I’m home now. It didn’t feel quite right ending this blog on oh I got stabbed in the leg by my handle and now I’m flying home, so here’s my attempt at concluding something, anything.
When I set out on this trip I had a few goals – eat new things, eat well, meet people and have experiences unique to wherever I was. I had a few ideas of how to achieve this. Eating well I’ve talked about enough so I’ll skip that. The next two kind of go hand in hand (it’s very difficult to have some kind of unique cultural experience without knowing any locals) – and my strategy for those was simple – ride my bike and hitchhike. I figure trains and busses are pretty much the same anywhere and almost always you have complete control over where you go. Get a ticket for the Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok train and that’s exactly where you’re going to go. If I’d done that here’s no way I would have gone to Chaiya, Terong or any of those nameless, empty beaches. I would never have even had the idea. When you’re bike touring you have no choice. You have to go random places you’ve never heard of everyday simply because they’re on the way. Hitchhiking on the other hand forces you to meet people, there’s no way around it. What’s amazing to me now is how doing those two things affected my normal behaviour. The more I hitchhiked or rode my bike, forcing myself to meet people and get out of the city, the more I found myself approaching complete strangers on the street and talking to them.
I’ve got a pretty shitty map and I was really confused where the next town (substantial enough to require a hotel) would be. I stopped at a batter-fried banana stall and asked a family hanging out behind the counter. They said the next town, Mentakab, would have some cheap hotels but it was about 30km away. If I stayed in Lanchang I could go to a homestay (a semi-commercialised and common b’n’b practice in Malaysia).
“how much for a homestay?”
“about 150 ringgit.” That’s about $50. I must have made some kind of appalling face because they all laughed.
“Too much?” said a large set man with jagged teeth, a scarred cheek and a beanie.
“Yeah that’s expensive.” I felt awkward saying that because I had obviously spent hundreds of $$$ just to get here and these guys run a fried-banana stall on the side of a highway.
“You stay at my house,” said the beanie man.
I had two thoughts:
1. This guy looks like fighting
2. Ah whatever, I’m probably prejudice anyway. I definitely want to stay in your house.
One of the others, the laughiest one, in a uniform and wearing a head scarf, said that she was his sister and he would look after me.
Lang, Inna and their son live in a small village surrounding one dirt road on the outskirts of Lanchang. It’s totally chaotic and beautiful. There are chickens, monkeys and cats running around chasing shit, there are kids all over place and all the houses are constructed by so many different materials they look like they’ve fortuitously landed that way following a rather charitable hurricane. Their house was at the end of the village on the edge of the river.
A few minutes later I approach a running man smiling like a toothpaste advertisement.
“Hello,” he says, his eyebrows jumping like horny rabbits. . . He said he was saving money for a holiday in Australia and he would like to take me out to dinner. . .
Like almost every random dinner encounter I’ve had on this trip, I was ridiculously over-fed. Red faced and squinting through a cloud of soju, Jong-Jim told me;
“Korea has a poor history. We like to eat until we are full.”
Another dish arrives at the table. The third round, it’s a plate of char-grilled mackerel.
“Are you full?” I ask. I too am feeling woozy. Jong-Jim treats my beer glass like his bank account.
“Yes . . . I’m ready to eat.” He says.
We had another two rounds after that. Drunk and full we stumbled home three hours later.
The rainbow continues.
It’s been incredibly successful. Exhaustingly so. If I was to go back and make a grade report on my trip it would be all As, all enjoyment, golden waves swept me up and drowned me in fortune.
The only tiny regret I have, and it really is a tiny one, is going to Europe. A small part of me wishes I’d gone somewhere else, somewhere I’d never been before, maybe somewhere a bit more adventurous, a bit harder maybe. I think the main reason I feel that way is because I’ve learnt so much on this trip but I didn’t really have that feeling so much in Europe, comparatively anyway. Europe was no less fun it just wasn’t, I dunno, different enough?
I remember back in 2007 when I was on my first long trip and my friends and I wanted to try couchsurfing. I remember reading all these profiles with people saying things like ‘My mission is to learn about myself through the world’, ‘travel brings people together’ and ‘I want to learn about other cultures by meeting people’ – what a pile of wankers. I thought they all must be naive or stupid. Well that was judgemental and stupid of me because now those are all the things I want to say but I can’t find the right words because I feel like a wanker. Here goes – I think this trip has taught me a lot about the world and probably more about myself. It’s hard to say exactly what but I feel vaguely older or more understanding and better at things. It’s a very nice feeling and I’m curious whether anyone at home will notice anything or I’m simply gorging on the psychological cocaine of travel and it’s all just a dream.
I’ve hardly said anything or explained myself at all but I still feel like a wanker, which is probably ridiculous but I’m going to stop talking. The aim of this post was just to thank everyone. I’ve had such a fucking excellent time, beyond what I’d ever thought was possible, and it’s all because of a whole bunch of incredibly nice, amazing people – strangers who for whatever reason helped me, fed me, housed me, befriended me and taught me about their world. So for whoever’s reading this, anyone I’ve met anywhere along this journey, thanks. Thanks for your friendship, thanks for the drops of gold and thanks for the rainbows.
And finally, people who are reading this, thanks. Anytime you said anything about this blog I felt very happy and sometimes I even felt good at what I do.
Distance travelled: 2628km
Longest day: 122km
Distance travelled: 5548km
Rides taken: 94
Longest day: 474km
Average wait: 19minutes