30.10.2012 - 30.10.2012
So the day after tomorrow, November 1st, we set off for our big trip that we've been planning, saving for and dreaming about for over a year. Here's the plan. A couple of weeks in Australia seeing family and friends and a total solar eclipse. Then a month in Vietnam, a month in Laos and a month in Cambodia - all overland. From Cambodia we fly to Burma for a month, then on to India for six weeks, and back to London at the end of April.
Some FAQs during the last year:
Q: So, looking forward to your holiday then?
A: It's not a holiday. Really. Yes it's six months of not going to work, which will be wonderful, but 'holiday' as in relaxation and getting away from it all - absolutely not. A few lazy weeks are dotted through the itinerary admittedly, possibly involving beaches, hammocks etc. Otherwise it's going to be, well, intense.
Q: What are you actually going to, like, do there?
A: Tramp round cities, towns and temples. Cycle through countryside and villages. Hike though jungles. Develop my photography, especially people/street/documentary photography. Do some work with a couple of literacy projects and permaculture ventures, I hope. See what poverty, globalisation and 'development' actually mean. See how Buddhism and communism co-exist. Record lots of ambient sounds in the streets and temples and jungles to work with when we get back. Try and understand about cultures and ways of life I currently know very little about. Try and be open to everything and take nothing for granted. Look, listen, learn, read, write, think, cry, laugh. And find out what what I have left when almost everything that gives me a sense of security, familiarity and certainty has gone.
Q: Why did you decide to go to those particular countries?
A friend pointed out that we have chosen to go to countries with amongst the world's most horrific recent histories. The Vietnam war (or American War to the Vietnamese); the 'secret war' on Laos in which the US dropped more bombs on a country the size of Britain than were dropped on the whole of Europe in WW2; the Pol Pot reign of terror in Cambodia that caused the deaths of nearly a quarter of the population in just four years, and Burma with its brutally repressive military still in control, albeit with a recent change of window dressing. We didn't know much about this region when we made the decision to go there - it wasn't a case of 'Ooh let's visit the most bombed country in history'. Rather that we wanted to be immersed in completely new cultures and experiences and ways of being. Our shortlist was South America or Southeast Asia. It came down to six months of spicy food or six months of refried beans? No-brainer.
Q: Isn't it going to be dangerous?
A: We live in Peckham.
Q: No, but seriously.
OK, Peckham may have its problems but unexploded landmines, poisonous spiders, snakes, typhoid, malaria or rabies aren't among them, at the moment. We are both quite sensible really and are as prepared as possible for forseeeable hazards. My mother's advice from growing up in India will remain with me - always shake your shoes out before putting them on in case there's a scorpion in there.