Sunday, January 01, 2006

The story so far...

Post last updated: 26th September 2008.

If you've landed on our blog following a web search (welcome!) and are wondering what's going on, here's a quick summary of our story so far.

We got a bit fed up at work in 2006. It seemed we were the only people in the UK who could see that the consumer credit binge had gone too far, and that our country was seriously ill. We decided to get away from consumerism, Big Brother (both the surveillance state and the TV show) and living from one weekend to the next; and seek something new and real. So we sold our house and most of our possessions and set off on a ferry from Dover with no real idea of where we were going.

We took trains and buses through Europe and stayed in hostels. We liked Budapest and Sofia; we didn't like Belgrade. We gradually got the hang of being homeless and just going where we felt like going, meeting wise people with good advice on the way. We made our first real stop in Istanbul, where we had fun trying not to buy carpets every time we had a cup of tea, got ripped off by a taxi driver, and got a video of a scam artist trying to scam us.

We took a tour of Turkey, seeing hot springs, caves and Roman cities; then continued into even more amazing Syria, where we took a ride on a camel and had a picnic with a Bedouin shepherd in the desert. We spent the morning of Saddam Hussein's execution sitting nervously in the back of a van watching creatures being slaughtered on every street corner. We moved to Jordan and spent a while doing nothing in Amman. Then we made our first flight, crossing Saudi Arabia to Dubai.

And then we went to India. It was one of the places we most wanted to visit on our round the world trip, but unfortunately the unending filth and corruption beat us and we ended up leaving early, having seen only a fraction of the places we wanted to. An incredible place, and one which we might go back to one day now that we're more experienced travellers. But not recommended as your first 'difficult' country!

Onward to south east Asia, where we started in Bangkok. We met people saying how dirty it was, but compared to Delhi where we had come from, its streets are lickably clean. We quickly fell in love with Thailand, its delicious food and friendly people. We went up north to Chiang Mai and then took a cruise down the mighty Mehkong into Laos.

Having found that Vientiane is possibly the best place to get a croissant outside France, we returned to Bangkok and learned how to cook Thai style. Then we flew to Hanoi in Vietnam and discovered the origin of the phrase "Hello Moto", before viewing our first pickled communist leader.

Onward to Hong Kong and Macau. Hong Kong instantly became our favourite city. Macau on the other hand seems to have been sacrificed by the Chinese, to become nothing more than an Oriental Las Vegas.

Next we travelled into mainland China by train. We decided to take a tour of China rather than doing it ourselves, which was a mistake. But we still had a great time and at least we could kick back and let someone else worry about the arrangements. We took in awesome Shanghai, beautiful Suzhou and Hangzhou, majestic Xi'an and then surreal Beijing.

Our next stop was a life-changing experience in North Korea. We entered with a thousand questions and left with ten thousand. We have no idea what happened on our trip, what was real and what was fake, or what the poor North Korean people really think. Should the outside world make more of an effort to free them from their tyranny? Or will exposing to them the pack of lies that make up their entire existence just cause them even more suffering, with some envy-led depression to boot? Absolutely mind bending stuff. Oh, and we added Kim Il-sung to our list of pickled presidents.

Our journey then took a new direction. We changed Koreas and changed careers, as we stopped in Seoul, South Korea to spend a year teaching English. It wasn't planned but it felt right. It was very easy work but also tiring because of the long hours. In the autumn we experienced a Korean day out in the country, and just after celebrating lunar new year with a Korean family we witnessed the destruction of a national icon. In our last month before leaving Seoul we turned down some overtime so that we could do some touristy stuff.

Japan was next. We dodged some whales on the hydrofoil across from Korea, then sped to Hiroshima to discover that it is a city that is not in any way stuck in the past. We quickly continued on to Tokyo, ever mindful of the impact Japan was having on our bank balance, and pushed through the crowds to see a display of perplexing British modern art.

We worked our way back down mainland Japan, then continued by ferry along the Ryukyu Island chain all the way to Okinawa. We wanted to continue by ferry to Taiwan, but the ferry company inconsiderately decided to go bust just before we arrived. So we flew to Taiwan instead, and out again (no ferries to anywhere), going back to Bangkok with a lucky business class upgrade to resume our trip southwards towards Singapore.

After a brief return to Bangkok we spent two weeks on a deserted beach in southern Thailand, where we learned to scuba dive.

We crossed the Malay peninsula to do some more diving in the Perhentian Islands before heading south to the capital Kuala Lumpur on the Jungle Railway. After finding it pleasant but a little bland, we continued south for a flying visit to the rule-obsessed society of Singapore. There we sadly parted with our tiny bags and bought some proper backpacks, and ate breakfast with an orang-utang and her baby.

After Singapore we flew to Borneo in search of headhunters. Instead we found a modern, welcoming place with rowing regattas, jungle trekking and torpedo-boats on which you could roof ride. After catching a cold in Miri we headed north to Brunei, where we and saw the gifts given to the Sultan (the man who has everything) by other countries, and we discovered it's hard to cross the road there.

We took another boat north back into Malaysia but had to turn around as there was no room at the inn in Kota Kinabalu. After a quick change of plan we flew back to peninsular Malaysia and on to the old colonial town of Malacca. We then took a ferry across the Straits of Malacca to Dumai in Indonesia, where we were immediately besieged by touts.

We struggled on through Indonesian Sumatra as we entered Ramadan, enjoying Bukittinggi but hating Padang, before giving up on the place and flying to Darwin in Australia. There we started a road trip in a little campervan from the top to the bottom of this massive country.

And that's our story so far. Stay tuned for updates!

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Last updated 15 October 2006.