Every month. Every month the thirteenth creeps up on me and I stop still from whatever I’m doing. This makes Craig panic and assume there is a snake close by until he realises the date and that I’m still prone to physical jolts of “I can’t believe we get to do this EVERY day”. He’s quite understanding once the snake situation has been fully assessed.
This time a month ago, I was champing to get back on the road. I certainly got my wish! This has been our busiest month since we arrived back in Southeast Asia – we’ve been to so many wonderful places I feel like I’ve been on sensory overload, and I do mean that in the best possible way. We’ve seen temples at dawn, the bright neon of a metropolis by night and had some… character building experiences getting between A and B. As I look ahead to the next month we add yet another unexpected destination to our list: the Philippines was added on a whim when we had our original flight out of Japan cancelled. I’m hoping it will be a serendipitous decision but we haven’t even had time to plan an itinerary yet (and we fly in five days!).
- Countries: Three (four if you count a 12 hour layover in Malaysia)
- Places: Eleven. We’ve got around in the last 30 days…
Sorry, planet. This month we took three flights but kept in-country transport as earth-friendly as we could. We took sixteen trains in all; one train in Burma (distance: 150km time taken: a mere eleven hours) and fifteen (infinitely faster and more comfortable) in Japan – including several shinkansen bullet trains which I’m a bit in love with. Overnight buses were our transport of choice in Burma (to save on accommodation costs as well as avoiding wasting time on the loong distances) and we spent thirty three glorious hours of our lives bouncing along pothole-ridden roads on buses in various states of disrepair with trails of vomit streaking down their sides (not to mention the five hours on a dusty mini coach between Bagan and Mandalay and an infinitely more comfortable hour long airport bus transfer in Japan). Budget travel. It’s marvellous. We’ve also done one motorbike rental, had a chauffeur-driven car for one magical day and reintroduced ourselves to the wonderful world of the city subway in Japan’s rush hour.
- Favourite dish: This has been an immense month for eating, even by our standards. Our favourites have been rich Shan noodles from a Burmese market and (by contrast) a magnificent shabu shabu meal of finest Kobe beef and champagne in Tokyo.
- Snakes: One. And that one was flattened on the road so it doesn’t really count.
- Geishas: One
- Biggest extravagance: Opinion is divided between Craig and I. I think the time and money we spent in Tokyo’s arcades was quite extravagant. He counters that spending ¥500 on trying a single sea urchin “to see what it tastes like” (like the sea, is the answer) is equally extravagant. The jury remains out on which of us is the most decadent.
- Biggest bargain: Roadside noodles on our motorbike tour around Hsipaw. We pulled over to a roadside shack, pointed to the table next to us where an old man sat slurping some noodles and were presented with two bowls of the same. The cost? K300 – less than ten pence each.
- Best purchase: Tokyo (and Japan in general) is unrivalled for one of my greatest loves: stationery. I’ve been remarkably restrained and kept it to a few gorgeous bits of paper craft and some erasable pens, which I’m so excited about it’s actually a bit embarrassing. But really. PENS YOU CAN ERASE.
- Best item in our rucksacks: We might moan about carrying them in 40 degree heat, but when the mercury dropped to 8 degrees of drizzle in Kanazawa, we were mighty glad of our wind and waterproof jackets!
- Reading list: Craig remains engrossed in the latest Game of Thrones. I’ve enjoyed reading Under the Dragon by Rory Maclean – a travel tale about a quest for a basket in Burma which ends up being so much more.
- Favourite photo spot: The Circle Train in Yangon offered endless opportunities to watch local life in action during our three hour journey.