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Seattle by Bus

seattle map-terra-1

 [Port Angeles to Seattle – stuck in my journal April 2013]

 

I sat behind a lady on the right hand side of the minibus her hair was grey, cropped and curled tight like my grandmas. I spent three hours staring out the window, staring at the mountains and the trees meant for tales of giants and gypsies, and then taking a breath I stared back at the the top of her head over the grey, embroidered bus seat. A dose of reality in the fairytale landscape I passed through. I left my raincoat on the bus, the weather was warm, the first hint of spring, my head was in the clouds of Mt Rainer.

Ironic maybe, but now that I’ve moved just north of that bus route I’m only a little mad at myself for being so distracted by the pacific northwest.

The Isle of Eigg

Eigg-140

 

 

Peculiar Travel Suggestions are Dancing Lessons From God – Kurt Vonnegut

Linda,

My knee was elevated, and an ice pack was strapped to my foot. The mountains surrounding Fort Williams stood silent beyond the windows of the wooden hostel. You sat in front of me and asked about my knee. I told you that against the best advice of my hiking partner I pushed myself too hard, walked too far, too fast, and injured myself. Proud that I completed the 120km walk across the Great Glen Way fault line in Scotland, I was ashamed I popped two painkillers to get through the last five miles. You were no stranger to the self medicating outdoor enthusiast within, and told me stories of your own mountaineering, ruining the cartilage in your knees.

It was the evening and after one more day of rest I knew that I would leave Fort Williams, but now maimed I couldn’t continue with my original travel plans. I wasn’t upset, I was sore, but I had just walked five days and another week of walking could be saved for another trip. It was just a question of where to next.

I remember you were from South Africa and we talked about what freedom meant and why you had decided to live the last few decades in the UK away from family and friends. You said it was just impossible to walk and camp freely as a young female, just as I had done the week prior. That was a freedom no women should take for granted in the UK or anywhere. The freedom of movement without fear, the freedom to enjoy the outdoors.  We talked about the hidden treasures on the west coast of Scotland, and with utter authority, after knowing just briefly my love for photography, cheap travel, and the urge to get off the beaten path; you said;  “go to the Isle Eigg.”

“From here just take the train to Mallaig in the morning, you can catch the ferry in the afternoon, you can camp for free! It is one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

And it was. And I had an amazing time.

So this is a little thank you note, Linda, because of what at first seemed like a peculiar travel suggestion turned into quite an adventure. You never needed to ask about my knee, and I could have avoided a conversation, but instead I had a lovely night, taking pictures of the stars and talking about life over cider with you.



Hong Kong Google Map – Causeway Bay

hong kong map

 

 

I walked down a wet side street in Hong Kong, led by Mrs. Au. The street lights were on and I was pushing a baby’s stroller. Tammy held the baby, and my travellers backpack ripping at the seams with the weight of a few cameras sat inside the padded seat. Space was tight in Hong Kong, so we decided to take the carriage off Tammy’s hands for the night and meet up again with it tomorrow. Tonight I was sleeping in Mrs. Au’s flat, she had a bed at a friend’s place and it was settled. I could have stayed at a backpackers and I had been planning on it but Tammy, Junie, and Mrs. Au shuffled around. I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Hong Kong.

I never imagined I would end up here.

Ms. Au, the baby stroller and I turned at the metro, and together we made the short trek due to the modern subway system across the city and home.

Home in Hong Kong.

What is it about the city? Mrs. Au had lived across the world, Canada, England, and still every few years ended back up in Hong Kong. She smiled as she talked about it, the old and the new, the ferries, and the nature just outside the city centre. She talked about the crossing of cultures, british colonization, the intense mentality of business there. I asked questions, a lot of them, and that night on the street, I remember so clearly Mrs. Au unlocking the front steel gate to her flat and saying,

“You know on a good day Taylor, Hong Kong is where the east meets the west and on other days, its neither here or nor there.”

I wrote it in my journal that night, and have since thought about it, about Hong Kong, about the mountains, the skyline, the men on the street with newspapers flying loosely around their feet, and clenched in their hands a ticket for the horse races. I think about the foreign nannies, their day off spent together in a park on our side of town. I think about that cupcake Tammy and I missioned for, walking across the narrow sidewalks with Junie sleeping away reminiscing about what had been three years before on another continent foreign to both of us. We had met in Uganda in September 2008, and now visiting in the most densely populated metropolis in the world Africa feels like a lifetime away. We are joking about the crazy Matatu drivers and the Thanksgiving meal we made with chickens we’d killed the morning before the feast, it feels so long ago and I’ve been pretty much a vegetarian since.

Hong Kong is a night city, a skyline worthy of thousands of photos every night, it had fashion and highways taken on a motorcycle at monster speeds, a city block devoted to flowers. It is a city of public politeness, and cemetery squatters, where the best transit system in the world pumps millions through the city like the artery of a fit man in his prime.

It was a city of gracious hosts that showed me an incredibly romantic, surreal place of duplicities.

Where the east meets the west but neither here nor there.

capture-time-070 travel photographer hong kong flower market photo travel photography hong kong bird market mountains in hong kong sky scapers hong kong travel photography flags of hong kong at night

 


Angkor Wat Temples, Siem Reap Cambodia

Angkor Wat Map SIEM REAP CAMBODIA

 

 

We were up early to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat but our Tuk Tuk broke down and we only made it there for the afternoon. It was hot and exhausting, and the redeeming ice cream cone as the sun began to set as the best thing I ever tasted.

Cartography can be an incredible form of escapism, as maps act as proxies for experiences, real or fabricated. Whatever their purpose or subject matter, even the most rudimentary of maps have an inherent beauty, an attraction in their way of ordering things.

Sihanoukville Cambodia Coastline Map

map of Shanoukville Cambodia

Otres Beach is beautiful and therefore I am sunburnt.

My hands are stiff from my grip on the motorbike handle bars, Alex and I waited out the last of the light on the beach and drove back into town as the moon rose. I am stressed out and my chest feels tight. Alex’s front headlight stayed dark the entire ride, and I lit the way just ahead of her as the lights from the city came into view.

I know how to drive a motorbike and I wasn’t worried about an accident, but we couldn’t take the route we had coming into the beach. I was disoriented and intimated by the poverty that coated the road sides. Blank stares and dark corners.

We are now safely back in Sihanoukville and everything will be better in the morning. It always is. The sunburn will subside.

map of Sihanoukville Cambodia Sihanoukville beach at sunset cambodia

 

[March 2012]

Pai Thailand | New Country for Old Friends

illustrated map of pay thailand

I met Alex when I was eleven. She was twelve and so much cooler. We raced down a dirt road and we were instant friends.

 

I’ll never forget that night in Thailand when we met again.

 

The night market was being packed up by sticker vendors and pad thai street chefs. Slowly the crowd had moved from meandering the alleyways of Pai to the Thai pubs playing British soccer games. I was headed back to my hut in the rice paddies when mid sentence, mid step, I heard a voice that stopped me dead in my tracks. I swung around and behind me Alex Meeker and her three friends sat beer deep in a pitcher. What ensued next could have been out of an episode of girls, there was hugs, and high pitched voices, and a general air of disbelief that miles and miles away from home there was a familiar face in the crowd.

 

I hadn’t seen Alex in three or four years, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

 

My visa was expiring the next day, and we made plans to meet the next week in Cambodia.

 

New country for old friends.

 

[Early March 2012]

Cambodia New Favourites-4

Hong Kong MRT Map

Hong Kong Subway System Map - Map Collection

The bathroom had a line, like all women’s bathrooms across the world I knew it would have a line… and Hong Kong the most densely populated place in the world, of course, had a nice long line of well dressed business class women. I was just outside the airport at the entrance to the MTR underground subway in Hong Kong. I wasn’t waiting for a toilet, only a sink and so with my bulky camera bag on my back I shuffled to the front to wash my face.

I was meeting my friend and her new baby son, and I smelt like day old beer and a night on the airport floor. I had just flown from Bangkok to Hong Kong on a red eye, and as I stood at the sink surrounded by locals brushing my teeth, I felt for the first time in my life homeless.

My hair was disheveled; I had run into a friend on Koa San Road, the late night, sometimes precarious tourist district, as I waited for an airport shuttle bus – the impromptu reunion led to more than a few Chang beers, a little dancing, top forty music blaring, and a missed bus, which then became a later night cab ride.

At 3am only slightly intoxicated I set up a makeshift bed, and spent a few hours on the airport floor to save a few dollars. My flight took off at 6am – what feels like a decade ago, and it is now 11:00. I’ve brushed the knots out of my hair, much shorter than when I started this trip, and changed my shirt. I had only one clean option left my backpack.

I’m being stared at; I’m a foot taller, and a hell of a lot blonder than any one else in the bathroom. I feel self conscious about my loose travel clothing, and the fact that I am brushing my teeth in a public washroom.  Hong Kong is business and I am out of place, I feel like I don’t belong this late in the morning, still foggy.

I often ask myself how did I end up here? Its not that I didn’t make a conscious choice to go to Hong Kong but when I left home three months ago I could have never predicted my current situation.

Yet here I was, about to ride in a tube underwater to an island filled to the brim with people. A tube that moves millions of people around everyday and all I could think about was my hangover and the new conversion rate I was still trying to grasp. I put some makeup on covering up the bags under my eyes from the lack of sleep, stared at myself in the mirror, and then conspicuously I watched the people milling around me. It is a habit of a photographer people watching, culture watching. Then with a quick look at my watch, I walk out of the bathroom, no longer homeless but with places to be and a friend to meet.

[adapted from March 2012]