Monthly Archives: March 2010

10 Things I won’t miss about travelling

I’m currently sat in my hostel in Bangkok, waiting to head to the airport for my flight home. Yep, that’s it, the year away is nearly over.

In an attempt to cheer myself up and stop me from slashing my wrists, I thought I’d remind myself of all the things I really won’t miss about travelling.

1. Premiership Football

Who’d have thought it would be easier to escape English football in England than it is when travelling? Whether you’re up a mountain in Peru, in a shanty town in Colombia, or a fishing village in East Timor, you guarantee that the one thing every local you meet knows about England is the Premiership. And they all want to talk about it when they find out where you’re from. Even if the only English words they know are ‘Manchester’ and ‘Rooney’. It’s not just the locals – every backpacker is just as obsessed (even the Americans – apparently all the ones who travel seem to like soccer). And it’s impossible to go for a drink, whether in a local dive or a backpacker bar, without seeing games. I can’t wait to get home so I can get back to ignoring it all. (an honourable exception to this one is Singapore – the huge number of privately educated British & Aussie expats meant I was forced to talk about rugby instead).

2. Early mornings

Every time I want to do anything – Whether it’s catching a bus or going sightseeing somewhere (‘oh, you simply MUST see it at sunrise’) – it always seems to involve a stupidly early start. Even when I’m not doing anything, you can guarantee that someone else in the dorm will be, and they will insist on having the world’s loudest alarm, turn on all the lights, and decide they have to rummage around in lots of plastic bags before heading out. Seriously, I’ve had more early starts in the last 12 months than I have in the last 12 years of working.

3. Roosters

One particular cause of interrupted sleep that deserves special mention is roosters. If it was up to me, I’d slaughter the lot of them. And take great pleasure in wringing their necks myself.

4. Night buses

They may be quite handy for covering long distances whilst saving money on a hostel, but no-one in their right mind would choose to sleep on a bus being driven by a suicidal driver along bumpy roads in preference to a bed.

5. Sweating

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE hot weather. So much so that the English weather is the thing I’m dreading most, even more than working again. It’s fine too when you’re a few steps away from the sea, or doing nothing more energetic than drinking a cold beer. But the rest of the time, wandering round with sweat dripping off your forehead and down your back is really unpleasant. And probably even more so for others around me. A tip for any wannabe travellers heading to the tropics: don’t pack lots of grey t-shirts. I’ve learnt the hard way that they show up sweat patches far better than any other colour.

6. Bugs

I never realised how lucky I was that the worst I have to contend with at home is the odd spider in the bathtub. Because there are bugs EVERYWHERE in the tropics. Trying to get in your food, in dorms, crawling all over your arms and legs, biting you, generally being very annoying indeed. The malaria risk makes it even worse, as this necessitates the use of DEET, which is akin to volunteering to smear toxic waste all over yourself.

7. Cold showers

I don’t care how hot outside it is. I’m a big girl and the shock of getting into an ice-cold shower is just too much to bear. Especially when it’s EVERY DAY.

8. Living out of a bag (and lugging it around)

Constantly packing and unpacking (and trying to squeeze everything in – which seems to get harder every day). Getting bored of the same clothes every day. Having stiff shoulders from wearing it too much (especially when I’m travelling on my own and can’t leave it anywhere for even 5 seconds). I am so over it.

9. The same conversation every day

Where do you come from? Whereabouts in England? How long have you been travelling for? Where have you just come from? How long will you be here? Where are you going next? What’s your favourite country? and so on and so on. I’m sure all backpackers are as bored rigid with it as I am, and we’re all just as guilty as each other as I find myself asking the same old questions every time myself. So hats off the group I met in Colombia who wouldn’t give answers to any other opening questions than ‘what’s your favourite Michael Jackson song?’.

10. Hippies

Put down the bongos. Take off those ridiculous clothes. And have a bath. It’s 2010 for god’s sake. There really is no excuse.

Anything I’ve missed there?

(oh, and normal service will be resumed shortly, I’m about a month behind but still to come are tales of awful bus journeys in Burma, getting seriously templed out in Bagan and Angkor Wat, and saving the very best of the trip til last in Cambodia). Stay tuned.

My luck runs out

Being mugged. Being in a bus crash. Getting kidnapped. Catching a horrible tropical disease. Earthquakes.

These are some of the many things that I worried about before heading off for a year of travel. Of course I should have realised that when the time came for my luck to run out that it would be my own stupidity that caused it – and end up sending me to hospital.

The day started pretty well – after an earlyish start, we had a beautiful boat ride across the Andaman sea to Ko Phi Phi. I was with my friend Jo from back home,and who’s working as a volunteer English teacher in Krabi at the moment, and we were on our way to meet another friend Nick, who was on holiday from England in Phuket.

Ko Phi Phi Don

Ko Phi Phi

The journey was lovely, as we passed a series of dramatic, limestone islands along the way. Soon enough we were at our destination, and met up with Nick at the harbour. We were picked up by someone from our hotel, and walked across to the other end of the town and up a long flight of stairs to our hotel. It was a bit of an effort getting up the hill in the midday heat – but at least I had the prospect of a lovely view to keep me motivated. That would turn out to be my undoing.

It only took a minute or two to check in, and we walked across to the room. I was really excited about seeing the view, so walked straight across the room and through the open glass door onto the balcony.

Except of course it wasn’t open. Looking back on it now, I don’t even remember the impact really, it happened so quickly. One minute I was walking across the room, the next I was standing on the balcony surrounded by shattered glass. That first moment of realisation seemed to last an eternity (that’ll be the shock then) before I gradually became aware of lots of shouting, people all around me, and then, finally, began to see blood everywhere.

It turns out the glass was very, very thin non-safety glass, and it had shattered into sharp shards that had sliced into my skin in various places. Before I really knew what was going on, a guy from the hotel had hoisted me onto his back, carried me down the stairs and popped me into a luggage trolley to wheel me back across the island to the hospital.


The two biggest wounds

I’m so glad my friend Nick was with me (especially being someone I’ve known for so long), as he accompanied me the whole way, chatting away to keep my spirits up (and distract me) from the fact I was now aware that there was a fair amount of blood pouring down my arms and legs.

It must have been quite a sight – the streets of Ko Phi Phi are pretty narrow, and very crowded, so of course everyone was staring at me as we trundled past (bloody typical that the hospital turned out to be right at the other end of the island).

I was a bit concerned about what the hospital was going to be like – but I really needn’t have been. The place was pretty new, built since the tsunami, and within seconds of walking in I was already lying on a bed with five people around me cleaning my wounds. Within no time at all I was being dosed up with local anaesthetic, and stitched up in various places simultaneously (all the while with Nick joking away in the background), and best of all the room was right on the beach so I could distract myself by looking out onto a stunning view. You wouldn’t get that back home.

Being stitched up

Being stitched up

In no time at all I was back up and out on the beach – all in all I’d been on the island for not much more than an hour in total and I’d calmed down enough to take stock of the situation:

In total, I had 38 stitches (14 on the left forearm, 6 on the left hand, 8 on the right elbow, and 5 each on right knee and shin), plus a few butterfly stitched on my forehead and right leg, and a big bandage around a smaller wound on my left heel. With bandages over each wound I was doing quite a passable impression of a mummy on holiday.

To be honest, I was incredibly lucky – no glass went into my eyes, no ligaments were sliced through, no major marks on my face, and nothing on my back or sides that would have made sitting down or sleeping difficult. The staff at the hospital were incredibly efficient, friendly and professional, they really were superb. And luckily enough, while the wounds were big, they were all very very shallow, meaning they didn’t even really hurt (which is great as I am the biggest wimp in the world when it comes to pain).

Bandaged Geoff

Modelling my new beach wear

In the end it was pretty easy to laugh about soon afterwards (I really felt like a complete muppet, to be honest), and it soon became yet another great way to talk to new people (shame I’m not straight really as every girl in town wanted to stop and talk to me for the next few days to ask about what happened).

In the end it turned out to be inconvenient more than anything – I’d just arrived on one of the most stunning coastlines in the world, and I was now unable to swim, or snorkel, or dive. That pretty much put paid to my plans, so I had no choice but to cancel them and head up to Bangkok.

There was one thing that did really piss me off though – after having my brand new boardshorts nicked after two hours of wear in Bali, I bought another new pair in Singapore. I was wearing them for the first time that day, and of course the glass did a pretty good job of shredding those too. Typical.