An unforgettable nibble

 

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There is really no doubt in my mind that the trip we are about to embark on will be not only an adventure but also something that hopefully will make us more knowledgable and smarter, something that will benefit us for the rest of our lives.  Im not trying to say that we are completely out of it now, Gustaf has lived in London for almost 7 years now, ever since he graduated from High School, and me, myself, I have lived in Hong Kong since 2005. I guess Im saying it just because of that, because I know how much I have learned from living abroad and having had a travelling life. Not that you dont learn things from staying local, its just different things. The more we learn the more complex things tend to get, its like when we have just scratched the surface of a subject, we have a brief moment of feeling that we have knowledge. Its kind of being a teenager and having the feeling of knowing what life is about. Then we wait a few years and suddenly the world is not simple anymore.

 

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Sorry, I just drifted away from the topic of this blog, I do that sometimes, sometimes deliberately and sometimes without even noticing it. A personality flaw that at times can be annoying.  What I was trying to get at when I started drifting away in my text was that we are very well aware of the fact that this trip is a huge ego thing, so big I honestly thought it would never happen except in my head. Maybe because of that feeling of one in a million did we actually realise what  an enormous (I was about to write tremendous but Mr D. Trump kind of tortured and executed that word so you have to settle for enormous) privilege it is.  Just getting the opportunity to do it and then to be able to accumulate the funds (which is not unsubstantial) is equal to winning a lottery, We therefore felt that we have to try to do something good at the same time To do something for some who havent had the same luck in the lottery of life as us.

 

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We decided on a fundraiser for children who have had a really bad start in life – who had nothing. SOS Childrens Villages aims their focus on just that, creating a home environment, security, health care, schooling etc for kids with no parents or families with no means to take care of their children. SOS have a village in Siem Reap, Cambodia and we took the decision that that would be the target of our fundraiser. We will do all we can to raise Euro 50.000 for these Cambodian children.

 

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However, if we are going to put in all the work required, we need to see the village and meet the kids. To meet the people who work there and hear their stories would be crucial to our success, at least thats what I tell myself. If we furthermore could get an idea of how the money will be used it would make it even easier to reach the goal.

After a bit of emailing back and forth I finally boarded a plane for the 2.5 hour long flight between Hong Kong and Siem Reap. The emailing was important since the villages are very protective of the children and every visitor must be fully aware of the rules that apply.

I arrived Friday afternoon at Siem Reap airport and must admit it was with a cocktail of emotions. I was really excited to be there and about going to the SOS Village but I was also a bit anxious since Im not really the best guy with kids. Im a bit awkward and its not me sitting at birthday parties with three kids on each lap singing kids songs. I dont have that ability.  I am much more comfortable holding a speech in front of a couple of hundred grown ups than keeping 10 kids entertained.

 

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Anyways, what was left of the Friday I spent finding my hotel and get hold of a tuk tuk driver who couold take me to the very famous Angkhar Wat. It turned out you really need a couple of days to see it all and I had like 3 hours. But, what an amazing (again not saying tremendous) 3 hours! Fact is I dont particularly enjoy travelling alone, I have done that through work way too much already but here I completely lost the concept of time and space. Well, I wasnt completely alone, Mr Sayon, my eminent Tuk Tuk driver and guide made sure I would get to see as many goodies as humanly possible before the sun set. Churches, temples and cathedrals are normally not objects that I spend time on, I often find them intimidating, threatening and giving off a scent of power and money that is everything but pleasant. Angkar Wat however, is a magical place with beauty and mystique that cant be explained. It needs to be experienced. I am not of a religious nature, I am not a believer, but even though parts of Angkhar Wat was packed with tourists, there was a calm over the entire space which is very difficult to explain but it just made it extremely pleasant to be there.

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A dinner on pubstreet with all the drunk backpackers served as the absolute contrast to what I had experienced earlier. I found a restaurant, ordered a pizza (i know I know but I was too tired and too hungry to go local food) and observed the drunk backpackers walking around in their shorts and flip flops challenging each other in either drinking more cheap shots or feasting from the food stands serving BBQ hairy spiders (hairy and big like hamsters) snakes or xl size bugs. Sometimes its great to blame vegetarianism.

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Saturday morning 10.00, meeting at the Childrens Village. The hotel helped me find a tuktuk driver who new the location.

I sat and talked for quite some time with Soeut, the director of the village and Nhan his assistent. We talked about everything from how they came to work there as well as their challenges and rewards. We talked about the kids and how they came to live there as well as their future prospects. I also described our fundraiser, what we aimed to achieve for them as well as the challenges of the motorcycletrip and that we will be back to see them on the actual trip to Sweden. Soeut likes motorcycles so I of course offered him to borrow one of our bikes. Im sure we will have a great time.  Soeut said he feels a bit like the kids father. Many of them dont have one and kind of adopt Soeut. SOeut and his staff always stay in touch with the kids even after they have grown up and left the village and in some cases they have come back to have their wedding at the village. Its their family.

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We sat on the patio of the main adminstrative building of the village. It was surrounded by the 14 houses where the kids are living. Up until now though it had been really quiet. Not a sound from the houses. But suddenly there movement and noice, not loud noice, more controled. funny.  A stream of kids in school uniforms walked past  by us and in the different houses. It was lunch and resting time. Rest for the smaller kids, chores and homework for the older ones. In each of the 14 houses there are 10 kids in ages from 3 to 15 who lives together with a ”mother”. I must admit I was a bit scared of what I would see when visiting the village. Scared it would be heartbreaking cus thats another thing I aint too good at. For these kids who have had a really shitty start of their life where the only thing looking worse is the prognosis of their future, SOS have come really far in creating th best possible environment.140 kids now have a place and a plan supported and aided by SOS all the way through university.

The school have approximately 400 students in all ages from kindergarden through High School. That means that approximately one third comes from the village and two thirds from villages in and around Siem Reap. Primary reason for going to this particular school is poverty.

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100 percent of the costs for running the village and the school are covered by donations. The funding for the village is done by SOS Sweden.

Soeut and his team now have an idea of helping an additional 300 kids in the Siem Reap area who all live under extreme poverty and who because of that dont get a chance to go to school. They have parents but their situation at home is such that it becomes very difficult due to the parents being away from early morning to sometimes late at night which means that they usually needs to go with their parents during the day rather than go to school. Soeut beleives there are between 600-700 children in the area who are in this situation. The plan is to try to half of these children with health care, school uniforms, food and a bicycle (so they can drive to school).

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Right now they dont have the money to execute the plans but with a successful Pops & Frog fundraiser these plans can be set to work and we, all of us, who in any way have helped with gear or money can be proud of ourselves doing something for someone who really really needs it.

So, of course you should be in on this! Send us an email and we will get back to you ASAP

The true freedom machine

 

 

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Sitting on the airplane on my way back to Hong Kong after an extremely intense two day visit to Siem Reip, Cambodia to prepare for my fundraiser. But even though it was only two days it was still an unforgettable trip and honestly, I don’t even like to travel on my own. I don’t like having dinner by myself in a restaurant. How the trip was and the SOS Childrens Village and all that will be in a separate blog.

This little blog is about the motorcycle. The motorcycle we rarely talk about in our part of the world, the rich part. Here the motorcycle is a hobby, something we  bring out of the garage when the weather allows it and have fun with. Yes, of course, there are people who use their bikes a lot more than that like all the people driving their three wheeled Piaggios to work every day in Paris, but I do think you understand what I’m trying to say.

In Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh etc etc the motorbike is an absolute necessity and probably the single most important technical piece of equipment in order to obtain economic development, even more so than the cell phone or the computer. Public transportation is limited and people need to get themselves, on bad roads, to work, to school, to hospital when needed, to see relatives, shop for food, go find a partner or whatever. In this part of the world the motorcycle transports people not only from one place to another but even more importantly helps taking them from poverty to a more secure life with better work, food on the table and school for the kids.

Even though the roads in these countries outside the cities towards the villages a lot of the times more resembles chocolate mousse than tarmac, it is not enduro bikes they are driving. Usually it is 100 – 125cc scooters, often automatic or semi-automatic. Honda and Yamaha are quite frequent and can be bought locally for around USD 1.000-1.300 brand new. Not too bad with western eyes but of course huge for a family that makes USD 150-200 per month. I have owned a 100cc Honda Click myself for 8 years now. Cant say I ride it on a daily basis but that bike is extremely reliable and dirt cheap to repair. Honestly I dont think I have spent over USD 150 in repairs in all 8 years combined. The only thing that is a problem is the quality of the innertubes which brakes just looking at them. Only comfort is that they are ridiculously cheap around USD 1.5 a piece, including the job to switch. My Honda have also been badly tortured by all the members in my family who wants to learn how to drive a bike (which is basically everybody). The bike has gone through these painful sessions without any complaints, always ready to serve. Its like a dog which, when you dont really have time for it and it doesn’t get to go out as much as it should, it still loves you.

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So when the western image of freedom motorcycles, especially a Harley from Easy Rider becomes the symbol. I must protest and say that the real freedom machine is a Honda Click.

Age determination is not that hard

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Reading column after column in the Swedish press regarding the difficulty of determining age. And I feel it can hardly be as complicated as they are proposing. Medicine has placed me within the group i belong to and that didn’t seem too hard.

1. Whenever I’ve been out running for the last 6 months I’ve experienced pain in my calf irregularly. It came and went until finally it was time to make a visit to the doctor and get a diagnosis. He quickly diagnosed a ruptured calf as an award for my running. Yeah that’s what one wants, tough to argue you’re a youngster with a diagnosed ruptured calf. I remember when I was young and my mother and her friends where bemoaning calluses, where did they go? The ones that where cured with special plasters that looked like tiny donuts. Oh well this is the old man’s age, the time of the old mans ruptured calf.

2. As if that wasn’t enough I managed to damage my achilles tendon during thaiboxing training in Thailand while sparring. Of course the first comment was that this was a dam middle age issue.

So my age is not something you have any issue determining. Old man is tattooed on my forehead and can be scientifically proven by more than one symptom.

The achilles heel was so damaged that i can now proudly display two screws in the heel bone and two clamps in the calf. I guess that’s what happens to old men… The rehab will take time but my goal is to be back on my bike to drive distinguished gentlemens ride the 25th of September and it looks as if that will be possible, but I’m not telling my doctor. He doesn’t like the idea and would much rather I take it easy because of my age.

In any case, no matter heel tendons or ruptured calfs I don’t see any difficulties in going forward with our trip next year. The rehab should be long done, my Robocop boot thrown away and the crutches a mere memory. Maybe I can even start thaiboxing again, because you’re only as young as you feel, right ?

Its not about the bikes, its about getting closer

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Lots of adventure travellers, bloggers and websites are very much focused on the bikes, about the art of motorcycling, about technical stuff, equipment.

Honestly, do we care?

Yes, to some extent we have to. Its important to learn a bit. However, Pops & Frog is not about that, the bikes are a tool to get closer. There is hardly any better means of transportation that allows you to get as close as a motorcycle will. Just as there is nothing which gets u as far away as an airplane. By closer I mean closer to the roads, closer to the nature, closer to the people, closer to the smell, the weather, the food, the music, the air, the culture, each other, need I go on?

Pops & Frog is primarily about all that. Sure, there will most likely be bike talk as well, especially during the preparations. Getting the right gear together is an important part if you want to be able to focus on the other stuff, especially for us who have absolutely nothing. Currently we focus on getting the small stuff, stuff we need but for which it doesn’t make any sense to look for sponsors. We have done some major investments though which I will tell you about soon, stuff I am now trying to master. Well master is really far from the truth actually, trying to handle at 25% of its capacity is closer to the truth.

Anyhow, don’t let all this gear talk fool you, the stories we want to tell are about people, sceneries, smell, food, each other, weather, culture, our fundraiser, music etc. (I’m repeating myself again, sorry about that) from parts of the world we don’t hear much and hopefully from a different perspective. If you are only interested in motorcycles Pops & Frog might actually be a bit boring. We are not great at riding bikes – useless offroad and Frog is getting his license as we speak! This needs to be improved before the trip, stay tuned for our level upgrade on that one. We are useless mechanics and cant even fix a flat tire. We really need to fix that. We have to improve on many points really – after all, we don’t have 3 years do this trip – WE HAVE 70 DAYS!

When those 70 days are over, I probably wont want to look at the bike let alone ride it. Maybe I want to blow it up with dynamite and when I later on think back of the trip it wont be bikes I think about or the great tents, it will be the experiences we shared and how that affected us. People we meet will have a much greater impact on us than the cylinders of our bikes even though its the bikes that make it possible.

Talk soon, I have lots to write about now when things start moving. Next text will be about my recently ruptured tendon………………………………..

 

Tattaaaa

 

 

On me

picMy name is Gustaf and while I’m most certainly a Svenungsson from Sweden I’ve lived in London for the last 5-6 years where I’m studying programming and do music.

In my ignorance I believe most people go on an adventure because they want to see fantastical vistas, eat exotic food, meet people or escape the day-to-day routine. However, what is truly exciting about an undertaking such as this for me are the music possibilities – well that and a little of the “the great outdoors”…

There is a brilliant opportunity with this journey to record the sounds and music of places one wouldn’t have access to normally and create a virtual library, I mean how often do you read about the music of Bhutan or actually hear it? By quite some distance that’s why I decided to join in on the trip. As a passionate fan of music it’s an amazingly exciting opportunity to hear music you wouldn’t have otherwise heard of and learn. As a programmer and hobbyist mixing/recording engineer it’s a way to show off sounds and music most people would’ve probably never heard of otherwise.

Now granted before we get to that part of the trip I actually have to learn how to ride a motorbike. Which for various reasons I’m technically not allowed to do in Sweden right now. Instead I must apply for a license in the UK where I’ve lived for the last 5 years. I find it be quite bizarre. How every country on the planet appears to think they have the most dynamic, sensible and well put together bureaucracy it’s obvious that there’s still a lot left to do

Of course none of this will be very easy, or go exactly as planned. It will be arduous and complicated but with enough planning it just might work. Now since my experience with a motorcycle consists of riding scooters and watching the Great Escape I must admit to being ever so slightly nervous.

Resrutt

Paris April 4, 2016

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Om man nu skall lägga en resrutt för motorcykel ifrån Hong Kong till Sverige så har man ett utomordentligt viktigt första val att göra, söder eller norr om Himalaya. Vi valde utan särskilt långa överläggningar söder och följande länder ingår nu i vår preliminära resrutt tillsammans med några alternativa vägval:

Hong Kong, Kina, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indien, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Kazakstan, Azerbadjan, Georgien, Armenien, Turkiet, Grekland, Italien Österrike, Schweiz, Frankrike,Belgien, Holland, Tyskland, Danmark, Sverige, Göteborg – MÅÅÅL

Alternativa vägval:
A. Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbadjan
B. Grekland, Albanien, Bosnien, Kroatien, Slovenien, Ungern, Slovakien, Polen, Sverige.

För vissa av dessa länder förväntar vi oss inte särskilt mycket problem med pappersexersicen medans andra kommer att bli besvärliga. Därför är vi ute redan nu. Bhutan har en årlig kvota på hur många turister man tillåter varje år. Landet utan BNP men med lycklighetsindex är utomordentligt försiktiga. Det medför att i den händelse vi faktiskt får inresetillstånd så kommer det att krävas att vi hyr en guide som åker med oss så länge vi befinner oss i landet. Sannolikt blir det också så i Tibet och möjligen övriga Kina också. För att hantera all administration kommer vi nu att annonsera efter någon som kan hjälpa oss en dag i veckan. Faktum kvarstår dock att resrutten kan komma att ändras beroende på tillståndsprocesser, den politiska situationen i de olika länderna samt vilket projekt vår fundraiser kommer att stötta då vi har för avsikt att besöka detta på vägen men det ligger väldigt nära till hands att utgå ifrån antingen Dhaka – Bangladesh eller Nepal.

Natthärbärge räknar vi med kommer bli av utomordentligt varierande slag, ifrån rum där det enda som påvisar att det faktiskt är ett hotell är den halv trasiga skylten på fasaden till ett antal nätter i tält, speciellt då i Norra Kina och Kazakstan. Dock hoppas vi på att då och då kunna finna smultronställen där lakanen är rena, nyheter finns att tillgå på TV:n, duschen bjuder på varmt varmvatten och maten är god. Vi har inte för avsikt att vara en survival show där vi försöker redovisa skillnaden i smak mellan rötter ifrån olika trädtyper eller ge oss på att försöka fånga fisk i strömmen med hjälp av tandpetare och gem. Då vi reser på en klart begränsad tid och helst vill slippa alltför många oförutsedda situationer kommer vi att planera noggrant. Det betyder frystorkad mat (som vi för övrigt inte har för avsikt att tillreda med vår egen urin) och proteinbars hellre än att sitta framför lägerelden och slåss om 5st vidrigt smakande men ack så näringsrika röda små bär som tagit oss två dagar att finna. Tidsplanen är knapp, vi måste hålla oss i rörelse i princip varje dag. För att lyckas med det krävs bra och pålitlig utrustning och god planering. Vi tvingas nog lära oss lite basic motorcykel mekning också, hujaaaa.

Däremot skall vi självklart äta lokal mat, dokumentera vad vi ser, möten vi gör, intryck vi tar och samtal vi för.

Vad jag egentligen försöker säga är att vår avsikt är att kunna njuta av vårt äventyr och dess strapatser, inte bara överleva det. Njuta av naturen, människorna, kulturen, varandras sällskap och motorcyklarna.

Vi kommer att varje vecka fram tills vi en dag är tillbaka på svensk mark med våra cyklar att dela med oss om hur projektet fortskrider. Dels för att vi tycker det är roligt att berätta men också för att kanske ge lite matnyttigt till andra som också är sugna på att ge sig ut men som känner osäkerhet. Kanske kan vårt material ge en bra grund för en massa saker men sannolikt också ett antal info ett antal ting man bör undvika.

Bär i åtanke, vi är inga experter, har inte vunnit Paris Dhakar eller är tränade Navy Seals. FROG KAN INTE ENS KÖRA MOTORCYCKEL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . än

Route

Paris April 4, 2016

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When planning a route from Hong Kong to Sweden there is one major choice that needs to be done – north or south of the Himalayas. In all honesty it didn’t take too much dwelling to decide that the south was the way to go. The following countries will be visited by Pops & Frog on the way to Sweden:

Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Kazaktstan, Azerbadjan, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Göteborg – FINISH.

Alternative route:
A. Kazaktstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbadjan
B. Greece, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Sweden

For some of these countries we do not expect too much hassle but for a few, acquiring  the necessary paperwork will be a challenge. That and a few other matters are the reason we have to start our project more than a year ahead. Bhutan (the country who doesn’t care about GDP but follows a happiness index instead) is very tricky since they have a cap on the number of visitors they allow to enter each year. Furthermore, they do require a guide to go with you all the way until you leave the country . . .
Tibet is similar but the worst case is mainland China. In order to handle the administrative work we will hire a part time assistant. An add will be placed in Jobs DB Hong Kong next week. (We will of course post it for you to follow). Fact is, no matter how good the assistant is there’s a risk the route will have to be altered due to permits, the political situation (warzones not being our forte) as well as which fundraiser will be chosen since we definitely will visit the project on our way. Currently we are rather focused on finding a project in either Bangladesh or Nepal.

During the trip we expect to find nightquarter in everything from the tents we will bring along (one tent each) to basic places where you really need the sign on the facade to identify it as an hotel. We also hope to every now and then find a nice place with clean sheets, hot showers, TV news in English, yummie food, a glass of wine and a couple of craft beers. We do not plan to be a survival show trying to diet on eatable roots and tea boiled from sewage waters that’s been filtered through a pair of used underwear. We will be travelling on a relatively tight schedule which forces us to plan carefully and a menu of freeze dried food and protein bars will definitely  be preferred to hunting shrubberies for eatable (horribly tasting) vitamin packed berries.

What we are really trying to say is that we want to enjoy our adventure, not just survive it. We want to enjoy the nature, the people, cultures, each others company and the bikes . . .

Every week until we reach our goal in Sweden we will write about successes and setbacks in our project. Partly because we enjoy it and partly because we are narcissistic enough to believe there is someone out there who would like to read it without getting paid for it. That is except grandma who doesn’t count. Hopefully it can be a little bit fun reading and also inspire others to set out on adventures of their own. Most likely there will be an equal distribution of dos and don’ts.

Please remember, we are not experts, we did not win Paris Dhakar, we are not trained Navy Seals, actually Frog can’t even drive a motorcycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . yet