All the way down… to rise again.

Imagine you wake up in your hotel room, 16.000km away from home and you feel that something is wrong. Absolute wrong. But you cant figure out what is happening. You are sweating all over, you feel sick, drugged, you experience the worst headache in your life and your brain wont start to cooperate and explain you the situation. After you managed it somehow to crawl out of bed you almost collapse when you are trying to have a cold shower. Just a few hours ago you had some cocktails at the swimming pool of the first 4-star hotel you’ve ever booked in your life and you’ve enjoyed the evening, looking forward to your flight to the next paradise-country two days later.

You try to play it down but you already know this is serious. You need to figure out what is happening to you. After seeing a friend almost die from a sepsis a few months ago in Indonesia you have decided to buy a fever thermometer and this seems like the right moment to use this tool. You double-check the temperature because you don’t believe it first and you are left with only one thought: „It is time to visit a hospital“. About one hour later you stumble into a clinic and your fever has reached 41,5°C. One degree more and you die. The idea that your protein hardens and you basically boil away is already pretty bad. To make this feel finally scary they present you the results of a blood test soon and tell you that your blood platelet count is very low. They tell you if it gets worse your organs will start to bleed internally. Later test will show that it is getting worse. They suggest you to call your relatives…

This is a good situation to contemplate a little bit about life, expect some philosophic articles in the next time, I can’t stop writing since then 😀

This is already more than two weeks ago and the fact that I am writing this article proofs that I am still alive. I am still recovering but I already feel much better. Anyway. It wasn’t Dengue. It wasn’t Malaria. It was just a common virus and my immune system was weak. Shit happens, life goes on, I can travel on. And thats awesome!

Maybe it is worth to mention how much I would have need to pay if I would not have a health insurance for traveling. I was only for five days in the hospital and went I left I signed a bill for more than 4.500$… Make sure you have a good health insurance while traveling, it is not expensive!

They did not only paid for all the expenses they also involved a German doctor who received daily updates from the doctors in Thailand and took care that everything was ok. If it would have been necessary to fly me home they would have done so with a finger snip. Again. Get a proper health insurance when traveling.

I can’t believe that already eight weeks passed since I wrote here the last time. What happened after I’ve left Bangkok two months ago? I will just give a short overview, no real travel story at this point. It is too bad that again exactly in the most exciting time I stop writing, I stop making pictures and I just get soaked up in the situation. But hey, I am here to learn and maybe I manage it from now on to experience and to capture the situation at the same time…

Anyway, in the shortest form:

Chiang Mai => Pai => Mae Hong Song => Pai => Chiang Mai => Bangkok => Manila => Puerto Princessa => El Nido. Thats where I am now: El Nido, a small town on the island Palawan which is located in the western part of the Philippines.

In pictures and short words:

It took a while before I saw enough Buddhas statues, gold and glitter, temples and impressive relics. And it took a while before I got fed up with drinking cheap booze at the Chao San road… I didn’t planed to stay for a whole week in Bangkok but I am always slower traveling than I expect and after all Bangkok is still impressive to me, no matter how many times I’ve been there already:

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In Chiang Mai I met some friends from last year, walked around for a photo shoot with a Chinese reporter from CCTV and I spend a lot of time creating the web shop and uploading pictures with an incredible slow internet. Maybe I should book a real hotel for tasks like this the next time, not the cheapest backpacker place available. And maybe I shouldn’t only capture details with the camera, you won’t get any idea how Chiang Mai looks like 🙂 But hey, I told you I am here to learn…

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From Chiang Mai I took a Minivan to Pai first, a small mountain village in the north of Thailand that somehow seems to be my homebase when I am in Asia. I stayed there only for a few days before I left for Wat Tam Wua, a forrest monastery which is located even more north in Thailand.

It was Rainer Maria Rilke who said “The only journey is the one within.” – and as always he was right. The meditation experience was the point where my trip changed into a journey inside of me. I almost stopped completely to make any pictures and started to write. Page after page my whole life appeared in front of me. I spare you to read through all of this, it was hard enough for me 😀 Anyway, this was how my meditation cave, my small hut next to the cave and the surrounding area looked like. It was pretty nice there and it’s a shame I didn’t took more pictures…

When I went outside after the first meditation just after sunrise and I saw the mist coming down from the mountains, a rainbow appearing between the mountains, flowers and butterflies all around, the last thing that came to my mind was to grab the camera and take a snap. Next time.

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As the most contrary thing I could possibly do after the meditation I went directly to Mae Hong Song, attended a festival, watched a Muay Tai fight, got drunken, lived, loved and danced. I was not ready yet to process what I experienced while meditating but a few days later it all came back to me, asking to get resolved. The fruitful darkness without the light would have no meaning…

I find the pictures a bit descriptive for what I was going through. Fighting with myself. Going all the way down. Being exhausted. Getting away with a blue eye. Inspecting what happened…

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The time in Pai afterwards was as beautiful as every time when I am there. What is so special about this small village? Maybe it is the people who come here, stay for a long time and you begin to really know each other. Maybe it is all the awesome musicians who come here and play every night at the different cafes and bars. Maybe it is the locals who are living here and who invite you to be part of their community. Maybe it is the beautiful area around Pai, the waterfalls, the hot-springs, the canyon, the small villages where everybody is smiling and waving at you, children are running after you, cheering when you pass by with the scooter. Maybe it is the endless roads in the mountains that you explore on your road trip. Maybe it is all the flowers, butterflies, fireflies, dragonflies, shooting stars, the occasional „moon bow“ [!sic] and the beautiful sunsets.

I guess it is all together which makes this town feel very special to many people, which makes so many people come back again. Pai is a love story: People just find each other there. This place has really something magical. And like almost every place that is kind of special, also Pai is dealing with the problem that too many people want to go there: Try to visit Pai in the low season and avoid the Chinese holidays…

Trekking to a waterfall:

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Trekking an the Pai Canyon:

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Guitar at the bonfire:

(video to be uploaded)

Pai Street:

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After more than a month I left Pai to go back to Bangkok and catch my flight to the Philippines. The train ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok was amazing, I had nice company, we had a bottle of Whiskey, we saw the sunset, the stars, the sunrise… Almost 16 hours of good talk, of watching the scenery pass by, of watching the stars, little sleep in the small sleeper cabins and not one boring minute. When we arrived it felt like being on that train for not more than five hours and I could have been sitting there for another day easily. Thats how a train ride is supposed to be I guess.

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I already told you at the beginning what happened when I was back in Bangkok. Fever, wheelchair, infusion and stuff… Only one funny picture from the hospital, some minutes before they made me stop complaining about my condition with the help of a mixture of lorazepam and codein:

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After I could walk again on my own I went straight to the airport and left for Manila. Still pretty weak I stayed their for a night in a hotel before I took the next flight to Puerta Princessa. Again I needed another three days before I felt ready for the long bus ride to El Nido.

I thought for the third time that I am finally ready to do something again. But for another three days I did little more than sleeping and eating.

The story goes on like this for a while: I went to a lonely beach with only one small guesthouse on the northern east coast of Palawan and spend another three days there doing basically nothing than waiting for my body to regenerate. I slept almost the whole day and went to bed at 8pm.

When I thought again I would be ready to do something I almost collapsed when I tried to attend a boat trip. I was walking up and down a tiny hill to collect my stuff for the tour, not more than 200 meters. I went to the beach to follow the others to the boat. One minute later my face turned bright white and I needed to lay down to not pass out…

At this point I questioned for the first time since I was out of hospital if I can really continue this journey. And again I decided to rest, wait and see what will happen.

The place was called „Tapik beach“ and if you want to stay away from everything for some days this is where you want to go in Palawan. Electricity for only six hours a day, Wifi never works and besides a island hopping tour offered from the friendly owner there is not much to do. Highlights are the bonfire at the beach in the evening and the spectacular sunrise over the ocean.

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The three days at Tapik beach made me finally fell like I can do something again so I decided to go back to El Nido, the starting point for tours to the marine national park. The minivan that was supposed to bring me and some other people back to El Nido almost got lost in the sea. We managed it somehow to get the damn thing back on the street but one of the tires was badly damaged. We asked them to change the tire (they had one in the back of the van) but they told us „No time.“

Somehow I convinced one of the Philippinos who was sitting with us in the back, that we will spend much more time on the road if we have an accident so we finally changed the tire. It didn’t made the situation look so much better because some of the bolts broke and we where driving back to El Nido on a bumpy dirt road with only three bolts in the wheel…

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Back in El Nido I found a cheap accommodation close to the beach and booked a island hopping tour for the next day.

I am kind of allergic to the term „tour“ but it was totally worth it! Besides the bright white beaches, the amazing lagoons, the crystal clear water and the mind blowing creatures that I saw while snorkeling I felt sooooo happy that I was finally fit enough to be a whole day out in the sun, swimming and snorkeling, for the first time in three weeks!

How comes that we always overlook how amazing it is to be in good health? We consider it to be totally normal until the day something happens. What a releasing feeling! I tried to avoid the thought that I might need to cancel the trip the whole time and tried to stay relaxed and just give my body time to recover. And it worked out, you have no idea how happy I am!

El Nido sneak peek: Crystal clear water, deep blue water, turquoise water…you name it, El Nido has it.

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I’ll make some more pictures the next days at another island hopping tour and I’ll try to blog a little more consistent from now on 😀

Did I mentioned that the Philippines are awesome? And being healthy again I can finally enjoy them. But I want to see much more of the Philippines! I want to go diving in Coron and Cebu, I want to go hiking in the north… My Visa runs out in a week and I have to catch a flight to Taipeh. But I guess that I will come back again in the end of December with a long term visa in my pocket to go diving, hiking and to and find a job here for a while.

Philippines, I will come back!

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4 Comments

  1. Christoph
    November 22, 2014
    Reply

    Servus,

    Schöne grüße aus dem 6°C kalten München.
    Schön zu hören, dass dir wieder besser geht. Freu mich schon auf deine nächsten Beiträge. Die Bilder machen richtig Laune auf mehr. 🙂

    LG
    Chris

    • November 23, 2014
      Reply

      Grüße zurück! Freut mich dass dir die Bilder gefallen, ich hoffe ich schaffe es jetzt regelmäßiger zu schreiben 🙂

  2. floa
    November 23, 2014
    Reply

    Puh, heftiger shit mit dem virus.
    Hatte mich schon gewundert, warum so lange nix mehr kam.
    Gut, dass du wieder auf dem Damm bist

    mfg floa

    • November 23, 2014
      Reply

      Ja, war spannend, bin froh dass es rum ist… man muss halt auch mal ein Krankenhaus in Asien von innen gesehen haben 😀 Grüße!

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