Published: August 23rd 2012August 12th 2012
All good things must come to an end, our epic extended honeymoon included. Hence, it is with a heavy heart we have to tell that this will be our concluding blog entry, with which we will bid our farewells. We have been back to Europe now for about two months, having had some time to reflect our life on the road. Now thinking retrospectively, our last nine months, a month in Finland included, feel almost surreal. While we were on the road, time seemed to fly by, but now that we have had some time to digest our experiences in a familiar environment, it is slowly dawning on us what have we done and achieved during our grand voyage. Here's some fundamental questions we have been chewing. Was it worth it? Did it bring about any change in us? What effect did it have on our relationship? Would we do it again, given a chance? How did we cope with the chaos, the piles of rubbish, the power cuts, the poverty and the myriad tropical hazards?
We knew to expect that the transition back from the charming idleness and nonchalance under the tropical sun to the grinding ethos of prudence
and discipline might not be without some anxiety. To be on the safe side, we took rather soft landing in the reality, starting with a wonderful wedding party thrown in Finland, finally celebrating our marriage with our dear friends from Finland and Switzerland. Straight after the wedding party, we had the pleasure of having Nastya's family with us in Finland for a week. Such a great week that was, our families getting to know each other. Nastya's family out of the country, we rented a car and did a little road trip across summery Finland visiting some old friends at their summer cabins enjoying the brief but beautiful summer under the northern sky.
But let's go back to Asia for a fast forwarded summary of impressions. Greeted in Kathmandu by a warning of the fatal danger of the tap water, we, nevertheless did not give up our idea of getting married in Nepal. Our wedding was an exceptional event in trekkers' Pokhara city life, and locals were wondering whether we had escaped our families disagreement by getting married that far from home. We stayed in Bhaktapur in the time of the autumn festival where sacrifice ceremonies were dotting temple
steps with goats's severed bloody heads. We could peek at the the endless Australia's desert and see how the Aborigines adapt to the imposed foreign lifestyle. We learned that some stories from their dream world are so sacred, that they cannot be explained to us, white fellas. We carried one story with us, may be we will be able to tell it to our children. The striking beauty of New Zealand was a balsam to our souls, this difficult to reach country, in time zone GMT +13, is too far for the hordes of tourists and globalizalisation attempts. The country of sheeps and hobbits won the golden medal of our trip. The few islands of Indonesia were contradictory, Bali, polluted, over developed and over crowded, against paradisiac Gilis. The ultimately relaxing athmosphere of Gili Meno was so difficult to leave, we will go there again to our bungalow on the beach. We went to the far corners of the Golden Triangle, trying to get as far as possible from the beaten path. We were thrilled to take some risks by riding our bike on non marked dirt roads through hill-tribe villages. People there still live in bamboo huts, farming on
surrounding hills and do not care to which country they supposedly belong. Newpapers and guides say the opium business is over in these areas, but a trade fare is hold bimonthly on the banks of Mekong, where demand meets supply. Mekong, it is a story in itself, the mighty river which means life for so many peole in the countries, it flows through. We followed its course and admired its slow pace from French style cafes of Luang Prabang in Laos and wandered with the river among 4000 islands next to the Cambodian border. Cambodia impressed us with its enigmatic temples, delicious blue crabs, fragrant Kampot peper, calm and beatiful people, and diabolic history of Khmer Rouge. We had a taste of a communist era, while crossing the border with Viêt Nâm, not knowing whether we would be let across the border or not. The border officers, in Viêt Nâm as well as in Cambodia, openly accept bribes, apparently the communist regime is still not able to manage its outskirts. To our disappointment, in Viêt Nâm we felt rather stronly that we belonged to a different cast than the locals. Virtually all services required a legalised bribe, a fee to
be paid to a travel agent, a smiling Vietnamese girl who would sell you a seat in a overbooked bus with not a shade of hesitation. The only time we felt we were on the same wibe with the locals, was on the train to Hue when we all could not keep in our seats attracted by the stunning scenes of the national park on one side and the rigged coast line on the other. People in Viêt Nâm start their days early, a stroll in wee hours in Hanoi allowed us seeing people going on about their daily business, women carrying baskets loaded with fruits and bread to the markets, old ladies doing their morning exercise on the balconies, friends (only men) getting together for a cup of strong coffee in a house-run cafe. We shared a cup with an old man and his friends, who could still speak some French and was happy to tell us the story of his family.
Given our brief time in each country as well as being aliens in foreign cultures, we could only scratch the surface of local cultures. We tried to get more out of each new country by mingling
with the natives as much as possible, i.e. not limiting our exposure only to cabbie drivers and hotel staff. Instead we enjoyed tremendously making contact with locals at market squares, on public transport and at street eateries. One of the most rewarding experiences we had was in Nepal, where we were invited to attend an afternoon post-school class, where Nepalese volunteers helped kids coming from disadvantaged backgrounds with their schoolwork. What's more, we had the honour to be invited for a family dinner by one of the volunteers, a real contact with real people, something you will surely miss if you just stay in your exclusive all-inclusive resort.
The traveller's life opened to us some of its secrets, if we go on the road again, we will know a little better how and where to look for its tresures. On a more somber note, our journey was occasionally haunted by a feeling of urgency. That is to say, that in many astonishingly beautiful places we had a privilege to visit, we couldn't stop thinking whether the place would still be there for the next generations to come or would it be devoured by yet another megalomanic development project or
be polluted beyond salvage. Pristine nature is sadly becoming a rare commodity even in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, same can be said about indigenous cultures. Obviously in our ever shrinking world, the dynamics of globalization are inevitably leading us to a more homogenic global culture, changing many indigenious cultures irrevocably and hence resulting with a world with less nuances. To pretend our actions as travelers did not contribute in this process would be a travesty, tantamount to arrogant ignorance. That said, we were conscious of the quandary during our travel, and tried to behave accordingly, especially with regard to the environmet and the indigenious people, such as Akha hill tribe, with whose members we had a privilege to make acquaintances in the Golden Triangle.
Lessons learned. It would be reactionary to regret the future, but at the risk of sounding like some new-age guru, we ought to be wary about extinguishing what makes life worth living by assigning a clock to every hour. Equally important is to keep alive the child-like fascination for discovering something new, that fuellled us for 8 months and will have us embracing the road again. Most importantly, we did not fall out with each other,
in fact, we are as enamored, if not even more, as we were when we set off and we have reached a level of profound intimacy, that will be a source of energy for years to come.
We hope you have been enjoying reading the blog as much as we have been enjoying chronicling our days on the road, sharing eight months of our lives with you. Maybe we meet one day on the road!
A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. John Steinbeck