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Black and White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

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The black temple and white temple in Chiang Rai is the most striking temples we’ve experienced in Thailand. What makes them different from most temples is that they are created by two artists and feels more like a piece of art then a place of worship. White temple is a place for religious beliefs while the black temple feels less geared towards a certain faith. The temples and artists are very different from each other but one of the things that is prominent in both is the theme of life and death. Well atleast of death in the more physical sense.

Bangkok – A city of diversity

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Random photos of our last two visits to Bangkok, Thailand…

Sunset in Langkawi

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Sunset at Pentai Tengah and Pentai Cenang, Langkawi, Malaysia. No more, no less…

Teatime in Cameroon Highlands, Malaysia

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The bus was creeping up the mountains trough dense lush rainforest and high green covered mountains. Hairpin curves near deep ravines that would have us grabbing our seat if it wasn’t for the mesmerizing view.

Villagers are building houses out of palm leafs on the side of the streets and stalls selling fresh fruit and juice are setup in front of almost every hut. The highlands feels very rural with tiny settlements scattered all over this big mountain area, roughly the size of Singapore. The exception is the small towns that houses food markets, convenient stores, hostels and hotels, everything you need to get by with your day, no more, no less.

After 5 hours we arrive in the sleepy town of Tanah Rata. Strolling trough town towards our hotel we are met by the scent of pine trees mixed with the scent of moist rainforest and freshly cooked Malay, Chinese and Indian food from the many hawker stalls. The air is fresh and cool and it feels great to be able to breathe again after weeks of heavy pollution in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The sun is setting over the mountains and we fall asleep almost instantly after arriving at the hotel after a long day on the bus.

The next morning we are picked up by a minibus that is taking us to the Boh tea plantation and other various excursions like a strawberry farm and a buddhist temple. We where later joined by a retired couple from Canada who sold there house to go backpacking around the world. I love to see wanderlust in all forms and ages. Hope that i’m keeping up the traveling at that age.

The chinese driver was handling the hairpins like a pro but i must say that the honking before every turn was a reminder that fellow drivers might not be as cautious. One of the Canadians asked the bus driver what the green bushes by the side of the road was. His response was ”tea plants”, we were getting closer to our destination. Boh, tea plantation.

After the next bend we were met by an amazing  view of rolling green hills of miles and miles of luscious tea plants. From a distance the thick vegetation looks almost like thick green moss.

Although I’ve been enjoying a cup of tea every morning for years now this was my first encounter with an actual tea plant. Arriving at the plantation we went inside the factory to see the full process from plant to finished tea. It was interesting but the real draw-point was the mountainside of endless tea plants.

The factory itself looked like a modern farm and the scent of processed tea was close to that of wet hay, making you think more of a cattle farm then a tea plantation. I guess it was one of those ”you think you know but you have no idea” moments.

All in all it was a great experience which will probably enrich my experience of my daily cup of tea.

Sun Sand Surf, Singapore?

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Feel the imported sand between your toes while you lounge under a newly planted palmtree while watching the sun go down between the freighters. Welcome to sentosa island, Singapore.

Palmtree Sentosa

You can get to Sentosa with monorail but we chose the far more scenic alternative, cable-car. Offering an excellent opportunity to cure Lina’s fear of heights. The view of Singapore harbour and Sentosa was stunning but i think we gotta keep working on curing the heights issue, maybe bungee jumping.

Sentosa Cable car

Sentosa is the place locals go on weekends to kick back by the beach. It’s a conceptual beach resort with zip-lining, rainforest, beaches, surfing and various theme parks. Think, Disneyland but without the plastic, cartoons and magic castle. Sentosa is for the most part man-made but offer a more genuine experience then your average themepark. The wave may be constructed, the sand imported and the palm trees planted, but all in all it feels like your typical beach resort.

Sentosa Rainforest

Sentosa is a strange place. The schizophrenic scenery leave you with very little comprehension of what’s real and what’s made up. Feeling like Alice in wonderland in beach setting and with loud tourists instead of mad hatters.

Can you tell if the waterfall is real?

Sentosa Waterfall

The beaches are beautiful yet bizarre. Perfect white sand, tall palmtrees and the view of endless freighters (!) The azure blue water looks tempting but the pollution is probably massive considering that Sentosa is located near one of the world busiest harbours. But enjoying the view from a deck chair on the beach is truly a one of a kind experience.

Sentosa Sunset

Next to the beaches are surfers hitting the man-made waves and some great bars to whip up a Piña Colada. If I knew how to surf i would definietly have given it a try, but i’ll save that for next time.

Sentosa Surfer

We spent quite a large part of our visit there just walking around in the rainforest. The wildlife isn’t that impressive if you compare it to bigger, more genuine rainforests, but in comparison to sweden it’s quite exotic, plus, if you’re not into hiking it’s a great introduction to the greener parts of Asia. If you’re lucky (or unlucky) you can encounter monkeys, lizards and the occasional cobra.

Sentosa Rainforest

The island feels very fabricated, but putting that aside you can have a lot of fun. Perfect for a getaway from the stressful city, providing a bit of relaxation and adventure. If you can deal with the tourists and the Disneyland feeling, by any means, indulge!

Sentosa Cargo Ships

Manila Street Photography

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All that glitters is Dubai

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Deserts? Indoor skiing-slopes? Worlds tallest building? Man made islands shaped like palm trees? Gold markets? If it’s possible to construct it, it’s in Dubai. The constant drive to be the best at everything they do, and often achieving that goal as well, brings your thoughts to Las Vegas, but the similarities ends there. Dubai is a mishmash of skyscrapers, gold markets, ancient Mosques and deserts.

A visit to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is a must. It’s an impressive glass building measuring a staggering 828m (2717 ft.) and is truly a symbol for Dubai’s aim for the top. The nearby Mall of Dubai housing a huge gold market, some 1 200 shops, theme parks, ice rinks etc. is a great way to ”escape” the heat for a few hours.

The seemingly unending cash flow and progressive investments has turned Dubai into an ultramodern city where progress is everything, steadily keeping both feet in traditional Islam beliefs but keeping a constant eye on life in the west. This is a city where almost anything can be bought if you have enough money but holding hands (man-woman), showing affection in public or showing to much skin is a big no-no.

One might expect to find the streets filled with emirati men in long white ankle-length shirts (Kandura) and emirati women in covered in black over-garment (Abaya). In reality this is hardly the case, indeed this is the preferred dress code, but most people you encounter in Dubai is the myriad of (mainly) Indian and Pakistani foreign workers.

Our stay in Dubai was limited to less then four days so we had to be effective. Arriving late in Dubai we walked around for countless hours trying to get a feel of what Dubai nightlife had to offer. Surprisingly the streets felt empty and one thing that caught our attention was the lack of women out at night. During our first 8 hours not a single one of the numerous people we encountered was female. Since roughly 30% of the population in Dubai is female we expected to see mainly men but it still felt different from back home in northern Sweden.

After countless of hours sightseeing by foot it became evident that Dubai is not made for pedestrians. The metro is one of best metro systems I’ve ever experienced but lack of connections and the rest of the city being made to cater cars and cars only makes commuting difficult. Soar feet is to be expected for people aiming for greener and cheaper ways of travel.

Trying to get to Burj al Arab, which is consider to be one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, took us almost 3 hours when relying only on walking and metro. We got to experience a beautiful sunset by the beach when we finally got there so I guess it was worth it.

If you love food then your gonna love Dubai. Almost every cuisine in the world is represented here. Ranging from simple food stalls to Michelin star restaurants you’ll hardly starve. As a vegan there’s countless of alternatives, I would highly recommend the Indian and Lebanese. Even places like McDonalds had some extensive vegan food options, though I advice you to try the local food before heading for the fast food restaurants.

During our visit we stayed in a district called Bur Dubai, one of the older parts of the city and the residence for the many expats working round the clock to keep the dream alive. After just a few hours into our visit it becomes clear how dependent Dubai is on their foreign workforce.

For Emiratis and multi corporations Dubai is the land of opportunities. Sadly, as in most cases, the future for the majority of the city’s guest workers is less bright.  With monthly salaries ranging from 100-200 USD it’s hardly the millions advertised. Working conditions has been described by Human Rights Watch as ”less then human” and it’s hard to ignore the evident gaps in social status when visiting Dubai.

Dubai is an amazing city and a bit of glitter and gold is always nice, but I can’t help but having a slightly bad feeling about where they’re heading. Waiting to board our flight to Manila, our next destination, I just can’t help but questioning, do this kind of progress always have to be on the expense of others?

***Update*** Serious wi-fi issues in Manila. Pictures coming:)

The start of a new journey

Taking off

The sun is shedding it’s first rays reflecting like a kaleidoscope on the glass buildings that seems to go on forever into the sky. Loud chants from the nearby minarets is echoing trough a maze of futuristic buildings, picture perfect gardens and traditional mosques. It’s 6 am in Dubai, and I’ve never felt longer from home.

How I got here started about 5 years ago on a trip around the U.S. We we’re soaring at 10 000 ft. over Los Angeles, heading for New York when it bit me. The travel-bug had sunken it’s fangs. I knew that I had to make time for some extensive traveling and see what the world had to offer. As always, life got in the way. For the next couple of years I did 2-3 weeks of travel a year, meaning some 49 weeks where spent working. Doesn’t sound like the long time travel dreams I was looking for, does it?

In early summer of 2010, on a similar trip, going from Stockholm to New York on a one week vacation to visit my girlfriend Lina, who was studying there at the time, it hit me. If we don’t travel now, it will never happen. We just had to figure out how to transform our thoughts into action.

The rough plan was to spend at least 3 months abroad starting around New Years 2010/2011.

Having a full-time job, which I was enjoying, and Lina being occupied with her second year of social studies at the university with 1,5 years left to graduation, we knew it wouldn’t be easy.

On top of this, some hard earned cash had to be saved up for a trip like this. Blessed with a partner living on a student budget, I was off to a good start. Though it didn’t take me long to realize that this couldn’t be achieved by just crunching numbers and skipping the occasional dining out, or splurging on the next hot gadget. The change had to run deeper then just saving up on little things, my whole perspective on consumerism had to be changed. The constant race to buy myself happier had to stop, or at least be severely slowed down. Suffering from a bad case of Apple- fandom and being an overall tech-junky, it would become quite a challenge.

Having gone vegan, cold turkey, 8 month earlier, I knew that dramatic changes isn’t that hard if you just go for it. Trying to apply the same mindset I used when I turned in a bloody steak for a plate of vegetables, I knew I had to focus on the essential.

What is it that makes me get out of bed in the morning? Is it the material objects I’ve been hoarding over the years, or is it the people I’ve met? The things I’ve done? The experiences I’ve had?

The answer was simple. I had to focus on Doing things rather then Buying things. Seems pretty obvious, but in our modern society stepping outside the box, trying to find a more aware, minimalistic approach to living was for me a major game-changer.

With the support of a great boss and co-workers I was granted 5 months off work and Lina put her studies on a 6 month hiatus. We got the ball rolling…

One thing led to another and in the beginning of february we took off for Dubai to begin our round the world trip.

To end this lengthy post (sorry for the jabbering) I think a proper introduction is in order. My name is Olov and I’m from a small town in northern Sweden. My expectations is to keep this blog updated as often as possible on my quest to live more, travel more, learn more.

Sitting on the porch of our hotel in Manila right now and slowly adjusting to life abroad.

Hope to bring you along for the ride!

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Thu Sep 21 09:02:04 2017
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