Here are the remaining photos from the Laugavegur Trek I did in Iceland this past July and some music I recently discovered from Satin Jackets, a dance music collective led by German producer Tim Bernhardt. Lush landscapes, lush tunes.
Here are the rest of my best photos of Reykjavik from this July’s travels in Iceland. I’ve also included a Nordic lounge soundtrack for strolling.
It will probably come as no surprise that I’m not a fan of the “pics for Facebook” mode of travel in which the main objective of a journey seems to be getting lots of selfies to show off on social media. If we go to Angkor Wat and do nothing more than take a succession of photos of our own face, are we really seeing and experiencing Angkor Wat?
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Haruki Murakami in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
The high point of my two weeks in Iceland this July was the Laugavegur and Fimmvorduhals Treks, which are connected and done continuously over 4-6 days. Beginning with the raw, desolate beauty of Landmannalaugar in the highlands of western Iceland, traveling through the deep, rugged, verdant canyons of Thorsmork and ending near the southern coast at Skogar, the trek is included in many “best in the world” lists on the internet. It could easily be the most incredible natural beauty I’ve seen in my life, and that’s saying a lot, because I do like to get out and see the world! In addition to the unforgettable scenery, I met a lot of wonderful people on the trail and in the mountain huts we stayed at each night.
I haven’t been able to post in the blog for a while because my June and July travels in the US and Iceland were just too busy and eventful. My motivation for the blog is as high as ever though and now that I’m back to regular life in Bangkok I look forward to resuming regular posts.
The two weeks I spent in Iceland were so rich in amazing scenery that I’ll probably do at least 3-4 posts from that trip, especially of the extended trek and day hikes I did there. I need more time to go over the thousands of photos I took on that trip and select only the very best for the blog. For now, here are my best photos from Pokhara, which is a gateway for many treks in Nepal, including the one I did in April.
In late April I walked alone into the Himalayas for a five day trek with nothing but a small day pack on my back. Does this seem scary? If so I completely understand. I don’t think I’m particularly courageous and plenty of fears crossed my mind as I thought about and planned the trek. Without a guide, maybe I’d get lost in the mountains and never be found. Maybe I’d be buried in an avalanche. Or die in a heavy snowstorm. Or maybe there would be another deadly earthquake, like the one that hit Nepal in 2015. All these things have in fact killed plenty of trekkers in Nepal. But it’s also worth noting that there were about 6,000 pedestrian fatalities last year in the United States and yet we still keeping crossing the street.
The high point of my recent travels in Nepal was a five day trek I did in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas. The third day of the trek was particularly memorable, both for beautiful scenery and for an extremely awkward social interaction.
I was traveling in Nepal for the last two weeks of April, first in Kathmandu, then a five day trek in the Annapurna mountain range and finally in Pokhara, Nepal’s second city and a gateway for many Annapurna treks. As with the trips to India and Bali last year, Nepal was so rich in atmospheric cityscapes, memorable people and natural beauty that I’ll probably post thoughts and photos from this trip for a month or two.
I spent the entire morning of the first full day in Kathmandu applying for a new visa at the Thai embassy there, leaving only a half day for strolling around that day. Here are my best photos from a single afternoon in Kathmandu, my first impressions of that dusty and chaotic but fascinating city.
I’ve found a promising solution to my biggest weakness as a writer – I’m not good at being concise and limiting myself to my thumbs seems to help. (“You write on and on,” one Vietnamese friend said after asking for the link to this blog.)
I’m writing this post from Tikhedhungga, a tiny village in the Nepali Himalayas where I’m trekking this month and my phone and camera are the only tech I brought with me. (All I’ve taken with me on the five day trek is a small day pack). In the near future I’ll share my photos of Nepal but for now here are some shots of Thailand’s New Year (Songkran), the country’s most important holiday.
Traditionally, at Songkran people poured water over the heads of family, friends and neighbors to wash away the misfortunes of the past year. Over the years this custom has evolved into a giant water fight, especially in Bangkok and other major cities, and boisterous revelers soak each other with large water guns, which I was dismayed to discover are often refilled with ice water at numerous refilling spots in the main areas of the festivities.
Needless to say bringing a camera to the world’s largest water fight is out of the question so while I was really looking forward to experiencing the festival for the first time I had no expectations that I could photograph it. I was delighted to discover though that inexpensive waterproof phone protectors are sold everywhere during this festival.
In a sense these photos are possible because of the global affliction of mobile phone and social media addiction – wherever I am in the world lots of people cannot be without their phones! And thanks to some ingenious Thai entrepreneur and a factory in China there’s a solution (which costs only $1.5O). (The ability to write this post from a village in the Himalayas is another sign of our dependence on our phones – many of the streets in Kathmandu are unpaved and the air is choked with dust, but up here in the Himalayas, at least so far, the 3g and WiFi are strong.)
With far from ideal photography conditions – my four year old iPhone inside what’s essentially a glorified zip lock bag – here are my best photos of the mid April Songkran festivities.