I’m at the airport in Malaga to fly back to London; it’s quite ironic how I’m going from the same airport that I took the first leg of my travels from. It’s not for that reason, it’s just because Ryanair were advertising £8 per seat, and the cheeky buggers charged an extra £40 for me to take my backpack – that’s the same as fiveseats.
I’ve never experienced so many high and low points in such a short space of time over the past five and a half months, even with my prior jobs. Some of the things I’ve seen and done have been amazing, yet there’s been a few places that have been disappointing.
When I was in South Africa, four of us walked in Johannesburg whilst it was dark – 8pm or so. Someone came up to us, harassing us for money. When it’s dark I’m not getting my purse out on the street and absolutely no chance of doing that in South Africa, even if I am paying someone to piss off. Upon refusal, which took him about ten minutes to give up asking, he told us “Jesus will punish you (us).” Sometimes I think back to that moment and wonder if I spared £1, would anything have been different, in particular, with hostels. With that said I still enjoyed a lot of the past few months.
Looking back, what sticks out most was starting in Africa – I think I would’ve gotten a lot more out of the tour if I chose one that incorporated the Okavango Delta. Still, it was great, and awesome to trek rhinos on foot, see animals in their natural environment and watch a herd of elephants pass our safari jeep. The Great Wall was great, India was really eye-opening to see how they really live in poor countries.
Spending three days in Cambodia pleasantly surprised me with the temples in Siem Reap and the food is great (also found the Australian sweets, Party Mix in the supermarket, cheaper than in Australia.) Technically went into North Korea for a few minutes; hopefully one day soon, the North and South will resolve their differences. Getting around via tuk tuk was pretty cool and getting hopelessly lost in the Tokyo metro system was to be expected. Egypt for sure was the highlight – absolutely mindblowing. And I got to see some baby pandas in China – they were really cute.
What I felt let down by was majorly Vietnam – I’d heard some amazing things and I didn’t want to get on a moped (ended up doing it anyway). I went through the cities, trying to do day trips such as Ha Long Bay, going south as I didn’t want to overdo it on the travel days (ended up doing it anyway). The food was amazing, probably the place I ate best, but other than that I couldn’t help but feel as though it was very gentrified towards the tourists.
Beer costs around 50p there, and going down a street in Ho Chi Minh, I had countless people try and get me into their bars advertising Happy Hour, discounts I can imagine to be not very much for a westerner. For me, I think I said previously, it’s a shame that they have so much to show off in terms of food and things that they can access locally, but it’s easier to get money out of tourists by enticing them with cheap booze. Since then, I’ve spoken to people about it and some have recommend just sticking to the north instead for the outdoors. I don’t really feel as though I need to go to Vietnam again, though I am gutted I didn’t get to get a tailor-made dressing gown there.
I’ve also noticed that half the world seem to be behind a phone screen. It’s something that I may not have noticed enough to comment on it whilst travelling through Europe and Australia, but going through Vietnam and through markets in Cambodia, a lot of people had their eyes glued to their screen, only looking up to try and get you to spend your money. In India some of the guides for the sites would have their phone ring and they’d pause, sort it out, and continue with no apology for being rude. Now it’s something that I make an effort not to do so much and opt to read on my kindle instead, saving browsing Instagram for cat pictures for when I want people in hostels to not talk to me. I guess the kindle is still a screen, but I get a lot more out of it.
Also, I’ve been in shared accommodation for the best part of three years now. For every week I’m in a hostel, I must get woken up by someone at least five days, and I’m sick of everyones shit. I was at the point when flying into Asia, thinking that I’d seen everything and I soon realised that I hadn’t, and nothing really surprises me anymore.
Moving forwards, I’m in the process of getting a visa for New Zealand, valid for 23 months, after I hopefully prove tomorrow during a medical that I’m not dying of TB. I have my first two weeks planned out, travelling solo. I’ll book everything this coming week instead of booking whilst I travel so that it’s not something to worry about.
In terms of getting around, to get the most out of it I’ll be driving. It’s not really too difficult to wind me up, but hopefully the only thing that’ll be out to annoy me is the fact that I can’t park very well, instead of getting annoyed by people. I wrote up a plan and quickly decided that I wanted to stay out of the cities and instead embrace the nature and wildlife. The plan is to spend a day in Christchurch, then getting the bus down to Dunedin to a peninsular and going on a tour through there. Afterwards, I’ll hire a car and have a long drive to Milford Sound, driving into the center(ish) of the Southern Island via Queenstown, only stopping for a Fergburger. I figure staying there and sharing space with people who’ve jumped out of airplanes and dangled from bridges by elastic will annoy me, so just the burger will do. Then I’l stick to the West Coast, do the glaciers and get the Ferry to the North Island.
In the North Island I’m joining a friend, where we’re camping for most of it, and remains unplanned until I go to Australia in January. I can’t wait to visit the Shire from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, amongst more of the places the films were set. After that, I’ll need to get a job as this is by far the most expensive country I’ve been to, not taking the flights into consideration, and I’ve not even stepped foot there yet.
I still need to figure out where to go between New Years and Australia. I was thinking Greece, but I think Egypt has ruined everything historical for me for quite some time, plus the flights are expensive. Flights to Iceland look better, but I know it’s an expensive country and it’s cold. I want to stick somewhere close to the UK without flying over France in case the French go on strike. Belgium, Luxembourg and Andorra are the only places in Western Europe I’ve not travelled through alone, and I would quite like to see what Holland has to offer, without being surrounded by tourists (mainly Brits) off their faces. I’ll work it out soon, but I’m thinking return flights to Holland and pop to Brussels, returning to London for a flight to Melbourne.