09.07.2013 - 15.07.2013
Hello everybody, I’m back! So, I’ve spent the last 2 months back in the Western world, and after 16 months away boy was that a shock to the system! I remember the day I first got back to London, sitting there on the plane as we came down the runway in Heathrow thinking if someone offered me a flight back to Bangkok right now I’d rip the ticket right out of their hand and jump on the next flight. Safe to say I was not feeling good about being back in London and I can’t really pin one particular reason why, I think more than anything everything just looked and felt so different, and despite having flown into Heathrow millions of times nothing about it felt familiar or like home. But there I was back in dreary old London (actually it was a sunny day, but still.) and after meeting up with my family again and getting the train home right in the middle of rush hour, I was walking back home from London Bridge to my house, a walk which I must’ve done over a million times yet it all felt so bloody bizarre and unfamiliar. I have to say though walking along the river in the morning sunshine was bloody beautiful, London still has to be one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. But that still couldn’t change my first impressions of feeling really out of place and not sad but just somewhat confused, especially when I got back to my home of 19 years and it all felt completely different and new. Then I had a fried breakfast with the family and my whole mind frame completely changed, bloody hell English food is so god dam delicious! That was my first full English of many! Then I got back and had a hot shower, got into some clean clothes and drank some water out of the tap (how incredible!) and I’d fallen in love with England all over again. Still my overall first impressions were that of complete confusion and feeling out of place coupled with a desperate need to get back to Asia, given how good a time I’d had my last few days (and the last 16 months come to think of it) that was obviously pretty unsurprising.
Even though I was home and dry, I still had my travelling boots on, and after only a couple of days I was off to Manchester, and no offense to anyone who lives up there but I really did not like that place one bit, to put it lightly it was a bit of a shithole! But I was there to see my mates and despite how I felt about the city I still managed to have a really good time, and the constant supply of food which wasn’t always bloody rice and noodles was a massive positive! One thing I took away from my time there was that contrary to my original plan, there was no way I was going to be able to stay in England for any longer than 1 or 2 months. I guess what it was was that I had an overwhelming sense that my mind frame on it all was completely different to my mates and there was no way I could see myself settling into the kind of routine they all had living in London. I can’t really say whether or not that was a good or bad thing, to feel out of place in your home country isn’t great yet on the flipside to have reassurance that I hadn’t wasted the last 16 months of my life was nice.
My next stop was a few weeks in Paris staying with my sister, I have to say being there was probably the only time I really felt that I’d be able to settle down somewhere, the main factor which made me feel that was probably the absolutely amazing flat my sister was living in and of course the nightlife which really is a hell of a lot better than England. Apart from partying too much, sleeping too late and eating endless amounts of pasta and baguettes I did manage to get a couple of cultural stops in, caught up with old friends and most importantly made it to Beckham’s last ever game which was emotional to say the least. All in all I had a bloody good time there and as I say it’s definitely somewhere I could see myself living if I do get tired of Asian culture in the future. After a quick weekend stop in Luxembourg, a country I’ve always found really nice if not a bit slow for my tastes, to see my uncle I was back in England again and the crappy weather had followed me home too! Forgot to mention just how bloody cold Europe was, Jesus Christ that was a shock and a half and I soon had a pretty bad cold which never really went away!
Back in England I made another trip up to Manchester, despite my views about the city itself, uni life is pretty attractive as you can spend all day chilling with friends, drinking far too much and most importantly eating bacon sandwiches and pasta (can’t emphasize how much I missed food when I was away!) After a few days up north attending as many end of exams parties I could, I was back in London for good (well what turned out to be just a couple of weeks) which gave me a chance to really sit down and reflect on everything and catch up on sleep and put back on all the weight I’d lost whilst being away on a diet of bloody rice and noodles. The main epiphany I had was that I would be back on the road by the end of June, latest start of July and I’d be heading back out to Asia rather than South America as I’d previously thought. My main reason for this was that I really didn’t feel like I was done with Asia and I had somewhat of a life there, ie places I knew very well and people I very much wanted to see again. On top of all that, Chris (the last travelling partner I had) had managed to set himself up in Hanoi and from everything he told me it sounded pretty awesome and I really wanted to go and check it out. Plus he was on the hunt for English teaching jobs and it all sounded pretty good, more than anything after so long just spending money it was about time I actually made some! So I sorted out a new passport (the old one was full) saw my friends and family as much as possible and booked myself a flight back out for the start of July.
Once the time came to go again, I was obviously very excited with all the prospects of a new chapter of my life in Vietnam but still not completely comfortable with leaving England. Towards the end of my time there I’d definitely settled down and felt completely comfortable in Engalnd, having a stable residence and being able to cook for myself as well as being able to see all my friends and family made it bloody difficult to say goodbye once again, especially considering how rushed everything was! But compared to how I felt back at the start of 2012, about to embark on what turned out to be a pretty insane adventure, it really wasn’t that bad that was up until the point that I had to actually get on that plane once again and wave goodbye for god knows how long! Still if all goes to plan and I start making some money it won’t be so long till I’m back again, the idea of being away for yet another birthday and Christmas all feels a bit strange and the way I feel now I doubt I’ll be able to stay away for so long. At the end of the day it was a nice little holiday in a country that I once used to call home, how weird! To think that since January 2012 the country which I’ve spent the least time in is England, only 2 months and actually only a month and a bit if you take into consideration my trip to Paris. All in all it was just another country on the tour and I had a really enjoyable time and a lot of very enjoyable meals!
So I was back on the road again, and after a few emotional goodbyes, I got on my plane from Heathrow to Bangkok with a brief stopover in Mumbai, where it all began those many moons ago. It was actually quite a bizarre experience walking back through that airport in such a different mind frame to the state of complete terror back in January last year. I also got to experience a bit of Indian culture once again, the art of not being able to queue for shit, despite their being so few people trying to get through customs at the transit terminal they all still made a big song and dance of it and the usual sense of having to push your way past people rather than wait in an orderly (and most definitely quicker fashion) is completely lost on the locals.
I made it in to Bangkok in the early hours of the morning and got stuck into the rush hour train network into the centre of town, back to Nana where I’ve stayed so many times before, not actually sure but I think this must be the 7th or 8th time I’ve had to spend a night or two in Bangkok and the place definitely feels like home. Saying that it felt a lot more quiet and subdued to the last time I was here probably owing to the fact that it was now low season whereas I left it at the end of high season. After a bit of grief and a huge surcharge, the new management (none of this would’ve happened if the old woman who worked here still did) let me check in early and I went straight to bed for a long nap. I was originally going to stay with Ter and his wife Jane, my Thai friends who put me up in his bungalow resort for 2 months back at the start of the year, but due to my insane tiredness I just headed straight to a hotel for some sleep. Once I got up I got some food and hung around in the unusually empty hotel for a while before heading straight back to sleep. I was woken up the next morning by the same woman (bitch) who overcharged me by so much forcing me to check out on time despite me not taking up any extra beds as the place was deserted. This meant that my morning was spent having a huge argument with her trying to get some money back which I eventually did before phoning Ter and getting in a cab to his place. The journey took quite a long time as he lived right up in the Northern outskirts of Bangkok and so I had some time to reflect on my situation which only made me feel down about having not just got a flight straight to Hanoi, I really hated this feeling of being in purgatory for a couple of days in a city which felt a lot less to my liking than when I’d last left it. But getting out of the cab and meeting Ter put all that to bed and I just felt bloody happy seeing his stupid smile again. Unfortunately he was working all day and so I was left in his house with his wife who speaks very little English, and when there’s only one room it definitely feels awkward pretty quickly when you’re sitting there in silence. On top of that she’s just had a spot of plastic surgery, something which is a lot more common out here which is very sad as she is stunning and younger than 30, and so she was sat there feeling petty ill and in a lot of pain and in no mood to go to the outside world with her puffy cheeks and black eyes. And so the feeling of wasting time in Bangkok returned and I sat there and spent the entire day polishing off a book, something I hadn’t had time to do since leaving Thailand. I also had a nap! By the time I’d woken up we were both starving and so we headed out for some food and managed to actually force out a conversation as we sat there waiting for Ter to finish work before he came and joined us with a couple of his colleagues who were very excited to meet me. We then spent the next few hours knocking back the whiskey and catching up on all my escapades since I last left him. Being the fucking useless idiot I am when it comes to alcohol (especially free alcohol at that) I drank far too much and by 12 was starting to feel pretty shit and so we headed back to Ter’s room and I tried to pass out on his bed, unfortunately the gods weren’t on my side and I was soon on my knees in his toilet throwing up. I was always good at making a first impression, deary me!
After that embarrassment of last night coupled with the heat of that morning in Bangkok I wasn’t able to move from my bed until well into the afternoon, and even then I felt absolutely horrendous! Still I’d organised a date with one of Ter’s friends last night and after a succession of calls from her I couldn’t keep ignoring them and we met up. Owing to her English being very basic and my head feeling like it was about to explode this was certainly not something I was looking forward to, plus Ter had made a bit of a fool of me last night relaying all my stories to the rest of the table, some things really shouldn’t have been said with ladies present but what can you do. In the end we actually made quite a good day of it, first stopping off at her bar for some refreshments before heading off to a huge lake where we bought some bread and fed the birds and fish. Despite the absolutely insane heat it was a really pleasant afternoon and we managed to actually have a couple conversations, very basic ones though. Forgot to mention her complete obsession with pigeons, I get the impression they must be some sort of exotic bird here as she kept trying to get them to feed out of her hand and must’ve taken a hundred pictures of the ugly buggers, then when one fell in the water she almost jumped in to rescue it but managed to reach it without getting wet and then dried it off on her t-shirt. Couldn’t believe my eyes, not only was she picking up this thing and stroking it but wiping it all over her shirt, jesus crazy woman! After hanging out there a while we went back to the flat and her and Jen went shopping and left me there to finish off my book and have a nap. When they did make it back we went out for some dinner with the same gang as last night I decided to give the whiskey a miss today owing to the fact that I still had a hangover. Then at 11 I said my goodbyes and hopped in a cab to the airport, Ter did offer to drive me at 4 in the morning for my 6am flight but I felt that he’d done more than done enough for me and I didn’t want to put him out and so I spent the night in the airport. Unfortunately a tour group of about a million Chinese people were doing the same and so there was nowhere to sleep and I spent the whole night still feeling rough, just watching movies.
The next morning I got on my flight to Hanoi which was uneventful, sorted my visa at the airport and after a bit of waiting met up with Chris again. Really good to see his face again and we obviously had a lot to catch up on since we last met, most importantly I wanted to know how well he was settling down as I need a lot of help from him to sort myself out while I’m here. Luckily we had a long wait and subsequent long trip on a bus to get all the important information out of the way before we arrived at the house, and boy was it a shock! Firstly, the place is on the edge of Hanoi next to a huge lake, West Lake, so it’s really serene and beautiful and on top of that the house itself is fucking INCREDIBLE! Never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be living in such a place when I was only 20. So its 4 floors; ground floor is dining room, kitchen and small garden, first floor is big living room and balcony with views of the lake and Chris’ room, 3rd floor is my huge room with king size bed as well as Annie’s room (English girl who’s sharing the house) and then top floor is spare room and big roof garden, with a bathroom on each floor. It’s bloody huge and there’s only 3 of us it’s completely ridiculous! Forgot to mention the waterfall showers in the bathrooms as well and of course AC in the rooms. And all this for a mere 250 dollars a month, god I really am living the dream! Just need to sort out a big HDTV, an xbox and sky+ and the pad will be complete. Long story short I bloody love this house and I’m definitely looking forward to getting stuck here for a few months, the only problem is I have no inkling of getting out and so not a lot of motivation for getting a job which is the only reason I’m here. I’m sure once I’ve bought myself a bike and I’ve settled in a bit my laziness will pass and I’ll get a couple teaching jobs on the go, I get the impression it’s not too hard to find work anyway. Once I was settled in and showered and things, I had a nap before me and Chris went out for dinner at a newly opened place serving free beer all night; hold me back! We made the mistake of leaving right before a storm hit and I got my first taste of this year’s rainy season sitting soaked on the back of his bike as the strong winds blew us all over the place. Got to the restaurant completely drenched but quickly perked up with a really good meal and some beers as I met a few of Chris’ mates who all seem really cool, the whole community seems really friendly and helpful here in Hanoi and I definitely feel that it should be easy to settle in here; especially with that house to go home to. As both of us were completely worn out after the lack of sleep last night, we headed back to the crib for an early night.
The last couple of days I haven’t really been up to much as I’m still trying to settle in and despite my huge and comfortable bed I haven’t been sleeping whatsoever and so I have absolutely no energy to go out and do anything. So for now, I’m just writing off this week and from next week onwards I’m going to start sorting everything out first and foremost I really need to buy a bike as we’re not in the middle of town so everything is a drive away. After that I’ll get on the job hunt and hopefully I’ll have a few interesting things to write about! Hope you all enjoy the blog, I do want to write properly about how I feel about the difference between the East and West culture in the future so keep an eye out. As always, thanks for reading guys I do really enjoy sitting down and writing my thoughts on life.