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Published: December 5th 2015
Well here I am, and it's the last evening in my old home. Where did that month go? I have mixed feelings of course, but the decision was made to sell the place and I'll go through with it this time. It says in the NT: "If you want to plough a straight furrow, don't look back." So, come what may, I'm pressing onward.
Just about everything has gone from the house, either sold or given away. A bit too much of the latter, but I needed to clear the house with as little hassle as possible. I just have enough food and cooking utensils to get me through this evening. I've moved the bed out so I'll have to sleep on the floor. It struck me that I'd never slept in the smaller of the three bedrooms, so I'll 'camp out' there tonight.
I'm a bit concerned that I maybe over the weight limit for the flight back to Thailand. I promised myself that I'd not be taking anything extra back with me, but I've been unable to keep that pledge. I also bought a new crash helmet and heavy leather boots (Not for
the flight home!) but for my motorcycle riding. They were much cheaper here, that is so long as I manage to get through Thai customs without being nabbed. I'm looking forward to getting back on my bike for a ride up country to see my wife Ananya and our home again. Strange that the time here has gone so quickly and yet it seems a long time since I've seen her. I'm getting closer now to that enchanting Thai smile of hers and her warm welcome.
Most of the things are packed for my early morning departure tomorrow, yet I know that there will be a last minute dash. But I've done all that I can do for now, and tomorrow will have to take care of itself. It's 6pm and a pleasant evening, so I'll drink some coffee in the garden, watch the fish cruising around the pond, and gaze at the last sunset. The evenings are cool here compared to Thailand, which gives me an excuse to light a fire in the wood burning stove. I love to watch the flames flickering as darkness falls. I'll also walk around this old house just one last
Selling durian, a favourite fruit for some.
Asia's 'Marmite': you either love them or hate them.
I get up early and leave without breakfast. When I have travel plans, all I want to do is to start the journey. So there is a sense of detachment, and yet as I lock the front door for the last time there's a strong awareness that if all goes to plan, then I'll never set foot here again. I encounter another road closure on the way to the airport but manage to plot an alternative route without getting lost - this time. It was good that I had plenty of time to spare. I arrive at Manchester airport hours ahead of time. Spending five minutes waiting in a supermarket queue drives me crazy, but waiting hours in an airport lounge just makes me mellow - so long as I'll eventually be going somewhere. For me, waiting is just another part of the traveling.
I enjoy the quiet time that long haul flights afford and only occasionally dip into the on-board in-flight entertainment. It is rare that I have chatty fellow passengers but my return trip this time was an exception. On the first leg of the return flight from Manchester to Istanbul,
my nearest fellow traveler said nothing until the last 30 minutes of the flight. This is always a bad time for me because my ears pop like crazy as the plane loses altitude so I wear ear plugs to try and reduce the discomfort and hearing loss. I had to ask him to repeat much of what he said, but he didn't seem to mind.
Turns out he was flying to Iraq. He works in 'security'. After having spent 23 years in the British army he was now pensioned off, but still a young man, this work is what he knows and what he does best. He had tried civilian jobs but found the money low and the work unchallenging. He is a married man with three children living in England. He told me that the money being paid in Iraq is not as high as before. The higher the risks the higher the reward. In some respects, just an ordinary guy, but putting his life on the line to protect someone else (often Chinese business men ), or guarding someone's home while the owner is away. I've often felt that my sanity has been at risk
in the jobs I've done, but to put my life at risk; I just can't conjure up how that must feel for him, his wife or his family. Do you have a picture in your head of what he looked like? He was not over tall, and a little over weight. He was well dressed and spoke in a measured way which gave the impression that he knew what he was going to say before he started talking and would not stray from it - cautious. No tattoos, no bad language, just an ordinary looking family guy. One thing we did have in common was that we'd both prefer to spend Christmas in Iraq than to suffer the horrors of Christmas shopping and celebrate the festivities with the in-laws in England.
On the last leg of my flight from Istanbul to Bangkok, I was sat next to an elderly German man. He had caught my attention in the departure lounge as he talked to another guy in an enthusiastic way. I'd assumed that they were traveling together. This time there was no respite for me, the conversation started before I had even sat down: he
was sitting in the wrong seat, my seat. His English was not strong and how I wished that my good friend Randy was sitting in my place, since he loves to chat on planes and he speaks German. Still, I could make time for my quiet life later and it would have been selfish to ignore someone who really needed to talk. He was returning to Ho-Chi-Min city (where Randy also lives) to his Vietnamese wife after having been in Germany for a serious operation. It turns out that he was not as old as I'd thought, just visibly aged by illness.
He lives in a quiet area, by choice, well away from the bustle of the city with his wife in a bungalow. His passion was growing fruit - an interest that we both share - in his large well tended garden. I was shown pictures of his home, his garden, his German shepherd dog, his motorcycle and a still that he uses to brew a powerful liquor from the bananas he grows. This man loved to talk, but he was also keen to listen - a rare combination. He wasn't boring, he just liked company,
and since I was the only one in range, it was me he confided in for most of the nine hour flight to Bangkok. Having abandoned any hope of a quiet flight I began to enjoy his enthusiasm for his interests, and his broken English which required a great many hand gestures and facial expressions in order to convey his stories to this monolingual passenger. As we flew on into the night, my liking for him increased and I now rather miss him.
It was a long flight back to Thailand and I should have taken the time to adjust, but as I walk into my condo I am taken by surprise to find myself 'somewhere else'. In a place that manages to be both strange and familiar at the same time. Tomorrow I'll have to get myself a medical certificate and armed with this and other paperwork I'll see if I can get my recently expired motorcycle diving licence renewed. It'll be a downer if I can't what with my new crash helmet and posh leather riding boots.
Well I got my licence renewed. It took all morning, but
I'm licenced to thrill for another six years. It was far from being a straight forward process, but I'll spare you the blow by blow account. By way of celebration I jumped on the first bus to come by the Land Transport Office and went off to take a few photos of Bangkok for those of you who might not be familiar with this part of the world. I went to an area of Bangkok called Banglampho. It caters for tourists, especially back packers and it was where I spent a fair amount of time when I first arrived in Thailand and was looking for work. This area is rich in temples and is patrolled by exploitative tuk-tuk drivers, well known for their scams, who'll readily take unsuspecting tourists for a much bigger ride
than they expected. For me the attractions in this area of Bangkok are the second hand book shops, the cafes and the Chao Prya River. After having some noodles at a street restaurant, I drink a large cup of coffee and loving thumb my shiny new motorbike licence. I then travel in a leisurely style back to my condo by way of a river boat ride, the Sky Train and finally a songthaew (an open van/taxi that are cheap and plentiful). Time now to get things ready for my trip back home tomorrow.
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