Friday, 10 June 2016

A decade in Asia

10 years
I left England 10 years ago today. A whole decade. The 12th of June 2006 to the 12th of June 2016. My last sight of Blighty were the remote Shetland Isles slipping away on a bleak southern horizon. The ferry was making its way through the icy Atlantic to Torshavn - the capital of the Faroes Islands.

I was 32 back then. 42 now. I didn't intend to stay away this long, it just happened. The last decade has been a roller coaster ride through everything Asian. Let's take a peek through the murky telescope of history.

It all started with a £1 bus trip from Newcastle to Aberdeen where a ferry sailed for Iceland and the Arctic. I remember standing on Grimsey Island's Arctic Circle marker looking back at the snow capped mountains of Iceland's north coast - it felt like the edge of the world. Ferries took me to Denmark and across the Baltic Sea to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. I took the Trans-Siberian train from St Petersburg to Beijing passing through Moscow, Siberia and Mongolia. Two more ferries conveyed me to Japan and Korea. I'd finally realised a dream - to travel from Newcastle to Hiroshima by land and sea.

That last bit took three months. Next was a month each in Yunnan, Chiang Mai, Tibet and the Philippines with a brief stop in Hong Kong.

Started in Singapore. A fortnight in the jungles of Borneo was followed by a trip up the Malay peninsular. A massive land journey took me through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Indonesia. That took 8 months. By now I'd been travelling non-stop for 15 months. It was time for a break so I went to Taiwan and found a job teaching English and Maths in Taipei. I met the gorgeous ZiTing and moved to Tainan to be with her. I studied Manadarin and was able to communicate before too long.

I quit work, binned the gf and left Taiwan in June to spend two months in the Philippines. I saw the 'Princess of the Stars' ferry steam past Mindoro Island in a typhoon before sinking and drowning 800 poor souls. August was spent in Malaysia's cool Cameron Highlands and it was here I met Austrian Armin who would become one of my closest mates. An incredible month was spent diving with sharks and turtles off the Perhentian Islands. Two months on KoPhaNgan (the full moon party island) was followed by a month in Cambodian chicken farms.

New Year was celebrated avoiding bombs in Sungai Golok on the Thai/Malay border. I stayed in Islamic Kota Bharu for a month while searching for work in China. I switched the blog to blogger and started the current 'hit' count. February was spent with the Angels of Angeles in the Philippines before returning to Malaysia and deciding what my next move would be. The move to China fell through and I ended up teaching maths in Trang, Thailand. I bought a Honda Phantom and my love affiar with biking around Thailand had begun.

Saw me move from Trang to Phuket. I moved into the 'International' teaching scene and embarked on a PGCE at Nottingham University. This was quite a rough year as I suffered a bad motorbike accident, contracted dengue fever and received a good dose of domestic violence from my prostitute girlfriend.

The whole of 2011 was spent working at HeadStart International School and drinking in Chalong, Phuket. This was the year Barry Payne convinced me to invest my life savings in a scam. I finished the PGCE and started going out with Ice, a Uni student, making a nice change from hookers. I didn't really like Phuket and regretted staying the second year .... so I binned it.

Started with a 10 day silent meditation retreat at WatSuanMok. This was followed by a 7,500km two month bike trip around the whole of Thailand. Three months in Pattaya were followed by a move to Bangkok and a look at life in the big smoke. I worked for a year at Satit Prasarnmit International School near Soi Cowboy. I'd been on and off with Ice the whole time and she ended up terminating a pregnancy here. Sad times. 

Began with the purchase of a Honda CBR250 and the sale of my Honda Phantom. I retired in July (aged 39) and set off on an 11,000km bike trip from Bangkok to China via Singapore. I finished up in Chiang Mai and have been here ever since, using it as a base for bike trips around the north of Thailand.

February was spent in Cambodia getting an Education visa to facilitate studying the Thai language. However, by June it was clear that my retirement savings had been invested in a scam. I was skint. Retirement had lasted one measly year. I found a part time gig teaching maths in a local school and tutored on weekends. I started going to watch CMFC and ran the Chiang Mai half marathon in December.

March was spent trekking to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. I started teaching A level Maths and Physics full time at Varee International School. The early retirement dream was truly over. It's quite hard to describe the feeling of being scammed out of your life savings. I flew to Surat Thani to see my old mate Russel at the beach. I went on a couple of epic bike trips with Jo and ran a second Chiang Mai half marathon.

The big thing this year was meeting Wan. We're still going strong after 5 months. We've been to her hill tribe village a few times and on some great trips - most recently to Umphang. Next month we'll be riding to the beach via Isaan. Dropping by to see some old friends. Very much looking forward to it.

I've summarised a decade in less than a thousand words. I could fill books with the stories during this time. The last 10 years have easily been the best of my life. The only regret is I didn't leave earlier. Copious amounts of adventure, culture, language, booze and motorbike trips. Compounded by exotic weather and even more exotic women. All these things have conspired to keep me in the Tropics. Long may it continue. Keep living the dream.

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