Greetings from not South East Asia, for the first time in over three months!
It feels like a lifetime ago since I was flying into Bali, having been at work three days before. I had absolutely no idea what lay in store for me, or how it would play out. Would I see a monkey push a toddler over? I did, thankfully. Here is the quick summary of my time in “Đất nước đóng chai.” (Vietnamese for “the land of bottled water.”)
December 14th – Jan 17th – Bali, Indonesia
Bali was a magical first destination, but presented its own challenges. It was by far the hottest place I have been to; I swear it’s the only place in the world that gets hotter when the sun goes down. You think you are out of the sweaty woods but you are just getting started my friend. Combine that with rum poisoning and scooter crashes, someone always seemed to be battling something in the five amazing weeks we spent there.
But that ain’t nothing on the positive; I have eaten the best pizza in Bali, seen some serious “Finding Nemo” shit snorkelling, and partied in a swimming pool club with 12 random Irish backpackers. Along with the stuff I’ve already written about that’s unmissable in Bali, I know I’ll be back.
– Conquering my fear of the scooter and having a blast on the roads
– Scuba diving a WW2 shipwreck in Tulumben
– Performing at a large live music venue
– Missing Gillie Islands
– Dolly the crazy rabies dog owned by our neighbour that made us scared to come home
Getting chased by a ladyboy hooker at 2am on a scooter who followed me home. She just kept yelling “where you stay! Where you stay?” I was like “NO THANKS.” I made it home, and definitely lost her with my sick scooter manoeuvring. But she hoons down the driveway and says “is this where you stay?!” I’ve never locked a door so quickly in my life.
Jan 17th – Feb 2nd – Thailand
I said bye to my sisters and family who I travelled with in Bali, and went searching for a party in Thailand along with mates from home. The four of us met on Koh Phangan and attended the swanky black-tie affair known as “The Orbiting Reflector Beachside Get-Together” (or full moon party for short.) After battling our way off the island to Koh Samui, we ate dead crickets from a market, inevitably took one of our friends to hospital, and continued the party in Phuket.
Having been to all three of these places three years ago, it took the pressure off to do any attractions. I managed to keep my “exotic animals touched” number down to just one.
– Staying at a five star luxury apartment in Phuket (Thanks Jon!)
– Doing the YMCA dance with 20,000 other drunk souls at the full moon party
– This photo I took of my friends on Bangla road – Phuket
– Getting sick in Phuket
– Getting off Koh Phangan (which I wrote about in detail here)
Some Asian guy’s singlet caught fire at the full moon party; he didn’t notice until four people started stomping it out.
Feb 2nd – Feb 17th – Cambodia
Cambodia marked the beginning of me actually travelling with no one from home. Phnom Penh was a depressing start with the killing fields and genocide museum, but I met a like-minded travel buddy who thankfully cut my Phnom Penh visit short as we set off for the southern beaches. A week of chilling beachside, jamming in hammocks, eating cheesecake, and playing chess materialized. We managed three nights at the legendary Arcadia hostel, right on the river.
A 14-hour bus ride later we were in Siem Reap, which was worth it 10 times over. Ankor Wat somehow exceeded my already very high expectations with its lush surroundings and tranquil atmosphere. Three days ended up becoming a week at the Mad Monkey Hostel, sitting poolside with an eclectic mix of Germans, English, Irish, Americans, Canadians, and Aussies, as I reflected on a true adventure.
– Hanging out on the river all day diving, swimming, laughing, jamming, and drinking at Arcadia
– Cambodian circus in Siem Reap! Do not miss it. Acrobatic masterclass!
– Meeting someone in a hostel in the morning, and being on a bus to god knows where with them the next day
– losing said friend while we were scooting; we searched for an hour all over town for her. Turned out she had been scammed by two locals out of $30 who crashed into her, took her keys, and demanded cash.
– Watching mud wrestling at a beach in Sihanoukville that was advertised as happy-go-lucky fun but turned into drunken MMA.
17th feb – 3rd March – Malaysia
Turns out energy to travel all adventurous and spontaneous-like was a finite resource. Although completely off the itinerary, Kuala Lumpur was where I ended up next.
Unfortunately I was skimming the headlines and a terror threat was issued for KL, practically for the road I was staying on. I decided not to tell mum. (Sorry mum.) Luckily I was off to Borneo, the more adventurous side of Malay- oh shit there’s a kidnapping warning in Borneo. Great. Where I was AND where I was going were both unsafe.
However I’m in one piece; the beach islands, huge lizards, and cute wee orangutans looked after me just fine.
– Chilling at 5 star resorts we weren’t staying at
– Losing my Baskin & Robbins virginity
– Dinner on a helipad in KL
– Not making it to turtle island!
– When a bigass lizard and a monkey almost started fighting. Would have been the coolest thing.
3rd March – 28th March Vietnam
Easily the country I wanted to visit the least after hearing the many horror stories of ruthless thievery and corrupt officials. However after a month there, I sort of didn’t want to leave. Unfortunately there was plenty of theft; predominantly in Saigon. Moped riders snatching bags and necklaces right off tourists as they walked. So besides Saigon which I wouldn’t return to, the place was magic.
From empty theme-parks on the beach island of Phu Quoc, to the misty landscape of Ninh Binh where they filmed the new King Kong, to the world’s most beautiful cave in Phong Nha, it’s no wonder most people spend a month travelling here. Although I spent a month, I missed enough to warrant another trip in the future.
– Mud baths in the many caves of Phong Nha
– Exploring the Cu Chi tunnels in which Viet Cong lived in during the war
– Leaving Saigon
– Rowboat trip in Nimh Binh
– some drunk d-bag pissing on my bag
– All my friends getting robbed in Saigon – all together my friends were involved in six robberies. Phone snatching, bag snatching, even some guy on foot following my friend down an alley to snatch her necklace, after she had her phone stolen a week earlier! (This is the same friend who was scammed in Cambodia too.)
– Seeing canned rat, a whole roasted dog, and a cock-fight all in one walk.
To sum up, South East Asia was wild, reckless, cheap, and very easy for solo travellers. Although technically I did two months “alone” – I never was. In fact if you want time to yourself you need to fork out and get a hotel room. (Which I did at the end; a shower that doesn’t double as a toilet is so refreshing.)
I’m going to look back on the last three months as the months as a triumph, I survived with good health, barely anything bad happened to me, I still made time to write plenty of songs that I can’t wait to produce and share with you. Of course what made it were the people I met, who I hope to see again.
The rest of my trip is in flash countries. Although they’ll have paved roads, and drinkable tap water, they will have a tough act to follow.