26th of August

The Kind Police Officer

Just wanted to share a little moment that made me smile. A moment which is one of the reasons that I so much love travelling.

I am currently in Chennai, Tamil Nadu a city of a little less than five million people – it is a big place. Feeling a little under the weather. I am feel saturated with South India, and my feet are itching to go somewhere else. I am craving the mountains, and dreams of going to Kashmir and Ladakh are starting to form. Also the mixture of 36 degrees blazing heat and intermediate periods spend in air conditioned rooms have made me slightly ill – nothing big just a sore throat and all that.

Being in a large city does not help with my current state of mind. I think when anything gets very big it has a tendency to become a little impersonal. Be it a city, an organisation, an enterprise (do not get me started on large enterprises,human resource management, key performance indicators, processes, etc – I will burst!). I can smell people being nice in a fake way miles away. I feel the hunger for money, and people on the street trying to sell me things that I don’t want, rickshaw drivers calling me their friend etc. So to be honest in large cities I get a bit cynical at times.

Now back to the topic of this post – the kind police officer. It all starts with me hitting the streets early this morning with the mission of finding some chai to make everything better. Thats always easy. Chai is everywhere. Also I wanted to buy some raw ginger that I could chew on the help soothe the sore throat. I must have asked a dozen people on the streets, and they simply did not understand what I meant with ginger. For some reason they kept thinking that I wanted to change money (??).

My luck changes and a man dressed in shorts and running shoes asks me what I am looking for. I explain him my situation and that I want to buy some ginger for the throat. He tells me where the nearest market is, and asks if he should take me there on his motor bike (it is less than 100 meters away and its nothing more than a few minutes of walk). I think before I started enjoying the adventures of traveling the world, if I had met a strange man asking me to get on his bike and drive off with him to the nearest market I would have felt shy and said no no it is fine I will walk there myself. But I immediately feel that this is a genuine act of kindness, and I do not waste the chance for a few seconds drive on his motorbike in the middle of the hectic morning traffic in Chennai.

Half a minute later we are standing in the market. The man at the market refuses to take payment for the ginger as he is a friend of the motorbike guy. Happy about this little moment of human kindness I invite the motorbike guy for a chai (even though I had just had a chai a few minutes ago – you can never have too much chai!). We spend a few moments together just finding out what we both are doing in life. It turns out that he is a traffic police officer. I ask him why he is dressed in shorts and running shoes, and he tells me his big passion is playing hokey. So he is heading off to the beach to do a bit of running practise.

When we have finished the tea he is about to pay for it, but I insist that I want to pay – it is my treat. That was the whole point – I wanted to give something back as a gratitude for his help. We say our goodbyes and I walk back to my hostel for some rest and to chew on my ginger. Feeling happy that genuine kindness exist everywhere.

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Categories:  India Thoughts Travel
5th of August

Little Acts of Kindness

I start my day visiting the wonderful momo lady. She is popular, and her stall is full of children having their lunchtime snack. “Auntie auntie one more one more”, they beg – one more momo please.

I wait patiently in line and when my time comes, her face lights up – a returning customer. I smile at her and say: “Abke momo bahut acha hain” (your momos are very good!) She has one of those faces that you just know that this person is very kind at her core, her cheeks showing that she smiles a lot. But somehow after my comment, her face lights up even more. I pay for six momos but she gives me three extra for free. All for the price of a little less than 30 euro cent.

I like going to her stall. It is so obvious that she enjoys what she does and giving her gift of cooking delicious momos to hungry people. She takes pride in it and she does it damn well.


I escape back into Old Delhi, where I feel free. New Delhi is all too much business and greed for my taste. I venture into the small back alleys looking for shortcuts and adventure. I find my way to a muslim area. Some stern looking man looks at me with a hard face. He is unsure of what I am doing there. I nod at him and say “Salam wala I kuum” (muslim greeting), his face lights up and he answers “Wala I kuum asalam” (response to the greeting). The ice is broken.

I take a side turn into a very narrow street. The light is beautiful, and I want to photograph the wall of one of the houses but I am too close, I need to go further away. Also I want something to frame the composition. I ask a man if I can enter his house to photograph the street through his door. Respectfully I tell him “Dhanyivad” (Thanks). I make a gesture that I feel hot and say “Garam” (hot), trying to do some small talk. He agrees, and urges me to please sit down under his fan to cool down a bit. “Pani?” he asks (want water?) – “Nai nai bimar hain” I politely respond (no no sick). He thinks I am trying to say I am sick and genuinely he looks concerned. I correct myself – “nai nai sirf bottle pani, local pani bimar hain” – (no no only bottled water, local water makes me sick”. Ahh ok – he looks relieved.
It turns out he is an envelope manufacturer, and we spend a bit of time looking at his products. “Sundar hain” I say (beautiful). I shake his hand and say thank you and head back into the streets.


I find a corner with amazing late afternoon light casting wonderful shadows, and start looking for stories to tell with my camera. I smell something nice. I ask the man “ye kya hain?” what is this? It is some kind of beef ball. I actually always found this a bit funny about India – muslim and hindus living besides each other. For the hindus the cow is holy but not for the muslims. Doesn’t that mean that the muslim are eating the hindus god? Me being a foodie with no religious orientation I eat anything and I am glad to try some beef again – “kitna hain?” How much? He quotes a price per kilo and I tell him I only want to try a few. Ah ok – no need to pay then. No no I insist. Ok 5 rupees then. They are delicious.


The next day I check out from the hotel – heading off 2000km south to visit an Indian friend that is living in Chennai. I haven’t seen Shalini for far too many years. When I check out from the hotel, the owner gives me a call and shows his true colours and does everything to squeeze me for more money than what we had agreed on. I am cornered and in a rush to go to the airport, and after a lot of fighting (India is the only place in the world that can make me truly aggressive), I just give up and pay the bill. Upset I enter the taxi, and ask the driver – “ab kaise hain?” – how are you. He smiles and sais “tick hain” – good! A little small talk and I mention I am angry with the owner. He tells me that the owner is a very greedy man, not a good man. The driver is afraid that I will not come back to India because of my bad experience. “No no – Hindustan mera dil kepas hain – acha log hain” – no no India has my heart – great people I ensure him. Forgetting about the road and the traffic ahead of him, nearly knocking over a cyclist, he turns and shakes my hand – “thank you thank you sir!”.

I ask him to quickly stop by at the owners office (I know where he hangs out, nearby the hotel) and I go and yell at him. It is small money to me, but it is about the principle. I hate dishonesty and greed. I tell him about Karma, and let him know that I will do everything in my power to give his business bad reviews online. A scam in the airport to bring me to his hostel, and then cornering me for money when I was in a rush. It is not ok. Back to the taxi. On the road again. I ask the driver – “shadi shuda?” Married? Yes of course he is married he replies. “Kitna bacce?” how many children? One child – a daughter. What about you he asks – are you also married. No no – girlfriend. Ah ok. How many girlfriends? “Sirf ek” I laugh (only one). “Sex karte hain?” (you do the sex?) he replies. Yes yes of course! How long? 1 hour he asks? 2 hours? 3 hours? How many times? I smile and disclose little bits of details about my private life to this man I have only met a few minutes ago. Men will always be men.

A lady I once met in Nepal (Didi oh how I miss you and your gorgeous face!) once described me as “Naive but kind”. I believe in karma. Do good things and good things will come to you. I see a lot of unnecessary friction and tension in this world – particular in these anti-islamic days. I think at our very core we are all the same, and I have shared many great moments with muslims. Actually I find it ironic how some atheist passionately are against religion, it seems like they are fanatically worshipping science – isn’t this just another form of religion, with the exact same arguments as other religion? Their god (science) being the one true god. I think we all want to be respected, and we want to share our gifts/talents with each other and be appreciated for what we do. Wherever I go I always see the same traits in women: softness and kindness and need to care for others. It doesn’t matter whether they are muslim, hindu, catholic – it is universal. I see the same traits in men wherever I go: warriors, systematic thinkers, task oriented. It is always easy to break the ice with men, by talking about work, sports, gadgets and of course women.

When we don’t understand something – be it some new challenge at work, another culture, or anything for that matter, it seems common that we get tense and aggressive – afraid of hurting our egos. We all have our different ways of coping. Personally I prefer being naive and willing to look silly and loose my face. Little act of kindness and appreciation, and genuine interest always goes a long way. Sure, I might be taken advantage of a few times, but life is just more fun smiling. So long New Delhi, and hello to Chennai. Momo lady I will always remember you…








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Categories:  India Photography Travel
9th of March

Memories from Bangladesh 2011

In November 2011, I travelled to Bangladesh to visit my friend Zubayer and his family, and to celebrate Eid al-Adha (festival of sacrifice). You can see the memories here.

Never before have I encountered such a hospitable people as the Bangladeshi. I travelled to Bangladesh with no guidebook, no plans and no expectations. And my conclusion is very clear: The Bangladeshi people put hospitality before their own wallets.

Most of the time I lived with my friends family, and they where extremely hospitable, and made me feel as part of their family from day one. At first I thought, perhaps this extreme hospitality where due to the fact that I stayed with a friends family. But I soon learnt it is general for the Bangladeshi people. So many times I have been invited into random peoples houses on the street, to come and live with them for a few days. People that I have only just met have bought me anything ranging from coconuts, to coffee or tea. Random people I have met on the bus, gave me their phone numbers and told me to call them if I needed any kind of help.

Thank you for the hospitality Bangladesh, and hope to see you again soon!

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Categories:  Photography Travel
28th of January

Norway and the Filipino Mafia

I spend a month in Norway with the wonderful Michelle Ortiz. The month was spend relaxing, enjoying the snow, eating great food and in general having a lovely time!

Now don’t get me wrong. Norway is a great country! Very nice people, fantastic nature, a calm and safe place. A nice change in scenery after the craziness of Asia. But this is not what caught my attention during the past month. It was hanging out with the Filipinos that really moved me 🙂

Michelle herself is Filipino, and she has a lot of friends in Norway that are also Filipino (I call them the Filipino mafia 🙂 ). So naturally I got to spend a lot of time with… you guessed it: Filipinos 🙂

And to cut a long story short: They rock! I have yet to see a Filipino that does not smile and laugh all the time. These people has to be the most happy people I have ever met in my life! Always so full of joy and laughter. These guys knows how to enjoy life!

And I don’t think its just me that has been lucky and ended up hanging out with some particular happy Filipinos. During my past 4 months of traveling, naturally I met a lot of other travelers, and we talked about our previous adventures. And I have met several people that all told the same story: When they went to the Philippines they where so surprised about how happy these people are!

And my amazement doesn’t stop here. Not only are they a smiling, laughing, happy bunch of people – also they show so much hospitality 🙂 Let’s just say that I was not very often hungry in Norway 😉

So here is me saying thank you to Michelle for a lovely month, thank you to Norway for providing the venue and thank you to the Filipino mafia for all your hospitality, laughter and giggle 🙂 A special thanks to Angel Salinas for her imitation of British accent: Priceless 😉

And do notice all the smileys in this blog post – smiling is contagious 😉

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Categories:  Travel
11th of December

Traveling Blues and Hospitality In Kalkata

I have fallen a bit behind with updating this blog, so forgive me but this post should probably have been posted a few weeks back 🙂

The day after I reached Kalkata, high on being back in India, something new happened. I got the blues – the traveling blues. I think the emotional roller coaster of saying goodbye to the very nice Bangladeshi family really got to me.
For my whole stay in Kalkata, I didn’t want to do anything. I tried to push myself to photograph, but gave up after one day, and spend my time mainly reading and studying some IT (which I actually enjoyed quite a lot).

But this was a very new emotion to me, having the traveling blues. I guess I had gotten tired of saying goodbye to people, and I made no effort whatsoever to interact with anyone in Kalkata, as I really didn’t want to meet some more nice people and have to say goodbye all over again.

At the same time something very nice happened. I think Indian hospitality was trying to compete with Bangladeshi hospitality 🙂 I got a phonecall from a Indian family living in Kalkata. Now, I had done nothing to get in touch with this family. What happened was the my Indian ex-wife (living in Germany) got to know that I was in Kalkata.

So what happened was that she apparently called her Indian friend living in Denmark. And this friends sisters lives in Kalkata. So my ex-wifes friends sister called me and said that i HAD to join them for dinner here in Kalkata. Now that is Indian hospitality for you 🙂 That was quite a nice experience to soothe the travel blues I must say!

Anyhow, the blues is now gone, and although not very enjoyable I think it is an important part of traveling. You can not always be on a high. Yin and Yang and all that… This is one thing I enjoy about traveling for an extended time period. You can have rough times, and take them for the experience that they really are – without getting stressed out about it. If I had only been on a three weeks holiday, I think I would have found myself rather stressed out about having the blues.

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Categories:  Thoughts Travel
26th of November

About Farewells and Reunions

The day before Yesterday after 3+ wonderful weeks in Bangladesh it was time to say farewell. I was not prepared for what emotional roller coaster this was going to be. After spending 3 weeks with the Bangladeshi family I was already regarded as a family member, and when I left, some of the woman and children where crying. Boy was that tough… To be honest I was ready to give up. I am getting tired of saying goodbye – this is the tough part of traveling. And when there is crying involved… it does not get any less difficult.

But the family was hospitable to the very last end, and insisted that I should return soon, and they refused to say goodbye and insisted to say see you. I already made my first phone call to them to ensure them I was safe in India 🙂

I took the bus from Dhaka to Kolkata, as I enjoy entering a country by land. It is a nice feeling standing between two physical borders, and seeing the culture change immediately. Airports are a bit generic in that sense I feel. The bus journey was a grueling 16 hours long, lots of bureaucracy involved at the border, and I developed some nasty stomach problems on the way (some bad tea I think). Now when I arrived to India in anything but optimal condition, both emotionally and physically I was thinking – to hell with it all.

Now what always happens when I reach here, didn’t fail to happen again. This is my 6th visit to India, and the moment I stepped out of the bus into the streets of Kolkata I was filled with joy. I simply love India. It is such a crazy place, full of colors and life. I truly felt alive when I stepped out of the bus (5 minutes later I was in the toilet, that was a different version of feeling alive, but I will keep that private). I took myself a 15 hours nap, and now the system is feeling much better, and I am now ready to go exploring Kolkata. It is a very interesting city, and the part I am staying in has a decaying colonial architecture (Kolkota used to be the capital of India when the British where still around).

So here is me saying “see you again soon Bangladesh, and hello again wonderful India”.

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Categories:  Travel
24th of November

Hospitable Bangladesh

Since I was 18 I have traveled the world extensively, and it has mostly been very good experiences with very hospitable people indeed. However, I feel like the hospitality of Bangladesh deserves a special mentioning – therefore I decided to dedicate it its own post.

Never have I before encountered such an hospitable people as the Bangladeshi. I traveled to Bangladesh with no guidebook, no plans and no expectations. And my conslusion is very clear: The Bangladeshi people put hospitality before their own wallets.

Not many westerns goes to Bangladesh in the first place, so everyone here is extremely curious about you. They want to talk to you, to feel your skin, to ask you if you are married, if you enjoy the food, etc etc. So naturally you get a lot of attention (as in many other Asian countries). But I have to say that this is the first country where I have been asked for signatures by people 🙂 I feel like a superstar here.

Most of the time I have lived with my friends family here, and they have been extremely hospitable, and made me feel as part of their family from day one. At first I thought, perhaps this extreme hospitality is due to the fact that I stayed with a friends family. But I soon learned it is general for the Bangladeshi people. So many times I have been invited into random peoples houses on the street, to come and live with them for a few days. People that I have only just met have bought me anything ranging from coconuts, to coffee or tea.

Random people I have met on the bus, have given me their phone numbers and told me to call them if I need any kind of help.

I spend 5 days on a beautiful Island next to the Burma border. Upon my arrival I met an refugee from Burma, and stayed in his guesthouse. He was very keen to show me around the Island, and I asked him how much money he wanted for that? He replied very simply, no money sir – I just want a chance to practise my English. I was overwhelmed.

On the Island a local Bangladeshi guy heard that I wanted to buy a fresh lobster, so he took me to the fisherman to shop for a good one – only the fisherman was delayed for some hours, so he took me swimming, treated me to coffee. In the afternoon we did some armwrestling, and after that we where best palls 🙂

Yesterday I was roaming around on the streets of old Dhaka photographing. I ended up in an area where there is a lot of steel manufacturers. And randomly one of them invited me in to their shop, showed me around, and treated me to tea and biscuits.

I feel very sad indeed leaving this place, and I am sure that I will return one day indeed…

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Categories:  Travel