Good news for Uranus

BanglaJäbäjaPyry

We are not on an adventure to find beautiful places, we are on an adventure to find beautiful people.

We met a nice guy working in the local TV-business and the last days we have been living in a Bangladeshi commune close to an area called Khilkhat. There are 4 guys living here, and all are studying or working in the hospitality field. Ones tuition is made possible because of a nice man from Helsinki, and if I have the chance, I will pass on the thank you in person.

For the rest of the time we have learned to navigate the local buses to shuffle ourselves through the masses. We’ve gone back and forth to the High Commission of India and they have continuously asked us to sit and wait.

After coming everyday to ask about progress, they gave us a number to telephone so we wouldn’t have to go back and forth and nag them. This was the key that made me realise how to deal with Indian bureaucrats.

When you are asked to sit, be respectful and sit, but soon after stand up again to do ‘something’. Look around, stretch, do anything but sit. Communicate with the body that you can wait, but you wish not to sit. This makes them nervous, and it is a clear sign that you are disobeying their power. But be respectful, otherwise they get a reason to use their power again.

You will continuously be asked to sit down, but kindly tell them you are ok standing. Ask them questions, chat, see how things are going forward. Suddenly things start happening because they realise you are not a dog, and they don’t want to get to know you. You must either give them satisfaction and wait sitting, or then leave, but don’t leave until you have done all you can to get what you need.

Nag them, nag them, nag them, but respectfully. Respect is utmost important here because otherwise you get nothing but disrespect in return. It is I who need to stay respectful, because they must start off disrespectful. I think it has to do with the immense amount of people in the country.

Once I respectfully show that I will not be treated like a dog, but I’m also not going anywhere, I earn their respect. Once this happens, the barriers crumble and their inner beauty starts shining through the cracks. This can be very difficult with some because their barriers are made of titanium and strengthened with everything possible, but I’ve noticed that the bigger the monster shielding on the outside, the more beautiful and fragile the heart inside. The change at its best is like seeing a butterfly emerge from its cocoon, and it’s a shame most never get to see it.

We’ve learnt a lot from being kicked around, and we’ve become stronger. We’ve learnt that we get what we give, and that’s why staying focused on goodwill is numero uno. We’ve also learned that I must shine my inner beauty onto others first, so that they feel safe enough to show their inner beauty to me. It is rude of me to ask someone to open up first, if I don’t have the courage to do it myself.

We’ve also learnt that all of the horror pictures of the future, are just in our own head and completely useless. They are excuses the mind wants to make so that we would give up, but finding the strength to go on always pays off.

We feel like Rocky. We’ve taken the hits and we are seeing stars, but we will use that to our advantage. Since the dawn of time stars have been used to navigate, and this month is an exceptionally good one. The sun will finally shine in places where it just don’t shine, because tomorrow, On June 6th a harmonious sextile from the Sun to Uranus inspires us to make a change and may bring in new ideas and ways of looking at our world.’

This means that we will go to India shining brightly, and we will leave a trail of burning rubber as we speed through to Pakistan. We got our passports back from the High Commission and we are shifting course back into India. There is still no news from the port, but I guess we will find out when we get there.

But no need to stress!

As things have gone exactly like we planned, we are against the clock once again because our Pakistan visas run out on June 18th. Damn bureaucracy. We should be able to change visas just as easily as the bankers change interest rates!

But it is soothing to know that even in the 13th century, when visas hadn’t been invented, Genghis Khan also had difficulty going through India.

.

.

END OF CHAPTER 3

 

Songkran

Snakes keep popping up everywhere. Not a single day has passed for the last week or two where someone hasn’t mentioned them, or a picture hasn’t popped up somewhere, or someone hasn’t given us a Naga Buddha amulet.

Nagaland is calling hard, but alas, we must not hurry ourselves.

In the modern day with Facebook and Twitter, everything seems to go faster and faster. But life doesn’t. Life goes at it’s own speed and it does not bend to anyones will. We so want to leave Thailand already, and everybody else wants us to also, but life has different plans it seems. We must respect it.

Here are todays gifts from people we met and talked to.

Buddha protected by 7 Nagas. We were given 2, one each
Photo: Pyry Kääriä

 

Buddha with a protection prayer on the back given to Juho
Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Enlightened Buddha given to Pyry
Photo: Pyry Kääriä

As well as all the niceness from the Mae Moei people, one really good thing has happened. Our tuk tuk man, Mr. Pong, may have redeemed himself and made himself one of our best assets. He managed to help get the audience with the Myanmar Embassy, and he is trying his hardest to use all of his contacts to speed up the process so we can leave.

But alas, he is only human, like all of us. We can only do our best and nothing more, though I must say, that so far what I know of the Myanmar people, they really do their best. Especially when it comes to Songkran. Most of them seem to have eyes that penetrate the soul, and they party like there’s no tomorrow, for two weeks.

We crossed the border yesterday, again, and I have to say that the old saying, ‘third time is the charm’, should be changed to, ‘first time is the charm’, so that we wouldn’t have to do everything three times. We got through no problem, but our tugboat on wheels didn’t.

The letter from the Embassy had not made it to the central government of Myanmar before Songkran, and there, the party is just too good for anyone to answer phones, so we must wait ’till the party ends.

We used our chance while in Myanmar and spent some time partying with the Myawaddyans. After getting soaked within the first ten steps we went to find some food by the river. The locals were summersaulting into the river so we decided to join them. Very nice people with very potent self made drinks.

 

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

 

 

Then we came back towards immigration only to be stopped by a big group of ecstatic youngsters dancing like hell and squirting water every which way. By this time the alcohol had hit, and jumping around looked like fun, so we joined in and had a blast.

 

 

Video Screenshot, Tuk Tuk Travellers

Video Screenshot, Tuk Tuk Travellers

 

Not knowing if it was 5 o’clock already we went back to immigration just incase. The border closes at 5 and we were told to return before that. We found Myanmar Immigration partying also, so we spent our last hour dancing and drinking in no-mans land with them.

 

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

Myanmar has taken our hearts already.

We left with huge smiles on our faces and this time, we got a phone number for one of the Immigration guys so we can call him, and make sure, that next time we will definitely get through.

.

Odyssey

.

.

.

First barrier broken, our own fear.

.

We were as high as we could get in Thailand, at the Northern most point, smack bang in the middle of the infamous Golden Triangle. “What if we just go through here? We’re not a threat to anybody, on the contrary we want to help everyone as much as possible. What if we just ask?”.

So we did.

In the morning we were scared as hell. We decided that we are just going to try and cross the border to Myanmar. I don’t know which was scarier, the thought of actually being let through, the thought of ending up in a Myanmar jail, or all the other unknown possibilities how it could end up going horribly wrong. But we had to try.

The Thai personnel were a little iffy at first, but talking mano-a-mano, we bonded and they let us through no problem. They even shared their breakfast with us.

The Myanmar side was also close, but like we thought, it’s not so easy. They did their job like they are supposed to, and we had a good laugh. They looked through all our papers and said that we need to get one paper from the Myanmar embassy, and things should be ok.

We didn’t get too far, yet, but now we know it can be done. It is no longer a question of the unknown. We realised that we need to have no fear, in order to go through the borders. We realised that we were the ones making the border, by believing what we are told, like always.

On our way back to Chiang Mai, the rain came again. It cleared the air and now its easy to breathe. The sky was beautiful, with to nicest cotton swab jesus cloud there ever was.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Now we know what we need to do to get ourselves and the tuk tuk past the border, but this time, everything remains possible. We learned from our last mistake.

Today is a public holiday in Thailand. It means that we can rest today, and tomorrow we will walk in to the Myanmar consulate. Let’s hope they will be understanding. If not, then there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Nobody would remember Ulysses if he would have found his way home on the first try.

The Odyssey continues.

I think we might have a problem.

.

.

.

.

We felt that we were

on top of the world

.

Now we feel that we are

six feet under

.

Last week we begun our journey and headed north so we’d be ready to cross the border as soon as we get the permit from the Myanmar authorities. We already had the permits twice, but couldn’t cross the border because we missed the registration. Now we have the registration and applied for a new permit. Myanmar authorities had been really helpful, and there shouldn’t be any problems.

Yesterday we finally got the answer, and it wasn’t what we were hoping for. The Buddhist new year is closing in and they asked us if we could postpone till after the Songkran. The sad part about it is that they celebrate the Water Festival for 2 weeks, starting April 12th.

It felt like a blow to the abdominals.

For the first time I lost my courage. We are almost three months late of schedule, our Myanmar visas run out by the 10th of april, we don’t have enough money to wait for three more weeks, and even worse, if we wait for three more weeks, monsoon season might catch us, and there’s no way we can cross the muddy Myanmar roads with a tuk tuk.

I felt disappointed and paralysed, I felt that I disappointed all of you who are following our journey, I felt that I disappointed my family at home, and I felt that I disappointed myself. All of our plans vanished into thin air.

I lost courage, but Pyry didn’t. He answered for the concerning authorities and contacted all our contacts in Myanmar. After that we went to have a walk, we ended up in the old city walls of Chiang Mai, clasped our hands and took a symbolic fools leap over a crumbled gap in the wall.

It made me feel better.

Today has been all about self reflection. After all, it’s not the first time we face obstacles. The only difference is that this time we had an expectation of how things would go. And as we all know, things never go the way you expect.

For me disappointment is that things are not going the way I want them to go. But life is not my playground, I never made a deal that life is fair. No matter how hard I work, I still might fuck up. Life has it’s own flow, and it can’t be harnessed. As humans we must adapt to life, not vice versa.

Now it’s time to adapt again. I have no reason to feel disappointed, not as long as I’m doing all I can to make this happen. I want to get home.

I got my courage back. There was no reason to lose it in the first place. It was just a misunderstanding in my head. A simple misunderstanding, where I thought I was in control of life.

I’m in control of my life, and there’s a big difference. I’m in charge on what I do with the circumstances. It’s still possible that we get the permission to cross the border before holidays, but if not, there’s more than just one way to hurdle obstacles. The possibility of failure is real, but it has been real all the time. The possibility of failure doesn’t mean that we are giving up. It means that we will do all we can to find a way.

Tomorrow we will go to perform in a local orphanage. We are feeling blue, but we know that nothing delights more than seeing children smile.

We have no idea of how things will turn out, but stay tuned. Somethings is definitely going to happen.

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

 

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.

Are the vegetables greener in Cambodia?

You know the old saying, ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’? Well I was thinking about this a while ago and with the logic minded brain that I have, I came up with a theory.

If the grass is greener on the otherside, that means that wherever you look, the grass is greener than the patch of land under your feet, right? Doesn’t this then mean that whenever you move anywhere, the grass just keeps getting greener and greener? Doesn’t this then mean that everything is just going to get better and better?

So are the greens greener in Cambodia? We don’t know. We never got there. Instead we got to a piece of land that was not Thailand, and I’m not sure if it was Cambodia either because we could see passport checks to both countries about 300m apart. We were standing in the middle with two huge casinos on both sides.

We missed the bus and wouldn’t have made it on monday night so we decided to pay a few hundred extra baht and take the easy way. First buses left at 5am and we were asked to wait because 1 had come unreserved and they asked for one more van. This was quite a good chance space wise and sleeping would have been excellent if the driver hadn’t gone like crazy over every bump. I found myself hovering over the last 3 seats and then pounding into them time after time.

The door was opened and we were greeted by a blindingly shiny light from the outside. Half a sleep we packed our bag and found that the minivan had gone, so had the guide and the third man. Everyone was shouting something about visas and we had no idea where to go. We started walking and got a bit lost trying to steer away from the crowd and were greeted with a beautiful view of Cambodia.

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Next to this back alleyway on the right was the actual Aranyaprathet bordercrossing, or other words the gate to gambling country. I think both can be used to cross from Thailand to Cambodia, but the other costs money and gets you a stamp which saves you from paying fines from overstay. We were 2 days late for this visa run so it cost 1000baht each.

After paying the fine we got a receipt and it was off to the casino for the all included breakfast buffet. The omelette was good and the thai food, but the chorizo-type sausage things were horrible and so was the thing that was next to it on my plate. And whats with buffet orange juice? Aloe vera and dragon fruit seeds were tasteless but the pineapple is always a good choice. And they had proper Thai coffee! After breakfast we waited a moment outside and looked at whats for sale at the small duty free stalls.

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Then walked back to the Thai side and were stamped back in. It was back into the airplane minivan ride and we were half an hour early in Bangkok @ 13.30.

Cambodia is yet to be discovered by us. Maybe next time.

Motor Vehicle Merry-go-Round

When travelling around the globe on a motor vehicle, there are a few things that all motorists should know. First and foremost, and the most obvious, is to be prepared for anything.

The real world is full of potholes, gravel roads, no roads, steep climbs, steep downward slopes that overheat the breaks, rocks that hit and break things, twigs that jam and scratch, rainfall that makes some roads into huge mud cakes etc. etc. etc. It takes just a moment for the wrong thing to happen at the wrong time and suddenly you can feel all your hopes and dreams slipping away as your motor vehicle comes to a stop, or refuses to move.

Prepare as much as you can for everything, and then let it all go. Don’t be stupid and take a truckload of stuff just in case. Take tools that can do many things, get a good understanding of physics, try fixing something before you go, think of many situations that might happen, use your imagination, and trust yourself to find a way to keep going.

The fact is, If you thought of it, it probably won’t happen. Life doesn’t want to do things the way someone thought it would go. Life is full of surprises, and thats the best part. And when it comes to breaking down in the middle of nowhere, there’s a 99.9% chance that there is at least one person around willing to help. It’s human nature, it’s life.

But then there’s bureaucracy. It’s not the real world, it’s the world on paper. If per chance you are driving your motor vehicle from New Zealand to Europe, around Africa or along the west coast of South America, it is mandatory to have a piece of paper called Carnet de Passages.

The Carnet allows you to temporarily import your vehicle without having to leave a cash deposit at the border. It is, in essence, an international guarantee for payment of customs, duties and taxes to a government should the vehicle not be re-exported from that country.

In other words you give around a few thousand € (depending on the price of the vehicle) as a deposit and you get it back when you import the vehicle into the final destination.

The Carnet de Passages en Douane can be obtained from the national automobile association or touring club of where ever you might be.

For more info visit the wiki @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnet_de_Passages

Other bureaucratic papers are of course Visas. There are a few options for this. Transit Visa, Tourist Visa and for those filming something you might need a Press Visa.

A transit visa is usually quite easy to get, but it’s for a very limited time. Iran gives 5 day transit visas, Azerbaijan gives 72 hour transit visas etc. It depend’s on the size of the country and your route. A transit visa cannot be renewed or lengthened.

A tourist visa can be obtained for a much longer time and thus you can enjoy the country a little better while driving around. In both cases Point of Entry and Point of Exit must be given and some countries want the whole route with all the names of the places you want to visit. If you stick to the plan you should be alright.

Usually the Carnet and Visas will suffice, but some countries have places called restricted areas. For example north eastern India is mostly restricted area. If you want to pass through these, you must obtain a special Restricted Area Permit.

This can be obtained along with the visa, if they see you fit for going through. Restricted Area Permits in India are for a maximum of 2 weeks, even though the tourist visa is for six months. You MUST have the Permit with you at all times while in the restricted area, and you MUST leave before it expires.

Then there’s of course the international driving licence. This is just a passport photo and filling in a piece of paper. It’s as easy as frying an egg.

Bureaucracy is a bunch of obstacles designed to milk money from your nipples. Its annoying, but if you comply and go with it, it’s easy. Try and fight it or lose your nerve and the bureaucratic cow kicks you in the face.

Apart from these you should be alright. So if you prepare and get the paperwork you’re all set.

And the rest is up to you.

 

PS. If you have more good tips, give us a comment.