A new hope

After an agonising few days of disproving every lie and every excuse, we finally came out with our Tuk Tuk. To this day, we haven’t had to pay a single cent to corruption, and we didn’t even have to pay for the detention charges. Victory!

It was however, one of the most frustrating things I have ever done in my life. The good thing is that I found a new side of myself. A side I have kept hidden all my life, because I have feared it.

I had to harness every ounce of willpower I had for three days straight so that we got the tuk tuk out. They delayed everything with lies, deceit, and accusations, and we had to counter every one with honour and respect. It was without a doubt the dirtiest game I have ever played, but we were the only ones that came out with a clear conscience.

lorry

Now we finally have our Tuk Tuk back, but only 3 days to get to Amritsar. We thought we’d leg it to Varanasi on the first day, Delhi the second, and the rest on the third and hopefully have 2,5 days to clear customs and get to Lahore. We had to promise not to film anymore in India to get our visas, so it’s a good thing to go quickly.

We left Kolkata at 5.30 with our 3 wheeled Panther, and weaved through the giant snakes of trucks. Our tuk tuk is just the right size to squeeze and manoeuvre while the beast weaves itself along.

Every so often a toll collection point came, but our tuk tuk seems to bring out sympathies from people so we only had to pay at one.

It was nice to know that we were heading home again, because the sun set where the road led to.

rekka ojassa

 

We rode in the dark for the last 3 hours, and I felt like Luke Skywalker. I had no choice but use the force most of the time, because we needed to make time by going an average of 60km/h, and visibility was next to nothing.

Everybody, and I mean everybody has the long lights on all the time, which glares the eyes and makes it almost impossible to see. Luckily the dust in the air reveals the magnificent beams of light heading to the heavens, leaving only silhouettes of the trucks, tractors, mopeds, bicycles and people, which can be used to navigate through. Someone having tail lights was a one-in-fifty chance.

What made it even more difficult, is that sometimes there was row of headlight all coming towards, and they seem to be wanting to pass from both sides. Some drivers here find it more effective to get home, driving against the traffic on the wrong side of the highway. Mainly motorbikes, and tractors, but every so often a truck comes towards.

Luckily we found an ambulance on alert,  and used them to show us the way. They had good lights and a patient in the back, so no bumps, but as fast as possible.

We arrived to Varanasi at 10 pm.

Same thing the next day to Delhi, and the next to Amritsar. We could make it, but it would be suicide.

We will rest a day in the city
that is said to have the longest running continuous population in all of the world, and take 1.5 days to drive to Delhi.

We will get new Pakistan visas from there.

Varanasi

Riding the Bible Belt To India, 20.05.14, Moreh

Still with Buddha.

We left Kalaymyo on the eve of the 17th of May. Accommodation prices were outrageous so we stayed only one night. For locals one night in a hotel is around 8,000 Kyat (8 USD), while for foreigners the same room costs 40,000 Kyat (40 USD).

Foreigners always get a 10,000 Kyat extra, and if 2 foreigners take one room for two people, the price was always 40 000 K This was the same for every hotel in Kale, except the one we accidentally found on the outskirts of town that was only 35 000 Kyats. It didn’t belong to the cartel because it was a brothel, and luckily that night we were the only guests.

The next morning we finished off our unfinished dailies and spent some hours on the internet trying to sign into facebook. Then we jumped on pedals and gave few hours of sunlight to ride as far as we could with no stress as we were ready for another night in our hammocks.

We ate our dinner at the crossroads between Kalaw, Kaleymyo and Tamu and it was a feast to remember. It turned out to be by far the most expensive dinner we’ve had, totalling a whopping 7000 Kyat (7.3USD) even though the coffee was free. We did however get to eat the largest and best prawns we have ever seen in our life and the company was excellent.

We continued on towards Tamu in search of a nice quiet place next to some small stream. To our surprise this new Myanmar-India road, built in 2009, was like a desert with houses all along the road. There was no place to hang our hammocks, no stream to wash ourselves, and we started to come desperate.

Having only 10 minutes of sunlight left, we passed a monastery and decided to go ask for a place to stay. The head monk was nice enough to give us a floor for the night, but he called the local policeman to come check out our passports. The policeman informed us that normally foreigners are only allowed to sleep in the designated hotels in Kale. But since we had the head monks permission for the night, he gave us an exception.

MyanmarPojat

The next morning one of the monks asked us to play with the local kids during the day and in return we asked to stay another night. One of the children liked us so much that he wanted a picture with us and he had made us gifts. We played and sang with the ukulele and got ourselves a crowd of women and children. The monks had gone for their morning walk to gather food.

Suddenly the policeman came to tell us that the head monk had denied us a second night, and that we were to leave. The child who gave us the gifts seemed so disappointed that I decided to give him my necklace with the Amulet of Will, to show that his enthusiasm had not gone unnoticed. I gave the amulet in the hopes that he will remember for the rest of his life, that everything is possible as long as he has the Will to do it. Judging from the sparkle in his eyes, I think he understood.

Then we donated 3 Unity energy efficient cooking stoves to the head monk and he seemed a little baffled by our good will. It made us feel great to do something good even though we had been denied the second night.

UnityMunkit

 

The policeman, who was also baffled by our goodwill towards the monks and children, told us to go to a place called Kamphat Ranch Township. We would be allowed to stay there for the next night. We hopped on our bicycles and continued.

 

 

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Riding on the Bible Belt

We rode a good 35-40 miles during the heat of the day into an area that seemed like midwest of America. Churches started appearing everywhere and religious Christian music could be heard all around. We had stumbled into the Myanmar Bible Belt.

I don’t think these people have ever seen two hairy white men riding Chinese ladies bicycles Myanmar style before for everybody stopped to stare. Some smiled, some waved, but most stood still with their mouth wide open. Not literally but that’s what it felt like.

Every eye was on us, and elderly people came to us and wanted to shake our hands. This was a blast from the past, and the strangest thing I could never have imagined running into in Myanmar.

We continued on and the churches started multiplying. There were Protestants at least 3 different sorts, Presbyterians more than we could count, Baptists of numerous kind, Calvinists, Immanuel Baptists, and many we didn’t even know existed. A village of 2,000 people had at least 15 different churches, one every 30m. It’s as if every missionary had made followers to put up his own church.

We stopped for lunch at a village called Kamphat 2 and asked for directions to Kamphat Ranch Township. No one knew what it was. But as we finished our meal, one man came to talk to us. Apparently his youngest brother had wanted to meet us but spoke no English, so he had asked him to come invite us to stay at their home. We gladly took up their offer, it sounded much better than staying with the Myanmar authorities for a night.

They turned out to be a large family from the Chin tribe, and we could not have had  better last days in Myanmar. They took us into the family with open arms, and we opened our hearts to them. We spent the two days with them learning about their Chin food, Chin way of life, and Chin Christianity.

ChinPoika

The Chin people have over 200 tribes with different dialects and cultures, all being Chin and mostly Christians. This also explains the number of churches because the Chin people are used to having small, closed communities.

The Chin are happy, modest people, and speak english quite well. Many have been to Singapore or Malaysia, but have come back to their home village to get married. They don’t have much, but they don’t need much nor want much. All they want is Good Will and Gods blessing.

They are also very, very smart people. Their mind is on energy efficiency and self sufficiency. They use car batteries to light up the house and they use solar panels to charge it up. They only use energy saving lamps and LED lamps, and only during evening time. They build all of their own things and design their own energy efficient cooking stoves. We learned a lot from them.

We played football and volleyball, took part in the evening mass and the blessing of a newly opened school. It was interesting to see their worship not understanding a single word, except amen and the singing. Chin people are full of musicality.

The food and the way of life was very similar to that of the food and way of life in Finland only 50 years back, simple but loveable. Their Christianity on the other hand is unmatched anywhere else we have ever been.

It seemed the only thing that differed between us and them, is that they reflect everything on their book, and we don’t have a book. We spoke with different terms, but all of the intentions were exactly the same.

On the morning of the 20th we left our newfound family and headed for the border crossing at Tamu-Moreh. It was 37 miles of pedalling in the near 43°C heat. We made it to the border, only to meet a grumpy immigration officer who told us to turn around and go back to Kale.

We tried to explain that we had bought the permissions from Yangon for 180 USD and showed the receipt and all the Embassy papers to back it up but he refused to hear a word and commanded us to leave and go back to Kale.

We tried to to explain: “The receipt says, Tamu border pass, 2 pers.”

And he answered; “Tamu ends here, no pass. Go back to Kale”.

After 15 minutes of persuading him to call the number we were given by Seven Diamond travel agency, he finally started to listen. It turned out that our permissions were faxed only an hour earlier and he had not seen them yet. Once he had his paper from the Myanmar Authorities everything was suddenly ok.

Thank God we didn’t have to turn around and ride all the way back because we were already at the brink of heat exhaustion. After we finished with him, we noticed he was obviously not used to letting anyone with a foreign passport go thorough because we had to remind him to stamp us out.

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Moreh

We got over the border, and on the Indian side we were Invited to have lunch with Indian Army border officials. We had just had lunch on the Myanmar side to get rid of our last Kyats, but we just couldn’t turn down the offer.

Juho managed to eat it all, but Pyry was just too full to finish it all. The overeating and the heat was just too much. Pyry managed to keep it all in and ride to the police station to be stamped in by the Indian Immigration, and then it happened.

The heat, the sun and the food was just too much for Pyry, and his stomach decided to empty itself right in front of the Immmigration office window. He was on the brink of heat exhaustion. Pyry managed to keep everything from the police official and he stamped us in. We rode into town and found ourselves some cold water and a nice garage to rest before continuing.

While Pyry was sleeping, Juho tried to map out possibilities of getting to Imphal by bus. He also tried to sell our bicycles because they couldn’t fit in the minivans.

It turns out that the locals are not allowed to go to Imphal after 4 pm, and we were in no state to ride over the mountains. We took a room for the night and went around Moreh trying to sell our bikes.

“You want to buy a bicycle? Very cheap. Only for you my friend! Rare bicycles driven over the border by foreigners, you can sell for much more.” We tried everything but nobody wanted the damn things.

After dinner we came back to our room to write this blog. After half an hour 2 men came to knock on our door. They had heard we were selling our bikes and had searched a long time to find us. They knew they had a good deal because we had no time nor the will to make money off of them. We had made it quite clear that we just wanted to get rid of them quickly.

In the end we got half the money back and a good lesson of Indian bargaining. They were happy and we were happy.

Finally we are in India.

Chapter Three: Localmotives

Our journey from Bangkok to Yangon was a long and exciting one. We decided to take the most unexpected route and travel through the border town of Phu Nam Rom to Htee Khee. This is the newest of all border crossings between Thailand and Myanmar, and it couldn’t even be found from google maps.

Between the two towns lies 6 km of no-mans-land, where to my understanding, only natural law applies. There were a few houses along the route and these lands belong to no country. Travelling through this no-mans-land is not permitted by foot, so we hitched a ride on the back of a pick-up truck. From Htee Khee we continued our journey with a slightly larger truck all the way to Dawei.

The road, built by an Italo-Thai company, wove itself through the otherwise untouched mountain scenery along side a beautiful river. There were only a few bungalows and very small villages here and there. One village was built right on the river on some rocks, and I’m convinced that they have found the best spot to live in that area.

The journey lasted 6 hours before we found ourselves in the larger town of Dawei, which naturally resides at the delta of the Dawei river. This was our first real touch of Myanmar.

screen capture: Juho Sarno

After we got our stuff in the hotel room we went searching for food. We had walked only one block before being greeted by a local man. He wanted to get to know us and brought us to his friends restaurant and chatted with us while we had dinner. Already we felt welcomed.

We would have wanted to stay in Dawei longer to see the beautiful Andaman Sea, but we needed to get to Yangon by Monday to meet with the Ambassador of India. We knew the train takes at least 24 hours, and it was already Saturday.

We woke up the next morning at 4 am to go to the train station and while waiting for the train to leave, we accidentally started talking with the crew. The driver spoke English and looked like a proper train driver, and the mechanic was a character that could have come straight from a Miyazaki film. Pyry bonded strongly with the mechanic most likely because of their shared fascination for firm action and a beard.

Mechanic

Mechanic

When we left Dawei there were only a few empty seats in this antique train, that was built by the British over 80 years ago. The scenery was breathtaking because in this part of the world there are very, very few motor vehicles, and therefore the unpolluted nature makes the sun rise look absolutely stunning.

screen capture: Juho Sarno

We tried to sleep but the view was just too good to miss. We rode over mountains, down the valleys and through the wilderness. At one point the crew stopped the train under a mango tree to gather themselves some fruit. There was no worry about another train coming towards, because this is the only train that rides between Dawei and Ye, once a day.

At the next stop the mechanic came to give us two of the most wild mangos we’ve ever come across. We took the chance and invited ourselves into the cockpit. It was the right thing to do, for this was the best place for the view.

After a few hours of chatting and bonding we decided to go for a siesta back to our seats. By now the carriage had no empty seats, except for ours, and the floor was full of people. We sat down for the siesta, but immediately started mingling with the people.

In Finnish, to mingle is called minglata, and to say hello in Burmese, is ming la ba. Coincidentally these cultures that are so different, have such similar words for the same thing.

Suddenly the train started rattling like crazy and it felt like we had dropped off the tracks. The train stopped and when we went to see what had happened, the wheels right under us had actually dropped off the tracks.

The first thing that came to our mind was that we are in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with a train off the tracks, and we have a meeting with the Ambassador of India the next day.

Luckily the crew, with a bit of ingenuity and a simple understanding of physics, got the carriage back on tracks within 20 minutes. Stunningly good teamwork from a group of ‘rautaisia ammattilaisia’, as we say in Finnish.

After the incident we were invited back to the cockpit for a wild papaya and the journey continued through smoke and fire, literally. At this time of year forest fires could be seen here and there, but most of them were only simmering and far away.

One on the other hand was a blazing fire hiding behind a cloud of smoke. It was right next to the tracks on the opposite side of a tiny wooden bridge that had probably been built by the British.

Once the station master noticed the fire, he closed the door to the cockpit and continuously blew the horn to warn everyone on the train while shouting to the driver to pump up the throttle. We went through with a blazing speed of maybe 30 km/h.

In the midst of all the excitement we became thirsty. We tried to get our water bottle from our seat, but by this time the train was so full that there was no chance. Thankfully in this part of the world every stop has people selling fresh food and drinks, so we were ok. And the crew shared everything they had with us anyway, so no problems what so ever.

At Ye, we changed trains and said what the locals usually say when ending a conversation. Here there is no need for goodbyes, it’s just a simple ‘Thwa Bi’,  I’m going. We put our own little exclamation point at the end and left the conversation with a huge smile and a big thank you.

The next train was a little newer, probably only 70 years old, and we had reached the plains so the average speed was maybe 40-50km/h. This time it took us a hefty 3 minutes before we were bonding with the other passengers. Pyry was learning Myanmar with a man from the Shan state, and Juho was mingling with 2 navy personnel and a monk.

We ended up joining the train police with our Shan friend, meeting the crew once again, and viewing the even more spectacular sunset while dangling our peg-legs over the front of the locomotive. The cool breeze made this once again, the most comfortable spot on the train.

As darkness engulfed everything we returned to ‘our’ seats. They were not the ones we had been sitting on before because here people sit everywhere, changing places continuously to talk to different people. This literally feels like one big family.

Juho fell asleep on the seats and Pyry went on the floor like some of the locals. Juho woke up with a sore neck so I guess Pyry took the longer straw.

We entered Yangon after 46 hours of travel. Three hours by bus, six hours by pickup and thirty hours of unforgettable training. All we needed now was to find a shower before going to meet with the Ambassador of India.

So far Myanmar has been good to us. The people are friendly, women are beautiful, men are handsome, betel yummy and beer is excellent with no chemicals. The only thing lagging is the internet. So don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from us as often as before.

screen capture:  Juho Sarno

The End of Chapter 1: Part 1

The past few days have been magical.

The Tuk Tuk is finally registered, we have renewed our Visas and washed dishes and clothes. Now we just need to renew the permissions to Myanmar, get the Carnet du Passage and find one pillow.

Magic was made on wednesday. We had to renew our Pakistan visas in the Embassy and it started the usual way, waiting in the lobby not knowing when our application would be handled. After almost two hours of waiting, the secretary called us and in the most polite way pledging us to follow him. The Counsellor had invited us for an audience.

Mr. Amin welcomed us with open arms, with his very good Indian friend by his side, offering dates from Mecca and multicoloured mouthwatering traditional Pakistani sweets. He was clearly inspired by our project and referred us as his little brothers. Mr. Amin opened his heart and mind, and it was magic.

For the next hour or so all worlds came together as we discussed religions, languages, understanding and unity of all peoples. It felt like he gave us a mission. A mission to understand the common ground of religions and beliefs that we will encounter on our journey, and in a way a mission to unite all the cultures within our own minds.

By the end of the meeting he gave us his phone number for any difficulties we might encounter, granted us visas without charge and we are honoured to call him our big brother.

Feeling fancy at the embassy.

Feeling fancy at the embassy.

I have been to a Pakistani Embassy twice in my life, both for this project, and both have opened my eyes to a group of people who seem more humane than most. They seem to be the opposite of everything I have ever read or heard and I am truly waiting to see if the country is as great as all their people I have met so far.

After the magical encounter at the Embassy, we met our journalist friend at his new condo for a pool and a Sauna. A SAUNA!!

It was the first sauna in over 3 months and we got so excited that we blabbered everything we knew about saunas. We enlightened our friend Peter about the Finnish Sauna culture and the Sauna Spirit, Löylyn Henki, a Finnish belief that is unknown to most of the world. I think Peter thought we were mental because the Sauna is just a hot room with a stove. This might be true for most of the world, but not for the Finns.

For the Finns the sauna is a place of Magic, a place of Birth, Healing, Cleansing and it is one of the rare places on earth where even ‘the Finnish Man’ can open themselves to communicate with other beautiful souls. A Finn needs the Sauna like the Monks need their temples. This is a little bit exaggerated, not much, but you get the point of how important the sauna is for the Finnish culture, and the Finnish people, and you can imagine how good it made us feel. Thank you Peter for taking us to the Sauna. Thank you for all the beautiful people we met there who shared the magic with us.

After wednesday the magic has continued. Our close friend Jukka arrived here yesterday by surprise. He didn’t know if we were still here, and we didn’t know he was coming. He was spending time up north and suddenly felt the urge to come to Bangkok for no specific reason. He was just in time for the final farewell party, and it would not have been the final one without him. So thank you Jukka!

We would also like to thank our Thai sister Wanida, for all the wisdom, great conversations, and unforgettable moments we have shared. And an extra super big thank you for coming with us to the Transportation Authority to find our lost papers. You are the best detective and one of the best people we have ever met anywhere. Thank you.

And a final thank you to everyone at P. Hot Pot for everything. You took us into your family, and we truly feel like we are part of it. This has been our home away from home. Thank you.

The time here in Bangkok is coming to an end and it has been a journey within a journey. After these magical days we are finally ready to move on.

Today is the Equinox, the beginning of a new time. Spring has begun and it’s time for new life and boost in growth. Tomorrow we hit the road and start the long-awaited unveiling of the Tuk Tuk.

Ins’ha Allah.

Thank you everyone

Holiday in Cambodia

Life is all about taking opportune moment and using it right. As Miaymoto Musashi said,  “Do what you do, but do it steadfast and determined.” Here in Thailand this kind of attitude has became priceless for us. Circumstances are changing, Bangkok Shutdown has slowed our tuk Tuk’s registeration process, and we still have no certainty when will it happen. So we are using our time here in Bangkok, trying to get best out of it. There’s plenty of work to do. Filming and preparations for the journey, including emailing three different ministries in Myanmar.

Today in the morning, I really felt that I want to go forwards from Bangkok. Don’t get me wrong, I love this place. It’s like the fragrance in the air, fragrance of a distant fires with a little bit of cinnamon in it. Scent of adventure. I guess you know what I’m talking about, the urge to see the next place.

So it occured half ‘n hour ago that we must go to Cambodia. You see, Bangkok shutdown has delayed our departure, so we must do all sorts of bureucratic somersaults to keep things proper ‘n working. One of those things is our Thai Visa, and we just figured out that we cannot extend our visas twice in the immigration office, and the visas end today. So we did the carpe diem and decided to go to Cambodia for a visa run. So soon we can update a DIY guide on how to do a visa run from Bangkok to Cambodia, to accompany the DIY guide visa run Ranong. (http://tuktuktravellers.pallontallaajat.net/2014/01/06/visa-run/).

Tomorrow we should be back for some proper Tuk tuk Training, and border closes in 8 hours. Better start running 🙂

 

.Juho

Two one way tickets to Bangkok, please.

Three weeks to departure.

Katse kaukaisuuteen

Photo: Vanessa Riki

In March 2013 we decided that the time was ripe to make this madcap adventure-dream come true. Five years the idea of driving a tuk tuk from Bangkok to Helsinki had been brewing. Pyry lived in Bangkok for his teenage years and Juho had just come back from there. Both of us found ourselves in circus school and began to understand the importance of well-being and a healthy diet.

We had began to wonder how it was possible that so many restaurants make such bad food for such an outrageous price. Good food is food made with love, not from the desire to make money from people’s necessity to eat. Then the lightbulb sparked.

What if we actually do go to Bangkok and buy the tuk tuk? We could tune it up into a lean mean street cooking machine and drive it to Finland. Then we can start our own street food stall and make food with love for a reasonable price! And to fund the whole thing we can film the adventure into a TV-series and sell it all around the world!!!

So now we are here. There might be easier dreams to follow, but this one is ours. Dreams are rarely realised because they are not taken seriously. Reality is a scary place and many think their dreams are not important enough, or worth the effort to fight for their existence. This dream is important to us. This is our way to share some goodness around.

After a little trepidation we decided to get up and do something about it. We went to the tavern, ordered a few beers and stuck our heads together. How can two broke circus artists get a tuk tuk all the way to Finland?

Of course this scared the hell out of us! People naturally avoid responsibility because of fear of failure. Both of us learned from circus that failure is actually the first step towards success. Fear of failure leads to evasion of responsibility, but when you carry responsibility for your own life, you need not carry anything else. Everything is in our own hands.

We are confident that every experience along our adventure can be handled, every setback will be taken as a new possibility, and everything unexpected will be enjoyed along the way. It’s up to us to make it what it is. A lot of responsibility, a lot of freedom.

This was the first big realisation moment. Understanding that if we have the will, we’ll find the way. No one else is going to make this happen for us. Our dreams and our lives are in our own hands.

Okay, so we drive the tuk tuk to Finland and make it into a TV-series, simple as that. Eight months to learn all that needs to be learned and do all that needs to be done. Except we didn’t know what we needed to learn or do.

So we wrote a couple of emails about the concept to production companies to see if they would be interested. Not one replied, and no wonder. We were standing on a solid dream that no one else could see.

We felt that if we wait too long, this will never happen. So we started our own production company and got our second realisation. We agreed never to wait for something to happen, but instead, we would always come up with ways to make the tuk tuk dream take shape. As a consequence, we have done almost everything ​​possible by ourself but we have also learned an unimaginable amount of thing in the process.

The next step forward was finance. It was hopeless to apply for a bank loan or attract sponsors. With nothing to show we were going in circles. Then it happened. A whale shark snatched and told Juho about crowdfunding. Straight away it felt like our own thing. It would give us start-up capital, it would work as advertising, we’d get something to show the sponsors and distributors and it would give many people the opportunity to be involved. Above all, it will make us to do instead of wait.

The third awakening. We have received a tremendous amount of support and help from friends and strangers. We have learned to ask for help and we have learned to accept help. It feels like we are doing the right thing at the right time and it’s as if we are working together as a team. A team full of friends, relatives and strangers. This has already been an inspiration to many people, including ourselves, and it will be in the future as well.

Three weeks before departure. We have been working hard for 8 months. We have sponsors and partners and distribution to four countries (as soon as we learn to write a Distribution Agreement). We still have our heads in the clouds, but we have grown our legs to the ground. We have done all that we can, as well as we can and the tuk tuk is speeding forward. There’s a vast emptiness ahead. We have planned and prepared all that we can, but an adventure is always an adventure. Emptiness makes everything possible.

Welcome aboard,

TTBoys