Author Archives: John

Northern Thailand

Whilst most visit Thailand for its all- inclusive beach resorts the real gem (in our opinion) is in the very north where Thailand meets Myanmar (Burma).

Ethic groups such as Shan , Karin, and Hmong are just a few of the many ethic minority groups whom inhabit this remote mountainously region. The humble inhabitants of these small villages and communities could not have been more welcoming!

THAILAND from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

Thailand / Malaysia and now Home

Five months ago we returned to Russia in freezing conditions to continue our journey across and around the world. It was fitting that we should finish in a tropical paradise before heading home for a much needed break.  We´ve left our motorcycle and trusted friend in the good hands of an old work collegue and friend at Sandvik Mining and Construction Malaysia. We´ll return in December to continue our travels towards India and beyond.

 

Laos & Cambodia

LAOS & CAMBODIA (L) from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

LAOS & CAMBODIA still recovering from the Vietnam War………It was only last year when former President Obama visited Laos to acknowledge the USA and other foreign powers devastating intervention in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. We had never heard of the Laos Secret War until we visited the Plain of Jars and came across numerous bomb craters within the area.

We would like to share a little bit of what we found:

September 06, 2016 Extract from Remarks of President Obama to the People of Laos
“I am very honored to be the first American president to visit Laos.
“I realize that having a U.S. President in Laos would have once been unimaginable. Six decades ago, this country fell into civil war. And as the fighting raged next door in Vietnam, your neighbors and foreign powers, including the United States, intervened here. As a result of that conflict and its aftermath, many people fled or were driven from their homes. At the time, the U.S. government did not acknowledge America’s role. It was a secret war, and for years, the American people did not know. Even now, many Americans are not fully aware of this chapter in our history, and it’s important that we remember today.”

“Over nine years — from 1964 to 1973 — the United States dropped more than two million tons of bombs here in Laos — more than we dropped on Germany and Japan combined during all of World War II. It made Laos, per person, the most heavily bombed country in history. As one Laotian said, the “bombs fell like rain.” Villages and entire valleys were obliterated. The ancient Plain of Jars was devastated. “

“I also know that the remnants of war continue to shatter lives here in Laos. Many of the bombs that were dropped were never exploded. Over the years, thousands of Laotians have been killed or injured — farmers tending their fields, children playing

The wounds — a missing leg or arm — last a lifetime. And that’s why, as President, I’ve dramatically increased our funding to help remove these unexploded bombs. As a result, Laos is clearing more bombs. Fewer Laotians are being hurt or killed. And together, we are saving lives. “

“But there is still much more work to do. So today, I’m proud to announce a historic increase in these efforts. The United States will double our annual funding to $90 million over the next three years to help Laos expand its work.

Given our history here, I believe that the United States has a moral obligation to help Laos heal.”

CAMBODIA
The USA and other foreign powers intervention in Cambodia during the Vietnam War led the country into one the most brutal regime in history, The Khomer Rouge.

In the four years that the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, it was responsible for one of the worst mass killings of the 20th Century. The cities were emptied and the entire population subjected to enforced starvation, mass execution, slave labour and unchecked disease in what became internationally known as “The Killing Fields”. All the public institutions of society were systematically dismantled. Money and the ownership of all personal property were made illegal. Music was banned. Doctors, teachers, engineers, academics and all other educated professionals were executed along with their extended families.

Without trained doctors and any basic medical understanding, Cambodia’s AIDS epidemic became the fastest growing in Asia. Many died and thousands more orphans were added to those left abandoned by years of political turmoil. Medical services, such as they were, were completely incapable of coping. Social services were non-existent. This would have a devastating impact in fuelling the human trafficking industry in Cambodia.

Without knowing much about Cambodia and whilst riding through many of the villages and its Capital , we couldn’t help but feel the risk exposure environment in which many children still live today.

Today Cambodia has many organizations fighting children sex slavery and human trafficking. We visited one project called Daughters of Cambodia  https://www.daughtersofcambodia.org who is doing a remarkable job to rescue young girls and boys from prositution and sex slavery by teaching them working skills and paying good salaries.

The vocalist in the video is Sophea Chamroeun, who once lived in Phnom Penh’s notorious ‘White Building’, in a slum area. She is now the vocalist of the well know band Krom, who tackle social issues and has been shortlisted for two 2017 Grammy nominations in the World categories: Best World Music Album and Song of the Year. For more information please visit : http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/culture/article/2016/12/06/australian-cambodian-blues-band-social-conscience-krom-two-grammy-nominations

Tibet Today

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do and mostly Live.”
Dalai Lama

We were extremely lucky to be able to ride through Tibet. Few foreigners using private transport are even able to obtain the travel permits let alone ride through using their own motorcycle!
To be given the freedem to ride by ourselves, stop at random villages and visit the locals was something really quite special. We were also very lucky to be able to share the experience with an amazing group of friends from Tasmania.

We can all google the current situation in Tibet so we will not go into detail or get too political about it. We will only comment from we saw and experienced whilst there.

The massive Chinese development is seen as soon as you enter Tibet. The influx of money and Chinese migration to Tibet accompanied by heavy military ( for security purposes apparently) is extraordinary. The restrictions on free speech is very strong and we could sense it .
We were blessed and privileged to see Tibet and its culture before it completely changes or even worse, lost forever.

With thousands of photos & videos and many memories of this journey, it was a difficult video to edit. There were many more exclusions than inclusions, as the friends we travelled with would agree.

tibetlast from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

China

China was always going to be difficult for us to ride, but where there´s a will there´s a way.

To share the significant costs of this adventure we invited four good friends (two couples) to come along … Jude & Peddals and Penny & Johnny

We were rewarded with 35 days of wonderful memories thanks to the wonderful people whom we share this amazing adventure with …….. and the people of China who welcomed us with open arms where ever we went.

Tibet to follow…………

China with Friends from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

South / North Korea and a Dream of Unification

On our last day in South Korea we took a guided tour to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone.) This is a border barrier of 4 kilometres in width, which divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. It was created by agreement between North Korea, China and the United Nations in 1953.

The first thing we noticed was a single North Korea soldier standing on his side of the border facing three South Korean solders only a few meters away.

Within the DMZ lies a small blue building of which exactly half is situated in North Korea and the remaining half in South Korea. When you are in the room you can freely cross into North Korea, even if it is only by 4 meters. At each end on this modest structure is a simple door. One door will take you to the north and the other to the south. In the centre of the room is a table with 6 chairs. This is the location where the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement which “paused” the Korean War was signed and where negotiations until this day take place between the two Korea’s. It was really quite surreal to be in this very same room.

The tour ends with a visit to the Dorasan train station, currently unused. This station symbolize the South Korea´s dream of unification of the two Koreas, Situated 56 km from Seoul and 205 km from Pyongyang (Capital of North Korea), it is described not as the last station from the South but the first station towards the North.

There is a dedication site from Germany with a digital clock showing the time when Germany was split and then reunified. Beside this is the Korea clock ticking away until the two Koreas finally meet again …

South/ North Korea and a Dream of Unification from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

Kon’nichiwa Tōkyō

If you want a 5 minute introduction to Tokyo, head straight to the Shibuya Crossing. Thousands of people (up to 45,000 in a 30 minute period) – cross at a time, coming from all directions but remarkably, it’s orderly like everything else in Japan. There’s no pushing and everyone is polite as all manage to dodge each other , well….. except for all those tourists that get scrambled in the middle while trying to take selfies ….
There is also the Kawaii, meaning “cute” or “childlike”, culture in Japan. The term is used for the phenomenon of Japanese obsession with cute characters, toys, foods, games, and fashion. This affinity for kawaii, mostly from Japanese women has grown at a tremendous rate over the past three decades and has become an integral part of Japanese society attracting a fair share of criticism. Some women, such as the wife of Japan’s prime minister said in a recent interview “Japan’s women are being held back by pressure from men to be cute, rather than capable.

We’ve seen many young women walking “pigeon- toed” (which at first we though was due to a medical condition) on purpose,purely because they beleive it is cute!

It would appear that the physical appearance of being weak, submissive, childish, helpless and some times dumb, is very appealing to some Japanese men ….

KON’NICHIWA TŌKYŌ from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

Japan’s Road to Recovery

Five years after the Tsunami hit the east coast of Japan , the area still faces a long road to recovery. Entire towns were obliterated in a matter of minutes meaning that many places had to endure years of debris clearance before a single new building could be reconstructed. After spending years cleaning, the workers are now busy raising the ground level several meters. You can see truck after truck bringing fill dirt and cranes working everywhere you look.

If there is one thing we have learnt about the Japanese culture in the short time we’ve been here it’s their resilience and resolve and their ability to work together to reach one common goal.  They really are quite remarkable how they can reach a consensus so quickly, move on, and get the job done.

JAPAN ROAD TO RECOVERY from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

Japan & the Cherry Blossom

To everyone’s delight, cherry blossoms in Japan are now just blooming!

We went for a walk on Sunday to a park in Tokyo and we were overwhelmed by the number of families and friends that were gathering for the highly anticipated, centuries-old tradition of hanami (cherry blossom-viewing).

But the meaning of cherry blossoms in Japan goes deeper, and makes the country’s national flower a cultural icon well known around the world not just for its breath taking beauty, but for its enduring expression of life, death and renewal.

Tied to the Buddhist themes of mortality, mindfulness and living in the present, Japanese cherry blossoms are a timeless metaphor for human existence. Blooming season is powerful, glorious and intoxicating, but tragically short-lived — a visual reminder that our lives, too, are fleeting.

Although we do not identify ourselves with any religion , we certainly do advocate the reminder!

Blog video 100 from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

RUSSIA ON THIN ICE

We´ve be back in Vladivostok Russia for just a week now and ARE quickly reminded why we find this place so special:

ONLY in Russia would you find sunbathers before the ice has even melted

Finish a training session off with a quick DIP

Find a group of bikers who will do ABSOLUTELY anything to give a fellow biker a hand (thank you Russian Samurai´s)

AND find an official BMW mechanic willing to offer his help on a saturday afternoon when he was relaxing at home.

If that was not enough, the component we required to enable us to start our journey to Japan was not in stock in Russia. Not a problem, the manager of the BMW motorad dealership offers the part from his own personal motorcycle.

Thank you RUSSIA