Ten countries in eleven months. I’m not bragging. It just happened.
I didn’t plan it that way. In November last year, I paid $180 for a 12-month Indian tourist visa. I thought I’d hole up in the Himalayas for months, drinking chai and writing a book and burning sandalwood and becoming all spiritual and stuff.
But, yeah nah.
India did what I didn’t think India could ever do, which was to utterly fucking screw me over. I was cheated, robbed, hassled, groped, leered at and spat on (that might’ve been an accident). I spent a lot of time yelling at the cheaters/robbers/leerers and a lot of time on the toilet.
All these things are fairly typical of a first visit to India. But it was my fourth. I knew this stuff happened. I just forgot.
India. Love it from afar, hate it from within.
But, anyway. I did two and a half months. And left. And didn’t go back. There are other countries. So many other countries.
Vietnam I loved; mainly, I admit, for its culinary pleasures. Oh, my made-on-the-spot banh mi trung! Sapodillas! Pork-stuffed tofu and dried beef drenched in syrup and broth with congealed pig’s blood! Custard apples and sugarcane juice and Dalat’s slightly bitter red wine… I’m returning to Vietnam. And I’ll admit right now without any shame that I plan to spend most of my days eating.
Japan. Yeah, I don’t know. I lied when I said I didn’t have expectations, because clearly I did. But the only thing is to return, and stay longer, and avoid things mentioned in the Chinese Lonely Planet and brush up on my Japanese.
Cambodia, I will also see you again! Such humility and warmth – oh, I gag to hear myself say such things, but it’s true. I owe you more time.
And Thailand. Just, nah.
Thailand, where I spent the best part of three months; I feel nothing for you. Which, really, is the worst thing.
It wasn’t because of the Brit. Sure, it didn’t help, but that wasn’t Thailand’s fault. Let’s not discuss it.
I headed for Chiang Mai because a) it was supposed to be cooler and b) it was supposed to be great for digital nomads. It wasn’t cooler. Thirty-five degrees is not cooler. And if I hear the term ‘digital nomad’ again I’ll vomit and throw things.
Fine, Chiang Mai is great for some. But not for me. I didn’t join the cool kids in learning Thai and going to yoga and hiking Doi Suthep every Saturday morning. I didn’t go to bars. I didn’t get dreadlocks or a tattoo. I didn’t do anything, or go anywhere, really, apart from the market and – well, maybe just the market. And I didn’t wear elephant pants.
Thailand is, just, ugh. It’s the lazy man’s way to live exactly as they would at home, but more cheaply and with fewer consequences. Everything is available, everything is done for you. There’s massage and English menus and air-conditioning and Tim Tams. You can study, or retire, or learn another language. Mostly, though, you can meet Thai women. If you’re into that. You can also just faff about drinking beer. Anything goes. Even the fruit sold by vendors on the street is cut up into nice, bite-sized chunks and sealed into a nice, hygienic plastic bag and given to you with a nice little bamboo skewer so you can eat, nicely, without getting juice on your fingers.
Yeah, nah, I won’t be back.
It’s nice to be home. No matter where I go, New Zealand is home, and it’s better than anywhere else on earth. It’s the best country in the world. I tell that to everyone I meet.
But, anyway. I’m off again in four weeks. There’s a big world out there.