More Photos of the Laugavegur Trek

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.

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Some Ice Cold Water on my Mind

“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.

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Photos of Pokhara

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.

Fewa Lake at sunset. Pokhara lies on the shore of this lake.

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Just a Wee Little Walk in the Woods

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.

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First Impressions of Kathmandu

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.

A vendor at Swayambhunath Temple (AKA Monkey Temple), a hilltop temple with great views over the city. This is one of my favorite photos from the entire trip and one of the things I immediately noticed about this scene is the way the colors in the poster, the woman’s dress, bucket, bag etc. are beautifully matched. At the time I assumed this was a lucky coincidence, but when I started sorting and editing the photos from the trip I noticed that she has a Bindi dot in the same color on her forehead (instead of the usual dark red).

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The World’s Biggest Water Fight

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.

It’s no surprise that this festival is popular with children…
…but it brings out the kid in everyone. In fact, in the more crowded areas there are relatively few children, probably because it can be a bit raucous. Quieter streets and neighborhoods offer plenty of more family-friendly ways to celebrate.

Many participants wear Hawaiian shirts or costumes. The above photo is from a Songkran party at a gay bar my friend and I stumbled upon.

Children at a refilling spot. Did I mention ICE WATER!?

(Above three photos) Some water guns are attached to water tanks which are usually worn on the back

During the festival many streets vendors sell supplies – water guns, smartphone protectors, goggles etc.