Nineteen days, four countries and one hundred & twenty nine hours in transit later, we have finally completed our circuit of South East Asia. Whether it was just a local farmers cattle truck or a decadent bus bereft of air conditioning, we managed to commute with a turbulent frenzy from country to country, city to city and bus to bus.
First, there was Laos.
The pristine condition of their capital city, Vientiane, epitomised the genial nature of the country. Although our visit was brief and untimely, it was one, surprisingly, of pacifying comfort. Outside the capital we also explored the cavernous region of Vang Vien which had salient, verduous mountains, protruding from the fertile earth. Our means of transport from this agrarian town was the mobile, yet afflicting ‘Tuk Tuk’. Such a vehicle is apt for the bustling streets of Bangkok, but around such narrow, winding crevices, it lacked the robust durability needed to create the illusion of safety.
Then there was Vietnam.
Knowing that the duration of the bus journey from Vientiane to Hanoi (the Vietnamese capital) was twenty-two hours, we both prepared by purchasing the necessary commodoties – comprised primarily of food and water – to endure such an austere journey. That the bus had no air conditioning did not help, nor did the absence of toilets or the vast quantities of goods that were being imported into Vietnam and the obese bus driver lying alongside Jakey, which subsequently unduly restricted our already meagre sitting space. It was however, the elongation of the journey which concluded at twenty-seven hours that mitigated our vibrant souls into sullen desolation. Once we exited the coach neither of us could walk with conventional cadence we were nurtured with. Three weeks later, today, we have still not recovered.
Ultimately, Vietnam was disappointing. By catering to tourists like ourselves, they have abandoned their Asian heritage in substitute for avaricious gains. The pinncale of our experiences was the visit down the notorious Ho Chi Minh tunnels which the surrounding citizens inhabited during the Vietnam War. Although the tunnels were damp, dark and murkey, they were modestly spacious for a concotion built by plebian artisans.
Following Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) and several subsequent voyages around the encompassing area – which included a boat trip down the Mekong River Delta where we visited a coconut candy manufacturer and indulged in devouring tropical fruits, and a tour around the ‘Reunification Palace’ where the last American bureaucrats were flown out of Vietnam – we went to Cambodia. Whilst the aforementioned country recently embraced capitalism, it is still recovering from their dissonant past, which was conspicuous via the permeating street poverty. The locals were determined and amicable, intrigued by Westerners and the inconsequential jargon that bellows from their mouths. In Cambodia’s capital, Pnom Penh, we both fired a round of Ak-47’s at a shooting range, whereas Jakey apprehensively threw a grenade into a small pond (although, he will no doubt devise a contrived facade of his masculine and meticulous complexion). In that same day we also visited the ‘killing fields’ and ‘S-21’ security prision of Pol Pot’s tyrannic Khymer Rouge regime. This invoked the perpetual human dichotomy of sadistic intrigue and fervent repugnance in both of us. After Pnom Penh we travelled to Siam Reap where the revered ‘Angkor Wat’ is situated. On the night of our arrival we watched the radiating sunset from the peak of an archaic temple, which, despite the looming clouds, was exquisitely bliss, yet solemnly euphoric as the verdant plains of Cambodia dimmed before us.
Throughout our trip so far, every traveller was have conversed with who had visited Cambodia forewarned us of the assiduous and abrasive bus journey back to Thailand; and now we know why. The bus dilligently ebbed up and down and shook left and right as it moved through the pot holes and over the abundance of rocky mounts, implated into the ground. Initially, this was a frivolous delight, however, after it failed to wane after twenty minutes, this lure transformed into lamentation, and then again, after a further thirty minutes, this developed into nausea. The journey lasted three hours. Furthermore, the two hour delay for the noble and necessary cause of waiting for the Cambodian King (yep) to bless the dismal road before this segment of the journey began, also depleted our hope for a swift and smooth journey.
After two days of stagnation is Bangkok and a disappointing visit to Kanchanburi (where the Bridge on the River Kwai was built), we took a brief transit journey through Singapore. There, the streets appeared to made of plastic due to their unblemished, clean condition. Our three day visit sufficed despite the artificial beauty of this ultra-contemporary metropolis.
And now, finally, we have arrived in Australia.
Total = 129.5 hours over nineteen days
P.S. The final Asia photographs and video’s have been added. View them.