Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Easy Way Home - Melbourne, Bangkok, Plumpton

Whilst we were very excited to see everyone, we were in no huge hurry to return back home. Despite the stress at the time, one of our happiest periods of the trip was the three weeks we spent in Bangkok. With this in mind we were keen to return, and managed to engineer a combination of flights that was not only cheaper than booking with one airline, but allowed us to spend a cheeky few days in one of our favourite cities.

Bizarrely, the cheapest flight from Australia to South East Asia was from Melbourne to Bangkok. We decided to build in an extra night to give us a chance to see Melbourne on the way, then were unsure if we would regret it once we realised how cold it might be. We also hadn’t quite considered how poor we were. Luckily for us though, the Sands family came to our rescue, kindly booking a hotel for us. They had already done so much for us, and this was hugely appreciated and really touched us both.

After emotional goodbyes and a two hour flight, we found ourselves touching down in Melbourne. A short bus ride took us to the centre, and after dropping our bags off we went out in search of food. There is always a certain element of fun to trying to find somewhere decent to eat when arriving in the dark in a strange city. For us the fun was compounded by having no internet device to assist us. We wandered around for a while, eventually lighting on a delightfully cosy bar / restaurant and stuffing our faces with tasty food.

We only had one day to enjoy Melbourne, but it was a good one. The weather was (relatively) cold, but the sun was shining. We pottered around the free exhibitions at the state library, even seeing the famous Ned Kelly’s rudimentary armour. From there we wandered down to Fitzroy, a hipster’s paradise full of inviting cafes, cool bars, and eye-wateringly expensive boutiques. The latter were well out of our budget, but we had an awesome lunch at Jimmy Grant’s, then washed it down with coffees and a brownie at the Little CafĂ© of Awesome. Both places were excellent and surprisingly cheap, getting a huge recommend from Oli and I.

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We ended up in Chinatown for dinner, stumbling on one of the many restaurants specialising in dumplings. I wish I could remember the name of the place we ate, but for just over £5 we had enough dumplings and soup to leave us just shy of uncomfortably full. The food was delicious, and almost made us wish we were staying an extra day in Melbourne.

Still, leaving wasn’t so hard when we were off to Bangkok. We went for a short morning potter before making our way to the airport. Oli was dreading the flight as it would be his first ever long haul. However, nine hours on a budget airline was surprisingly okay in the end, even if the person sat in front of me whacked their seat right back thirty minutes in. I consoled myself by (perhaps unfairly) judging them as a terrible person, and the flight went much faster than we thought it would.

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Arriving back in Bangkok was just as awesome as we had imagined. We were pretty shattered, so crashed out on arriving. We slept surprisingly well, and woke up the next day looking forward to getting on board with the street food. Happily, most of our favourite vendors were still occupying the same posts, so we didn’t do much else other than wander around our old haunts and eat a lot.

Much like our first visit, we didn’t do much sightseeing. A planned visit to a museum fell through when it turned out to be closed, but in all honesty we weren’t too bothered. We just love Bangkok as a place. To be fair we’ve never gone in search of the seedy or backpacker sides of it, preferring to stick around the Silom / Siam areas, but it really is a great city. We could spend insane amounts of time just exploring the backstreets, and enjoying the contrast of these against glittering malls. It is a hectic city with a surprisingly relaxed undercurrent, and it has undoubtedly earned a special place in our memories of travelling.

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Our five days in Bangkok went all too fast, and we would have been gutted to leave were it not for the excitement of going home for the first time in almost a year and a half. Only a twelve hour flight stood between us and seeing the Allen family again, and we couldn’t wait. Arriving in Heathrow was surreal and wonderful, and seeing my lovely Mum and Dad again felt amazing.

Whilst we were super excited to be back, we did realise on the way back that we needed to re-adjust. I had drunk rather a lot of water on the plane (wanting to avoid dehydration of course), and this combined with heavy M25 traffic resulted in me needing to pee. Typically, we happened to be as far away from any services as possible. Dad tried to make the situation better by asking what I would do if we were on the bike, expecting me to say I’d just deal with it and hold on. My response to this was honestly that I’d just get Oli to pull over so I could go in the bushes, which was not what Dad had anticipated. Unfortunately such actions are frowned upon in Europe, but fortunately I did make it to a bathroom. Phew.

We have now been back in England for around ten days. In a way it feels like we never left, but we are also aware of how our outlooks may have changed. Although we have come back without a penny the trip has been completely worth it. They say that travelling is truly the only thing that makes you richer, cheesy but true.

Over the past year our concepts of luxury have been completely redefined, and we are hugely aware of how lucky we are to have had the means and the options that allowed us to make such a journey. We are returning quite a lot wiser and just a little bit tougher. We have also been deeply touched by the kindness and generosity of people in every single country we have visited. As humans we imagine that the world is a scary place, but on the whole it isn’t. We can’t recommend getting out there strongly enough. After doing this trip we both feel like almost anything is possible, and that, is really quite a wonderful lesson to take away.

The Trip in Numbers:

Time abroad: 16 months
Countries: 27
Crashes: 4
Crashes involving other vehicles: 2
Stationary Bike drops due to short legs: Too numerous to count
Traffic fines threatened by police: 2
Traffic fines paid: 0
Customs searches (half-arsed): 3
Customs searches (full): 0
Bribes paid: 0
Tyre changes: 3 (two new fronts, one new rear)
Punctures: 0
Oil changes: 4
Major mechanical issues: 0
Minor mechanical issues: 2
Days spent cleaning bike before Australian quarantine: 8
Length of quarantine inspection (minutes): 10
Countries experiencing major political protests at time of visit: 4
Items stolen: 0
High-fives given to police officers whilst moving: 1

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