Tactical Traveler: S1:E9 | Filmmaking and Unexpected Adventures with Alexis Parrider-Nicholls

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Alexis shares his travel experiences, including his love for comedy filmmaking and offbeat travel. He shares his experiences in London, exploring the city’s rail system, and his documentaries, “Salty Tea” and “A Tourist Aria,” exploring Central Asia and Myanmar’s remote regions. 

Alexis also shares his experiences in Myanmar, discussing the unique human experiences found in small towns and villages. He shares his experiences with the escalating conflict in Myanmar, the UK’s COVID-19 lockdowns, and the cultural responses to the crisis. 

He shares unique travel encounters in Myanmar, such as a village community encounter and a jam session with the police, showcasing the power of shared humanity in overcoming misunderstandings. These highlights highlight Alexis’s adventurous spirit, cultural insights, and the transformative power of travel in navigating unfamiliar terrain and unexpected challenges.

Highlights:

{05:40} Documentary Adventures

{16:30} Off the beaten path

{19:15} Adventures in Myanmar

{30:45} Jam Session with Police

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Alexis Parrider-Nicholls Bio:

Alexis Parrider-Nicholls is a traveling comedy writer who has used his talents with a camera to start a YouTube channel to create documentaries about Myanmar and Asia.  

Links:

https://www.instagram.com/guavafunk/

https://www.youtube.com/@LaffCotchTV

https://tacticaltravelerclub.com

Sponsored Links:

https://therootbrands.com/product/zero-in

https://newulife.com/hk/en 

https://trufinco.com 

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John

Hey everybody, I just want to welcome you to the tactical traveler today. I have a very special guest with me from London all the way. Alexis Parrinder did I say that right?

Alexis

You did thank you for having you, John.

John

All right, good, I always try to get you guys’ names right. You know, it’s important that we properly introduce people, and I just want to take an opportunity to welcome you to the show just a couple of times. We’ve talked leading up to it. It’s been great to hear from you and some of the crazy stuff that you’re doing. How are things going for you over there in London?

Alexis

Yeah. Brilliant, John, thanks for asking. It’s a real pleasure to be on the show. Listen to some episodes. And I like that I support what you’re doing here. So, yeah, I’m glad to be a part of it. And it is a sunny spring day in London.

John

Now, how many? Of those, do you get a year?

Alexis

Well, it depends on when everyone’s in lockdown; we get quite a lot, but a lot of in many.

John

That’s so unfortunate. So, it was funny because I was in London in September of 2019. So, before all that, and I was, I specifically set my flights up to do a very long layover in London. 

I did it all on foot so that I could experience London and walk around to some of the pubs. I just walked around and enjoyed the city. 

It was pretty funny.  So, in September, I thought it would be a little warmer than it was. You know, so and. It went from mid-morning to pretty bright, pretty sunny, and by 1:00, it was getting dark, like the clouds were rolling in, and I was like. Oh, man, it’s going to ruin my day.

Alexis

Yeah, yeah, that can happen. September is a very hit-and-miss month. So, what were your impressions of London?

John

I loved it. I don’t know how quite to say it, but I don’t think there’s ever been a location I didn’t love. You know, I love some places more than others. But, you know, I was out there. I was on my way to Norway to do some training in Norway. And I just loved it. Your rail system can initially be a little intimidating because I landed in. Which airport did I land in? I think I went into.

Was it Heathrow?

Alexis

Heathrow. It’s a good one.

John

Yeah, I think that’s the one I landed in. I flew out of a different one. But to you, get on the rail system and understand all the complexities of your guys’ rail system. At first, I thought, oh my God, this is a little more than I thought it was going to be. Be so you know.

Alexis

I mean, I’ve been living here, on and off, for quite a while now, and I’m still not perfect at that. I still get on the wrong train, the wrong tube, and the wrong bus every so often, so easy to make.

John

Yeah. And then I flew out of Gatwick. Yeah. So, I flew into Heathrow, and then I flew out of Gatwick. I think that’s how it worked. Or maybe it was reversed, but I set that whole trip up. I flew for free. What I did was fly from Chicago to London. Specifically, I wanted to explore London and then carry on to Norway. The trip was like a $300.00 ticket there and back, and I used points not to pay anything. Then, I landed in Stavanger in Norway but flew back from Oslo. 

It is quite a complex kind of itinerary, but. You know, for 300, and I think it was 90 bucks. It’s you can’t complain so.

Alexis

Yeah, it sounds like a great time.

John

Now it was. And you know, I wanted to do more of the pub culture because I landed at midday and flew out late at night. I didn’t get to see as much as I wanted to, but it was the only time I had to get to London.

Alexis

Yes.

John

So, I got to do a couple of them and went to Big Ben. They were down, however. I don’t know if they’re still doing the remodel, but they were.

Alexis

No, it has been going on for ages.

John

Oh, how’s it still going on?

Alexis

I think so. The last time I checked, I didn’t go around that part of town that often, but I think they’re still doing it. Yeah.

John

Ah. Crazy. Yeah. Then, I wanted to get out to Stonehenge. But by the time I figured it out with the—rental car. You know, just the driving distance from London, I opted not to do it and used it as an excuse to return. You know, so.

Now. You have a really interesting story. You’re a comedy filmmaker passionate about traveling off the beaten path. Tell me a little about this comedy filming, what it looks like, and how you’ve connected that to the travel world. And what does that mean for you now?

Alexis

That’s a good question. So yeah, I’ve been traveling independently since I was about 16. My friends and I used to travel through Europe and camp in weird places. We camped on a roundabout once and got moved on by police and a couple of city parks. We camped in beautiful wilderness places as well. Well, and yeah, I’ve always kind of carried a camera while traveling, and in recent years especially, I’ve been trying to make a kind of comedy travel documentary. And I say comedy because I mean, I love comedy. I’m a comedy writer. I thrive on kind of surrealist comedy. 

But regarding how it links to the travel world. I’ve found that comedy always happens when traveling, especially when you’re off the beaten track because you don’t know what will happen. I think that’s the main reason I like to go off the beaten track: you just don’t know what you’re going to find, which can often lead to unusual and interesting situations—obviously, meeting people and humor inherently run through people. 

So yeah, I mean, that’s kind of a brief introduction.

John

Yeah. So, in all your travels, what would you say has been the most comedy-filled moment, whether you got to capture it on camera or not?

Alexis

  1. Yeah, that’s an interesting one. I think it may be going through China, but I’m unsure. Yeah, it’s just like. The way they do certain things over there is so different from how we do things, which can lead to many comedy moments, especially with miscommunications around language. You know, like when you’re traveling through places where no one speaks English, and you know my Chinese could do with much work, to say the least. You know, you resort to hand gestures and trying to buy things and all the things on restaurant menus just by pointing and gesturing, and how they do things in China is different, like, even. When they’re saying the price of something by holding up fingers, they do like the first four fingers normally as we do in the West, and then from 5 through to 10, they’ve got a different symbol for each digit. 

So, someone puts their thumbs together in a cross shape to say what the price is. And then, you need to catch up on that, so there’s much. And moments in China.

John

Right. You’re completely lost. You’re like. What does that mean?

Alexis

Yeah. I’ll give you one example of just one comedy moment. It was quite a long time ago now, but it just brings to mind that it was a Friday night, and my friend Tom and I were traveling through this. It’s like a National Park in China. And even though we were, we were in a kind of quite a quiet village. 

So, sort of on the edge of the jungle. We thought it was a Friday night. We wanted to go and see if something was happening, so we left our little hotel and followed these kinds of distant music sounds into the forest. And we kept walking and walking. And the sounds got louder, and we were expecting this kind of crazy rave or something, and it was a group of old Chinese pensioners doing karaoke around a fire. And it was brilliant, and we joined in, and we were Tom and me singing karaoke, even though all the lyrics coming up were in Chinese. 

We were just making up all the words as we went and saying everything. It was kind of nonsense, but they loved it all the same. All the older adults were complimentary, so yeah.

John

Right now, did you catch that on film?

Alexis

Yeah, yeah, I did. I still need to edit that, but it is on film somewhere.

John

Awesome. Now, you also have two documentaries you’ve done that are available on your YouTube channel, which I will give everybody at the end of the show, and I will give a shout-out to you and your YouTube channel. But tell me about those, and really, what the kind of thrust of those two documentaries is.

Alexis

Mm-hmm. OK, so one of them is called salty tea. A journey through Central Asia. That one covers Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and the western part of China, Xinjiang province. The other one is called a, which I’ve recently finished and been sharing. The situation in Myanmar is horrendous. Like, I’m in contact with people there on the ground who say it’s getting worse and worse every day and just, you know, children are being shot and stuff. 

But I mean this: this was before the situation got bad, and we decided to travel to remote parts of northern Myanmar. Once the country opened up, there was quite a thriving backpacking scene. It was all focused on certain specific spots, so there were still quite big areas of the country that got few visitors, and we needed to figure out what to expect there. 

So, we went there, and in both films, we filmed what happened. And yeah, both times, a narrative gets shredded quite naturally, just from how we did it.

John

Sure. Yeah. So, before we focus on Miramar, there’s much stuff happening there right now that I need to learn about in the UK. Still, many people outside the travel community need help understanding what’s happening in the US, so talk to me about Kurdistan for a bit. Was it Tajikistan? Which one did you go to, the second one?

Alexis

The first one was Kyrgyzstan. Two have very similar names, like the GM—Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Xinjiang. So, the western part of China was lovely.

John

Yep.

Alexis

That was a lovely trip. We met so many amazing people, and many cultures there have a real hospitality. So, we were invited into people’s homes and offered meals repeatedly. And, you know, drinking with lovely Kazakh characters.

Alexis

I even performed on stage at a wedding there. Yeah, it was. It was fun.

John

Yeah. So, tell me about the narrative that developed on that particular trip.

Alexis

Hmm. OK well. A lot of that, again, kind of came down to obviously all the places we go seem to get in the news after we’ve been there. 

As you might have seen regarding Xinjiang, in NW China, there are a lot of human rights violations going on there at the moment as well. There are talks of sorts. Sort of detention camps that we go, people are being kept in horrific conditions, and when we’re in that part of China, it’s a place where.

John

Hmm.

Alexis

Foreigners have to tread carefully, but there are big areas that you need to be meant to go to. But everywhere you go, there’s a very high police presence and a very high Army presence. You’d see parks in cities that are kind of 100-meter square, and you have to go through airport security, barbed wire fences, and armed guards just to get into them.

John

Oh.

Alexis

So yeah, I guess quite a lot of the narrative developed around our challenges—kind of. I mean, I think both films have similar themes: Overcoming, how would I say this? … 

Overcoming the authorities and all the bureaucracy they’ve put in place on travel allows you to get in touch with the real people and the real country. You see the great side of the people rather than the side you see on the news regarding the authorities and the violence that happens there.

John

Right, right. Yeah. So, you know, I’m aware of what’s transpired in Miramar. And so, when did you go to Miramar, and why Were you going? What kind of idea in the back of your head made you decide to go?

Alexis

Well, I think it’s a country that many people who love traveling want to go to like it. It features quite high up on many people’s lists because there’s a mystique about it. Southeast Asia’s. All lovely countries anyway, but Myanmar in particular, I think because it was closed off for so many years, and because, you know, we’ve all seen so many photos of beautiful and intriguing spots there. Of. Almost mystical cultures. But I mean, I was in Vietnam beforehand. I lived briefly with my girlfriend in Vietnam, where I taught English at school. 

So, we kind of worked because it was not too far away, and my friend flew out and joined me there. Yeah.

John

  1. And so, it started as a trip that, hey, there’s this place that few people have gotten to explore. So, I’m going to explore.

Alexis

Yeah, that’s exactly right.

John

Right, and when was it? That it was pre-COVID, right?

Alexis

Yeah, that was in 2019. Yeah, but it was pre-COVID, although a few people are wearing face masks in our video, giving it a timeless feel because you need more clarification. When it was filmed, many people had done that.

John

Right. Yeah, yeah. The Asian communities, by and large. I had more of the face mask, kind of wearing that even when there’s no outbreak. Even when I was in Japan in the late 90s, there were people wearing face masks. So, that’s not something that I particularly find to be new.

Many people in the UK and the US would probably start to wonder, I guess so, especially if they’re not well-traveled. So now you went to some areas that were off the beaten path.

Alexis

Oh yeah. OK.

John

Now, tell me about those. Where’d you go and why? You know, it takes a certain personality not only to go somewhere that’s not typically visited but also to say that I want to make sure I go to the places that, even when people visit this country, they won’t go to. 

So, tell me a little bit about that.

Alexis

Yeah, I, I mean, I kind of… Like I kind of touched on before, it comes down to this thing. 

If you set yourself a fairly A to B route without just sculpting it around the destinations everyone goes to, you end up in all kinds of unexpected situations. Places you would never normally go to: Let you go through many small towns and villages that may not. Maybe they don’t have anything particular of note, but because you’re a novelty there because they don’t get many visitors, you have many more interesting human experiences.

I’ve often found, so I guess that was part of why we decided to head to those places. I mean, the thing in Myanmar that we didn’t know about. Properly until we got there and sort of discovered the. Subway. But they’ve got a very complicated system of restricted areas, which is kind of changing all the time and very vague. So even within, there’s one or two big chunks of the country, a restricted area. But even in the areas that are meant to be OK to travel. 

Often, if you go away from the big towns and into the smaller rural areas, you’re technically breaking the rules there. Even when you’re not, there are many places you can go during the day, but you are not allowed to stay at a hotel there, which has become a problem for us.

John

Hey, and what was the reason that it wasn’t allowed in those rural areas? We see what’s happening now and get into that briefly. But like when you were there, which is before the high level of conflict they’re seeing now. Were you ever told why you couldn’t travel to those sections or stay late at night?

Alexis

The reason was that it was always against the rules, like nobody. It’s not really in the way of thinking of a kind of Burmese policeman to explain why it’s the rules. It’s just the rules. So, you follow it? Yeah.

John

Hmm. So, 2019. You’re there; you’re exploring way off the beaten path. Would you have been able to tell based on what you saw then that it would have devolved into what’s happening now?

Alexis

I would have had no idea, to be honest, John. I mean. Yeah, I’m sorry. I perhaps didn’t answer the question that you asked before that excellently. Would you mind asking me again, perhaps?

John

Yeah. So, while you were there, did you get a sense of it, or did you see anything that would have predicted that it would have devolved into the conflict we see over there now? Were there any signals, you know, anything that you would have picked up on?

Alexis

No, not at all. Even when we were there, there was the Rohingya crisis going on. But you know everyone we saw. They seemed happy, and even in areas with quite a high police presence, the citizens, the police, and the army all seemed to be getting on reasonably well. But I think part of why we weren’t allowed to go to certain areas and to sleep in certain places. This sort of thing exists because tourism is new; they still need to understand it properly. 

And obviously, what we do regarding going to quite strange off-the-beaten-track places. It is not normal for some people to be like the police and the army. As soon as you are away from the obvious place you probably want to go to, they start asking why, and one of the possible reasons for why is that you’re a spy or something like that. 

So, when we did have difficult situations, it was just kind of reaffirming that, you know, we were just kind of harmless tourists who happened to have stumbled in the wrong place at the wrong time.

John

Yeah. So, and I don’t know about the UK, but in the US, why don’t you just explain to the listeners what’s taking place in Miramar now? Were you in the regions that are being affected by tyranny right now?

Alexis

Well, at the moment right now, even in the capital, tyranny is happening as it has gone from being a country that was, for the most part, incredibly safe. As long as you, yeah, as long as you stayed in the right places to a country where, you know, civilians are being shot, children are being shot in the capital. The city is where, back when I was there, families, tourists, children, and everybody would roam freely.

I mean, I’m in touch with people because their English isn’t always the best, but the basic situation, as far as I’m aware, is that things are getting worse and worse every day, and the military is spreading to more remote parts of the country. They’ve even sometimes kidnapped people from villages to work as porters. Yeah, it’s getting really bad there at the moment. And I can only hope things do improve and this doesn’t last too long.

John

Yeah, it reminds me. You know, as we’ve just been talking and hearing your story, it reminds me of when I was in Guatemala and the midst of their Revolutionary War, like the culture can change on a dime whenever you get like a tyrannical, you know, a government that just starts to oppress. People, it’s really unfortunate. 

When you connect with those people, you experience their culture, generosity, food, and way of life. It hits you more. I think it hits you more strongly. Where?

Alexis

Oh yeah, definitely.

John

Man, I was. I was just there. I can’t believe it.

Alexis

Mm-hmm. Yeah. And because I mean you, you know, people there, it gives it a human touch. You know that there are so many atrocities going on in various parts of the world, but you get kind of desensitized to it, don’t you? Because you’re always seeing it on the news. But when it’s places you’ve been to in places you know, and most importantly. Well, it suddenly takes on a whole new element, a new level of realness.

John

Yeah. Yeah, it does. This might be a problem because it’s culture-based in the UK. How is it like you’re gallivanting worldwide to do film, and you know, just to travel? How is that kind of perceived in America? I think many people if they see you traveling too much. It’s almost like you’re a gypsy and not responsible. What does that look like for you and the UK?

Alexis

I think people are fairly tolerant, for the most part. The number of people from the UK who are backpacking has massively increased in recent years, and friends who, a few years ago, might never have traveled are starting to travel.

So I’d say, generally, there’s a fairly positive perception, and people are interested in hearing your stories.

John

Definitely in the pubs, right?

Alexis

Yeah.

John

So, talk to me about the coronavirus in the UK right now. What’s that like for you guys today? Are you guys on lockdown? As things started to ease. What’s the like? What’s the kind of overall? The feeling of the British people towards everything that’s transpiring right now in London.

Alexis

We’ve been on a locked door, the lockdown on and off for at least six months. You know, if not the whole year since this started, the rules have been changing the whole time. But we’re leaving the latest lockdown so people can meet again outside. Pubs are open, but only pub gardens. And, regarding people’s moods, I mean they are very rare and very varied. I suppose there has been some opposition to the lockdowns, but I’ve found much acceptance. And many people. Yeah, I am quite happy to go along with it.

John

Yeah, because there’s been a, you know, I think that by and large, Europeans tend to be a little more mellow like Americans, I think, tend to be a little bit more hot-blooded. And the Europeans kind are. We’ll see what happens. You know, just from my travels to Europe, they seem to be far more laid.

Yeah, like a less stressful view of things, and we’ve begun to hear just a bit. They keep it quiet, but we’ve been starting to hear about, you know, in Germany and some other countries like France and Italy that the people have become unaccepting of anymore. Of the lockdowns, I was curious to know if that was happening in London or the UK.

Alexis

I would say it’s not. That matter? There’s much more opposition in other European countries on the mainland. I think, as a general rule, especially in France. You know, there have been big protests in France, right? Like I think that. The kind of. The mood in the air here is that if you were going to go on an anti-lockdown protest, you’re kind of selfish and a bit of a conspiracy theorist. That’s the kind of prevailing mood, I would say.

John

Hmm, interesting. I wonder; I was just watching a video with the French police. Throwing down there like badges and telling the French Government they’re not going to enforce it anymore. Why? Why? Why do you think there’s a disparity between the British, French, or Italians?

Alexis

I don’t know. Part of it could be that we never had quite as strict a lockdown as those countries.

John

Oh OK. Sure.

Alexis

Yeah, there’s always been a little flexibility in the rules here. You’ll never get arrested for going for a walk in the park that wasn’t near your house or something like that. And I think perhaps it’s worse than a little bit more of a strict way in some mainland European countries.

John

Oh.

Alexis

That might be what it is. Just a guess, but yeah.

John

Yeah, see, and we don’t hear much of it. I didn’t know there was even that level of a lockdown overseas like that. You would be now. I knew that in some Asian countries like, you could be arrested for going to the doctor for anything that was not considered an emergency. I read that I had a couple of friends who got stuck overseas, and they were talking about how, for non-Westerners, the lockdown level was really kind of. Like crazy, so I didn’t even know that about, you know, France or Italy. 

So that’s kind of interesting. How people from different cultures respond to events like this worldwide pandemic always finds people. Responses are some of the most interesting conversations. However, I love that about travel, the ability to go somewhere, have a conversation, and just hear what somebody from a different country thinks about events, whether localized or nationwide. The worldwide events, you know, because travel helps us open our minds and understand somebody else’s experience. It’s so valuable just to listen.

Yeah. So again, even with Miramar, that is something that I don’t think most of our listeners even know to transpire. And I don’t. And again, I don’t know what the news cycle is like in London, but would you say that most British people know what’s happening?

Alexis

I’m. They might know something is happening, but I must find out how the media and news work. There’s always something bad happening in some faraway country. And I think for a. Lot of people, it just blends in. It’s sad, but one person dies down the street from you, and people care a lot more. You know, 1000 people are dying in a distant country in the Middle East or something, which is sad, but. Yeah, I mean, I don’t know; that’s just the way the news works.

John

Yeah. Yeah. So, as we briefly wrap up here, please talk about your YouTube channel.

I’ve got it. I will post your links and stuff from your social media accounts, so if somebody doesn’t, you know, catch it while we talk about it. It will be in the episode notes where they can follow you, but tell me a little about your YouTube channel and where people can find you. Where’s the best? Way to get a hold of you.

Alexis

Yeah, sure. I was just wondering, John, if I should. There was one story about the angry mob and then the village that maybe I should go through afterward because of that. 

So one of our craziest experiences, I mean, relates to what I was saying about how once you went into the smaller towns.

John

Sure. Yeah. Tell. Me about it.

Alexis

You couldn’t find anywhere to stay. The hotels would turn you around. So, when we first found this out, my friend and I were gutted because we thought we might not be able to do our trip properly and travel to the places we wanted to go. But we decided to go to a market the next morning and buy some hammocks or something to sleep in.

 So, in the worst-case scenario, we could just go and find a kind of tree to sleep under or something like that. 

So we went to the market; we couldn’t find any hammocks; we could just find a straw mat and a mosquito net that we hoped we wouldn’t Have to use. And we headed back out into the wilderness, so we spent a whole day hitchhiking away from the small town called Monua. And out west into kind of scrubland, and it was on the way to becoming a national park. 

So, we thought that you know, it should be a reasonable place to travel to even if they don’t get many travelers, there must be some people who pass through and away to a National Park. But we got to the last town before the proper wilderness started as the sun was beginning to go down. We found they only had one hotel, and we went to the hotel and asked if. We could stay there. And there was a long pause. The hotel owners took our passports and gave them to some guy on a motorbike who drove away and returned about half an hour later to tell us we couldn’t stay. Yeah.

My friend and I didn’t want to head back to the town we came to in the morning, so we started walking out into the wilderness. As we walked out into the wilderness, many people watched and sort of banter with us, laughing at us because we were foreign and traveling with the guitar.

So, we decided we should hitchhike a little bit. Further out, we weren’t kind of so recognizable. So, as the sun went down, we managed to hitch a lift on the back. This pickup truck. And it took us out. I don’t know. It was about 20 kilometers until we reached a small village. And at this point, we thought, OK, well, it is what it is. We’ll just have to walk out into the bush and find a place to do it. Pitch. Up our mosquito net. 

So, we did that between 2 trees with a straw mat on the ground, and it was a little bit dodgy. There were lots of holes all around where the mosquito net was; we needed to figure it out. Do you know what lived down them? 

So, it was a little sketchy, but we thought it was fine. We’ll just get some sleep and get up early in the morning to head on towards the National Park. As it got dark, we lay down and went to sleep. It was quite atmospheric because, you know, we were near several Buddhist monasteries so that you could hear a kind of soundscape of all the evening worship going on. It was quiet. But then after about, I don’t know, half an hour, these eight lights, eight motorbike lights started going down this, this track that was kind of adjacent to us. 

And I woke up my friend. And I said here, like, look at all these lights. Some people are on to us, and he’s like, no, it’s not for us. But then the lights changed, and what was happening was people were getting things off. We could just see the motorbikes, and there were like 7 or 8 people as distant lights, kind of slowly coming towards us. You know, it was a little bit like some kind of special encounters type film because everything was black apart from all these lights coming closer and closer. And we kind of got up, and we started waving like hello. Hello. It’s OK, mingle laba, which means hello in Burmese.

 But we kind of realized they were forming formation into a formation. And when the group of people came out of the light into the area. Around us. The guy at the front was holding a stick. A big stick was behind his head, staring at us furiously, and all of his kind of friends had their fists up. We were sort of surrounded and put our hands up because, you know, we’re a little bit worried. We’re not six times MMA world champions like us.

John

I mean, that’s even as a six-time world champion. That’s an intimidating situation.

Alexis

Oh yeah. Oh, definitely. But it all went uphill from there, to be honest. So I think they were just scared that some people were invading their village or something or were some kind of thieves or criminals, and they just didn’t know what to make of us. But once they were surrounded. We were staring each other down. We started it slow, a kind of diplomatic process.

So, I started playing guitar. I started improvising some songs. My friend got out the Translate app on his phone and started explaining who we were and what we were doing. You know, we’re just travelers going to this National Park. We’re from Britain. Eventually, the tension died away, and the one person who spoke some English said, oh, don’t sleep here. Dangerous snakes, sleep village. So we’re like, OK, cool. 

So, we started packing our stuff and heading back to the village. As we returned to the village, more search groups emerged. What had happened was that an alert had gone out, that there were two strange people in. The Bush and half of the village had gone looking for us. 

So it was a bit like in England: we have this festival called Bonfire Night, and every November, everyone goes out and watches the fireworks. It felt like that with all these groups of people looking for us. And when we returned to the village, even more people lined the streets. It was almost like we’d won a marathon or something, and we were congratulated as we arrived from the village and were taken to someone’s house. And yeah, the mood had changed, like it was great. We were sort of laughing around all these guys, you know, even though no one spoke English, you know, just sort of. David Beckham, London, you know, playing a bit. And.

John

Yeah, that’s kind of unique. So, did that come from the hotel? You think? First, I can’t believe you gave him your passport to take off with, like, my gut. Now, that could be because of my experience in Afghanistan. 

I’d be like, whoa, isn’t going with my passport? No, no, no, no. No, I was like.

Alexis

Yeah, I think there was a 15-minute period when we started getting worried, but they had good intentions. Yeah, I am still determining where it came from. And I wonder if maybe just a farmer or someone saw two figures walking out and setting up a camp in the middle of the. But I mean, you know, word travels fast like in these places, and we weren’t in the place where we had food for that long until the crowd kind of cleared away. And these two cars pulled up. And a group of four policemen got out and came over and started questioning us. And these guys spoke English properly and were the first people with a good English level, so we couldn’t. We couldn’t hide from the interrogation, and they kind of questioned us, asked us what we were doing, and told us it was a restricted area, which we had no idea about. In the end, they said OK, well, you can’t be here. You’ve. They got to come back with us.

So, we got into this police car and started returning to the town we would initially come from again, feeling a bit worried and tense. But then, halfway along the journey, one of the police in the front of the car said, hey, man, you’ve got a guitar and play us a song. And we started playing, and the police officers loved it, and we were just sort of like everyone was rapping, beatboxing, and singing along. We kind of had a proper jam session with these two police officers. And it was great.

So, when we returned to the town by the end, they took us to the hotel. We’ve been rejected. Come earlier and sorted out some paperwork so we could stay there, and everything ended happily.

John

That’s so interesting. When you think about it, too, have you guys responded? Differently, how could you have been in jail?

Alexis

Yeah, there’s always a risk in that kind of country. You’ll be fine nine times out of 10, but occasionally, you hear about examples when that kind of thing goes badly. I guess it’s a good point.

John

Yeah, it’s good that they spoke enough English to understand what transpired while you were there. It is something to be aware of. It’s even funny, when you think about it that here we are in the greatest technological advance of history. And here are these areas you guys still need to learn. We’re restricted.

Alexis

Yeah, I know. Yeah.

John

It was just so wild. Looking at the story’s ramifications, you guys could have been in trouble.

Alexis

Yeah. I mean, afterward, we kind of thought about what we were going to do next because we thought, you know, we can’t risk whenever we go. Out into the countryside getting, you know, potentially arrested or surrounded by an angry gang. It is fine to do that once, but not every day. Thank you. 

So we thought about returning to the big town and what we would do. Ultimately, we identified the regions of NW and Myanmar that have yet to be visited. But as far as we can see, it wasn’t restricted to Chin State. Which is it? It borders India.

 So, all the people there are not ethnically Burmese; they’re from various ethnic minority groups, mostly Christian. We headed up to that area, rented motorbikes, and spent like a week or two weeks just traveling around these remote mountain villages up there, and that is, I mean if you ever get a chance to go to Myanmar, I recommend going to Chin State. Like you, you’ll never go to a place with warm people. To be honest.

John

What part of the trip was that for you? Was that like, did you swing up to that area, or were you in that area most of the time?

Alexis

We spent about half of our trip in that area, or maybe a bit less Than Half because. Yeah, I mean, we hadn’t originally planned to go there, but just the way things transpired and some of the rules and risks, it seemed like the most obvious place to go that was still what we wanted, like an interesting one. It is an unusual place to explore but without so many risks. And we had a great time there. We’re not experienced motorbike drivers, and there were times when we were going that could have been more challenging. Off-road to rain, that was a bit dodgy with these, you know, rented motorbikes that needed to be in better shape. 

But it paid off as we got to this village in the middle of nowhere. And when we arrived, there was instantly a bit of a strange atmosphere. Like, what are these guys doing? I, you know, haven’t seen foreign people here before but. Before long, we got invited into somebody’s house. The local English speaker for summer, and we were very lucky there because we had two friends in the village called Annie and Ting, who both spoke good English and had grown up in the village but worked abroad. They both just happened to be there visiting family when we were there so that they could translate for us. They told us that the last time foreigners visited that village was in the 19th century. 30s, so, so surprised to see us, you know.

John

Dude, that’s wild, the 1930s.

Alexis

Yeah.

John

Wow. Again, I wonder if we caught this; what caused you to pick Miramar? You said it’s because only a few people have been there. I saw some great pictures. But I mean, you’re looking at the map, or you’re looking at. Whatever you’re looking at to decide where to go next, what pulled you to Miramar?

Alexis

There was quite a bit of randomness there, to be honest, John.

There are so many amazing destinations in the world, and I’m sure we’ve both traveled enough to know that you can have a good experience in many places.

In an ideal world, I’d like to visit every country. So, I can’t think of any specific reason we went there instead of other countries other than its mystique and geographical convenience, seeing as I was already teaching in Vietnam then.

John

What would you say? What did that total trip cost you?

Alexis

Yeah, I was thinking about this.

To be honest, it was a very cheap country. Maybe the accommodation is a bit more expensive than in other Southeast Asian countries, but we were away for, I think, five weeks in Myanmar, and in U.S. dollars, maybe something like $700.00 for the whole trip in terms of living expenses.

John

Oh wow. OK.

Alexis

Yeah, someone else writes everything down and keeps the count. So, there’s some guesswork there, but I think about it. That kind of ballpark figure does not include flights, however.

John

Right. What? What? What were your flights? Did you get there?

Alexis

My flight to get back cost about 300, about £300 one way.

John

Oh yeah, that’s. Oh, one way, OK.

Alexis

Yeah, I was over. I was in Vietnam for about three months or something. So yeah, I just had to. I didn’t think I planned the trip, so I bought a one-way ticket back via Sri Lanka. I spent a day in Sri Lanka on the way back, which was quite interesting as well because it was not long since they not long after they had the terrorist attacks there. So. It was kind of a weird atmosphere there.

John

Sure, sure. Well, that’s great, man. So, tell me real quick about your YouTube channel and where people can find you. On social media.

Alexis

Oh yeah, sure. My YouTube channel is called Guava Funk. And yeah, that’s also my Instagram. And yeah, on my YouTube channel, I’ve got a film documenting my journey through me And, you know, encountering this lynch mob and the police and visiting the village that hadn’t been visited since the 1930s. And yeah, so that’s it—Guava Funk on YouTube.

John

Cool. I will put that up in the podcast notes so people can find you. I love it, man. That’s a great story. It’s great footage to see Miramar and some of its uniqueness. Now, last question here. What’s the next project?

 So you did. Pakistan, now you did, Miramar. Where are you heading too next? Granted, that COVID kind of lecture.

Alexis

My friend and I have considered going somewhere in Africa because we have traveled extensively in different parts of Europe and Asia. We’re thinking, why not go somewhere in Africa, perhaps East Africa? 

But it’s, you know, the world’s changing so much at the moment with COVID and stuff. So., I don’t know. By the way, I forgot that we’re also running a crowdfunding campaign for one of the villages we visited in Chin State, Myanmar.

So, Bo Chung Village, which we visited, had only been visited in the 1930s. We had a lovely time there. You know, we were invited to stay for a few nights. We even went to a wedding. A wedding performed on stage at the wedding, but this village has got quite a lot of problems like the nearest hospital is, I think, 150 miles away, so people who’ve had, yeah, you can imagine that’s not too easy for people who have serious illnesses or injuries.

John

When I post that stuff, if you’ll when we’re done here, just send me that link, and I’ll make sure to get that posted there, too.

Alexis

Yeah. Yeah, sure, sure. Thank you very much.

John

Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, listen, man, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will post the link for the Miramar trip in the notes so people can get a sense of what we’ve been discussing today. Because I. I think that it’s an amazing journey, and I love that you’re documenting it and putting it on video. It’s not some, you know, politically driven agenda that people can just see the countries that you visited and get an almost first-hand experience. You’re what you’re filming. I think it’s an amazing job.

Alexis

Thanks very much, John. I’ve enjoyed being on your show. Thanks so much for the opportunity, and I look forward to seeing more from you and your podcast.

John

No problem, man. Thanks a lot. It was coming on today. And just hang on with me for just a second.

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