I'm leaving Sweden farewell, 1999-09-12
Many of You know but especially non-Swedish people don't know that I'm heading of from Sweden to travel through the Middle East, South and South East Asia to Australia. I'm leaving this Monday the 16:th of September and I will be gone traveling for about half a year and then I'll continue my studies in Computer Science in Australia for a year. So I'll be gone from Sweden for about a year and a half. The best way to get in contact with me is probably by e-mail, but I don't know yet how often I can access a computer on this first journey. I have made an own mail program to send travel reports which also will place these reports on my home page. So please take a look at my home page http://www.sarnstrand.com where I describe with a few words how and where I'm traveling. I always apreciate e-mail or letters. Please if You don't want to be included in this mailing list just let me know. If my program is working as it should, noone should be able to view your address or name anyway. These mails will be mailed to all persons in the end of this mail. If you know someone who should be added let me know. Take care all my friends, I'll do my best :-)
Many hugs, love Emil!!! I will miss You all and don't forget that you all are invited to my welcome back party in a year and a half.
For the Swedish
who joined my farewell party:
Jag tackar så hemskt mycket för att ni alla kom. Det blev en tapper skara på 43 personer. Jag hoppas verkligen att ni hade minst en bråkdel så kul som jag hade det. Jag verkligen njöt i goda vänners lag och jag kommer sakna er alla, var så säkra. Och tack för alla kära bidrag till min dagbok. Min lilla limerik som jag plitade ihop dagen innan:
Det var en kille ifran Lund
som skulle ut och resa en stund.
Han var glad i sitt sinne,
med många vänner i minne
som han tänkte på var sekund.
blev besvarad med följande limerik:
Det var en yngling från studentstaden Lund.
Han rastlös, i Sverige inte stanna en stund.
Han for till en strand
bort vid varldens rand
käka känguru tills magen blev rund.
Istanbul (Turkey), 1999-09-15
Istanbul, Istanbul what a great city. Istanbul has just everything and is a very huge city. I would say about 10-15 million. And the people are just the most friendly I ever met. Even if half of them is selling carpets and other stuff and do that very eagerly, they are just very welcoming and nice. They always offer tea and sometimes even food and beer to get You in to their shops. Istanbul also got a whole lot of culture like mosques and palaces, but also the everyday life like markets and sellers on the streets and squares is very interesting to see.
Yesterday I met up with some people where I'm staying and we went out to eat and drink. Too bad about the earthquakes, which has frightened away a lot of foreigners from Istanbul so now it's mainly people here doing overland traveling. But we had a great time drinking Danish beer and smoking water pipe.
The traffic here is just abnormal. They are driving everywhere very fast honking and they have no sense of following any kind of rules except for traffic lights occasionally. As a pedestrian you better watch out if you consider a life after crossing a street. The people I met, where I'm living are drivers for Overland travel companies and they cheered me up telling it'll be much worse in the Middle East and in Egypt.
Today I will probably only walk around in the center of Istanbul again like yesterday. Strolling in the nice weather do some sightseeing avoiding the sellers (but actually return to one of them, which I made friends with) and maybe go for a nice relaxing Turkish bath with massage.
Still in Istanbul, 1999-09-18
Now it's Saturday, which will be our last day in Istanbul. I've met up with most of the people with whom I will be traveling. There are a whole lot of Aussies and Kiwis, one British, one Canadian and two Americans except for the British driver and me. So I'm the only non-native English speaker but that'll be okay even if the Aussies and Kiwis can be hard to understand. We are 18 all together, some older and some couples but it seems to be a pretty nice and friendly group of people.
Since I wrote last time I mostly have been walking around in this wonderful city. Here's a whole lot to see like mosques, palaces, bazaars etc. I went to one palace which was built in the 1820 in European style and that was the most stunning building I ever seen. I also went to a Turkish bath, which was great. First you just relaxed on a heated marble plateau and then the person who did the massage came. It was no small Japanese woman, on the contrary it was a big hairy Turkish man who first rubbed of all old skin with a hard rug and then he soaped and did the pretty hard massage. It was very good but I got kind of suspicious when he in the end whispered "special service basement, Ahmed". While I didn't understand he gave up after a while "finished upstairs change". Probably good I didn't understand him, no conclusions made...
One of the members in the group stayed at a hostel in town by himself and got mugged. He met some foreigners who drugged him with a biscuit or something so he lost his conscious and got robbed. Too bad for him, but you have to be careful when you go traveling and meet people for the first time.
Today I did some shopping. I bought a tripod, a leaded bag for my film and some film. You're supposed to bargain here which I really hate and am very bad at. The prices are very good here though so it didn't matter that much. Tomorrow we're heading of from Istanbul to the western part of Turkey. It'll be nice to get to the ocean.
Sulcuk (Turkey), 1999-09-22
So now we moved out from Istanbul and followed the western coastline of Turkey. The weather has been just great and so has the scenery. The people are wonderful and we have already formed kind of a family. We spend our nights mainly in our tents and spend the days sightseeing and riding back on the truck, which will be our home for a long time from now. We have teamed up and are taking turns cooking for the whole group. It's a challenge to cook for so many but we have had some wonderful meals so far.
After Istanbul we went to Gallipoli, which maybe wasn't the greatest place for me. There was a battle in the beginning of the WW I which I didn't know too much about but a lot of Australians and Kiwis died there so it means a lot to them in their short history. We spent a whole day there going to different battle places and graveyards. In the evening we had a big party which I enjoyed a lot better even though I didn't feel that great. I have a bad stomach now, which isn't getting real well but I don't suffer too much.
We then left Europe by taking a ferry over to the Asian part of Turkey and continued to Troia where we saw a bad replica of the Trojan Horse. Last night we spent here at a wonderful camp in Sulcuk which is a really small town but it's very close too Efesus which makes the town very touristy. Efesus was a stunning place, an old Greek city that was very big and luxurious at the time. After 130 years of archeological digging only one third of the city has been dug. There were some stunning buildings like an enormous theater and a splendid library.
Kas (Turkey), 1999-09-30
Since I wrote last time my tummy got well again after some pills of antibiotics. The last couple of days have just been marvelous. We left Selcuk and went to south to Pamuakale, which is a mountain where water with minerals is flowing down. These minerals make beautiful formations and pools. Hard to describe, but for You guys who has been to Yellow Stone in America, probably knows what I'm talking about. We then moved on to Fethiye a small nice town by the see and later the same day we moved on to Oludeniz. That was a very touristy place but the beach where we spent two days was great and the water was very clear and warm. Even if no one can see I got some color... We then had a wonderful time for two days and one night on a cruise. We just went to different bays and islands where we swam and relaxed with some beer, wine and a good book, got excellent food cooked for us and sun bathed. It was nice not to have to make dinner and do dishes for once. The weather has been just excellent.
Yesterday we stayed in a small town where there was a wonderful gorge, which we could walk up through for 5 km in the water. It was very pretty and we got some exercise walking in the water and climbing over rocks and cliffs. The water became chest deep at some spots so after a while you didn't really care how wet you got, had to be careful about the camera though. We then did some water rafting.
Today we came to Kash, which just is another small fishing town where we have been eating and swum in the see. I am really having a great time down here so I hope You all do Your best to have one too. Thanks for all Your mails and so far I have been able to respond to all of them due to the frequency of computers down here which I didn't really expect.
Southern Turkey, 1999-10-06
The day after Kas which was a great day of party, we continued on to Olympos where there were some ruins from the old city. We also hiked up to the Chimera Mountain nearby where flames came straight out from the mountain. We brought some chocolate filled bananas (a liked Swedish dish introduction), which we grilled, in the fires.
The next day we went to Termessos. This old city was able to hold back Alexander the Great's war campaigns at the time. There were some nice ruins and a theater beautiful situated on the mountain. There was also a place with enormous tombs, made out of extraordinary huge rocks or carved out of the mountain itself.
The next day we went to Espendos. This city has Turkey's most well preserved theater where they still have live concert and plays. The last couple of days we mostly have been driving and been rough camping which means no shower no toilets no nothing. But it has been very good anyway and we have had excellent food as usual. Everybody seems to be real good chefs.
Tomorrow we leave Turkey and enter Syria where I doubt I can find any computers so I'll be gone for a while. Take care people and keep writing.
Tripoli (Lebanon), 1999-10-12
I have left Turkey behind me for now but we'll be traveling up there in a month time again. Turkey was a more western country than the very different Syria even if you could see a lot of similarities. Syria is not a very rich country and the culture is conservative so the women have to wear a veil and you have to cover up arms and legs.
We started off in the wonderful city of Aleppo, with a peculiar market. Changed traveler's checks at the black market because it is so much better than the banks. It's both faster and the exchange rate is better. We had a Syrian bath, very similar to the Turkish one. It was a small bath hidden in an alley some steps down a bit suspicious for a start but very authentic.
The next day we started a two-day desert crossing. We drove in the middle of nowhere with help of a compass. I really like the desert and we had a great time. Some times we ran into Bedouins at their tents or shepherding their sheep. Most of them couldn't talk any English but they were all very friendly, welcoming and some even gave us some tea. We arrived to Palmyra after the dessert crossing. That was a city with ruins from 200 300 AD. A lot of impressive intact crumbles. We camped just outside Palmyra in the desert. I was up for cooking that night and we was caught by a sandstorm. People had to collect rocks to hold down the cooking tent but the dust entered everywhere anyway. The food as everything else was covered in dust. People loved the dinner anyway and we had an excellent time hiding from the storm with some red-wine and Pringles telling stories and lies…
We continued to Homes where we had some time to spend on our own. It's nice to get away from everybody and spend more time with a few you more care for. After a great rain fall we left Syria for now and entered after the normal border hassles into Lebanon which in the beginning looked like a very military and poor country but the people are just gorgeous and very friendly. We were as usual of a great of interest to the locals. I guess there aren't too many foreigners coming through this part of Lebanon. We now are staying in Tripoli on the coast in northern Lebanon. We will today have a break from all the camping at a hotel. It'll be so nice to have a nice, clean bed with sheets. We are also going out for dinner tonight, which will be kind of relaxing.
Petra (Jordan), 1999-10-20
We have now seen the wonderful city of Petra. It's a marvelous city with a lot of tombs, temples and houses carved into the mountainside itself. If You've seen The Last Crusade with Indiana Jones this is the place where they made the movie. We have stayed here in a hotel for two nights. You appreciate a warm bed and a hot shower after some tough weeks of camping.
After my last mail from Tripoli, Lebanon we continued to Beirut. It was a nice city even if some parts were a bit shabby with some bombed out houses. Beirut wasn't as big and western which I thought it would be. Big parts of the country have been covered with cedar trees but today the mountainous Lebanon is pretty barren. We went to the Cedars, a small forest, famous for some of the last trees in the country. The last city we visited in Lebanon was Bal-beck, which also where one of the first cities of the world, destroyed by an earthquake and excavated by the Germans like so many other cities. At this stage of the trip we were kind of crumbled out.
We then entered Syria again with the normal border hassles and went straight to Damaskus. A wonderful city with many beautiful mosques and a great market where I shopped around with the sellers and bargained without really buying anything. I've now learned to enjoy the bargaining and have discovered that you get the absolutely best price if you don't want to buy the product. I also experienced and survived a blade-throat shave. Then we went to Jurash also filled with crumbles before we went to the great city of Petra in Jordan. It has been a very hectic week and we have seen quite a bit. We have now just two days left in Jordan before we enter Egypt and leaving the truck behind for about two weeks. In Egypt we'll sleep in hotels and use local transportation for a nice change. Today we'll have a big piss up for leaving the truck with a BQ.
Luxor (Egypt), 1999-10-28
After Petra we all went to Aqaba where we left the truck behind us after a thorough clean. Most of the people saw the truck for the last time but for me it'll just be a break for 11 days. After leaving Aqaba, Jordan we came to Nuweiba in Egypt by boot. After a long bus ride we then came to the huge city of Cairo.
In Cairo we stayed at a nice hotel for two days with a nice view over the Nile and the chaotic traffic down on the streets. It'll be nice to stay in hotels now for a while before I go back to the truck with all the camping. Here we met up with 14 new people who are joining our group. They will also continue on with a few people from the first group including me for the rest of the trip. So we'll be about 34 of us traveling together here in Egypt so it'll be quite a big group. It seems to be very nice people so far and we got some more Kiwis and Aussies. I better get used to them I guess, they are actually top value. A Norwegian guy also came along so now I have someone to talk almost in my own language to and the others won't understand. In Cairo I had a great time. The city is very chaotic, the people are very nice and the traffic crazy. There was a lot more to see than the Pyramids and the sphinx in Giza but sure they were astonishing.
We then continued on with train to southern Egypt to Aswan where we had a very relaxed time. From here we took an Egyptian boat called feluca north along the Nile for a day. It was a relaxing day and night with a nice view. We came to Comombo after 24 hours of traveling on the boat and there we changed transportation to bus and continued north to Edfu to see a temple with some great hieroglyphics. We then continued, with the bus in the convoy which should protects us from local terrorists which I don't think and hope have been to active lately, to Luxor where we now are staying at a great luxury hotel. Tomorrow we'll be heading for the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.
Sven moving north again, 1999-11-04
Sven is the name I got on the first part of this trip and was faster adopted by the new people than Emil so that's the name I'm going under for now. Funny to hear the comment: Who's Email, aah you mean Sven.
I haven't got any complaints so far but I kind of feel that I've been hassling you all with a bit too many, not too much saying wanker mails. Been there, went here, did it, done it tick tick tick. Please tell me if I do so and also tell me to get of the mailing list.
On the first part of the trip from Istanbul we adopted two mood boosters. One called the Havoc and one Bob & Beryl. The Havoc is a dance you do whenever something gets fucked up to cheer you up and put you in a better mood. Bob is a pot-plant we have brought the whole way from Turkey which you can talk to and cuddle with whenever you feel down or lonely. The Havoc kind of died when the founder of it, our own cheerful funny sarcastic mood booster Kiwi Richard, left the trip. Bob is slowly but steady dying from the demanding trip with a lack of care, water and dirt in his pot. We hoped to keep Bob the whole way to Nepal but I have serious doubt he'll make it all the way so we might be better of planting it somewhere. He made it to the Dead Sea, the Pyramids etc.
We now have left Egypt behind as well as the relaxed time with the Pyramids, the fantastic tombs with astonishing hieroglyphics in the Valley of the Kings and the hotel stays. But we kind of spent too much time there and it felt a bit too touristy running around all 34 of us. The real second part of this overland trip has now started to my pleasure. When we left Egypt we also left most people from the first part of the trip. I miss them all and especially some very good friends I made, including a special girl. But there is a nice bunch of mostly Kiwis who joined the new trip who I really like. So I'm sure we'll have a great trip with some funny and odd personalities, like Tony with all his sarcastic jokes who's hoping for an opportunity to blow up a cow in Pakistan with a bazooka later on.
That's all for now folks. Take care and I wouldn't mind people filling me in on news like the development in Pakistan etc. It's kind of hard to get any news in this part of the world.
Cappadocia (Turkey), 1999-11-13
I have had a very relaxed time on the way north in the Middle East while I had seen many of the sights before. We did spend a couple of days though in Damaskus and Aleppo with their fabulous markets. You really can find everything at the market and after hard bargaining at a very decent price. I figure I had to buy some things from these countries since I haven't done it so far. I bought some multi purpose "Palestinian" scarves to protect me from the sun during the day, sandstorms and the cold during the nights. I also got a hopefully not too tacky tablecloth and some perfume made to order for mom. Please don't tell her it's a surprise. Too bad she also read these mails, sorry Brigitte. At the time we did hit Turkey I stopped backtracking and the trip from now on will all be filled with new interesting places and adventures. As we left the Middle East we also left the summer behind us with warm nice days and entered Turkey's mountainous area's early winter with temperatures well under 0 C at night. So we completely missed out on fall.
We are now in Cappadocia which is an area filled with beautiful mountain and rock formations. The mountains in the whole area are filled with caves where people used to live and quite a few still do. Yesterday we went to an underground city, where 5000 people had been living. It was enormous with underground churches, baths, bedrooms, schools and tunnels connecting different underground cities. In the evening we went to a restaurant with belly dancing which wasn't that impressive. The woman absolutely didn't have a body in my taste but I guess they have to have something to shake around. The whole show with traditional dances was pretty touristy. After we went dancing at a disco, which I liked. I haven't been able to go dancing for about 10 weeks now and won't be able to do so for another few weeks due to cultural reasons in the regions we've been to and are heading for. Today we went to a nice carpet show. The carpets were a bit too expensive for my budget though.
At 11/11 11:11:11 (the ending of the WW II and now also the international Bob day) we had a very brief ceremonial planting of our pot plant and mascot Bob. This was also the day our last drive, a good English mate, left us for new adventures. Bob never became a part of the new group so leaving him behind will symbolize the final ending of the first great part of the trip with our driver John and the beginning of a travel hopefully filled with new experiences, nice places and good laughs. Last week we went to Mt Nebu where Moses was brought by God to look over the Promised Land. Bob has now returned to his Promised Land and home country Turkey with a nice view over the countryside beside a major high way, which take travelers all over the world. So now we have a new driver named Philbert. He is a former SAS so I expected a rough tough quiet disciplinary guy but on the contrary he's a jumpy big nosed very talkative English bloke filled with energy and British humor.
Isfahan, Iran, 1999-11-22
After leaving Cappadocia we had three days of long driving ahead of us. Almost the first thing our nearly 30-year-old pretty slow, but with character, truck did was to break down. This delayed us a couple of hours and made us drive from dawn till dusk. The weather was still very cold especially after sunset but we had beer and drinks around a nice fire to keep us warm before going to bed. At last we ended up in Dogubeyazit a small pretty charming town with mostly dirt roads not too far from the Iranian border where we had a very needed Turkish bath with a massage. Spent two nights here to relax a bit. The town was pretty old fashioned and undeveloped but there was one good Internet cafe at least. The day we spent in town we had about 9 power cuts, which is very annoying whenever you try to type some mails.
It was then the time for the border crossing. First we had to queue up and push back the locals who tried to cut the line for an hour or so, just to get an exit stamp in our passports and get registered in the Turkish computer system, which of course had to break down just when we came... All other borders so far have had a couple of kilometers no-man's land which you had to drive through but here we only passed through a thick metal door which was locked behind us. We were now stuck in this chaotic no-man's room with about 200 pilgrimage Muslims before all the paper work was done and we could enter Iran through a small passage in the other end of the room. The room wasn't very big, the air was hot moist and smoky and it was kind of claustrophobic and it felt like we were packed in a gas chamber. Didn't feel to well in there with my hangover from the day before cause we had to finish the bar of the truck since it's not allowed to bring alcohol into Iran (we did a pretty good job to finish the bar but didn't really manage since all the people didn't drink their fair share…). Well in Iran we had had another three days of driving before we would arrive in our promised paradise Isfahan. A few of us including me decided to fly ahead to save us from long days of driving, cold nights and get some more time in Isfahan. We flew from Debriz to Teheran. It flew for over an hour but it was still only $13 and it was a pleasant flight with some dinner and English newspaper. While all the flights from Teheran to Isfahan were full that day we hooked up with a Lebanese guy (they are almost using the same language; Arabic and Persian/Farsi). We split a cab to the bus station and after a quick feed we took a 7-hour bus ride to Isfahan. It was all very convinient and did only cost us $2 including some food, drinks and some bad movies.
So now I'm in the Islamic Republic of Iran. An extremely nice country with beautiful countryside, green cities where I went so far and with the friendliest people I ever met. The first day we spent here in Isfahan, some friends and I was met an Iranian guy who took us around the center of the town and came with us for lunch. There we met his friend who spent the rest of the day guiding us through the bazaar and to some mosques. He as everybody else in these countries owned a carpet shop and finally there he didn't even mention the carpets. Later on after a cup of tea which we've drinking all day we went for another cup of tea in one of the many beautiful tea houses in one of the many bridges the city is privileged with, before we went for a beautiful dinner together. Iraj our Iranian friend spent a lot of his time and money on us that is hard for us westerners to understand I guess. We often expect something in return. It seemed he only did it for his own and ours pleasure which is a part of their humble and generous religious beliefs. The time in Isfahan has so far been great and we have another two days just to relax and enjoy the Iranian culture and the nice people. Today I actually met two scumbags who probably wanted to rob me after walking me lost but I managed to get out of the situation. I certainly won't let these bastards ruin my great view of Iran and the people. On the way back with taxi I experienced one of the worlds most dangerous traffics in the world. But my driver avoided all potential accidents swiftly. The traffic seems pretty smooth and calm in a very chaotic way. I know Iran is kind of an awkward tourist destination but it's definitely one of my top recommendation for traveling.
The carpet buying fever is contagious so I ended up buying two small ones from Esfahan, Iran. It was one Kilim and one Gabi, which I both got for a very good price. The Kilim is no problem to send with post but it's illegal to send a proper carpet or a Gabi so to export my carpet for $30 would cost me $140 with DHL so I have to figure out a better way.
After leaving the very nice city of Esfahan we had a couple of very long days of driving and rough camps. We then arrived in Bam, where the old historic part of the city was all made of mud and which was built for some thousands of years ago. This was our last stop in Iran which to my surprise was a very modern, western, clean country and had a great working infrastructure. We then headed for Pakistan. The border is closed everyday for lunch for two hours in the afternoon. We made it on time but the head officer had went for an early lunch so we had to wait to get our entry stamps and leave the secure and civilized country of Iran behind us.
Pakistan is the complete opposite to Iran and is much more like I figured Iran actually would be like. It's a wild and crazy place, at times pretty dangerous if you don't watch out, a huge black market, high poverty, very poor road system, dirty and a great lack of hygiene. But this doesn't mean I dislike the country. On the contrary it's my favourite country so far with very corrupt but nice and friendly people, primitive cities but with a great unique character and a place for great adventures and purchases. Pakistan isn't a very safe country so most of the time when we didn't stay at guarded campsites we slept within police/military compounds. This is mainly because Pakistan has many autonomous tribal areas where the government has no say beyond the major highways and 40 m on either side. Otherwise it's the tribe who sets their own rules which is great for smuggling drugs and weapons from Afghanistan and the black market.
The first main city we hit was Quetta, a huge small city of 3 million people. It was a charming town no houses higher than two stories, the streets followed by sewage canals and there were a lot of dirt roads. The massive load of traffic in the small streets consisted of an uncountable number of tuck-tucks (a moped driven three wheeled taxi for two passengers), busses and trucks all covered with all sorts of different colours decorations, light bulbs, flags and horns often over-packed with people. Have never seen a herd of sheep been walked through the downtown of a several million big city. Stayed here for two days relaxing, drinking beer for the first time in two weeks and did some shopping which was very cheap. While Pakistan like Iran is a Muslim country alcohol is prohibited but foreigners can buy a "non Muslim foreigner" permit which allows you to buy alcohol from some governmental shops. But more easily you can get it from the black market where you can find everything from money change to drugs to weapons.
Continued on to Derra which was a smuggler city filled with drugs and weapons. Some people took the opportunity to fire an AK-47 and a semi-automatic handgun. After 15 months in the military I didn't find it worth the money though. Kind of scary place where all people were armed up their teeth and fired all kind of weapons now and then ever so often. Only saw one corpse... The same day we came to Peshawar which was an interesting 2 million city where half of the population where Afghans. The city was built much more as a big city than Quetta but still it was very old filled with horses/donkeys and wagons, some dirt roads and old houses. The people were very curious about us, very friendly and generous. Some friends and I visited one school and a Pakistani family. It was very interesting to come for a visit in a Pakistani home with great food and friendly warm people.
Have now come to Lahore a very different city from the other cities described above. The road here was a six lane paved highway and not the single lane often gravel road we spent so many days on in the western part of the country. The city itself is huge and much more like a big city but not very western. The pollution level is extreme and there's a lot of smog so sometimes it's hard to breath. We went to the movies yesterday evening and that was a great laugh for one dollar. It was an American movie in English called Blood Moon. In the beginning the played the national anthem and people stood up. When we also stood up we got greeted with applause. After the slide show commercials and previews of coming films like Flubber, Star-ship Troopers etc there was an intermission when they sold candy and ice cream even if you could do that later during the whole movie. When they probably didn't understand the English most people talked very loudly and there was a guy collecting soft drink bottles with a torch during the film as well.
Finally I got rid of my cold which I got from the cold nights in Turkey but than I got the shits for the third time on this trip. It started with all the symptoms Giardia but after two days I got a lot better so I guess it wasn't that bad. Probably will get the shits in India next time... Have now got a goat beard since a couple of weeks but it might come off for X-mas.
Udaipur (India), 1999-12-21
We left the very different but interesting country of Pakistan and entered India with no major hassle. As we didn't pay the expected bribe to the Pakistani border people they searched us thoroughly and made the whole process very time consuming. India is a much more civilized country where more people respect the laws and I haven't really seen a sign of a major black market so far which had been so obvious in previous countries.
The first city in India we came to was Amaritsar where we saw the extraordinary Golden temple. I went really sick and have problems with my tummy again. I don't know if it was Giardia or not but this is the second time in a very short time so I had to take some antibiotics to get rid of the bug. More than half of the people on the truck did get sick with different things within a week but now most people have recovered. I believe it's the tiring travelling which makes the body more vulnerable at the same time as we are constantly exposed to new germs and bacteria in the filthy surrounding environment.
After Amaritsar we have went to Dehli, Bikamer, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Udaipur. All cities are filled with forts, temples, castles and a lot of cows everywhere. One of the different temples was a rat temple where the priests fed and bread the rats who was running all over the place. It was pretty disgusting getting the feet dirty from all the faeces on the ground and it was a special feeling having the rats running over them as well. People were living in the temple together with the rats in the kitchen as well as in the sleeping areas. The poverty and the lack of hygiene is pretty obvious here in India and You are always encountered with the dirt and waste everywhere, pigs eating the waste, dying animals, crippled people and beggars. At the same time the country is very colourful and people dress up in beautiful coloured clothing. We also did a camel safari for two days, which was a lot of fun but the bum, the back, and the stomach was very sore afterwards.
I wish You all a very nice Christmas. I will spend the Christmas Eve morning on a jeep safari looking for tigers and then we will celebrate with a very nice meal at a fancy palace. At least I'll get one present cause we are doing Christmas Cringle within the group. We also will meet up with two other overland trucks so I guess we'll have a good party. Merry Christmas!
Kathmandu (India), 2000-01-08
Hope You all had a very pleasant holiday and a great Millennium celebration without too much hysteria about it. I have been away from everything and everywhere with the slightest connection with technology. I guess they don't have any problems here when they don't have any computers, which can break down.
Before Christmas we went to Rantambore NP for tiger spotting. And we were very lucky, since we saw one tiger that carelessly just walked in front of the jeep and didn't take any notice of our presence at all. We also saw one sloth bear, dears, rein-dears, all kind of birds, monkeys etc. It was a beautiful afternoon tour with a very nice surrounding nature. We returned in the early peaceful morning, but we didn't end up seeing that much except for dears birds and monkeys.
Christmas we spent camping outside one of Jaipur's many palaces. Jaipur was a dirty but beautiful city with nice areas as the pink city and a whole lot of palaces and temples. We had a party with another overland truck in the garden of the palace that was turned into a hotel. We had Christmas Cringles in the morning of Christmas day and a nice dinner in the palace. New Year's we spent in a tree house with two other trucks. We had a great time with a BBQ, drinks (I'm on bar so I should know, at least in the beginning of the night), western music and dance all night. We had the New Zeeland New Year's at 4.30 PM, OZ 5.30 PM, our own local time, Swedish 4.30 AM, England 5.30. An English man, who made it all the way to his new millennium, and I was the only one awake for the Swedish one.
One of the special temples we saw was the erotic temple in Khadjuraho which was covered with carved statues having sex in all the 84 positions possible according to the Kamasutra. Not to forget the famous Taj Mahal in Agra, which is an enormous temple, all made from marble. I believe it's one of the World Wonders. Last place in India was Varanasi where we went down to the holy river of Ganges where a lot of people bathed, washed and burned their dead. One brave of us had a semi bath.
The border between India and Nepal was almost non-existing. All the vehicles had to line up but the people could pretty much freely cross. I walked over to a small border town in Nepal to get some beers for the bar and later I had to walk back to the border and buy the visa. The last stop on the trip before Kathmandu was the great national park of Chitwan. We stayed there for two days canoeing, elephant riding and trekking. We saw a rhino, elephants, crocodiles, birds etc. It was nice park where I wouldn't mind spending some more time.
Nepal is very different from India and we saw some major changes as we entered the beautiful country of Nepal. The nature is much more lush even if it's not very hot. The poverty is still very obvious but people seem to be so happy with their lives. They dress colourful, have a much more Asian looking (almost Korean) simple beautiful facial structure and a very proud posture. There are fewer beggars and people don't hassle you that much when you want to buy something or when you just are looking. You don't have the feeling they always tries to rip you of even if you still have to bargain a lot. Kathmandu itself is like a huge European ski-resort with tons of bars, Internet cafés, hostels, hotels, souvenir shops, discos, trek stuff stores, travel agencies and people speak a very good English. Very touristy but I love it now after a long time on the road. It's nice to be able to have a steak and sleep in a proper bed again.
So now after 16 weeks I'm finally done with Encounter and the group I've been travelling partly from Istanbul and partly from Cairo with. It's a bit sad to leave some people and great to leave others. But overall it feels great to be on my own again being able to make my own decisions, wake up whenever, go wherever or go nowhere at all, when to relax, be able to be alone and relax, decide what to eat, where to stay etc. Doing an overland is in a way very time and money efficient. You cram in tons of things to see, in a very tight itinerary. I've experienced so much, had a great time and got to know similar minded people. Doing an overland is very convenient whilst you don't have to cook everyday or shop or master border crossing etc...
Now I just need a vacation and do my own thing. I have no idea what it is and have no plans either here in Kathmandu or Thailand. I guess You'll find out later.
Bangkok (Thailand), 2000-01-15
Instead of rushing of and doing a trek from Kathmandu I just had a relaxed time there for a week. Went to the surrounding towns and saw tons of temples (most of them with the traditional "eyes" on the sides of the temples. What they mean? You tell me!). In Nepal they mix the Buddhism and the Hinduism in the temples and in their believes, which makes the religion harder to understand. Wanted to get some souvenirs from Nepal and there is really quite a lot of nice things but as the lousy buyer I am I didn't buy anything even after two days of shopping around and bargaining. I got fed up with the shopping as I usually do and couldn't be bothered anymore. The later in the week the more people from the Encounter group moved on from Kathmandu so we almost had a farewell party every night. Had some really good and huge steaks, which I haven't been able to have for months now.
Left Kathmandu from the airport where the latest highjacking took place. They probably increased the numbers of security controls but each search by itself wasn't very thoroughly. Have now spent two days here in Bangkok, Thailand. I really like the change in weather to a warmer one, even if it is a bit too humid. Walking through the city some 20 km a day with a day-pack could make the most fit person sweating, and I'm certainly not the most fit after sitting still on the back of a truck for four months so I always ended up soaking wet. Thailand is much more like the Asia I'm used to (read Japan and Korea) than the other countries I just passed through. The weather is warm and humid, people look more "Asian", the cities are more developed with no dirt roads, it's cleaner as in no garbage everywhere and no sewage running in the gutters (even if the air is kind of smoggy), decent convenient stores everywhere and there is more food stands along the roads serving rice and noddle dishes. Have so far seen the jam packed China town and been on the Chao Phraya River, which runs through the city. Everything is fairly cheap and I actually did some serious shopping today to make up for what I missed out of in Kathmandu, mostly clothing though.
Planning to go down on the east coast in two days or so. I'm probably heading for Ko Tao and the other islands around. I've been thinking of taking a diving course down there but don't know anything about diving myself so I would be glad if any of you could help me out. How do I know if they have good equipment and instructors? Is an open water PADI certificate an international one? Please mail me if you know or have some other advice to give me.
A visit in paradise and a new world, 2000-01-27
As I overslept on my last planned day in Bangkok I went and spent a day in the economic centre of Bangkok. To my big surprise it was very high-tech with futuristic buildings, sky-rails, walk paths in the air and enormous luxurious air-conditioned department stores. Clean but not as sterile as Tokyo's futuristic parts and had instead some of Las Vegas glamorous decorations with bushes and lights.
The next day I managed to wake up in time for my 10 hour 3rd class train for $2 to Chumpon. It was a bit slow but comfortable and not crowded at all. There was no glass in the windows so there was a nice breeze and you got close to the luscious nature outside. After a night-boat I ended up on an island on off the east coast called Ko Tao. This was a pure paradise with great beaches with palm trees and bungalows. Accommodation, diving, food and beer were all very cheap so I was bound to have a very relaxed time. But I started a diving course the very first day that was very intense. I took my Open Water and Advanced Open Water certificate and made altogether 10 dives so I was quite knackered in the end of my stay. But the underwater world was sure something completely new and stunning for me. The new world was filled with colourful coral, a huge variety of fish and other animals. I was also very lucky with a nice diving group and a great enthusiastic Swedish instructor (thanks Christer). One of the afternoons I went to the neighbour island of Ko Pah Gnan for a full moon party. This is a monthly party, which collect some 5000 - 20000 people partying and dancing all night on one of the beaches. I had a really great time with some Swedish and Norwegian friends I met before. People still were dancing in the high tide when we left around 9 in the morning. It was tough though to get straight back to the diving class after only 2 hours of sleep on the boat back to Ko Tao.
Today I came to Penang an island off the Malaysian west coast. I'll only be here till tomorrow when I'm heading for Singapore. I'm really looking forward to a relaxed time on Bali after that, as long as the Indonesian hostile situation doesn't spread any further. If you have any news about Bali please drop me a mail.
Sydney (Australia), 2000-02-09
Not too excited about Penang and Malaysia so I moved on to Singapore which is a very small country consisting of just a big metropolitan city on an island a bridge south of Malaysia. It's quite a beautiful city with a lot of green parts and parks but also tons of skyscrapers and millions of huge shopping complexes so if you have the money this is a good place to spend it. You need quite a bit of money cause it's expensive. The city is in many ways similar to Tokyo while they both have a shortage of space, enormous concentration of Asian people on the streets, car park elevators and they both mix the extremes of old and new in many things.
I had some rain in both Malaysia and Singapore but when I arrived to Bali hell broke loose. The first three days it rained heavy showers constantly. There was no way to avoid getting soaked. You often had to walk through hundreds of meters of a foot deep water and if you were lucky to be on a dry side walk you got wet by the incoming waves from the driving cars. You had to be very careful avoiding potholes and intended drainage systems while you couldn't see the ground hidden under the muddy water. I was probably lucky not falling over and never found myself walking through water deeper than knee-high. My room was a couple of cm from being flooded, which wasn't true about my bathroom. At least it wasn't the toilet that was flooded which I heard other people had to face. My shower was slightly elevated and still did work. After the first days we had better weather with only occasional showers.
Met up with British friend I met diving at Ko Tao. Left with her and her friend the dirty, flooded and touristy beach town of Kuta and went to a quiet and beautiful town on the east coast where we had a great relaxed time with snorkelling, card playing, good food, drinks and great company. After two days we went up to the tiny village of Tulamben where Paula and I went diving on a wreck from the WWII.
My pre-Melbourne-uni-travel is now about to end and I arrived here in Sydney, Australia just three days ago. Will spend about two weeks here sorting out my student visa, meet up with Sal and Ness from my overland trip and do some sightseeing in this beautiful city and its vicinity. The department of immigration was a big pain though. The first office I went to just redirected me to another one and the next day when I went there they just told me to come back another day cause they were too busy to issue student visas. After more than six hours of waiting at their office today I finally got my visa and are now able to stay put here till March 2001. But I guess I have to get back to Sweden so I get done with my education some day...
So was my little trip over, 2000-02-28
~1400 taken pictures
158 days of travelling
38 roles of film taken
19 border crossings
18 sent travel reports
14 different countries
~9 pictures/day (must have been snap happy some of these days)
4 bad stomachs
I finally made it down here to Melbourne, Australia. Have to say finally cause the last weeks I couldn't wait getting my own room, settle down, sleep in a proper bed, have warm showers and NOT living in a backpack.
After I was done touristing the beautiful city of Sydney with the Opera House, the Harbour bridge, a harbour cruise, the botanical garden, Darling Harbour, the Rocks, the Sydney Aquarium and the Toronga Zoo, I stayed with a good friend of mine in southern Sydney. She tried to teach me body boarding briefly with no greater success and we also did a bush walk in the Royal National Park. Not to forget we also went dancing which I love and haven't been doing enough of during my travelling. I also spent two days at Bondi Beach to experience the Australian backpacking culture but I was fed up with travelling at the time so I didn't enjoy it more than relaxing on the beach.
I then flew down to Melbourne where I went straight to the RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology which is my Uni for this coming year) and enrolled. The enrolment wasn't the easiest task with the very poor subject information they had. To my help I had the helpful nice but disorganised and misinformed staff. I started the actual classes today and it feels different but good getting back to my studies after such a long time. The first week I stayed and terrorised John, a friend of mine who I met Inter-railing (Euro-rail for non-Europeans) in 1994. I have now found a place of my own which feels great though. It's a great place right in the centre of Melbourne and so is RMIT which means I only have a three four minutes walk to Uni. I have a fairly sized room (~30 square meters) on a floor with 8 others. It's an old office building, on A'Beckett St for the people who knows Melbourne, where the offices is turned into student rooms. We all share kitchen, showers, toilets and a huge common area. It just happened to become an international floor with four Swedish guys including myself, a Finnish girl, a Dutch guy, a Bulgarian girl, a British girl and an American guy. It's a very nice crowd and I really love the place. In the beginning I was a bit frustrated that the school gave me such poor information and I didn't have an own place to stay. But now everything has been sorted out to the very best and I'm really happy. Have had a good time in this interesting city so far. Seen quite a bit of the nightlife and went to the final of the pre-season of Aussie Rules (Australian Football). This game is played on, for me a funny shaped slightly oval shaped circular field. I'm not a great fan of watching any kind of sports but his game was pretty good with some actions and a lot of goals. I love doing sports myself though and I really have to start doing some serious exercise here since I haven't been able to do too much on my trip. To my surprise I actually lost weight during these last couple of months. I think I gained some fat but lost even more muscles. Hope to go playing some squash already tonight.
I hope You enjoyed following my trip to here down under through these travel reports.