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New Mongolia page

I’ve added a new page with a map and practical stuff about Mongolia (the tab at the top of the page). I’ll keep adding to it when I have the time…

The third and last part of my little film…

The second part of my little film…

The first part of my little film…

BigBuddhaMonday, 27th July.

The sweatiest place on Earth.

I got here [Bangkok] from Brisbane this morning at 6am. I had eighteen hours before my connecting flight back to Madrid so I got a taxi into town. It took an hour and a half because of traffic. The driver played Boney M whilst pointing out banged up cars at the side of the road. I hadn’t realised that his taxi was air-conditioned until he dropped me of at Wat Pho Temple.

The temple houses the country’s largest reclining Buddha (40m x 100m). After a long walk around the temple grounds I wandered the streets, as is now customary (and also hard work as the capital of Thailand feels like a city under a sea of damp cotton wool). The smell is brilliant. There are a thousand and one odours all baying for your attention, most of them sickly sweet or a pleasing rancid smell.

I zipped through kilometres of back streets and markets selling spices and pornography and also wandered past a few shops that I still haven’t got my head around yet. Open fronted rooms with families sitting around eating in front of the TV and people wandering in and out. What were they selling, their left overs?

I found a street comprised solely of guitar retailers, military surplus suppliers and sewing machine shops. how does that happen? It looked like a repeated Scooby-Doo chase scene background. Guitar, boots, sewing machine, guitar, boots, sewing machine, guitar, boots…

The moment came to get back to the airport when I finally came across the ex-pat neighbourhood. The Mecca of friendship bracelets and ethnic clothing.

Tuesday, 29th July.

Eighty-nine days ago I was writing my first diary entry.

This is my last.

I’ll be home in a couple of hours. We’ve been fleeing the dawn for a while now, but the orange line on the horizon is getting bigger and below us there’s scattered clumps of lights and roads. Could be Italy, Afghanistan, Benidorm…

All I wanted to do as I sat on the plane in Madrid waiting to take off for Beijing, was to turn back. Now, three months later, I’m happy to be going home. My last night at Phil’s we watched a film set in Spain. It made me miss home and all things Spanish. Earlier that day me and Phil wandered around a few antique and bric-a-brac shops. I’ll always have fond memories of that.

I don’t know if all this has changed me. I suppose I´ll find out when I get home. I think it has. I’ve certainly practised my handwriting anyway…

BarrierReefWednesday, 15th July.

Sitting with a tropical rainforest behind me and the Pacific Ocean in front of me.

I arrived at Diane’s (Phil’s friend) place in Cairns yesterday and set off early this morning. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get deeper into Daintree Forest (the oldest on Earth). I’ve decided that Australia is for sitting on the beach, this time around. I’m just going to lie on this deserted beach and ponder about my growing anxiety of flying back.

I’m slouched in a chair at a table in the bar next to the beach. There’s a girl over there doing exactly the same as me, scribbling in a little note book with an anti-social look on her face…only, she’s got a big jug of beer. Being the tit that I am, I forget to get some cash before I set off, so I’ve got a few dollars to last me three days. At least the food is free on the boat tomorrow. I’ll be too busy looking at coral and deadly poisonous marine life to be worried about eating…or will they all look like little cartoon roast chickens floating past my mask?

Thursday, 16th July.

Swam with a turtle.

I’d been snorkelling for an hour or so and he appeared beneath me. I followed him for about fifteen minutes. I almost followed him out of the reef, but seeing I was leaving the boat behind I let him go. I swam a couple of metres above him. His fins moved like wings, it was like watching a bird flying in slow motion.

I’m pretty happy with that.

I spent the rest of the time looking at sea slugs, giant boulder coral, giant clams, sting rays (…was that one following me?), schools of little blue fish and a big b@#%ard fish that I though was a shark. On the way back I laid on the deck in my shorts…like an anaemic Robinson Crusoe.

Friday, 17th July.

Still on the beach.

I was never one for the beach and I do look like a flabby little naked mole rat in the sun, but spending all day here without a soul in sight feels quite…nice. I lost my fear of crocodiles sneaking up on me out of the rainforest very soon after getting here. It’d be a gruesome end, but it’d be a beautiful place to get eaten at least.

There’s no doubt about it, luxury spots make for crap diary entries.

This feels like the official end to my trip. Sitting on a beach next to the world’s oldest forest. I know I go on about it, but this place really was exactly the same a million years ago…except Aborigines were hunting kangaroos out where I made friends with a turtle yesterday. The only niggling disappointment I feel is that I haven’t achieved much. Doing the train journey from Madrid to here would have been a lot harder and I would have missed a lot of Mongolia (the two weeks I’d originally planned would have been heart-breakingly short). But if I were sitting here having got to the far side of Asia over land, I think I would have fulfilled a part of me that at the moment still feels a little annoyed.

Ehyup Brisbane

StraddyWednesday, 1st July

I’m going to see our Phil today!

I could possibly be a big disappointment and end up plodding round her house like a zombie with a tick looking for goats to milk…

I finished the book the Australian bloke gave me in Beijing. “Stay alive my son” by Pin Yathay. It’s the story of his escape from Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia and the loss of his family and friends along the way. I was still going over everything in my head when I went though arrivals and almost walked past Phil and Jon. We set off in time to catch the rush hour traffic. I later went to bed with no intention of getting up early to take advantage of the day…

Thursday, 2nd July

I was greeted by a note from my sister (and her two cats Yorkshire & Pudding) and directions to her office. I wandered around Brisbane and started to get nostalgic about Mongolia when the thought dawned on me that I might never go back there. I was suddenly gripped with the urge to just keep going and began to think of where I could go next (all the while cursing the fact that I hadn’t started ten years ago). After living out of my rucksack for two months, sleeping in the middle of nowhere with very little belongings, making conversation with complete strangers everyday, often only with hand gesture, waking up to landscapes I’d never experienced before…I felt out of place. I wanted my sweaty clothes, goat smelling gers and big blue skies.

I found myself going into every bookshop in the city. I nervously started to read bits of books on anything. First travel books, then art books, then anything that came to hand. I knew I was going to be in relative comfort from now on and wasn’t going to be going anywhere for the moment, so frantically reading was a quick substitute.

But later Phil & Jon took me to see some big whales, so that calmed me down.

Friday, 3rd / Saturday, 4th  / Sunday, 5th July

We went to Stradbroke Island. We camped about a hundred metres from the beach. We had duvets, pillows, cool-box, gas stove, temperatures at night above freezing. I wasn’t a stinky nomad any more.

That day went pretty well. We walked through a gorge whilst humpbacked whales, sea eagles, rays, dolphins and turtles all vied for our attention. We’d walked directly into a nature documentary. We had a beer and watched the neon sunset on the squeaky-sand beach. This is more or less what we did for the following two days…which was fine by me. We also spent a while at Amity Point poking an abandoned catamaran, and Phil mas almost moved to tears by a flock of pelicans floating on the wind overhead. She really quite likes pelicans.

Monday, 6th – Tuesday 14th

I laid in. I wandered around Brisbane. Had nice nights in with Phil & Jon. They showed me forests and mount Coot Thar. But it doesn’t seem like stuff to put in a blog, I prefer to spout ill-informed observations about natives…