Remy-Leigh: Inside South East Asia

Upon Remys return from Asia, we found out the ups the downs, the whats good and the not so good; so here goes…from Asia with love.

What made you take the leap of faith and book that ticket? 
I had just completed a bachelor’s degree in film production and was making a living freelancing and working in hospitality but I felt like I was living each week on repeat. The numb feeling of routine started to get to me. I felt like I was searching for something but I didn’t know what. I knew I needed to change things up and see something new. The only thing that kept me sane were the dork adventures to far away mountains. But I needed more. I wanted to run somewhere drastically far away from anything I ever knew. So I did. I dropped it all, bought a flight and a Lot pass with a company called Stray Asia, and headed out on my own.
Like a stray dog; I went looking for something that felt like home.18871361_10154012154529364_787125246_n
“Because he takes from me what he takes from you. The merciless thief towards our youth. So while I still can I want to see everything I can. Escape from my comfort zone, looking danger in the eye. I want to measure my self by challenging myself. Understand ones self and push past my limitations. To peek through the cracks. Know what’s on the other side of mountains. To learn language, names and culture. To have fun with the locals, helping where I can along the way. To find what I lost and to stray away from my safe haven. Far far away from anything I ever knew. To draw closer to living not merely existing.
So I did..”

Okay cool, so if you had to pick one, what was the highlight…aside from cross-dressing!
After I travelled off the beaten track through Thailand, Loas, Cambodia and Vietnam. I got my self a cheap motor bike in Hanoi and decided to ride back down to Saigon. The whole trip was not easy. Filled with break downs in the middle of no where late at night, sometimes in the rain. Busses and trucks speeding past with murderous intent. Also I had never used a manual bike before, so learning in Hanoi was liking throwing myself in the deep end, with rocks tied to my arms and legs. But every day I would find myself in a long stretch of quiet road; surrounded by rice paddies and mountains. With the wind on my back and sun upon my face, words of Boniver drowning out the rumble of the bike. I felt like I was truly alive.
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Is there anything you kinda regret, or maybe some advice you would give yourself before the trip?
Laugh louder and cherish my time around the people i was with. I miss them now. I look at photos and wonder if I’ll ever see them again. I hope so. I can’t talk much about my tales from travelling with my friends back home because they weren’t there. No frame of reference. These memories were with complete strangers that grew to become my friends. I might not see them again but I know I’ll remember them for the rest of my life.
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You mentioned Stray Asia; what were the advantages of using a guide? 
It helps get past the wall that westerners stand outside of, peeking through the cracks; wondering, whats on that plate, what are they saying, what does this and that mean, how do I find this and that, and so on. You learn a great deal from them. More than you can from any travel book. But aside from that, they are an absolute laugh!
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That must have really enhanced your experience – so what was the most interesting /eye-opening thing you learned whilst out in Asia? 
While in Vientiane in Laos. I went to this place called the Cope Centre. This is where I learnt everything I now know about the history of Laos. How it’s one of the most bombed countries on the earth, from a war that it was never a part of. There was this part where it had kids drawings and words with it that were translated. One of the drawings really made my stomach flip and heart ache. It made me so angry and ashamed at the same time. A quote from a movie went through my head. “Whats the point in being a civilisation anymore if we are no longer interested in being civil”. Do you know the movie?

The locals in Laos have all the reason to hate us westerners. But all they showed me was their love. So many genuine smiles. I haven’t dared to moan about any first word problems since. I have no right to.
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Caption – Illustration 37: “The school was hit and burned. There were many people in the school who died. But I didn’t know who because I wasn’t brave enough to look. I was afraid that the air-planes would shoot me.”

Woah, okay so you got pretty deep there, lets lighten the mood – lets talk hot-spots…where are we headed?
In Laos I’d say Vang Vieng. I was told stories of this place years before I arrived. I took a note of it on my phone to remember. I had completely forgotten about that note and the story. But when I was in Vang Vieng it somehow felt familiar to me. Little did I know at the time I was taking part in the very same activities that were told to me years ago; tubing, renting a motor bike getting well and truly lost hunting down the lagoons and caves. I couldn’t shake off the familiarity. It was weird. I thought it was just being drunk ans hungover in the heat. Then while I was scrolling through the hundreds of pages of notes on my phone (I have had this phone for 7 years) – the first note was there: “Laos, vangviang go there, tubing story”. I strange feeling rushed over me. It was like I was meant to come to this place. Making those stories my own tales to tell and pass on to another.

In Cambodia Siem Reap was probably my favourte spot. At night its so livley, bars, music and food everywhere. The famous Ankor Wat temple being one of the wonders of the world is obviously mind blowing. But I do recommend going to the circus that it always running there. The price for the ticket goes towards a good cause for the kids and families affected by war and poverty. But also the whole act is full of some of the most talented people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

But It i had to choose it would be Vietnam being my favourite. I didn’t care too much for Thailand, the beaches are nice but just too many tourists for my liking. More of a place that you go on holiday to than travelling around. In my opinion. Choosing my personal favourite hot spot is pretty tough. But when I think of Vietnam, I think of Hue. I spent the longest time there than I did anywhere else during my travels. The Forbidden Kingdom is nice if you are not already ‘templed out’. The abandoned water park is an awesome day out. Its like you are in a little pocket of time. But what made it my favourite place was the locals. I became friends with a few who taught me a lot and showed me an amazing time. I’d go to Brown Eyes bar to play some pool and relax. Just soak it all in, people watching and making small talk. Then a female bartender behind the bar was being playful and friendly. We had a laugh and a chat. She invited me to karaoke with her friends after her shift. Being the yes man I am I thought sure why not. I’m sure they will be just as bad at singing than myself. I went and had an awesome time. But I was wrong. They could definitely give people a run for their money on any western singing competition. It was kinda intimidating. But I was drunk and “I don’t wanna miss a thing” is my shower song. So what ever….
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Awesome, thanks Remy – so for anyone reading this who might be after some tips…what’s your advice? 
Don’t be afraid of what you want. What is fictitious in a novel or film is not so much the story but the method by which characters thought and feelings develop into action, a method which rarely occurs in daily life. People don’t put them selves out in the vulnerable cold enough for what they want. Scared of seeming weird, scared of being shut down, scared of being scared. Don’t hesitate. Right when its most scary to jump, that’s when you should jump. Just grab it with both hands and brace yourself. For this experience will scar your very being. It will show you what matters. If you are reading this. You’re already on the right track.
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You’ve shared tonnes of photos on your socials – you’ve gotta have a favourite? 
Either of the photos with the school kids from a Lao home stay. This place meant a lot to me. It was the first time I saw a village hidden in the leaves (if you got that reference you are awesome). It was made mostly out of sticks. But the kids were playing outside having so much fun. Same, same but different. Now days back home in England I don’t see kids having that much fun anymore. They just don’t. They are indoors playing computer games or looking down at a screen. I often see 13 year olds with better phones than my own. Anyway we went and gave some stuff to the school, pens books that kind of stuff. They were so grateful, was like how western kids are on Christmas day. The children were so happy. One of the things we also got them was a ball. So we played football. After about twenty minutes in that heat I felt 18902935_10154012154644364_65264196_nlike I was going to pass out. They definitely already had a football hiding somewhere because they were annoying good. It was fun and felt weirdly nostalgic. This was a defining moment where my perspective started to shift. For the better.

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Thanks Remy that was awesome, it’s great to have you back in the UK so we can start getting prepped for our next adventure…we’ll have to fill you in on the details – you’ve missed 6 months of planning already! Before we wrap this up, any further comments you have?
People ask me a lot if they should go with a tour or on their own
I say try and do both to be honest. If you are going to choose a tour I say go with Stray Asia. Their tours are flexible. You are not racing around trying to see everything in one day before you have to get back on a buss or boat to go to the next destination. Its Hop on hop off. If you want to stay somewhere longer, you just do. Then catch the next buss or the buss after that. The guides teach you a great deal. More than you could ever learn from a book or western traveller who thinks he is the nuts because he has been travelling for a year. Also you don’t know how much you get ripped off everywhere when travelling alone for the first time. Food, drink, bike rentals even at borders. Stray guides warn you an show you the way as it were. You wont be asked for extra money at borders in Cambodia with Stray. In short, its less stress, more fun and you go off the tourist beaten track to places the solo travellers have never even heard of. If you are interested just lick on their link below.
http://www.straytravel.asia/

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Mt.Toubkal Our African Adventure: Pt.3 (Toubkal Breaketh the Man)

Its 4am. The stars are out. There’s no light in the Refuge, and everyone’s started to bustle about…it can only mean one thing. Nope, not hammer time…it’s summit time.

This is it, I think to myself, whilst taking a glance in the mirror…I’m doing this thing. It was a weird almost third person moment, catching a look at myself, padded out in layers; woolly hat, head torch, and walking poles – I kinda felt pretty badass, like an actual mountain climber or something.

Anyway; I’ll go back to it being 4am….so everyone’s lacing up and getting ready, we only have about 30 minutes before breakfast so no time for messing about, but also, no one wants to be messing about at 4am…like, it’s not your average morning, where maybe you lose a sock or something.

So we make our way down for breakfast, which was like THE most salty porridge type dish you can imagine, like, even for me and Dave…seasoned salt eaters (see what I did there)…it was too much – but the bread was good! They also served us oranges, I packed mine for later…and after a mint tea; Mohammed gave us the low-down of how things would go that morning, and we set off.

It was of course freezing cold; but it didn’t take long for us to strip off a layer as the incline was steep from the start; luckily under the night sky I had no episodes of vertigo, which was awesome, because usually I’m terrible as soon as I feel any level of exposure!
We had been climbing for around an hour and a half, when Mohammed let us have a breather, but also so he could pray. This was an incredible rest break, as we all sat quietly, switched off the head torches, and gazed up at the stars. If I wasn’t so cold and out of breath it would have been even more enjoyable I guess….

As we continued up the valley to the Toubkal ridge; we could see the sun begin to rise, turning the peaks behind us a dim glowing red; at this stage however I’m not enjoying the views, as I was suffering pretty badly with altitude sickness; coming up the valley I struggled to keep my breath, and on a couple of occasions had to really go-in on myself to control my breathing to stop from passing out…at this point…I pretty much hated hiking and for the first time ever, I even considered never hiking again, I gave some real serious thought to just quitting the whole thing…I was over it.
(contrary to the smile, although maybe I was smiling at the thought of just going on normal holidays, and not being on the face of a 4000M mountain.) mkesh d

As we reached the ridge, which you can see in the photo, we had some amazing, although hazey views of the Atlas mountains…again, I wasn’t in any state to enjoy this moment, but I’ve had a look at the photos, and I can confirm it was amazing.
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The ridge walk was not so steep, and with the sun now on us, must have been a couple of degrees warmer, although I had lost all feeling in two of my fingers (but I have Raynaud’s so that was to be expected!). It also signified the final stretch…”20 Mins” Mohammed shouted…

It was at this point I was pushing through a barrier, like, in no other situation have I ever done something, or physically pushed myself, that I didn’t feel like I wanted to do. In my head I was spotting all the cosy looking rocks that I could sit under and wait for everyone to summit and get me on the way back down…yes, that’s right…in my head these ice cold jagged rocks looked cosy. I’m talking ‘Nans armchair on a winters day next to an open fire with a knitted blanket and hot cup of coacoa cosy’.  I took out my last protein bar for the final push, however, it was frozen solid, and after chocking on it several times, I thought…well fuck you then…and that marked the end of the protein bars involvement in my trip, and my story.

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(Remys altitude face & some jagged cosy rocks) 

After pushing on for what felt like an eternity, the summit was finally in sight; 50 paces away at a guess, and bang. suddenly the strangest wave of emotion came over me. You may or may not have known that I had booked this trek to raise money for my Grandad, who sadly, a week before we flew out, passed away. This no doubt hit me at this point, I felt somehow with-him for a moment, before also feeling exctatic that I had reached the summit on a personal level.

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We had all made it, even the guys who had reservations, our trekking gang, pictured below, all made it, and some even managed to smile for the photo too!

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We didn’t hang-out for long up on the summit, what with it being -6C and the potential for rain later in the day Mohammed was keen to get us all back down to refuge for lunch.

I was somehow buoyed by making the summit, and felt in much higher spirits than even just 10 mins prior; and no doubt descending was easier on the cardio than ascending, even if more punishing on your legs.
Easier maybe, more dangerous, for sure. mkesh3

As we slowly made our way down the icy summit ridge; I crossed paths with a hiker making his ascent, he’d put a foot wrong, and with some not-so-cosy looking cliff faces to his right, and me to his left, I looked on as he fell face first into the ground; falling rigid, as if he was literally scared stiff…luckily for him, our guide, and another, were close by and assisted him to safety.

“Okay”, I thought to myself…”no slipping mate”.

As we continued slowly down, the heat began to rise, and before long we were stripping back the layers again…blood was once again in all my fingers, and breathing was much improved…and to turn this moment from good to amazing…out came that orange I packed at breakfast…which I ate like a savage, biting through the peel.

The novelty of the heat, soon wore off, and it was a long trek back to the refuge, down varied terrain.

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During one cliff-side water break, we asked our guide, Mohammed, how long it would take him to summit and return to the refuge if it wasn’t for us slowing him up…
okay…so before I tell you; we’re on pace at this point to complete the summit in just short of 7 hours…

Mohammed – “so in 2009 I did a competition, and was up in 50mins – down in 20. so 1hour 10 mins in total”.

SAY. WHAT.

DOWN in 20 MINS …. as you can imagine, the guy suddenly becomes our mountain God. Like that’s some serious mountain running.
The photo below is taken at the very moment that this conversation is happening…good times!

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Alas, we return to the refuge, not in 20 mins, but still in good time for out-of-shape westerners I guess…and in time for lunch…which was the most welcome meal you can imagine; of bread, pasta, fish, veg, tea, rice, lentils…just everything.
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So…there you have it..Summit complete and I’m back in one piece.

Was it horrendous? Yes.
Was it amazing? Also Yes.
Was it hard? Yes (Yes yes yes)
Was it worth it? Hell Yes.
Would I do it again? When’s the flight?

Toubkal was a crazy one…our first 4000M summit, no doubt one we will remember for the rest of our lives. The world is full of amazing things…make sure you don’t miss it.
As that famous photographer Wayne Gretzky once said –
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”

So make sure you take yours!

So you want to be an adventure photographer?  Of course you do, why else would you have clicked on this link?! Do you like to travel? Do you like to go on adventures? Do you like to get out of your comfort zone? And, do you have a camera (no matter how old, dusty and battered)? If you answered yes to these questions the good news is that you’re already halfway there!

If like us you have all the above credentials, maybe you’ve even been taking some photos and posting them to Instagram getting some decent feedback for a while, but you have that feeling that something is missing, scrolling through your feed and searching for hashtags like #adventure and #exploring but all you keep seeing is amazing photos and asking yourself –  “Why are my photos not this good???” – “Why am I not getting the top posts???” Well despair no more, I have reached out to some of our favourite (and hugely talented) instagrammers and asked them what their top tip is for how to take a great adventure photo to help you get those shots you’ve always dreamed of.

I have only picked a few photos from each feed so please click through to their accounts where there are tons more amazing photos to be admired! If I could have put all of them on here I would, but you would get lost for days and have no data left for the rest of the month!

polar.girl

 

“My tip for taking adventurous pictures is to find a person at least as crazy as you are and go outdoors and have fun! I found out that my most favourite photos have been captured with very little effort, while exploring beautiful places around the world and enjoying the moments with friends.”

(www.instagram.com/polar.girl/)

 

“Pre plan the adventure but don’t over plan it. Just be aware of any scenario that may soon reveal itself in present time and have your camera with you at all times. Envision the scenario before it happens and hit the shutter repeatedly. I mean I normally just ask homies to hang out and go on an adventure, bring my camera and simply take photos while life happens and think outside the box.”

(www.instagram.com/neroexplrs/)

rudirphoto

“One top tip? Well, Then it would be to invest in a carrying system like Peak Design CapturePro or Similar. Its a Camera-clip you can hang on one of the shoulder straps of your backpack, in front of you, so that your camera is always ready to shoot. I hate a camera dangling around from a strap, so the camera usually ended up in the backpack, before I bought CapturePro. With the camera in the backpack very few images and moments where captured. That sounds like a bit of an advert, but its not. So to sum up: Have your camera ready at all times, if you’re not shooting, you won’t capture the good image/moment!”

(www.instagram.com/rudirphoto/)

thebarefootboy

“My top tip would be to always be trying new things and living in the moment. Realize that life is about the now not what has happened or what will happen. Other than that be creative and have fun with the shot and edit!”

(www.instagram.com/thebarefootboy/)

wanderloove

“I always say: find a great spot, fall in love with it and show this on your photo! Every journey is a love story. I don’t know if this helps you but I do know that people love it when they can see passion in the pictures”

(www.instagram.com/wanderloove/)

adventure_scotland

“As for a top tip: I’m not much of a photographer so if I had to give advice/tips to anyone it would be the most obvious tip of all, if you want to take adventure photos then you need to become an adventurer. If you go to a boring place then chances are your photos will be boring too, unless you are incredibly creative. 
You cant capture a sunrise in the mountains if your not in the mountains at sunrise.
Also my camera is always out and ready to go,
I literally have my camera out from the start to the end of any adventure providing its safe (for me and my camera). I cant count the amazing moments i’ve missed because my camera was tucked away in my bag.”

(www.instagram.com/adventure_scotland/)

adventure_is_out_there6

 

“I take a lot of photos on my adventures and then spend a bit of time choosing the best ones and editing them. The weather always changes photos, you can go to the same place many times and it’s different every time because the weather is different.”

(www.instagram.com/adventure_is_out_there6/)

 

walkinghobb

 

“I always start early go by the rule of thirds and most important take the picture you like. I also try and capture the atmosphere of the moment.”

(www.instagram.com/walkinghobb/)

adventurerzguide

(www.instagram.com/adventurerzguide/)

“Find peoples accounts that are locals in the area (they always have some of the best spots in the area) then find those spots and put your own twist on the picture”
There you have it, some excellent tips from some excellent photographers. Personally I love the idea that was mentioned a couple of times that you have to be out there doing it to get these images, you cant be an adventure photographer from your sofa, and as Daniel said from Adventure_Scotland “you can’t capture a sunrise in the mountains if your not in the mountains at sunrise”  so get out there, get adventuring and go capture some epic photos! Don’t forget to use the tag #Dorksonahill so we can check out all your shots and who knows, we might be featuring you in a future blog.
It was really great to get to talk to the people behind these accounts, they are all down-to-earth, modest and super friendly. Big thank you for taking the time to answer our question and allowing us to share some of your work, I hope that one day our paths will cross while adventuring around the world!
Peace out
Mike
Dorks on a hill