Eric Turner and I went to Monterey to shoot Sarah and Clinton's wedding, where we enjoyed a beautiful wedding in a beautiful setting.
The bridal party was super fun...
the girls' green dresses and the guys' green ties were awesome, and went way better with Sara's choice of orange than anyone had expected.
There were just too many fun things to shoot, and we got some great pictures.
Stephanie and Daniel's wedding was so much fun and turned out so great. I shot it with Eric Turner, and we were both skeptical of it being in Visalia at the end of summer. But being within the grounds of a beautiful house on a walnut farm shaded by huge trees, it was way cooler and beautiful than we could have imagined. The couple was great, the bride gorgeous, and the bridal party fun as hell.... for their first dance, they busted out this amazing choreographed dance to a super gangster rap song.... it was the most incredible first dance ever. It will never be topped. We were pretty bummed because they didn't tell us that they were busting out, and so we weren't ready to capture that kind of action! I was lucky enough to catch the cartwheel just by swinging my camera up at the last millisecond and hitting the shutter instinctively, without looking. But I think we grabbed some good stuff... I mean, it is the Turner/Ho magnif duo......
Beth and Will had a gorgeous wedding.. The church in down town San Jose was amazing, I had never been in there.. The reception was at the Sainte Claire Hotel, right down the street.. It was really crowded, but fun -- I had to shoot them through the mirror when they were cutting the cake! I got a lot more great pictures than I thought at first.. I'm happy...... I even got one of my favorite pictures in a long time, following...
Siem Reap was just as interesting, just as breath-taking, and not as tragic or depressing. Siem Reap is where the temples of Angkor were built. Angkor Wat, the biggest of the hundreds, is simply out of control huge. It's arguably the largest religious (which I've read is a debatable term for Angkor) buildings in the world. The worst part? The number of freaking tourists. We're all there to see the same things, but there's just so many. It seems like the Taj, I haven't been yet.
We left Phnom Penh in the afternoon and took my last long bus ride to Siem Reap, and woke up late the next day to explore several temples. There's so many, it would take weeks to see them all. The next morning, we woke up before the sun, and watched the sunrise. The last day we didn't go to the temples, as many of them, as unique and interesting as each are, start to look too much the same. The picture opportunities were overwhelming, and I wished I had all my gear (or at least a wide angle).
I flew out as late as possible to Bangkok, and spent a long, boring night at the airport. The morning of the 11th, I flew out at 0645hr, and arrived at 0930 in SFO.... on the 11th. I had the rest of the afternoon to acclimate to culture shock. Something that's really depressing when leaving such beautiful, poor and underdeveloped, yet so much more real and rich, countries.
We left from Nha Trang and flew to Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia. I was really excited to see this country because it has such an intense, violent and interesting history. We got in late, found a place, and woke up the next day ready to see the sites before I had to leave (which was on the 10th). We took a tuk tuk out to the "killing fields" of Cheung Ek, some kilo's out of town. Around the time of the Vietnam War, Cambodia found itself ruled by a violent Khmer Rouge, led by the maniac Pol Pot, which 'ethnically cleansed' the population of almost a third of the country's people. The killing fields was a secret location out of town, hidden from the citizens, where systematic killing of men, women and children took place. Now it's a quiet, heavy, and somewhat stuffy memorial site where you walk the grounds where thousands of Cambodians were killed; being amongst the emptied mass graves, the dry earth littered here and there with clothing and human bones -- to say the least, was intense. The huge temple-looking building in the center is filled with human skulls found at the site. It was a solemn time of reflection and thinking.
After Cheung Ek, we went back to our guest house and from there I was able to walk along the crowded, small and huge city streets to an old school that was converted into a prison for those who were interrogated before being taken to the killing fields. Toul Sleng looks like a prison. Barbed and razor wire is spread all over, across the balconies of each floor of the building; this kept prisoners from escaping the torture and horrors of Toul Sleng by throwing themselves from the balconies. Walking into the many rooms, converted into torture chambers and mass detention rooms, looking at the pictures found of all the prisoners held, the pictures of the torture victims found when the prisoners were liberated, all of this was very intense. I felt like it was the Holocaust that we never were told about. From Toul Sleng there were only, if I remember correctly, seven survivors out of the thousands that were held, at the time of liberation. Much like the Holocaust survivors, the Cambodians sadly didn't see Pol Pot come to justice for his crimes, before he died in '98. I encourage everyone reading this to take some time to look into the vast information on the internet about Cambodia's past.
We needed peace and quiet. Doc Lek supplied this. A small oasis north of the cool/ugly Pismo or Long Beach look-a-like of Vietnam, Nha Trang, Paradise Resort is right on Doc Lek beach, in between Vietnamese villages, where the locals would fly along the beach on their motos (one wrecked really hard right in front of me, we thought he was dead at first!). It was beautiful, quiet and fun. The water was warm, the winds were our music, and the people we were with and ate with 3 times a day were all great. The 80 something year old French owner's a little intense. Go there.
Some beautiful temple site where our bus stopped on the way to Doc Lek..
One of the views from outside our room..
Villagers paddling to/from their anchored fishing boats.. We raced some dudes in our kayak, and they almost beat us!
Photos & Copyright Jeremy Hohengarten 2008 For editorial use only.
We arrived really late (early) in Da Lat, and stayed in a clean, but weird place at the bus arrival point. The next morning we set out on a mission to find a different place. We walked all around and eventually met the nicest, most helpful person we'd meet in the whole country--a lady that spoke very good English and was walking her little poodle..... she had lived in the Bay Area for 10 some years. She walked with us and we parted ways as we made a loop, unexpectedly, back to where we began; but before we arrived, we found a sweet room to stay at. Da Lat is known as the Paris of Vietnam, and they even have a mini Eiffel Radio Tower. I enjoyed the city a lot, even though there's still a love of crazy traffic that stops for no one, constant honking and crowds of tourists and locals. We found some serenity at the waterfalls out of town (equipped with a sort of 'do it yourself' roller coaster), and checked out the huge market that's in the middle of town in a huge round-a-bout. There were beautiful sites above the city that we found in search of the gondolas we never saw. And in the nice park in center of town you could see the glaring contrast between the very lowest classes and the upper classes/tourist living areas. It's a really nice city.
We arrived back in Ha Noi early in the morning and took a taxi to the bus station, where we couldn't find anyone to help us escape. We then took another expensive ride all the way back to the airport where we started. We were determined to get out, as it was also freezing cold in most, if not all, of northern Vietnam. After much bickering and quarrel, I won the fight, and was allowed to get us the hell out of that place..... we were going to the opposite side of the country: Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City is a HUGE city with a lot of history. This goes without saying. That's why I don't know why I said it. We arrived and were able to take a night bus to our next destination. But first we had some time to walk around the huge crazy busy city, which was absolutely the opposite temperature-wise; it was 35 plus degrees Celsius with a terrible humidity to add insult to injury. But I was loving it..... I was waiting for this moment ever since we landed in Vietnam. The city is amazing; it's non-stop, it's thriving, it's alive, it's burning and churning, it's loco, it's loud and obnoxious. It's the whole feel of Vietnam wrapped into one huge expanse of land that covers a large portion of the Southern part of the country. I was also loving it. But only because I knew I didn't have to stay very long.
Once we landed in Vietnam, it was dark. We headed into town from the airport, to the train station, which was a long ride. First impressions of Vietnam? Intense. That describes the whole country all over in one word. We were barely able to get a taxi to where we wanted to go, because not very many people speak English well enough there. We were with 2 other girls who were staying at a hotel in town; we wanted to take a night train to Da Lat. There was a miscommunication, as we ended up in town by where we thought the station was, but it wasn't... I think those girls probably got dropped off right at the train station. It was a long day and night, and finally we took another long expensive taxi ride to the station, and hassled our asses off to get a car with beds. We were with two Vietnamese people, one girl who was working there during her school break for Chinese New Year (the worst several weeks to travel Asia). She was nice and spoke a bit of English, but said the weather wasn't great in Sa Pa. Well, it was worse. It was below 0 degrees celcius, so foggy you couldn't see 50 ft, and raining. It's close to the top of a mountain, so the views are amazing and there are villages close by you can hike to, but none of that was included in our stay. We were charged for a crappy heater in our sub zero celcius room, and heaters in most buildings were coal in open steel cage type things (not safe for health/fire hazards). We didn't have any warm clothing (we're traveling Asia, dammit!), and were miserable. After the night train arrived, we got on a bus at 4 something am, and took a long, windy, sickness-inducing (luckily I wasn't the only one this time!) ride up the mountain. We stayed one night, then left the next day, but those were the longest couple dozen hours of our trip.
Village girls and women that make the multiple-hour hikes from their villages to the town, where they sell items to tourists and at the market..
Many villagers wake up hours before the sun to make the trip.. Most speak English better than the towns-folk!
Death heaters.... that don't work at all..
Visibility: not much..
Restaurants with fireplaces were the only place you could find a little heat... I mean, A LITTLE.. This is the only thing we did the whole time: hang out at this expensive restaurant by the fire/gato..
Local village savage..Photos and copyright: Jeremy Hohengarten 2008 For editorial use only.
Luang Prabang: Laos' 2nd largest city at about 300k people, small-feeling, charming and touristy. But great! Great food, great people, great sites, great temples, great night markets..... and it has a very European feel to it. We ate almost every day by the Mekong river. Our Belgian friends wanted to get involved with some elephants, so we decided to "wash" the elephants. Pretty touristy, yeah, but great photo op. I didn't do it, but I'm stoked on the pictures. We had to dress up in these huge funny outfits that the handlers would wear. After that, we headed down river by kayak, thinking we'd enjoy the kayaking experience again.... it POURED the WHOLE 3 hours, as SOON as we started. It was pretty funny. Then we parted ways from our friends, and we flew to Hanoi, Vietnam.
Right when we got back from our trek, I showered in a freezing shower at the Ecotourism Agency building, and we got into another minibus to take a 6 something hour drive to Nong Khiaw, a tiny town by the Nam Ou river, surrounded by huge cliffs covered in rain forests. That whole region along the Nam Ou is breath thieving. That's right, breath THIEVING!! BREATH YOINKING!! BREATH CAPTURING!! BREATH KIDNAPPING!!! aka BREATHNAPPING!!
I got incredibly car sick on the windy, bumpy, terribly terrible long way east to Nong Khiaw. The poor driver had to stop several times so that I could lay on the ground and de-arrest my arrested muscles of misery. Let me tell you to those who don't suffer from motion sickness -- it's the worst thing that a perfectly healthy person shouldn't suffer through. I've read that people with a keen sense of balance are more susceptible..... that says a lot about my inner ear, folks.
We started a little early, drove out to a roadside village. The villagers we were going to be staying with were there, selling a type of bark that the Chinese would buy and use for medicine. Most of the 97 villagers were there, women, children, men, elderly, animals..... they all leave before sunrise and make the 4+ hour strenuous hike out of the deep valley they live in, into the rainforest, along the mountainsides, and back down to the road. They do this many times a week, usually to sell a variety of crops and such. We passed first through the roadside village of Ban Namleu, where a very small group of the Lanten people live. We hiked for a while up the hill and into the forest, where we could here the voices of villagers collecting young bamboo in the bamboo forests.... We had lunch, then hiked a while more to the village, which is right next to the Nam Ha river. We hung out, took some pictures, and basically just felt weird, like an intrusion. Some of the elders were at the village, watching the animals and the youngest children. It was impossible to communicate with them, other than elementary sign language..... I like showing the kids my pictures. They seem to enjoy looking at them. Our guide, Sai, and our river guide who brought the boats down the river for us, Khan, made us a great dinner. Sai took some time to join in the kataw game a couple young villagers were playing; a game similar to volleyball, without using your arms or hands. Wim and I joined, and caught on.... not quickly though. It was really really fun. Darkness fell as the villagers returned -- we didn't really hang out together; most or all the villages have built for farang a larger-than-any-other-building-in-the-village guesthouse (there's a couple pictures of their school, it's the one with the flag pole in front of it -- our guesthouse was probably bigger). Yeah, it was just a single room bamboo hut with a bamboo floor and roof, but it was plush compared to anything else in the village. And they had brought in a SWEET porcelain toilet: like we were royalty. The villagers seemed to not really care about us, or seemed used to farang staying there on their tours.... which made it an even weirder place to be for a white-ass foreigner. But when dinner was served, we were joined by some of the elders and chiefs of the village. Through Sai we conversed, describing our feelings about their world and trying to portray our ridiculously (compared to) and unnecessarily complicated worlds, sharing drinks of 'happy water'...... it was a magical, emotional, moving and humbling evening. The next morning, after a very nice, warm, comfy, cool nite under our mosquito nets, we awoke and hung out a little with some of the villagers and children. It was wonderful. We took off from there, onto the river, our stuff in drybags, and our expectations absent; just pure excitement. Then, like 10 minutes down the river, which was really shallow the whole way (some pushing/pulling of the boats, lots of getting stuck), we get into an accident and Erica gets trapped in the river under a tree. It was really ridiculous and a stupid accident, and she was shook up. But after rearranging the teams of boats, Wim and I battled our way down the Nam Ha to the Nam Tha, through the protected forests of the Nam Ha wilderness, while the girls had safe journeys with our guides. We stopped in a small village that was smaller than the one we stayed in, I forget the name. The women wore traditional clothing, the people made paper and purses and baskets, the children played with the most simple of toys, dragging rocks and each other around in the dirt. We bought some cool paper and other things, donated for their school and were on our way. We made it, a fun, long day. I would recommend it to everyone. Get out of the bubble, and get in someone else's.... someone who has nothing compared to you -- yet has so much more in so many ways. We entered the worlds of the Khmu and the Lanten people rich spoiled Westerners; and left Ban Nalan Tai village humbled and appreciative.
We spent the night in Luang Nam Tha after crossing into Laos and taking a long minibus ride to the town, through GORGEOUS green lush rainforesty mountainsides and valleys, along a really rough with potholes, construction, and all sorts of random animals/people/objects (although a ton of work has gone into the road improvements). We didn't have the greatest luck with hot water on our whole trip, and in this case, humorously, we got rooms with our new Belgian friends at a guest house that "had hot water." But we didn't have hot water. Luckily, accommodations are so cheap, we got a room in the NEXT door guest house, which was nicer and had BEAUTIFULLY hot water. So we stayed in two places that night. It was awesome. We hung out, and decided on a trek to do. Ecotourism is really big in Asia, and in Luang Nam Tha the tiny villages that you're guided to and stay in benefit financially from your trips. And there was only four of us, including our new friends. So we decided on one day of trekking and one day of kayaking. It was going to turn out to be the most amazing part of our trip........
Photos & Copyright by Jeremy Hohengarten 2008 For editorial use only.
This was the beginning of yet another long day of travel. We woke up, and went to the border crossing in Chiang Khong. We made it across, a whole one minute trip! The other side was crazy, cuz so many farang were on the same quest as us..... so getting a visa at the other side, Huay Xai, was a lengthy, disorganized, crazy business. Then we had a little time before we peaced out to Luang Nam Tha, so we walked around the town of Huay Xai to look at..... well, not much. Our first look at this beautiful, interestingly odd country.
Photos & Copyright by Jeremy Hohengarten 2008 For editorial use only.
We had a long journey from Pai. It was a journey back to Chiang Mai, then east to Chiang Khong, where we would cross the river/border into Laos. Before the sun set, we stopped in a small village where there was an awesome local market outside of Chiang Khong. There were all kinds of animal parts, vegetables, bugs, and.... stuff. It was great. Unlike Chiang Khong.
This woman scored. We watched as a British farang (foreigner) we were with unknowingly dropped some 20 baht at his feet, his friend picking it up. He turned around and handed it to this woman, completely unaware it was his friend's. He tried to explain that she dropped this, and left her in a hilarious state of confusion. Soon, half the market place was staring at the group of haggard British farang who curiously handed people money. We were busting up....
She didn't get any money.
Market-fresh French crepes, made right here in this obscure village market in Thailand.
Bugs. Some, alive. I bought so many.
The farang, looking at bugs...
We were all a little out of place.
A crazy Thai man talking to our driver, who's in the special forces.
Our bus. Yup, it was a loooonnnnngggg day.
Photos & Copyright Jeremy Hohengarten 2008 For editorial use only.