The Karen People

.

.

Yesterday we went for an adventure. We got fed up just lying around in Mae Moei resting, and we had finished all the unfinished work that we needed to do. So we hopped on our little monster truck and decided to do some off-roading.

Everyone says the roads in Myanmar are really bad, and the new super snazzy highway that connects Yangon to Mandalay, is a four laned, overpriced airstrip that has nothing. It goes through nowhere, has no traffic, and apparently is completely useless. We’re better off breaking down on the old road, because at least there, we might run into someone that can help.

So as a warmup we took on the mud and the holes, and our baby bird flew like an angel. She tackled everything that was thrown in her way, except Pyry’s muscles. Sometimes he can be a bit rough while screwing around.

After the breaking in, our angel had started whining a little, so we decided to tighten her up before getting wet again after Songkran. We gave a good yank on every nut and bolt we could find, and the last one, one of the four bolts that keep the front wheel connected, snapped under Pyry’s humungous strength…

Luckily we had decided to do this in front of a shop that just happened to have nice people, with the right tools. In a jiffy they took out the old bolt and gave us a new one, slightly shorter, but seemed a bit harder, so I really hope size doesn’t matter. I think that as long as it’s hard and doesn’t break, it should work fine.

After tightening our nuts, we headed off into the mystery roads that even google maps have never heard of. In the end we found what didn’t know we were looking for, a beautiful valley between two luscious mounds. Every mans dream.

We asked if we could stay the night, and like usually, we were very welcomed. Suddenly there were dozens of kids running around, some throwing our knives around and others playing karate kid with our juggling clubs. Everyone was having a blast.

Once finished, we were so hungry that we bought some of the local eggs and made a Khai Jiao, Thai style omelette on our heavenly kitchen. I think the eggs came from the chicken that was continuously watching me cook, or then from one of the other hundreds that were freely running around. These village people let all life join in the fun, and by doing that, they stay healthy, with nutritious, natural, fresh, free food at all times.

Then we went to wash up in the mountain stream and were greeted by the only man who spoke english. He asked what we were doing, and instead of camping, he asked us to his home. This is when we found out that we had stumbled into a village that has been inhabited by the Karen Tribe for over a millennium.

He showed us to his home, and we chatted for hours. We asked about the Karen people, and they asked us about Finnish people. We laughed a lot and shared very similar views of many things, including the fact that they pride themselves on helping each other, without accepting money.

In the end Juho and Santin found their deepest connection, a true love they share together, Football. It goes to show, that we’re all basically the same.

Then we had dinner. I don’t know what it was, but it was kind of like a crab and fish stew with rice. They were amazed that in Finland we have to pay for our crabs, while they just pick them up from the river. Even the water tasted like proper water, because it came straight from the mountain stream with only a little filtering, though in Finland, the ground water doesn’t even need to be filtered.

Then we found out that the Karen food, compared to Thai food, uses no fish sauce, no sugar, and unlike in Finland, the small crabs are meant to be eaten with the shell on. That way they are much more nutritious, and taste really nice. It was like eating chips.

After our tummies looked like they were about to burst, we jumped on the pick up and went to look for the Songkran after party. This time we got so lost that even the locals didn’t know where we were.

We ended up coming back to the village, where they had pitched up a tivoli at the temple grounds, and enjoyed the old school film projector, and Pyry shot some stuffed rabbits for his godson.

Then it was time to sleep.

We woke up at the third call of the roosters, i.e. 5 am, the natural wake up time. It’s amazing how one rooster starts, then the next one joins in, then the next, then a dog, and soon the whole valley is echoing with life. It is simply the most natural wake up call, and it feels good.

We packed up, checked the oil, checked the water, and rolled off towards the sunrise. It was a wonderful experience.

Ta blu dòh mä, my brothers! You shall always be in our hearts.

.

.

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

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.