Lucky no. 13

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I think the number 13 has become lucky

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Photo: Juho Sarno

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We arrived to Bangkok 4 months ago, on December 13th, and it was the beginning of our journey in Thailand. It just happened to be a Friday.

One month later, on January the 13th, came the first lucky blow, and I’m glad it happened. Bangkok Shutdown stopped us from taking things too fast. It also changed things here in Bangkok, at least where we have been. The roads aren’t so congested, the air is cleaner, and people seem to be even happier.

And now, on Sunday, the 13th of April, we set off.

We wanted a big party when leaving, but didn’t know how to arrange one. We had almost given up hope even to leave. But by luck, the 13th of April marks the beginning of Songkran. We’ve had the western new year, the Chinese new year, and now the Buddhist new year will finally send our Klongboat of Freedom on it’s way.

Songkran is the worlds largest water fight festival, and in Myanmar, the party lasts for 2 weeks. We will set off through the biggest carwash ever, and be cleansed all the way to and through Myanmar. I can already feel the change starting.

The moon is heating up, and we can hear the snakes.

The gods of Nagaland are calling us to India.

We cross during blood moon.

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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

It’s Hot in Here

35° celsius.

Just eating, makes me sweat as if i’ve been training for 3 hours. It’s the hottest time of the day, but the nights are not that much easier. For the last few nights we’ve been sleeping the spartan way. Glazed tiles are cooler than a mattress and it doubles up as an all night massage with a side order of ant-acupuncture (Even that can be turned to the positive :D).

In Thailand there are only three seasons. The hot season, the very hot season and the rainy season. By now it’s the middle of the very hot season. Come Songkran, the Thai new year, we reach the pinnacle of the scorching sun and dryness. It is the hottest time of year and how do the Thais celebrate? With an all out water war. They get ready for monsoon time.

Actually we prefer the very hot season instead to the rainy season for the moment. After all we have to drive our Tuk Tuk through Thailand, Myanmar and India and during heavy rain the roads get so muddy and flooded that a canoe would be more suitable for the journey.

The very hot season brings it’s own rhythm. During the day it’s just too hot to do anything. Even sleeping and laying down in the shadows with the fan on full is too much. In the north we are used to work to survive. Here the key to survive this season is to do nothing in vain. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work and when it’s time to rest, it’s time to rest. All with a good conscience.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

This certainly doesn’t mean laziness. I’ve seen so many people working in such different ways to make their living that it makes my imagination seem useless. I’ve seen people selling brushes from a cart, fishermen making their own nets and wade them in to one of the dirtiest rivers I’ve ever seen. I’ve even seen people collecting garbage from the byways and patch clothes with old pedal singers on the alleyways. Without money, these people must use their creativity.

In Thailand this is all possible because one part of Buddhism is that everyone is responsible for their own life and happiness. The government can’t and doesn’t want to control everything and some sort of grass root anarchy-capitalism is living strongly.

In contrary to western capitalism it’s not about the money, it’s about the buddhist way of life. Families work together and help each other survive from day to day. They don’t need to be richer tomorrow because they are content today.

Close by there’s a lady who owns a copy machine. She asks 2 baht per copy and probably makes 100 baht a day. Thats about 2,2 €. But it’s ok because with that money she eats 3 times a day and she’s always smiling.

For the last 2 weeks we tried to live off the same amount. We were given a place to sleep for free and in exchange we painted one room. We have been given food because we have become part of the family and we help around as much as we can. Our daily budget for the necessities has been less than that of the copy woman, and we are still smiling and still going strong.

Different climates create different cultures and thats certainly something where we can learn from. I will definitely take the idea of lazying with good conscience with me 😀

Welcome to Thailand!

Linkki

It just gets weirder and weirder here. On thursday we were training in the park and a couple of Thai girls asked if we could pose for them with a “Welcome to Thailand” sign. Naturally we said yes, and Pyry hopped on my shoulders and we posed for them. They liked us and asked if they could show us nice places in BKK and film some material with us. We’ve been a bit bored lately so we were delighted for something new.

photo: War Room

photo: War Room

Friday came and we met them at the park to find out what it’s all about. War Rooms is a production company filming a pilot episode for their new TV-series where they show a different side of Thailand for tourists, and they wanted us to be their mannequins for it. We asked if we could also film, so both of us filmed a filming crew filming us 🙂

They took us to see a Chinese Opera and we got to visit the backstage. It wasn’t that much different from the ones we’re used to in Europe, except there were no walls or any of the fancy stuff like lights around mirrors. But the atmosphere was the same with all the make upping, sound checks and concentration. It felt cosy. Just opposite the stage was a big temple, and you could actually see the temple prayer room straight from the stage.

The show started at 6 p.m. and lasted for 1,5 hours, going through the same 15 min pattern over and over again. At a certain time of the pattern loads of fireworks, which almost deafened us, were set off inside the temple. But to help with thinking you’re going to be blown up every 15 minutes they had a nice habit of throwing betel nuts and leaves into the audience during some point of this pattern. The nuts and leaves made us feel relaxed and happy and the more we chewed the better the show. Ingenious, drug the audience before the show and it’s a sure hit!

In the middle of the performance we were taken to the temple to pray. This temple was specifically for people to pray for the success for their projects, so naturally we went to do just that. No cameras are allowed, but luckily the local filming crew managed an exception and filmed us with our own camera.

The atmosphere was amazing. Tens, if not hundreds of candles burning, ranging from small to humungous, lit up the hall with fireworks exploding and the thick smoke of incense embracing us. There were dragons swarming the altars and ‘incense’-smoking lions guarding the entrance. We could not have found a better place to pray for the success of our journey. The force was definitely strong with that one.

We were supposed to perform after the opera finished, but it wasn’t that easy. After the 1,5 hour show stopped we were getting ready to do our show. Luckily the atmosphere felt a little weird so we decided to wait for a bit. Soon the film crew came to us and said, ‘ok, now the prayer for the gods is over and the story is about to begin, it’s usually about 30 minutes’.

No wonder we didn’t quite understand what was going on. So from the end we jumped back to the beginning. After 1 hour and 30 minutes of this new performance the film crew asked if we were hungry. They said because there was an exceptional amount of audience that night, the show will last until 10 p.m. So we took a taxi and went to eat and came back for the finish.

Just after 10 o’clock the announcer apparently announced that this was the final scene. They stayed strong with their Peter Jackson mentality and made something that’s normally 30 minutes, into an over stretched spectacle that cannot be finished before the 3 hour mark. To our luck when a Chinaman does something, they do it well.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

During the last scene at some point our performance was announced on a loud speaker so that nobody could hear the opera singing, but it didn’t seem to matter. The time was 10:53 p.m. when the final scene came to an end, and finally we got our chance.

By this time we had already had quite a few betel nuts and space wise we were very restricted. It was still great to perform for the performers and Juho even grabbed a brave boy from the audience and took him for a spin.

Then we continued for the after party and enjoyed our time with the filming crew. It was good to see that we share the same attitude towards creation and filming and it’s very relieving to notice that a long time professional is basically thinking and filming the exact same way we are.

It wasn’t until later that we realised how this Chinese Opera works. The Opera is hundreds of years old and everybody knows the plot because they see the same thing over and over again, with slight variation each time. This enables the audience to follow the play and eat and chat and go for walks in between, always returning to watch the rest of the opera. It is more of a communal meeting, with opera being the reason to bring people together, than something to go to without connecting with people around you.

It’s not easy, but the performers were amazing. They did their part full throttle and let the audience be at ease. No one was bothered about the kids playing and running around during the show. It was a lively occasion and maybe this idea of socialising during a performance might be an idea worth diving into.

Timelessness

There are very few places these days where a void can form into space-time. When someone asks the question, ‘what day is tomorrow?’, and you have absolutely no idea. Possibly when marooned on a deserted island with no boat, in the middle of the desert with a broken tuk tuk, or staying here in a small part of Bangkok called ‘the best soi in Bangkok’.

We have waited for the registration for so long that my beard has taken over my face and delusions are erasing the past and future from the mind. Everything seems to be happening on a day to day basis and it’s difficult to even ask something about the future. Going away party? Later today? Tomorrow? Next week? Nothing is ever planned ahead of time and it’s as if there are no words..

And there isn’t. The Thai language has no past or future tense. They only have the present, it’s the buddhist way. And usually we completely agree, but today we feel quite down and we don’t know what to think.

We’ve been told that the registration papers are all in order and on Friday (Tomorrow), the Tuk Tuk will get tested and we should finally get the registration plate. By wednesday next week we should be on our way. This is a sentence we’ve heard a few too many times.

We so really truly magically hope that THIS time it will be…

Kuva: Juho Sarno

Kuva: Juho Sarno

 

Sound of Failure

I was given an ukulele by my fiancee one year ago. I was quite inspired in the beginning, but soon after I was working towards this Tuk Tuk Travellers thing and didn’t have time to practice. Here in Thailand I’ve started playing again. We played at christmas and new years when we had some time off, and now because of our delay, I’ve had lot’s of time to practice.

Two weeks ago we were playing with Pyry and I thought to myself, why does my playing sound absolutely horrible? Then Pyry gave me a hint. He said that I should strum in rhythm. Yes, it’s obvious, but I hadn’t thought about it earlier. So then I started practicing.

There has not been anything this year, or last, that has been more difficult to do than to move my right hand up and down in rhythm. I thought getting the chords is the hard part but no.

To help me internalize the rhythm, Pyry said I should start to sing while I strum, and play the chords. Three things at once, and singing…

Those who were there still remember the last time I sang in public. It was in the circus school. In one lesson we had to perform something other than circus, so I decided to sing. I squealed out with my golden voice and after the first verse everybody was laughing so hard that it caught me also. I sang the rest of the song trying to hold my laughter, which in turn made everything even more hilarious. When I finished, it took five minutes for our teacher to stop laughing and end the class. Oh sweet memories.

But the most valuable lesson I learned in circus school was that learning is failing. Failure is the only way to learn something new. We fail as many times as needed until we know what to do.

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

In circus, one is training skills that most others don’t even think exist. Take juggling, acrobatics or tight wire walking. Nobody can do them first time, so you need to get used to the idea of failing before succeeding. We don’t learn from succeeding, we learn from failing. Failure is essential in learning.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of failing, we should be afraid of not failing”

Before my time in circus school I was embarrassed to train in public. I wanted to show the best I had without failing. Otherwise I would be humiliated. How stupid was I? If I had trained then without shame, I would be a much better acrobat at the moment.

“What a shame, shame indeed”

I’m not ashamed anymore and to prove it, I’ll present you the Sound of Failure. It’s me playing and singing All My Loving, by the Beatles. When you listen to it, think that after we get back to Finland, I will perform the same song again at our homecoming party in full. Then we’ll see if I have learned something during this journey.

All My Loving

ManMadeMachine

We’ve been stuck here in Bangkok for three weeks due to political unrest. In the older posts we mentioned that we have used our time effectively, but as you can’t fight against bureaucracy, what does this effectively mean?

Our main obstacle has been to get our tuk tuk registered, and of course, it’s not that simple. The bureaucracy that is supposed to make our lives easier and safer does the complete opposite.

First of all foreigners can’t register tuk tuks without special permission. There is even a limited number of licences per year for the locals. We managed to get the special permission for the registration and the head of the Transportation Authority has said he can register our Tuk Tuk for us. So why the delay? Because of the clash between people and machine.

Bureaucracy started off as a simple way of people organising different things. Kind of like a simple computer. After years and years the bureaucratic system has evolved, and it has become a machine that has taken control itself. The Matrix in real life. This can be seen clearly since we have all the people we need to sign all the papers we need, but because of the one database in one office that is closed, nothing can be done. A glitch in the system.

Last week, to our luck, the office opened up because the protests have quieted down after the elections. Hooray, the glitch was fixed! Two hours later the Transportation Authority was surrounded by disabled people protesting against the bad disabled mobility on the public transportation system and it was shut down once again. If someone is effective, it’s the protesters. Got to give them credit for that.

We continued to search for different routes. Yesterday we had an appointment at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, European Division, and now we have the head of the TAT supporting us also. This means we have the head of the Bangkok Transportation Authority, the head of the Tourism Authority and the head of the Finnish Embassy supporting us and giving us some leverage to go all the way to the Transportation Authority of Chiang Mai to register our Tuk Tuk. Effective? Perhaps.

We have been so effective that we even managed to arrange ourselves the permission to pass through Myanmar twice already. Unfortunately we have not been able to leave and all the work has been in vain, though it does soothe the mind to know it is possible.

This all feels like Humanity vs. ManMadeMachine. We have met everyone we can, in person, to try and bring out as much humanity as possible. It seems to be working because all of the people we have met have been absolutely wonderful and have helped us in every possible way. This project has inspired all of them and they all want this to happen, but with six people looking at the windows blue screen of death, what can you do?

To keep ourselves busy, tomorrows blog will be about our ventures within the bureaucratic system, and how we try to bring out the humanity within.

Muay Thai Madness

-Hijaaa!!-             *SMACK*                                -Elbow-                *BANG*       -Knee-                *THUMP*            -Jab-                *TUF*           -One-Two-       *DSHH DSHH*           *PAFF*          -Strong-             *DSH whoops*        -Slowlie-

Top notch training @ local ring with a thai champion. Nice thirty five degree heat, small Muay Thai pants and sweat dripping off every crevice making the muscles glisten in the sunlight. Focus and determination in the eyes. The fist, just as ready as the leg, ready to fly as hard as it can into the unknown.

Photo: Leo James

Photo: Leo James

We had seen the small outdoor Muay Thai ring at the end of our soi many times when we passed it going to listen to the music at the pier next to the Rama VIII protest festival site. It always had kids 7-12 training hard and it looked like fun. So we asked for a training session.

First hour and a half we balled around like a couple of idiots trying to act cool and tough kickin ‘n’ punchin our knuckles dry. We looked like idiots and we have proof. Then the kids went into the ring to do this hug and kick sorta warm up so we thought we’d do the same since no one told us otherwise.

After stepping into the ring the adrenaline hit. It was do or die and neither of us was going to take it. The youngsters were taking it easy and every once in a while showing strength, but with us it was like a scene from the expendables with muscle against muscle action trying to pin the other one down. In the 36 degree heat it took about 30 seconds until we were out of breath and had to take a break. ‘Let’s take it easy ok. This is warm up’

Photo: Leo James

Photo: Leo James

40 seconds we lasted second round. It was a good try taking it easy but its not always so easy. We continued our feat of strength battle until we were so out of breath we had to stop.

After the warmup it was back to the punch bags. We still didn’t know what we were doing so we kept kickin ‘n’ punchin until finally, two hours into the training someone says, ‘go close. Kick, go close. Look’, and pointed to the 12 year old boy who could have kicked me in half. Then we tried kicking a little closer. Better? Hard to say.

It wasn’t until the end 20 minutes when we went into the ring with a former Muay Thai champion that we were told what to do. He didn’t speak much english but we learned a lot from him. He fixed our kicks an punches and finally it felt like there was some real power. Then it was time to go home an lick the wounds.

It’s not easy being a kid that grows up in the Muay Thai ring. Hundreds of pushups, kicks, punches, knees, elbows and throws to the ground, every single day, twice a day. It’s physically demanding and bruising is normal. But behind the bruising, the Muay Thai community is humble, respectful and caring.

They live together, feast together and help each other through life from the beginning to the end. They don’t need much to enjoy life, just a rusty old roof that covers the training area and each other.

For food they have a little refreshment shop so they have money for the market and some of them fish for food from the Chao Phraya. They are all happy and healthy having nothing else, and they don’t seem to be in hurry to change things.

They are not there because someone wants them to be there or that they have no other choice. They are there because they choose to be there. They learn so much about life and how to survive through this type of lifestyle, that they would be stupid not to want to be there. They are always free to fulfil whatever dream they want, and they have the will to do it. It all about what they choose to do, a life without boundaries.

Behind all the bruises, you can feel the love they share. In the ring they give all they got, but win or lose, they will always have a loving family around them. This is the life they grow into with Grandma, Grandpa, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, children, babies, cats, dogs, chickens, puppies, kittens and bunnies.

Photo: Leo James

Photo: Leo James

Tuk Tuk Training

Still in Bangkok. Transportation office should open by the end of this week and we should be on our way towards the end of next week. As we have almost 17 000km ahead, our Tuk Tuk supplier thought that we should have some practise on driving and mechanics. Today was the third class.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

First class was last week and it was disturbed by a thousand two hundred pilgrimaging monks, so we just drove 6 meters forwards, and 6 backwards, on a sidewalk, with no space to steer. Second class was a bit more exiting, we went straight in to the traffic of Bangkok. Pyry has driven his drivers licence here, so it went alright and he already managed to drive some with just two wheels on the ground 🙂 That was quite exiting.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

I, on the other hand, felt like a rabbit turning in to roadkill. The Tuk Tuk is a vehicle of it’s kind and I have never driven anything that resembles it. The Gas pedal is in the handle, like motorbikes, but the pedals are like in a car. The shifting stick is between the legs and you have to waggle it with your left hand. As a driver you also sit on top of the engine, so even if you are driving a tuk tuk that doesn’t have an RPM gauge (as we are) you literally feel it in your guts when it’s time to shift. It also has three wheels, not a big surprise to anyone, but it really makes a difference on the steering.

I was quite afraid when I went on the road, but after the first ten seconds, Adrenaline took over, and gave me a really nice groove for the road. I found my space in the traffic, and all the other tuk tuk drivers were pointing fingers and laughing and cheering us on. There just aren’t too many falangs driving a tuk tuk here. I’ve done quite a many adrenaline shots in my life, but driving a tuk tuk in Bangkok gave me the best rush for years. Have to admit, I enjoyed every second of it.

Today was the third lesson, little bit more in the traffic, and learning to change tires. Tomorrow we’ll be changing brakes.

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