So, we are returned! Back in Blighty and contemplating a return back out to the furthest corners of the world, cos it took far too long to open all my post and the washing pile is horrendous.......but we've missed everyone and it's great catching up.
Our flight back was ok, apart from screaming children, which as you all know is a personal joy of mine...but plenty of films and free beers to keep you occupied. And a lovely lift home from Rachel Rachel, which was great.
I have been asked already which was my favourite place, so hard to choose because each country gave something unique and can not be compared. So here's my list:
Laos - beautiful people who are smiling and happy all the time and the most scenic place, one to return to in the future.
Cambodia - a country ravaged and still trying to recover, which makes you sad and horrified at what still can happen, BUT it had the most fantastic beach and seafood, and these rough diamonds are so special.
Vietnam - riding on our 1952 scooter through the highlands gave us ultimate freedom to be able to do what we wanted without any tour guide.......and a road down through the mountains like I have never seen....top gear?! Pah, ours was much better.
China - I never thought I would walk on the Great Wall in my lifetime and it exceeded my expectations massively.......and who could go to China without seeing the panda-bears (one of which is currently living in my garden and has acclimatised surprisingly well, he is one cool bear).
Other observations have resulted in a huge respect for all countries and their people, China is the biggest head messer, as everything is soooooo difficult because of the language but random Chinese people will stop and help you, as they are naturally curious and helpful. This curiosity also translates into full-on-don't-care staring, which can be exasperating at times, you feel like you are in a permanent zoo, which tests your patience seriously. They also have no concept of personal space, awareness of others as they just stop stock still as you career into them! Barging you out of the way is common place, and the spitting by everyone is common place. Talking with your mouth full, loudly, and slurping your tea (which everyone knows is another personal favourite) is just how it's done, and it's ALWAYS tea time in your jam jar. And the place smells like a toilet - everywhere. The search for the porcelain became an obsession as their toilets range from oh-my-god-nasty to wonderful.......how is this possible when they are the most developed of countries and pretty rich in parts? A good toilet system is a universal marker of how far developed and up the pecking order you are (like restaurants!!) - if we use this scale, China is barely touching Greece! But seriously, when we did find a porcelain sitting down toilet, it was almost a religious experience, it meant that much. Do not scoff, tis true.
The south of vietnam is a beautiful place and warrants a return visit, especially to the places we couldn't see this time round. It was a special time as we got to see Tash, my travel buddy from Singapore, and therefore will always be a favourite for me. Whilst everyone else was saying "come home", my asia travel buddy was saying "stay stay, find a city and give it all up". So tempting. So I have decided, that either Saigon or Hong Kong will do, easily accessible for everyone, close to the travel buddy for more jaunts into Asia, and plus they have porcelain!! Clincher - just need to consider what job I could do.......... but at least I could spend all day everyday in my pajama-lama's and no-one would think this was weird, so it could be Saigon after all for this very reason....and Tash, I have not forgotten your photo request!
My advice to anyone considering a trip of this magnitude (and we met others who were travelling for far longer and to much more undeveloped places than us, we were tame in comparison) is to plan more before you go - China was so vast and we sped through it so quickly, and on reflection I think we could have been more organised and used our time accordingly and also arranged a fortnight somewhere hot before we came home, cos we is shattered.....but you just don't know all this till you get there. Travel sucks your time in China, with little remorse! Don't expect to get anywhere in Laos quickly, but it's a must see place, so beautiful and so cheap. I couldn't recommend more the scooter trip in 'Nam, just don't expect to get your deposit back that quickly, time doesn't have the same urgency over there. And finally, if you go to Beijing, you must stay at the Red Lantern and ask for William, he is a top bloke and made our time there (and onward places) all the more memorable.
Travel broadens the mind, so they say, and I for one, totally agree.