We spent three weeks in Japan and I’ve only just got round to writing about it as I’m still making sense of it all…
We spent three weeks in Japan and I’ve only just got round to writing about it as I’m still making sense of it all…
Going home after a year of travelling and living abroad is a strange feeling. Every film I’ve ever watched told me that I was meant to feel a surge of emotions, a burst of awareness and an eye-opening epiphany about life. I expected to rush off the plane at Heathrow and smell the fresh English air, dive on the tube with a new-found love of commuting (theatrically spinning around handrails, of course) and see the streets of London with wide, open eyes.
There is nothing like living in your home country all your life, surrounded by other people who have also lived in the same country all their life, to make you completely oblivious to what your culture is like.
I’m in the early stages of my relationship with Vietnam. Things are still all beautiful and rosey, not a sign of a break-up in sight. I’d like to save these moments and the things I love about my new home town, so that when one of those inevitable I-hate-everything days comes along, I can remind myself why I’m here.
Over the past month we’ve been having some pretty freaky weather, here in Vietnam. One day it will be swelteringly hot, the next day there will be a storm so bad that all the trees on your road fall down (literally). Yet, most locals do not seem to consider this to be ‘freak weather’. However, as someone who has grown up in a country where it rains pathetically for about 360 days of the year, I think this weather is pretty crazy. Here’s how to deal with it casually, like a local… Continue reading “How To Deal With Freak Weather In Vietnam Like A Local”
I’ve only been here a month so it’s still early days, but lessons are coming thick and fast. Here’s a few things I’ve learnt so far:
1. Coffee is really bloody strong here.
Like, ‘I think there were drugs in that coffee’ strong.
2. If there’s a gap, someone will drive through it.
3. People really like to ask how old you are…
Two months ago I had a very limited choice of writing spots. They consisted of a cramped bedroom surrounded by bicycles and scattered clothes, a local café where I sensed the owner resented me buying one cup of tea and staying for three hours, and my local park which was rarely dry enough to visit and always less comfortable than I remembered when it was.
Since beginning travelling I’ve found a few dreamy locations to write in which have changed everything! Each little magical place has the power to fire up my imagination or draw me out of those narrative vortexes that I can get stuck in. It gives me ideas just finding my way there, let alone getting acquainted with an amazing new spot.
Granted, I can’t pop to places like these on my way home from work (especially with them being dotted around Asia) but it has inspired me to explore my hometown a bit more. I find it’s either a five minute walk to my local café and three hours of twiddling my thumbs or two hours of searching and half an hour of manic, wonderful scribbling. The right place can be the difference between one chapter or no chapter.
Here’s a few of my favourite discoveries:
Candid Café – London, UK
This is my favourite spot at home, it’s on the top floor of a misleading, old building in Islington. You make your way up the creaky, windy stairs to find one huge table in the middle surrounded by mismatched chairs and some unusual paintings to get your imagination going. Plus, great cheesecake.
Highland Coffee – Hanoi, Vietnam
This has a great view over a manic city, it’s people watching galore! Just find the big, dangerous round-about, there’ll probably be a balloon seller walking into movng traffic without looking, and then look up. There’s various cafes with balconies surrounding the round-about but I liked Highland Coffee met.
Cat Ba Island – Vietnam
Where better to write than in a little hut on a secluded beach!? There’s table tennis and pool for when you need a break but otherwise there’s no distractions so you’ve got no excuse not to sit down and start typing.
Pai Treehouse Resort – Pai, Thailand
This is every kid’s dream, a tree house without grown-ups! (Even if we’re technically the grown-ups now… Whatever!) Cue Dennis the Menace plotting and The Magic Faraway Tree day-dreams.
Books and Tea – Luang Prabang, Laos
This place has a little book shop/swap on the ground floor where you can dream of your own book being on one of the shelves and the second floor is just covered in comfy cushions where you can sprawl and scribble. They also play films in the evening so you’ve got something to look forward to once you’ve hit your writing goals.
I found most of these outside riverside huts in small towns and villages. Part of the appeal of the hammock is that you immediately feel that you’re in some kind of paradise wherever you are anyway. The other positive factor is that it’s harder to get up and tHereford harder to stop writing!
Crazy House – Dalat, Vietnam
This is a building straight out of Disney, everything is surrounded by winding plants and mysterious tunnels. I didn’t actually get any writing done here, I just scrambled and climbed over the whole building getting some ideas for story locations. However, there is a little café here as well as hotel rooms which are all vivid and exciting. One had a fireplace in the shape of a huge egg and a large, fictional bird sat on top of it. It’s amazing!
Joma – Hanoi, Vietnam / Luang Prabang, Laos
I guess this is kind of like the Asian Starbucks. Yes, I know, I should have been exploring all the quirky, cultural places with character and history. Buuuut, sometimes you just need WiFi and a plug! It’s nice and cool and there’s seems to be lots of other people tapping away at their novels.
Myanmar Backpacker – Yangon, Myanmar
This is a hostel made up of little ‘pods’ for beds. It’s hit and miss depending on how chlostrophobic you are. Personally I loved this place because it felt like I was in a little den and I could surround myself with all my stuff (the more stationary I can surround myself with the better). However, if you’re over six foot or don’t like small spaces then this one might not be great for you!
I’ve been here about two weeks now and it’s not long until I’ll be leaving and heading to Vietnam. Here’s a few of the less poignant things I’ve learnt while being here.
1. Do not drink the tap water!
I thought this was more of a ‘guideline’. It is definitely not just a guideline!! Fortunately, I wasn’t being all out crazy so I only brushed my teeth with the water rather than drinking it. I did do this every single night though so this was more than enough to knock me down for a few days.
2. Get a water proof bag.
You always think that your cameras and electronics are probably a bit more sturdy than it says on the box. They’re not. And they’re definitely not waterproof.
3. Don’t assume there’s been a translation issue.
If a local says it’s a 7km trek to a waterfall it’s probably aha 7km trek to a waterfall.
4. I don’t like tobogganing.
Or riding on the back, or going down hills, or going through mountains, or over bumps, or driving myself. In fact, I just generally don’t like motorbikes!
5. Days are beginning to blur.
I Know i’s only been 2 weeks out here but I’m already lost as to what the day or date is. Any slight change to my routine completely throws me off my game.
6. All animals are cleverer than you think they are.
Dogs know exactly how to get the right amount of sympathy to get food off of you, cats know how to hide in your room when you’re not looking, elephants know how to tell you to go away and mosquitoes will get you no matter how hard you try.
7. Crackers fix everything.
I’ve been ill for approximately a third of our travels so far and after all the many medications I’ve tried, I can confirm crackers are the best remedy.
8. I’m not so much of a picnic!
I always worry about how I will manage to put up with other people when I’m going away. (I’m an only child with a very specific required quota of alone time and personal space.) This time, I’m going away with only my other half for 12X the amount of time we’ve ever spent away with each other. Dun dun duuuuuh! However, I did not take into account how hard it would be for him to put up with me. Turns out I’m much more difficult than he is so my mind can be put at rest! ;)
9. Tourists are taking over.
I know I’m one of them so I can’t talk but I just can’t get over how many of us there are. Everywhere you look we’re taking a picture. I’d be more accepting if there were more photos of amazing scenery and less of selfies with that funny guy at the tea stall with the Viking hat… (I just don’t get it!)
10. A rucksack is enough.
When I first picked up my rucksack I wanted to cry. Not only was it unbelievably heavy, it was also not even close to enough stuff what I needed to survive on a daily basis! Or so I thought. Yesterday I threw away my first pieces of clothing that I don’t need. It’s nice knowing I don’t need very much to get by! Even if the rucksack is still about the same size as me.
I took my first ‘big’ flight on Wednesday, outside of Europe, I mean. There were three aisles of seats, TV screens on the back of every seat and free food! It was pure luxury. Though, no matter how many gadgets there were, I was still terrified. The journey was eight hours long, had frequent turbulence and was surrounded by fog. It’s safe to say my excitement was somewhat stifled by fear. Funnily enough, a few days before my flight, I found the beginning of a story about flying that I’d written a couple of years ago. Enjoy!
Tomorrow I’m flying to Bangkok as the first stop of a three month trip around South East Asia. I’ve spent the last two months alternating between planning and procrastinating but the last week has been spent saying ‘bye’. I said bye to my Dad at Leeds train station, I said au revoir to my Mum in London after dog sitting for her for a few days and I’ve said farewell to friends at various events designed to eat, drink and be merry! Here’s a few things I’ve learned from my last week of ‘goodbying’.
I’m just like my parents
I thought I’d be cool saying ‘bye’ to all my friends. I hoped to leave an impression of general cavalier-ness and ‘chill’. However, when it comes down to it I find myself saying all those things my parents would say. ‘You take care now!’ ‘I’ll be thinking of you!’ ‘Wish you were coming!’
There’s a lot I don’t know about my friends
All the gossip comes out now that I’m leaving! We’ve asked each other all sorts of random questions ‘just because’ and there’s been so many unexpected, random answers. Here’s a tip: If you ever want to find out a secret, pretend your going travelling for three months!
I don’t see people enough
Only when it’s too late do you both think ‘oh, this is fun, we should do it more’! Then you have to be like ‘nah, let’s not see each other in an even longer time because I’m getting outta heeeere!’ (That’s my childish way of covering up how much I love my friends and how much I wish I saw them more.)
Emotion surprises you
Let me explain. From what I can tell, saying bye effects you in one of two ways: you either think you’re a very emotional person and it turns out you’re not or you think you aren’t and you are. Here’s my proof. Me – very emotional, not a single tear shed at any ‘goodbye’s’. My boyfriend – not particularly emotional, tears everywhere. That’s an exaggeration but he definitely shed more tears than me and I will be reminding him about it A LOT. So, whatever you thought you were… you’re not.
I have WAY too much stuff
There is stuff everywhere!! It’s under the bed, behind the sofa, in the cupboard, on the cupboard, in the attic, in other peoples attics, crammed into boxes that it can never fit back in, etc. There’s just too much stuff.
But I don’t need that much
After hours of deciding what I will need and what I won’t I have finally managed to fit everything into one large rucksack. It may be jammed in there with the intricacies of a Chinese puzzle and probably will never fit in again after my first night away but t’s nice to see that I can live off so few things.
I love my home town
Occasionally I moan about Leeds but going back there knowing it might be for the last time in a long time made me like every little thing. From the corn exchange where I used to buy numerous pairs of fingerless gloves to the well-loved Leeds United fans.
I’m last minute
I never thought I was last minute. In fact, I have repeatedly described myself as ‘organised’ to many people. Yet, trying to plan my life for the next three months has proven me wrong. I got travel insurance two days ago, scanned my important documents yesterday, finished packing today and I’ll be getting travel money tomorrow… Soooo, not that organised.
Poundland fixes everything
I’ve been saying this for years! No eye mask? Poundland. Need toiletries? Poundland. Want travel sweets? Poundland! Planning for my travels has proved Poundland is wonderful once again.
My favourite thing is notebooks
I think I already knew this but my impending trip has confirmed it. When picking and choosing which belongings to leave behind, I found I had a bit more of an attachment to stationary than I thought. Never have I felt so much pain as choosing between the many untouched notebooks that I’ve bought over the years.
I know nothing about the world
I really have no idea what I’m getting myself into. This becomes more apparent every time someone asks me about my trip and I have NO IDEA. That’s alright though because this way I can be blissfully unaware of all the sticky situations I’m going to get into. Wish me luck!