Hi everyone, writing this post 7 months in, since when covid started rearing it's ugly head worldwide. Wow what a wild ride it has been. As you saw from the last post, the team and I was traveling through Vietnam on a Road less Traveled shoot at the cusp of 2020 NY's. We spent new years in Dong Hoi, Vietnam, embracing the adventure and looking forward to our next shoot, Bali. Vietnam BLOG here: https://www.sd-media.net/post/road-less-traveled-season-5-begins-vietnam-diaries
After wrapping up in Ho Chi Minh, we hopped over to Bali for our next episode of RLT. Well, we had an amazing time in Bali and wrapped up what can only be described as a deeply spiritual and moving shoot.
Probably more so than ever before. Reasons behind that can be seen on our VLOG /Podcast diaries here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KF0b9sJ2f7k
Anyhow, after wrapping up Bali around mid January, we made way for Jakarta to begin the pre production of the next episode. A dear friend of Jonathan and mine had passed back in the States, so we decided to head back home, take a break (it was a real effort to film Vietnam and Bali in one go) and then re-organize and come back to film Jakarta a month later. Well, THIS was the exact time when COVID really started gaining international attention, and I remember places going into lockdown the day AFTER I got back Stateside.
Good timing for me because I went into studio mode and worked on delivering 10 episodes of our new food/travel series that I'm hosting, Maximum Foodie (PREMIERING on ASIAN FOOD NETWORK AUGUST 15th at 10PM across ASIA).
Sorry, shameless plug over.
Anyhow, we had content to work on in post production, edit team in India could be kept busy, and delivery of our past shows was in the works, so the encroaching pandemic didn't freak me out much. It was a surreal experience to witness what was going on, how countries were handling it, how the USA handled it, and just to see the fabric of our society starting to strain.
As a media producer, I obviously need to produce content, which means I have a real need to travel.. Around march 8th, and rather selfishly, I admit, I decided to head into the Philippines to start filming for Maximum Foodie. I realized things would probably shut down worldwide so I was in the mindset to hustle content in before travel was impossible.
My team and I embarked on a roadtrip to cover Luzon, especially the fabled rice terraces: Here's a quick video of the amazingly beautiful Banaue rice terraces: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RNWl60lCCQ
We had a grand old time in Luzon, and once back in Manila, we really felt the strain of a nation going into lockdown mode. It was hard to believe it, and the hysteria was ramping up, I remember that night in Manila after coming back into Luzon, seeing all the new protocols in place, and feeling an anxiety of this invisible enemy, ready to attack at any go. I remember us wiping down our hotel room with disinfectant, every touch surfaces, it was not a good state of mind to be in!
The next day we had a flight for Palawan, one of the most beautiful islands in the world. My friends and I flew in, picked up our rental in Puerto Princessa, and made way for Port Barton. It was about 6pm when we got a message from the President's office (my friend had a direct link) which warned us that the country was to go into full lockdown in 48 hours time. This was not publicly announced yet, and would have been around midnight or so. Halfway driving to Port Barton, I immediately pulled to the side of the road, busted out my laptop, and booked a flight back into Manila for first flight next month.
Prices were still normal, around 50 a head so we were good to go. We ended up in Port Barton, spent the night, woke up early, just to catch a glimpse of White Beach, and then headed back to the airport - at which time, it was pandemonium. Fortunately we had our tickets already booked, but the line of people waiting and under frustration was vast.
We got back into Manila, I rented an apartment for a week at a time, my friend was stuck in Makati at one of the smaller hotels. When the country went into lockdown, we coudn't even meet each other! My friend eventually scrambled to get a ride back to the airport on the day of his flight back to SFO.
I was then faced with a choice, stay in the Philippines and wait out this lockdown, or head back home.. I pondered for a week trying to figure out what to do. You see, the Philippines wasn't just a vacation trip, I had setup a whole batch of amazing shoots not only in the Philippines, but also Thailand, Maldives, French Polynesia, and Italy! Needless to say, it all fell apart as the respective countries went into lockdown, Italy being hit the hardest.
I waited it out a few more days trying to decide what to do; finally I saw a news update from the US State department mentioning that the country would start going into lockdown and overseas citizens should return STAT because there was no telling if entry would be allowed or not. Well, that made me change my mind real quick!
I booked a flight a few days out, and headed back to the States.
Never seen Manila this empty before, not even during a Pacquiao fight!
Manila airport was a ghost town!
San Francisco not too different either! Really shocked that NO form of any pandemic protocols were followed at the airport in the States. Just flabbergasting, no wonder how the cases
I got back home on March 21st and noticed things were eerily quiet in Sacramento, California!
The weeks that ensued back home was nice, pretty much solitary confinement but I had a whole host of things to do. Projects to build up the studio room, garden, work on cars/bikes, and a whole lotta cooking! Oh yeah, and gadgets. From Wifi6 routers to workstation upgrades, to laptop purchases to building a 3800USD 48TB NAS Server. Oh yeah, got into a nasty coffee habit too. We had television projects in post to keep us busy, so the month rolled by quickly, onto April.
I had a ticket booked for Philippines in mid April and the day before the flight, it got canceled. Turned out that the Philippines wasn't open for international travelers, still waiting on that refund! I decided to start a VLOG series as our Sashidemedi Youtube Channel really started seeing some big boosts in subscription and viewership. You can watch the first VLOG here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMgvRPBtjgM
In general, during the quarantine in California, I spent a whole lot of time riding my motorcycles, exploring new parts of the states, and embarking on some 4x4 adventures with my good friend, and host of Road less Traveled, Jonathan Legg. We camped up in Bishop CA, and embarked on some epic 4x4 misadventures, shooting guns in the wilds, just a fun boy's trip!
Fast forward to June, celebrated birthday with family, ate a whole lot of harvested fruits from the backyard - and just recently in July, finally put together a shoot in the US Virgin Islands. One of the few places that is still exotic, and where Americans can still go! USVI was an amazing respite and the soul felt happy to be traveling again.
I'll post more about this trip in my next blog! Will also post about all our impending plans for filming internationally and what we have lined up! Let's all collectively try to beat this virus, stop debating about wearing masks, and hopefully, in the coming months we start beating the curve! More to come on the next BLOG, thanks for reading!
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