Thailand's north is known for it's cultural and culinary offerings. My time in Chiang Man coincided with the annual Flower Festival. Sometimes there is a little magic in not planning at all. I was able to photograph so many beautiful local people that were part of the parade, and get to meet some women from a few different northern tribes.
Islas Los Uros, Puno, Peru.
Traveling South America was a very different experience for me. There was a strange familiarity visiting countries that speak the my same language, and share some of the same codes as the place where I was born. There was so much I felt that I understood, but so much that felt so distant, It seemed surreal we all belonged to the same continent. It gave me a lot to think about.
Like in most touristic destination around the world, Peru was challenging when looking for authentic places to explore. At times, we had to give into the traps, in order to experience some exclusive places. The Uros Floating Island, or las Islas flotantes los Uros, was one of those times.
The Uros are man made floating Islands located in the lake Titicaca, in Puno, Peru. The islands are made out of totora reeds, which grow in the Titicaca lake.
The Uru people who make and live in them, are known to have lived in Peru for hundreds of years, even before the Incas. It it said that they chose this form of living to facilitate movement and migration.
So needless to say, we were so compelled to visit this settlement. To meet the locals, find out about their customs, and how their lives are carried out on a daily basis in such a different way.
But unfortunately, it wasn’t until we arrived to Puno that we realized any experience and visit to the Islands wouldn’t be remotely authentic; nowadays the Uru people’s main income is none other than tourism.
As we tried to figure out how to visit the village, we quickly realized that the only way in and out was booking a tour. We reluctantly decided to take a tour, and as much as we enjoyed our experience, we couldn’t help but feel like we were intruders. As much as we were contributing to their income, in a way, I felt like I was a big part of the problem.
At some point I thought to play devils advocate to myself and think “Could they really survive with their traditional lifestyle as the world moves forward, without the help of tourism income? Isn’t globalization, in a way, allowing them to achieve self sustainability without the need to change?”
I dont doubt that the tourism in this area has greatly improved some aspects of their lives, but tourism has forced this community to change their lifestyles. They welcome tourist all day every day. they sell handmade souvenirs, sing you songs as you descent your boat, and even encourage you to purchase extra features of the tour. In their homes they now carry some electricity, and other modern commodities that were made available only in the recent years. They are hesitant to engage in any interaction that doesn’t involve selling you something, and they avoid most questions that dont directly relate to the logistics of their lives. After a while, I just felt like an unwelcome guest.
I wanted to share the beautiful images I was able to capture while visiting, but I wanted to be honest with myself (and with you) about the reality of the experience. So often you see travel photos and stories and put things on your bucket list, and even get some travel jealousy. I think it is important to understand what the actual experience can be like when visiting a place that looks this authentic, and yet feels so conflicted.