Archive for December, 2007
It has always been a healthy thing to have a quick look in the rear-view mirror before you change the lanes on the highway. 2008 will undoubtedly lead to a lot of foreign and exciting roads for all of us, both the bitumen, dirt and mental variety.
There’s been so many beautiful places, wonderful people and unforgettable moments in 2007 and to highlight just a few seems quite unfair because the year really has been a non-stop series of experiences and input. Things that have often made me feel extremely lucky, privileged, and proud as hell.
When I go through the year 2007 mentally countless faces, places and feelings pop up. I can’t really understand that it’s been a year – or 52 consecutive charter holidays, if you wish – already since I said a tearful goodbye to my mother, father, and sister in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam after to wonderful weeks of reunification.
At the same time it’s hard to believe that what has happened since that day in early January 2007, that all the sights and experiences that are somewhere up there in my memo attic, happened in just a year. I can’t feel anything but grateful, and yet I feel an insatiable lust for the year to come. Bring it on…
Thanks for all the WT support and thumbs-up along the road and from back home to all of you. I appreciate it more than you’d ever know.
Happy New Year 2008 – make it a happy one.
Nicolai (Sorrento, Victoria – Australia)
Its quite a different Boxing Day.
A bowl of müsli, at home on Dark Parade and the sun which is shining all day, kick-starts the day. Before noon Kate is acting like a cocktail-guru in the kitchen, while Rhod and I are the guinea-pigs on the sunny terrace. It’s a cool and relaxed beginning of a holiday.
Together with papa Robert, mama Patricia and grandpa John, the youth walks down to Sorrento’s Front Beach and have a cup of coffee and a yo-yo cake ( and yes, that’s how they look!) with the view over the turquoise-coloured bay. It is some amazing colours and I take lots of snapshots and film.
In the afternoon, Iva, Kate, Rhod and I drive up to Shelly Beach, which is situated on the Port Philip Bay with Melbourne further up north. The temperature is 30C degrees and the water is 22C degrees. I take a run along the beautiful beach with the iPod and do a little work out in the rocks under the sun.
The water is nice and unbelievably clear and clean. My thoughts towards Denmark, are incredibly few, on this Boxing Day. I could easily get used to this December-heat.
Later, Rhod takes us for a little spin in his 1997 Jeep Wrangler (topless today) and we have an ice-cream cone at Little Mermaid, the Danish ice-cream and hotdog shop at the main street.
Rhod, Robert and I are invited onboard on a boat in Sorrento Sailing Club with some of Rob’s friends for a friendly race around the bay today. The late-afternoon light over the marina, which exudes of international sailor life, is beautiful. Beside the 3 of us, 4 of Robert’s friends are onboard as well. The boat is a Couta, which is developed here in Port Philip Bay, and which because of the low water has a very flat hull. The type of boat is mostly seen only here in the bay and only a few other places. No wonder that World Championship is also being held here in Sorrento. Approximately 15 boats are in the one hour long navigation. Rhod and I are both rookies on the boat and are not really of anybody’s help. It is a lovely experience and my first navigation ever. Back in the sailing club, the girls are waiting with beer and chips and everywhere there are happy sailor people with the ubiquitous stubby in their hand. They really like that one, here in Australia.
(Kindly translated by A. S. Jensen)
Tune of the Day: Mr. Tough – Yo La Tengo
The first thing I do today is to call my mum, dad and sister back home in Middelfart. Its 9am here on Christmas day, in Denmark it is 11pm Christmas Eve. It is really nice to talk to them all and sense a little Bangsgaard Christmas spirit, despite the absence of family – 60 minutes goes by so quickly. The living room is packed with 11 people, spread over four generations. There is Rhod, his Croatian/German girlfriend Iva, Rhod’s sister Kate and her five months old Labrador Skuba, Rhod’s brother Jolyon and his Vietnamese girlfriend Dawn, her mother and daughter Linh (whom Dawn has from a former marriage) Rhod’s dad Robert, Rhod’s mum Patricia and her father John.
The Christmas tree is decorated and the dinning table is filled with presents. I’m excited to see how Chrismas is celebrated here, because it is my first Christmas in a English speaking Commonwealth-country, where the 25th of December is the day to open the presents etc. It is not even 10 am, before I have my first (of many) glass of champagne – the day has begun!
Opening the present is much more chaotic and confusing than what I’m used to at home. In only half an hour, all the presents have found their owner and the paper is ripped off without concern for the love the wrapping paper is surrounded with. 6-year-old Linh is electric with expectations for her Christmas presents and all her expectations seem to be fulfilled – it’s quite a crazy present-frenzy.
Tiger prawns and more champagne on the terrace. I have a long talk with granddad John, who is 76 years old. He is quite fresh, bright and a fine proof that is it not necessarily a frightening thing to become old.
In the afternoon half the group takes a beautiful walk down to Sorrento’s Ocean Beach. The sun is shining, the water is green and the rocky coast is amazing, impressive. The whole of the Mornington Peninsula is a wonderful pearl.
With a couple of cold beer, Rhod and I have a terrace talk and try to catch up. We meet for the first time in 1998 in Utila, Honduras, and later, by coincidence, in the street in San Jose, Costa Rica and again in Cusco, Peru. Later that year, he came to visit me in Middelfart and we had an unforgettable Midsummer Day on my home island Funen. I’m happy about being here, with his lovely family.
Christmas dinner consisted of, on the meat side: turkey and deli-sausages, accompanied by a huge amount of vegetables, gravies, stuffing and red wine without limitations. Mum Patricia had been in the kitchen all day and the result was amazing.
In the evening we visit on of Rhod’s old friends. I loose both my heart and soul to his 7 months old daughter Emily. A lovely, little ray of light, who reminds me that I still have a lot of good things waiting for me in my life.
(Kindly translated by A. S. Jensen)
Tune of the Day: Hello – The Cat Empire
I had a long and splendid night in the soft bed in Leopold. Breakfast together with Julie and her daughter Daisy before I go to Queenscliff for the on the 9 o’clock ferry. Another fine, little Australian acquaintance…
In Queenscliff, I receive a fresh email from mum, dad and sister Julia – and for a brief moment I miss them, seeing their happy faces.
The ferry from Queensclif to Sorrento (on the Mornington-peninsula) takes about 40 minutes and cost 11 AUD, including the bike. Sorrento is a small holiday village on both the sea-side and the bay-side of the Mornington Peninsula. There are lots of expensive cars and rich people, so I cruise around on my bike and look at the cars of my dreams, people and skin.
It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve seen Rhod, my Australian friend, who has invited me to Sorrento to spend Christmas with his family. I feel a little over-sensitive about calling him, but the feeling was quite unfounded. As soon as Rhod and his girl friend Iva came to meet me in the city at 7 pm, everything was as it used to be in the old days. It is great to see him again and one cannot tell that we’ve spent so many years apart. Sometimes, it is like this between people. A friendship can seem weak on a time scale, but strong on the mental level, whereas other friendships can have a long history but not matter much.
At home Rhod’s family is waiting (further introduction will come in tomorrow’s article) with smiles, open arms and an amazing salmon steak dinner. There are 11 people in the house, so to ensure a little privacy for me, Rhod puts up a nice tent for me in the garden – my very own castle.
Later in the evening, the young parts of the family go to a pub at Sorrento Hotel. Rhod introduces me to the tasty Amber Ale draught beer. It’s Christmas Eve and the moon is full.
It’s great to be here…
Photos to come…
(Kindly translated by A. S. Jensen)
Distance (km) : 39
Time on bike : 2h 29m
Brutto time: 10.00 – 15.00
Avg : 15.7 km/h
Total (km) : 25.754
(Photos to come…)
Distance (km) : 59
Time on bike : 3h 50m
Brutto time: 10.00 – 15.00
Avg : 15.3 km/h
Total (km) : 25.716
(Photos to come…)
Maramures Region, Romania. I got the first glimpse of the wonderful rural Romania in this northern region that boasts some great villages with lots of old faces full of stories of a time long gone…My favourite region in Eastern Europe.
Sighisoara, Romania. This delightful town was really hard on my Canon EOS. I loved just walking around the old Citadel looking for Romanian portraits. It’s got a great market as well with lots of interesting people of all ages.
Istanbul, Turkey. It would take a life time to really get to know this fantastic city of some 10 mio. people. It’s position on the Bosphorus Strait is unbeatable. Istanbul has so much culture and history to be proud of. I really liked the little “herbs and medicine market” next to the harbour front in down town Istanbul.
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. The capital of Turkmenistan is a funny mix of monumental extravaganza (thanks to the former President Saparmurat Niyazov’s megalomanic tendencies) and human diversities. As usual, go for the local markets to get a feel of the people…
Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Along with Bukhara, this fabulous Silk Route Town was really one of the highlights of travelling through Central Asia’s “Stan Territory”. Superb mosques, photogenic markets with people from all sorts of places (some Caucasian, some Mongolian, some Russian, some Middle East, some Arabian…You name it, Samarkand’s got it!)
Bukhara, Uzbekistan. (See above – though the cities are both unique in its own right)
Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan. Margilan and neighbouring bigbrother Fergana are both relaxed, and socially + culturally interesting town in the hot and fertile Fergana Valley in Eastern Uzbekistan. A visit to the silk factory in Margilan is a great experience…
Osh, Kyrgyzstan. It’s the people of Osh in the Kyrgyz south western lowlands that make this pleasant city unforgetable. I just couldn’t stop taking shots of the “hat men” at the market which is the largest and most crowded outdoor market in all of Central Asia.
Kochkor, Kyrgyzstan. To me all of Kyrgyzstan was extremely alluring and interesting, photographically and personally. In this Kyrgyz League of Kings, Kochkor hits the top when it comes to village life, quant Russian cars, “hat men” and other kinds of Canon-goodies. I loved it here.
Karakol, Kyrgyzstan. Karakol is bigger and hasn’t quite got the village feeling that Kochkor boasts. But it’s weekly animal market is a fantastic event and definitely worth seeing. Lake Issyk-Kul is nearby as is great trekking opportunities in the Tian Shan mountains…
Kashgar, Western China. I might run out of “this is my famourite city-statements” but Kashgar truly is one of the greatest, most interesting and colourful (demographically) cities, I’ve ever been to. The different faces of the city today easily reflects the turbulent, multicultural history of Kashgar. The Sunday market and – in particular – the livestock market (with the odd camel for sale) is lively and extremely EOS battery consuming. Trigger happy is my name!
Kathmandu, Nepal. Presentation not needed here. Kathmandu is, always was, and hopefully always will be, the photographer’s Top of the Pops playground. The colours, the scents & smells (not always rose-like), the hustle & bustle, the genuinity of the capital, the food (don’t be too adventurous here, though), the mix of local and foreign traveller faces – Kathmandu is something special to me.
Battambang, Cambodia. This bigger, yet pretty sleepy town in Western Cambodia was a real surprise to me. Just wandering around the city centre, easily managable on foot, was a big pastime for me while I was there. Heaps of temples and monasteries with novice monks in their orange robes spice up this town that has a very bloody, recent history.
Dien Bien Phu, NW Vietnam. The North Western corner of Vietnam was by far my favourite part of Vietnam. The scenery, the colourful minority people, the markets (again), the relative isolation really make it worthwhile to venture here. Dien Bien Phu has a fairly big minority population – and most people don’t really mind having their photo taken…That, I like!
Sa Pa, NW Vietnam. The same thing goes for Sa Pa in the most northern part of Vietnam, right on the Chinese border. Though heavily visited, Sa Pa and the surrounding hill tribe villages among evergreen rice terraces are amazing. Don’t just stick to the beaten path around here.
Louang Prabang, Laos. There’s a certain feel good-atmosphere in LP that I really like. It’s situated right on the mighty Mekong River and is – compared to it’s popularity with travellers – a very relaxed and chilled place. Photo options galore in the tiny streets and alleys that radiate from the main street in the town centre. A trip to the other side of Mekong is a joyful day trip.
Xam Nua, NE Laos. I found most of rural Laos a real gem photographically. Xam Nua is situated in the rolling (killer!) hills in the NE corner, close to the Vietnamese border, and has a great mix of hill tribe people scattered around town. The (very) early morning market is a feast, for the eye as well as the stomac (if you fancy a bit of exotic cuisine).
Northern Thailand. I spent around 6 weeks in this region and I totally fell in love with it. The people are wonderful, the history of the area is interesting, the food super delicious and rediculously cheap, the surrounding mountain areas with waterfalls, minority hill tribes, elephants etc. make an ideal day out on a hired scooter. Chiang Mai is for me one of the greatest cities on earth.
Georgetown, Malaysia. Asian food markets make a big chapter in my book, and Georgetown (or Penang) in NW Malaysia has its fair share. The food is just as varied as the people’s faces.
Java, Indonesia . Totally underrated, my month cycling across Java was the South East Asian highlights for me. Outside of the few tourist areas (Mt. Bromo, Yogyakarta, Solo, Bogor, and – to a certain degree – Bandung) it’s virtually just you and 130+ mio Javanese and some of the most fascinating islands I’ve seen. Volcanoes, surreal crater lakes, mud pools, rice terraces, thousands of “Hello, Mr.” (could do without’em) from an always interested and in-your-face-attitude from the locals – Java’s got it all.
West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. The Islands of Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, and Timor have their own flavour and ambience. Though travelling in this region is slightly rough and not for everyone, I really enjoyed the “Indonesian Wild West” feeling attached to most of these islands. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming, and you actually don’t need any zoom lens for your camera, ‘cos people love to have their photos taken.