In case you’re wondering why this post is so short and so random… I don’t know. I’ve decided that I would upload shorter entries and free writing stuff (I’m trying not call it ‘poetry’ but no other word comes to mind!) whenever I’m not feeling that great or am in lots of stress. Truth is, I’m not feeling so great right now. And I have lots of things on my mind, particularly my final exam (Yes, it’s the very last one this time, I promise!) which will be next week. As long as I don’t sleep in and accidentally miss it.
I love to travel and I love seeing different places. I love the freedom of going anywhere I wanna go at any given time. I love having a European passport. I wish everyone had this kind of freedom.
My last week in Indochina (you can read about it here), I had to cross the border between Cambodia and Thailand. I had to fill out a form, but it was no visa application. People from Austria don’t even have to get a visa when visiting Thailand. However, everyone has to cross the border the same way, by foot. Everyone is treated equally: Like a potential criminal. I had to get off the bus about 200 meters before the border and take all my belongings with me while the bus was getting inspected for human trafficking and drug smuggling. Then, I had to carry my luggage via Cambodian dirt roads to the border. Inside the border, ‘foreigners’ like myself had to take the stairs to the first floor, wait a long time, fill out another form, get inspected etc. There aren’t even any restrooms. After that shenanigan, I waited another 30 mins for the bus to return. I felt as if they thought I was an illegal refugee. Hours later I realized that I shouldn’t complain no matter how annoying this process was. I remembered things I’ve witnessed while crossing borders that went beyond human dignity…
I was on a night train somewhere in Europe and the crisis in Syria was in full effect. Armed police officers were on the train. They looked kinda scary but they didn’t care about me. Passengers who looked ‘foreign’, however, were inspected very thoroughly. Some more than once. A couple of people had to leave the train, I don’t know why. In the middle of the night, I had to get up to pee. Also, I wanted to have a smoke at the next train station. In front of the bathroom was standing a man, probably of Asian descent. He was in his underwear, standing in front of two police officers. They woke him up in the middle of the night and didn’t let him put on any clothes. One of the policemen stood guard with a lowered gun. The other one handled a bright flashlight. He lit up the face of the man who looked terrified. I remember him shivering. After having a close look, the police officer turned the beam to his passport, then his face again. The officers mumbled something, checked again and concluded that ‘all these camel drivers look the same’. The suspected man, of course, didn’t understand that. However, he had to leave the train. In his underwear, followed by the policemen. I don’t remember if they even let him get his luggage. I only remember standing at the train station, smoking, while this scene unfolded before my eyes. I wanted to help somehow, but nothing I could possibly do came to mind. I was perplexed and felt sorry for that poor guy. I didn’t even realize that passports were being controlled. No one cared about me. I guess I looked European enough.
I understand that because of recent events, everyone’s on edge and extra careful. But I don’t understand why we have to treat each other so badly. As if being on a train were a privilege. There is no first-class citizen and a second-class refugee. But somehow it makes us feel bigger when we’re enabled to make others feel small. I can’t even put into words how much this angers me. I want to live in a world where everyone can go anywhere they want to. I guess all I’m asking myself is: Borders… what’s up with that?
Every year, I like to celebrate my birthday by inviting friends to hang out (Except for this year…). Every year is different depending on the people who come. Some, I probably haven’t seen all year long, some I’ve just met a couple of weeks ago. Others won’t show up at all. I guess it’s normal that we lose friends as we age. Life changes, always giving us new opportunities. A new job, a new relationship, maybe even a kid. Being close with every friend just won’t work all the time.
It’s okay. That’s what I’m trying to convince myself of. Do I really feel that way? I’m not sure.
I’ve never lost a friend overnight. I’ve never been in a huge fight with someone and didn’t see them again. We just changed. And sometimes we didn’t even realize, this was happening, especially with friends moving away. At first, we still wrote each other, maybe video chatted. When the person came home for the holidays, I met up with them. As often as I could. But each time, I did so, it felt less like meeting the person I used to know. We’ve changed and so did our friendship. The connections fade until one day the friend’s back home and you forget to meet up.
In German, we have a word for that: Lebensabschnittsfreunde (try that at a spelling bee!). It describes the friendship of two people at a certain stage of their lives. It defines friendships that work because the circumstances allow for it. However, when you get to a new stage in life, the friendship might end.
Looking back at old pictures is so bittersweet. Seeing all the awesome things, we did. The good times we had. The bad times as well. At least we were together. I like to remember special people I’ve met over the years. And I have some awesome stories with awesome people. I just don’t have the people to share them with anymore. You have to set priorities is what I hear people say. Sometimes you have to prioritize your job or your studies over your friends is what’s been told to me. So, do you prioritize your success over your happiness? Bullshit, I say.
Some of the people at my birthday parties I didn’t see for a long time. But the connection with some people stayed the same although we didn’t stay the same. If we start talking like we never stopped, then that’s a real friend. That’s something special we need a word ford. Lebensfreunde. Life friends.
However, is it possible to revisit former friendships? To meet up and become friends again? To get to know each other again, fill in the holes of what you missed in each other’s life? Or is it wiser to let things be, remember the good times, and make new memories with new people? As for me, I just went through the contacts in my phone where I’ve hoarded numbers of all the people I’ve ever known. I deleted all the contact with whom I’m sure, I will never be friends with again. 55 numbers deleted. I’ll concentrate on the others for now.
The former name of this blog was ‘New Honesty’. I was set on writing about misconceptions about the gay community and stereotypes that turn out to be true. However, I’ve realized that, above all, this blog has become a place to put my private and not-so-private thoughts about pretty much anything. I will continue writing about LGBT+ stuff, but I don’t want to limit myself.
I am at a place in life where a lot is changing. Above all, I’ll finish university soon. That means I will have to become a functioning part of society somehow. That’s a terrifying thought. I don’t want a 9-to-5 job with 5-9 friends and a life circling around career goals. I never want to wear suits or business casual (whatever that is).
I am living in a bubble that’s about to burst. I really should find out what I wanna do with my life. I know, I’m supposed to have ‘goals’ in mind of what I want to achieve in my life. I should, by now, have a clear direction of where I want to go in this world. I feel like I should know things about – well, basically everything – that I don’t.
How do people do this… Pretending to know what they are doing? Living without being terrified of the unknown? What if you’re like me… What if your goals are vague – like mine? What if you don’t have a master plan in mind? What if you don’t have stepping-stones to reach, so you can feel accomplished? All I really want in life is to be happy but will happiness find me?
I know, I should be glad living a mostly care-free life, considering. I know, I should be happy that I was born in a country that’s quite open-minded, considering. I know, I shouldn’t compare myself to other people. I know, I should focus on myself when everyone else seems more interesting. I know, there are things in life I need to find out. I know, I’m not ready to settle.
I believe that no one ever knows what they are doing. I believe we’re all just living alongside hoping for the best results. I believe we are all more similar than we think we are. Maybe we just need to start talking more about it, admitting how clueless we really are.
One thing I know is, I will continue doing what makes me happy. I like writing, mostly for my myself, maybe for others who are interested. Maybe I will find out what I’m looking for, writing it down. For now, I’ll just keep doing what I think is a good idea. It’s all I really can do.
If a waiter says they’re gonna check back with the kitchen you will most likely never see them again.
Being a millionaire in Vietnam means you have more than 38 euros (equals 1 million Vietnamese Dong).
Each of the countries I visited has one famous Hollywood movie: The Beach (Thailand), Good Morning Vietnam (Vietnam) and Tomb Raider (Cambodia).
It’s okay to light a cigarette in a Chinese Buddhist temple but only if it’s a sacrifice for the god of wealth.
Exotic fruits do NOT taste completely different than the fruit sold in European stores.
Crossing a border and being treated like a criminal is not fun.
Coming home after a month means there are a lot of shows to Netflix.
However, there’s still the same shit on the radio.
After Hanoi, we went to Hoi An. Hanoi, Hoi An – as you see, Vietnam has majorly creative city names. Hoi An is a beautiful small town. It was perfect after the chaos of Bangkok and Hanoi. There’s little to do but it has a lot of charm! Also, I wouldn’t have had any clean laundry if it weren’t for this place.
Before we went to Hoi An, we’ve also been on a boat to Halong Bay. I’d highly recommend doing this if you’re in the area. It’s not even that pricy and the view is amazing. On the way to the bay, you will see a lot of overgrown, beautiful cliffs. A truly remarkable view literally anytime you look out of the window. We also went swimming and kayaking in Halong Bay. The next morning, we had the chance to do Tai Chi while watching the sunrise. I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful than stretching my body while the sky is changing from cold to warm colors in a million gradients at 6 AM. Well, I could: sleeping in on a boat. #sorrynotsorry
Back to Vietnam, our next stop was Saigon Ho Chi Minh City, now named after their beloved communist leader († 1969). It was also one of the first times I truly got to enjoy some good ol’ Asian propaganda establishment-positive advertising. On the night train to Saigon, we were woken up by an insane morning announcement. As I have a deep sleep, I didn’t get to hear the first minutes and I can’t even begin to describe the over-the-top-positive mood of the speaker. However, in the end, he concluded that ‘(…) Saigon is now the worthy and proud holder of the name of uncle Ho!’.
That was about it with the good news on Ho Chi Minh City. Out of all the stops, it was my least favorite. It’s busy like most of the other cities and it’s dirty and loud too. But on top of that, Ho Chi Minh City just wasn’t beautiful or charming – there’s literally nothing to see! We took part in a city tour and the best stop was a copy of Paris’ Notre Dame. If you’ve seen the real thing, this copy is just a bad fake. On top of that, I lost a little (more) faith in humanity when I saw the pigeons in front of the building. For some reasons, Vietnamese youth started painting some of them with spray paint. Might look cool, but is also so cruel and nobody cared.
Our last stop of the trip was in Angkor (Cambodia). Angkor is the place most people stop at to see the large temples of Angkor Wat. Angkor itself is a small city seemingly relying 100% on tourism. There’s nightlife and night markets and everything, but it doesn’t seem like a ‘real’ place where real people live. It seems like a façade. A layer over Cambodia’s highly interesting culture. I can’t say much, but Cambodians seem so chill, so nice, so relaxed. It seems as if they’re all just trying to make a living and find their inner peace. Many of them probably are.
More exciting are the temples near Angkor, Angkor Wat being the most important and the biggest one. I’ve dreamed of seeing this place, taking a picture in front of it (title photo of this post) and I’m so happy I’ve been there. It is also quite a spiritual place. Lots of tourists visit these huge places but they still have a mysterious aura. I can’t even imagine how these temples were built in the middle of nowhere with tons and tons of stone and lovely carving artwork. On a side note, the temple where Tomb Raider has been filmed, Ta Promh, is near Angkor as well. Some Cambodians even call it the Tomb Raider temple.
After a couple of days in and around Angkor, we got back on our beloved bus we almost missed because we were five minutes late (not gonna indulge in that story…) and got back to Bangkok. On our last day in Bangkok, we did some more sightseeing and shopping. All in all, I was ready to get home but if I could have chosen to be back on the road a week later I would’ve done that.
First thing I had to do after arriving in Munich was to dig deep in my suitcase to find a sweater I stuffed in there. In Asia, I often wished for cooler temperatures but back in Europe I wished back tropical climate. You never know what you have until it’s gone.
If the taxi driver isn’t feeling your destination, you might be left at the side of the road.
Even if I want to pet a monkey, I can’t. So sad.
Traffic lights are nothing but a mere illusion to make tourists feel more comfortable. (Same with crosswalks and speed limits)
If you try to pet a fish, it will most likely bite you. (If you’re as lucky as I am)
90% air moisture means your laundry won’t dry in time.
If there’s one thing Thais love, it’s their leaders. Another thing: Putting up memorials to show everyone how much they love their leaders. Like so much.
You may enter a temple with short pants but you’re not getting anywhere near the King’s Palace.
Some believe Durian tastes like cheese, some say it tastes like vomit. I say it tastes like a plant that doesn’t want to be eaten. Ever.
I’m back and it sucks. It’s cold, it’s grey, there’s no sun. Dear, Game of Thrones, Winter isn’t coming, it’s here already. At least that’s how it feels. I got sick shortly after returning home. Whatever. There are also good aspects of being back home again (Or so I’ve been told).
I was in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia for the most part of October. To summarize the vacation, I’m very happy with it. I got to re-do summer and I’ve always been fascinated by Asia. After about 24 hours of traveling (train, plane, another plane, transfer to Bangkok and many hours of waiting), we got to Bangkok finally. First thought after arrival was: Wow, this place is dirty. The only word that might describe Bangkok a little better is dusty. It’s also a very chaotic city. And it felt really loud and busy. Compared to Bangkok my hometown seems like a My Little Pony stable. What I didn’t know at this point was that it was about to get much, much louder. But let’s stay in Thailand for a minute.
After this initial disappointment, Bangkok became more and more charming, the more time I spent there. Beyond the layers of noise, dust, dirt and even more dust lies a fascinating and thrilling metropolis. Bangkok gives you a little bit of everything: typical Asian street markets, mystery meat sold on every corner, intriguing ladyboys, pulsating nightlife and a lot of culture and spirituality. Next to the riverside, there are beautiful temples, some of the most stunning ones I’ve seen over the course of the whole trip. You’re looking for a sitting Buddha? Check! Standing? Done! Lying down? Sure! Or fancy a black buddha? Well, I haven’t seen that one, but supposedly it exists too.
The best way to get from A to B is the Tuk-Tuk taxi. At first, I wasn’t sure, if I wanted to take a Tuk-Tuk. To put it mildly, most of them seem… unofficial. Also, they look incredibly dangerous as a Tuk-Tuk is a completely open vehicle without seatbelts. However, when we were stranded in the middle of nowhere, in desperate need of a restroom, we were really happy when a Tuk-Tuk driver appeared. Taking a Tuk-Tuk is a lot of fun. It’s like laying your faith into the hands of a total stranger while enjoying the airy breeze on the back seat. And did I mention that Tuk-Tuks sometimes have party lights?!
In Thailand, more than in any country I’ve previously visited, you should be cautious in where you put your money. Everyone knows you’re a tourist (OMG like so racist… right?) and some will try to deceive you. After hearing a LOT of stories from others, I was almost disappointed that no one tried to pull some tricks on me. But then I decided, that I wanted to see the Grand Palace. It was quite difficult to find a taxi or Tuk-Tuk to take us there. When we finally found a Tuk-Tuk driver, he told us that the Grand Palace was closed (lie). I told him that I knew this wasn’t true, so he said that it was closed now (lie) but will be open later (lie). Then he said that the Palace has closed altogether (lie) and that we can’t get inside anyway (technically true) He much rather wanted to take us someplace else… At that point, we got the hell outta there. Just a couple days prior, a couple we met on the road told us a very similar story. They never arrived at the Grand Palace.
After more big city adventures, we took a break in Phuket and went swimming, surfing and diving for a couple of days. We even got to see monkeys on the beach! And white sand! Everyone reading this is probably starting to hate me a little bit for telling stories of FUCKING TURQUOISE water, so I’ll stop here. Okay, maybe a quick pic.
Moving on, we flew to Hanoi (Vietnam) with a flight ticket cheaper than a glass of wine in Ryanair. When I got there, my first thoughts were: Wow, this is loud. And tiny. And oh my god, I think this car just hit me a little! Yes, Hanoi is even busier than Bangkok. A major difference between Thailand and Vietnam is that only in Vietnam people honk. Like all the time. Every driver honks whenever they get to a crossing or pass another car. Sounds like a lot? It is.
We were so happy when we finally arrived at our hotel in the old town of Hanoi. How cool is a hotel directly in the old town? What we didn’t know at this point was that ‘old’ first and foremost describes the construction of the roads. Everything was so small! The roads were not meant for modern cars, I can guarantee that. It’s tricky to figure out how cars, bikes, mopeds and pedestrians can share one road. I just hoped that I didn’t run out of luck from not dying in a Tuk-Tuk yet. But (Spoiler!) nothing happened again although I was almost hit multiple times.
After being a little bit overwhelmed, we went a little further into the more modern parts of Hanoi. Then, the city was beautiful. There was enough space for me to walk without endangering my existence and large parts of the city even were traffic-free at night. I only had one problem left: It was time to do laundry. I already washed a shirt by hand in Bangkok, but Vietnam’s climate is way moister. As these countries are super-cheap, we wanted to do the laundry at our hotel. How much can that cost when a full meal with drinks costs under 5 euros?!
70 euros per person! I shit you not and yes, you heard me correctly. Not 17. 70!
So, we skipped doing any laundry (that sounds wrong). But we did in our next city and paid about 20 euros for two people…
The last couple of weeks were really stressful and it won’t end. I’ve tried to do everything at once and I realize now that it’s becoming too much. The good thing is, that a light at the end of the tunnel is coming closer. That light being the due date for my master thesis followed by a long trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
For the next 4 weeks or so I won’t be updating because I have a big trip planned and I’m super stoked. I’ve never really been to Asia (except for Turkey) and Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have always been on top of my (very long) list of places I wanna see. I couldn’t be happier about taking this trip but right now I’m all over the place. I just wanted to give a quick Life update and talk a little bit before I’m off.
As some might know, I started writing this blog to practice my written English for my master thesis (you can find out more about it here), but I have so much fun doing it that I will continue blogging. And I’ll definitely put up a travel diary with pictures when I’m back.
Besides work and my thesis, the biggest stressor in my life is finding qualified handymen to renovate my bathroom while I’m gone. And let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy so far. For some reason, all blue collars seem to have agreed that it’s okay not to get their phone when it’s ringing. And not call back. Like ever. Don’t text back. Or provide me an email address. And of course I’m always at home and you can always come visit at outrageous times to measure the walls. When I confronted one of the guys, he gave me the most ridiculous explanation for never answering his phone. He told me that the speaker of his phone was broken and he couldn’t hear me on the phone. The only time of the day he can be reached is when he is in his car using the hands-free system. Yes, I’m serious. Take a moment to digest that. When I heard that story, I didn’t know if I should cry or laugh.
Another thing I do want to talk about before leaving has to do with my job. As you may or may not know, I am a graphic designer. A company selling glass bottles, called Soulbottles, recently hosted a competition for a new design. Of course, Soulbottles want to get as many clicks as possible with this competition. So, users can vote on their favorite designs. I won’t ask you to vote for me, but if you’re interested, check out the competition and vote for anything you like. If you click on ‘Abstimmen’ and then ‘Abstimmung starten’, you’ll see two designs compared to each other and you have to choose the one you like better. Below this paragraph, I’ll post stills of my designs – hope you enjoy them. If you’re interested in voting, go here.
Now I forgot what I actually wanted to write this post about. I’m just all over the place right now. I guess I wanted to vent about my life a little bit. I just wish I didn’t have had to write my thesis in the summer. I didn’t get much sun and I didn’t do a bunch of fun stuff with friends. I spent a lot of time in front of my computer just like the vampire I am. Pity party for one, here we go again.
Now that I have completely lost track of where I was going with this, I guess it’s best to leave you all to it. I hope I will come back a more relaxed and more focused person with a bathtub that doesn’t clog as soon as I shave my armpits. (Sorry for that image).
Enjoy the rest of this summer and maybe we’ll discuss traveling as soon as I get WiFi. Or when I get back as I might just disconnect completely. Have a good one guys and see you soon!
Title photo: Mist over Black Hmong Village by Lucas Setti