Hej folks. We hope that everybody got back to work safe and sound after Christmas holidays. We know its been a while since we posted the last pictures and we feel terrible about it. Our apologies go out to everybody but special to those stopping by frequently to see if we have posted anything new.
Traveling is lotsa fun, no doubt about it. We still love it! But you start missing things now and then. Small things. Not talking about friends and families which sure come at the first place, but things like dark bread, farmers bacon and some liptauer or Käsekrainer with “Kren und Senf”. The austrian guys will know what we are talking about. You can’t get things like that in Asia. And then, at some point you wonder why you have ever wasted a though about such unimportant food stuff. At least we have something to eat everyday.
We left Thailand by bus, easy over land, no rough sea, just relaxed bus riding together with a couple of fellow backpackers. We planed to go to Lankawi because it was close by and as they say it’s very nice and beautiful there. What we did not know about it? Mhm it’s main, holiday, peak season and it seems that whole Malaysia is there to enjoy themselves all at the same beach. Literally everybody tried at least once the parasailing, banana or jet ski driving. It was so crowded that we could not imagine someone recommended that place. But we now know it’s really just exactly this time of the year where you would not go there if you want a quite beach.
As you know, we refuse to plan a lot during our trip, not where exactly we go and sure never booked any accommodation in advanced. We did look for some nice places to stay before we got there but guess what? They are booked out as we walked in. It seems that we have to switch out strategies slightly. Got a fairly overpriced place to sleep for that first nights.
The following day we spent on a motorbike to find a special place rather than just a nice one ;-) Carmens 30th birthday was coming up. And boy can you spent money on that island for “special” places. Sheraton, Four Seasons, Andaman you name it. But that was not what we wanted, we don’t feel comfortable in hotels like these, donna why.
An then we walked in Tanjung Sanctuary. It looked sooo gorgeous! We saw the price list and wanted to just have quick look at the bungalows to at least know what we can’t afford. A very friendly and nice boy drove us with his golf car to a beach view house. Breathtaking view!!! Just wonderful and it seemed to be the perfect place. While being there we saw a herd of black dolphins passing by the restaurant and monkeys as well as beautiful birds. But to be honest: we have not paid more than 30 bucks a night until now and mostly way under $10 during the entire trip.
Carmens eyes where sparkling like diamonds and as the boy said: “Well it’s still low season and you could ask the manager for a special price.” They where shining as bright as the sun! “That sounds good to me!” was Ingo’s answer. They lowered the price by almost 50% and you bet we walked in that beach view bungalow the next day. And to be sure they know why we are here, Ingo asked if they have anything like a cake or something to celebrate the B-day. We spent two unforgettable days and nights at this place. That was the most expensive night we both ever spent until now. You know, in Asia if you are willing to spent some bucks, you get really really great value.
As it is hard to celebrate a big birthday without friends and families we still had a wonderful time and Carmens girls got her a video message which made her tearing up before it even started :-) To be sure they can see her reactions I recorded a re-video-message for them. We had a blast hanging out in the bungalow and at the beach. Finishing the day with a perfect dinner. It was hart to leave that place behind to head further to Georgetown – Penang.
We got there by boat and plant to spend just two nights or so, to head somewhere else for Christmas. Plans are meant to change or fail during travels, keep that in mind! We have heard a lot about GT already and what temples we need to see etc. But to be honest with you guys, we are fed up with temples :-) Seriously, as interesting they are, if you do it for a couple of month, you just want to see something else than yet another temple. And GT was the right place to do something different.
(Confession: We did go to what they call “The Snake Temple” and it was very cool to see that poisoned snakes hanging around but that was the only touristic activity we did;-)
We get used to it already but sure enough the first Guesthouse was booked. It was the best price value but we found something else to sleep. The only place which head a private bathroom for a reasonable price. It was not easy to get into the “low-budget-mode” again after what we had in Lankawi ;-)
The first evening we went out for dinner and exploring the streets of Georgetown’s old city. We felt very comfortable and loved that there were like hundreds of Indian restaurants. The food looked incredible good. We had literally every day Indian food, sometimes twice ;-) during our stay there. What we came across right at the first place where these elderly trishaw drivers cycling around looking for new customers. Their vehicles all look different even if they are same color. Some have colored umbrellas, others got a sound machine and flashing disco lights on it.
The old town has extremely photogenic walls and patterns everywhere and this old trishaw drivers in front of that walls could be a picture. So we went out the other night with little lighting gear to photograph a few of them. We did not just make a picture we also talked to them.
Almost everyone spoke English and if not, there was a friend next to him translating for us. Very interesting people! Some of them don’t have homes and sleep on their vehicles on the street every night since decades! It is important for them not to sleep on the floor even if that would be more comfortable but police could arrest them because it’s prohibited in GT.
So we went deeper with our questions and we heard the name “The Lighthouse” from more than just one of these guys. It was around the corner where most of the people had their basis. It’s a place where homeless people can come to get food, clothing and if they want education and various training programs. They also run a very successful bakery.
We went their the next day and met “Belle”, the Lighthouse Manager. This man is truly amazing. We offered our help and started talking for almost 3h about the people coming here and life in GT and Malaysia in general. We learned a lot from him and it was a great honor that we could help them by serving the homeless during what they call tea time. People can come at around 3pm to get some cakes or sweet soup and tea or soft drink. Every days tea time and meal is donate by somebody, that day it came from the Roberts Family which we met there for the first time. After a little nice chat Marilyn, Jacob and Joachim invited us to celebrate Christmas at their place in Butterworth. What an honor for us to be part of such a special day with a Malaysian family. It was going to be a busy day anyway because they are 8 siblings, so they said two more people will fit on the floor anytime. Exciting!
We introduce Belle to the Help Portrait Idea and he passed the message to everybody who came for dinner. Even though Belle could not imagine why people would like their picture taken we did around 30 portraits that afternoon. We cannot share these pictures here because some people are hiding in Georgetown from loan sharks and we promised them not to publish their photos somewhere. It was fun and we let them know that we will have a print ready for them if they come back the day after again.
It was christmas time and we fell in love with Georgetown already. Specially the old town was so charming an we did several photowalks there. We decided to stay over christmas eve (24.) which we think is only the big day in Europe. Almost every non european we met says its the 25th where they celebrate Christmas. We asked at the Lighthouse if we could come back the next day to help cooking and serving which they appreciated as all their volunteers are back home for Christmas.
So we came back right in the morning to chop food for approximate 65 people and helped preparing meal and tea time. We actually wanted to donate food as well but they had a long “waiting list”. So we donate the tea time sweets that day, which is in not really worth talking about in terms of costs but makes you happy if you look in peoples faces if they enjoy it.
What we had in our pockets that day where prints of photos! Two copies for every person, one to keep and one to give to a friend or family. And guess what? They love it! You really saw that they have never got a portrait of themselves or at least not recently. Sparkling eyes all over the garden. They showed it around to others which made people line up to get a print who have not let us taken a photo the day before ;-) But sure we did another shoot because a lot of them lost their shy and wanted a picture as well. Belle was happy too and he said that we made the day for this people. Both of us had a very worm feeling inside and it made us so happy that we could make others very happy.
When we drove through Georgetown with our motorbike we got “Hello’s” and waving hands from everywhere. The people coming to the Lighthouse are spread all over the town and they recognized us everywhere. It really felt as we knew them since years or as they know us for long. But what have we done to them? We took pictures! And this is what we love about Photography, about our Job: Making people happy!
Christmas day we left Georgetown to celebrate with the Roberts Family. They welcomed us at their home with open arms. We had such a fun day with lots of food, singing and dancing. Eight siblings and their mother, lot of friends an neighbors and in between the Caringo guys ;-) Almost everyone of them is a musician and thus at least one always played the guitar and sang a song. And we both where blown away as they started to sing “Happy Birthday” for Carmen and serving a big cake with some sparkling vine! Speechless! Does not happen too often though!
At this point we again want to thank the Roberts family so much for their unbelievable and gorgeous hospitality. We tried to give them at least a tiny bit back by taking a family photo. They say it hardly happens that they are all together, so this was our chance to say “Thank you!”
This time, specially our stay in Georgetown, made us thinking about giving back more to people in need. Not speaking of donating money rather in terms of something like the Help Portrait idea. We have made some plans for 2011 already and will let you know soon about this ideas.
For now, we leave you alone until the last blog about south east Asia, which will be Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Thanks for your time! Love from down under!
Carmen and Ingo
home sweet home ;-) for two special days
our view from the bungalow
the monkeys are really barefaced! this little one just grabed in a bag of a girl and stole oranges and some mentos :-) we always closed our balkony…and had an eye on our stuff.
the great 30.Birthday of Carmen…we enjoyed the cake so much :-)
Georgetown…the view from the boat
we had our christmas dinner at this cool bar :-)
some iphone pics
the snake temple
LEE AHBUJ: 75 years old, 40 years Trishaw driver, he lives alone on the street since years.
MOHDMOR: 73 years old, a trishaw driver since 51 years, he have got a room for his self and his family, his wife and 5 children, you will find him first on the street because of his crazy outfit, his lovely decorated trishaw and his funny and loud music sounds from his loudspeakers.
SING: 67 years old, 20 years trishaw driver, he has got no family and lives on the street every day and night. Alcohol makes his life bearable, a lot of drivers drink or taking other drugs to make their lives “easier”, to forget and as a help to sleep on the loud and rough street. When it rains they drink or take drugs to sleep, and wake up next day with new possibilities.
a malay game entertaining the people on the street
AON: he is the supervisor for some of the drivers during the day, he has got two dogs living with him on the street.
MUNIANDI: 63 years old, 40 years trishaw driver, he comes from Georgetown and has 7 children. His wife died a few years ago and now he lives alone. He earns 30-40 MYR a day.
KALAIMANI: 29 years old, he comes from the mainland, Butterworth, lives on the street and during the night he works as a watchman for “the lighthouse”. He is deaf and dumb, so neither him, nor somebody else was able to tell us more about his life. He made very loud happy noises when he got his print and ran to his friends to show them what he just got. Heartbreaking!
KAMEL: 60 years old, 30 years riding trishaws, he has a wife and 4 children and he works hard to feed them.
NIM: 50 years old, 20 years trishaw driver in Georgetown because of bad economy, before he worked as a farmer. He does not have a own family, his home is his trishaw. He lives on the street, and the answer of the question why his sister, who lives with her family on the same island, does not support him was: “Why? I don´t want this. I love my live!” His trishaw is his life, he sleeps, eat and work on it and he stops drinking alcohol because of the lack of energy during the next day. A trishaw driver in Penang earn around 30-50 MYR a day, which is around 10 Euros a day, depends on weather, season and other conditions. He said that since 2001 the business goes down, hard times for the trishaw drivers.
AHMAD: 61 years old and rides the trishaw 22 years now, he is a Bachelor and lives right next to Nim. They are “Neighbors” during the night. The drivers always sleep at the same place at the street, it´s gives them some security and regularity in their lives. The trishaw is their bed, sleep on the floor can cause some troubles with the police, in the worst case getting arrested.
NUMBER 964: The oldest active trishaw driver in town. 82!! We tried getting a photo for two days but he is maybe the busiest one. He is not sleeping on the street as he got a family taking care of him. This iphone shot was a lucky one just right before we left Georgetown.
“Belle” founder and manager of “The Lighthouse”, one of the best person we ever met. great humor, open mindet and all around nice guy! he invited us having a wonderful afternoon with his family on the 24. dez. we had a huge icecream and so much fun!
co founders of the lighthouse…they what they do, and each other!
tee time in the lighthouse
working hard ;-)
the wonderful Roberts family