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Posts from the ‘SE Asia’ Category

Coffee Table Book is Here!!!

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Finally, two years in the works, my coffee table book is ready to share!

After all my travels in the past few years it was important for me to memorialize my trip not only for my own enjoyment, but for friends and family who supported and encouraged me, helping to make this ‘trip of a lifetime’ possible. This book is part of my legacy, something I want to share with loved ones. Let it liven up your living room or put it on a shelf somewhere and let it collect dust. Either way I hope some of the photos inspire you to take your own adventures and see the world as the beautiful and wondrous place I discovered it to be.

Other Oceans is available in two formats.  Large Format best showcases the photography in BIG sizes. Standard Format is a high quality yet more cost effective option.

Please buy either, or both, or multiple copies for  your friends and let me know what you think!


Order Details:

Standard Format (10″x8″) Hardcover for $83.51

Standard Format (10″x8″) Softcover for $69.74

Large Format (13″x11″) Hardcover for $138.81


Use the Promo Code: BLURB2014 by June 30th, 2014 to get 15% off your order!!!

Other Oceans is self published through Blurb, who will take your order, print, and ship the book directly to you. The price of the book reflects Blurb’s printing costs.


All the photos included in the book can be found on my Flickr profile here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/willmcclelland/sets/72157644124964310/

 

 

 

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Macau Bungy

My friend JJ took a break from opening Apple Stores in China and met me for an extended three day weekend in Hong Kong.  I took a red eye over from Colombo and he came in from Beijing and we met at the airport where we took the time to FaceTime our friend Tom, whom I hadn’t had a chance to speak with since his recent engagement.

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Congrats Tom and Tessa!!!

After two crazy nights in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district…

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We took off on the ferry to Macau (deciding that taking the helicopter was a little much) and discovered the world’s tallest bungy jump at the Macau Tower.  Of course we took the 61 story plunge – it’s what my trip is all about.

Easy to tell which one of us is deathly scared of heights.

Me:  http://youtu.be/7cJuIoTgOF0

JJ:   http://youtu.be/Rn2uEqXqAi0

Sri Lanka – my tour of the ancient Buddhist world continues…

Sri Lanka is 9,000 miles and a 12.5 hour time change from California.  It’s essentially half a world away and so different that it may as well have two moons.  Somehow, everyone here seems to know that California is the “best city” in the United States and that Arnold Schwarzenegger was our governor, even though our restrictive visa laws virtually guarantee that almost no Sri Lankans have ever had the chance to visit where I came from.  My lack of knowledge about this country before arriving was somewhat embarrassing.

[link to full FB photo album]

I’m not sure what compelled me to visit.  Part of it was the fact that my dad had lived “in Ceylon” circa 50 years ago at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo when he was a child.  It’s where he developed a love for swimming and took surf lifeguard training.  Part of it was the compassionate family email my uncle George wrote about the country following the tragic 2004 tsunami.  Part of it was Air Asia’s cheap fare and relatively new route between Kuala Lumpur and Colombo.  The thing that finally struck the resonant chord and pushed me over the Indian Ocean was learning a little more about Theravada Buddhism after my recent visit to Myanmar.  This is the branch of the religion that came down most directly from the Sanskrit language and the Pali text from India down into countries which now include: Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand – all places I’ve visited for the first time in the last four months.  While I’m not imminently considering a personal Buddhist awakening or a stint with the Hari Krishna (as my uncle Willy did, temporarily disappearing on his world travels years ago) I do find that the Buddhist countries have a certain beauty about them, which includes the temples, stupas, monks, joss sticks, and people who are generally very warm, welcoming, and happy to have you visit.  It was fortuitous then that my visit happened to coincide with the Esala Perahera, the country’s biggest annual religious festival celebrating the Buddha tooth relic.

The ancient cities of Sri Lanka – Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, and Dambulla – may not be as visually spectacular as Bagan in Myanmar or Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom in Cambodia, nonetheless as far as historical significance goes, they hold their own.  In combination they are more than enough to spark the fancy of any casual tomb raider or Indiana Jones.  Take for example, the fact that Anuradhapura dates back to the 4th century BC while Angkor Wat wasn’t built until the 12th century AD.  Anuradhapura also has the oldest continually cared for tree in the world, which is 2000 years old and was grown from a sapling taken directly from the Bodhi tree in India under which Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha.  The ancient rock fortress at Sigiriya is one of the most impressive sights I’ve ever seen, combining awesome natural, historical, and spiritual significance in a way that very few other sights in the world do (maybe Petra in Jordan does but I’ve still never been).  Dambulla and Sigiriya have some of the finest ancient cave paintings anywhere.

And it’s not just about the history.  Sri Lanka has gorgeous hillside tea plantations, marvelous train ride views, inspiring national parks, a million elephants, incredibly tasty food, and in the crashed out/chilled out surf haven of Arugam Bay one of the best and most consistent waves in Asia.

I’ll let my photo album speak the rest, but if you dream about colorful islands half a world away with the history and beaches to justify the jet lag, it’s time for you to put this little island nation that packs a big punch on your travel wish list.

Next up on the ancient Buddhist world tour: Borobudur, Indonesia – but not until after meeting friends in Hong Kong and beaching it up in Bali.

Ruwanwelisaya stupa in Anuradhapura (2nd century BC)

Esala Perahera - "festival of the tooth"

Vietnam – Ride Like Hell, a Motorcycle Journey from Saigon to Sapa

THE RIDE:

Vietnam was tough.  Not tough in an angry sort of way, but tough in a rough and tumble you’re-a-tourist-and-I’m-going-to-get-your-money sort of way.  Vietnam was tough like a beautiful exotic woman who takes your money, slaps your face, yells at you, but then takes you home to bed and fixes you an absolutely wonderful breakfast in the morning.  Difficult while absolutely stunning and dangerously alluring.  You feel alive and you’re forced to remember that life is hard and beautiful all at once.  Deep down you get the sense Vietnam is kind and wonderful, slowly she’ll let you in, but she’ll never fully open up and you’re always an outsider.  Freedom, danger, beauty – riding a motorcycle through Vietnam is the stuff travel dreams are made of and it was the single greatest travel experience of my life.

All in all, I spent a month in Vietnam and rode roughly 3,500 kilometers or 2,200 miles.  The trip transversed beautiful coastal roads, endless mountain highways, jungle, lush green valleys, rice paddys, hill tribe villages, and the street chaos of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.  Quality of the roads ran the gamut from perfect strips of desolate highway to completely bombed out, washed out, dirt/mud/gravel paths.  Each turn brought something entirely new; an unbelievable view, waving children, water buffalo/chickens/dogs/cows/pigs, busses barreling directly at you, and a million other motorbikes.  I hit the major tourist towns in the country and I also spent days and days riding up the Ho Chi Minh highway through small villages and towns without seeing another Westerner.  I saw stunning natural beauty and met some lovely people.

The excitement came from the fact that you never knew what was going to happen.  Despite all my best-laid plans, there was no morning briefing telling you:

“OK, you’re going to ride 200km easy in the morning, which will take you five hours.  So you’ll leave at 7am and get into town at lunchtime.  After eating you’ll feel pretty good and decide to take it another 200km in the afternoon, but after your eighth hour of riding it’s going to start raining.  You’ll end up putting on your poncho and getting soaked; you’ll spend the last two hours of the ride in the downpour with low visibility and dangerously slippery roads.  You’ll finally pull into town just before dark, exhausted, and you’ll still need to find a place to stay.  Oh, and by this point your boots will be completely filled with water and your hands will be pruned and numb and your ass is going to be literally black and blue.  When you finally find a bed it’s going to be hard as a board.  But don’t worry, today isn’t the day that your bike is going to break down, that’s going to happen tomorrow.  And tomorrow you’ll have tea with your mechanic.”

Nope, there’s no one there to tell you these things, and there’s no one there for you to count on but yourself.  I did the ride alone and I had to deal with everything; the bike, the route, the heat, the rain, the mechanics, the hostels, the thieves, and the hawkers trying to sell me things I didn’t want.

Hello, where you from?  Motorbike?  Hello, motorbike!  You smoke mariwana?  Massage?  Massage, boom boom?!

Vietnam is naturally beautiful, rich in history, and is unquestionably one of the world’s great food countries.  Every day I woke up, ate pho (noodle soup) for breakfast, strapped my bags to the rack, and kick-started a ramshackle Honda Win 100cc and headed North.  Every day I rode like hell and every single day of the ride I felt alive.  It’s impossible to understate the sensation of freedom you get as you lean a motorcycle down into a sweeping corner, pushing the throttle as you whip through a mountain pass or bomb through a beautiful green field.  No schedules, no guides, no one to complain to, no one to count on but yourself.

The trip is a test of character, I truly believe it.  It was the single greatest travel experience of my life, yet I fell off my bike, the bike broke down multiple times, I got pick pocketed, I saw other people get robbed, I saw accidents, I got ripped off.  It taught me the importance of patience, resilience, and perseverance.  It taught me that I had what it takes to figure it out, to deal with it – whatever it was.  It taught me to be humble and acknowledge my limitations; to ask for directions or to find a mechanic and ask for help.  I had to deal with the fact my phone got stolen at a bar.  I had to deal with the fact I fell off the bike on the third day; I got back up, dusted myself off, calmed myself down, and I kept going.  I had to deal with the fact that riding that much is physically, mentally, and emotionally difficult.  The trip, time and again, taught me that when the road got rough (literally) and the path was uncertain, to follow my convictions and press forward.  The ride was a challenge and was enormously rewarding for me personally.  It’s a trip I’ll never forget.

Ride a motorcycle through Vietnam and all that matters is you and the hard sun, which keeps pace of the days that you’re alive and you’re never getting back.

[Link to the FB photo album]

THE ROUTE:

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Vung Tau
Mui Ne
Dalat
Nha Trang
Buon Ma Thuot
Kon Tum
Hoi An
Hue
Phong Nha
Yen Cat
Mai Chau
Son La
Dien Bien Phu
Muong Lay
Sapa
Hanoi

THE BIKE:

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Honda Win 100cc mini-chopper

Nickname: Black Betty

Kick start only, electric start non-functional

Speedometer, odometer both non-functional

Fuel gauge, non-existent

Bought for $300 from a Dutch backpacker sold for $225 to an American backpacker

After purchase replaced: both tires, chain, brake shoes, battery, spark plug, oil

Maintenance along the way: oil changes (4x), replaced brake wire, fixed oil leak (2x), had rear wheel straightened, replaced spark plug (1x), replaced broken pedal shifter, chain tightened (2x), flat tire (1x), had luggage rack welded into frame

Total cost of maintenance: $100 to $125

Otres Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

My bungalow is called Mushroom Point

It’s on a soft red dirt road across from Otres Beach

Paul, who checked me in wore yellow Angry Birds pajamas

I could stay a while

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Month One highlights, lowlights, & the days between

Highlights:

  • Myanmar (Burma)
    – Everything about the trip far exceeded expectations. The people, the golden pagodas, a discordant roar of change. A country’s newly found freedom of speech and expression. High hopes for the future and signs of the ancient past everywhere.
  • Pai, Thailand
    – Meeting a small group of Americans, Brits, and Germans in Chiang Mai and making an unplanned motorcycle voyage up into the mountains. The Darling View hostel was fantastic.

Pai

  • FINALLY getting Filipino dual citizenship and the passport that goes with it
  • First visit to Bambike HQ in Tarlac

Bambuilders

  • Songkran in Bangkok
  • Buddhism

Monks in Mandalay

Lowlights:

  • Anything in Celsius with a 3- or 4- handle
    It was so hot in Bagan it made my skeleton ache
  • Digestive issues (more specifically, projectile vomit in a non-western outhouse) brought on by “fresh” shrimp, which turned out to be “live” shrimp and didn’t sit well in Chiang Mai

'Fresh' shrimp

  • Pink eye
  • The ‘grey’ market money changers in Myanmar
    – At some point they’ll just have to start accepting $USD that has even a slight crease in it
  • Poverty beside the palaces in Mandalay
Some of the the good and bad between:
  • The number of Western travelers in Thailand (-)
    • Most of their tattoos
    • Overhearing in the pool in Pai about the girl who just got the “C*NT” tattoo on her abdomen covered up with a lotus
    • Overhearing on the way back into the hostel in Bangkok: “Did you catch the Muay Thai fight?” “It was sick”
  • 7 Eleven (+/-)
  • Discovering Bangkok to be cleaner and have much more civilized traffic than Manila (+/-)
  • Having to leave your passport in order to rent a motorcycle in Thailand (-)
  • Daily brownouts in Myanmar (-)
  • Tech that is changing travel: Kindle, iPhone, Google Maps, Hostelworld.com (++)
  • Taking out time for blogging (+/–)
  • Being offered the ‘happy ending’ (-300 baht)
  • Gotye, Somebody That I Used To Know (+/-)
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Hemmingway (++)
After all the good and the not as good, still feeling like pure gold. Up next, a few days in Phnom Penh followed by a week at a beach bungalow in Sihanoukville to explore Cambodia’s southern coast. Working furiously to get my photos from Burma up onto Facebook soon.

Sule Pagoda, Yangon

Hot out of the gates

Been having a great time so far. Was in the Philippines with my family then went to Bangkok for Songkran and now (after a 13 hr train ride) up north in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

While I’ve been taking lots of photos I’ve been slacking on my blogging. It’s been a month since my last post and I hardly wrote anything about my memorable cross country road trip with Dad.

I hope to get the Philippines shots up on FB soon and will try to get some good thoughts up on the blog. The pics from the road trip are already up on FB, so check out the album of you haven’t already.

Still getting used to the hostel / backpacker scene. It’s a far cry from my old business trips to the New York Palace. Here the bathroom is your shower and it’s also BYOTP. Been paying the extra hundred Baht for air con.

Writing now from the very chill common area at Deejai Backpackers. Lots of Chang beer tank tops and Aussie accents. More americans here than i anticipated, and its kind of nice hearing the familiar accents – until you listen too much to what they’re actually saying.

The Thai people are really friendly and the country is easier for travelers.

My one day in Bangkok coincided with the last day of Songkran, Thai New Years and the biggest water gun fight I’ve ever seen. Pics can’t do it justice as I kept everything in a plastic zip lock to keep everything from getting soaked. From what I can tell in the little time I spent there, Manila is as crazy if not moreso than Bangkok, which was clean and with somewhat more orderly traffic.

Chiang Mai is a lower key and more easily navigable place than Bangkok. Still lots to explore.

Off to motorbike around town.

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