling through countries is tough. Not like years ago when there were no hostels and English speaking people everywhere. But because everything is explored already. No piece of land in the world is undiscovered. In the most rural places in the world you can find other travelers or tourist. That makes is tough to go out and explore and search for loneliness. I’m just 23 years old, married, traveling and learning. With my wife of course, she’s part of my life and travel. She’s the reason I’m here, the reason to go.

We met a lot of people which are flying from city to city, from country to country. Spend money, see some sights and go. It’s fine by me, but what is the point? Well, that’s my point of view. We, my wife and I, try to keep in mind that the journey is far more important than the destination. To meet local people is far more important than to meet other western tourist or travelers. We’ll never be a part of the places we go, but we can try to fit in as much as possible. So, were not a part of them, but we get the respect for trying. Which is enough for me. Were other travelers fill the pockets of the local people, we get the respect. Not that we are the only travelers traveling this way, but it’s a select group of people, who got the guts to explore. We bought a motorcycle in Hanoi, Vietnam, and try to ride it as long as possible through south east Asia. Not an uncommon thing to do for two young travelers in Vietnam. It’s popular, and there is no reason it shouldn’t be. We crossed the border into Cambodia. I’m thrilled by the long rust colored sand roads crossing a country as rural as you’ll hope to see one day. Children who will love your balloons you bought  for them. Amazing rivers and unexplored abandoned temples, warning signs of the Khmer rouge and scars in the country’s history.

My knowledge will not go any further than Google and Wikipedia. Knowledge about the Khmer rouge is one click away. With my laptop on my knees trying to learn myself the imported things about the world my teachers never taught me. Do I need this laptop on my exploration? Yes, I write some stories, store my photos, educate myself and most important it makes me feel home. How bad I don’t want it, I’m from the digital generation. It’s part of my life, like a pen and paper was back in the days when I was long from being born, when songs meant more than politicians words, when traveling meant ‘never coming back’ and writing was the magic of the ink finding its way becoming stories. No, this is not as romantic but it can be magic again.

-          My destination is the road.

Rik

 

#001 – First post.

February 16, 2011

First post. No stories, yet.

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