70 enroute to NL

Trip Start Apr 21, 2013
Trip End Aug 28, 2013

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Netherlands  , Flevoland,
Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 70

29 June 2013

LAST DAY, Somewhere in Germany speeding along at 120km/h

Day 70, a nice round figure that is all I can think of at this point in time. I am in a train racing towards the Dutch border somewhere past a place called Bielefeld where the train stopped for a few minutes. I have a compartment all to myself but it is not cozy. All plastic, in off-white colour and a small blue basin. This morning I was thinking, reminiscing would be a better word I suppose, about my 70 days of traveling, first in a northerly direction , then heading west  half a world away.

Perhaps now is the time to sum up a few things like would I do this trip again? Perhaps not, or at least not traveling east to west. I would prefer and recommend anyone wanted to do this kind of trip to start in Europe and end on a high note in Singapore, because it is the high note is what is missing at present. Looking outside with the world racing by I see bleak grey skies, rain and it is cold outside. It feels like a Melbourne winter .

If someone was to start from Europe it would be more exciting as you slowly move away from your own world towards the Orient. The name "Orient" alone puts pictures in your mind of far away mysterious places. It would be exciting that the moment when you start your journey, you realize that soon you will be in Moscow and then on to Mongolia, China and then further afield to places you have only heard of. Anyway for me, at this point in time, is not the case.

 I have to deal with it that I am now in a part of the world that does not give me that exciting feeling I had on a daily basis.  For me Asia is where it all happened. I have met many people and made many friends, mostly fellow travelers or expats living in various places. I also met many local people, who  initiated the first contact, however the further west I travelled the more effort I had to put in to  initiate the contact myself.

The slow decline started in China where people look at you in bewilderment and kids are scared of the round eyed giant from the west. A quick “Nee How” (Hello) will break the ice quickly but it had to be me to start things first. In Mongolia it was likewise but once contact was made all was ok. Russia was different. I met some really nice people there and generally people seem to be fairly happy but a natural smile is hard to find. In the Baltic states and Poland it is obvious that they have been suffering for many generations under Russian-German-Russian rule. During those times no one had anything to smile about I guess, so my take is that children grew up with unhappy looking people all around, and having a stern face comes natural to them. Also there is the fact in Russia, the Baltic States and Poland, under communism there was no competition between businesses as everything was state owned. So why go out of your way to give good service and greet people with a friendly smile or friendly “Hello!”?

At times when I entered a shop I had the feeling that I was interrupting their day. Instead of been spoken to, some people clearly would rather play with their phone. (This creates tremendous opportunities for others who could use this to their advantage.)  For example when I arrived in Tallinn the Australian owner spent perhaps ten minutes with me to explain on the map where I was and where I could go and how to get there, than had several chats with me over the days and even sat down in the morning having a coffee. Would I recommend this place? most definitely! On the other hand, in Vilnius the girl at the desk spoke with a voice like she was working at a funeral parlor or reading the news on television and never smiled. She handed me the key to my room but never said anything about where things s were or what there was to do in town, until I asked.  

In Warsaw, the reception was mixed. My arrival was very early in the morning and I was unable to check in but, was made to feel welcome and to place my pack in a locker room and have coffee, make myself comfortable in a lounge etc. Later the girl showed me the room and even carried my pack three flights of stairs. (she insisted)  However there were different people working different shifts. In my opinion the management or owners have made a mistake by building a high counter in a side room rather than a lower desk. The staff hides behind the counter doing their own thing never greeting or having any interaction with anyone. As I have been in so many places I quickly see these things and have to refrain myself from talking to the owners and  giving some advice how to market themselves better. After all, most people stay at places reading the comments or referrals.

Anyway, enough of that. So what were my favorite countries ? Definitely Vietnam. Cambodia and Thailand, and in that order. I could say that I would love to go back there, however I know I will go back for sure. Next time I will do it in a different way though as I have learned a lot. I would enter Vietnam first on a multiple business visa which removes any pressure on dates as the visa will last 3 months. I would start in Saigon or Hanoi. Buy a motorcycle and then venture out, back in to Laos (where I did not go this time, although I planned it) then Cambodia and Northern Thailand. I loved Saigon and Hanoi which is strange because I dislike crowds and traffic jams, but I seem to revel in it over there. The south coast of Vietnam, or rather the whole Delta region, islands and Vung Tau area I would like to spend some time in.  I know I could easily spend several weeks in either Hanoi or Saigon and make it my base for exploration in the near city area. The people I found very friendly but also realize that part of that is that you are a tourist and a possible source of income.

Although I met a few baddies, like the guy robbing me of my camera; the taxi driver on my first day in Vietnam and the bus driver at my last day there, I mostly think of all the really nice people I have met, including the old lady in a remote village who was unable to sell me a cold drink. I left my bike in front of her little shop and walked down the road to get a bottle of Lipton Iced tea. When I returned she placed 3 or 4 plastic chairs on top of each other knowing that the little Vietnamese chairs would not possible hold my weight. Then she got a glass for me so I could pour my drink into it. After noticing I was hot and sweaty she went to the back to get a fan and plugged it in and provided me with cool air, and … to top it off, got a hose out and run cold water over my forearms. Now what do you call that? TLC ? I did not even buy anything off her. Did she look at me, as I sometimes do, at begging old people where I think “imagine, this could be my mum or dad” or “this is someone's parent.” Or is it a case that something in the wide universe applies the rule “as you give, so will you receive”? I don’t know. But I experienced several instances like that in Vietnam.

Ever since I saw that old lady laying on the street next to Seven-Eleven in Chiang Mai I feel compelled to do one good deed a day by giving some money to a needy person, I mean a real needy person and not some drug enslaved persons positioning themselves at any given city gate but someone who is really down and out and feel the better for it.

Meanwhile I look through the train window and see the rain pouring down. Am I excited at this moment? , no not really. Anyway just see what the next few days will bring.

Another thing to mention here is that I have met many travelers and some of them will read this. They are people I have spent time with, they have either spoken to me for a little while, giving their time and advice about the area I am in or I have spent a day or several days with them off and on. These are the people who have made it for me as well and encourage me to look further and beyond , like Big Mack. “Around the world at 80” on his T-shirt;  I met Mack a few times in different locations and hope to meet  him again. Then there are people you meet and only spend a few minutes with to help you along. Like an American-Chinese young girl in Beijing  who was staying at the hostel and said that she was going to work and if I was to hurry up she would show me how the underground railway system works and where to get off to go to agency where I would collect my ticket to Mongolia.  I never saw her again, have forgotten her name and who she was. I know that she went literally out of her way to point me in the right direction. Unforgettable people like the shopkeeper in Hanoi giving me a hug and saying I heard what you did for the injured girl and I love you for that.  When I look outside at the rain and the wet German landscape is flying by these images make me smile.

Meanwhile this part of the journey has come to an end- I need to have some rest both physically and mentally, visit friends and see what my next move will be. I don’t know if I will keep the blog going or not. Perhaps just for myself and once it perhaps becomes more interesting again you will see the links arriving again- don’t know. Perhaps you can tell me.
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • You must enter a comment
  • You must enter your name
  • You must enter a valid name (" & < > \ / are not accepted).
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


Ted Wesselius on

Hi Richard, reading todays addition to your blog I believe your mood became even more depressed than the weather itself, in Germany, is. But cheer up... one of the funny things you are going to do soon is meeting some idiot you didn't see for more than half a century. which as such is a small miracle. That idiot is me. Keep in mind that 25 % of the Western population does not reach your & my age anyhow. Hence we are at the safe side already. Laughing out loudly and frequently, helps a lot to beat another 50 % of the population. To get there, we just have to live life another 15 years. Hope this sunny idea puts aside the clouds in your mind and makes your smile again, If not, let me know... and see what funny ideas I might have come up with.

Ienke on

Hey Richard,
Tjonge wat heb jij een reis achter de rug , heel indrukwekkend om je te volgen,
nu lekker in Nederland. ik hoor wel van je...

Eddie on

Hi Dear Richard, it was wonderful to read your blogs and it makes me a little sad you don't look forward to Holland and your past. Listen to Ted! Be happy and enjoy your time there, you deserve it. Although I understand your passion for Vietnam and around, I share this with you, I really hope you can have a good time in Holland and I really hope I can see you there in Deventer in August for some days! Take care and please go on with your blog, your feelings, your ideas about people, your historic fats mixed in and all others. It's true, it's all about the people you meet in a trip, so the same for Nederland! Find them and enjoy buddy.
Tommy is five kilo now and doing well and he wants his uncle Richard to be HAPPY, hug

Lin on

Begrijp je gevoel zeker wel. Maar ook hier zul je weer happy en memorable memories maken. Ik envy je, je doortastendheid, open blik op alles en iedereen. Je maakt een geweldige reis, ik ben jaloers..! Ja en ook op al dat vette eten uit de muur! Big hug from a cold rainy Melbourne xxx

Karel on

Hoi Richard, welkom in Nederland. Gelukkig is het inmiddels beter weer geworden.Wat je beschrijft in je blog nr 70 voelde ik al aankomen. Na al die belevenissen in de Orient werd het steeds saaier en triester. Zonder stimulans en liefde voor het werk.Hier is geen plaats voor spontane emotie, alles met verstandzonder gevoel. Het is weer even wennen, maar jij went snel. We hopen je nog te treffen. We zijn 22 juli weer terug van vakantie. Groeten aan Rob van ons. En blijf e blog scnrijven, om niet te vegeten zoals je zelf schrijft. Good luck en hopelijk tot ziens. Elly en Karel

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: