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This is the End?

sunny 3 °C
View South East Asia on suzebert's travel map.

'Twas the night before our return to Ireland, and all that stirred were the loud drunken Brits three stories underneath my bloody window. Welcome to Amsterdam!

This little sojourn in Amsterdam has, I think, been a bit unfair to the city. We arrived to dangerously low temperatures and ridiculously high prices and promptly suffered a wee bit of culture shock. We have made a terrible mistake we thought, we should have gone straight back to Dublin, we should have stayed in Thailand, quick get on the next plane back to Bangkok!

After adding a couple of extra layers to our clothing, we ventured out. It was my first time in Amsterdam and it is a beautiful city, for the most part. I have to admit my opinion of the city has been completely tainted by the context of the last six months in Asia. For some odd and unfortunate reason, despite booking four months in advance, there was a lack of cheap (but not cheap by Asia standards!) and available accommodation in the quieter, and in my opinion more pleasant, part of the city. We were situated on the outskirts of the Red Light District, which didn't bother me (after experiencing the joys of Patpong in Bangkok, we've seen it all), but it rather feels quite like what I imagine staying in the centre of Temple Bar to be.

And so I'm dragged right back into the horrors of inner city Dublin, dodging drunks and piles of vomit and realising how much I spent on that coffee I just drank.


Is that it then? Back to "reality"? Will the last six months just fade into a distant memory so that it feels like it never even happened? That, I have decided, is entirely up to me. This trip has had many highs and some lows. The lows I can learn from but the high points are what I have to remember (read: desperately cling on to) and take home with me - I wish I could pack a Thai smile - and I don't necessarily mean specific moments or memories. What I mean is quite hard to articulate but what I can only describe as the feeling of freedom and the attitude that very little is ever really worth getting that stressed out over.

I acknowledge the attitude is a by-product of the freedom, it's relatively easy to dismiss a cancelled flight or a change in weather when you have no plans to disrupt and the ability to stay a few days extra here and cut short a stay there. If you are unable to attain that attitude - and it is difficult to get used to - then I would think you wouldn't last long on an extended trip through Asia where a lot of things go wrong a lot of the time. Your train is very likely to be late, there will always be someone waiting to scam you at a bus station and 90% of people will not speak English well enough to understand the question 'where is our remote control for the air conditioner'.

The feeling of freedom will undoubtedly take a hammering when I get a job and the requirement to answer to someone else (boo), but the attitude I hope to keep, alongside a sense of extreme luck. We have been so very lucky to be able to take so much time out and travel and to return - shock, horror - debt free! We'll be poor for sure, but debt free is quite an achievement I think.

I am quite looking forward to getting home and seeing much missed friends and family and discovering what's next. I don't think I'll be choosing to get on another plane any time soon, my travel bug (the existence of which I have doubted several times during this trip) is well and truly satisfied...for now....

I did promise you a philosophical entry and I'm sure it hasn't made much in the way of any sense so go read this short post, it's much nicer: http://hiandthankyou.com/2010/knowing-the-place-for-the-first-time

That's all folks....thank you very much for taking the time to read this blog, the fact that even one person (who isn't my mammy) would read it means a lot. What would also mean a lot is if you buy us a drink next time you see us...we're pretty broke.

Suze & Will (I am giving him credit, despite the fact that he's snoring beside me, because that's the kind of awesome person I am)


Posted by suzebert 10:41 Archived in Netherlands Tagged home amsterdam random netherlands Comments (3)

Random Musings

sunny 33 °C
View South East Asia on suzebert's travel map.

As we wind down toward heading home I began to think of the number of weeks we will have travelled for and the number of UNESCO sites we've visited and so on as well as the things we'll miss and the ones we won't, so I thought I'd blog about it, interesting huh?

Things we will miss when we're back home:
The heat (but maybe not the immense sweats)
The lack of work and the resulting ability for plenty of naps :)
Cheap living: beer that costs €1.50 and a massage for €4
Doing/experiencing something new everyday
The food!
The smiles
The colours - everything is brighter in the sunshine
Random Asian craziness (e.g. a donut selling scooter below)


Things we won't miss:
Airports/bus & train stations
The inability to flush your toilet paper
Using bottled water to brush our teeth
The constant sell
Living out of a bag
Mosquitos and the DEET and the poxy Doxy that goes with them

The Numbers

Weeks travelled: 27 weeks and 6 days (doesn't sound like a lot does it?)
Countries visited: 6
Passport stamps: 24
UNESCO Heritage sites: 9 (Sukothai, Luang Prabang, Georgetown, Anuradhapura, Sigirya, Kandy, Galle, Mulu National Park, Melaka)
Flights: 25 (quite a large carbon footprint I must admit)
Items lost (so far): 1 camera and 1 ATM card (we still have a week to go I hope I don't jinx it)
Average weight of packs: Will 14kg Suze 18kg (chivalry's dead or I just carry too much crap)
Tubs of tiger balm: 3
Bottles of DEET: 8
Books read: 20

Too many to count - the number of times we've been offered a tuk-tuk and a suit; mosquito bites

And the big one...

By the time we arrive back in Dublin we will have travelled: 42,427km/26,364m

Posted by suzebert 16:27 Archived in Thailand Tagged random Comments (1)

Prepare Yourselves...

Will writes a blog post

sunny 31 °C
View South East Asia on suzebert's travel map.

This is Will typing. For better or for worse, I've decided to give this blogging business a go. Suze has been updating with reports of places we have visited so far so I'm going to try and do something a little different and try to give an overview of what we have experienced so far. I hope to write a few posts describing the random weirdness, the feelings about being away from home while the country undergoes an 'adjustment', the food and other possible tangential (Ed: I challenged him, apparently it is a word) thoughts.

I am humbled by South East Asia. You forget that many of these countries are open economies, open for business, with huge populations of cheap labour and have economies of scale to match. Thailand, for the most part, puts Ireland to shame in terms of education, healthcare, infrastructure and public transport. I've seen less homeless people in Bangkok than I have walking down Camden Street, the transport and road systems are unbelievably cheap and efficient, and from meeting a fellow Irishman who came down with Dengue Fever, I've learned that a spell in a Thai hospital is a far more pleasant experience than it would be at home.

Even Malaysia, which isn't even a first-world country, has better healthcare, better public transport and is quite obviously booming. The amount of western investment here is clearly huge and it's hard to walk through a retail area without noticing the wealth of 'help wanted' signs (Ed. they have not, however, heard of employment laws as many places specifically ask for women under the age of 30!). Throw in the nice weather, friendly people and cheap living and it's a good place to be.

Thailand is actually in recession, tourism is down and they're desperately trying to devalue their currency (without much success) to remain competitive. The Thai government was not democratically elected, but the result of a coup a few years ago (elections are promised once the political situation is stable but it's unclear as to when this will be). Despite this, the current government has been communicating clearly on their economic position, outlining the steps to recovery and their attempts to deal with currency fluctuation, political and civil unrest and the challenges they face.

WARNING – the rest of this piece is a complete rant about Ireland. Look away now, or at least wear protective goggles.

How nice does that sound to an Irish person who has been kept in the dark by our leaders, who are hanging in there despite the public outcry for change, having been nailed to a doomed economic policy which has now resulted in our financial decision-making being transferred to Europe and the IMF? Thailand is definitely not perfect; there is large-scale corruption, censorship and other social issues. However, it appears to me that they have provided the sound basis for structural and societal foundations that will continue to improve the region, regardless of who is in power. Walking around here, it just strikes me that Europe, and especially Ireland, will not be able to compete with this region in the future. There's more of them, they'll be better educated, more flexible and will simply prove more of a draw to multinational corporations, if that is not already the case. Don't mention the 12.5% corporation tax rate!

I do miss home, but reading the news makes it an awful lot easier not to miss home. The past few nights, I have stayed up late watching the two 7pm announcements from the Fuhrer Brian Cowen and Goebels Lenihan. In both cases, I was expecting resignations, humility and a pledge to do the best for Irish citizens but no, all we got was contempt, ill-humoured waffle and some sort of mistaken belief that history will prove them correct. Ireland is no longer a country; it is an outpost station for Project Europe. Every single decision that has been taken since at least September 2008 has been to service the best interests of the EU rather than Irish citizens.

As I write this, the media predicts that Portugal is next with Spain possibly teetering on the brink. Once this happens, and it looks ever more likely, what's going to happen to us? If Europe has failed to stop the financial contagion to other nations, we are in trouble. It will be less about treating the Irish issue sensitively, if it ever was, more about hacking and slashing at public services in a bid to satisfy the bond markets and to move on to the next diseased nation.

Yes, yes, I know, I know. Some of you are saying I should forget about all this, just enjoy my holiday, but it's hard to do that when the Bangkok Post is covering every detail of the situation, the Indonesian press is dissecting how our bailout is hammering their currency, BBC World is camped outside Leinster House and we, being people who want to live, work and contribute in Ireland, will be returning home next year to the prospect of increased civil unrest, a new government, increased taxation and an even worse national mood.

For the record, I am enjoying my trip; I'm loving it in fact. I'm seeing new things, getting an outsiders view, eating the most amazing food and living on pennies. It's bloody amazing. That said, when you mention you're from Ireland, people look at you as if you'd mentioned you'd bought a two-bed apartment in Lucan in 2007 at a Dublin house party.

I promise that my next post will be about weird food, missing lucozade, the crazy Lese Majeste laws in Thailand, buying a sweet acoustic guitar and being eaten alive by mosquitoes. In the meantime, keep the country warm for me, switch on the engine on my car every couple of days and make f**king certain that Fianna Fail and the Greens are annihilated come the supposed January elections.

Posted by suzebert 01:25 Archived in Malaysia Tagged ireland random asia Comments (0)

The beginning...

semi-overcast 25 °C

Right well here you go then, a blog. Who knows how often I'll update it but it may save me sending various emails to various people and forgetting what details I've told to whom.

I have also to share the difficulty two "creative" marketing people had coming up with a title for this blog. For your reading pleasure, here are some the suggestions (mostly from Will I must admit) that thankfully ended up on the trash heap:
I can't believe it's not Buddha
Squats the Story
The Turd is the Word
No I don't need a suit, a tuk-tuk or a wooden frog
Thai Me Kangaroo Down Sport

Well that's embarrassing. You may have noticed a toilet theme...that's just what happens to our conversations when we travel....also, Will seems to have a thing for rhymes.

Anyhoo, I'll be back dating some posts regarding Bangkok, Chang Mai and Pai. Alot of it will be copied and pasted from emails I sent around so you shouldn't miss out on anything for those of you I bothered to email :)

Enjoy and feel free to post comments!

Posted by suzebert 00:11 Archived in Thailand Tagged random Comments (0)

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