To Mumbai and Back in 6 days

Mumbai

Mumbai

That is Mumbai, but we’re in Delhi again. This quick journey South turned out to be semi-epic.

After having dinner and learning about the Sikh religion, we returned to the hotel turbanised and gifted. We received holy turbans, wristlets, prayer chains and a holy Sikh blade as well as tons of information about a different spiritual culture.

‘A beard is a gift you give your face. And a passport to awesome’

The Sikh are warrior spirits, and in the time before, they used to take off their protective turbans only for battle. They realised that the hair makes the head look larger, and therefore in the eyes of the enemy they seem more fierce. That means the power lies in the facial hair, and that a man without a beard is like a lion without it’s mane.

With power comes corruption, and therefore the metal wristlet on my right wrist (sword hand) is there to remind me not to use the hand for evil. An evil hand used for personal gain will not accomplish content in life, instead a protective hand will always protect the content in life.

The turban around my head protects my hair, my ears, and if necessary, my face. It is surprisingly good while riding the tuk tuk on the dusty roads.

The prayer chain is used to pray in the mornings, and each bead is given the intent, ‘Wah, hey, guru’, ecstasy beyond words, to remind the mind to think positively.

And the sword is carried at all times as a symbol of willpower and purification.

Just before learning all this, while waiting for our new brothers to come pick us up, we got a phone call from our Pakistan counsellor friend. Our visas had been approved, and we were to be back in Delhi asap. I received an email later that started with the words, Dear brother Pyry. I think this is the most peaceful way of starting a letter, and it should be used more ofter.

The next morning, after the lovely dinner, we contemplated whether to cancel the shipping and drive through Pakistan, or continue with it and go by foot. The shipping company had already started the shipping procedure and there were still so many question marks concerning Pakistan.

We tried to contact everyone we knew to get all possible information, but we couldn’t reach anyone. Juho was set on shipping, but Pyry was set on driving. We decided to see what the shipping company had to say.

Turned out that the shipping company had already ordered the container so there would be charges, but luckily the customs had not been started yet. This didn’t lean to either side, so we still didn’t know what to do. Then something unexpected happened.

Mustafa, the shipping agent, a man from India, told us to drive through Pakistan. This was an act of humanity, because it was against personal gain. Mustafa said that shipping is always and option, but driving through Pakistan is what our project is about. He encouraged us to fight on, no matter what happens. We will make it through driving, and fulfil this once in a lifetime dream the way it should be done. We should at least try, because if all else fails, shipping is always an option.

This was a clear decision, and something opened up in us. Teary eyed from the kind gesture, we offered to pay the charges that had come from our haste. Mustafa answered that we need not pay. He told us that this is part of business, and that sometimes these things happen. He knew that we need the little money we have more than him, so instead of taking our money, he gave us spirit to get home.

This was something so unexpected that all of the stress from India was released. It seems like one small humane gesture can make a huge change for the better in someone else’s life.

As a thank you, we would like to mention to all who are in need to ship vehicles to/from India, that there is a good hearted man in Mumbai called Mustafa, who works for the shipping company Sadikally Esoofally & Co. (Estd.1938). He does things effectively, knows how to deal with the infamous carnets, and it was a breeze dealing with him and his team. It was very welcomed after the horror of Kolkata.

Then, on that Tuesday, we left Mumbai to be in Delhi by 10 am Friday. It was already 2 pm so there was no time to waste.

On the first day we managed our destination which was a motel on the south side of Vadodara. We chose that because on the way we were there and it had absolutely fabulous food.

The second day we were supposed to drive an epic 800Km to Pushkar, but close to Modasa we had our first break down.

We had stopped for lunch and once finished we drove off.

Pyryhigwaystreetfood

After one kilometer the engine stalled and refused to start up again. It seemed like petrol wasn’t getting to where it was supposed to, but we didn’t know how to fix it. Almost 10,000 Km driven, it was about time to learn.

Hinaus

We managed to hitch a ride with a local auto-rickshaw who towed us to a mechanic in Modasa. You can probably imagine we gathered ourself quite a crowd.

mechanic pällistelyä

The problem turned out to be a blocked petrol tube and it was fixed with compressed air and while we were at it we decided to fix everything else as well.

The wire for the back charger was changed, a chipped metal bracket that holds the electrics was reattached, and the belt was tightened. We spent 3 hours learning about our engine as well as the locals.

mechanic

In the end we let the mechanic do a test drive with the tuk tuk around town and he drove around stopping every once in a while to show this strange phenomenon to his friends. He bought us some pidi cigarettes as a gift and drove back.

Once asking for the cost, the mechanic refused to take any money. Everyone was smiling so we accepted it as a gift. With humanity completely restored, we headed off for Pushkar.

Every once in a while the blockage came back, but this time wiser than before, we could unblock it by opening the petrol tube and blowing hard. We’ve also found out that if we clean the air filter often, our engine keeps it’s power. With a lack of air the petrol doesn’t burn properly and power is lost. Keeping air and petrol coming keeps the engine working effectively.

We had lost 3 hours of driving, so we only made it 100 Km South of Pushkar, to another roadside hotel. This was close to a beautiful small desert mountain village and they happened to have the best food we’ve had so far. I found a new favourite dish, though unfortunately I cannot remember the name. It starts with a K I think and there might have been an L.

On Thursday we drove all the way up to Delhi so we made it for our 10 o’clock appointment at the Pakistan High Commission. Once again the meeting at the Pakistan Embassy was superb. I’ve noticed that all of the Pakistani people I have met so far have all been honest and humble. Every place has it’s good sides and bad sides, but most countries cannot openly say that they have problems. Most prefer a path of illusion, but the counsellor we talked to told me that in Pakistan, they believe that in the end honesty will prevail. The country is not perfect, but they are still good people, hopefully.

We have now strengthened our tuk tuk, cleaned the suspension as well as everything else, and we are ready for the next unknown. By next week we will be in Pakistan continuing our adventure.

mechanic posse

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

Deep in the unknown – The hidden jewel of Asia

To remove confusion that has arisen, we are not on a boat and we have no actual sails. The sails are figuratively speaking our work that we are doing that keeps us going, and the boat is our tuk tuk, which is stuck at the Kolkata port, maybe. It seems to be impossible to get in contact with the port to find out whether our tuk tuk is actually there, but it should have already arrived.

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Somewhere in the Bay of Bengal – Wed, 28.05.2014

We ran aground in the Bay of Bengal. Our supplies are moderate, damage seems to be minimal, but we were forced to leave our ship near Kolkata to find shelter and supplies. We are deep in the unknown of the Asian Jungle where two of the most holy rivers diverge. One heals all, and the other gives life. They are known in the western world as Ganges, and Brahmaputra.

I hope the natives are nice.

Gubbe ja Juho.

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Thu, 29.05.2014

This place has shown a side of humanity we had not known to look for. We knew that Bangladesh is on the map, but we thought it was a poor country where footballs and clothes are made, and that people ride around in boats rather than cars because it floods and there’s no roads. Perhaps this is true outside of Dhaka, but this is not what we’ve seen so far.

What we have seen is the bling of the Embassy area with the Banks and the American bistros, a little bit of the posh area where we were forced to stay the first night called Gulsham, and this DOSH something close to all the army golf courses and what not. Every place is filled with tricycle rickshaws and nice cars, but sometimes a taxi or an auto rickshaw can be seen.

I have noted that nobody worth their salt in this place would walk more than 2 blocks. These tryckshaws are buzzing around continuously, half empty half full, with people sitting on them looking like fools being brought somewhere. It is a strange place where people seem to be powerless to lift a finger, or take a step without someone doing it for them. People are looking at us as if we are crazy for using our own feet and carrying our belongings.

While walking, I found the best tea I’ve had so far anywhere on this planet. It was at the corner close to our first hotel. There were 3 guards having tea and biscuits from this man who carries them around on his shoulder with a stick, so I went in for a taste because that’s why I was out in the dark at 1 am. Looking for food.

The rice cake biscuit thing was the tastiest and most nutritious one I’ve tried. The man spoke no english so I couldn’t ask whats in it. I managed to mingle a little with one of the guards, and I was charged a total of 21 taka (0.20€) for a tea, 2 rice cake things and 4 biscuits.

At least we can eat something here without going bankrupt.

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Bangladesh, Dhaka – Fri, 30.05.2014

We went to find the bazaar, but instead found ourselves in a local restaurant next to the train tracks close to the army golf course. Nobody spoke English and the menu was in Bangladeshi. Their numbers and alphabet look different, and I forgot to take my wallet.

Luckily I had some change in my pocket that totalled 127 tala (1.25€). We showed our money to the waiter and tried to ask for something small, but he walked away and we weren’t quite sure if he understood. Then we started sweating.

We sat in the back of the restaurant where the air was still, because the fans rarely got the chance to blow our way through the people. Thankfully there was a kid who noticed our precipitation and realised to bring us water. While waiting to see if we had ordered something we looked at the dishes others were having. Everything was mouthwatering, especially the grilled leg of lamb at the next table.

After drinking around 3 glasses of water each, the waiter brought 2 plates of naan bread and a bowl of mutton curry for us. Once again, they had bones in them and now we are convinced, that one secret of cheap and tasty food lies in bones.

In the end we payed the 127 taka and I’m sure he gave us the benefit of the doubt, because 1.25€ is not much for food that good.

Later on at our B&B we decided to find out more about this hidden jewel that we have been marooned to. So far we know this place is called Bangladesh, and it has billboards of the current female prime minister here and there, but what secrets does it have? It was time to go digipedia.

Bangladesh seems to be the peacemaker of Asia, pursuing a moderate foreign policy which relies heavily on multinational diplomacy. They want to be friends with everyone having good relations with China, as well as the United States. Bangladesh has also pioneered the first intergovernmental body in South Asia and works hard in the UN to keep peace.

Bangladesh is apparently identified as a Next Eleven economy (Meaning it is considered to be a future economy), and it has achieved significant strides in human and social development since it’s independence.

They have made enormous progress in gender equity, universal primary education, food production, health and population control. One man even got a nobel prize for coming up with micro financing. No wonder all the bling.

But thats only half of it.

Bangladesh is still a poor country where half of the population are illiterate and there are a number of other problems also. One of them being the poor conditions of the workers who make our expensive clothes for cheap. In any case, Bangladesh has taken measures to make things better. Basic education is free for everybody, and change is in the air.

I’m starting to like this place.

Pojat soutaa blog

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Bangladesh, Dhaka – Sat, 31.05.2014

We have been eating at the same local restaurant, because it is the only one close that has real food, and proper prices. Everything we have tasted has definitely been michelin star standard and teamed with the 1€ price, we’d be idiots to go anywhere else.

Something I have logged is that after every meal, we are brought fennel seeds to chew as dessert. Maybe it has something to do with digestion.

The rest of the time we have been working to fix the sails. We found some Nepalese children to help fix the tear in main sail, and they really raised our spirits. (Greetings from Nepal)

The mezzanine is almost up to date, and today we fix the top. The rest of the sails seem to be in good shape.

We don’t know how bad the hull is because we left it on the rocks near Kolkata. On Sunday we find out whether we can go back to see it.

I will keep you posted.

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PS. The Castaway Blog may have taken so much attention, that our Dreaming in Nepal blog might have gone unnoticed. Please go back and read it if you missed it 🙂

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 Karen People

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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.

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I think we might have a problem.

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We felt that we were

on top of the world

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Now we feel that we are

six feet under

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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.

Breaking it in

1038 Km done,

and it still feels good.

Everyday it seems that I fall in love with our Tuk Tuk more and more. It is simply the best motorised road vehicle that has ever been designed, and it’s also the first motorised vehicle that I own.

We wrote in one of the first blogs a quote that came from someplace that I cannot remember anymore, but it went more or less like this.

The Tuk Tuk is the worst vehicle ever made, because it has all the bad sides of everything. It gives no shelter or protection like a car, and it cannot weave through traffic like a motorbike. Oh yeah, and it tips over really easily.

They were wrong, and so wrong they were. Based on this paragraph, I think the author has never driven a Tuk Tuk before because they only dwell on theory, not practice.

After a few days of driving around Thailand, I can give you a more detailed, practical approach to what the tuk tuk is. So let me rephrase the earlier paragraph into what I think is more suitable for the King’s Wagon.

The Tuk Tuk is the best vehicle ever made, because it has the best sides of all other vehicles, and even more.

With the Tuk Tuk the legs do not need to be placed on the ground when stopping, unlike a motorbike, and it is way more agile than any car on the market today, because there is only one front wheel.

Then I would continue,

The tuk tuk is more like a boat with wheels, rather than a car or a motorcycle, because it allows passengers to move about, to stretch the legs, or if needed, even to climb about on the outside. Click here to see it in action.

The Tuk Tuk is designed so that things can be hung from the roof, and they are easily accessible when needed. This cannot be done in a car, and the motorbike doesn’t even have a roof.

The Tuk Tuk is the only vehicle that a Hammock can be tied to, on the inside as well as the outside.

Unlike any other road vehicle, the Tuk Tuk allows the driver to change position while driving, perhaps into a lotus position, or even into a squatting position, because the throttle is operated by the right hand (or sometimes the left if you like to change).

The Tuk Tuk gives you the same feeling of freedom as the motorcycle, because there are no barriers between onboard people and mother nature.

Unlike modern cars, the Tuk Tuk has no computer chips, so the driver has full control of the vehicle at all times. Because of this, if a problem arises, it can be fixed at any local moped shop, or even by the driver themselves. No authorised, specialised, monopolised, money-vacuum garages are needed. Only a mind that has the capability of thinking on its own, and has a little logic in it.

The Tuk Tuk also makes everyone that drives past raise their thumb and cheeks towards the sky, and this makes all the people within the Tuk Tuk smile and happy.

I understand that they couldn’t write all of this into the article, because it’s a little bit longer, but at least they could have been truthful about what the Tuk Tuk really is. I believe the tuk tuk is the most versatile of all vehicles because of all of the above, and last but not least,

The Tuk Tuk is the only vehicle that can easily be modified into a transportable gastro-machine, and drive halfway across the globe to fulfil a crazy dream of making the world a better place.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

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.

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.