Category Archives: Places to Go + Fun to Have

Life Blog Series (Why I am talking to myself) – Part 12 – ( Lonely Planet ? )

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Caveat: This can just flip you out because you travel and possibly have traveled way less than the guys I’m talking about in this blog. So don’t flip out mi amigo!

Since Google’s Blogspot has no such feature such as reblog for me to write a referral post, I will just copy-paste the content of the article I found amazing and it made me fall flat on my back for a moment and think. The content that is to follow is snapped out of a blog which has been written by 2 German brothers who completed a close to 7000 Kms. of hitchhiking journey through the fuckin’ Silk Route. When I talk about Silk Route from now on, you should immediately keep a reference of this picture (below) in your mind.

800px-Silk_route

Without me even trying to provide you with a vivid and comprehensible way in which they achieved this feat, I will just ask you to delve deeper into how they did this and refer to their blog for more details. Life Blog Series feels proud to have featured this piece.

———————-Content Begins—————————–

7000 Kilometers. 107 Lifts. 5 Countries. 2 Brothers. One Road.

 It’s was bound to fail: Four weeks time to prepare for one month of hitchhiking along the Silk Road – today’s most dangerous and both politically and infrastructurally difficult route.

But yes we did! Thumbing up truck rides in the hottest desert on earth, got lifts with public bus through Kurdish Iraq, hitched a hotel, Germanwings and longtail boat. We put up our hammocks in picturesque moon-like landscapes and onlonely Thai beaches. We hitch-hiked the newest BMW and Indian tractors. We explored Istanbul with crazy CouchSurfers, enjoyed tasty Bakhlava in Southern Anatolia and zero-g-forces in Northern Iran. We played futsal in Shiraz and learned how to wash before prayer with Furkan. We were thumbing the road for more than 5500 kms together. Craig topped the 7000-kilometer-mark hitching to his second home Malaysia.

Everywhere, one of the first questions we heard was: “Isn’t it dangerous?” – No. It’s not. To go by car in the first place is the dangerous thing. Hitchhiking is as safe as you make it: We only go with people with who we feel comfortable. Other questions centered around the feasibility. Despite all adverse conditions (low population density, Iranian don’t know what is hitching) Iran turned out to be the best country to thumb up lifts. Even the other countries were far easier to hitchhike than Germany. With one exception … India.

We had an awesome time hitching Indian tractors etc. but we would rather go for the unforgettable train rides on future trips. Autostop in India is exhausting: Sometimes it takes you more than half an hour to only explain what you do. Other reasons: Extreme cheap public transport and scarce long distance traffic on roads. Can you imagine that one of the four principal highways leaving 20-million-Mumbai is a two-lane (!!!) road?

To all fellow hitchhikers who want to stage the Silk Road and those among them who have the dream of doing a full overland route – like we wanted in the first place: You need far more preparation time, approximately three weeks more than we had. You’d need to be fine with four days of desert only. Trust us: Desert is nice to see – but only for some hours. Another bound-to-fail-challenge: Try to make friends with somebody in the Pakistani embassy to get a visa for overland entry – otherwise it’s currently impossible. Then you’d need to change and expand the route significantly going for China since there is no usable Bangladesh-Myanmar land border crossing and heaps of difficulties to get required permits for India-Myanmar border crossing let alone for the troubled Indian border state Manipur. In plain English: It’s today’s most difficult route to prepare and realize.

Sometimes people ask us if we go with no money. In our opinion the idea of zero-expenditure-travel is nuts and close to scrounging – and that is not what you want your hosts to think of you. It’s also not practical: Perhaps we’d to bribe a border officer to enter a country. Sometimes you are simply hungry and need a Kebab or Samosa 😉 The currency you pay with while hitchhiking is entertainment.

Anyways you can still expect to enjoy a breathtaking fun time with a mini budget. We spent 100€ each to India (museum fees etc.) and another 50€ for Craig to reach Malaysia.

It’s however not our financial situation that inspired this trip. It was our lust for adventure and serendipities: Meet people, see places and go beyond frontiers. As we make friends along the Silk Road we advance cultural understanding and global peace.

We’d like to express our appreciation for all the people who helped us: The gay Dutch, the Thai policeman, Germanwings for the VDB, Hennessy Hammocks for the awesome hammocks, the CouchSurfers, our Mama and Papa, our friends Felix, Dany & Robert, Craig’s Malaysian family and anybody who made this trip possible.

Some people ask: “What comes next?” … Well, perhaps ‘Urban Tourism in the Bronx‘, ‘Parachuting over North Korea‘ or ‘Riding through Mongolia with only a donkey and a fridge‘.

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Emma Sietrey – A Finnish Prodigy

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29th November  – 7:00 PM  –  Posada de Huertas – 21 Calle Huertas, Madrid 

It was a pretty cold evening in Madrid. I was thinking of a problem I had encountered while listening to a talk that day. It concerned Narayana Numbers. I was resting in the hostel lobby area where I spotted one of the room mates from the same dorm as mine. He was Scottish, hailed from Edinburgh, currently worked in London at a firm which had outsourced its IT Support to an Indian Company and that too in Bangalore. This was a perfect setting for a discussion on a quintessential Indian stereotype of providing support over calls as if every Indian does the same job. We went to the hostel kitchen area and started talking over a plate of Paella. That night was Paella Night in the hostel. It’s like every other night there used to be something from Sangria Night, Beer Pong, Pub Crawl(This was a daily affair) but yeah, You meet a lot of people searching others like you to hang out. I had made a friend out of another room mate from the same dorm. He was Patrick from Ivory Coast, also an Erasmus Student in Granada, Spain but originally hailed from Chicago, USA. As far as I can tell, We went along quite well but this evening I am talking about has not yet kicked off in its full momentum. So, as we were talking about, you know, Stuff but I could see a girl, very different from the crowd of girls I had seen in the past appear and disappear in the kitchen. It was as if some part of me was yearning to catch a glimpse of her persona. She took a seat and started to play with her cell phone, which for me is a big downer. The Moment we started talking about football was when I caught the first “star” in her eye. She was not herself. I have this very inevitable interest in reading, observing, analyzing, and creating my own compedium of experiences I had with people and that remains the benchmark for how I not very consciously “grade” people.

The fact that I did not dismiss this encounter like many others I had in past 3 months is shouting at its highest pitch that something is and was wrong with that girl. By the way, she introduced to us as Emma, from Finland, 17 years old, works as Au Pair (a young person, usually a young woman, from a foreign country who lives with a family and helps to care for children and do housework in return for the opportunity to learn the family’s language) in London with an Indian Family, is a National Level Competitor in Contemporary Dance (Many other qualities are about to follow). Her countenance and her description of herself and her life went along very well, both were childish manifestations of an incomplete teenage dream of achieving what nobody else could achieve. Her looks were kind of sober, I liked it personally. My fellow Ivorian was kinda shaky. So, cutting short of conversation we had in hostel kitchen which ranged from FC Barcelona (she supported it from childhood, She hates Sergio Busquets for his pretentious falls as quoted by her, Surprisingly she also doesn’t like Iniesta, On asking why – She beats around the bush) to Finnish Culture and its comparison to others in Sweden. Her highlight was her’s description of her life.

11:30 PM

We decided to follow the hostel people for Pub Crawl. Now this seldom appears to me as the right option but better than being all alone at the hostel by yourself. Me, Emma and Patrick followed others to another Hostel where people from another hostels were gonna “congregate”, have sangria, vodka, cocktails, shots (CHUPITOS) and then head towards one of the clubs in the locality at 12 midnight. I was sapped of all my energy to bear this shit and I decided to leave for the room. Emma and Patrick followed. All of a sudden, I spotted a Frozen Yogurt shop at the corner of our street and We all agreed to have a bite of one of the most delicious yogurt I have had ever. If you want to see it, close your eyes.

llao

Yeah, coming back to Emma. She was by now very appealing to me as a person. At the hostel we met for Pub Crawl “congregation” a few minutes ago, there were a couple of Irish Gentlemen flirting with her – “Can I offer you a drink?”, to which she blasted -” Oh Wonderful Tactic, but I have used you all a hell lot to regret refusing your offer !”. She was sparkling in her conversation about how she left home when she was 16 to earn living. It didn’t occur to me as something normal as we are from land of values, attachment, a well bred system which produces earning adults, but here I am sitting with a gorgeous 17 year old earning her livelihood spending her holidays in Spain. Incredible !!

I let go of my surprise when she started talking about her finances and how she doesn’t even take a penny from her family. At my inquisitive outlook, she had this -“Why would I take money from my parents ?”. Remember Remember this is 29th of November and this girl Emma is just 17 years old. Her Dream is to be a great Ballet Dancer. Pretty amazing, isn’t it ?

For the very first time in my life, I liked a girl not out of irrational infatuation but out of respect for her. This is a special moment for anyone belonging to the Homo Sapiens family. I actually in my mind enlisted all the girls I had liked, and she was a different “genre”. But, yeah something was fishy as hell, something was wrong in the air she had around her, I somehow did not want it to go down this road – but she was faking it. This brief encounter filled me with unfounded expectations of how my partner would be like but it was all torn apart once I started to get the true picture.

Patrick was all with me on this point. She talked at length about how she got into the Dance Academy in London. She claimed to be a national level competitor in Contemporary Dance form. She, sometime later claimed to have done a Geography project on India a few years ago and by this what she concluded was – “Everyone in India is an Engineer”. She claimed to have a good taste of music and dance but she never visited a pub in her life in Finland. She didn’t even sync with an Irish Pub we went into later that night. She never had a hard drink before, which she claimed to have because what she ordered was Cuba Libre without Rum (Take a moment – This deserves a Facepalm). She had to say something about hookers too. According to her, Hookers bring shame to the women community as a whole and they should be kept far away from normal day to day crowd to avoid embarrassment (I’m quoting her). She also writes scripts and I managed to convince her to write one with me then. She told me – “Caveat : There are people who pop up here and there in your life once you are successful to get a bite of your hard earned success and status but If you are one of them, I’m so sorry but you will be disappointed to see how I reply.” She had conviction in what she said. I remember her words like brain remembers a wonderful smell.

But what she was really within, She was trying to hide it. She in her attempt to sound ambitious, confident and vibrant was concealing a hell lot than what met my eye. There were several moments when I had her -“What are you looking at?”. This sounds insane to me but I have created a mosaic of all the bits and pieces of time I had between her talking and someone else talking to create a vivid picture. She as a person had qualities of normal human beings but an extraordinary art of convincing and concealing the self.

Why is Emma important to me ?

She is not. But what she embodied was a wavering flame in a surrounding of still air. You go on frantically searching for her and then you are disappointed, because there is no one like her. It is all “fake”. This encounter left me thinking that whatever she aroused in me in a few hours of meeting was an unexplored territory for my neurons. Most probably, I know her name is not Emma Sietrey which she advertised, because I couldn’t locate her anywhere on any of the Finnish networks or elsewhere too.

“A thing of beauty is a not a Joy forever but a very transitory period”.