Travel Blog 14; SE Asia Worst & Best Part 2

Alright! Now that we’ve got the negative points out of the way we can start to focus on the real fun stuff; the best things to do and see in SE Asia.

Now I must ask you to keep in mind that unfortunately I did not get a chance to experience Vietnam, Myanmar or Borneo (ones for the future) and that, again, this list is purely subjective. All of the items listed are in no particular order and I haven’t reserved one spot for each country as I feel that some countries were more deserving of more spots than others. It was a little tough to narrow it down to the final six and I had to make a few cuts here and there that I’m sure were achene to a Father having to cut his kid from the soccer team because, and although the wife will never forgive him for it, the kid just sucks! Not completely sure though as I don’t currently own a soccer team or a kid but you get what I mean when I say it was tough!

So here we go with Tha Bozz’s personal list of the six best things to do/see/experience in SE Asia. Why six? Because I have way too much time on my hands being stuck in this airport for five but seven would take me over my word count.

The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai, Thailand – Its a day of hanging out with Elephants; what’s not to like right!? Now please be aware that there are a number of legit and not-so-legit equivalents of this dotted around Thailand and the rest of Asia for that matter. However this day with the majestic, big nosed beasts (that eat and s*it like there’s no tomorrow by the way) featured no riding, or ‘ridding’ as its referred to on many flyers but this isn’t a spelling bee, no painting, the Elephants were never tied, chained or forced to go anywhere or do anything that they didn’t want to at any point.

Whilst there you get to feed, bathe, walk with and, if there up for it, have a good old fashioned cuddle and a heart to heart with some of these amazing animals. I had a heart to heart with Stevie the Elephant about this girl I liked and he told me to relax and just be myself. Don’t get me wrong she dumped me the next day but at least we both knew where we stood.

Truthfully; this isn’t the cheapest attraction in town but as a truly unique, ethical and above all else fun day out I’d highly recommend it. Follow the link for info https://www.elephantnaturepark.org/.

Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand –  Its another one for Thailand and although this one is time of year specific I’d highly recommend catching it if you can. Granted the Lantern Fest isn’t as mental as Songkran (which I’m gutted that I didn’t get to experience personally but I’ve heard…) but the sight of so many people coming together to set off their lanterns at the same time and then seeing them literally coat the sky needs to be seen to be believed.

Now I’m not a superstitious person and I don’t believe that the lantern that me and my friends set off (complete with Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Sting quotes) is going to grant us good luck, help us win the lottery or get JLo to return my calls (don’t ask how I got the digits). However their is something oddly majestic, peaceful and uplifting about the whole scene and I’d personally recommend it over a p*ss up in the Old City. Or you can just go and have the p*ss up afterwards like I did and that would be good as well. More info including dates etc can be found here http://www.thaizer.com/festivals/yi-peng-lantern-festival-chiang-mai/.

 Boat Party, Anywhere in SE Asia that does them! – Okay; here comes the part where I feel like an uncultured British swine who only goes off on his holidays for a fore mentioned p*ss-up but it could be worse, I considered putting Khao San Road on the list…

Though on as serious a note as one can write when discussing such a subject the boat party that I attended in Siem Reap, Cambodia was epic! Rather hilariously it was advertised as a ‘Cultural Booze Cruise’. Truthfully the things in question exist together in about as much harmony as a full Bathtub and a plugged in Toaster but we did go through a few Floating Villages, got to hang out with some Crocodiles and took a dip inside as well. Not with the Crocodiles though; that’d be f*cking crazy.

Yes there was alcohol, excessive amounts of it in fact. We played drinking games, blasted loud music, enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and by God had an awesome time. Plus these events are a great way to meet people, make friends and then tell them about your near-escapades with a Transgender person in Bangkok…Not making that up folks, no reason to do so…

The party I went to was organised through Mad Monkey and you can get more info here if this sought of thing floats your boat…Sorry. http://www.madmonkeyhostels.com/

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum & Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Now this one doesn’t have a light-hearted tone surrounding it unfortunately. I’m sure many readers are familiar with the events that took place in Cambodia in the mid to late 1970’s and many people who are still with us are haunted by the memories.

The truth be told, and without going into too much detail, the Museum and the Fields are not easy going and leave little detail unexplained. Literally everybody present was either crying real tears or was damn close (myself included) and its for this reason that I would recommend making yourself experience these two sites. The fact that the events that took place in this lovely country happened relatively recently and the fact that despite these horrors the country still remains so welcoming and upbeat is a true credit to the people that live there.

I’m not generally one to put myself through too much heartache but in my personal opinion this is a massively important piece of history that you owe it to yourselves and the people affected by the events that proceeded it to visit and get to know the details of. They are truly shocking. More info can be found here as I would recommend a basic understanding before visiting to give yourself an idea of what it is that your going to see http://www.killingfieldsmuseum.com/.

The Borobudur Temple, Java, Indonesia – Well there was no way that I was missing this when in Java. If I’m honest the journey to get there consisting of a bumpier than bumpy bus ride and 4 human beings climbing into a wheelbarrow attached to a car less than the size of the average car boot was as much of a highlight as anything. All in p*ssing rain as well.

Once we arrived the real fun kicked in when we realised what a money-making opportunity we’d missed out on when every kid and their parents wanted a photo. Seriously, we couldn’t take two steps without it. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. I had been asked the odd time in Cambodia and Fiji in the past but nothing to this extent. Honestly though; it was a blast. The people were so polite, chatty and kind that it felt more like a privilege than anything else. Many groups of kids learning English were asking to interview us for school projects as well; I swear to God if I ever have a daughter who’s half as cute and charming as some of those kids then I’m getting a gun and she’s not going out without a chaperone.

Oh and The Borobudur? Yes its cool and looks amazing up close but honestly it wasn’t the highlight of this very special day. Indonesians are great it must be said…

Eat, Eat, Drink, Drink!, All over the Place – It goes without saying that the food in SE Asia is phenomenal and as a self-confessed foody myself this for me is a particular highlight. The noodles, the rice, the chicken, the beef, the pork, the eggs, the fruit I could go on forever!

If I absolutely had to pick a favourite country in this department I THINK I would have to go with Thailand but its a close one and it changes by the day.

Whether its the small restaurants or the street food its never expensive unless you really want it to be and its never unsatisfying, again, unless you really want it to be. I would actually make a habit of ordering something I’d never eaten at least once a day or sometimes something that was literally written in the local language because I was that confident that it would rock my world. Just as a side note though; some of it might also rock your belly the first time you try it so take it slow and no your levels as things can get insane, as I learnt the hard way once or twice.

There you have it folks my completely un-definitive guide. Well, no actually, its just a list of some cool s*it that I’d recommend doing whilst in SE Asia. There’s loads of other stuff that I did and didn’t do that is equally awesome. In all honesty the best experiences are often the smallest and most inconspicuous anyway; jumping out of moving Buses, sneaking into 5 star Hotels, snorkelling in the Sea, pulling all-nighters on party roads and just meeting awesome people and having a laugh and a good time with them.

I’m still at the airport and I still kind of miss SE Asia but I’m optimistic about Australia and I’m sure there’s more good times ahead. Shame that I’ll have to get a job though!…

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 13; SE Asia Worst & Best Part 1

I left Asia today. Well actually I left it yesterday but due to yesterday being a day of minivans, buses, aeroplanes and layovers it all went by in such a haze that it feels like it was part of today. Plus I haven’t slept and am writing this here piece from Terminal 3 of Perth International.

You don’t need anybody to tell you that SE Asia is a gem worth uncovering, probably because these days so many 18-100 year olds (and maybe beyond) have done it that there isn’t much left to actually uncover but still do so! During my 3 month trip I spent time in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos. Just to get the basics out of the way; barely anybody in any of these countries knows any Kung Fu/Muay Thai/Shaolin Soccer/has Jedi powers, the levels of English in all except Singapore are not a fraction as advanced as you may be lead to believe but you can still get by, food and booze are mostly cheap, the first time you use the ‘Bum-Gun’ is an unforgettable experience and if a bus ride is advertised as 3 hours long its best to assume its actually 6. Oh and they’re getting taller, seriously they really are.

So I’ve landed in Perth and I’m waiting for my flight to Adelaide (the lay-over is around 11 hours!). I’ve left Asia with an extension on the old gut, an impressive array of Mosquito bites that if you join together with dots almost spell the word ‘Dengue’, a valiant but ultimately un-earth-shattering sun tan and a t-shirt or singlet advertising a beer brand from each country; that’s Chang, Tiger (both Malaysia and Singapore as Malaysia don’t have any!), Cambodia Beer, Bintang and Beer Lao for those keeping score.

Although I’m quite literally buzzing like the aforementioned Mosquitos for Australia I will miss the cheapness of Asia, how easy it is to make snap decisions, how you can remedy the rudeness of the locals by just being rude back because they cant understand you anyway and how despite the way that most barely tip the scales at 5,4 most of the women have such phenomenal legs! Seriously its f*cking crazy!

Everybody’s travel experience is going to be different and by writing that I’ve just rattled off another traveller clique, still working on the dreads and the beard and the love I have for my morning shower hasn’t quite waned enough for me to give it up entirely just yet folks. However with that said I’m going to quickly get the Negative Nigel s*ite out of the way and then move onto what were my personal favourite things/activities in and about the countries I touched down in.

Here we go; Thais cant speak any English by and large, their obsession with their King seems sweet at first but is bizarre, overbearing, perverse and borderline unhealthy; they call him ‘Dad’, think he still lives in the ground and the water (you know, like a God), had magical powers and you can go to jail for 15 years for saying otherwise. You know less time than you get for Rape or Manslaughter. Also the traffic is a nightmare.

Malaysians have an incredible penchant for rudeness, will intentionally give you false directions, have WAY more of an incline to scam you than any other country listed (only one that I legitimately got done over in actually!), the men have a thing for spitting and the women have a thing for cracking their knuckles, they refuse to serve you anything on their menus that they cant nuke in 2 minutes but then serve it to someone who looks more like they do minutes later after telling you ‘No have’ and pretend they cant understand you when your asking them to be helpful.

Singaporeans live in a far more expensive place than the other countries listed but still take the same lackadaisical approach to customer service; Me and a friend were charged the full rate for a hostel that was only actually half finished (like getting a donut with a bite taken out of it) and when I handed my money over to a barman he disappeared with it for over 30 minutes before I had to physically stop him (as he ignored me several times) at which point he informed me, with a smile no less, that he ‘forgot’. Wouldn’t have been quite so hard to swallow if the bed wasn’t $40 and the drink almost $20; both are amounts that I’m currently willing to do things you wouldn’t normally do in order to possess by the way.

Cambodians; I really don’t have much negative to say about. They’re mostly polite, have a good sense of humour and they look phenomenal. I guess if I had to I’d say the touting (that’s lingo for ‘Tuk-Tuk! Tuk-Tuk! and ‘Cheap Price! Cheap Price!’ by the way) can get a little long in the tooth but ultimately they’re just trying to make a living and when the coffee stand owners at Angkor Watt are telling me their names are David Beckham, Mike Tyson and Darth Vader I cant help but smile.

Similar thing with Indonesia to be honest. In fact out of all the countries I had the pleasure to visit I’d say the people of Indonesia were my favourite, especially in Java. Although I did lose a perfectly good debit card to a perfectly sinister ATM whilst on Gilli T this could have happened anywhere. I guess at a push I could say that the touting folk of Bali can get a little sinister, though one did return our bike key to us that we’d dropped nearby earlier in the day and didn’t ask for anything in return. Speaking of bikes though; the roads are insane, like Gus off Breaking Bad insane.

As for Laos? Again, the language barrier is insane but frankly I didn’t even no the meaning of the word poverty or undeveloped until I touched down in this country so I feel like that needs to be kept in mind and the locals are largely pretty sweet. There is touting but not as much as Cambodia or Bali and I got particularly p*ssed off when I almost missed my flight out of Vientiane because when I asked the guy at the hostel to book my taxi for 11am he basically just…didn’t. Despite saying that he would and despite it being a 2 minute job that you can do whilst sitting down he simply didn’t. I’m basically saying the people aren’t exactly the most efficient and most of the hostels look like halfway houses and their still working on soap. So when I checked into my first hostel hoping to catch some winks the only thing I was actually in danger of catching was Pink Eye.

Okay so that’s the worst bits out of the way. To be honest they’re probably all part of the experience anyway and now we can get onto the fun stuff. Part 2 is coming later today so keep it locked!

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 12; In Need of a Second Wind

Although it might not be The Ritz, more like The Nits, I must say that my last hostel had some surprisingly strong Wi-Fi going for it. So strong in fact that I was able to use it to catch up on the previous weekends card of boxing. Predictably enough Anthony Joshua did away with Eric ‘ Upper Mid-Card At Best’ Molina in efficient fashion but it was Whyte vs Chisora that was the real highlight. Two very good but not quite great British heavyweights trading blows for 12 straight rounds and although they may have been gassed after 5 of them and neither would have stood a chance in a title bout you cant deny that it was exciting and both guys showed more guts than a Romero marathon.

Now my mind works in mysterious ways and as one of my few readers you may wonder how and why it managed to draw a comparison between the sight of these two pugilists scraping all the way back in Manchester and my current mind state and stage of my journey. It did though and I felt inclined to write about it, that’s kind of how it works for me. The main reason for this being that, like the once mighty but ultimately underachieving Dereck Chisora at the sound of the fifth bell, I am frankly gassed and although I have the urge to keep moving forward I feel like I could use a second wind.

Now don’t get me wrong my travels are nothing like a boxing match. I don’t get paid to do it and only 3 people in the last 13 months have tried to punch me and only one of them succeeded (and that chicks hands were so dainty and soft it could hardly be considered a punch) but mainly due to some culture shocks, serious jumps in temperature, a bout of illness and the fact that I’m not a massive fan of my current location a few days ago I seriously contemplated packing up, saying ‘f*ck it!’ and heading home. I mean just because Australia have accepted me doesn’t mean I have to go.

Its true though, this writer is not a big fan of Malaysia. Thailand was great; the weather was pleasantly hot, the booze was cold and readily available. The locals ,although basic at best when it came to English, were still relatively warm and helpful and it was impossible not to meet other travellers and despite what some will tell you the country is well organised and the locals play a fair game. Singaporeans are also cool and having my own local guide and friend at hand made the country a particular highlight for me. Alternatively and I must stress that this is PURELY my own opinion derived from my own experiences but Malaysia feels like a direct paradox. The weather is sticky and suffocating, drinking is frowned upon and expensive and perhaps most distressing of all; the locals I have interacted with are flippant, rude, unhelpful and, dare I say, rather prejudice and incredibly dishonest. Oh and they spit, by God they love a good hawk and even more so when it almost hits your shoes and the sight of some 5,3 local Malay-Indian lass in KL with a pair of the fastest, hardest and most dangerously accurate fists I’ve ever seen literally giving some poor European girl the Floyd Mayweather treatment (complete with head movements, foot-work and taunting!) outside a restaurant nearly had me packing there and then. Swear to God despite the predictable size difference Whitey didn’t stand a chance and it took 3 guys to eventually pull the local girl away, one of those ‘you know its bad but you just cant stop watching’ type of scenarios! That along with the way that they pretend they cant understand you when you ask them questions, allow others to be served before you despite you being ahead in the lines, tut at you in the street and purposely block your way on pavements to try and force you onto the road all leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Oh and I once caught one guy in a hostel trying to go through my trousers (no I wasn’t wearing them!) thankfully a fellow traveller dived in as well meaning that he won’t be trying that again anytime soon and some jelly-brained chick at a bus station purposely sold me a ticket to Singapore for the wrong date forcing me to pay twice because, you know, white privilege and stuff right?

Don’t get me wrong its nothing I cant handle. Having people stare disapprovingly at me as I walk down the street and trying to block my path is eerily like what walking down the school corridors was like back in Corpus Christi High and for all the flaws the women in this country are often incredibly striking, when they aren’t Mohammed Ali reincarnated and trying to do the striking, but it does zap the soul a little. Making friends in Malaysia is more difficult as there are generally less travellers, they seem less inclined to socialise (with the exception of Penang) and as mentioned the locals just don’t want to know meaning it can even get a little lonely.

Couple this with the aforementioned intense heat of Asia, the different food and the fact that a lot of local people give off a ‘We want your cash but make no mistake you aren’t welcome here’ vibe and treat and speak to you in a manner that would have the socialists and liberals of the UK up in arms if we did it to our visitors and the whole thing has got me feeling a little disheartened.

I’m finding it harder to get up in the mornings, I walk around in directionless dazes, partly due to my British-ness but also down to past experiences I hate asking for directions or help and, for the first time in years, I’m struggling to socialise. I’ve also developed a greater sense of paranoia towards strangers and although I’ve secretly known this all along its still tough having to witness first hand that double standards and the judging of people before you know them based alone on their appearance or race is not an exclusively western thing. In fact if anything and for a number of reasons they’re worse for it here. Who would have guessed?

Now please don’t get this twisted I am not trying to discourage people from visiting SE Asia, or even Malaysia, rather just exposing a few home truths that are not going to be exposed in the brochures, on the websites or by the travel agents. You will get heat stroke, you will get sick, you will get scammed and quite a few of the people there perceive you as a millionaire who has never worked a day in his or her life (when ironically their job consists of sleeping on a desk and telling people ‘no have’ or ‘don’t know’ in response to simple questions) so in their eyes you deserve such treatment and aren’t really a human being like they are. Not always the case but often enough to make it worth mentioning. Fact is that as rewarding as it is long term travel can become oddly stressful and can tire you out and you’ll certainly find yourself going through peaks and troughs. Mainly because when things do go tits up there’s nothing you can do about it. Most times its small things that are worth just laughing about but occasionally it can throw things into chaos and the lack of empathy from the people at fault can be enraging and believe me they are usually at fault.

Metaphorically I guess I could say that this stage of my journey is like that 6th round in the fight where exhaustion is starting to set in and I need to land something good to spur me on. However as mentioned, the situation isn’t nearly that desperate or strenuous and its important to keep that mentality in mind as even through the tough times being able to travel is a privilege. It is however a personal challenge at times and like our old boys Dereck and Dillian I plan to power through and go the distance. I just hope that Cambodia is bringing a different vibe to the party. Just calling it how I see it and have experienced it as always so I sincerely hope none of the opinions in this piece have caused any offense and as previously mentioned I am not judging entire races, religions, groups or genders; just the ones I’ve met.

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 11; The Quest for the Train Ticket

So yeah I’m in Thailand now. Have been for over a week in fact. In very much the same way as James Buckley’s character in the first Inbetweeners movie greeted the shores of Malia (which was actually Magaluff but, you know, logistics) my initial reaction was as follows;

“F*ck me its hot. Might be too hot…”

It still is an all, hot I mean. It doesn’t matter if the sky is full of sunshine, cloud or even torrential (and I do mean torrential) rainfall it is sweltering over here. Don’t get me wrong I fully expected it but the first few times you feel it are a shock to the core and all points in-between. Luckily, as mentioned in a previous post, I was met by a good friend of the family at the airport which certainly took the sting off things a bit but after an initial run-down of the ‘hood, so to speak, I was left to my own devices. In a city the size of Bangkok this is somewhat daunting but not quite as much so as you may imagine.

The reason for this? Firstly the transport links are good, like really good. Buses run regularly and often, the underground and BTS systems if anything are more reliable than the London Underground has ever been to my knowledge and even though the traffic is a slog, even on Sundays, you will get where you’re going with a little bit of patience and it won’t cost you much either. Secondly the people. Now before I go into this I want to do away with a false and shockingly common misconception that I think has probably been created by travel brochures and other marketing ploys and it kills me to do this but here goes; Thais DO NOT speak good English. Many speak non at all and although some are, many signposts and street names have not been translated. Yet despite this, by and large, the people are often still helpful. Hop on a bus and 9 times out of 10 if you tell the money collector where you want to go they’ll give you a shout when its time to get off. Ask for directions in the street and more often than not they will try and direct you and if you do happen to get on the wrong bus, minivan or boat then they’ll let you jump out and redirect you without a charge; least that’s what happened to me.

The food is awesome, as I knew it would be but not going to lie after almost 12 days of eating it I have had a mild touch of the ‘Thailand-Tummy’ and the ‘Changovers’ can get a little rough but there’s usually a lavatory near by oh and by the way, the whole low toilet with a shower spray thing is very much in around these parts. Just thought you might want to know. The nightlife in Bangkok is pretty live as well and there’s plenty of sites to see. Even with the country currently being in mourning all these aspects are still very much alive and the grand palace at night when the Royal’s come driving through is quite an amazing scene and one that you can’t help but join the locals in unison with, even though you technically don’t have to. I don’t know it just feels respectful and like the right thing to do if you know what I mean.

Only been in Bangkok so far and just got into Chiang Mai via a night train and what a mission to get that ticket it was. As I said before; getting around Bangkok may not be too difficult but it can certainly take a while. Rising early (ish) I headed to my usual market place to see if I could grab a minivan heading there, they usually take me to Victory Monument so I figured why not? No, that’s why! So that idea went begging but the guy holding down the station gave me a number of a bus that goes to an underground station that I can THEN use to get to the main train station to book my ticket.

So I dash across the street, not literally people, with traffic like Bangkok’s its just not worth the risk, to catch this bus and after a pretty tolerable wait it turns up. So in I hop instinctively. The bus gets halfway up the street before the lady giving out the tickets reveals that THIS particular bus isn’t going to the station I need to get to and that the ones that are carry the same number but are in-fact Yellow in colour. Rather than any other colour under the sun.

 What followed would not have been out of place in one of those Hangover movies. Hearing this news I was in a hurry to get off but the driver didn’t seem to into my request and the previously mentioned lady didn’t seem to understand it whilst all the while this bus was getting further and further from the stop I needed to be back at by the second. The door was open, the pavement was in leaping distance, due to the build-up the bus was slowing down a little and…yeah. Not going to lie I didn’t land as elegantly as I had envisioned and had a couple of grazes on my elbow and leg to show for it but I was out of the bus and knew now to get on the right one. Actually, as it goes, the Yellow’s stopped at a different stop just ahead of the original one but it didn’t take long for that to get pointed out so no harm done. Ten minutes later I was on-board.

This journey went on, like ridiculously, to the point where I thought we heading for the end of the earth, clearly I had forgotten about how big these ‘big’ cities really get. Honestly, I was starting to think that I’d missed the stop but every time I asked the lady she insisted that all was good. Seriously, I’d been on this thing for a while though but out of the blue when I was just about ready to consider getting off and risking it on foot the lady who gave me the ticket all of a sudden pops up behind two other standing passengers and tells me that we’d reached my destination. Seriously though I was sweating bullets at that point; I’d never been in that part of the city before and all I knew was it was a long way back to familiar territory!

So having hit the underground I got my ticket from an attendant who actually spoke very good English and was offering a lot of help. The underground, as I said is very simple though so didn’t need it but the gesture was nice. Once I got to the main station purchasing the ticket was a piece of p*ss and after all that I had beer and food on the brain; off to Khao San it was but not in the way I had envisioned.

Outside the station, shockingly enough, were a slew of taxi drivers and I had every intention of trying to flag one (meter only though, mind you) but was instead advised by a security guard that I could get there for free or at least as far as The Palace, which was close enough, using a free Shuttle Bus. So your damn right I did and once I got there I happened to witness a few members of the Royal Family passing through (kind of a big deal or it was at least for me!), got given free food and water by some volunteers and was directed the rest of the way to Khao San where, predictably, I got steaming drunk, ate more food and didn’t get back until gone 9:30am the next morning. Sweet!  

So that was my Quest for the Train Ticket and I’m happy to say that with some help from some lovely locals and a few mighty bounds of my own (literally) it was a success. Not going to lie I am not used to countries like Thailand and this whole thing is being run on a strictly day-to-day basis at the moment. Its hot, it kind of stinks in places, I’ve seen more rats than I care to count and this place has got more Thai’s than The Godfather (yeah I know, not my best but couldn’t resist). Still, its exciting and whilst still keeping my guard up I am starting to feel more comfortable.

Who knows what’s next and how long it’ll be before I hit Australia for the next main leg of Tha Bozz on Tour. All I know is I’m in Chiang Mai, I want Elephants, Muay Thai (watching not playing!) and maybe a few more sneaky bevvies.

I’m Tha Bozz & that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 10; Goodbye New Zealand

I can hardly believe that these next words are about to be typed by the fingers attached to my not-Donald-Trump-small-but-still-surprisingly-small hands but here goes; tomorrow afternoon I will be leaving New Zealand. For good, or at least for the foreseeable. Even more unbelievable is what comes next; give or take a week or 2 I have been travelling this side of the world for a year. Between Fiji and New Zealand its been about a year and a major chapter in my metaphorical book (maybe one day but don’t pressure me!) is coming to an end and I guess a new one is about to begin.

Where to next you may ask, well not home that’s for sure. I miss the people I left behind and I even miss Britain itself for everything wrong with it its still bloody good but I’m not ready to see it again yet and having just had my Working Holiday Visa for Australia signed off on I now have a perfect excuse not to. However, before heading down under there’s a certain other part of the world that I’ve had my apprehensive but still excited eye on for some time; South-East Asia.

I know, I know:

“Its the typical ‘Backpacker’ route, its sooooo clique and spoilt now not like it was 20 years ago…..”.

Well I was watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, sleeping with Pooki The Teddy Bear and believing that every 24th December a fat guy slid down the chimney of my house (that actually didn’t have a fireplace or a chimney now that I think about it) to deliver me and my older brother presidents if we behaved 20 years ago. So you can see why boozing on Khao San Road in Bangkok, Scuba Diving in Ko Tao and Tubing in Vang Vieng weren’t on the cards. Also, you try going to these places after almost a year in a country where they ID bearded 30-somethings for cigarettes, the police voluntarily walk you back to your accommodation when you’ve had a skin-full, neighbourhood watches are a thing and the most dangerous creature in the forest is a Possum and telling me that its not a change of pace or a shock to the system!

Alas though its happening. Tomorrow afternoon I will board a plane from Christchurch to Bangkok and feelings that I haven’t quite felt for, funnily enough, about a year are creeping back in. Excitement, confusion, intrigue and if I’m being totally honest fear. Luckily a friend of the family has agreed to put me up for a few days whilst I find my feet (metaphorically not literally; I know where my feet are and I can hardly stand them) which will hopefully take the initial sting off a little bit but still, s*its getting real.

As jittery and anxious as I may come across in this post its actually nothing compared to how I was this time last year. In fact at this precise moment I’m sat back in a comfy chair in a hostel lounge, sipping my drink and listening to Oasis, perhaps its partly down to so much time in such relaxed countries as Fiji and indeed New Zealand or just that I now actually have some travel experience, limited as it is.

On that subject though I feel I need to say something in this post; New Zealand, I am going to miss the hell out of you! I have had my loves and my hates and my ups and my downs with this place like I would have in any place that I called home for almost a year but by God NZ you varied, laid-back, easy-to-travel, over-priced, lazy, beautiful, friendly, pedantic, ridiculously safe, nanny-stated, surprisingly historical, boring, proud, exciting, multi-cultural, fun and loveable pair of rocks in the middle of the water I’m going to miss the f*ck out of you and everything you do!

Since getting here I’ve practically top-to-bottomed both islands, been hundreds of feet in the air and several feet under the water, been in boiling and freezing temperatures and been on-top of a mountain of snow and a mountain of sand (traversing both with an equal lack of grace). I’ve met people that I absolutely adore and would love to see again outside of my travels and I’ve met people that I absolutely despise and would also love to see again with matches. I’ve worked as everything from a Salesman at a crappy Call Centre selling online diplomas because why not? All the way to a Kitchen Hand at an Indian Restaurant and a Scaffold Assistant on a building site; both are positions that I was fortunate to walk away from with my limbs not to mention dignity intact.

I have also learnt what we all secretly have always known but occasionally forget until we get lovingly reminded and that’s that the best things that usually happen are unplanned. Just recently I hit Paihia intending to stay for 3 days and low and behold after 6 I was still there. Long story but an awesome hostel, an out of the blue road trip to Cape Reinga (one of my favourite spots in the country) an excessive amount of beer and some wonderful humans and hot girls played a massive part. The amount of times that one has checked into hostels with an early night on the cards and ended up steaming at 4am, stumbling through clubs, house parties and karaoke bars with people who 7 hours earlier were complete strangers is overwhelming. The hangovers were to.

The levels of kindness and generosity displayed by the people that I’ve met has been overwhelming as well. I’ve had everything from beer and homemade pizza all the way to rides and floors and couches to crash on offered to me and its my full intention to pay these warm souls back whenever I can.

Its funny, I’ve just read those last paragraphs back and they’re written as if its all coming to an end when its not. I can do all the research, ask all the forum members and friends in the world but truth is I don’t know what to expect from SE Asia, Australia or anywhere else this wily-Welshman, with a bit of Italian, may end up. All I know is there will be other people and although this can sometimes be a f*cking nightmare it does also ensure that similar good times are eventually certain to role.

Going from a place like New Zealand to a place like Thailand is like going into a fight with Anthony Joshua when your last opponent was Audley Harrison (Google him if you need to.) and Fiji wasn’t exactly the most intimidating environment you’ll ever see either. We have to step up one day though and part of the travel experience, as they say, is about stepping out of the comfort zone so that’s exactly what I’m doing. So next on the cards is hot food, hot weather, hot water, hot women (hopefully) and a lot of time spent feeling like the tallest man in the room.

NZ I love you, I’m going to miss you and I’m going to see you again I’d wager. So its haere rā New Zealand and Kia Ora SE Asia. Be safe!

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.