We have traveled in Asia for five months and will leave tomorrow. We have been to China, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Thailand. I was fascinated by all the astonishing things I saw. Asia is extremely photogenic, requires immensely difficult traveling, and has captivating culture.
My photographic inspiration and my best photos were created and guided by the sheer “photogenicness” of Asia. Things that I find photogenic are things that are different from what I am used to seeing. The street vendors selling vegetables and other goods amazed me. The open, rusting vehicles driving on dirt roads, and children carrying pots on their heads motivated me to grab my camera. The different people and their faces told stories of tragic and ecstatic events in their lives. One would almost never see such things in the US. All this created my love and inspiration for photography, not to mention the amazing photo results which I never knew I had in me.
Though my love of photography sparked in Asia, the continent had many challenges that we had to face. The first challenge was language. Often people selling or doing business with us could not understand what we were saying or what we wanted to buy. In India, several rickshaw drivers drove us to the wrong place because they could not understand where we wanted to go. In addition, we could not understand what they said to us, either. We communicated with our sparse local language and their sparse English. Another challenge we faced was the chaos! Streets were loud and unorganized, and throughout most towns we could hear the constant sound of redundant honking and engines roaring. In some places, there were even no street lights and we had to run out in traffic and play a common Asia game: see who stops first, the car or the pedestrian! In addition to language issues and chaos, the food rarely changes. Almost everywhere throughout the continent we ate rice and curry. After a couple hundred meals, rice and curry starts to get old!
Of all the notable aspects of Asia, the one that stands out primarily is the culture. We experienced intriguing religions, spectacular clothing, and very tricky haggling. Religion is distinct and important in Asia life. At every meeting or event we were blessed by the ancient religious tradition of that specific area. Buddhists placed Khatas around our necks. Khatas are white, silk scarves only to be given to others, but never to oneself. Hindus gave us the Tika blessing by placing flowers around our necks and sticky rice and dye our foreheads. Once, we were all given a magnanimous gift of turbans, carefully and accurately hand wrapped. It touched me that people would put that much time just into welcoming us!
Another captivating religious aspect of Asia were the festivals. One Hindu festival, Dashain, really impressed me. This festival lasts for nine days. On the first night of the festival, townspeople go from house to house receiving the Tika, eating food, and merry making. On the second night of Dashain they do the same, except they go from village to village.
Throughout Asia, the clothes and fashion changed in different countries. In Tibet, women wore yak fur garments and heavy jewels hung from their ears and hair. In Bhutan, men wore thick, plaid, coats that functioned more like a dress. In India, women dressed in colorful fabric called saris, with long scarves wrapped around them.
Another interesting aspect of Asian culture is the haggling. Salesmen offered triple the correct price for items and we had to argue for several minutes over what we thought should be the correct price. We knew we did well if the salesmen did not look happy when we left.
Asia offered amazing photos opportunities, gave us difficult challenges, but was filled with bursting culture flowing out of society like a glass of spilt juice. However, I am extremely happy to leave. The challenges and the food have overwhelmed me and New Zealand is going to feel sooooo good!
Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!