Three weeks in Timor Leste
Wednesday 2 July 2014 - Wednesday 23 July 2014 32 °C
Our Journey to Oz
Three weeks in Timor Leste
Wednesday 2 July 2014 - Wednesday 23 July 2014 32 °C
Climbing Mt Bromo and Ijen Crater
Wednesday 18 June 2014 - Monday 21 July 2014 5 °C
Celebrating Gawai Dayak with the Iban.
Saturday 31 May 2014 - Sunday 1 June 2014 29 °C
Saturday 3 May 2014 - Friday 6 June 2014 33 °C
Monday 14 April 2014 - Monday 14 April 2014 30 °C
‘It’s more fun in the Philippines!’
Friday 4 April 2014 - Saturday 3 May 2014
Island hopping in the Andaman Sea
Monday 3 March 2014 - Monday 24 March 2014 32 °C
Saturday 22 February 2014 - Tuesday 25 February 2014 32 °C
With six months under our belts we have learned new routines to make our lives flow. Simply, travelling like this is not one long holiday; instead it requires constant work and consequently we take on specific roles just like we do at home but instead our chores are generally more enjoyable. We still have to do laundry, manage the accounts and do the shopping but booking guesthouses, deciding routes and researching restaurants is infinitely more fun than day to day life at home.
Living out of a single bag takes a bit of planning too, especially if you are used to a large wardrobe and choice of Jo Malone fragrances, but again a routine sets in. Packing the bag gets easier and more efficient (despite our over-packing at the start), each taking responsibility for different shared items of luggage. In short, we have become slick travellers, able to pack up and move on at short notice and with minimal stress.
This anniversary was also the day we knew that we had to return home – something that we both had hoped would never happen.
Even with such a short flying visit to the UK it was always going to interrupt these routines. The shock of the cold in Manchester was a rude awakening and burst the self-absorbed bubble we had been inside for months. Seeing family and friends again was lovely, we both laughed and cried in equal measure.
We returned to Bangkok a little over a week ago and needless to say it’s been noticeable that we’ve been away from travelling. Gone was any sense of restraint and we have both enjoyed all the nightlife that Bangkok has to offer. Expensive restaurants, rooftop bars, loud music and at least one all-nighter until 8am. We slept by day and partied by night. We broke the budget every day.
After four (days and) nights we were tired, so we extended our stay in our Bangkok hotel and vowed to actually see some sights.
As I write this post, we’re sat on a train trundling back into Bangkok after a day visiting Ayutthaya, the ancient capital. With centuries-old crumbling ruins and temples full of the chanting devoted, it hasn’t a patch on Angkor but reminds me of what we left behind just three short weeks ago. I’m smiling because I’m reminded of the reason why we travel and I begin to notice those little idiosyncrasies that make this adventure so much fun; the relentless dust and heat, the taxis coloured the same as Refreshers, the odd fact that everybody wears skinny jeans with flip-flops.
I’m glad to be back on a train, sat in third class next to an open window with all the dust and smoke from the shacks hugging the train line filling the carriage. I’m glad that we have booked another train journey for tomorrow and the day after. It means we’re getting back into the swing of things...
U can’t touch this.
Monday 13 January 2014 - Sunday 19 January 2014 32 °C
We’ve got stars directing our fate…
Tuesday 24 December 2013 - Tuesday 31 December 2013 30 °C
For those of you paying attention (and doing the maths) I should point out that we didn’t go to Victory Beach (the description that it ‘looked out over Sihanoukville port’ put us off) or Hawaii beach as it is the ‘bridge head for the new Techo Morakot Bridge’. They may be as lovely as the others we visited but I doubt that.
Thursday 12 December 2013 - Thursday 12 December 2013 31 °C
Some hints and tips for travelling in China
Friday 13 September 2013 - Wednesday 6 November 2013 28 °C
Friday 13 September 2013 - Tuesday 1 October 2013 26 °C
Sunday 25 August 2013 - Thursday 12 September 2013 25 °C
Not a yurt and pronounced to rhyme with her, hair or here - the ger is a lot more spacious than you’d think. Inside there are usually some of the mod-cons you’d expect of a 21st century family; satellite TV, telephone and other solar powered electrical items. Yet the ger is essentially governed by the nomadic lifestyle their owners live.
A central wooden wagon wheel is held up by posts to provide height, whist the often intricately decorated spokes and the wooden lattice-work walls give the ger its shape. Covered in layers of felt and cloth it is quite weather proof and can keep you very snug and warm when it’s blowing a gale outside, especially when the fire is lit inside the metal box that sits immediately in front of the door. The ger can and is dismantled several times a year and moved on the back of an overloaded truck or yak to fresh pastures.
After a few visits to a ger we realised that there are some common features and customs to all gers. The internal layout follows a similar pattern with door facing south, beds on either side and further furniture (dressers, wardrobes, chests, tables) at the back. It always includes a small shrine adorned with Buddhist images and texts, family photos and an array of rather kitsch horse statuettes; the type that wouldn’t have looked out of place on my Gran’s sideboard.
Considering the nomadic lifestyle and reliance on their livestock as a source of all food, there would invariably be a range of different foodstuffs and instruments to aid in their production visible in the ger. A huge vat of fermenting mare’s milk (‘airag’) by the door, trays of drying curd cheese, a wooden contraption to distil ‘vodka’ from the fermented milk, ritual wooden spoons to flick milk offerings to the sky every morning, unidentifiable parts of goat or sheep hung to cure from any convenient hook and a large metal bowl of slowly simmering mutton provide you with a complete picture. Yet it is the smell that lingers. Close, I imagine, to that of a sweaty, smokey dairy that had been wrapped in a massive blanket to fester for a while, I got quite used to it!
When inside we were expected to follow a few simple rules. Leaning over or standing on the threshold was considered rude, as was crossing your legs when eating. We slept with our feet towards the door and respected the family’s treasured possessions, especially those on the altar and the horse hair hanging from the central anchor rope – each taken as a memento of a favourite horse. Other, more ‘western’, social norms were not observed. You entered without knocking and could expect to share the food and drink available – Mongolian hospitality is rightly renowned.
I have many fond memories of nights spent in a ger; sharing a single bed to keep warm, watching Korean soap operas dubbed into Mongolian, the stars, the poos with views but right now my lasting memory is a lesson learned on our final night in a ger. If you should trip, the metal fire box that keeps you snug and warm, should not, if at all possible, be used to break your fall…
Off to China nursing sore hand.
Saturday 24 August 2013 - Saturday 24 August 2013 20 °C
Our long-distance train journeys have changed subtly as we have ventured east as they have become increasingly filled with international travelers. Consequently, what started out with what felt like an intrepid journey alone, where we had to learn train etiquette the hard way, it is now a more social activity comparing plans, notes and previous experiences with fellow passengers. On our most recent trip across the border into Mongolia we shared a carriage with French, Swiss, German, American, Austrian, Indian, Dutch and Chinese nationals to name a few. Invariably the language of most international conversations is English, which resulted in this overheard conversation…
“Oh yes! You can get Starbucks in China”
“Yes, the Chinese love the Americans”
“You mean all things American, not all Americans”
I was reminded that less than 7% of the world’s population will travel internationally this year and no matter how homogeneous we become as a global population, I am one of a very fortunate few to experience this.