Can’t believe it has been one month we have been on the road already.
Four weeks, three countries, 400 dogs, 200 cats, 70 elephants, and a fair few mosquitoes.
For what it’s worth, these are the travel lessons for the first four weeks…
1. Water (rivers, lakes, waterfalls, monsoon rain) always makes for a good photo (even if it is as brown as the Mekong).
2. Go up! Hills/tall buildings are great for overlooking a landscape.
3. It’s amazing how many times you can wear pants or T-shirts without needing to wash them. (There is, however, joy to be had in clean, dry, folded clothes from the local laundry.)
4. It’s always worth getting up early in the morning, however difficult it seems at the time.
5. No mosquito repellent works on all bugs that bite, no cream, spray, bracelet or local gel.
6. Toileting can be a conversation piece every day. ‘Everything ok in poo land?’ (This is highly likely to be a blog post in its own right at some point.)
7. Maps.me is a wonderful app helping with directions even when you’re offline. Big thanks for the tip from the bloke from Hong Kong on the slow boat down the Mekong. But sometimes you just have to put away the map and wander with no plan… places like Chinatown in Bangkok and the Old Quarter in Hanoi.
8. There is joy to be had in a strong hot shower, controllable air con and strong uninterrupted wifi – especially when you FaceTime your family.
9. A chat with local people is always worth it (whether it is your AirBnB host, a tour guide, a cafe owner, the Aussie who runs the nearest pub or the monks at ‘monk chat’ to improve their English).
10. Some of the most memorable moments are not caught on camera (or video)… such as:
The smells: Incense in a temple, food cooking in the street, fresh mango the likes of which you will never get at Waitrose… The open sewer smell in a cafe in the midday heat, the never-ending poo and pee from the (doubly incontinent) disabled dogs – a whiff which was ingrained in our clothes and shoes for seven days.
The sounds: Chanting of monks, the cicadas in Chiang Mai which sounded like chainsaws, the frogs at night that sounded like 1,000 chickens being murdered, the sound of girls singing in the tiny church near our AirBnB in Hanoi, the bells and gongs at temples, David saying ‘gecko’ every time he sees a gecko (there are thousands)…
The tastes: The freshest juiciest mango and mangosteen in the local market, Lao fish curry served beautifully on huge banana leaves and a wicker basket. Not so good: the green tea latte in Hanoi.
The sights: Three times we saw the same man in Bangkok… likely in his 60s, he’s been there too long, he was in short shorts. I mean short shorts, like 20-year-old girls wear, enough to expose bum cheeks. The second time we saw him I wrote in my diary: ‘I swear he wasn’t wearing any pants under those short shorts.’
Seeing the joy of a novice monk, probably only ten years old, having fun chasing dogs in the temple grounds.
The disabled dogs Khao and Steele – the look in their eyes I will never forget.
And Dipsy, the only female in a lively pack of five dogs in one enclosure. They were playful but at mealtimes she had to be separated as the males had food aggression. One breakfast time, I stayed with her in the back room. She left her food and made a point of coming over to where I was sitting and nudged in for a cuddle and a head rub. I could have stayed there all day.