I started my trip in a Bangkok hotel room wondering was I going to last the distance. I’d waved goodbye to a lot, including relationships that I knew would change forever. Without any hesitation I knew I was doing the right thing but I was in limbo. I’d made the journey but I hadn’t quite stepped into this new world. I’d love to tell you stories of how I went straight out and and had the time of my life, but instead I took cover and sat in my room till the morning (shaking). I dusted myself off the next morning to explore and I haven’t looked back!
I’d already had a wee taste of Asia, exploring India and knew that I loved it. Some people describe it as an overload on all your senses but I like that. I had an India come down when I touched down in Heathrow back in January 2013, the grey, the rain and the formulaic buildings made me sad. So, this time I gave myself a solid 5 months to explore this vast and diverse continent. A decent amount of time for sure, but of course just a taster.
I’ve now said goodbye and shed a few tears but thought I’d share a few of the the things I’ll miss and a few things I’m happy to leave behind. Obviously I’m generalising massively here as one of Asia’s charms is its diversity, but here are some highlights.
Sleeping with lizards! Not literally but a bedroom just isn’t the same without your own little gecko nestling in the corner. I’m seriously hoping this applies to hot countries the world over as not only do they make you feel like you’ve got a pet but they also eat the mosquitos. I have a lot of love for these little creatures.
The open spirituality wows me. There’s no shame in embracing your beliefs and displaying them loud and proud for all to see. That doesn’t mean ramming them down people’s throats like the shouty preachers on the UK highstreets, but simply practising your faith and integrating it into daily life. Whether that’s spirit offerings in Bali, public ceremonies throughout, or a simple style of dress.
Huge smiles are plentiful in most but not all countries in Asia.The warmth of the locals has taught me a lesson or two and if I ever go back to Western living I’ll make sure I smile more, even to strangers in fact especially to strangers, lost strangers like I’ve been.
The fantastic translations, especially in China are unintentionally the funniest things. Sign writers over-rely on Google translate with hilarious consequence.
Of course the food. Hanoi, Penang, Bangkok, Chengdu and Koh Tao are up there with the best eating experiences I’ve had. Without exception the tastiest things have come from the street sellers. I’ve tried a few things that aren’t acceptable in the Western world and lost me stacks of twitter followers, so I won’t mention them again!
Feeling like a movie-star! So many photos with so many randoms. Yes it bothered me at first as I felt like a circus freak, but if you embrace it, have fun with it, it’s alright you know.
I’ll try not to make a habit of pouring my heart out in every post but I reckon Asia can take some credit for opening me up and making me a softer version of myself, more trusting, open and ready to accept kindness. Letting my heart rule my head hasn’t won me too many favours in the past so I steered away from letting my heart have a say at all, that’s no good either. Just by living within the more naturally open cultures has readdressed this balance a little.
It’s not all roses though, there are a few things I’m not sad to see the back of. Give me a month and I’ll probably want these things back to!
The lack of pavements (or sidewalks to some of you). I need clear pavements in my life. I’m done with hurdling over spirit offerings (as beautiful as they are) and weaving around scooters, baskets, food stalls etc. I just want to walk in a straight line every now and again.
Far too many Manchester United fans. I’ve been trying to educate but they’re too far gone, it’s obsessive. ‘You’re from England’, ‘yep’, ‘ah Man United’. No actually, I don’t even like feckin football – my exes combined can take credit for that.
Mosquitos – needs no explanation.
Why oh why do you fill your bottled water to the very top, so they spill all over you when you open them. And whilst we’re on the subject, making me say ‘water’ over and over again because I sound funny with my Southern English accent. We don’t say ‘Lovely Jubbly’, at least I don’t think we do and nor do I speak in rhyming slang, much to your disappointment, I’m sorry!
Queuing – So you don’t feel like queuing Asia, no don’t let that long line of people phase ya! I’m British, we queue! I can’t get used to the unfairness of standing in a ridiculous line for ages only for a sharp elbowed person to come sauntering past and blatantly jump the line.
I’m already looking back through those tinted glasses though, crowded pavements, queues even the mosquitos are okay.
My trip so far in numbers – Beds I’ve slept in, in Asia – 105! Some with flower petals and elaborate towel origami, sometimes with suspicious stains and a hive of activity/insects/pets, most somewhere in-between. Treks I’ve been on, 6 – Mount Emei, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Hill Tribe – Chiang Mai, Everest Base Camp, Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen. I don’t even like walking up hills! Number of planes I’ve flown in – 18, sleeper trains 8, sleeper buses 5 and a countless cars, mopeds, horse and cart, Tuk-Tuks. Crashes, just the one! Nice odds really. Only made it into one national newspaper… as far as I know. Photos of me with complete strangers – roughly 376, China being the most keen for a bit of tourist on their mantlepiece. Sports – 5. Diving in Koh Tao & Gilis, Surfing in Bali, Mountain Biking in China, Trekking throughout Asia and as many yoga classes as I’ve been able to squeeze in!
Scars – just the two. If you know me, you’ll know the list of ridiculous injuries I’ve managed to pick up in my life. So 2’s not bad. A 3inch scar down my left shin from a mountain bike tumble in China and a cm scar on the inside of a finger from a bottle of Bintang that shattered in my hands.
I’ve now landed safely in Australia, with so many new things to see and I’m excited all over again. It’s definitely not goodbye, it’s just Hasta Luego or see ya later Asia, I’ll be back just got a little more exploring to do first.