Taking Pictures of Strangers While Traveling

Flower Lady in Vientiane

Flower Lady in Vientiane

This is one of my favorite pictures from my trip to Southeast Asia.

Unedited, unfiltered and no cropping.

The glowing offering of marigold flowers, a halo of rusty umbrella spokes and the two o’clock, Beer Laos drinking, family social hour frame the flower lady perfectly. Her face radiates serenity and pride even on a balmy day on the side of a polluted bus station road in the capital city of Laos, Vientiane.

I always hesitate to ask locals for photos when traveling. One, because I’m shy. Two, because the last thing I want to do is make strangers feel like I’m on a cultural safari and “oh wouldn’t you mind being my next subject?”

But they are by far my favorite photos. Glimpses of culture diversity and universality muddled into 5 x 8 inch reason to travel. And so I muster my sweetest girl-next-door-who-lives-out-of-a-dirty-backpack smile and point to my camera, begging for a photo of a busy Laotian flower lady. Her family giggles and claps at the novelty of a falang wanting a photo of their daily routine. The flower lady gives a small smile before confidently grabbing a bouquet of white daisies and freakin’ works it, giving the camera all she’s got.

Because that’s what makes a damn good picture.

Traveling is Hard (But Worth It)


Bus Station Bathroom in Thailand

My mama said there would be days like this. And there always are more than a few traveling.

The main point of my blog is to get people to travel. Plain and simple.

So I do my best to highlight the best of the best in my writing. But I would be lying to you if I covered up the hard parts.

The gross bathrooms. Hot and sticky buses with snoring travel mates. Having no idea where the hell you are. The stress of trying to figure out where you are going to go next (Planning, how I loathe thee.) The constant haggling. Crappy weather. Paying for one thing and getting another inferior thing. Waiting. Lots and lots of waiting.

Sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it.

To the point where I’m asking myself “Why do I do this again? What part of this am I really enjoying?”

But one of the most import lessons I have learned from traveling is to be resilient and constantly grateful for what you have. Because:

#1 I have the opportunity to travel in the first place. (Read Burma/Myanmar post.)

#2 It’s ok to be annoyed by a boring/crappy day. Shit happens. But you should still see the beauty in being somewhere you’ve never been before. A bad day due to a motorbike flat tire accompanied by encounters with leeches and thunderous rain storms can all be rectified by a delicious green curry and a cold beverage in Muay Thai Fighter beer cozy.

At least, that’s what I think.

Moral of the story: Go somewhere. Anywhere. It’s worth it.

24 hours in Mandalay


At the end of my 10-day trip in Burma, I found myself alone and with only a day to visit Mandalay. What does one do with only 24 hours in Mandalay?

Bike to Mandalay Hill

After checking into to a mediocre room at the Nylon Hotel, I quickly grab a bike for a dollar and head for Mandalay Hill. This means biking around the giant fort walls of the Mandalay Palace in the slow lane, flanking old ladies with their pretty flowered longyis and staying out of the way of dirty city buses.

I figure that I will be able to see the rows of souvenirs stands and then I will know, this is where I go. Instead I pass monasteries, a golf course and then… houses. I had apparently navigated to the road less traveled (shocking, I know) and ended up… lost.

Time for me to get out my map and put on the classic “help me I’m a confused tourist!” face. As if consoling a puppy, a kind woman with an extremely large goiter amassed on the left side of her neck assures me that yes, I’m in the right place. Just a little ways further.

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