Sunday, 15 June 2008

Two years on the road - highlights from Sabang.

Well, two years away from home. Wow. 731 days (including a leap year). I left home on the 12th June 2006 and today is the 14th June 2008. I find myself currently in the Philippines for the 6th time. This time last year I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This time two years ago I was on a bus from Newcastle to Aberdeen.


I am now in Sabang, Mindoro Island. I arrived in Manila last week. I was on the maiden flight from Kaohsiung - Manila. At Kaosiung airport there was a free buffet and a little ceremony with all the head-honchos from www.cebupacificair.com. I was the only Westerner on it. I ate the free scran and then they gave me a shell necklace and a gucci  new colgate toothbrush! It was a laugh watching the directors giving speeches and cutting ribbons with scissors just before we boarded.

I arrived in Manila and met Don in Malate where we spent 2 nights drinking cheap booze before heading back to the TownHouse hostel in Baclaran. This is where we first met in January so it was a little nostalgic as we drank beer and sang karaoke terribly. I then went to the airport to meet Zi Ting. I waited 3 hours before realising she was not even on the plane. She had visa problems at Kaohsiung airport. She tried to call me but I had drunkenly lost my cellphone. I am still devastated she never made it. It also means we wasted the money on her flights. I am still determined to get her here though. I was really afraid that she had missed me in arrivals and was in Manila alone - not a great thing when you don't know whats going on. Manila can be a little scary for a first timer.

With a sad heart and another skinful of San Miguel we headed to Sabang where we are now drinking, swimming and walking through jungles. I love it here. This place rocks and I am thinking of staying here for at least 80 days. I will have to extend my 21 day visa for a further 59 days in a fortnight.

We are actually a trio at the moment as we met a lad called Jez at the TownHouse. He is originally from Leeds but has been driving trucks in New Zealand for the last year. He still has a very strong Yorky accent. He was going to go to Boracay but we talked him into coming to Sabang with us. He loves it and does not want to return to Kiwi-land. Can't say I can blame him like! He is a bit mad though. Only yesterday after boozing all day, he threw his cellphone off the floating bar for reasons that remain a mystery to me. He has taken the ferry to Batangas to get a new one today! Nutter!

So here I am happy as Larry for the foreseeable.

I almost forgot. I am now a 'celebrity' on the BBC. I was browsing www.bbc.co.uk/tyne when I noticed a link to "Expat Geordies". I read a few of them and realised I could be one of these. I sent an email and they said they were interested. I sent a few pics with a little info and some answers to a few of their questions. This is the link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/tyne/content/articles/2008/06/09/ww_asia_geordie_awol_feature.shtml

I asked them to include a link to my blog but they said they couldn't really do it as there are to many profanities in it - hehe. I understand as maybe kids could click the link and be exposed to f-ing and b-ing. Not the best thing. When I first clicked on the link I felt a mixture of pride and embarrassment! Haha.

Following is a summary of highlights and lowlights of the last couple of years.

Most expensive

1. Iceland (easily)

2. Japan

3. Sweden

4. Korea

5. Faroe Islands

6.Denmark

Cheapest

1. Burma

2. Laos

3.Cambodia

4.Indonesia

5. Vietnam

6. China

7.Thailand

8. Philippines

9. Mongolia

Most beautiful place

1. Iceland

2. Mongolia

3. Malaysia (Borneo)

4. Thailand

5. Philippines

Scariest

1. Bali dogs

2. Thai ladyboys

3. Malaysian monkeys

4. Drunk Korean bloke

5. Taiwan Earthquake

6. Philippine typhoon

7. Taiwan immigration

8. Japanese customs

9. Any Asian bus.

10. Old haggered Russian Hotel receptionists.

Longest bus trips

1. Burma. Bagan - Yangon 16hrs

2. Burma. Bago - Kalaw 14hrs

3. Dozens around 10hrs which was my self-imposed maximum limit. I did quite well only breaching it twice in 2 years.

4. Some have been ridiculously slow. I think 10hrs for 200km (120mile) in the Himalayas is probably my worse. 2hrs for 40km in Laos was pretty slow going too.

Most East

Osaka, Japan (Lat/Lon 34.6 N 135.5 E)

Most West

In Life: Wawa, Lake Superior, Ontario, Canada (Lat/Lon: 48.0° N 84.8° W)

This trip: Dalvik, Iceland (Lat/Lon: 65.9 N 18.4 W)

Most North

Grimsey Island, Iceland (Lat/Lon: 66.6 N 18.0 W)

Most South

Kuta, Bali, Indonesia (Lat/Lon: 8.75 S 115.2 E)

Highlights

Scotland

Enjoying too many beers in Aberdeen at the start of this trip - buzzing!

Camping on a spare patch of grass in Lerwick, Shetland.

Having my last bag of fish n chips and spending my last pounds in Blighty on the remote Shetland outpost.

Faroe Islands

Having a beer in Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. A diminutive, wind-swept, Northern Atlantic outpost. My first foreign country.

Admiring the geology of these Islands from the windy, cold deck of the ferry - stunning. No trees!

Iceland

Standing at the Arctic circle marker on the small Icelandic Island of Grimsey. Peering over the huge cliffs to watch the puffins.

Submerged in an outdoor hot tub with just your head sticking out as you look at the icy mountains.

Hiking around volcanos and visiting incredible sulphuric vents and geezers in this geologically fascinating country.

Playing 5-a-side football with local kids at midnight in broad daylight.

Trekking 25km from Egilsstadir to Seydisfjordur over the ice-capped mountains. Had to hitch a ride for the final few km - blisters.

Drinking with German Hell's Angels on the ferry to Denmark. They gave me a ride off the ferry!

Sticking my finger down a dead dolphin's blow hole.

Denmark

Chilling out watching the kids at a big music festival in Thisted.

Getting drunk in Frederickshavn watching England beat Ecuador in the 2006 World Cup.

Sweden

Looking on in awe at the huge bridge from Malmo to Denmark.

Taking the piss out of Sven and eating kebabs in Karlsamn (only here 1 night in a torrential downpour).

Lithuania

Drinking vodka with the Eastern European truck drivers as the only 'tourist' on the ferry from Sweden. Starting to feel far from home.

Buying a stinking, multi-lingual, ex-fisherman tramp a beer in Klaipeda.

Latvia

Getting very lost in Leipaja while strolling around the beach.

Strolling around Riga's beautiful old town.

Perving at the gorgeous woman and watching Portugal knock England out of the World Cup.

Estonia

Swimming in the Baltic Sea, visiting the National musuem and drinking beer in Tallin old town.

Russia

The Hermitage museum in St Petersburg.

Riding on the St Petes subway - the World's deepest! It takes ages going down on the escalators.

Red Square Moscow. Eating Blineys and borscht.

Seeing the spot where the Romanovs were shot and laughing at the miserable Russians who think smiling is strange.

Hiking and relaxing around Lake Baikal, Siberia.

Trans-Siberian train trip. Playing cards, not washing, vodka and having fun.

Mongolia

Horse riding through the Mongolian wilderness.

Sleeping in a Ger camp after staring at the pristine Milky Way.

Drinking alcoholic horse milk.

Enjoying a Genghis Khan beer and lamb kebeb in Ulan Bataar.

Getting covered in sand as we left the train window slightly open passing through the Gobi Desert.

China

Feeling like a baby in Beijing - unable to read, write, speak, eat etc.

Great Wall of China. Forbidden City. Tianeman Square. Temple of Heaven.

Looking at Chairman Mao's corpse. Meeting my friend John from Jilin.

Learning to use chopsticks.

The bund in Shanghai. Experiencing my first scam.

The fastest maglev train in the World.

Cruising down the Yangtze for 4 days past the Three Gorges Dam.

Visiting a rice farm near Wuhan.

Hiking around beautiful Huangshan Mountains in Anhui province.

Catching the two night ferry to Japan.

Osaka Castle.

Hiroshima peace park and museum. Mazda car factory.

Hiking/skinny dipping in Sandankyo Gorge.

Eating Eckonomiackis.

Sunset from Pusan Tower, Korea.

Almost getting a kicking off a big drunk Korean bloke who took exception to me being a foreigner.

Nightclubbing in Kunming, China

Drunkenly falling into the open sewers in old Dali.

Partying in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Visiting Doi Suthep.

Travelling from Kunming to Chengdu, China.

Passing through Tibetan villages on the Himalayan plateaux.

Hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge. Hot spring bath in Kangding.

Chengdu nightclub for my 33rd birthday after getting my hair tipped.

Spending a day in Hong Kong.

Visiting the Peak to admire the incredible cityscape.

Snorkelling at Malapascau, Philippines.

Drinking cheap rum in paradise and trying to sing Tagalog karaoke songs.

Eating the Hawker Centre food in Singapore.

Little India and Arab Street. Hiking through the Singaporean jungle.

Drinking on Clarke Quay. Seeing Raffles. Cinema and Botanical Gardens.

Watching massive monitor lizards and mud-skippers in Melaka, Malaysia.

Trekking through the dense pristine Borneo jungle. Losing a toenail.

Batu caves, Petronas towers, Petaling Street and surviving scams in Kuala Lumpur.

Fighting monkeys and leeches on Pangkor Island.

Being suitably drunk in an Aussies Sailor's bar in Penang.

Going up Penang hill and witnessing the incredible Hindu celebrations.

Swimming near Krabi, Thailand.

Mixing in with the package tourists in Phuket.

Sunsets and barracuda suppers on little Koh Chang.

Spending a week in Bangkok getting tattooed and drunk.

Having dental work done in Isaan.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Killing fields and Go-kart racing, Phnom Penh.

Helping to butcher a pig and getting drunk with tribal people, Vietnam.

Skinny dipping at China Beach with all my friends from Hoa's Place.

Being skint, lonely and hungry in remote Laos.

Cruising the Mekong River.

Inner tubing and swinging into the river amongst awesome scenery in Vang Viang.

Motorbiking around the mountains of NW Thailand for 1 week.

Illegally entering Burma at a very dangerous spot.

Four day hike from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Burma.

Drinking a lot of tea and wearing traditional clothing.

Sleeping in a remote Bhuddist monestary.

Cruising down the Ayerwaddy to Bagan.

Having a beer in the very posh Sakura Tower in Yangon.

Pattaya in-yer-face sex, Thailand.

Hanging with the expats in Jalan Jaksa, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Snorkelling and receiving severe jellyfish stings at Pangandaran, Java.

BBQing grupa fish and touring Bali by motorbike.

Going to a Balinese wedding in traditional attire.

Kuta nightlife and Ubud arty serenity.

Obtaining employment in Taiwan.

Learning Chinese. Meeting a girlfriend.

Alishan mountain, Guanziling hot springs and Lantern festivals.

Executing a hen in the Philippine jungle.

Collecting food on jungle foraging expeditions.

Eating coconut rice sticks in sweltering heat on Xmas day in Puerto Galera.

Drinking on floating bars with beautiful women and scenery in Puerto Galera.

Settling down in Taiwan with monthly visa runs to the Philippines.

Most ill

Burma - mmmmm better to forget that one.

Religious things

1. Sleeping with Monks in Burma

2. Attending a small family ceremony in a small family church in Murangan, Philippines.

3. The temples of Southern Taiwan, Laos, Burma and Thailand.

Most beautiful women (highly subjective of course)

My lass

Iceland (Bjork types - wow)

Japan

China

Indonesia

Thailand

Latvia - would be promoted if they would smile a bit.

Russia - cute but miserable.

Interesting characters

The guy who was going to Greenland to hang out.

My fellow travellers on the Trans-Siberian train including the Uzbek guide.

John from Jilin in Beijing.

Faroese fishermen and the German Hell's Angels.

The Dali expats.

The guy from Brighton who lives in Kunming. The only person I've met who was born on the same day as me!

Rene the artistic Yank who lives in Bali - what a guy.

The Korean speaking German investment banker in Pusan.

The 50something Zimbabwe bloke in Laos. Extraordinary character.

Don the exRN officer, currently a luxury yacht Captain who floats around the World but currently lives in the Philippines. He has offered me a job on his current yacht - how cool is that?

Jojo the Bangkok ladyboy and all his whore girlfriends - class!

Sheeda the skinny paddy who drank spirits non-stop with occasional breaks for a vomit or sleep.

Tigran, my Armenian friend in Taipei.

The Melaka muslim family.

Charlie, my Chinese based Hull friend.

A Lithuanian truck driving drinking buddy.

An American psychologist living in Cebu.

The Mandalay rickshaw driver.

A drunk Norwegian in Denmark who gave me 10gbp?

Ivo the rich Slovenian I met in Taipei.

Julian who has lived in Japan for 20years.

Darren the Geordie who has almost had his dick chopped off.

Dave the QPR supporting Cockney geezer in Bali who had a tattoo of a cigarette behind his ear!

Vinnie, Rem and all the lads from my minging Bangkok hostel.

Too many to mention really!

Strange characters

An oddball in Vietnam who asked Uncle Hoa "So then, tell me why I should stay here." We replied with "We'll tell you why you shouldn't - F.O!"

Manila Kiwi sex-tourist who was sleeping with whores everyday. He thought they all really loved him!

A Northern Irish smack addict in Bangkok.

An old Indonesian man who spat in his wife's face one night in Jakarta.

An old crazy English journalist in Thailand.

An old guy with 6 kids in 6 different countries.

Food

A lot of strange food. Duck embryo, goat's brain, duck's intestines, duck's tongues, many kinds of insect in Laos, dog, snake, balls, scorpions.......so many I've forgotten.

Friendliest country

Burma

Most unfriendly

Russia (easily)

Beaches

Malapascua, Little Ko Chang Thailand

Jungles

Borneo - Incredible

Ship trips

Aberdeen, Scotland - Lerwick, Shetland 1day

Lerwick, Shetland - Torshavn, Faroe Islands 1day

Torshavn, Faroe Islands - Seydisfjodur, Iceland 1 day

Dalvik - Grimsey Island, Iceland (return trip) 1 day

Seydisfjodur, Iceland - Hanstolm, Denmark 2 days

Frederickshavn, Denmark - Gothenburg, Sweden 3hrs

Karlsamn, Sweden - Klaipeda, Lithuania 1 day

Shanghai, China - Osaka, Japan 2 days

Shimoneseki, Japan - Pusan, South Korea 1 day

Chongqing - Yichang (Yangtze River) 4 days

Luang Prabang - Houxai (Mekong) 2 days

Mandalay - Bagan (Ayerwaddy) 1 day

Batangas - Calapan (Philippines) 3 hrs

Train trips

St Petersburg - Moscow

Moscow - Ekanterinburg

Ekanterinburg - Irkutsk

Irkutsk - Ulan Bataar

Ulan Bataar - Beijing

Beijing - Shanghai

Shanghai - Chonqing

Chengdu - Wuhan

Wuhan - Shenzen

Art

Ubud, Bali

Hippies

Meet these all over the place. Some mint, some very peculiar.

Best boozing

Too many to say. Cheapest beer Philippines.

Dodgiest moments

Manila guys trying to get me into their car.

Japanese customs.

Kuala Lumpur gambling scam.

Sneaking into Burma via the remote border with Thailand.

Almost hit by a falling coconut during a Filipino typhoon.

A few near miss motorbike incidents.

Frustrating

Taiwanese embassies.

New airport security. Flying generally.

UK issuing passports with too few pages.

UK economy.

Sunsets

Available all over the World for free.

Iceland - well, the sun didn't set there.

Andaman coast.

Bagan.

This is only a fraction of the highlights. There really are too many to mention.

Cheers and here's to another couple of years vagabonding.

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