So Asia really grew on us. When we were planning this trip, admittedly we were a little bit unsure of the prospect of spending 4 months there. Would we get sick of the heat, food, noise, dirt and craziness? But budget wise it was the best option and we didn’t want to be in Europe in winter (the irony is springtime in Paris as I write this and it’s 10 degrees!)
But we’ve been blown away by how much we grew to love Asia and were genuinely sad to say goodbye. We could have even done another couple of months in Bali if we hadn’t had our onward Europe tickets booked we loved it so much.
It’s amazing how quickly things that were different to begin with become the norm. The other day in Bali I actually consciously took notice of my surroundings. I realised I didn’t notice the crazy spaghetti junction of powerlines everywhere anymore. The smells of incense, jasmine, rice cooking, motorcycle fumes punctuated with the occasional faint wiff of eau-de-drain that are the underlying scent of Asia was now completely normal. Rickety or non-existent footpaths, hazardous open drains, roadside shacks for shops, mangey but adorably cute street dogs, motorbikes carrying a family of four on them, it was all normal. I even briefly felt a little bit cold in Kuala Lumpur getting out of the pool the other day when it was *only* 32 degrees.
We’re very sad to leave and will definitely be back one day.
Here’s some thoughts on why we loved Asia:
- The food – everywhere we went the food was fantastic. It was so tasty, fresh and healthy, with amazing flavour combinations. Our favourites were Vietnamese, Thai and surprisingly Sri Lankan given that we had read some stuff prior to going there about how the food was not great. Some of the best dishes we had were once we got brave enough to eat street food and it was always awesome. The kids were great at trying things and became little noodle, roti and spring roll gourmands!
- The people – what beautiful, kind, gentle, honest and genuine people live in this part of the world. In the whole 4 months we maybe had only 1 or 2 experiences of people out to rip us off, the rest of the time we came across nothing but friendliness. We felt incredibly safe there travelling with children and people were so kind to them – constantly talking to them, patting them on the arm or head, giving them food, making way for them – we were treated royally. Some notable examples include so many strangers rushing to our aid when we fell over in the street in Vietnam, the admiration that Sophie’s dimples held for most of the ladies, Jack’s paparazzi invoking blondeness nearly everywhere we went, the patience of our Sri Lankan taxi driver when Soph puked all over his van, the tuktuk drivers who let the kids play pretend driver and just yesterday the kind Vietnamese woman who shared her lollies with the kids on the flight. Where we come from, most people would hump and puff to be seated next to children on a long haul flight!
- The prices – what a great place to travel on a budget. We’ll do a post soon on what we actually spent, but it was incredibly affordable. We got to stay in some beautiful places for a fraction of the price you would pay in other parts of the world, and experience incredible food. Coming to Europe is going to hurt the pocket by comparison!
- We didn’t get sick – In spite of our heavy, well-stocked-for-any-possible-ailment first aid kit that we’ve lugged around, we didn’t get sick at all (apart from some car sickness, but that’s a bit different!) We were fully prepared for all of us at some stage to succumb to the dreaded dodgy tummy or can’t stray more than 4 metres from the toilet scenario, but we’ve been fine. A highly non-scientific analysis of this is that we followed the rules about trying to eat in places that are busy and preferably filled with locals (we did break the rules though and had ice everywhere and ate a lot of salads!), and that we invested in getting e-coli /traveller’s diahorrea vaccines before we left. I truly think this vaccine does help – we have also had it before we went to India a few years ago and didn’t get sick there either. We were also pretty careful about using insect repellant when we were out at night.
- Amazing cultural experiences – it has been fantastic to experience the different cultures of the places we went to. It’s really easy – and we’ve been totally guilty of it – to lump all of Asia into one basket and thinking it’s all pretty much the same. But each country we went to had it’s own unique flavour and diversity and we never got bored of it. We have loved observing the different religions of the area – Buddhist, Hindu, sometimes an interesting mash up of both, Islamic and Christianity. There’s also a lesson for the rest of the world in harmony and watching largely the respect that each religion affords the others and how non-threatened they are by each other (by comparison watching the train wreck currently unfolding of right wing Christianity’s hatred and misunderstanding of Islam based on the actions of a few disenfranchised and misled individuals). The biggest treasure of all though has been the opportunity to show our kids how other people live, how you don’t necessarily need ‘things’ to make you happy, and the immense amount of gratitude we have for so many things we take for granted due to the luck of where we were born – fresh water, air, food and education opportunities.
Of course not everything is perfect and there are definitely some things we won’t be sad about leaving behind. Here’s a flippant little generalised list of what we won’t miss and what we’re looking forward to again now we’re in Europe:
- Being able to put toilet paper in the toilet and flush it (instead of putting it in the bin like we have done most places for 4 months).
- Brushing our teeth under a tap instead of out of bottled water.
- The relentless all encompassing heat, where you take a shower and are dripping wet again 2 minutes later. Every. Single. Day. It wears thin to be constantly that hot and sweaty. We’re getting a few weeks respite.
- The crazy driving where there are little, if any road rules that are adhered to.
- Crossing the street being a highly hazardous activity – bring on the pedestrian crossings and traffic lights that people actually stop at.
- Smelly and noisy motorcycles everywhere.
- Drinking wine again. Wine is generally very expensive in Asia and we couldn’t afford it on our budget. So we’ve had 3 glasses of wine in the last 4 months. We’re sick of beer.
- Eating cheese again. Same as above, dairy is expensive in Asia. Bring on the camembert, brie, emmenthal and stinky blue.
- Lack of signage – most places we went the signage wasn’t great or non-existent which means we got lost a fair bit. Worse culprits were Malaysia and Bali.
- Slow WiFi. Total first world problem but when you’re reliant on it for schoolwork and keeping in touch with family and friends, slow wifi is SO annoying.
So we’ve made it to France and the next week is a bit of a whirlwind of visiting the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands before we settle down in south west France for the summer. We’ve still got some posts to write up about our time in Bangkok and Bali, so hopefully we’ll get onto that soon!