22.01.2009 31 °C
Ovid yearned for an end to his exile, which may have been provoked by his Clintonian inability to keep it in his trousers. I don't feel the same way, but I am returning home anyway at short notice for a job interview. I'll probably continue to blog a little bit, since I have written little or nothing about Biak, the Papua trip, Bali, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Tana Toraja or the Moluccas.
How many seas and oceans have I seen, o Muse? The South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Melaka Straits, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, Java Sea, Flores Sea, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Banda Sea and Andaman Sea. Possibly more.
Countries visited: 6.
Distance travelled since arriving in Bangkok: 39, 387 km. That is measuring point to point, and is an underestimate. It is approximately the circumference of the Earth, and more than Wallace travelled in eight years in the region. But his journeys were hard.
Equator crossings: 6.
Most internet connections: Vietnam and Singapore. Fewest: Indonesia.
Locations dived, thirteen in four countries: Nha Trang, Ko Pha Ngan, Sipadan, Redang, Perhentians, Tulamben, Gili Lembongan, the Gilis, Komodo, Bunaken, Lembeh Straits, Ambon, Similan. That is quite a list.
None of these was a bad place to dive. The best reef dive sites were Sipadan (turtles, sharks, barracuda) and Komodo (large rays and giant trevally). Most honourable mentions: Bunaken; Pulau Tiga, Ambon; Similans; the Perhentians and Redang.
The best muck dive sites were Lembeh Straits and Ambon Bay.
Number of dives: 80.
Places where I swam: 27.
Take-offs and landings: 31. Flights with Air Asia, 12. As I may have said before, Air Asia is like Ryan Air, except without the psychopathic attitude. A company partly owned by Air Asia and partly by Richard Branson is to open a route between Kuala Lumpur and Stansted on March 11. Tickets for economy seats start at £99. Hopefully it will introduce greater competition into the market for flights between Europe and Southeast Asia.
Things I’ll miss:
- - Cheap, tasty food, especially seafood
- General friendliness and courtesy, especially in Thailand, Laos and Indonesia
- Meeting a wide selection of interesting and downright weird people
- Effortless slimness
- Swimming in the sea
- Free Premiership football
- Big butterflies
- Frangipani, bougainvillea, Heliconia and hibiscus
- Seeing completely incomprehensible things
- Not having to wear shoes
- The aromatic leaves of Thailand and Vietnam
- The wai
- Cheap laundry
- News blackouts
- Geckoes, chameleons and skinks
- Street food vendors (kebab death vans don’t count)
- Trains that cost 30p for a two hour journey; buses that cost £1 for a five hour trip.
- Cheap motorbike taxis. They should have them in London.
- Vietnamese and Indonesian coffee
- Not fearing physical violence
- Well-behaved schoolchildren
- Nam pla, belacan, sambal, tom yum, roti canai, ga xao sa ơt, beef rendang, Penang curry, dried broad beans, fried rice, bananas with coconut cream, rice with every meal, and a lot more.
Things I won’t miss:
- - Drain smells, especially in Malaysia
- Being hassled on the street all the time
- Gastric flu
- Lugging a camera everywhere
- Noodle soup (except cáu lâu in Hội An and khao soi in Chiang Mai)
- Cold showers
- Cockroaches, big spiders, mosquitoes, cicadas
- Being served the starter with or after the main course
- Sweet fizzy beer
- Sweet soya sauce
- Sweet bread
- Fluorescent yellow pineapple jam
- Banging my head on lintels
- Hawking, sniffing, spitting, loud eating
- Living out of a rucksack
- Brushing teeth with bottled water
- Being stared at
- Being woken an hour before dawn by an amplified call to prayer
- Filthy Thai coffee
- Having to wear a hat
- Being unable to express myself
- Illiteracy (mine)
- Trying to balance heavy British plugs in Asian sockets
- Wearing the same five t-shirts all the time
- Dairy cravings
- Markets – I’m so over them
- Asian plumbing
- Being foreign
- Open storm drains
- The process of getting from A to B.
Looking forward to:
- - Seeing some people
- Visibly deciduous trees
- The Thames
- Walking along the pavement
- The bookshop on Gower Street
- Having a debit card
- London tap water
- Wearing jeans
- Some really good French wine, French mustard, sherry, cheese, English family chocolate, English ale, bread, HP sauce, Lagavulin, limoncello, black pudding
- Arabica coffee in Covent Garden
- The British Museum and the Natural History Museum
- The Economist every week.
- Not seeing Angkor.
Not visiting Sarawak; Ternate and Tidore; the Kai islands; Sumatra; southern Laos; Alor; northeastern Thailand; the national parks east of Bandung.
Not finding the time to return to Luang Prabang.
Not climbing Fansipan or the peak of Rinjani.
Not seeing Mt Merapi, near Solo.
Not persevering with Indonesian.
Visiting Kon Tum.
Not getting to order spider or dog.
Not seeing mola mola in Nusa Lembongan.
Too many temples; not enough national parks.