My travelling past

While I’ve been to the UK four times, and Ireland twice, it’s Asia that always draws me back to herself.

It started 23 years ago with my first trip to India. Boy, did that explode my world! Scared shitless my first day in Bombay (as it was then called), I nevertheless grew to love the chaos and colour, the smells and the buzz of the place.

I went four times to India, each time for three months or so, adding up to a year there. I can still speak fluent Hindi (well, to the level of a 3 year old), largely getting my practice in via cab drivers here in Sydney. I stayed in Delhi, Lucknow, and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh; Patna in Bihar; Bhopal, Jabalpur and more in Madhya Pradesh; Bombay, Nagpur and small villages nearby in Maharashtra; and Bangalore and Hyderabad down south.

In Patna I rented a house with some friends in a Muslim part of town for a month and lived amongst them, wearing the chador when out of the house, buying at the markets, cooking for ourselves and just experiencing Indian life. In Nagpur I spent a week living in a slum. I’ve slept on the pavement with the locals at the airport, when we landed at an inconvenient hour and no hotels would be open. I’ve had yummy dinners at Gond villages, been Christmas carolling under the stars, spent too many hours on trains, had things nicked. But what experiences and memories I have.

Ten years went by and I didn’t travel. And then I met Dom, and it all started again. He’s English, and we had a long distance relationship for three years while his visa application for Australia was being processed. Each time I’d go to the UK I’d visit Thailand or Malaysia on the way there or back. I stayed on beautiful Phi Phi Island before the tsunami, and the lush green Tioman Island, and got acquainted with Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

We honeymooned in Cambodia (Dead Kennedys song!), seeing the spectacular Angkor Wat, the lush green Battambang, the bustling Phnom Penh, the beautiful ocean off Sihanoukville. Then we flew to Vietnam, exploring the cultural heritage of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, trekking in the stunning mountain area of Sapa in the north, cruising Halong Bay and the Mekong Delta, eating the best food ever at Hoi An among centuries-old houses, and checking out beaches in Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Cua Dai. What an adventure.

More recently we’ve travelled in northern Thailand and Laos. We’ve had a cold beer Lao in Vientiane as the sun went down, seen the natural beauty of Vang Vieng, strolled through Luang Prabang with its gold-topped wats and temples, trekked in Luang Nam Tha, marvelled at the ruins of Wat Phou in Champasak, and enjoyed the river rushing past our bungalow in Si Phan Don.

We’ve seen the beautiful islands and beaches of Thailand too – had bunglows on Ko Samui before they got bulldozed and developed as lush resorts, and swam, snorkelled or dived at Ko Phangan, Ko Tao, Krabi and Railay.

We threw in a holiday to Fiji (Yasawas, Mamanucas, Nadi, Suva, southern coast) and one to Western Australia seeing Perth, Monkey Mia and Ningaloo Reef, just to mix it up a bit.

But it’s back to South East Asia we’re returning for Christmas. There’s a little island off the coast of Sihanoukville in Cambodia, and it hasn’t been overdeveloped yet. In fact, there are only 25 bungalows on the island. We so want to go while it’s still small, and quiet.

And before then, I head back to Malaysia in November – KL, Penang, Langkawi and maybe even Ko Lipe, here I come!