Day M230: On The Road Again

Mon 14.05.12: Apart from that brief unpleasantness in Australia, travelling up and down to Townsville on one of those wretched overpriced Aussie coaches, this ‘phase’ of The Odyssey Expedition has seen little land travel. Much of the past eight months have been spent at sea and I had almost forgotten what it was like to have to hold in a poo for days until a decent karzee presented itself. I would quickly have to relearn that lesson if I was to press on with this insane little quest. Last night, again intending to go to sleep before the dawn chorus for once in my life, I found myself quite embroiled in the football. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m not the biggest of sports fans, but I do like to take a passing interest – and big important matches are always of interest to…

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Day M231: Hang on, I’m Kunming

Tue 15.05.12: 8am came and went. It was by this stage I realised that when the nice lady at the Guangzhou bus station has said the bus took 14 hours, she meant to say it arrived at 14 hours. As in 2pm the next day. This did not bode well for my race down to Kuala Lumpur for the Gold Star Line ship leaving on Friday. Now it would be afternoon by the time I arrived in Kunming, at best. Oh why didn’t I leave Guangzhou on Sunday as I had intended?! Buggeration on stilts. So it was after two in the afternoon before the bus rolled into to Kunming East Bus Station. I went inside and was told that the bus for Laos left from the Southern Bus Station – which makes sense, since Laos is pretty much due south of here. Having bus stations…

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Day M232: All We Have is Laos

Wed 16.05.12: Attention novice backpackers! The country of Laos is pronounced ‘Lao’!! Just so you know. I crossed the border at Boten at first light, a golden temple welcoming me into the land of a million elephants. Laos is the unsung hero of South-East Asia, a shooting star-shaped country that straddles the Mekong River all the way down to Cambodia. Like Afghanistan, Laos is an artificial construct, a buffer zone between two empires – Laos being invented to keep the French at arm’s length from the Kingdom of Siam (now Thailand). It didn’t work, and before long the French had annexed the country and the various tribes (including the Hmong, the people next door in Clint Eastwood’s excellent film Gran Torino) fell under the tyranny of The Tricolor. Although in the grander scheme of things that was nothing compared to the suffering meted out by the…

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Day M233: Shot Down Over Bangkok

Thu 17.05.12: The bus got into Vientiane even earlier than expected – at around 3am. Nothing to do but wait in the tatty old bus station until the border opens. I tried to get some shut-eye, but ended up chatting with a backpacker called Arin. She asked me if I could guess where she was from and my first guess was South Korea… which was right! Oh yeah! Slam dunk! Man of the World, you better believe it! Arin joined me in a taxi from the main bus station to where the buses leave for the Thai border, but she got out at the airport from where she was flying home to Singapore. I wish I could bloody well fly… The buses to the border didn’t start until 7.30am, so I took a shared Tuk-Tuk, which was so painfully slow it was painful. He even stopped…

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Day M234: Something Fishy

Fri 18.05.12: I spent the day in the backpacker bar hunched over my computer attempting to find a clever way to get to Sri Lanka without flying. Now my mind had turned to the possibility of getting on a cargo ship to India (much more frequent) and then taking the ferry over to Colombo from Tuticorin. The ferry had stopped back in the early 80s as a result of the ongoing violence in the north of Sri Lanka, but with the Tamil Tigers now effectively (and quite possibly illegally) wiped out, the ferry had resumed. After finding some ships that might suit my purpose, I decided to have a look at the ferry timetable to see how frequent this ferry was and how much it was going to cost. That was when I found out that the ferry had once again ceased operations – this time…

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Day M235: Bangkok-A-Go-Go

Sat 19.05.12: Another day of sifting through shipping timetables and arranging matters for further down the line. The most (de)pressing of which is what the hell is happening with Series 2 of my TV show. Well, some of you know the ins-and-outs of this, but most of you don’t. To cut a long story short, I was well and truly stitched up by the Powers That Be concerning Series 1. Criminally so, in my opinion. If I tell you that I have, to date, been paid less than £1,500 per episode for a show that’s been on heavy rotation for almost 2 years you might understand where I’m coming from, especially if you live in one of the fifty countries that my show has been repeated a zillion times on Nat Geo Adventure. Please understand that I’m not doing this for TV, I’m doing The Odyssey…

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Days M236-237: Escape From Khao San

Sun 20.05.12–Mon 21.05.12: When you gotta go, you’ve gotta go. I don’t need The Hangover II to tell me that Bangkok is more addictive than crack. I could happily stay here a long, long time, become that crazy drunken hippy guy with the nifty hat and the funny stories. But there is adventure afoot and nobody ever won an award for finishing 98% of a race. I HAVE FOUR COUNTRIES TO GO AND – ONE WAY OR ANOTHER – I WILL CONQUER THEM ALL!!! Wahaha! After my snail-like experience on the public bus from the border with Laos to Bangkok, I opted for a ‘VIP’ bus to take me down to Singapore (you can buy a direct ticket for about forty quid). It left at 6pm, giving me ample time to get myself a new fake student card on Khao San Road. Yes, I’m a criminal…

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Day M238: The Road To Singapore

Tue 22.05.12: One day, a British gent called Tom sat down before a map of the world. At the very tip of the Malay peninsular he noticed a small, jungle-covered island. Being a genius (a British syndrome if ever there was one), he figured that if he put a settlement there, one day it would be the shipping capital of the world. All ships travelling to and from The Far East and Europe would have to stop there to trade goods or pick up supplies. Tommy Boy convinced the British East India Company to get onboard with his crazy brilliant scheme and thus Singapore was born. I left the bus (a wave and a glad-to-never-see-you-again smile to Wolfgang the old Nazi, who responded with a ‘Sieg Heil’ as if it was funny… he’s probably at home now putting his cat in the oven) and headed over…

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Day M239: Wednesday Night Social

Wed 23.05.12: I had arranged to meet with Captain Paneer of PIL, the shipping company responsible for my crucial forays to Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Taiwan. I wanted to thank him and the company for being so incredibly generous and helping me to over half of my final 17 countries. And so I headed over to the PIL offices in the business district of Singapore clutching a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label. About 45 minutes later I walked out with a spring in my step. Captain Paneer had offered me a spot on a ship going to Sri Lanka. A few more days in Singapore and I’d be on my way. It was a huge weight off my mind. Country 198 effectively in the bag, I turned my attention to countries 199, 200 and 201. My current plan for The Maldives…

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Day M240: Fish n’ Chips n’ Curry Sauce

Thu 24.05.12: PIL you are the BEST!! Not only did I awake to find an email granting me passage on board the MV Kota Wirawan, which leaves next Monday for Colombo, I have also been offered a place onboard a ship leaving Sri Lanka to come back to Singapore and then a third ship to Madagascar. Now I have just TWO more shipping jaunts to organise and I’m done: The Maldives and The Seychelles. Behind the scenes while I was on board the Mell Sembawang last month, Dino, Mandy and my Mum were working tirelessly to try to get me on a ship from Hong Kong to Colombo. Once it became clear that Hong Kong was a dead end and that I intended to head down to Singapore, Dino put me onto a mate of a mate of his, Philip. He had been looking for a…

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