As the trip enters the final 7 days we find ourselves back in Bangkok and deciding whether to stay in this uber modern Thai metropolis or whether to travel down to the Thai equivalent of Scarborough – Koh Samet. Well, they are worlds apart but Koh Samet is an island off the coast of Thailand in Rayong Province with white sandy beaches and its own micro climate which makes for one of the driest parts of Thailand year round.
In one respect it is as though we are passing the time and waiting for the day we fly home, yet on the other hand it is as though we are trying to make the most of our final week on what has been an amazing and epic journey.
Either way I figured that as we sit watching the sequel to Lock Stock and two smoking barrels, a film I can’t for the life in me remember the name of, now might be a good time to go through the stats of the trip.
Time spent on the trip -14 weeks (98 days)
Total weight lost – 17kg (Me 9kg, Charlie 6kg, Abi 2kg)
Days spent dieting – None
Number of Countries visited – 7
Number of islands visited – 8
Major Cities Visited -7
Number of Visa’s paid for – 4
Total cost of Visas – £345
Number of countries entered Visa Free – 3
Total stamps/Visa’s in Passport – 47
Total amount of stamps/visas now in Abi’s passport – 72
Furthest distance from UK: Bali – 13,000 Miles
Furthest distance travelled on land: Saigon to Bali (except for flight across the sea) 1,700 Miles
Furthest distance in same country: Delhi to Trivandrum via Agra, Varanasi, Mumbai & Hyderabad 5,000 Miles
Number of flights – 8
Number of Trains – 14
Number of Long Distance Buses – 9
Number of Boats – 9
Total time on Flights – 38 Hours
Total time on Trains – 171 Hours (7 days)
Total time on Long Distance Buses – 59 Hours
Total time on Boats – 13 Hours
Number of Taxis/Tuk Tuks – Too many to remember
Number of times we ate local food – Most meals
Number of times we got ill – 2 (Charlie once, Me once)
Approx number of Mosquito bites – 300+
Number of times spent sleeping on transport/airport – 7
Percent of Trip actually pre booked – 10%
Number of times we got knowingly scammed – Once
Number of attempts to be scammed – 100+
Average Hotel Cost per night – £8
Lowest priced hotel per night – £1.30
Highest priced hotel per night – £32
Famous people seen – 1, Tobin Bell (Jigsaw from the Saw movie’s) We were stood waiting for a cab in Bangkok and he was in next in the queue behind us. Moaning that whilst the taxi wouldn’t take us, it could have taken him. (we needed to go too far apparently)
Favourite country – Cambodia
Favourite Beach – Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui
Most memorable time – Gunning Bromo, Indonesia/Kalleda Village School, India
Least favourite place – Hat Yai, Thailand
Least Favourite time – When Charlie was almost taken from me
Biggest regret – Not pre booking more flights
Favourite Country – India
Favourite Beach – Ko Ma, Ko Phangan
Most Memorable Time – Kalleda Village School
Least Favourite Place – None
Least Favourite Time – The journey from Kuala Lumpur to Bali
Favourite Country – Vietnam because we stayed with Mrs Long
Favourite Beach – Ko Ma, Ko Phangan
Most Memorable Time – The horse ride up the Volcano (Gunning Bromo, Indonesia)
Least Favourite Place – MBK Mall, Bangkok
Least Favourite Time – Sat in Tune Hotel Kuala Lumpur doing nothing (there was a thunderstorm)
The biggest difficulty we have faced on the trip has been the travelling. SE Asia is a travellers paradise and the countries are all surprisingly well connected. Sometimes though it has been unavoidable that we arrive in the early hours, or when the bus we hoped took six hours ended up taking twelve. The biggest problems we faced were generally things beyond my control. Looking back on the trip I had to make many decisions and in hindsight most turned out to be good decisions. That said, I often spent hours at night researching every detail. For example, en route to Cambodia from Thailand I had read up on every scam and expected them in the exact sequence in which they occurred.
During the trip I booked hardly any hotels or travel and most of it was pretty off the cuff. This gave us a flexibility to stay places longer if we wanted, or leave early and even a complete freedom to decide where and when we went. It gave us a huge advantage to make the most of where we were but also posed many problems which mainly panned out to be financial ones. For example, in the space of 3 days we lost £100 on flights because I gambled they wouldn’t rise. Or the times we tipped up somewhere at 3 am and then struggled to find accommodation because I hadn’t pre booked due to having no internet or the fact that a large percentage of budget hotels across SE Asia don’t take pre bookings. Which then of course meant all the cheaper places were full – Like the time we arrived in Jakarta at 5am and when we got to the ‘budget area’ there just happened to be this once a year street party on which meant everywhere was booked up. Things like that are unavoidable and no amount of prior research into a place can account for things like that. I look back now and laugh, 5am walking down a street somewhere in Jakarta with people still hammered from the night before as the cleaners attempt to clean the street – homeless.
Except for what happened with Charlie in Bangkok we didn’t really face any problems. I mean obviously the attempted scams always seemed to come at a time when we were knackered and as such they took a strain on us. But it’s a funny thing, you try and accept that those trying to scam you have nothing and are just trying to provide for their family. The reality is those who looked like they had nothing were the ones who didn’t try and scam us. Usually they were the ones who showed absolute generosity or gratitude toward us. Only the other week it started raining heavily and we just headed for cover. It’s Actually quite funny looking back, but we ended up taking in shelter on the porch of a house under cover. The family were stood staring at us and talking, I assumed they must have thought we were right piss takers and when the man of the house started saying something I thought he was telling us to do one. He wasn’t, he was telling his son to bring us some chairs. We have taken cover in many places and always we have either been ignored or engaged in conversation – Not once have we been asked to leave. SE Asian people are the most gentle, relaxed, non confrontational people I have ever come across and just like last year they have showed us nothing but a huge welcome with a big smile.
There have been many difficult times on the trip which have meant we have had to try and emotionally detach ourselves; From the school in Kalleda to the kids in Cambodia. I have seen and had firsthand experience of some things which will haunt me for the rest of my life. We have seen a dead young boy, and many children close to death and even the remains of children who have been killed. At times it has been very sobering and as I tell the boy who begs me for money to go away I have always done it with the best intentions. I know that sounds odd, but I subscribe to the theory that if a man sends his child out begging and he comes home with money then tomorrow he will send him out again. Common practice is to give money to a local charity or help out yourself by volunteering. I have yet to hear that the best thing to do is to give money to the children. There have been many times on the trip I have choked back tears and only once have I given in – A disabled child in any part of the world poses many problems for the parents. In the UK we have a great support network which gives these children and their parents the help they need and deserve. In Cambodia the sad reality is that disabled children are a hindrance and an even bigger strain on the difficult life that already lay ahead. Many disabled children are simply abandoned and orphaned. So when we were walking down the road and I saw a woman trying to make comfortable her teenage daughter who was so severely disabled her body was deformed. The child was wriggling around without knowledge of where she was or what was happening as her mother sat begging. It was obvious they were outcasts of society and hadn’t eaten properly in weeks. I tried not to make eye contact with either, when you do that is when you really get hit hard. It is said the eyes are the window to the soul and it is so true when you see those who are suffering at the hands of poverty. In the store I bought an extra loaf of bread and as we walked back I gave it to the woman who was still struggling with her daughter, she clasped her hands in a prayer like manner under her head and bowed her head thanking me over and over again as I walked on. Never have I spent a dollar in a more useful and satisfying way.
The trip hasn’t been all poverty and sadness but it is a huge part of SE Asian life, we have had some amazing times which I will touch on and collate in our final post of the trip. This trip has of course been the culmination of several peoples support which I will also expand on in a further post. But as the trip enters its last seven days, and even writing this and reflecting on what we have done I can’t help feeling sorry that there is only 7 days left. As much as I can’t wait to be sat munching on fish and chips and drinking some good European Beer whilst watching the only rugby I can find on Sunday 12th September (Oldham v York) with Jack. I can’t help thinking that a week from now we’re leaving behind a world we love, a world where we belong.