Asia – Things I’ll miss, and things I won’t

I thought I'd do a quick post on the things I loved, and the things I hated while travelling - and while titled with Asia, this does cover Aus/NZ too. I will miss Cute Kids There's something unique about Asian kids. Well, maybe it's just that they don't look the same as all of the pasty white babies/infants I see at home - but there's definitely something just a little more lovable about them. It could be the wide eyes, the more varied ways that they're transported (no Silver Cross perambulators here), or just the more casual way that kids are treated - any way, they're a joy. From the huge-eyed stares of babies to the gangs of excitable 5 year olds clamouring to have their photo taken, Asian kids are awesome.
A baby at a ticket office - her mother was very proud

A baby at a ticket office - her mother was very proud

Kids making bamboo insects

Kids making bamboo insects

I won't miss Mouth Noises The Asian world has a completely different view (or maybe hearing) of the noises that come out of peoples mouths compared to the West. Back home, the acceptable sounds are speech, singing, and maybe a whistle - in Asia virtually anything goes. Food is chewed noisily with the mouth opening wide, teeth are sucked (to get any stuck food out?), and lips are smacked - all seemingly to make the noise as loud as possible. Hawking up the deepest contents of the lungs, loudly swooshing it, before firing it at the ground is commonplace. The combination of all of the above make long-distance bus journeys particularly difficult to deal with - if you can't block all of the noises out, it can make you really nauseous - and that's before you take the quality of the ride into account. On that note, I'm going to include the general noise levels on buses. The music videos and movies that they play on the speakers, and peoples mobile phone ringtones/conversations and the music people play themselves. All at ridiculous volumes. To be honest, I'm come to the conclusion that Asian people generally have poor hearing compared to the West - if not, they'd all have gone crazy. I will miss Friendly people There was something I particularly noticed on the odd occasion when I got off the broad tourist trail, that people were really friendly. It is entirely possible that this is the case with people everywhere, and I've been too nervous/British to interact with strangers in the past unless absolutely necessary - but there just seemed to be so many nice and welcoming people around the world. The man in Australia who invited me to join in with his birthday BBQ (yes - prawns on the barbie!), the Thai monk who I chatted to for several hours on a train, the Vietnamese English teacher who helped me find the right bus then chatted with me for 30 mins while waiting for it to leave - just examples of nice people along my route who made me happy about people again.
A monk on a train.

Mr Montri - monk on a train.

Uncle Travelling Matt entertaining our guide.

Our guide on Mt Rinjani

I won't miss Buy From Me! An almost unavoidable problem with being a Western backpacker in South-East Asia is that I know that I will have spent more on my trip than most of the locals would earn in a lifetime. Thus, it's entirely natural that they would like me to spend some money on the goods they've got, its a basic thing. My problem was that I didn't ever want to buy any of the souvenirs/photos/postcards/jewelry that they had on offer, so I constantly found myself saying 'No thanks!' - usually accompanied by a shake of the head and a Jedi-like handwave (I'm not the customer you're looking for). If this only happened occasionally, it wouldn't have been too much of an issue, but there were times when I felt as though I couldn't enjoy where I was because I was constantly saying 'No'. I could have done what many tourists seemed to do, and just tune it all out, blank out the locals completely, but that just seemed rude. I will confess that I snapped after the 50th taxi driver in Denpasar airport approached me - I unfairly unleashed a stream of frustration at him. I think sometimes being invisible would be very handy while travelling... I will miss The scenery If you've perused this blog to any degree, you'll have seen what I'm talking about. I have been lucky enough to enjoy some of the most stunning natural and man-made sights on the planet - the temples at Angkor Wat and Bagan, Halong Bay, the Pinnacles, Mt Rinjani... While I realise that England has plenty of amazing places to see, it's a lot warmer in Asia!
Jamison Valley at Katoomba
Mt Rinjani and the crater lake

Mt Rinjani and the crater lake

I won't miss The smell of the cities There is something particular about the combination of high temperatures, high humidity, questionable usage of inner city waterways, and inadequate waste disposal in Asian towns and cities - it creates a smell which seems to envelop you in a warm, slightly foetid embrace. Sometimes slightly sweet, sometimes sharp (chemical disposal seems to be a random act), sometimes almost a physical presence - if you go anywhere with a large population then you will encounter the Asian City Smell. To be honest, it formed part of the ambience of the trip - I almost looked forward to find out which particular flavour the next city would have. On the other hand, sometimes it made me a tad nauseous... Finally, I will miss The friends I made on the trip Travelling alone, I frequently found myself in groups of people who I'd never normally interact with in normal life. Ok, this was mainly because I was significantly older than the majority of the backpackers, but I also met and spent time with a generally huge variety of people. Some of them I could quite happily have missed (the right-wing 17 year old gun nut in Te Anau, and the offensive group in Cambodia), but the vast majority of people were awesome. From the lads (like Little Chris in Australia, Ben and Chester (Tjesse) in Indonesia) to the ladies (Miranda and Lindsey in Malaysia, Trev and Karen in Vietnam, Isabelle in Indonesia), the unique characters (Lou and The Fisherman in Oz), and the traveling couples (Ben and Fiona, Alan and Amanda - the Traveling Hobos) - I met so many wonderful people over the nine months. I even met and spent time with a few groups of locals - generally the best form of communication being shared beer, smokes and smiles!
My waterfall buddies

My waterfall buddies

Uncle Travelling Matt tells a particularly rude joke

Uncle Travelling Matt tells a particularly rude joke

Me, Chris and Helen at Brighton beach on Xmas day

Me, Chris and Helen at Brighton beach on Xmas day

In summary - wow. I can't recommend global traveling enough to anyone I meet. You don't have to spent nine months on the road, you don't have to visit every sight there is to see, you don't have to stay in budget accommodation. Just get out there, escape the run-of-the-mill for a few weeks, and see part of the world you've never seen before. The experience will live with you forever.
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