Two Years on the Road to Nowhere

Trip Start Feb 23, 2006
Trip End Jun 24, 2009

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Taiwan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Th

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I will try to fill in the last 3 months the best I can, but I wanted to mark this date with an entry. Sorry, but I've been missing and having a really good time. As you can see I'm no longer in China and not even in Thailand anymore.

(If they followed the guidelines on this sign, I don't think anyone would be on Khao San Road because they would have blocked them all at the border) Today marks my 2 year anniversary from the date I left Miami with my friend C on a one way ticket to Taiwan and a plan that has changed as many times as there have been days on this trip (730). The original vague "plan" was something like Asia, SE Asia, Australia by New Years 2007, Easter Island and a year in South America to learn Spanish. Instead I've picked up a bit of Mandarin, Bahasa and Thai, but still speak the same amount of Spanish as I have for the past 20 years. I certainly wouldn't have guessed that 2 years after leaving "home" (wherever that is) that I'd still be in this corner of the world. Some people have asked if I ever get bored or miss my family. The emphatic answer to the first part is NO and I see my mom and dad more over on this side of the planet than I did in North America. I surely do miss my 2 Kyles though, nephew and godson, who are both twice the age they were when I left them. But video chats have been a godsend in that respect. (Stacey, Get with the 21st century) According to my blog map, I've only visited 4% of the world in the last 2 years. At this rate, I'll never get to my goal of 50% of the world before I go on to explore the next realm. Over the past 2 years, my perspectives have morphed a bit and I've relaxed a lot. I met a girl that had a very stressful job and was on a month long trip to chill out. She commented on how completely chilled out that I looked and had some difficulty understanding how I could travel for 2 years. I think spending time with me helped her to finally decompress and shed the stresses of her life. Looking back on my own past, I must say that trading stocks and dealing with money on a daily basis is far too stressful and really changes one's personality and not for the better. I really needed some serious beach time to chill out and return to my core. The problem with having so much time on your own is that you start to have thoughts and observations that one would never even dream of back home i.e. Wow! that guy has some really nice tits. That's just not something that would ever cross your mind back home is it? but walking down the street in Bangkok or even here in Penang... the lady boys here can for $30 each boob get some stuffing that looks incredible at least from a distance.

But I digress.

The past couple of years have been amazing! I've seen so many things and met so many great people that I really hope I will be able to keep in touch with over time. I've learned my lesson from my previous trips that travel partners take a little extra work to become friends. I can count on 1 hand the number of people that I keep in touch with from my first trip to SE Asia 15 years ago. Although my Palm Pilot blew up and I lost almost 2 years worth of entries, I still have a lot of the contacts that I want to keep. And anyone that I've met over the past couple years would have a hard time forgetting thechineseguyumet if they should want to email me. The funny thing is that it doesn't matter if I've spent hours, days, months or years with some of the people that I've met, the amount of time spent has nothing to do with how much they have touched my life or the likelihood that we'll meet again. Living in Bangkok, has increased the opportunity to meet people again and again since Bangkok is the center for all travel in SE Asia. I've seen people that have come out on another trip again and some on their way back home from a long journey. Next week I'll meet up with an old friend that I haven't seen in 9 years since my worldwide wedding tour in 1999 because of a random MSN chat that led to him being in KL next week. I said, Kewl, I'll meet ya there. So if you are reading this and you are not where you are supposed to be, give me a shout because I may be close to where you are. Stranger things have happened.

I've noticed over the past couple years that being Chinese has great advantages when traveling in Asia. Because I look similar to everyone around here, I blend in a lot better than say a 2M tall pasty white Englishman. Almost every country in Asia has a large Chinese local population. It's a lot more than just blending into the masses. It's more about the way people receive me especially if they are Chinese. There is a certain bond or trust between Chinese people. Like just today, I haven't had an umbrella since Annabel left mine in a taxi back in China in August, but after eating breakfast at the best Bakery in Asia, Rainforest on Chulia Street, Penang, they loaned me their umbrella after only a short conversation about my origins and my peculiar English accent la. Somehow, I just don't believe that they'd do the same for your average western traveler. I really noticed it when I was in China when for a stretch of about 3 or 4 weeks, half of the people I met invited me to share a meal with their family. Although my Mandarin is still on the verge of atrocious, I was able to learn enough to have extremely light conversations with the locals. Of course, a 5 minute conversation in English would take the entire meal in Mandarin, but it was still a real connection and an enjoyable time that I don't think would have been afforded to me if I were Caucasian.

Unfortunately, I had to leave Thailand as my visa exemption had finally run out and I couldn't return until June 1st without getting a proper visa. I figured that this was a sign that I should finally leave Thailand. I had also heard that there was a big blues festival in Byron Bay in March. When I looked up the site, , and saw the lineup, I knew all signs and the path of least resistance were pointing to Oz and I had to go. Galactic is playing there, Air Asia started service to the Gold Coast and I found a 160 dollar flight to Oz. It will be strange to be in the minority again, but at least I sort of speak the language down there. Maybe I'll buy a phrasebook when I get there for those backwoods towns like Sydney. I look forward to good cheap wines and some good western food. I don't look forward to the sticker shock of the hostels and general cost of living after 2 years in cheapo Asia. The days of 15 dollars a day total expenses are coming to an end. I don't know how much to budget for Oz, but I'm thinking it will be more on the lines of 35-40 a day especially considering the decline of the USD to about .90 AUD and fuel prices. Wish me luck. I may just have to return to Thailand after all.

Year 3 here I come.

Editors comment after getting to Australia: Um... 35-40 a day is just not possible as I paid $34/night just for my dorm room. My first week, I spent over $150/day and just about 3 months budget in Thailand. It's calmed down a bit since then, but I'm thinking my 3 months in Australia will cost me just about as much as my last year in Asia. DOH!
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