Asian Rohan?

The Black Temple, or Baan Si Dum, is essentially thrown in as a “well it’s close by so why not look at it anyway?” sort of thing by the tour guide…or at least that’s how it felt…

BUT ACTUALLY I ENDED UP LOVING IT.

Errr…perhaps I even preferred it to its more famous cousin…hmmm…by the way excuse the rant about modern architecture, I don’t really know what got into me – well boring box buildings is the reason, but still. 

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Fantasy Land…

Following up yesterday’s post here is a very short video of my time at Chiang Rai’s Wat Rong Khun…also known as The White Temple. It’s hard to really describe as there is SO MUCH going on in one relatively small spot…take a look…

Still not sure what to make of it all!

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Chiang Mai…RIDICULOUS Temples

Absolutely blown away by the temples here in Thailand…truly amazing. I feel like all of my dreams as a little boy are just coming to life in these structures (actually I have never changed, but I’m supposed to pretend that dragons and magic aren’t cool now for some reason)…

Well anyway,  here’s a little look of what it has to offer…and trust me, it is definitely cool:

Apologies for the low quality, taken on a phone…sans selfie stick – don’t believe in ’em. 

But hope you enjoyed it all the same! More to come, probably.

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Dead Babies and Ping Pong

Sometimes you have a change of heart, and it is hard to exactly put your finger on why…you just wake up one day and a certain thing isn’t for you anymore – and that’s fine! But sometimes (in fact, more often than not) you know EXACTLY why you have switched sides and the reasons are searing into your brain with an unrelenting and painful clarity:

MATHS IS HARD AND I HATE IT / RUNNING IS A FUCKING PAIN IN THE ASS AND I DON’T WANNA DO IT ANYMORE / I DON’T ENJOY MUSHY BLACK BANANAS THEY GIVE ME THE HEEEEBY JEEEEBEEES!!! and much, much more…

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(All great points by the way.) 

Anyway I had one of those sudden change of hearts recently, a BIG one, and it was all to do with my travel plans which I believe I rambled about in another post somewhere…was gonna be quite an adventure, and still likely will! But the ISIS pricks started blowing up tourist buses simply because those innocent people inside wanted a photo with the pyramids – so I had to scratch my dream destination of Egypt off my list, for now…what absolute bastards (to put it incredibly mildly). So in reaction to this I switched that portion of the trip for Greece so I could have a look at the Acropolis and pretend I am having a chat with my old mate Zeus, that way at least I am in touch with one ancient God, albeit in a different continent and a different time zone.

But you see the major problem came with my first destination after leaving Korea…which was supposed to be Cambodia…a place that I thought it would be an ideal location to quietly sit and write for a few weeks, a place to just get away from it all and get stuff done…and a place that whenever I grew weary of writing words it would actively seek to replenish my imagination with amazing walks around fantastic temples.

But then…the dead baby thing happened. Which put the brakes firmly on this rather dreamy romantic facade I had built for myself…and threw me right back into the horrors of the real world:

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You see I was chatting with a friend about Cambodia, you know, the who,what, wheres…when she announced something along the lines of: “lovely place, so beautiful…just watch out for the dead babies and you’ll be fine…” Excuse me, erm back-paddle a little will you please? No, no, not that bit…the dead…yeah, what is that and why did you say it?!

Seriously though. 

According to her, some other friends who have been, and later the internet when I checked up on this story, there is a rather commonplace scam around Siem Reap which involves a mother (presumably) giving sleeping drugs to her baby to give the appearance of death, then covering the poor thing in flour so it looks well…you know…and then handing the child to her slightly older child (perhaps 5-8 years old-ish) to show to soon to be horrified tourists in return for sympathy dollars galore…

I know right? Horrifying. 

Of course this is born from desperation one would assume, and yet it’s pretty horrific even by current Western standards which are desensitised more than ever before. And whilst I feel for the poor things caught up in this madness I rather selfishly don’t want to see a dead baby (albeit just a pretend one) every day for three weeks. I don’t know, maybe it is just me – perhaps you would love that, you horrible bastard you, but me…no, not really. There is just something about dead babies which sits uneasily…dead babies, dead babies – see…not nice. Gonna stop saying it now, I think as the thought alone is creeping me out and making me sad. You got the message though: Cambodia = dead babies. 

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JOKING! (Sort of).

So although my flights were booked up already I wanted to make the switch from Cambodia to the more reliable and less dead ba…just better in that regard, Thailand. Now this hasn’t particularly ever been on my list, despite the influx of tourists these days and how everyone and their gran (sometimes literally) appears to be visiting Bangkok according to my Facebook home page. It always seemed to be a rather seedy place, well no that’s not right to say, a place where incredibly seedy fellows flock in their millions…yeah, that’s better. And I didn’t particularly want to be another one of them, even if my preconceived notion may be an outdated one.

Actually even when I mentioned it to my siblings they jokingly asked if I was looking for a mail-order bride, or a male bride…or am I just a sex tourist looking for a good time? Well none actually, as it turns out – or at least I think so anyway. Just trying to escape Cambodia your honor. I know, I know…I’ve heard all the stories too, the ping pong balls coming out of the hoo-hahs and all the rest of it. But surely it had to be more endurable than the aforementioned flour dolls, right? Sorry. 

So I got on to the flight people to switch my flights, and made a new pal along the way called Antonin Vrzal who is a lovely chap may I add. But as nice and friendly as he was he wasn’t able to conjure magic tricks, and told me that as I am planning to leave from Cambodia to New Zealand afterwards (different airlines) it would be impossible to switch them, and I definitely can’t cancel them because of…well no reasons, he just said no – which really tested our friendship I’ll tell you that for certain. He then said I would have to just book new flights if it is totally necessary, which of course it is. In essence: THANKS FOR NOTHING MATE! AFTER ALL WE’VE BEEN THROUGH ANTONIN!!!! TWO EMAILS AND A FIVE MINUTE PHONE CALL, AND NOW THIS!

 Not his fault, he’s not trying to ruin your life…breathe, breathe, breathe…that’s better…calm down…hang up the phone…go on…

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So I did just that, and now I will fly to Chang Mai, Thailand (less ping-pong balls there I am told), and will spend a couple of weeks there basking in its quiet slow-paced solitude…after which I will then take a train down to the madness that is Bangkok (a lot more ping-pong balls there I am told)…I’ll then fly to Cambodia just for a few days before getting on the New Zealand flight I was supposed to in the first place. I figure I shouldn’t just blindly follow a few people’s stories and should at least see it all for myself, scams and all. After all it is about YOUR experience, not someone else’s.

BUT MAN, WHAT AN ORDEAL. Wish me luck and sorry again for the horrifying nature of this write-up…I’m as freaked out as you. 

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Broke? Travel Anyway!

I often get emails, and messages from people – asking the same question – “how do you afford travel? Are you from a rich family? Do you have connections? Did you get some crazy compensation deal – and have decided to blow it all on roaming the world rather than making sound investments?!” 

Well, no. No to all of those. I wish it was something as easy as being in a car accident – and getting free money, but it isn’t. It’s kind of like The Wizard of Oz…it looks like a spectacular vision until you see the cogs turning behind the curtain. Yes, the actual facts of the matter are a lot less glossy – and  whilst this may be hard to take for some…I actually work. 

Take my first major trip on my own, for example. My year abroad studying in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

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For two years before that I worked at an electrical store, moving televisions around, and trying to sell people outdated SCART cables they didn’t want…taking overtime whenever I could, whilst also taking shifts at my Aunt’s pub on the weekend…all the while squirreling away money whenever possible. With no disrespect intended, I wasn’t like the others that were accepted on to the study abroad programme (Newcastle UK – Atlanta USA) there would be no money from my Mother, or Father…I’m one of five children, I would feel rude even asking.

But I made it – and before I knew it I was in the midst of my own travel scrapbook! Carving out new memories for myself…whether it be visa worries at passport control, attempting to make the transition to the different pace of American life, or dancing insane jigs with Waka Flocka, I had flew from the ordinary day-to-day, and was living out these once impossible fantasies!

Sounds dreamy, dreamy – I’m sure? But the truth was my budgeted money soon ran out, and there were a couple of very hairy months – I recall that after weeks of eating next to nothing I sent my parents a whimpering email explaining the situation…and I received something along the lines of – “you’ll figure it out.” And I felt it was harsh, but the fact is…you will…if you want it that badly – you will. (And I’m still alive, so I guess I did!)

Study abroad programmes can be a great way to get away, and experience a different culture first hand – there are often great schemes, and incentives – with mine I was actually reimbursed for any costs throughout the year. Which meant I had thousands to play with at the end of it all – long story short, two weeks in Greece with some of my best friends from back home. 

My second major trip came just after I graduated university- although I was recruited before I had even been given my degree…and a month after I flew out to Beijing, China.

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Again I had saved, and saved working some terrible job – this time around it was a sportswear store, selling people trainers, and trying not to touch their sweaty feet as I assisted them with trying on their shoes. Not ideal – but a means to an end. This was just so I had some initial spends, as the programme actually flew me out at no cost, and many of the site-seeing trips, and other interesting adventures were paid for, or massively subsidised.

Either way, there I was again – in a totally foreign, and unknown environment…forced out of my comfort zone…but that’s what it’s all about…I was experiencing all of the weirdness, that was so different to anything the 9 to 5 version of myself would be encountering…whether it be bizarre disputes over taxi fares, relaxed views to public pooping, or trying to sample local dishes without being sick (such as dog) – I knew these were memories that would last a lifetime.

And thanks to the cheap day-to-day living China affords, I was able to save a little for the NEXT trip…you see, that is important – always have the next trip in mind. 

My third major trip to Scandinavia came unexpectedly…but was well worth it…

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My sister – someone who has worked all over the world with nothing more than a can-do attitude, and flexibility – found a two month long  job in the Arctic Circle at a remote lodge…it was placed right between Sweden, and Finland. Did I fancy it? Well…OF COURSE I DID! There was a catch though, we had to fly out (again at their expense, so no worries) the following day! You see, sometimes the opportunity comes abruptly, and if you ponder over it too much, it will go to someone else – you sometimes just have to grab it, and say YES! 

And I certainly did. Before I knew it I was crashing snowmobiles in Sweden, experiencing The Shining effect first hand in Finland, and after I finished my contract – experiencing the raw natural beauty of the Norwegian Fjords first hand.

The work was often not pretty; six day weeks, with long hours – and if my boss was ever pissed off he would make me scrub toilets for an ungodly amount of time…but still…huski racing? The Northern Lights? Spending a night in an igloo? You can’t tell me that wasn’t worth it. 

For my next major trip, I was off to South Korea! I scraped together the last of my meager savings – put up with the horrendous visa process…and then went on my way!

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And I couldn’t have asked for more! Yet again I was flown out at my employer’s expense, provided with a cosy home to stay in for free, and continue to live very comfortably – whilst also having an amazing time, with some amazing kids, in a truly amazing country! And, using Korea as a base, I have been able to save very efficiently, which allows for a great many adventures; including a  Christmas trip to Vietnam,  an interesting excursion to North Korea’s border, a heat-stricken jaunt to Nepal…back home to England, and Scotland – then on to Italy, Hungary, and Austriathen…well, you get the picture – the world suddenly doesn’t seem as hugely inaccessible as it once did!

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You see it’s not difficult, you just make it difficult. If you really want to travel, like really, really want to…then be willing to work, and be willing to take every opportunity. Rich, or not – you’ll get there – so stop just posting random sunset photographs, with “W A N D E R L U S T” etched over them, and start planning that next trip…and start filling up your passport, and with it your little book of memories. 

~

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