Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Six years on the road and another heart break in Pattaya.


On Saturday the 10th June 2006, I was watching England beat Paraguay 1-0 in their first game of the World Cup in Germany. I was with Penny and Joanne in the Black Bull in Morpeth. Six years later, on the 11th June 2012, I was watching England draw 1-1 with France in Euro 2012 in the Ukraine. This time I was located in tropical Pattaya, Thailand - the world's capital of sleaze. Quite a change.

In the last six years our fortunes have contrasted significantly. Penny bought a house, got married, worked hard and had a beautiful daughter. I, on the other hand have roamed Asia in a constant state of employment/travel/girlfriend flux. I have as little direction now as I had when I left school at 16. I still have no idea where I want to go and what I want to do! I can't even explain the origin of this aimlessness or how I've diverged so far from Penny?

I'd speculate that spending 10 years in the Royal Navy from the age of 16 has something to do with fueling one's travel lust and desire for unconventional living. Life on those submarines was far from normal!

It all started on the 12th June 2006 on a dark dank Monday morning at Central Station in Newcastle. I had already sold or given away my worldly possessions (house, car, furniture etc) and finished my MSc at Newcastle University as I was waiting for a bus to take me to Aberdeen. Fen Xiao (my ex-girlfriend who was a nurse at the Freeman Hospital) came to wave me off. My luggage consisted of a bag, a tent, a passport, an ATM card and a few clothes. I was headed for Iceland.

I went by ship to the Shetlands, the Faroes and Iceland where I hiked up volcanoes and crossed the Arctic circle. I sailed to Denmark, Sweden and Lithuania before travelling overland to Latvia, Estonia and St Petersburg. From there I took the Trans-Siberian train across Siberia, through Mongolia and onto Beijing. I had arrived in Asia.

From Beijing to Shanghai to Chongqing where I sailed down the mighty Yangtze River past the awesome Three Gorges Dam and onto the sublime Huangshan Mountains in Anhui Provence. Then back to Shanghai where I sailed to bustling Osaka in Japan. A bus conveyed me to Hiroshima where I visited the compelling Peace Museum commemorating the nuclear strike at the end of WW2. I also visited a Mazda car factory and hiked along Sandankyo Gorge. Onto Shimonoseki where a ferry took me to Pusan in South Korea.

That part of the trip took over 3 months. I had always wanted to reach Japan without flying. It was from Seoul where I experienced my first flight of the trip on the way to Kunming in Yunnan Provence, China. I then went to tropical Chiang Mai in Thailand before returning to China for a wonderfully tortuous trip through the Tibetan Himalayas. Hong Kong was followed by beach time in the Philippine Visayas before celebrating the new year in Singapore. 

2007 took me to Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia (spending around one month in each place). In September 2007 I started teaching in Taipei, Taiwan. I had spent the last 15 months wandering sporadically through Europe and Asia. It was time knuckle under again. I managed 3 months in Taipei before moving south to Tainan to be with my new girl ZiTing. I lasted 6 months there doing monthly visa runs to the Philippines.

ZiTing and I finished in June 2008 and I went to live in the Philippines for 2 months. I planted rice and drank coconut wine on Leyte Island in the Visayas. Then onto the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia where I met Austrian Armin - my longest and best travel buddy. One month on Perhentian Island was followed by two months on Ko Pha Ngan. Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Malaysia saw me start to hanker after some work and stability. After an aborted attempt to work in China I ended up teaching maths in Trang, Thailand. I moved to Thailand permanently on the 21st of March 2009. I have been in Thailand pretty much ever since. One year in Trang followed by two years in Phuket with the last two months in Pattaya brings us to the present.

I recently did a 7500km motorbike trip through Thailand during a break between jobs.

In the last six years I've learnt languages in addition to meditation and living simply. I've seen earthquakes and typhoons. I've hiked up snowy volcanoes and through tropical jungles. I've learnt how to teach maths while completing a PGCE to ensure indefinite travel. I've had potentially fatal Dengue Fever twice. I'm on my second passport. I learnt how to SCUBA dive. I had an extremely lucky escape in a motorbike accident. I've had incredible encounters with women from all over the world. However, most importantly, I've learnt how to live a debt-free, financially independent life - without that none of this would have been possible.

My route around Eurasia.

Having a beer in Geordie Bar 2 in Pattaya. This bar was about as Geordie as Mike Ashley - NUFC's Cockney owner. Is the team still called NUFC or is it 'Nike Coke Samsung United' yet? 

In typical restless style I went for an interview in Bangkok at an international school. This is despite securing a chilled out part-time role in Pattaya. The school will call me this week to let me know. I have been asking myself: Do I want to earn 75k or 30k? I currently get 30k without using my new PGCE qualification. Why not use the PGCE that cost me £2900 to gain a 150% pay increase? I'd prefer to work alongside commensurately qualified and motivated colleagues as opposed to the oddities that end up in low-paid Thai government schools.


Well, this one didn't last too long - about 5 weeks. I called her last night and she's working in a factory in Samut Prakan. After she left my ex-gf Ice came to see me from Phuket. She has finshed her Bachelors in Law degree and has just started her Masters! I thought she was wanting to be a policewoman - not a lawyer. I still lose things in translation.


Here's Matt, Oom and some gogo dancer bird in a bar in Pattaya.


pra yat ngern - save money

1 comment:

  1. The label on the beer says "Baltika" (obviously this means "Baltic")


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