Over-Asia, 1999 – The Emails

Tim in Outer MongoliaIn 1999 I finished working in Hong Kong and headed back to the UK overland from Singapore. It took me 3 months and I passed through 15 countries and roughly 23,000km. Here are the emails I sent while I travelled.

Subject: I’m on the road again
Sent: Sunday, May 09,
Dear All,

My travels begin a week from today on Sunday 16th of May when I fly to Singapore and start my trip overland to London. I will be losing my computer during the week and may be out of touch for a while (at least until I get to a cyber cafe, and these may well be rare in some of the places I will be).

For some of you this is a goodbye and for others a premature hello. For those I am saying goodbye to, you have all added to my travels and I will miss you. If you are ever in London (or wherever I end up) give me a ring and I will at least stand you a beer, I might even be able to run to a place to kip.

For those of you in blighty, prepare yourselves. I will hit the streets in late August/early September. I have no plans yet as to where I will be or what I will be doing so suggestions on a postcard please!  Also send me any suggestions for what I should take with me to read on my trip. I was considering War and Peace.

 A brief summary of my intended itinerary is:

 May 16 – Singapore
 Travel around Malaysia and Thailand for a while
 July 11 Bangkok.  Travel overland through Northern Thailand to Laos and then Hanoi
 July 27 Catch the train to Beijing from Hanoi
 Hang out in Beijing for a few days
 31 July Leave Beijing on the Trans Mongolian express for St Petersburg. I will be in Ulan Bator on my birthday (August 4th)
 Leave St Petersburg on August 16th for Helsinki
 Make my way back to London through Scandinavia.

 I will try to send update emails when I get the chance. I will also try to update my home page as I go.

 My home page is:

Lots of love (and keep in touch),

Subject: I’ve started
Date: Wed, 19 May 1999
Well, I’ve left Hong Kong and I’ve made my first mistake. On Sunday morning I finished my last bit of packing (wash bag etc) I shouldered my backpack and headed to the door. On the way I checked my ticket details to make sure I had got the time right. I had, but the date wasn’t Sunday, it was Monday. I was a day early! So instead of flying to Singapore I spent Sunday on the peak in Hong Kong.

This was a bit of a disappointment as I spent Saturday in Macau. I left Macau after midnight so I would have been in 3 different countries on Sunday if I had had my dates right. Hopefully this will be my worst mistake this trip (I doubt it).

At the moment I am staying in possibly one of the worst value hotels I have stayed in and paid for myself. It costs S$30 a night for a concrete floored cell that has a wash area in one corner (no hot water) and an iron bed that screams everytime I turn and has a thin mattress on wood. At least it has air con.

Having spent a day and a half in Singapore I have had lunch at Harry’s bar (of Nick Leeson fame), drunk a Singapore sling in the long bar at the Raffles hotel and been to Sentosa. Now I’m bored. Singapore is like an anti-Hong Kong. Clean, well organised and polite. In fact lacking most the things that make Hong Kong such a great place. I plan on fleeing tomorrow and taking off to a tropical island (yes, I know Singapore is a tropical island, but you know what I mean). This island is Tioman island off the Malaysian coast. If I can get myself organised I will try to catch the ferry there from here.

Subject: I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been too clean.
Date: 27 May 1999
“Courage!” he said and pointed toward the land
  ‘This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.’
  In the afternoon they came unto a land
  In which it seemed always afternoon.
  All around the coast the languid air did swoon,
  Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.”

Well, Tioman island was your typical tropical island idyll.  Set in the South China Sea it has a palm fringed beach, with white sands stretching down to a sea that was a patch work of fantastic blues in which multicoloured fish played.  Behind the beach a small row of huts separated the sea from a jungle covered mountain and banana trees and coconut palms provided shade for the paths.

I lived in a hut close to the jungle, walking past a slow moving river in which iguana lazed on my way to the beach and restaurants.  I lived on fresh tropical fruit for breakfast and grilled fish with rice for tea.  I could have got used to this, lazing on the beach that seemed populated soley by German Aryan Goddesses.  I looked out of place among the beauty, this hairy, white blob sitting hunched over my book and occasionally splashing about in the sea.

I have caught the sun though and parts of me are an interesting shade of red.  I also have a nice collection of insect bites on my hands.

Overall I had a great time and had to drag myself away at 7am yesterday on the ferry away.  I spent yesterday travelling to Melaka on the west coast, where I am now.  So far all I have seen of Melaka is the hotel I stayed in last night and the inside of a mall (where the cyber cafe is).  Last nights hotel was a classic.  Called “The Majestic” it is a colonial era Chinese building in which I could imagine Mountbatten planning the Burma campaign.  It has high ceilings, fans, bamboo furniture and a bar.  Unfortunately it is the wrong end of town, dirty and I was the only foreigner in the register, so I moved this morning.

Thanks to the people who replied to the first.  I won’t reply to each individually, but I appreciate them.


Subject: A tale of two cities
Hi all,
Melaka (Malacca) is a great little town.  On the south of the west coast of peninsular Malaysia it is a real mixed town.  In the six hundred years since it was founded it has been the capital of a Malay empire, then fought over and  ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch, British, Japanese and British again.  Now it is sleepy little Malaysian port with a great Chinese section (full of tiny shops and exotic temples) and a collection of solid Dutch architecture in the centre (for some reason painted red).

I have changed my opinion of Kuala Lumpur.  First time I was here I hated it.  This time I am staying in a great hotel (the Coliseum) that was built in 1921 and has hardly changed since.  It used to be a favourite haunt of the British planters, and the British troops used to drink there during the insurgency – hanging their machine guns and helmets on the hat stand.  They still serve traditional food, so far I have had a ‘sizzling steak’ (superb), a mixed grill and sausage and mash.  An English boy is in heaven.  When I first arrived I had a lunch of a bacon sandwich and a beer, went to my room and saw the arrow  pointing to Mecca on the ceiling.

The bar is like being back in the bayou (my favourite bar in HK).  A mix of characters and nationalities that welcomes newcomers.  I have chatted to a Malay Muslim, just back from Mecca who was drinking gin and tonics and to a former major in the Malay army who runs a tour company now and knows his Malaysian history.

The rest of Kuala Lumpur is interesting.  Only a strange nation would call their capital Muddy Estuary (which is what Kuala Lumpur means).  The British totally ignored local styles and the central square has a mock Tudor cricket club (still functioning) looking across the cricket pitch at the Moorish minarets of the high court.  Given that the Petronas towers (the highest building in the world and built in the style of Ming the Merciless) loom behind, the whole area has a surreal effect.

Hopefully I’m heading to Taman Negara tomorrow (if I get out of cyber cafes and actually book the bus) so I will be out of contact for about a week.

Hope you’re all well and happy,

lots of love,

Subject: Regarding the jungle and high tea.

Hi everyone,

I’m still well (except for a few sniffles) and travelling.  since my last email I’ve been to Taman Negara and the Cameron highlands.

The trip to Taman Negara requires a three hour ride throw virgin jungle in a long, flat bottomed boat powered by an outboard motor.  I half expected a flurry of arrows from the bank or to see the wreckage of an American helicopter “Apocalypse Now” style.

I stayed in the park for about three days and was able to walk a little into the jungle which was hot, sticky and full of the noises of birds and insects.  But my geography teachers don’t seem to have lied and I did see a tropical downpour.  Monkeys loitered near the hostel, making daring raids on people eating in the cafeteria and generally bullying tourists.  The most interesting wildlife were the insects – huge (10cm) flying beetles that appear to have failed pilot school and crash into everything, big colourful spiders and the invisible but noisy cicadas.

After Taman Negara I went to the Cameron highlands.  Another forested area, but this time in the mountains (1500m above sea level) so the temperature dropped to below 20 (which feels cold after so long in heat).  The highlands are a strange place that the British made home with reproduction cottages that could be straight from the west country where high tea is served by waiters in crisp white uniforms (good jam, the scones where disappointing).  The weather conspired to make it more like England (cold, wet and miserable).  It reminded me why I’ve been away so long.

An interesting part of the highlands are the tea plantations where Indian immigrants pick tea.  They mostly use machines but in places you can still see the PG Tips image of a women in a Sari with a wicker basket on her back full of tea leaves.

I’m afraid that I’ve succumbed to the hype and watched the new “Star Wars” movie, which is ok, but not as good as the first.

Hope you are all well, I look forward to hearing from you,

best regards,

Subject: A garden shed with plumbing.

23 June 1999

Since I last wrote I’ve been island hopping along the east coast of Malaysia and Thailand, and currently I’m struggling with a Thai keyboard, so please forgive me for any typos.

First stop was Georgetown, Penang island, Malaysia.  This is a bustling little town with a Chinese feel.  On my way up I met an American guy and an English girl both travelling alone so we joined forces.  Paul is your archetypal Californian, tall, tanned and supremely self confident.  I hated him straight away.  Dawn is a young English girl repeatedly putting off university, first by working in India for a year and now by travelling around south east asia.  A shy, quiet northerner (they do exist) with an almost geordie accent that confused both Paul and me at times.  I liked her.
  After exploring Geogetown (lots of temples, pokey shops and street hawkers with great food) we decided to do the beach thing.  Since there were three of us and it was off season we decided to do it in style, so a high class beach resort deigned to allow three scruffy traveller types share a room.  It was great, clean room, hot shower, air con, comfortable bed and a swimming pool.  All for about eleven pounds each.  After a day lazing by the pool I am slowly changing colour, and after a few vodkas and a chat I lost my dislike of Paul.

  After our day in the sun Paul and Dawn headed for Indonesia (considered safer now the elections are over) and I headed for Langkawi, a Malaysian duty free island near the Thai border.  Once there I got a chalet by the beach.  A chalet is a bit of an overstatement.  It was more like a garden shed with plumbing and bed bugs.  I am now covered with bites.  It was, however, right on the beach so I went to sleep and awoke to the sound of the sea crashing on the beach, and stepped out each morning to sea a picture postcard image of sand, sea and tropical islands.

  And now I am in Phuket.  I arrived last night after a twelve hour journey so I don’t have much to report (apart from the fact that they do have an email place).  I will however make some observations on driving in Malaysia and Thailand.

  I appreciate that the taxis and buses I have travelled in want to get me to my destination quickly, but holding the racing line even on blind corners does make me a tad nervous and I might feel a bit happier if the driver could see what was coming before overtaking rather than trusting in Allah.  The rule of the road here seems to be ‘Biggest Wins’.  Keep left, along with stopping at red traffic lights, seems to be a suggestion that doesn’t really apply in real life.  I am sure the drivers feel happier with their Koranic quotes or buddhist talismen, but personally I prefer the idea of a driver who is as scared of dying as I am.
  As for the 50cc scooter drivers, what can I say?  The guys who can smoke while they ride impress me.  The ones who hold mobile phone conversations evoke in me the same awe as a stunt rider would.  But the entire families on the scooter (Father driving, wife and kids clinging on, gripping possesions) are a sight to behold.  I’m sure the designers at Honda or Suzuki would be amazed at the uses their creations are put to.

  Despite it’s officially being the rainy season the weather is still fantastic (and very hot).  I’m enjoying the travel (despite the drivers) and the trip up to Phuket was fantastic – limestone towers rising out of forest and paddy fields.

  I’m sure “War and Peace” would have been an excellent read for the Russian leg of my trip if I’d been able to restrain myself.  Unfortunately I finished it a week ago and am bookless again.  It was great though.  I’m making do with the Economist and browsing bookshops at the moment.  I’ve also read “The Beach” while on the road (it was crap) and “The Hippopotamus” by Stephen Fry (funny, reasonable light read, if crude).

  While in Georgetown I added a few pictures of my trip to my web page.  I will add more when I finish my next film, but would appreciate if the guys in Hong Kong could send me some copies of the photos from Simon’s party so I can ad to my Hong Kong section.  I would also appreciate Will’s email as the one I have keeps getting bounced.

  Finally I would like to take this opportunity to wish my Mum a very happy birthday on Sunday.  Happy birthday Mum.

  Hope you are all well,



Subject: Of ruins and James Bond.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been seeing a lot of the lord Buddha.  I’ve seen him sitting, I’ve seen him standing and I’ve seen him reclining.  I’ve seen him big and I’ve seen him small.  I’ve seen him headless and I’ve seen him bodiless, and I’ve seen him in various states of repair.

  Yes, I’ve been traipsing around temples and ancient ruins.  Thailand is a beautiful and devout country which seems to have a really hard time getting on with it’s neighbours.  In the last week I’ve visited two former capitals, both of which were destroyed by invading enemies.  Actually in some ways it’s quite refreshing not to be reading “Sadly the original was destroyed by the British in …” or “This was burnt by the invading British forces during the … war”.  I am relieved to know that the British aren’t alone when it comes to acts of colossal cultural vandalism.

  Actually it doesn’t seem very surprising that the Thais were continually defeated as they seem to have spent most of their time and energy building fantastically beautiful temples and monasteries rather that preparing any sort of a sensible defence.  The incredible thing is that they avoided European domination.

  But, to return to where I last left you, the island of Phuket in the Andaman sea, I feel I ought to give you the promised report.  Short and sweet, at this time of the year – lots of empty bars full of bored hostesses playing jenga and connect four and beaches that are either dangerous due to rip tides or idiots on jet skis.  I quite enjoyed it.

  The other thing close to Phuket is Phang-Nga bay.  This is an incredible bay full of limestone islands that rise out of the sea in ridiculous shapes.  “The man with the golden gun” was filmed on one (which I visited).

  The two sets of ruins were at Ayuthaya and Sukhothai.  I reached the first after a gruelling fourteen hour trip that involved crossing Bangkok in a Monday morning rush hour after a night on the bus to get between bus stations.  I stupidly forgot to eat all day as well so I felt rotten by the time I got Ayuthaya.  But I enjoyed both cities.

  And now I’m in Bangkok, close to the Khoa San road, a backpacker hell full of fresh faced teenagers and ageing hippies all pretending to being experiencing “real Thailand” while surrounded by hundreds of white faces and restaurants selling tourist tat.  But I’ve been able to get more photos scanned and I’ve updated my web site with more photos of Malaysia (including me in speedos) and, hopefully by the time you read this, some of Thailand.

  Talking of ancient ruins and gwielo ghettoes reminds me, how is everyone at the Bayou?

  Hello to everyone else too.  I hope you are all well and enjoying yourselves,


Subject: One week in Bangkok …

I’ve spent the last week chilling (metaphorically, its well into the thirties here) in Thailand’s newest capital (The previous two were left in a less than habitable state after being squatted in by neighbours) and I’ve had a little look around.

  Firstly the Khao San road.  Now I’m getting used to it I would upgrade from ‘Hell’ to ‘Freak show’.  The restaurants sell Thai food totally lacking chili (I’m forced to add Tabasco to get any flavour) and western food cooked badly.  The tuk tuks hover like the predators they are, waiting to pounce and drag unsuspecting tourists to tailors or scam running gem shops (A couple of lads I met had been told, hand over 750 pounds and we will post the gems to you, which you can then sell for 1,500 pounds – its a government scheme, honest.)

  Tuk tuks are sort of open motor tricycles with a bench seat in the back and the driver in front.  We managed to fit five of us into one one evening.  Usually what happens is that you tell the driver your destination and negotiate a fare.  The driver then tries to persuade you that somewhere else is better or that he knows a great tailors or gem shop and he will give you a discount if you stop there.  You demand no diversions and your preferred destination.  The driver then pulls away and repeats his suggestions and offers.  Having established there is to be no compromise he will proceed to drive.  He (I say he as I have yet to see a female tuk tuk driver) may then try to chat in the limited English that he has.  If, like me, you are a male travelling alone, he will establish whether you have made use of some of the more exotic forms of entertainment this city has to offer.  Unless an adamant no is forthcoming he will offer to take you there instead.

  The destination that the five of us crammed into the tuk tuk for was an evening of Thai kickboxing.  This was an extremely interesting experience.  The sport itself seemed a skillful and technical one which left us completely baffled as to how the winner was decided and was performed to traditional Thai music played live (I use the word music to give the benefit of the doubt, I assumed that is what it was supposed to be).  The spectators however were far more interesting.  It was like being in an old fashioned stock market trading pit.  Everyone was waving there hands screaming at each other, taking mobile phone calls and handing over large amounts of cash.  when, in the match listed as the main event, one of the competitors had to be stretchered off mid round the place exploded, everyone on there feet with wide grins except a few *very* miserable looking people I took to be bookies.

  I’ve also visited the palace and palace temple (exquisite), read a few books and done some shopping.  I’ve even had some name cards printed ready for China (no address, just email and web page).

  Tomorrow I start the next leg of my trip, which is an organised trip to Hanoi.  I will meet my fellow travellers tomorrow.  Hopefully I should be able to check my mail for a day or two, but after I leave Thailand I will probably be out of reach till August.

  All the best,

Subject: Slow boat down the Mekong

24 July 1999

I have just emerged from a week and a half in Laos, possibly (probably) the most beautiful, laid back, underdeveloped country I have ever visited.  The scenery is stunning – I spent two days doing absolutely nothing chugging down the Mekong in a slow boat, watching the world go by about as remote as can be. The only signs of civilisation was the occasional bamboo village on the river front with children playing in the river or in canoes.

To say the towns (including Vientiane, the captial) are sleepy would be an understatement. They make Milton Keynes look like Hong Kong. Driving around the countryside is an obstacle course around livestock.  The people seem poor but happy. Do not visit Laos if you are in a hurry though.

For the first time I am travelling on an organised tour and have nine travel companions and a guide. This has made visas etc a lot easier and has been nice after a couple of months mostly on my own. Tonight is the last night and two of the group have birthdays this week so it should be a big night.

By the way, Hanoi does have internet after all.

I hope you are all well,


(Sorry this was quick, I’m short on Dong at the moment).

Subject: The dead communists tour.

Even Ulan Bator has email!

Gosh, such a lot has happened since I last talked to you all.  I’ve explored Hanoi, flown a kite (badly) in Tianamen square, visited a couple of dead communists and spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of time on trains.

Hanoi was hectic – I think it gets the Tim Little award for bad driving (something I feel well qualified to award).  Crossing the road there is a terrifying experience, they only seem to posses two wheeled vehicles and no copies of the highway code.  Allegedly they drive on the right there but no one has told the riders.

In Hanoi I also visited the remains of Uncle Ho – My first dead communist.

The trip to Beijing (50 hours by train) was relatively painless – oddly the border guards spoke better English than Vietnamese.  My trip was made more enjoyable by the company of an entrepreneur from Guangou (I know thats spelt wrong, sorry Mr Gu).

Beijing has changed a lot since I was last there in January 1995.  The most obvious thing was the weather – last time I was there it was freezing during the day and this time it was in the high 30s.  There’s progress for you.  Also some seems to have pinched all the bikes.  Four years ago zillions of bicycles zoomed around Tianamen square and now there hardly seems any – its all new cars.  The market stalls have been removed from the underpasses and now there is a Chinese food hall next to the square (as well as the McDonalds).  The few street traders left are selling mobile phone accessories.

As for the Chinese themselves, they are fatter and better dressed.  the signs of increased wealth are everywhere, mobile phones and pagers abound (although not yet to the extent of Hong Kong, thank goodness).

Whilst in Beijing I also took the time to visit Chairman Mao (queueing  for half an hour in the sun in long trousers and proper shoes to show respect only to find the locals in shorts and sandals) and I had a trip to the Acrobats – an incredible show I would strongly recommend to anyone visiting Beijing.  The act where a girl balanced a stack of bowls on her foot while being thrown between two guys was unbelievable.

And now I am spending my 31st birthday in Ulan Bator.  I arrived this afternoon after another long train ride (only 30 hours though) and I (accidentally) got to see them changing the wheels on the carriages to cope with the different gauges in China and Mongolia.  Thats what happens if you pop back onto the train to get your book when no one is looking.  The train pulled out and I ended up in the train sheds.  The wheely bits (there is a technical term but I was never a trainspotter) are disconnected, the body of the carriage raised with a crane, the old wheels pushed away and new ones pushed under.  It was very impressive and I forgot to take any photos.

The trip through Mongolia was incredible.  Big, empty and slightly haunting.  There really are yurts, horsemen and endless grass plains.  Hopefully tomorrow I will explore Ulan Bator and on Friday I will get out into the countryside.

If any of you are wondering – I found myself a good solid book in Beijing.  Some of the people off my trip where kind enough to give books which kept me going to Beijing and now I am working my way through “Twilight in the Forbidden City”, the memoirs of the English tutor of the last emperor.

I hope you are all well (even those of you who never respond) and are enjoying yourselves.  Welcome to my new friends.

Best regards,

Subject: From Russia with love
“I like trains”.  A phrase I regret using.  Since I left Ulan Batar I have spent 120 hours on trains including a mammoth 80 hour stretch through Siberia.  I am, however, approaching the Finnish line and will arrive in Helsinki in two days time.
I left you all in Ulan Batar as I boarded a train for Irkutsk.  Firstly a few words about Mongolia.  Someone appears to have been given an unlimited amount of concrete and told to build the ugliest city possible in the most beautiful location they could find.  The result was Ulan Batar.
Mongolia has vast, empty plains with the occasional wooded hills.  Scattered among the countryside are large piles of stone topped by flags which are prayer sites for Shaman.  These add an otherworldly aspect to an already unsettling landscape, populated by the descendants of Ghengis Khan, who still ride into town wearing the traditional costume.

Leaving Mongolia I got the first piece of visa problems so far on this trip.  Apparently I shouldn’t have been allowed into Mongolia as the visa was only valid for 3 months after it was issued in April, a fact that was not made clear to me at the time.  My passport was confiscated for a nerve racking hour before I was allowed to leave Mongolia and enter Russia.

Siberia is big.  Outside Irkutsk is lake Biakal which is 600km long, 60km wide and 1.6km deep.  It contains 20 percent of the worlds fresh water.  Siberia has lots of facts like that.  It also has countryside which is pretty on the first day of your train ride but you are tired of by the fourth.  Interesting place though.

Moscow is a beautiful city filled with little fascists in uniforms.  It has to be the most frustrating, bloody minded, over priced city I have visited on my trip so far.  It makes London seem cheap and foreigners are charged for everything (including the milk in coffee, ketchup etc).  The Kremlin costs foreigners 10 times as much to enter as locals (and is dearer than the forbidden city), the petty officials wouldn’t allow us to take bags in or even a guide book (there are virtually no signs in English) and it is a lot smaller than the forbidden city.  Very pretty though.  I did get to see Lenin (after more clashes with petty officialdom) and now have the full set (unless anyone is aware of any dead communists I’ve missed).

I arrived in St Petersburg this morning after an overnight train ride from Moscow (during which I was literally as well as metaphorically train sick).  My third Russian city in 10 days.

And now to explore St Petersburg.

All the best,

Subject: The return to the occident
This may be my penultimate epistle so I am going to use as many long or obscure words as I can.
I am back in Europe and boy does it show.  I no longer appear tall and well dressed (actually I’ve only ever seemed average height at best and even the Laotians dressed less scruffily than me, but, hey, a boy can dream can’t he?).

Before I start on Europe I ought to report on St Petersburg.  I liked it.  The winter palace is spectacular and the town itself is a reasonable facsimile of Paris (minus the garish fast food joints and Eiffel tower, but with the rude, snarly inhabitants who seem unable to smile or speak English).  Peter the Great would be proud.

And now I am back in the European Union and facing the imminent task of hunting for employment.  I am moving fairly rapidly through cities now and am finding it hard to remember which country I’m in.  It doesn’t help that every eighteenth century European ruler decided to make their capital a copy of Paris.

Helsinki is nice.  Based on Paris coincidentally.  Finland is the home of Nokia and it seems that every Finn views it their patriotic duty to carry and use a mobile phone.  I think they even beat Hong Kong for the number of phones.  Incredible.

I caught the ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm.  This was a huge (12 floor) affair complete with casino, pubs, restaurants and shops.  Even us plebs hidden away below the car deck acting as ballast got an ensuite bathroom to the dorm (it was an overnight ferry).

Stockholm is another Paris wannabe.  Very pretty and all that but the theme is getting repetitive.  That’s not really fair as Stockholm is one of my favourite cities so far with lots to do (although the beer works out at 4 pound a pint!) and friendly beautiful people.  For some reason it was also full of Italians.  I have no idea why, but probably half the people in the hostel I stayed were Italian young men.  I suspect it may be related to the number of tall, blonde, Scandinavian beauties that are found in Scandinavia.  I would like to report that these said beauties find short, fat, hairy men irresistibly attractive.  Sadly I can’t.

Another night train took me to Copenhagen (the train was loaded onto and off a ferry while I slept).  My main plan in Copenhagen (which, also looks like Paris) is to take a, purely educational, tour around the Carlsburg brewery.  In the interest of science I may be forced to partake of the free samples they hand out at the end.

I hope you are all well.  For those of you in the UK I expect to be in England in the first week of September (unless I find something better to do, or I get arrested).

All the best,

Subject: The rover’s return
“A roving, a roving, no more will I go a roving”
I’m back in Blighty.  I can tell because the trains don’t run on time and people are speaking worse English than I heard the locals use in Amsterdam.  Also I’m looking the right way when I cross the road.  Actually I felt a swell of excitement as I entered England and had to restrain myself from running up and down the carriage telling people “I’m home! I’m home!”

I got back yesterday (Monday) through the Channel Tunnel (my first time) travelling from Amsterdam, changing in Brussels.  I passed through Belgium faster than you can say ‘Panzer Division’ and through France faster than you can say ‘Waterloo’, but clocked up my fourteenth and fifteenth countries passed through on this trip anyway (these being: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France).

Amsterdam is great.  It helps that the weather was fantastic and I arrived in a culture festival week.  This meant that there were free concerts going on continuously and free entry to some of the museums.  It also meant that Amsterdam was packed and I had a very tense time the night before I arrived phoning almost all my list of places to stay before I found a bed.  Once there, Amsterdam was exactly as I imagined it, lots of canals, tall buildings and bicycles.  It also has coffee shops that sell products you would never get from Starbucks, cafes that are actually pubs and scantily clad women in shop windows.  I partook only in the beer (although I did check my email in a coffee shop, so I guess I inhaled the atmosphere at least).

And now home.  After nearly four years away I had resigned myself to the fact that the only things to have changed will have been the things I didn’t want to.  So far I have been proved wrong and am delighted with the country I have returned to.  I have only been here one day though, I expect to be saying “In Australia they don’t/are better at/have better…” pretty soon.  I am also already starting sentences with “When I was in…”.  Feel free to hit me if I do it in your presence. Beware of photos as well.

On the subject of photos, my Mum (who I’m staying with at the moment) doesn’t have a scanner so those of you waiting for me to update my web site will have to wait until I get hold of one.  Hopefully this will be soon.

This is my last email, so thank you for being nice about the previous emails (or at least politely silent).  I hope you have enjoyed them, I’ve enjoyed writing them, and I look forward to hopefully seeing most of you again at various points in the future. 
  All the best,



One response

2 05 2008

Great, don’t understand how I missed out on them first time around. They priceless better than a photo Album.

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