Friday 11 June 2021

15 years in Asia

I left England 15 years ago today. The 12th of June 2006 to the 12th of June 2021. My last sight of Blighty were the remote Shetland Isles slipping away on a bleak southern horizon. The ferry was making its way north, through the icy Atlantic to Torshavn - the capital of the Faroes Islands.

I was 32 then. 47 now. I didn't plan to stay away this long, it just happened. Let's take a peek through the murky telescope of history at this roller coaster.

2006: North coast of Iceland


Started with a £1 bus trip from Newcastle to Aberdeen where a ferry sailed for 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 took three months. Yunnan, Chiang Mai, Tibet, Hong Kong and the Philippines took me to Xmas.

2007: Burmese face paint

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 for 15 months. It was time for a break so I found a job teaching in Taipei. Three months later I headed south to Tainan to be with a girlfriend. I studied Mandarin and was able to cobble a few sentences together before too long.

2008: Aboriginal Taiwanese

Restless, I binned Taiwan in June and spent two months up to no good in the Philippines. I saw the 'Princess of the Stars' ferry steam past Mindoro Island in a typhoon before sinking and drowning 800 souls. August was spent in Malaysia's Cameron Highlands where I met Austrian Armin who would become a great friend. 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.

2009: Trang coast

New Year was celebrated listening to bombs explode in Sungai Golok on the Thai/Malay border. I stayed in Islamic Kota Bharu 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. China fell through and I ended up teaching in Trang, Thailand. I shacked up with a local lass before buying a Honda Phantom and beginning a long-lasting love affair with motorbikes.

2010: Phuket Town

Saw me move from Trang to Phuket. I moved into "International" teaching and completed a PGCEi - a teaching qualification - enabling a continued stay in the tropics. This was a rough year as I suffered a bad motorbike accident, caught dengue fever and received a good dose of domestic violence from a crazy (but hot) girlfriend.

2011: Koh Phi Phi with Armin

Was spent drinking in Chalong, Phuket. Barry Payne convinced me to invest my life savings in a scam. I was seeing a Uni student which made a nice change from hookers. I didn't really like Phuket and regretted staying a second year .... so binned it.

2012: Honda Phantom road trip

Started with a 10 day silent meditation retreat at WatSuanMok. This was followed by a 7,500km motorbike trip around the whole of Thailand. Three months in Pattaya was followed by a move to Bangkok and a look at life in the big smoke with a job near Soi Cowboy. I'd been on and off with the Phuket Uni student and she ended up terminating a pregnancy here. Sad times.

2013: Bangkok
Began with the purchase of a Honda CBR250. I retired in July (aged 39) and set off on a 11,000km bike trip from Bangkok to China via Singapore over 4 months. I finished up in Chiang Mai, shacked up with another lass and rode the CBR250 all around the north of Thailand.

2014: CBR250 remote Chiang Mai

February was spent 
applying for an Education visa in Cambodia. However, by June it was clear that my retirement savings were gone. I was totally skint. Retirement had lasted a year. I left the girlfriend and was happy to be flying solo again. I taught part-time in a school and tutored on weekends. I watched every CMFC home game, went on lots of motorbike trips, drank at Nui's shop and ran the Chiang Mai half marathon in 1h59m. My Thai language skills improved enormously - speaking reading and writing - and I started to hang out with Thai people more.

2015: Annapurna Base Camp. Nepal.

March was spent trekking to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. I started teaching full time in an 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 in 1h48m.

2016: Jogging in Chiang Mai

I met Wan in January and enjoyed visiting her electric-free hill tribe village to the north west of Chiang Mai. She travelled all over Thailand on the back of the trusty CBR250. Noticeably Umphang, Isaan, Pattaya and Bangkok. I quit working in September and enjoyed a 5 month break. The relationship fizzled out in December.

2017: Bicycle in China

Sad to leave Chiang Mai after 3.5yrs. The longest I've lived anywhere. In March I flew to Xian and spent 6 months working in China. I wrote a short novel. I returned to Thailand in September - this time to Hat Yai in the deep south. Was great to be back. Enjoyed riding a scooter around the sticks of Songkla.

2018: Buying a CBR500 in Hat Yai for $7,000

I bought a CBR500 in March before riding it 7,000km around Thailand's borders in July. Enjoyed a lot of time shooting-the-shit in Paul's garden - a great lad from work. I got balls deep into stocks before going full monk - quitting alcohol, women and cigarettes on new year's eve. For good. Asceticism began here.

2019: South Thailand beach

Spent a week in England after 13 years away. Reverse culture shock. Sadly both my parents had passed since I left. Flew back on a A380. Treat myself to a week in Pattaya. Moved from Hat Yai to rural Chiang Mai in July. Enjoyed weekly massages and northern bike trips before quitting work, selling the CBR500 and moving to Cambodia in November.

2020: Battambang retirement

I was happily chilling in sleepy Battambang on $400/month. However, 6 months into it and Covid decimated my savings. Stocks took a hammering leading me to panic-apply for a job in nearby Vietnam. I left Battambang in July and flew to Phu Quoc (via Korea) for a 21 day quarantine in 5 star luxury. Then off to chaotic Ho Chi Minh City for the next chapter.

2021: Ho Chi Minh City

Grinding out the life of a full time worker drone in HCMC. As a teetotal celibate ascetic monk there's not much to report. Working hard, stacking cash and simply being present in the moment - letting HCMC's craziness wash over me.

I've summarised one-and-a-half decades in one-thousand words. I could fill books with the memories. I've had the time of my life. The only regret is I didn't leave earlier. Adventure, culture, language, booze and motorbike trips. Exotic weather and even more exotic women. All conspiring to keep me here. Would I do it all again? Fuck yeah.

“It's better to walk alone than to walk with a fool” - Buddha


  1. cool, you have had quite a life so must have a lot of energy.555

  2. Love it matey! When do u reckon you'll finish up with the current job?

  3. A totally interesting read as always Stevie lad. Hopefully next time if there is a next time I’ll be at home when you’re next in the village and we can have a catch-up
    A lifetime ago since I used to babysit you and ya brothers oh and ya gran
    Take care marra and stay safe

  4. I also live in asia for a long time.
    I love reading your blog. Your blog post is unique and adds insight for me. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Stumbled upon your blog by a stroke of luck; absolutely fascinated by your adventures. I am binge-reading the content on your site right now. I am very impressed by your views on various topics. Thanks for writing quality material.