IN ASIA - VINCENT URBAN INTERVIEW
In January I caught up with Vincent Urban the creator of the ‘In Asia’ series. We managed to get some time with him whilst he was still in Buenos Aires preparing for his next adventure. ‘In Asia’ took him and two friends through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia in their trusty Land Rover. Over three months Vincent captured the vast and varying landscapes of Southeast Asia. From stunning untouched landscapes to the swarming metropolitan areas that make up some of Asia’s most famous cities. Those beautiful moments plus a superb soundtrack track makes the ‘In Asia’ series something that you have to watch more than once. Leaving viewers wanting to know what is next from Vincent Urban and friends.
I'm 28 years old, from Munich, Germany and I'm working as a video editor for all kinds of commercial and non-commercial clips. I was producer/cinematographer of the Isenseven Snowboard Video production (www.isenseven.net) for 8 years before I started working freelance in 2009. Working for Isenseven gave me the chance to travel the world, however, it was all about snowboarding, so I could only visit places with mountains and snow and there was little time to actually see the culture of the cities or countries. So now I hope to catch up and visit those spots I've missed the passed years. Stefan is 30 years old, sound engineer and my friend from birth. I spend pretty much every holiday or trip with him since I can remember things. He's the adventurous and handy guy - and he's into cars, especially into 4x4. He bought the Land Rover Defender and customized it to fit our needs while traveling. Guess, without his experience, organization and mechanic skills those trips wouldn't be possible at all.
Clemens is 28 years old, and cinematographer for short and feature films as well as for commercial productions. He is a long time friend and shares an apartment with Stefan in Munich. Clemens and I worked together for Isenseven in our early twenties and we're working together on many film-projects today. You could call him the film nerd, always equipped with all kinds of gadgets to make extraordinary shots.
When & why did you decide to take this adventure through Asia?
The first time we thought about the trip was in fall 2009, so exactly one year before we took off. Stefan and Clemens already made a trip to West Africa with an old VW bus that year - and they liked it so much, they wanted to keep on going somewhere. Also, Stefan just bought the Land Rover and we all thought it would be great to go on a trip with it. And when we started talking about destinations, it didn't take us long to decide in favor of Southeast Asia. None of us ever visited that part of the world and it seemed like it was just perfect for a little off-road adventure. In fact, we wanted to start in China in the beginning but we quickly learned that the regulations they have for travelers with their own cars were just nuts. So we stuck with Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
How long did you guys have to prepare for such a trip?
We started 6 month before take-off. But in the beginning, it was mainly about finding out how to ship the car from Germany to Kuala Lumpur. All the other things like route, flights, hotels and such were just planned and booked a couple of weeks ahead. We really didn't plan that much in advance to be honest.
What was the biggest obstacle during planning?
Getting that car into a cargo-box, on a ship and back out. Cargo-shipping isn't exactly a business for common people so it was extremely hard for us to get any information. In the end, you got different agencies, shipping-companies and a big pile of paperwork and bills. It's worth it - however, it's a pain in the ass to say the least. We didn't even know how to get the car back out from the port in Kuala Lumpur before we got there. Stefan was sitting in a McDonalds with free WiFi for almost two long days in a row to find out what to do. Good start for a trip.
As a cinematographer what was the biggest problem you faced on the journey?
You need to be very fast. There are so many wonderful or extraordinary things happening around you all the time - but there's no one telling you in advance that something will happen. And most of the time this moment will be gone in a matter of seconds. When you shoot films or commercials or anything else, you can plan your shots. When you're travelling, you obviously can't plan anything - things happen and usually, by the time you got the right lens and shutter speed, the scene has changed already. Also, it can get a little depressing if you're trying to capture the mood or emotion of a situation and it's just not working. You only have that much possibilities to shoot a scene and sometimes none of them will tell the story the way you just felt it. But maybe that's a good thing, too. Some things are just meant to be memorized and can't be caught on film.
What was the most memorable part of the trip for you?
That would be the day we broke into this abandoned skyscraper in Bangkok (in Episode 5). The building wasn't finished at all so there were holes and debris everywhere, no lights, nothing to hold on - and we had to walk up (and down) 50 stories without really knowing what to expect. It really was a sketchy thing to do but we were rewarded with a more than spectacular view over the whole city. It was so different than anything we experienced ever before. If there's no windows or walls up there and you have the feeling you can sense the whole building move in the wind...
What have your learned from this experience?
There are so many cliché ways to answer this question and the problem is, most of them are true in a way. Social awareness, cultural knowledge, mastering obstacles and so on. But mainly you just get reminded of how big and different this world is and that it'd be somehow sad to just sit in his own country without experiencing some of it - or ideally most of it.
What would you say to someone who is contemplating taking an adventure like you have?
Don't plan too much. Our most memorable moments happened just somewhere next to the road - not at the famous sights. Some of them are spectacular, sure, but the best experience is just to explore whatever you find, it feels a lot more genuine anyways. And take your time! We had 2 months for 4 countries and sometimes we just had to rush through too quickly. It's just perfect if you got enough time and no inner obligations that you HAVE to see something Lonely Planet tells you to see. Obligations are quite unwelcome on something you call a holiday anyways.
Sum-up your experience in one word.
Can you give us some information on your South American adventure?
Right now, I'm sitting on the balcony of our Hostel in Buenos Aires while the other two guys are at the port, trying to get the car out of there. It arrived with the ship already 2 days ago but we are expecting to leave no earlier than in two more days. It's just a very complicated procedure. However, we're all looking forward to get it out to leave this bustling city and just drive into nature. We want to visit Patagonia, Santiago, maybe the Atacama desert. But we'll see what happens. We brought a warmer sleeping bag this time!
IN ASIA SERIES
- Episode 1 - Malaysia
- Episode 2 - Thailand
- Episode 3 - Laos
- Episode 4 - Cambodia
- Episode 5 - Thailand (Plus Outtakes)