Seven months and counting…
To keep up the series of a post every couple of months about our travels and adventures, I started writing this a month ago whilst we were lounging around in lovely Laos. Suffice to say, I was too horizontal to ever get to the end of it, and what I’ve written clearly suffered from my embracing the “please don’t rush” lifestyle. So I’m starting again, full of enthusiasm and with a whole extra month of emotions to get off my chest. Brace yourselves!
Thinking back, we’ve packed a shed load of stuff into the last three months. We’ve ticked off Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand since we were in Sri Lanka and I last wrote something down. I think that the early pace we set ourselves through Nepal, India and Sri Lanka caught up with us somewhat, and we’ve managed to have a much more relaxed travelling experience since then. We’ve packed a lot of stuff in, but we’re now much happier spending a longer time in fewer places than we were before. To be honest, this was forced on us somewhat by the difficulty of travelling around Myanmar and Laos, but once we admitted to ourselves that it was going to be impractical to see everything we wanted to, we actually had a much better time of it. If you only stay in a place for two days, we always feel a significant responsibility to charge around and see as much as possible. If we’re in a place for a week, then that responsibility evaporates and we can stroll. We don’t always get to see “everything”, but what we do see, we see properly. And we’ve become more selective too. We’ve seen so many temples and palaces, that we don’t feel guilty about missing some out. They have to be pretty special to get us through the doors these days, and I love having conversations with the boys along the lines of
“Well, that wasn’t as good as Schwedagon!”
or the ever popular
“That was just like Boudinath, but way smaller and less epic”
It makes me happy that they can so easily remember places and adventures that we had over half a year ago, and goes to prove how much they’re learning throughout this whole trip. I spent the first six months worrying about whether or not we were doing the right thing, but the more time we spend together and the more conversations we have, then the more convinced I become that this was the right decision for us, and the more appreciative I become about us having the opportunity to be able to do it.
Something that does worry me though has been the scale and rate of change that we’ve seen as we travel around. Everywhere we’ve been – and I mean everywhere – it feels like you’re never more than thirty seconds walk from a building site of some sort. People are scrambling up bamboo scaffolding and pouring concrete wearing the obligatory safety gear of steel toe-capped flip-flops, a sunhat and super-cool shades. It’s completely relentless, and has become part of the scenery. But when we got to Vietnam, the scale of the change since we were last there is difficult to comprehend. It makes you wonder about what things will be like with another thirteen years of uncontrolled and haphazard building. Will there be much left to visit by the time the kids have finished university and might be thinking about travelling on their own? But of course, every story has an upside, and to balance the way that Halong Bay has been impacted by rampant tourism fuelled by motorways and hotels, the building of a new road to Phong Nha has opened up an area of incredible beauty that simply didn’t exist on any maps when we were last in Vietnam. Since we’ve been away, they’ve invented a whole new National Park, built schools and hospitals and taken thousands of people out of a subsistence lifestyle. And if that wasn’t enough, they’ve also discovered the world’s largest cave. How can I possibly knock that sort of progress?
We’ve spent the last six weeks or so with friends and family, with first the Andersons coming out for a white-knuckle charge through Vietnam, and then the grandparents arriving for a different but equally exhausting race through northern Thailand. Both visits were massive fun, and left us physically exhausted. But, in the same way that we were hit by Christmas, I think that they’ve left us more than a little homesick. Especially now as the UK is struggling to break out of the winter blues and Facebook is awash with bank holiday camping adventures in the New Forest and Cornwall. We are struggling with the pre-monsoon heat down here in Thailand and the thought of needing to put a jumper on for an evening barbecue has a perverse attraction at the moment.
Possibly more perverse though is the fact that at most, we’ve only got three months of adventures left. Back in September, it felt like this trip would last forever, and that it would be a once in a lifetime chance to see the best that the world has to offer. But having seen so much, we realise that we’ve only lightly tickled the smallest pimple on Planet Earth’s face, and talk is already turning to what we’ll do for our next adventure, and how we’ll fit it in. So far, our best approach seems to be crossing our fingers and first hoping for a massive lottery win, rapidly followed by science bucking it’s ideas up and getting a time machine invented. I’m so much happier that I’ve ever been, with a much stronger relationship with Sian and the kids that I could ever have imagined that I really don’t want this to stop.
Love travelling, fearing work…