Ya sas from Cyprus!
It’s the end of the month so you know what that means…
Time to see how many of you signed up for my emails only to get the free ebook… Let the unsubscribes begin!
No, not really (whatever, it’s partially true!). It’s time to muse you with the giant mess of a life I lead that happened in real-time. Buuuuut, the biggest news of all is that tour I’ll be leading in June next year in China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan… go read the itinerary and sign up here.
This month has been weird. Real weird. I started the month still in Myanmar and then followed by Georgia, Armenia, Artsakh, and Cyprus. Figured I’d save the bullshit and get to the point for those of you just curious about where I went… or you can continue to read on for some more details.
I was still in Myanmar at the beginning of the month. I finished up a jungle trek in the Shan state out of Hsipaw, then continued on to Bagan. The jungle trek was great, would definitely recommend it, however, Bagan was a letdown, but not because of Bagan, but because, well, you can’t always get lucky with the weather.
I still have mixed feelings about Myanmar and having gone there with what’s happening in the Rakhine State. A friend had planned a trip there and invited me so I went with, after all, I had been wanting to visit Myanmar for a while… I just wasn’t sure now was the time to go. I actually never knew much about the country besides the surface info most people know. When I decided to go on the trip, I’d never even heard of half the ethnic groups in the country, let alone the Rohingya people.
I see a lot of people now boycotting Myanmar because of the treatment of the Rohingya. That’s fine, everyone’s, entitled to boycott/not boycott anything they want, but here are my thoughts…
To those that have already gone in the past and are vowing to not go back… NEWSFLASH: this was going on when you visited too, so you’re not a humanitarian saint for your new vows, just naive at best, but I think ignorant would be the proper term here. I’m with you in the ignorant club, when I had dreamed of a trip to Myanmar in my mid 20’s I’d never heard of the Rohingya, among many other ethnic groups in Myanmar that are often oppressed. I’ve read some on the Rohingya now and this isn’t new. Next, I see others who haven’t been saying they will never… however they’ve surely visited countries that have committed horrible atrocities (people visit Serbia after their ethnic cleansing campaign, Turkmenistan even though it has a regime similar to North Korea, among many other places. People visit the country I’m from and look at our track record for fuck’s sake). But then on the flip side of the argument: is it right to all vow not to visit a country as fragile as Myanmar and further isolate the people within the country? Not all the people of Myanmar agree with what the government is doing there, no different than Americans that most vehemently do not agree with the ideas of Trump, or those of Obama, Bush, Clinton, or any other leaders who have sat in office.
Then again, you can’t really go to Myanmar without funding the government. You can do your best to avoid it, however, the people you give your money to for services pay taxes, just like most everyone else in every nation on earth. So yes, you cannot avoid funding the problem.
So there you go. I don’t really know the right answer, even though most comments I read on articles in regard to Myanmar and if you should travel there sounds like most people want to just further isolate the country by boycotting anything to do with it. Myanmar could easily spiral back to what it used to be, closing everyone out even more than it currently is so that they can easier hide what horrible things are happening.
Aside from my mixed feelings about going to Myanmar, here are my thoughts and realizations from Myanmar…
I don’t really like Southeast Asia anymore. It’s not you, it’s definitely me. It’s too hot and humid for my liking, I was uncomfortable the entire time. I used to look at the region as my home away from home. Where I felt most comfortable, sorta understood how things worked and where I figured out how to be a backpacker. This has nothing to do actually with Myanmar and it’s inner workings, it just made me realize I don’t enjoy sweating, at least not that much. Is this what growing up is like?
Myanmar was a huge eye-opener as to places that just can’t sustain mass tourism yet. We went to Bagan at the end of the trip because we wanted to do the hot air balloon ride over the pagodas and figured out that doesn’t happen till October. Well, spoiler alert: it didn’t happen. First, they were booked out, then we made it off the waiting list and scheduled for October 6, then canceled the morning of because of weather. However, this isn’t the point. Bagan was packed as it was the Thadingyut Festival and many people from all over the country were there at the same time. Accommodations were for the most part all booked. And then I started to see the nuances of too many people in one place. Rolling blackouts, wireless service being almost completely unusable because the system was overloaded… things like this. Going without power, internet, phone calls and texts doesn’t bother me at all but think about the people who live here. The hotel can kick on a generator to get the AC back on. A local probably doesn’t have this luxury of kicking on a generator at home for any needs. That’s when I really saw that Myanmar isn’t ready for mass tourism. It can’t sustain it without taking away from its own people. I’d really think about that if I was plotting to go during the high season.
Myanmar has been able to avoid the drunk asshats that have invaded its neighbors, I was dreading going back to Southeast Asia about this as I wasn’t sure if the idiocy had spread here. Don’t get me wrong, I like a drink, but I didn’t come here to get frat boy wasted.
However, Myanmar has been infiltrated by bloggers and vloggers, which is fine. Great, promote whatever you want. A sizable chunk of the people I met traveling in Myanmar was doing one or the other. The thing that really annoyed me? The ones touting how they were trying to get free this and that for exposure on their blog, Instagram, whatever. That’s one of the perks of doing this and getting established. However, I couldn’t bring myself to pitch any companies in Myanmar knowing just how low the average income is. Or am I the only one that really thinks about that when I choose who I pitch? Or maybe I just thought it was absurd since I did go to Myanmar to be a tourist, I didn’t go with the intent to write, photo and document the trip. I guess for everyone else this also means that you’ll see your fair share of dinguses walking down the street talking to a GoPro, iPhone or some form of video recording device. Something I would definitely not recommend for your own personal safety. Or maybe you wanna get run over by a moped. #YOLO.
Then my plans fall apart…
The PR company handling the press trip to Abkhazia, of course, waited until 4 am Myanmar time the day before my flight to Georgia to tell me that the Abkhaz tourism board pulled the plug on the entire project. Great, now I’m going to Georgia for absolutely no reason. I had a feeling something fishy was going on when I had been asking for a few weeks at that point for further information on the trip, as well as proof that my visa would be issued and they kept bouncing me around to different people and no one had an answer. And of course, the PR company is trying to play it like they’re trying to help but let’s face it- they’ve done nothing to compensate my colossal waste of time on this and clearly are protecting the tourism board from me, probably having figured out I’m pissed.
On a side note, I’ve been wanting to visit Georgia and the Caucasus for quite some time, however, I wanted to go on multi-day treks that are far and beyond the typical trekking itineraries in the region. Just not in October….
I arrived in Tbilisi with literally no plan except for check out the Caucasus and then travel overland through Turkey and eventually hop a flight to Cyrpus. 5 hours into Georgia I find out that US passport holders can no longer obtain visas to enter Turkey because of the two manfants running the US and Turkey and their inability to come to an agreement. Fucking lovely, let me just reroute my de-railed plan, yet again.
I kept hitting dead ends in Georgia as well. Most places I wanted to get out to in the mountains I wasn’t going to be able to because well, it had snowed in some passes the roads lead out to the treks on. And let’s just be honest here, it pissed rain almost the entire time I was there anyway, and I was frustrated because of, well, everything. I ended up only seeing Tbilisi and doing a day trip to Gori to see the Stalin Museum, not because I love mass murderers, but because I like history. My favorite part was when Marion, the man who drove the van of us out there said Stalin’s train smelled like communism and he didn’t want to go inside. I did, it smelled like the dilapidated shack I lived in till I was 8. Turns out communism and being poor smell real similar.
I got up one morning and thought, fuck it, I’m going to Yerevan. I decided it was probably best for me to get out of Georgia and return another time.
Armenia, and a horseback molesting
I hopped on a shared taxi to Yerevan and figured I would wing it from there. It all worked out well because I met a Czech guy on the marshrutka who was picking up a rental car and two Armenian sisters he knew the next day to road trip the Nagorno-Karabakh and invited me to go with. Done. After we arrived I did find a cheap flight to Cyprus from Armenia the day before my birthday. Booked.
We all headed for Tatev in the morning. Of course, by the time we got there, it was in a giant cloud and didn’t budge. I didn’t even bother spending the money to go on the cable car, because I know what the inside of a cloud looks like. The cloud stayed, we left.
Finally, we ended up in Goris which actually turned out to be pretty cool because we camped in a cave overlooking the town that night. Then I realized we were camping above a graveyard on Friday the 13th. I think that would freak out most people, and then there’s me over there like, cheers life, bring it the fuck on, what next? No really, how are you gonna fuck with me next?
I really feel like I’ve been being poked with a stick by a 6-year-old since I left Central Asia.
Here we go: The next morning I got in a fight with a shepherd. Because he was a perv. At sunrise, I got up and walked by myself a further up into the hills to take some photos. When I got near the top I crossed paths with a shepherd taking his cows to graze, he was on a horse. He hopped down and tried talking to me in Armenian which I unfortunately after less than 24 hours in the country didn’t know a single word of. I tried Russian and he did know some. He insisted I ride the horse. Did I ever mention that after the Great Horseback Riding Incident of 2003 I’m terrified of horses? Okay I probably never told that story on here but any of my family knows this story, and for those of you don’t it’s probably one of the funniest incidents in my life and well, I thought I was gonna die. The. Whole. Time. So Shepard helps lift me up on the horse. Then he jumps on behind me (weird) and immediately goes in for a full-on tit grab. Like he grabbed it and squeezed. Hell to the fuck no. I jabbed my elbow square into his ribs. What in the ever loving fuck? I didn’t think that walking up a hill in a hoodie and sweatpants and breath that likely smelled like I gave a street dog in Bangkok with worms a rim job warranted a 7 am molesting. By then the horse is already trotting along and I’m about to clock this motherfucker upside the head and tuck and roll. I’m yelling and trying to get off this horseback ride to a bridenapping and before I know it he reached his hand around and grabbed my vagina. Okay, Donald Trump. It’s on. I turned just enough and punched him. Square in the side of the head. I finally beat and fought my way to a release. Dosvidanya motherfucker, I hope your horse rapes you*.
*I don’t even feel slightly bad about that statement. Not. at. all.
But don’t worry Armenia, I don’t believe this asshat is a representation of Armenians.
Nagorno-Karabakh but now known as the Republic of Artsakh
And no I’m not trying to get political here, but here’s a little unbiased information on Artsakh. The Nagorno-Karabakh (or Artsakh) is a region that has been squabbled over essentially since just before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It did escalate into full-scale war in the early ‘90s, however, there has been a cease-fire in place since 1994. The UN recognizes it as Azerbaijan, but the region remains under the control of ethnically Armenian separatists and has been operating as a de facto independent country. It’s only enterable from Armenia.
Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh, whatever you would like to call it ended up being my favorite part of my time in the Caucasus. It’s beautiful. However, I will say that you don’t really wander too far off the beaten track here as it’s still heavily landmined from the conflict.
The first stop inside the country/not country was a waterfall. Waterfalls don’t interest me too much, well unless it’s a behemoth so I went in indifferent. It ended up being the coolest waterfall I’ve seen. Okay NK, you’re winning me over. Then it was on to Stepanakert, the capital. It’s compact and has an interesting statue just the outside city (that, in fact, was the only photo I’d ever seen of NK before I went). We’d spent more time there than planned because we had to wait to get our visas for the country/not a country.
Later that night we camped under the stars at Sarsang Reservoir and burned some sweet marijuana to cook dinner with (It grows wild, I swear!).
Our final day included a hot spring, an invite to a lunch that consisted of mostly Araki (it’s alcohol), and a crazy road trip high into the mountains on a trail not a road in a gutless 2-wheel drive car. More on this later, but it ended up being one of my favorite days this month.
Onto Cyprus for my birthday! One of my best friends just moved here and well, you gotta take advantage of that. Plus, it’s so nice to go somewhere and not feel like you need to see it all because it won’t be your only opportunity to be here.
Three things I will say you need to come to Cyprus for:
1. The best food I’ve ever eaten in my life. Geena took me to 7 St. George’s Tavern and it is without a doubt the best meal on earth. You know it’s gonna be good if there’s no menu.
2. The people. Cypriots are ridiculously nice people (unless they’re driving, what in the ever-loving fuck is up with the driving?). There have been so many times we’ve gone somewhere and had a Cypriot yak our ears off, and not in a bad way. People here seem to take their time and genuinely want to get to know you.
3. Some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen some incredibly blue water but I swear the water here is a different kind of blue.
So what’s coming next month?
I’m off to Morocco in a couple of days and then HOME! You have no idea how excited I am for both.
What Did I write?
What’s coming next month?
Hold on to your seats…. *crickets*. I have no posts written out yet for next month. I have some ideas: Karakalpakstan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Antarctica, Moldova, Transnistria, Cyprus… we’ll see what I come up with.
See ya next month