It was American author Henry Miller who said, "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."
I still remember years ago, getting up in the darkness to make my way to Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise over its iconic temple. I remember even better the shattering of the expected tranquility of that moment by the sudden and then continuous flash of cameras from people all around me, illuminating the darkness the second the sun began to peer over the horizon. It was that moment I vowed to stop taking photos of my travels, as the more places I went, the more convinced I became that people no longer experience the places they are in, but rather photograph them so they can actually experience them at home. As a result, most places are now seen through the ubiquitous filter of the screen of the digital camera, which allows the almost obsessive documentation of every second of a trip, to be enjoyed later when it is over.
In fact, I stuck to my guns for several years, until the ease and unimposing nature of the compact digital camera, and later my iPhone, seduced me back slowly to photographing my trips. I still don't see much point in photographing iconic places, when there are so many better pictures than I could ever take already out there; my purpose is never to document the place I visit, but my personal experience of it, and the things which stand out to me. After 20 years of travelling, I thought it was time to collate the ragtag bag of images, formats and filters from hard drives and photo libraries together into one place, and this (in some ways sadly) incomplete collection is what forms the content of Turas: a portal to store and share a photographic record of my travels, shot on camera and phone, which form a far from perfect picture of at least some of the places I have been.
The Chinese characters for 'bei' & 'jing' translate as the 'Northern Capital', and the prospect of having to leave my adopted Tokyo (the 'Eastern Capital') for an intensive four day course in its polluted, sprawling cityscape filled me with dread. My previous two visits had left me with little love or further fascination for the Chinese capital, but what I found on my third visit, seven years after my last, was a much more vibrant and appealing place than I had remembered. Admittedly I only experienced the dreaded pollution through the stories of my course colleagues resident there, and only had to grapple with its choking road traffic on one evening out of the five, but the grey, spartan, communist-style city I remembered from my first visit 15 years ago seemed like so much more of a distant memory.
All photos were shot and edited on iPhone6.
What the Lonely Planet guidebook refers to as 'a lonely backwater', CARE lists as still being one of the most mined countries in the world. Even a week in the old French colonial jewel of Luang Prabang was enough to confirm it as easily one of the most, if not the most chilled places in Asia, with none of the frantic selling, haggling and endless attention-seeking that is so much a feature of travelling in the better beaten paths of the region.