Previous Trip: China 2013

21st October - Muse

Today is the big day, will we get the first overland tourist truck into Burma? Oh yes we will and how easy it was. To be fair Dragoman have been working for two years to make this trip happen and everything has been agreed with the Burmese Government. Our Burmese travel consultants had been at the border for three days preparing them for our coming. As it turned out it was one of the easiest crossings ever.

Neither Chinese nor Burmese customs even got on our truck. They didn't look into a single bag. I guess most of the paperwork had already been done. We arrived at the Chinese side at 9:30 and we were through into Myanmar (as I should call it) by mid-day or 10:30 as it is in Myanmar time.

Went for lunch which was really good. Proper lean meat, spicy, flavoursome and cheap. Spare ribs, pork and ginger and a big beer for about £4. We then took a walk around the Buddhist temple where there was a ceremony / party for the new monks. Groups of young men and women were marching into the temple from all over the town and laying flowers. All of the dressed up beautifully and so colourfully. We took photos of them, they took photos of us.

Some of them then lined up for a formal group photo and I took a picture as well.

I've been travelling for 6 weeks or so and today is the first day I've felt ay home. Immediately I'm loving Burma. More hustle and bustle, more random, more colour, more smiles, more friendly, more inquisitive. Amazing what a change you get just crossing a border. We are a novelty being the first truck over the border, they get very few Westerners around here, but they seem genuinely happy to see us in a slightly quizzical way. And don't get me started or the shy little smiles I get from all the young women!

22nd October - Travel day to Hsipaw

First day proper in Myanmar and the first thing to say is we have four Burmese travelling with us. We have Zew from the travel company which Dragoman have affiliated with for the trip. We also have a bar which will drive in front of the truck for the whole trip. That contains a guy from the Ministry of Tourist and Hotels and his two 'drivers'. Theoretically they should smooth our way across Burma. But they did not get off to a good start! About 30 minutes out of Muse we hit a check point and we were missing a signature. So out man from the ministry had to go back to Muse and get it. So we had in the end two hours waiting around. But I made the most of it and got out to meet the locals. Found this family who were laying out the corn to dry. They then grind it into flour. The 7 year old boy spoke some English, he invited me over, brought out a chair and we had a chat. I think he was happy to get out of work for a while and to practice his English.

We drove on through more great scenery, hills and rivers, little villages, lots of rice and corn fields. When we drive through villages we get a range of reactions, surprise, amazement, bemusement, more shy smiles, some big waves; we are like travelling royalty. We stopped off at a market for lunch which turned out to be a buffet of varying levels of appetising. I avoided the boiled chicken heads.

In the evening we camped at a temple / monastery. I'd rather be in town meeting locals, sampling local food, sleeping in a bed and having a shower but Dragoman seem to want to camp even though we are 10 minutes from decent looking hotels. Anyway if we have to camp, this was a very good spot to do it which the temple lit up in the background.

23rd October - Hsipaw and travel to Pyin U Lwin

In the morning we spent an hour with the people who lived in and around the temple. We chatted, danced with the kids and took photos of them taking photos of us.

Today we had the morning free to explore Hsipaw. The place had a nice bustle to it and plenty to see. Temples and monasteries and an area they call little Bagan, which contains quite a few stupas (pointy religious things) from log ago most of which haven't been restored. So they are heavily worn brick structures which are starting to be grown over by trees and plants. We then went into a Teak Temple which contains a Bamboo Buddha. We looked around and made a donation and then an old monk came over and beckoned the four of us to sit down and he gave us coffee and biscuits. A real nice touch on a nice morning.

After an afternoon drive over the hills and down the valleys containing 25 or 30 hairpins we got to the outskirts of Pyin U Lwin. An old British hill station town now populated by a large Anglo-Indo community among others. Great, beer and a curry ... or not. We are camping again. Great view across to another temple but it's not a Chicken Jalfrazii and pint of Tiger.

24th October - Pyin U Lwin and the road to Mandalay

The scenic town of Pyin U Lwin is located about an hour from Mandalay and began as a British military outpost. Later, because of its cool and temperate climate it became a hill station and was the summer capital of Burma, where many people (particularly wives and children) would go to escape the summer heat. There are many attractive colonial buildings and an impressive botanical gardens.

We drove into town and a few of us walked out to The National Kandawgji Gardens which were set up by a colonial Brit in 1915. They are a sort of Burmese Kew Gardens. Big wide open lawns, flower beds, labeled plants and trees. There was an area with 30 different types of bamboo, an orchid garden and a viewing tower (folly). The gardens were beautifully tended by hundreds of Burmese planting, cutting and keeping things tidy.

We left by a back gate to get back to town and just through the gate we saw an ape in the tree above us, my guess is it was a gibbon. It was just sitting in the branches quite low down. As we walked down the path it swang through the trees in a supple, lanquid sort of way. When we got to the end there was a stall selling food. When the saw the gibbon they threw up a banana which it caught and ate. Amazing how human it looked in its actions

After lunch we got on the Road to Mandalay which wound its way down off of the hilly plateau into the Mandalay Plains. As we made our way down you could certainly feel the temperature and humidity rising.

25th October - Mandalay

In 1857 King Mindo founded a new royal capital at the foot of Mandalay Hill, from where the city took its name. On the death of the King the monastery in which he died was dismantled and removed from the Royal Palace as it was thought it would bring bad fortune. It was rebuilt outside the palace walls, so when The Royal Palace was destroyed by fire at the end of the 2nd World War the Monastery with its intricate wooden carvings were saved.

We visited the monastery and it is beautiful. Really intricately carved teak. The roof, walls, doors all carved with different figures and scenes. Later on I went into the palace area where they have rebuilt the bombed out buildings in a similar style but mainly using galvanise. It must have been some sight before the war.

We drove the truck up Mandalay Hill rather than climb the 1,300 or so steps, probably best with the majority of the group accustomed to getting everywhere with their free bus passes. At the top is a temple and a few stupas along with a great view of Mandalay. At the foot of Mandalay Hill is found the world's largest book; 729 white stupas house the text of the Tripitaka, Theravada Buddhism's most sacred text. The book is carved in 729 marble slabs each housed in its own little temple. Below are some of the little houses with Mandalay Hill in the background.

From here we saw a few more Temples, Pagodas and Stupas. Lots of pointy, golden religious thingys. One contained the Golden Buddha which I think stared off as a plain Buddha but people keep putting gold leaf on it. Whilst we were there we could watch them laying on the leaves. Our guide told us that it's thought the Buddha now has 20kg of gold covering it.

Later most of the group went off to the biggest teak bridge in the world to watch the sunset but I stayed in town and had a walk around. I found a workshop come shop where they were making gold leaf. Amazing process. They start off with a piece of gold about the size of your little finger from the top knuckle up. This then goes through a machine which rolls it out to a ribbon 25m long. The girls then break it into one inch squares. It is then hammered for an hour until it is about three inches around. The girls then break it into one inch squares and it is hammered again. It is then done a third time. It's broken up, placed between two small sheets of paper and put in envelops.

26th October - Monywa

After today I'm quite wet and completely Buddha-ed out!

Monywa is found on the banks of the River Chidwin and is home to the Buddhist temple of Mohnyin Thambuddhei Paya, which is thought to contain over 500,000 images of Buddha. It is an amazing sight with big Buddhas and surrounding them row after row of tiny ones. Inside and out, Buddha after Buddha, after Buddha. In the picture below the towers and the whole of the outside of the temple are just covered in them.

Inside more of the same, long corrdors, big alters and wall to wall, floor to ceiling, Buddhas.

Next up we headed for Phowintaung about an hour from Monywa. This is a large area of caves which have all been turned into temples, some large, some small, but of course everyone contained a Buddha or two. Some are carved into the rock, some have been brought in.

As well as the caves there are stupas built into and on top of the rock and all of this sits in amongst the trees and bushes.

It's amazing things people decided to do to pass the time before TV. Can just imagine them on a long rainy night sat in the caves and thinking what shall I do ... I know I'll carve a Buddha. One thing leads to another and suddenly you've got hundreds if them.

Talking of rain, we've not been getting the weather that was forecast or I expected. The seasonal average is about 35 degrees and we should be at the end of the rainy season but today I'd say it was low 20s and wet. Not torrential tropical wet, more like an average wet day in Bideford. I think there is a big storm sitting over India or Bangladesh and Burma is getting the edge of it. It's nice that it's keeping the temperature down, but it's not doing much for my sun tan. But we have been lucky up until today it hasn't inconvenienced us, but today we did get quite wet.

We rocks, trees and people of course there were lots of cheeky monkeys running around although I don't think they enjoyed the cold and wet either.

27th October - Ayeyarwaddy River, Bagan

Today we set off for Bagan. We set off in pouring rain. Proper pouring rain today. Really persisting down. The paddy fields really looked like paddy fields now they're full of water, the roads look like rivers and we get very wet because the truck is nowhere near water tight.

After a nice lunch in an Indian style cafe we headed down to the Irrawaddy River. By the way there are a lot of people in Burma who look to come from Indian descent and there is quite a bit of Indian food around. Many of the rickshaw drivers are old Indian men, I'm guessing they are not quite old enough to remember colonial rule (until 1948) but they seem to hark back to that time. Anyway we headed down to the river to board a boat for the couple of hours down the river to Bagan.

It was wet. Very wet. But we had fun. It may be an older group but that just means we can all fail to act our age big time. Singing and dancing in the rain. How many songs are there with rain in the title? We went through most of them. We were all wet through to the skin but it was good.

28th October - Bagan

The following is edited from an article in the Telegraph earlier this year. Bagan is situated on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River and is home to the largest cluster of pagodas, Buddhist temples, stupas and ruins in the world. The setting is sublime – a verdant 26 square-mile plain, part-covered in palm and tamarind trees and framed by distant mountains. Rising from the plain’s canopy of green are temples, dozens of them, hundreds of them, beautiful, other-worldly silhouettes that were built by the kings of Bagan between 1057 and 1287, when their kingdom was swept away by earthquakes and Kublai Khan and his invading Mongols. Most are superbly preserved or have been restored by Unesco, among others, and many contain frescoes and carvings and statues of Buddha, big and small. Only a handful are regularly visited, and though tourist numbers are increasing and the hawkers are beginning to appear, this is still, by the standards of sites of a similar beauty and stature, a gloriously unsullied destination.

Today's forecast was rough, no matter which site I looked at the satellite picture shows rain, bright yellow blob right over central Burma. So we set off for a tour of the temples with coats, umbrellas and trepidation. But, it was good and we hardly saw any rain at all. A bit of drizzle in the morning, then dry but overcast for the rest of the day. The area is full of temples but they are not as close together as I imagined because they are spread over a big area. Some of the temples have been restored but many are made of exposed red brick and are beginning to be overgrown.

Inside the temples some are bare and others ornately decorated. By the way I now know the difference between a temple and a stupa. You can go into a temple, stupas are solid. The huge Buddhas below are from the Anada Temple.

During the day we drove past lots of temples and stopped off at many of them. We also stopped at a lacquerware factory. They showed us how much work goes into making it. A base of horse hair, bamboo or teak and then layer after layer of lacquer. Each layer baked before the next is applied. Then the ladies scratch in the intricate pattern and dye is applied. This can then be repeated for other colours. To make a spare cup can take up to a year.

Late afternoon we headed off for a panoramic view of the area and theoretically a sunset but that was stretching it. It was a great view, stupa after stupa all around 360 degrees. It really is an amazing area.

29th October - Bagan

Another day in Bagan and more temples and stupas. Got to admit I'm pretty much templed out so today's temple picture will be the last unless I find something truely amazing. We walked around Old Bagan which pre-dates the main temple area with buildings from the 7th to 9th centuries. They are big, they are impressive ...

One temple was very interesting, it had been built so that once you were in front of the Buddha it almost glowed from the natural light which some how illuminated the whole figure.

Our last stop before lunch was to get the 'brochure' picture. We parked the truck in front of a temple and took photos. Our guide went through taking photos with everyone's cameras.

30th October - To Kalaw

Driving day today through more lush green scenery. Burma really does look like a green and fertile land. The road wound its way up to Kalaw. Burma and the Burmese people really don't look as poor as I expected. The houses look better, the people look healthier. I'm guessing Burma is more than self-sufficient when it comes to food. Some meat and lots of fruit and veg, enough for a very healthy diet.

31st October - Kalaw

Overnight we camped at another monastery with all the chanting, bell ringing and dogs barking all night that go with it. After packing up our tents we walked down to town only to meet the monks coming back up from their morning of collecting alms.

Former British hill station, Kalaw home to various ethnic minority groups, including the Palaung, Danu and Pa-O. The town is situated up in the hills, surrounded by pine forest, and has many attractive colonial buildings. Kalaw has a market every five todays and today is one of those days. The whole town seemed to be one big market, all the people from up in the hills had come down to sell their meat, fruit, veg, salted fish, chillis, garlic, salted fish. It was all very colourful and fragrant apart from the salt fish. It was an interesting made all the better by the fact that today (and yesterday) the sun has replaced the rain and the Indian meal we had for lunch.

1st November - Heho, Inle Lake

The local fishermen are renowned for their distinctive rowing style, where they stand at the stern of the boat on one leg whilst the other leg is wrapped around the oar. This style of rowing developed so the fishermen could get a better view and allow them to navigate through the shallow and plant-dense water. Tourism has become an important part of the local economy and traditional crafts such as the weaving of Shan–bags, silk longyi (sarongs) as well as cigar rolling, carvings and work from black and silver smiths are now produced for the tourist trade as well as local use.

The lake is 20km or so long with houses, shops, farms and vegetation all around. The sun was out in force today and it looked stunning. It's great to have a day out on the water, the sound of the water, the tranquility, beautiful. It's a pity we were sitting in boats powered by massive diesel engines which there never switched off not even for a couple of minutes.

I really enjoyed the time we spent on the water but I felt we were just ferried from shop to shop. Inle Lake is known for it's handicrafts but you don't turn up to a place this beautiful and think to yourself I wonder if they have some good shops here. Today was the first time since coming to Burma where I've felt like a tourist. Up until now the Burmese have seemed so 'innocent' to tourism, but today it was quite full on.

But amongst the shop stops there was real life going on. Children going to school, women doing their shopping, men fishing and people having fun, laughing, playing and waving at us as we go by.

All the houses on and around the lake are built on stilts and only a few are connected by walkways so the only way in and out for them is to jump in a boat and row. It must have been a lovely place before the tourists arrived in hundreds, I can't imagine what it is like in high season.

2nd November - To Bago

Today was a driving day, left the hotel at 6am and didn't get into the hotel in Bago until 5:30pm. We only stopped for the 2 hourly pee stop on the side of the road and 2 till 3 for lunch. So it was a whole day on the truck with the truck following the 'Men form the Ministry'. I got the photo below in a rare moment that we were in traffic and so right up behind them. Most of the time we've been on open road and they have raced on ahead. Now and again they will stop to take photos either of the scenery or of the truck. It is quite a jolly for them. A four week road trip, they've had very little to do. I guess they smooth the way through check points and toll booths and they find us paces for lunch and get us to the hotel, but I reckon the travel agency guy on the truck with us could do that anyway.

Below is a team photo. Anja the 'tour leader', Noel 'driver/mechanic', the 'man from the Ministry', Zew our Burmese travel guide and the 'Ministry of Hotels and Tourism Driver'. It was taken yesterday before the Inle Lake trip.

3rd November - Bago and on to Rangoon (Yangon)

First up some parish notices. Today the Australians and New Zealanders on the trip were advised that their Foreign Offices have advised against all travel in the Burmese / Thai border area because of terrorist activity by minority groups in the area. So if they stay on the trip for that section they will not be covered by their insurance. Everyone knows the Australian government are a bunch of Nancys and get scared when a firework is let off so no one is going to miss the section. Dragoman run on advice from the UK FCO and they only advise against travel if troops have been deployed so no chance of us turning back.

Secondly because of bombings in Rangoon in the last month the Burmese don't want us to camp here so we're staying in a hotel instead. RESULT! If any of the terrorists were to pass a collection tin around the truck they would get some generous donations.

Before heading into Rangoon we did a tour of Bago's highlights. Surprise, surprise it's temples/stupas/pagodas. By popular demand we added the snake pagoda to the itinerary. It's supposed hold a 100 year old snake which is the reincarnation of some monk or other. One thing's for sure it's a big well fed snake, it's huge.

I know I aid no more temple photos but, what the hell, have two more. The first is the biggest pagoda in Burma and it was certainly very big and very golden. (Shwe mawdaw Pagoda, It is often referred to as the Golden God Temple. At 375 feet in height, the Shwemadaw holds the record for the tallest pagoda in the country although the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is usually credited as the tallest pagoda in Myanmar at 98 metres.) Next up the four sitting Buddha Pagoda which surprisingly had four sitting Buddhas. (Kyaik Pun Pagoda Most notably the home to the Four Seated Buddha shrine, a 27 m statue depicting the Buddha seated in four positions, sitting back to back.)

4th November - Rangoon (Yangon)

We got to Rangoon yesterday after lunch and we're staying in a hotel (yeah). The hotel is out by the airport, I guess it's all they could get at short notice. I jumped in a taxi and headed into town, specifically to the Scone Market. The market is a kind of bazaar full of gold and jade sellers, lots of clothes shops, loads of art galleries and plenty of souvenirs. The market is obviously aimed at the affluent and the tourists, it's the first real tourist market we've seen in Burma. I even managed to find some tee-shirts that fit me!

From there I headed down to the main square where there are still some old colonial buildings left standing. Above is the old High Court, a beautiful old brick building with the ubiquitous Big Ben style clock tower. Those clock towers seem to be attached to every important building in Burma.

Today we did a tour of the main sights of Rangoon. We started off back at the main square and the Independence Monument and then wandered around the old colonial buildings. There are some beauties but they are just being neglected. The Burmese have already demolished loads of old areas and replaced them with modern monstrosities. One thing you do notice about Rangoon is the lack of motorbikes. I heard that a politician was hit by a motorbike and so they have been declared dangerous and banned in the city. This has just resulted in more cars and more congested. Another great idea brought to you by the Burmese Military Junta.

We then headed down to a lake with this boat / conference centre thingy on it. It seems to be on quite a few postcards so I guess it is a symbol of Rangoon.

In the afternoon we went to the Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest place in Burma. A huge pagoda / palace quite like the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It's big, massive stupa, lots of little temples, lots of Buddhas and lots of gold. More of the same and I'll refrain from posting pictures.

5th November - Mt Kyaiktiyo

First up today as we left Rangoon we stopped off at the Taukkyan War Cemetery, a War Graves Commission cemetery to those who died in Burma during the Second World War. A huge beautifully kept place with row after row, after row of plaques to British soldiers from dozens of local UK regiments, hundreds of Indians, Ghurkas and many graves just marked 'A Soldier of the 1939 - 1945 War' 'Known Unto God'.

In the afternoon we went to one of Myanmar's most spectacular sites and an important Buddhist pilgrimage shrine, Mt Kyaiktiyo. We took a pick-up truck most of the way up and walked the rest to the Golden Rock. The Golden Rock and Pagoda are an inspiring Buddhist Pilgrimage site. The Pagoda is perched on top of the huge granite boulder painted gold by the many pilgrims. The boulder is said to be held in place by a strand of the Buddha's hair that stops this huge boulder from tumbling down the sheer cliffs below.

It's quite an impressive rock and very gold but I expected it to be bigger. I guess if it is natural and has not been placed there then it is quite special, but to claim that it is being held in place by Buddha's hair is pushing it. Still a pleasant spot to spend an hour or two.

6th November - Mawlamyine

Above is a message from our 'Men from the Ministry' or from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism anyway. To be fair our guys have been good, you can have a little chat with them and as the trip has gone on they have even started to make little jokes. I think they really are treating it as a 3 week jolly where they just have to sign a piece of paper at the end to say we left and didn't cause much trouble.

But the majority of signs we see on the road (except for 'High Class Whisky') are for the SEA (South East Asia) Games which Myanmar are hosting next month. I think it is a really big deal for the country, part of them being accepted back into the Asian and World family. It seems that every product you can think of are trying to be associated with it. Above is an advert for Myanmar Beer. I really hope it goes well for them.

Today we were told that because of the 'troubles near the border' we are not going to be allowed to camp all that near to the border crossing so today and tomorrow will be light driving days with Friday being a real biggie. Anyway we headed south to Mawlamyine with is a town on the estuary and so the dockside was a hive of activity with boats coming in and out. It is a pity we are camping on the edge of town rather than staying in it. I think it is Dragoman trying to prove they are an Overland company 'we're more adventurous, we camp'. But it seems bloody pointless. We could be five minutes down the road in a hotel and eating local food rather than up here wasting time putting up tents, setting up the kitchen and then eating whatever the cook group manages to rustle up. Tonight's meal was good but not as good as the BBQed fish on sale straight off the boats in town.

Most people just hung around the campsite drinking, moaning that it was too hot. A couple of us went down into town, had a great walk and got a lovely sunset across the water.

7th November - Hpa An

The Men from the Ministry won't let us camp anywhere near the border so we didn't move on far today but we did see some interesting and slightly different sights. OK, they are temples and had Buddhas but you can trust the Burmese to keep coming up with new and different ways to show him off.

Today we had a temple on top of a 'mushroom' rock. A quite impressive rock, small pagoda but a stunning setting. Lake, rice paddies, trees reflecting in the water, hills in the background. Absolutely stunning. Summed up some of the amazing scenery we seen over the last three weeks or so in Burma.

Next up the Kawgoon Cave. It's a limestone cave near Hpa An where there are terracotta tablets, carved statues and sandstone Buddhist statues with mural paintings, stone inscriptions and old Mon language inscriptions. Most relate to the late Bagan period (13th century). It was a really atmospheric spot and a nice cold spot to avoid the mid-day sun. The terracotta statues and tablets curving around the ceiling were especially good.

8th November - Crossing the border

The result of us camping a long way from the border was a very long day today. Up at 5am, wheels rolling at 6am. Between Burma and Thailand it turns out there is a big hill, more of a small mountain range really. So the 150km to the border took 6 hours. 6 hours of winding our way up and up a single track road. The road is one way, out of Burma on even numbered days and in on odd number days. The road wound up and up, around hair pin after hair pin many of which turned into 3 point turns for the truck. As well as being steep and windy, the road was rough, rocky and unsealed.

There were a ramshackle bunch of vehicles going up the road, a lot of pick-up trucks carrying 10 or 12 people bouncing around in the back, some battered old cars and lots of motorbike taxis. It seems the old way thing doesn't apply to motorbikes. The bikes bouncing around like motocross bikes were carrying 1, 2 or even 3 passengers as well as the guy whose bike it was. A motorbike doing a hill climb with the driver, mum, dad and a kid on it. One had a women riding behind the guy with a suitcase sat between them. Anyway at around 12pm we reached the border. We exited Burma at Myawaddy and entered Thailand at Mae sot.

We cleared the border and set off into Thailand at around 3pm (including the half an hour we lots for the clocks changing). It's a long way from Mae Sot to Kanchanaburi. About 8 hours including a dinner stop. We finally got in at about 11:30pm. I enjoy travel days however long, but some people were quite irritable by the time we arrived.

9th November - Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi, The Bridge over the River Kwai. Apparently it peed down yesterday and overnight but thankfully it all but stopped this morning leaving it hot and humid. Walking around today was the first day when I was really drenched in sweat. It's not really hot but it is really humid. First up I headed over to the Death Railway Museum and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, both very impressive. The museum ran through the whole history of the building of the railway with lots of graphic pictures of the POW suffering. The cemetery had nearly 6,000 graves, mainly British, Australian and Dutch.

Later I headed down to the Jeath Museum which I visited the last time I was in Kanchanaburi 17 years ago on my first trip to Asia. It was looking quite tired then and more so now but worth a visit. It was set up by a Japanese guy who was in Burma during the war and is dedicated to all of the POWs. Lots more faded wartime pictures.

10th November - Bangkok

Today we headed into Bangkok, traffic was good and we arrived before lunch. I've made it. Helsinki to Bangkok done and dusted. It's been a great, from the wide open spaces of Mongolia to packed cities of China. The grumpy Russians to the joyous Burmese. But my trip is nothing to the trip done by Noel and Anja our Dragoman crew. They have driven from London to Bangkok, they left in May!

Tonight we went out and celebrated. Noel celebrated more than most...

We drank cocktails out of buckets and later when Noel asked me to buy him a large beer I got him a 3 1/2 litre beer tower and he had a bloody good go at drinking it on his own. A good night.

The rest of November - Bangkok - Cambodia - Bangkok - Home

A few weeks since my last update. For anyone worried that I didn't survive the night out in Bangkok your fears are unfounded, although it did take me a day or two to get back to full fitness. A spent the rest of the week in Bangkok then headed to Cambodiia and the beach at Sihanoukville. Days sat at beach bars topping up the tan. 50c beers, $1 fruit juices, $3 for BBQed fish. Lying on a sunbed listening to the first Ashes Test. Despite the cricket it was a great end to the holiday.

I finally got back to the UK on the 1st of December. Helsinki to Bangkok, 3 months on the road. Sure beats working.