When I first started to plan this trip I didn’t really know what to expect. I mean I tried to research everything I could, hundreds of hours were spent doing nothing but research, at one point I had 15 books piled up on my desk at home. Each one had been meticulously scrutinized so that I could prepare myself as well as possible. The reality is you cannot. Travel books provide nothing more than an idea, its confidence, determination and absolute cheek that gets you the knowledge you need. I was so naïve to believe that all I had to do was read a few books, search a few web pages and know everything there is to know.
It is hard to imagine how different to the Western World China is, it is portrayed as an arrogant country, fierce on controlling its population and ignorant to the world around it. Whilst there are elements of truth in that the reality of a country is the people. The people of China were amongst the most amazing, inquisitive and independent people I’ve ever come across. Despite the differences between the Chinese governments and those of our world the people were not embroiled in such pathetic arguments. The Chinese people offered us everything, an amazing cuisine, the most memorable historical sights I’ve ever seen, a culture rivaled by none and a hospitality which was far beyond anything I’ve ever known.
I am fully aware we merely scratched the surface of such a huge and diverse country, but I will forever be privileged to have been to such a country.
When we first arrived in Hanoi it was full on and the intensity was only relieved by the fact we had been to Beijing beforehand. But Hanoi is not Vietnam – Proper Vietnam is the villages and coastal cities. Here we experienced a type of person I did know existed; poverty was such that at first I didn’t know how to react to it. There were many occasions that I felt pure guilt at what we were experiencing. I felt guilty wearing clothes that probably amounted to a month’s wages or more of most locals. I felt sadness at the children who were orphaned and begged for every meal. Reality was extreme in Vietnam and it was a bitter pill to swallow – There was a kind of poverty I never knew existed – But at the same time Vietnam will always be the place the kids and I really remember for the closeness we found, the happiness we felt and the adventure we had – One of the most memorable days of my life was in Vietnam.
The reality is the Vietnamese have nothing. Yet from nothing they create for themselves a kind of happiness I crave. There were times we held back tears in Vietnam, there were times we almost cried from laughing.
There is little doubt in any of our minds; Vietnam is the most amazing country any of us have ever visited. Whilst we didn’t do everything we did a lot, we experienced the scenery which I struggle to imagine could ever be improved upon, a climate which was as perfect as could be imagined and people who were simply amazing, welcoming and hospitable.
Malaysia claims to be one of the world’s most beautiful countries and it’s not wrong. Nature prevails and the wildlife was breathtaking. Seeing animals normally reserved to Zoos in the wild was an experience in itself. But getting lost in the rainforests of Borneo! How many people can lay claim to that!! Seeing snakes and monkeys as we try to remember what tree we walked past on the way in! When we left I wanted to give my kids a holiday to remember, and they sure will. The Orangutans are something that even now I still feel so lucky to have experienced.
In Malaysia it was adventure central, you could spend months in Borneo and still only scratch the surface.
In short the kids and I have already had the holiday of a lifetime, we have done things which I never imagined possible. Together we have travelled 18,000 miles using every mode of transport and carrying all our things in 4 bags. We have been travelling now for 6 weeks and have taken in what I believe are some of the most amazing countries on earth. We have experienced things that will take a hell of a lot of beating and we all have memories which we will cherish forever. I feel the kids have matured and learnt so much that it can only have a positive effect on them – Yes at times reality has bitten and they have been privy to things reserved normally for the most hard heartened of people. But in my 2 young kids I have realized an understanding which could never be taught and a happiness which is difficult to find.
We leave for familiar territory now, but the adventure is not over. Whilst I know the US is not like Asia it still holds some great experiences.
I would just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made this adventure possible. It has not been easy and first of all I would like to thank Charlie and Abi. At times things have been bloody difficult – Believe me walking 3mi following a hand drawn map in 40+ degree heat with all our gear is not easy. Or when we have had several early morning flights on succession, you are knackered and still the kids dug in and gave their all. Mosquito bitten, sun burned, covered in sweat and knackered they pushed on. There were times I was frustrated and angry and they just did as they were told (most of the time) and they have made this holiday to be the dream I hoped it would be.
Then there is everyone back in the UK who has helped, even in the smallest ways. Everything has helped contribute to the smooth running of this trip and without all of you we would have struggled to keep the dream alive. You all know who you are and for what you have done we are more grateful than you ever knew possible.
Thanks for making our dream a reality.
Next stop the USA….