I wrote this in Bangkok airport as we were about to begin our voyage back to London, to dampen the misery of ending our trip. There are still a couple of entries to make – for central Vietnam, northern Thailand and Bangkok – but alas, I’ll be writing them from England…
So here, in no particular order, are a few things that make ending a six-month jaunt around Asia slightly more endurable.
1 – Sunshine
It might sound contradictory to miss Britain for the sunshine, having spent six months in south-east Asia during its summer months. But it’s a different kind of sunshine – the kind you can stand in for more than 10 minutes and feel it on your skin without peeling like a snake. The kind that makes you want to absorb it, not hide in the shadows.
2 – Pavements
Nipping down to the 7/11 for a cheese toastie becomes a petrifying expedition when the humble pedestrian has no pavement to protect him. Constantly in fear of scooters clipping your shins, or trucks rolling over your toes, a brisk walk to the shops leaves you on edge and needing a beer.
3 – Good beer
You might overhear backpackers arguing over which tastes nicer: Chang or Singha in Thailand, Beerlao or Namkhong in Laos, Angkor or Anchor in Cambodia. But these comparisons are moot – it’s all flavourless amber slurry. The premium brand in Malaysia is Carlsberg for heaven’s sake! That’s why they don’t mind drinking it with ice!
4 – Clean ice
Don’t drink the ice in Asia unless it’s cylindrical with a hole through the middle. This means it’s been manufactured, with purified water. Even so, don’t drink it if it’s been sitting in a cooler in direct sunlight all day and is floating in a pond of its melted brethren. Your botty will explode.
5 – Unimportant stools
I can’t wait to restore that blissful ambivalence I used to enjoy towards my own faeces. You don’t know how good you’ve got it; completely ignorant of how great it is not to study each defecation for signs of impending diarrhoea. Just poo, wipe, flush, and move on.
6 – Flushable paper
Speaking of which, wiping your anus is not a particularly glamorous endeavour at the best of times, but disposing of your stained tissue in a bin rather than the bowl – and leaving it there, until someone is paid to take it away – is markedly less so.
7 – Dairy products
Life is hard – that’s something you learn with age. In your 30s you finally comprehend how difficult success is and find pride in what meagre achievements you do accrue. For instance, when you’re a kid, playing for Accrington Stanley might represent failure; when you’re an adult, drinking some fresh milk might become a short-term goal.
8 – OSX
I left my MacBook Air at home for fear of losing it, or damaging it, or getting an unsightly scratch on it. Instead, I brought my teeny-tiny Asus Eee PC, a shitty five-year-old netbook with Windows Twat installed. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, i HATE IT. wHY DOES caps lock BEHAVE LIKE THIS WHEN i PRESS sHIFT?!
9 – Cutlery that doesn’t bend
Trying to cut up food with a tin fork is as futile as trying to dig a hole with a kipper. In fact, the best use for south-east Asian cutlery we found was as a coat rail in a restaurant toilet.
10 – Our house
We spent nine months renovating our house once we bought, trying to get it ready for tenants before we left the country. That meant we never really got to live in it. I want to enjoy our new kitchen, our new bathroom, our new front door. Why do strangers get to enjoy it? GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, STRANGERS!
11 – Mates and stuff
What? Yeah… I miss my friends, so what? You miss your Mum you do… Piss off.