It wasn’t the vast cost, the quitting everything, the giving away of all my earthly possessions save from what’s on my back and my camera gear – it was a single palm tree en-route from airport to hotel that made me realise I’m escaping from reality…
Backtrack to 3 years ago, still living in Surbiton with Rob and Karina I noticed that I was using various means to stop facing up to the real world.. computer games, fantasy books, alcohol, cigarettes, work, you name it – I’d use it to escape..
Around that time I stopped fully committing to work, not doing 9-9 with PETA that I used to before. It was a real turning point because work was my absolute life! So to lose that out of the equation knocked me sideways.
I struggled on – unaware of what the issue was and blaming PETA for their (and sometimes rightly so) abuse of their staff – I just shut off after 5pm and went home to live my life each day.
I’m typing this and thinking “So what? Most people shut off after 5pm” but it’s a thing that only certain employees would be able to look at and agree with on my level.. Charity workers perraps, hmm??
Anyway, this ‘divide’ happened at the time of a revamp to PETA UK’s website and I noticed I got heavily into fantasising away, and not really living in this world and the work suffered as a result. It got worse.. I didn’t meet with my friends as often, I burrowed deeper and deeper into my own hellish psyche, but at least it was one that loved its own company.
Finally setting off
14 hours on a flight to Hanoi from Gatwick, 3 hours stopover in Hanoi which gave me a chance to prove that no matter where you are in the world, beer prices will still hit you in the face.
16 degrees and cloudy, looking out from the restaurant already didn’t have the impact it should have, given that I was on a different continent.. it’s still an airport like any other.. (aside from the ridiculous £1 = 34,000 Vietnamese Dongs)
MERRY CHRISTMAS bunting emblazoned over the arches to the doors of the first bar/restaurant I went into, sad Vietnamese muzak renditions of Christmas classics including Slade (though didn’t stick around until the ‘iiiiiitt’s chrriiiiiiiiiiisssttmmaaaaaaas’ line, to see if they could pull it off with such verbosity!)
Couple that with $4.90 a half beer and a maximum stay of 30 minutes and I was already put off by SE Asia’s charms.. until a German walked in, mid-40’s maybe, wife in tow, had seen the world.. he was in the Seychelles when the tsunami hit back in ’05 and had some tales to tell of near misses, tidal freakiness and some other things his poor English didn’t catch my drift with.
I went for another drink somewhere else in the airport, and came back to the same place only to be turned away with a smile.. “You no come in”.. which took a couple of follow up conversations for me to realise I wasn’t allowed back in – I’m stuck in a culture where I don’t know the etiquette, was I rude? Was I English? Was I someone who just wanted a drink and no food? I’ll never know so I smiled and apologised for something I wasn’t aware of..
Then I went camera in hand around the airport
I had a bit of an ashamed moment.. some Welsh guys, 4, or 5 of them had gotten the same flight as me and were in the airport at the same time waiting for presumably the same flight. I don’t have a thing against the Welsh, one of my best friends is one, but these guys were on a booze cruise, ladyboy lookout, drugfest, party-athon.. and at the airport at 06:15, drunk, effing and blinding. The shame came from the years of abuse other nations have had at our hands, through our overdrinking, shouting, swearing, being nasty – and because I’m not doing that I have the right to rant off on it..
I had a change of heart towards the girl who turned me away at the restaurant door – perhaps she thought I was one of them?!? I wouldn’t have let them in on general principle.
Off to Stage 1 of the magical mystery tour
As usual, all internal flights are on rickety, sellotaped aeroplanes. This was no different. At least throughout both stages I didn’t have to pay for anything at all.. food and drink were both available if asked for, or otherwise by grabbing the attention of the attendants as they rushed past.
Once again I was sandwiched between two monosyllabic people, no-one wanted to speak (well, of course, that includes me) so it was a three hour silent flight over to Thailand for stage 1, the plan with no plan, the marvellous adventures of Matt..
Arrived at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi airport
Taxis!! “Taxi?”, “Taxi?”, “Taxi?” offers everywhere you go.. likely to rip you off too, I hear – so I asked an information guy at a random counter and he told me to head off to the taxi rank downstairs. These guys are metered and they’ll tell you in advance of your journey how much it’s going to be, and stick to it.. 400 Baht for a 45 minute taxi ride, (that’s around £8) on meter through busier streets than a black cab could handle and I’m at my luxury hotel for the next two days!
This baby cost 1698 Baht for two nights, so around £37 all-in.. I booked it with cash at home so it didn’t eat into my fund whilst away, but I definitely needed a touch of comfort for getting over jetlag and planning the adventure stage 2.
Got to my room and at first was a little unimpressed, but it soon seemed to grow on me.
The hallway is pretty tasty, sorry for random hallway shots!
But most of all it’s awesome for getting places on public transport.. I found this out having arrived, shed my load and sat for a cigarette in the smoking room.. A couple, the girl from South Shields (ey Mum et al!) have been travelling for 8 months now.. they went Buenos Ares > Rio > Argentina > Rio > Argentina > Peru > Chile > New Zealand > Australia > Bali > Laos > Thailand! They’re now going to spend 2 months here and bugger off to India! It’s possible to get just about anywhere courtesy of the SkyTrain being moments away..
We had a great chat for an hour or so over beer and cigarettes, gave some great advice and I was left very impressed how they manoeuvred through each country and each time without solid plans.. exactly what I want to do..
Back to back to reality..
The palm tree I saw today didn’t fit in with my usual view on the world, it was hot, there was a palm tree, it was foreshadowed with standing water, there were others around. It hit me!! Right then and there! I was on foreign soil escaping with a purpose!! I didn’t realise it until today and I don’t expect you to understand fully, but that one vista made me realise that I wanted to escape a lot, I have done since childhood.. the aim with this trip is to get that full-on dose of ‘out of reality’ which should be able to kick start me when I get back, I’m hoping!
The next step is the islands
I’ve gotta chill out and I have to see Bangkok, then plan the next stages, so tomorrow will be that day – see what Bangkok has to offer and then back in time to somehow plan the 12 hour bus journey to the islands. To be very definitely continued….