Skip to content

Fresh off the editing app: pictures of Nyangshwe market

March 15, 2017
tags: ,

People often ask me what camera I use to take my pictures. Well, it’s been an iPhone 6 since this year, before it was the older model. For me, the best camera is the one that’s always at hand. I bought a fancy one back in the US, in the best electronics store of New York – and have never used it ever since!!! I schlepped it all the way to Fiji but it just wasn’t there quick enough when the light was perfect at sunset. 

So here I am, traveling only with an iPhone, no other gadget. No e-reader, no tablet, no go pro, no shiny stuff that you fear to lose. It’s the best. I use the VSCO cam app sometimes to crop pictures, adjust the horizon line or add a little bit of contrast, but not much. 

Here is the latest fare from this morning’s farmers market in Nyaungshwe, yummy. 

I discovered Burmese sausage and am happy about it.


MM

Even strawberries they have.


MM

A sunny day for business.


MM

Choices, discounts, bargains.


MM

That was too exotic to try.


MM

The tobacco lady counting her money.

A villanyhorgász

March 15, 2017
tags: ,


Burma Inle taván, a világ végén igazán,

áll egy villanyhorgász tétován.

Messzi földről hozza az áramot,

vele együt csapot, papot, maszlatot. 

Most már van tévé, akár botmixer,

férfi szoknya helyett kék farmer. 

Az éttermekből szól a regi,

de a villanyhorgászt ez nem érdekli. 

Amit kértek, küldtek, ő hozott. 

A világ mindig is változott. 

Magic travel moments…

March 13, 2017
tags: ,


… don’t look like this. At least not for me typically. Because the reality behind such pictures are the crowds, the noise, the pushing, the souvenirs made in China surrounding you at major sights like the Golden Rock in Kyaikto. No doubt, the light was perfect. So was cellphone reception: I received a skype call from my parents just after I took this pic! At least the locals heard some Hungarian probably for the first time in their lives. 

Usually I don’t have a photo of my best travel moments. The unexpected encounters, the great views, the deserted beaches and jungle sounds, the conversations that stick with you. Like my all time favorite chat with the Ghanian farmer back then. 

Or I do have a photo but because I am somewhere remote, it takes several days to have internet again, so I don’t write about them, digitally forget them. Here are two recent exceptions that I was able to document and I can’t believe I haven’t written about them so far. 

Diving in Raja Ampat


This is where I started my SE Asia round trip and I still can’t believe it. It was so beautiful that I am pretty much avoiding the beach ever since. Experienced divers I meet everywhere confirm that it won’t get any better than that. So why bother? I have hardly swam in the ocean (except for scuba or freediving) since Raja Ampat because I have above imagine to compare it to. Crystal clear, warm, calm waters with fish soup underneath and manta rays swimming up to the surface to greet you. I feel extremely humbled and privileged for the fact that I was able to stand there knee deep in the South Pacific and take that picture and I think it will fill me with joy for the rest of my life. 

Fiji


Talking about the South Pacific. I was sitting at this bar in Taveuni, looking out towards the west, watching the tide roll in with Vanua Levu island in the distance. Everything was so vast. And I had this constant loop in my head: I am here, now. I really did make it to Fiji. I really learned how to dive. In Fiji. I am looking at the South Pacific ocean. Me. Here. Now. Here. Now. Herenowherenowherenow. Wow.

I must have been sitting there for hours. I started to cry. It was dark when I realized I will have to walk home along the highway. I didn’t mind. This picture is the background wallpaper on my phone since then. 

The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

My last story is old and without a picture. This must have been around 1996, on our family trip to Israel. I was fifteen if the year is correct, and actually very sick. Walking through the winding streets of old Jerusalem, exhausted in the scorching heat, I suddenly glimpsed The Wall! Shining bright, almost blinding it is in my memory. I had seen it so many times on the news, usually with angry young men throwing stones from both sides. And here I was. It was a symbolic, magical moment for me, despite the crowds. 

And then there is the story of traveling on my own for three days in northern Ghana, something I will have to expand on again in a separate post. The memory keeps coming back now that I am in Myanmar, with flashbacks to rural life around 50-100 years ago elsewhere or now, here. To discover a world “without 90 degrees angles” as I usually summarize it, was most likely a once in a lifetime experience in retrospect. I am sure it is not like that anymore there and it is not like that anywhere I am likely to go now or in the near future. But who knows, maybe I will see that somewhere again some time and it will be one of those unexpected, magic travel moments. 

An afternoon on the bike in Hpa-An

March 10, 2017
tags: ,

I have to force myself to slow down in this country full of wonders that is Myanmar. It is so tempting to pack as much as I can in my 28 day tourist visa! But my experience tells me: stick around, connect and you will be rewarded. You discover a nice café, talk to the girl at the reception and start to notice local differences in traditional dress. 


And so it happened in Hpa-An today, a small town famous for its surrounding Buddhist caves, some dating back to the 7th century. You can tour all of them by scooter in one day, which I did. But I liked  Ya The Byan cave so much that I decided to come back – by bike. It’s an 8.5 km ride from town one way. Short enough as the perfect excuse to do nothing in the morning and save the trip for the afternoon. 

Funnily, two locals independently from each other told me this was their favorite cave and I did see some village people on group outings. Again, I don’t know where the hell the other tourists are. There is no entrance fee for foreigners at this cave (locals access all of them for free, but many donate) and I found it to be the most peaceful one. The afternoon light is just stunning and there are not many people around after 4pm. 


*


The best part was riding my rental bike there, a mode of transportation that was missing so far from my SE Asia experience. I became a source of great amusement to everyone I passed, including this family. 


The slowness gets you close to people, even if just for a quick hello and a smile. People are so happy! And so am I travelling in this country. Off to the Golden Rock tomorrow, exciting!

Zugfahren in Myanmar

March 8, 2017

Vor Jahren schrieb ich meinen berühmten Blogeintrag über Zugfahren in Rumänien. Jetzt ist es an der Zeit, dasselbe über Myanmar, oder Burma, zu sagen: kommt her, bevor es zu spät ist. Ach was, es ist schon zu spät!

Was mir Tränen in die Augen treibt, ist die unglaubliche Nostalgie, die ich soeben beim Lesen meines Eintrags von vor sieben Jahren verspürt habe. Ja, diese Welt ist verloren. Nicht, weil die EU-genormeten Haltestellenschilder tatsächlich aufgetaucht sind. Sondern weil diese Zeit nie zurückkehren wird. Damals, mit Peti und Kati tanzend in Alvinc/Vincu de Jos. Ohne Geld, ohne Plan, nur mir der Hoffnung, es in der Nacht nach Marosvásárhely zurück zu schaffen. Aber die Erinnerung bleibt und das ist ein Trost. 

Nun also Myanmar. 

Die Haltestellenschilder hier sind so ungenormt, wie nur irgend möglich. Auch muss man, genau wie in Rumänien damals, eine vertikale Blutgrätsche hinlegen, um vom Bahnsteig aus den Fuss auf die unterste Treppenstufe des Waggons zu bekommen. Am Besten mit einem Strohhut, einem Schal und einer Jacke in der Hand, Handtasche um die Schulter und zehn Kilo Rucksack auf dem Rücken. 

Die Belohnung sind 15 Stunden pure Unterhaltung auf dem Weg von Dawei nach Mawlamyine, dem letzten Abschnitt meiner langen Reise entlang der burmesischen Südküste. Es ist ein Landesteil jenseits aller Touristenströme, die gierig das “wahre” Südostasien suchen. Das Wahre ist überall meiner Meinung nach, aber ich verstehe die Nostalgie, die auch Andere erleben wollen, wenn sie es auch in ihrer eigenen Kultur nicht mehr finden können. Für 5800 kyat, umgerechnet vier Euro zwanzig für 275km Strecke, war es für mich die bis jetzt beste Reiseerfahrung in diesem Land. 

Alle sagen, kommt jetzt, solange es so etwas noch gibt. Aber die Wahrheit ist, auch jetzt wollen die Wenigsten 15 Stunden in einem tuckernden Zug sitzen. Die Landschaft ist auch nicht so besonders. Also zu unbequem, zu unspektakulär und zu langsam für den Traveller von heute. Ich sage, selber Schuld. Man erhält für eine sehr kurze Zeit Einblicke in eine Welt, die es so nicht mehr lange geben wird, was in vielerlei Hinsicht aus Sicht der Einheimischen wahrscheinlich zu begrüßen ist. Niemand will ohne Strom und fliessend Wasser leben. Aus Aussenseitersicht ist es natürlich auch schade zu sehen, dass dörfliches Leben überall schwindet. Umso schöner, als Tourist die Gelegenheit zu haben, an diesem historischen Moment hier und jetzt teilhaben zu können. 

Ich hoffe, ihr geniesst die Bilder. Für mich war es eine unvergessliche Reise, die als Erinnerung einen Winkel in meinem Herzen ganz in der Nähe von Alvinc finden wird. 

_

_

_

_

International sign language

March 5, 2017
tags:

Funny how it’s obvious that this is a post box. Although I don’t understand anything that’s written on it, except maybe that 14011 could be the postal code, this object has some attributes that make it recognizable as a collection point for mail. It’s red, it’s mounted on a post, it’s official-looking (maybe because it’s locked) and it’s located in a prominent spot right next to an intersection. 

There are a few universal signs that hunanity has created and I find it fascinating. Like nodding/bowing your head and muttering whatever you think means “hello” in the local language as a sign of greeting. I haven’t been to a place so far where that wasn’t recognized. Also, there are new ones added as societies change. “ATM” – if there is one – seems to be a universal sign these days, written in latin characters even on the remotest of dirt roads. 

What are other universal signs and gestures? And what are signs that you thought where universal but turned out not to be?

The hostel with no name

February 28, 2017
tags:

Back in Penang, Malaysia, I stayed at a hostel that deserves its own blog post. After camping on the beach for a night, I arrived back in the city with no plan and nothing booked – like in the old days of travel. I don’t do this very often any more, out of convenience. But almost every time I do it, I find something great that I would never have chosen online. Or even better, that only exists offline. 

Like the hostel with no name in 100 Cintra street. I didn’t even know what it was when I walked by but the receptionist guy shouted out at me whether I was looking for a bed. Advantage of looking like a backpacker! Except that I was looking for a proper room, not a dorm bench. 

The dorm.

But the guy insisted, showed me around and even proved me wrong when I said I am too old for this: the person who had checked in before me was 57, as documented in the guest book. Without any excuses left I thought what the hell, it can’t be worse than sleeping in a wet tent and at least I save money for future splurges. Plus the place had real chracter and I got to see an old Chinese trader’s house up close and personal. The beauty of walk-in versus online booking:

Terrace.


*

Reception area.


*

Breakfast room.


*

Pickles, the house cat.


*

Detail, not staged.


Now I am back to real rooms and full cabins on my own, sometimes even with hot water. Myanmar awaits across the border and I haven’t booked anything.