Feelings before starting our exploration of Asia were nervous anticipation for me and pure excitement for Bryn! Bryn had made some amazing notes on what he wanted to go and see and do while we were away but apart from knowing roughly which country we were going to in which order we had no idea where we were going to be laying our heads each night with the exception of our first few nights in Bangkok which we booked before we arrived.
The first place we arrived into was a very hot Bangkok at morning rush hour after a long and tiring flight from Amsterdam. It took us a good 3 days to overcome our jet lag with afternoon snoozes not helping the situation but thoroughly necessary to get out of the smelly dry heat. I vaguely remembered the Bangkok smell of sewages and drains from a previous trip but wow it was worse than I remembered. Bryn's first impression was 'that weren't right nice that'! Having said that on returning to Bangkok after a couple of months the smell seemed less, maybe we were more used to the smell of open sewers by then.
Cambodia was utterly an amazing country although the stormy monsoon season did exclude some of our plans, but I guess when you're around for 6 months you can't see the best of every country.
Vietnam saw us joining up with our first group of travellers which was amazing. About 12 of us in total from all over the globe, luckily for us English was the common language, although Bryn's German definitely improved whilst we've been away. Our first time using mopeds which was ace! Several more trips came later in Asia.
Northern Thailand was an amazing mix of culture and food. Possibly one of my favourite recipes came from here... Khao sok curry. Medtiation camp for a few days was an eye opener, not a good type for Bryn. He hasn't got the right to tell me to 'sshhhhhuuussshhhhhhh' now when I get chatting as he struggled with the silent part of the retreat more than I did. Our first moped road trip (never again will we do a long road trip with one bike between us...Numb bum for the passenger on the back).
Laos was possibly one of the friendliest countries for locals. Another great group to travel with here and lots of exciting adventures. Not really much cuisine as such here. Although I think at least 2 recipes made it into the recipe book.
South Thailand and Malaysia kind of came together with a few hops back and forward to refresh visas. Christmas and new year with Tim and Nikki was definitely a highlight to our trip, with the first meeting being on the sunny beach of koh lanta and hearing a 'Chetwood whistle' and jumping up from sunbathing to see the pastey white skin of my older bro!
Malaysia, another extremely friendly country but slightly less poor. Beautiful change in food style with more of an Indian influence. A nice change from stir fried food and coconut based curries. I actually picked up Malaysian language a bit again which I loved! Although we tried in each country with the language, probably Malaysian was the easiest as it used English letters and I had a basic understanding from my trip to Borneo 7 years ago. The good thing about this language was it was almost identical to Indonesian which was great!
Singapore was labelled the expensive country, and involved buying our camping stove at last. Nice to speak English as the first language. Seeing China town at Chinese new year was insane and particularly noisy but great! First zoo trip.
Indonesia... Super! From mountain lakes, to hot smelly cities, to incredible rainforest wildlife, to erupting volcano's, to hippy hill towns, to the clearest seas and best beaches of the trip. Indo has it all and there was so much we couldnt fit into our 30 day visa even with running over by a day!
So thats it. Almost 6 months of Asia. Made some great friends along the way and strengthened our own relationship to no end. 24 hours a day 7 days a week is a make or break situation and it worked to our advantage. Budgeting seemed to be in our nature from day one. Bryn was chief haggler to start with but after a few weeks it became a competition to get the bargains! We soon realised the £40 for a day between us was too generous and we reduced it to £30 and pretty often didn't even reach that limit.
Travelling was pretty hard work. Packing up all your belongings every 3 days or so to move on became a skill but was unsettling, and made us both excited about settling in Australia for a while and in England some time soon! To start with we jam-packed every day with as many activities and sites as we could but eventually realised that wasn't possible and made time for relaxation days doing cook books and writing postcards to our loved ones. We've collected many 'homey' gifts for when we set up home back in England. All sent back to mum and dad's for an epic unpack when we return! All pretty nerve-racking sending it and waiting for a message to say it's arrived safely. We're still waiting for news on the final parcel which was posted 7 weeks ago on Bali.
Travelling without much contact to friends or family was sad although Facebook and Skype kept us up to date on most comings and goings. There's nothing like a hug in person though. A few sadder days when times were hardest made us realise how much we missed everyone. The worst part was when my great aunt Olive passed away and knowing I wasn't with my family to support them or be supported, but Bryn was great even though he never got to meet her.
Overall, Asia has been eye opening and emotional, thought provoking and thought changing. Hopefully one day we can go back and give more back to them. Time and money restraints meant we couldn't do quite as much as we'd have liked to for the communities of SE Asia. Thanks for our stay Asia, hopefully see you soon!
Lots of love Jo x