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Published: October 16th 2006
SE Asia: A Taste of Things to Come
Exploring ancient 'lost cities' was just one of the highlights of a journey through SE Asia
….”Six, Five, Four…”
All Journeys have a beginning and an end. Ours began in Cornwall. The idea was born in the cold depths of winter. Most trips to hotter climates often are and frequently follow hot-on-the-heels of one too many dark winters. Life, we had decided, was too short to put things off. There are times in all our lives when we are reminded painfully of the fragile nature of our existence. You never know what’s around the corner and it really doesn’t pay to put off something you want to do until tomorrow. And besides, we both wanted to feel again - " The heat of life in a handful of dust ", as Joseph Conrad once described it - that passion for life that we must squeeze from every moment before it is gone.
After much indecision, we chose to make an in-depth visit to South East Asia. It was eight years since we had been there last and we knew that a great deal had changed. There had been the Bali bombings in 2002 that coincided with a catastrophic dip in the Asian economy. Sectarian and secessionist violence had made some places too dangerous to visit.
Swans at Pull's Ferry, Norwich
© L. Birch 2006
Earthquakes and a giant tsunami had devastated parts of the region causing terrible losses to both life and property. Other changes however, had been more positive. Countries that had been previously closed to foreigners were now opening up and the regional economy had stabilised and was showing signs of a more promising future. Yes, it was going to be a very different place to the one we had known but discovering it all over again was somehow, a delightful prospect and one we began to look forward to with relish.
But selling all our possessions and renting out the house turned out to be a monumental and painful process. It was like deconstructing our lives and cutting ourselves adrift. Were we mad? Were we doing the right thing? Hardest of all was having to say goodbye to friends and family but it was not until we boarded that first bus and left our home environment behind that a sense of perspective began to settle upon us. With less than two weeks to go before our departure from the UK, we left Cornwall and made our way slowly to London. There were brief side trips to Bristol and Norfolk, more
Norwich Cathedral from the cloisters
© L. Birch 2006
or less to find our ‘travel feet’ and say our final goodbyes.
And if there were still doubts, they were partially laid to rest one evening within the great vaulted confines of Norwich Cathedral. We had gone there with my Father and Step Mother to hear the choir perform evensong, a daily ritual that had been carried out for more than 900 years. Outside, dusk was falling as the first refrains of the choir echoed through the empty Cathedral. Sitting alone below the stained glass window dominating the vast interior, I listened spellbound to the sound of the choir and became lost in my thoughts. All the emotional aches and pains of the previous weeks were still there but for the first time in ages I felt a sense of calm descend and a readiness to take on the next challenge…. which was a good thing really, for there were less than five days left to go before lift-off…
”....Three, Two, One…”
To all those who helped ease our way; Rob and Gilly, Mike and Alison, Sean and Liz, Grant and Susan, Tom and Barbara, Val, Annie, Bren, Sarah and everyone else - mere words cannot express our thanks.
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