Who am I? & where have I been?
Okay, where do I begin,
Hello friends, family, travel buddies and anybody who´s interested in my adventures.
I´m Neil & i´m just about to celebrate my 21st birthday in the next few days and i´I’ve been on the road for forever, well not quite, but that’s the response I get when I tell people how long I’ve been traveling for – a mere 17months so far.
My trip has taken me through a few countries :- Thailand – Laos – Vietnam – Cambodia – Burma (Myanmar) – Malaysia – Singapore – Australia – New Zealand – United States – Peru.
The extent of my travels in South America for the next 6 months depend on the budget which to put kindly, is extremely unhealthy (very close to death). I´m in Peru at the moment having a great time, which I´ll tell you all about in my next post.
To try and explain what I´ve been up to this last year and half in any detail is absolutely impossible, I’ve just done so much or maybe too much depending on how you look at it, I have the the chronic illness of being acutely travel bugged.
So a few highlights :-
Vietnam – riding motorcycles from Hanoi to Sapa in the north of Vietnam. A journey you can do in a day if you take the direct route, but if you want a bit of adventure with a few travel mates, you go and hire bikes for the next week, assuring the jumpy rental guy you´ll only ride round the city and then take off what turned out to be an astonishingly amazing journey in the deep into the mountains on roads which are in the process of being widened, pretty much all the way, so that there is rubble and boulders everywhere, landslides splitting your group in two from the bits of mountain being blown up coming crashing down around you. And the mechanical diggers swinging around ready to decapitate you if you take your eye off them for a second.
We all had many crash’s the roads where just so bad, I ended up under a truck when by bike slid from under me, on mud from a burst water pipe in a village we were passing through. Missing a messy end under a tyre by inches. And my American friend did break his ankle on the last day, riding the last 80km in agony. Oh and we got chased on bikes by some nasty locals carrying rifles for over an hour, on one of the nights round some tight bends in the pitch black with one error meaning a 100metre plummet to oblivion – When we refused to hand over a camera they wanted in payment for a repair they had made on a bike, having already been paid at least 5 times the going rate.
This was a highlight I hear you thinking? But yes it really was, The scenery was incredible, meeting the hill tribes in their traditional clothing, which has not just been put on that second for your tourist dollar replacing the Man United Football shirt and Levi’s jeans they usually wear whilst watching there huge satellite televisions aka the Thai hill tribes. High fiving the the local kids on the march to school as we drove by. And finally making it to Sapa shrouded in mist, in one piece well almost, having survived the above, yeah that was a lot of fun.
Laos – The journey down the mighty Mekong river on the overcrowded slow boat, picture perfect waterfalls. The most friendly people on earth, The best beer on earth Beer Lao, touristy tubing on rubber rings in Vang Vieng, Is lots of fun and very relaxing, drifting through a limestone cliff valley surrounded by forrest, with monkeys swinging through the trees. Paddling like mad to the side of the river to reach the shacks set up as bars by the locals, to get your ice cold beer lao in one hand and you pre – rolled joint in the other. And then laze the day away floating down stream. Seeing sunset in a hammock on a island bar listening to Reggae, not a bad way to end such a stressful day.
Cambodia – More Motorcycle mayhem, getting up to Boca hill station to spend new years with thousands of high Cambodians, No fireworks, just the Ak47 fire into the air, gravity is a funny thing, what goes up must come down, so it was a pretty interesting affair. Amazing views out over the Gulf of thailand.
Thailand – Island hopping, lots of beach parties, great place to place to learn to scuba dive on the cheap. Touristy as hell, but once you except this reality, there’s still lots of fun to be had, and if you search hard enough there is still some off the beaten track adventure. Thoughs who have been to Thailand are scoffing to themselves as they read this. But I’ll tell the story and you can decide.
So we arrive on Koh Lanta another one of the Thai Islands that you think to yourself most have been incredible 10 – 15 years back, The horrible built up hotels on the sandy beach side of the island, doesn’t appeal to us, so we jump on our mopeds head across to the other side of the island, were we discover a lovely little settlement on a forested pebble beach, run by Sea gypsy’s, just a quiet little bar, a few hammocks strung up and a couple of pitched tents, with nice views of a couple of the surrounding small islands. Its been a small fantasy of mine, for a while to get a small boat and head for some gorgeous uninhabited tropical islands. So apon seeing their fishing boats, and a brief pitch to the others, we negotiated for a boat for a few days, we got a lot more, a small crew, a load of supplies, some live chickens and a holidaying chef from Bangkok.
Off we set in our tiny boat, beyond the first few islands, plagued by the tourist boats from the fancy resorts. We sailed for quite some time, until the last boat we had seen was 4 or 5 hours back. We camped the first night on a tiny little island that was definitely not from one of my fantasies, confirmed once i jumped out to find myself knee deep in mud. But was pleasant all the same, lying under the stars, around the camp fire, eating one of the unfortunate chickens, prepared by our very own chef, who was more than earning her keep on our little jaunt.
The next day we came across an island surrounded on all sides my high cliffs, okay this is alright we thought to ourselves, whilst we waited for a couple of hours. But then slowly a small cave started to appear with the outgoing tide. Then we were gestured to enter the water, and so we swam towards the cave, and a long way in, until we reached a wall. one of the members of the crew, drew a large breath and was gone, 5 or 6 minutes later, we guessed he wasn’t coming back, and I finally got the balls together to follow, so down I went through the small hole after 10 meters or so kicking like mad, with no room to turn around and go back, i was beginning to get a tad worried and i was feeling the pitch in my lungs. Then I popped up gasped for air then gasped at what I was seeing. You have all read or seen ‘The Beach’ or are going to, if your heading to Thailand. Well this was straight from it, a lot smaller lagoon granted, but still heaven on earth as far as i was concerned. Crystal clear waters bright white sands, jungle at the back of the beach, with a tiny cascading waterfall were some perplexed looking monkeys were drinking. And all completely concealed from the outside world. All of us frolicked in the water with the biggest smiles on our faces you had ever scene. And just as we were about to start planning our own little community, minus the shark attacks and the whole going crazy bit, we noticed the Government sign, a very recent addition. This amazing place would be as horrible as Koh Sumui and the like in a very short space of time, no room for the high rise buildings but plenty of room for a small hotel, a bar and a couple of tacky shops, with some inflated prices, with a load of tourists with equally inflated guts happy to pay. such a god damn shame.
We had to be dragged away, from this little paradise of ours, onward we went, That night we arrived at a golden sand beach island, traversing around clusters of coral, during a perfect sunset to reach the beach. fishing for dinner that night, having less luck than the thai crew, but still catching some fish eventually, another fantastic meal around the camp fire, sinking a few beers. thinking of unfortunate friends back home, slaving away at their desks.
The next day we spend snorkeling all day long, such a variety of marine life, turtles, reef sharks, barracuda, and of course the much sort after little Nemo (clown fish) Moray eels etc etc. I’ve since done a fair bit of diving and an endless about of snorkeling, It was pretty special around our little island. That night things really clicked with the stunning french girl, all us guys had all been in silent combat over, We set our tent a little further down the beach. Stunning french girls and equally stunning beaches and lagoons, Who says ‘The beach’ can’t possible exist is Thailand anymore?
Burma – I love Burma I could right a whole book on my love of the place, Its like stepping into the past, Imagine Thailand 100 years back. Incredible people, epic journeys. Many Bus journeys, at the time you wish for death they are so bad, 40 hours sitting on sacks of dried fish and onions stacked almost to the sealing, people puking up all over the place and men and women a like pissing out of the windows. But looking back the bus journeys are highly memorable experiences, so I don’t regret them, I probably speaking way too soon, but the South America bus journeys have been a bit tame in comparison, I’m sure I’m going to eat my words.
Trekking to waterfalls to camp beside, to have all to your selves, Amazing temple sights, Bagan the best of them, Angkor with about 1% of the tourists, to explore Indianna Jones style with secret passageways and bats flying overhead. More Out of this world sunsets. Shan state towns were the only method of transport is horse draw carts, which are pretty cool, meeting Polital activists, who really open you eyes, to some of the injustices in our world.
Most interesting journey, aboard a prison transport ship, sharing a sleeping deck with a hundred or more prisoners, sharing blankets and food.
Most interesting travel companions, two buddest monks for a couple of weeks.
Malaysia – Stunning beaches, great diving, leeched filled jungle treks, coming face to face with an angry leapard. Sneaking past security to get the best seats at the Malaysia Grand Prix.
Australia – It took me seven months to travel all the way round, with various travel compaions. lots of highlights, West coast is simple a must, Camping on amazing beeches up the coast with great snorkeling 10 meters of shore, swimming with Whale sharks, Manta Rays, Dolphins, abseiling down waterfalls, Karijinni national park, lots of gorges for the exploring, perfect waterfalls for cooling off after brilliant trekking.
The east coast is fun, prepare to part with a lot of cash, but have a good time doing it, I dived lots on the barrier, If your heading there make sure you sign up for a livaboard, expensive yes, but if you just do a day trip, you will leave wondering what all the fuss is about. Shark feed dives, with uninvited hammerhead sharks, when the divemaster bolts to the surface you know all is not well. swimming with Minke whales probably the most magical experience of my life, they swam up right to my face, I will never forget it I spent the best part of 2 hours with them, again having to be dragged away. All the usual suspects are fun down the coast, sailing around the whitsundays etc. And of course more partying than you will do the rest of your life. If you see enough drunk Brits back home, maybe not the place for you. Really nice citys Melborne, Sydney Perth. And of course the big rock in the centre, a real pain in the arse to drive too, just to see erm a big rock, you either love it or you dont.
Broken down, stranded on the Nullurbor plain, is not too much fun either.
New Zealand – Hitch-hiking around the south island, yes its really like the LOTRs films, stunning scenery everywhere you look. Queenstown, go on part with your cash and party hard, and get your adrenalin fix. throwing yourself of a few bridges with the aid of a bungee rope is a blast, white water body boarding is crazy fun, freezing water, near drownings and really messy rapids and no bloody raft, interesting stuff?
Sky Diving was a really thrill, probably better if your shute doesent get tangled so I’m told, I thought the instuctors cursing was part of the show. good fun though. great feeling falling at like 200kph.
Okay Ive left out pretty much everything of the trip so far, And 10 lines on 7 months in Oz is a bit weak, but my fingers hurt from the typing.
So I’m in Peru, tell you about what Ive been up soon. Got an endless list of things to do in South America, first task learn more spainish, being able to ask for a beer and tell a girl she’s goodlooking may be enough for some. But I really want to pick up the language.