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Published: August 5th 2013
Long have I anticipated typing these words - my last of this 6-month travel blog. It's strange how even after my second month, I was already forming the following sentences in my mind; it had already dawned on me, I suppose, the sort of undertaking I'd blundered blindly into. Looking back, it's really been one hell of a ride. Now, like the last agonising mile of a marathon, or the last 20 minutes before the school bell, these finishing days have passed torturously slowly. I am stuck in limbo: I want to go home, and I want to stay. After a 3-week holiday, I always look forward to going home. It's been over 26 weeks, and I am suffering from a more ambiguous, less defined feeling now; I'm brooding before tonight's flight home. Rushes of excitement (after all, I'm soon to be reunited with family, friends and cheddar cheese) compete with curious pangs of regret to be leaving this magical place, which swallowed me unceremoniously in Delhi, digested me through the bowels of Asia and will now spit me back, half-way across the globe, to my home country, my home town and my own bed.
Being back in Bangkok feels odd. It feels like a holding station for the wide range of travelers that park here before fanning off into the far corners of Asia. In a way, I suppose that's exactly what it is; the streets I have stayed on are sickeningly tourist-friendly, with everything one might need located off a 40m stretch of tarmac. It's sad that many people who come to Bangkok probably go no further than Khao San Road. Marc and I yesterday went on an alarmingly successful shopping trip. When great t-shirts are a quid and shoes are 3 pounds, it's difficult to say no. Likewise, when a Kashmir tailored suit is£60, I couldn't resist. Tonight, I toast my last night of this terrific journey, 63 floors up on the Bangkok SkyBar, with a brand new suit and and a now old, battered but loyal camera to commemorate the occasion. Marc will have to endure some sentimental rubbish as the twinkling Bangkok skyline inspires in me the nostalgia that I am so far subduing.
I don't really know what to write now. If you're an avid follower of these blogs (and here I must thank those of you for your patience and resilience against some shoddy, rushed writing) then you have a fair, if brief, idea of what it's been like out here. Of course, I will write about when I went to the greatest human gathering in history, or when I climbed a Himalayan mountain, guide-less, only to be thwarted by the snow. I will happily boast that I saw a tiger, I witnessed the majesty of the Taj Mahal and on the same day I starred in a Bollywood movie (now in the production stage, by the way). I'll write til the cows come home about skulking around slums, relaxing in Goa, ticking off a long list of World Heritage Sites and getting stuck in to the mania of Bangladesh. That's not to mention the times I happily sat typing about the brilliance of Burma, the snaking Hai Van Pass, pretty Halong Bay, laid-back Luang Prabang, subterranean Ko Long cave, eye-opening Khmer Rouge museums, indescribable Angkor Wat, idyllic Thai islands and the full-on Full Moon party.
I write about all these things because they are highlights. And if I'm not here for the highlights, then why on earth did I spend £4,500 of Waitrose cash to come out here? When you've done your time though (and this may sound incredibly pretentious) you realise that travel is not a smash-and-grab, highlights orientated concept. It's about the roller-coaster, the troughs that must accompany the peaks (quite literally in the case of Nepal). And so in this last blog entry I feel that while it's nice to read the above list and think back on some of the major highlights, it's also important for me to reflect that none of it would have been possible but for a lot of hard work. Hard work at home, and hard work out here. Even this blog has been hard work!
I'm going to be back at my house in Tunbridge Wells at around this time tomorrow. And when I'm back, I'll be telling all those stories that I didn't manage to cram into emails, blog posts or postcards. People will ask me: "what were your top 3 experiences." A word of advice: don't ask me that question. I have no answers. How can I compare, say, meeting Burmese rebels, with the vibrant ghats of Varanasi? I'd much prefer to answer the reverse question, about my worst experiences. Those I am most proud of.
I am proud of my travels and it'd be modest to the point of immodesty not to claim that. I've been through 8 countries, most of which are not sitting pretty on the World Development Index. I've "slummed it" (inappropriate phrase, I know) as much as I could, and I've embraced the Eastern way of life. Now I have to take my last long journey, a sleepless, nervous 12-hour flight to Heathrow, where I have no idea what sort of country awaits me. I know a loving family, some curious friends and a tin of Heinz Beans are close at hand, though, and that's enough to really make my mind up: I'm ready to come home.
All good things come to an end, and with a lump in my throat, I finally conclude this blog. Alex King, signing out. Until next time.
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