If I wanted to go on a safari to Africa, planning a trip would be relatively straightforward and simple. However, while a safari is a possibility, my main objective is to go to the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and if luck and funds hold out, Chad. You might ask, "Why go to these places?" There are a number of reasons and none of them are, "I want to somewhere dangerous to get my adrenaline flowing."
Reasons for going:
1. This is the sort of photography I want to do. Conflict, culture, humanitarian...with a little street photography mixed in.
2. These are places most people will never see.
3. I should be able to get editors to take notice simply by virtue of going to these places.
4. I have done many things in my life but this journey would be the challenge of a lifetime. I want to see if I have what it takes to get great photos and come back alive.
Some of the negatives:
1. It's extremely expensive to get to these places and to stay there. A tentative budget for a three-week trip to the D.R.C. and C.A.R. is between $12,000-$15,000. I can come up with 20-30% of this. The rest I need to raise. Not easy and fundraising is almost as painful as my Plantars Fasciitis.
Airfare - $2250
Hotel @$150 a night x 22 - $3300 - Hotels are vastly overpriced and while I may be able to save depending on the location, these are not the sorts of places where you budget $50 a night for a hotel.
Fixer @$100 a day x 20 - $2000 - This is a must, especially since my French is limited to a few words.
Bodyguards - 2 @$25 per day x 10 days = $500. I do not foresee needing bodyguards every day.
Food / Water @30 a day x 21 - $630
Land Transport - $1000
Bribes - $1000
Visas to the D.R.C. and C.A.R. - $400
Buffer / Emergency - $1000
Total - $12,080
Violence in Central African Republic Has Reached Terrifying Levels
This is what I view as properly prepared - and minimally so. From what I know, what I've been told by those who have traveled there, to simply go to the C.A.R. with an airline ticket and a smile is probably the worst thing to do. I might be able to get by on less but...would you risk your life for a couple thousand dollars? Prices are often at the whim of the particular person one is dealing with so...more money, less stuff.
2. It's dangerous. I would be lying if I said this didn't worry me. I can travel around with a fixer and a bodyguard(s) but in the end, living depends a lot on luck.
3. The threat of having equipment taken from me. Bribes might help. This is another one of the many expenses one needs to consider while in Central Africa.
Preparation for Trip to Africa
There are numerous other destinations where I can travel, all far less dangerous then the Central African Republic. Some I am considering:
Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Japan, Indonesia, India, Kashmir and several countries in Europe. Anytime I go to Europe I always feel the need to go to Amsterdam. I could go to Rome, Paris, Prague, or any number of other places. Will they meet my photographic needs? Sure, but in a very different way. Maybe this is part of the problem. In the past, I took photos of boxing and travel. Now I am more interested in travel, culture, conflict, and human rights. I am always interested in street photography.
Part of me wants to go to Africa. I definitely want to go to Africa - eventually. Without a doubt, photographing the Central African Republic will drain me. It may even change me. It is that sort of a place. And I'm not sure it would change me for the better.
Another part of me wants to go elsewhere. Maybe I could go to Tokyo and get drunk with Daido Moriyama. Making decisions has never been my strong suit and I know I am wasting time over thinking things. I could put up a poll and go where readers and viewers decide. There was a guy who used to do this. But it's probably best if just play pin the tail on the map, buy a ticket, and go.
One thing is certain, my patience with myself is running thin. It won't be much longer before I throw my arms up and say, Okay, I'm going here!
buy a ticket to Thailand, make sure you have money to live in the country for at least 6 months, preferably 12 months, arrive, check-in to a hotel, and then spend the next few days looking for an apartment or house to call your own. Also, unless you're independently wealthy, make sure you find or set yourself up with a way to earn enough to cover the bills. This is it.
I could tell you to sell the house, divorce the wife, set up bank accounts, blah, blah, blah, but honestly, you ought to be capable of taking care of these things. If you can't handle what's between the lines, my guess is you're going to be unable to handle anything else.
So what's my advice? Bring money. Bring skills. Bring the proper attitude. Stay legal. Hustle. Network. Look for opportunities. Proceed with caution and weigh the risk-reward. Use your brain and use common sense. Respect the process and take your time.
see and hear, and then use this information to decide whether the person is worth more of your time. based on what you've seen. I was asked by the sender if I would be willing to bring my wife along for dinner with whomever his love interest shall be. First he wrote there was no one in particular, then a week later when he wrote in asking if I was going to respond to his initial message, there was a Thai woman in his life. I guess he works fast. Of course, he offered to pay for the meal and all he wanted was for me to check out "his new girl." However, if I was a chick and I suspected some dude I didn't know was trying to figure out if I was bad or good, I'd tell him to come back when he became a man.
Honestly, I have zero patience for this sort of thing. Pay me, don't pay me, I don't care. Ya know why? Because if you have to ask someone for an opinion of the woman you're with, then you haven't got the confidence in yourself to be in a relationship. Granted, she's from a different culture. Granted, he's never met her. But, and herein lies the most important point, what's the hurry? Whatever happened to courting a woman and learning about her while figuring things out along the way? Is that tradition dead? I don't think so.
There's one very important rule (I'm big on rules) that many men completely forget when they come to Thailand. Here is the rule and I'll spell out it slowly for any dummies out there:
Rule #357 - Learn how to say NO. That's N-O for you geniuses in training.
You control your purse strings. You can or can not open your wallet. You can or can not make a Western Union transfer. You can or can not make a bank transfer.
If she asks for money, tell her politely that you weren't aware she was a whore. Is this a sex for money transaction or are you just trying to separate me from my hard earned cash because you think you deserve it more than I do?
If you don't go in expecting too much and you control the purse strings, then what do you have to lose? What is then so important about what someone else thinks? If you're going to cave in to her feminine wiles, you're going to do so no matter what I or anyone else says. History has shown that men care very little what others tell them — even when what they're being told is that their love interest is a slut, a whore, and her affection can be bought by the highest bidder.
Guys, if you're thinking of having someone check out your girl to give you the okay, think again. They're not the one going out with her, sleeping with her, or taking care of her, you are.
Time reveals all.
Remember that grasshoppers for these three words will serve you well.
When I first began working as a photojournalist, I felt my ability to put words to paper exceeded my photographic skills. In the past two years I have been concentrating less on writing and I now believe my photography is as good or better. So if by chance you are wondering why I haven't written a book related to Thailand, this is why I haven't finished one. It's tough to focus on both fields.
In the beginning, writing a blog was a turn-off to me. It may sound odd but writing blog posts somehow seemed beneath me. I rarely put as much effort into my blogs as I did when submitting to magazines or papers. Blogging is more laid back than writing for magazines and newspapers and for someone like me, who can barely concentrate on one subject for more than a minute, I need discipline and concentration to function at full capacity. Although blogging is a more relaxed form of writing, no less effort should be put forth. This is where professionalism comes in.
Since I began this site, it has been through several changes and now it's going to go through another one. I am a fly by the seat of the pants kind of guy, in just about all aspects of my life. This is going to change. I change my mind as often as Paris Hilton changes boyfriends and it's time to settle down.
What am I rambling on about?
I have somehow become the Dr. Phil of Thailand, preaching the use of common sense to those men who are too foolish or to wrapped up in their emotions to see clearly in the game of love. In a recent email, I was asked if I agreed it was impossible to find a decent Thai woman. Now I view myself as intense but pretty easy going but there are times when I want to lose any semblance of professionalism and absolutely obliterate the occasional moron who writes me. This recent email was one such occasion. Rip him, I did, but believe me, I still held back.
In case you're wondering, yes, it is possible to find a decent Thai woman if you're willing to put in a little time. Contrary to what some western men believe, hooking up with a worthwhile Thai girl takes time; unless perhaps you're into the whole buying a bride thing like some Chinese men.
Anyhow, in the near future, I am going to start doing videos I want to do as opposed to simply addressing moronic emails. I saw one comment that said, "Maybe you're making these emails up or you have someone writing stupid stuff for you." I have to laugh whenever I hear this suggestion. First, I keep every single message and email that I respond to and second, they are as real as the sun in the sky. Believe me, I am surprised by the stupidity of some of the people who write me and at the opposite spectrum I am surprised at the intelligence of others.
I will still do Letters to Thailand, however, I am going to throw in more serious subjects too. It is my goal to make more Vice-type videos and sitting at home isn't going to cut it. Friday I started another round of physical therapy on my foot. I also began wearing my Asics again instead of sandals. This also seems to have made a difference. So with any luck I'll be running around in the next week.
For the past month I have been writing how I want to go photograph various dangerous countries in Africa. I have begun putting away money for this trip and my goal is to be in Africa in July of this year. Meanwhile, I'll be in Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, the Golden Triangle, and if my wife can get time off from work, Songkran will be spent in Suratthani. There will be other places too.
How will I finance my trip to Africa?
For my trip to Myanmar, I asked for donations. While it's great people helped, there is more than one way to skin a cat, so the saying goes. In the next week I will decide whether or not to start an IndieGoGo campaign.
Basically, you can:
1) Watch my videos - I am a YouTube partner so your views matter.
2) Tell a friend about my videos - help me network!
3) Place an order for one of my prints, signed, or unsigned at www.scottmallon.net. I am adding new photos every day. If you want a print from an upcoming trip, this is possible too, just let me know.
4) Transfer your unwanted Delta Skymiles to me or add me to your list of nominees on Thai Airways! To get to Central Africa from Bangkok costs approximately $2000-$2500 or 120,000 Delta Skymiles. I have 54,000.
5) Order something through on of my Amazon product links in this post and others. I get a small percentage of whatever you purchase and there is no additional cost to you.
6)Purchase any item from my Amazon Wishlist. The only items on this list are items as view as necessities.
7) Make a donation. I would prefer you bought a print in lieu of making a donation but the choice is yours.
If you would prefer to see me start an IndieGoGo campaign, please let me know. Regardless of whether I start a campaign or not I will have a breakdown of where all the money is going.
The Pork Store Girl
One more thing - yesterday while I was at Happyland I bumped into the Pork Stall Girl, the popular young woman of my Pork Stall Girl video. She was all dressed up and on her way out for the evening. While I will say that outside of her pork stall she looks much better than behind it, she was a 30-year-old dressed up like an underage bar girl at Nana Plaza. The body looked like a 16-year-old's but when going out to dinner at The Marriott she'll show up wearing a Hello Kitty shirt and carrying a Minnie Mouse purse. I guess it shouldn't surprise me — but it did.
gravitate towards. Once I'm back on my feet I'll get out there and do more videos geared towards travel, but until then, sorry, it is what it is. My wife has a way of summarizing my injuries, "You lived how you want and did what you wanted for many years. When you were young, if you got hurt you didn't care. But now look at you! You're a mess. You're always crying about being in pain and for what?"
Now I don't completely agree with what she says but her logic is a woman's logic, mine is not. Her logic, at least in this case, is logical. My logic is "F**k it, I'm going for it." There is no grey, only black or white.
Anyway, back on topic. When this woman contacted me, I figured, okay well, as much as I would like to accommodate those who watch my videos, these are definitely not the sorts of subjects I want to get involved with. Expat women's issues? Sounds like politics to me and I would never be a great politician because eventually someone would piss me off and instead of responding diplomatically, I'd tell them to f**k off. Vegetarianism? I'm not a vegetarian. I like meat. I feel numb seeing an animal slaughtered. Nothing. My mindset is more like, better them than me. I don't think, Awwwww, poor thing, EVER. You're gonna shoot Bambi? All right! Venison for dinner. I have seen slaughterhouses, hunted animals squealing before dying, and ducks looking at me with sad eyes. Nada. Numb as a mouth pumped full of Novocaine.
Why do I think this way? Well, it's simple. For me, living life is not about things. It's not about money. For me, life is about living and experiencing people and places on my terms. In order to do this you need to survive. More than one person has told me the one thing they admire about me is that I'm a survivor. And I am. What's better, eating a cow or a pig or dying of starvation? I love nature, love wildlife, and love a thick burger or steak once in a while.
People talk about the movie Survivor and most are grossed out by the thought of eating another human being. I saw the movie in the theater and my first thought was, think of eating Spam, the crappy stuff that Filipinos in their infinite wisdom view as a delicacy. Cover up the body, carve out a piece of Spam, and eat to live. Stop whining, stop thinking of the person as your buddy, and gnaw on a piece of Spam. Those of you who don't want any, it makes no difference to me cuz I ain't gonna die, you are! The point = I might become a Pescatarian once in a while but I am not going to become a vegetarian EVER. In this case I can say NEVER.
I could do a video on safety in Thailand. Sure, maybe if I felt like it. Thing is, I did a video about me falling from the fourth floor trying to escape a fire. Guess what? There were no fire extinguishers working and the fire escapes were welded shut. Do you really think Thailand is safe? Google the Pattaya fire in which numerous people died. Why did they die? Because the exits were locked to prevent guests from leaving without paying their bill. Instead of locking the door, maybe the owners of the place should have hired a couple of guards to watch the exits. Not gonna do that now, are we? Hell no, that might cost $200 a month per guard x 3 guards, $600 a month, and there is no way in hell a Thai company is going to pay $600 a month just to save it's guests. Yes, Thailand is a very safe place...now take your blinders off and let me sell you that piece of swampland I told you about.
One more thing...I try speak honestly and openly, with some tact the majority of the time, whether good or bad. Some people view this as a positive trait, some don't. Speaking honestly and openly, most of the time I don't give a shite if people like what I say or not. No offense. Nothing personal. But in this case lady, I'm not making your flippin' videos. None of em. Ya know why? Cuz I don't wanna, that's why! Hahaha...I love it.
At the bottom of this page, under my video, you might notice there is a Vice News video. I love Vice. In fact, I like their videos so much that one of my future goals is to make more guerrilla-like videos just like theirs. In time, I will. You shall see.
If you go to 12:06 in the video, there is an old man answering questions from the host. Listen closely to what he says as he is grilled by a passing Russian sympathizer. I have the utmost respect for the guy. He's old, he walks with a cane, and he doesn't put up with any shit. He didn't let someone tell him what to do or how to think and he told even told the guy off. This old guy had balls the size of Manhattan.
I have no idea why it's important to me but I strive to always be like this old guy - a guy with massive balls. Why else would the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Afghanistan all be on my list of places to go? It's either balls, stupidity, or a combination of the two. I like to think it's because of my BIG BALLS.
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