Skip to main content

Day 66 – Battambang to Phnom Penh
Mum calls to check I’m alive. There has been a disastrous mass crush in Cambodia’s capital. But I wasn’t there yet. Smokin’ Pot cooking course instructs me in the ways of Amok Curry. Arrive in the capital to deeply saddening scenes.

Day 67 – Sihanoukville
Not wishing to wallow in other people’s grief, I leave the city for sunny Sihanoukville. Sort my ‘Nam visa and check into a seedy hotel by accident.

Day 68 – Sihanoukville
Beaches. On my moped. Which runs out of gas, but thankfully Cambodians keep fuel in Coke bottles by the roadside: a buck a bottle.

Day 69 – Kampot
Purely to avoid backtracking, I move East to Kampot. I buy Haruki Murakami’s ‘Dance Dance Dance’ and join a group of grumpy German women for a sunset cruise. Hostel bartender looks like MrScruff.

Day 70 – Phnom Penh again
I came here because I found the name funny. In fact, humour isn’t hugely evident here. I visit torture chambers, mass graves and museums of atrocities not-quite-passed. My hotel neighbour has ‘Brave New World’: yippee.

Day 71 – P.P. to Chau Doc, Vietnam
Boat ticket in hand, I’m put on a bus. Foiled again! We passengers have a good giggle, and eventually transfer to a boat for the last leg. Arriving with no map proves irritating, and eventually I cave to pestering touts for my bed.

Day 72 – Can Tho
Total lack of information has left me with only one option: an organised tour. Expecting to be herded, instead I am taken alone on a moped to a quiet riverside house – the Hung Homestay, where I am the only guest. What’s to do? “Most people take a nap.”

Day 73 – Can Tho
At some point in the night a tour group arrived. Before even cockrell crows (not that there are any), we’re speeding towards a floating market. I buy a coat for Japan, but am instantly disarmed at haggling; “what your fcking problem?” enquires the saleslady.

Day 74 – Ben Tre
Oh look, it’s Ashley, that guy I met briefly in Bangkok. I’m off to Ben Tre and he’s already drunk, and therefore easily persuaded. We have no plan, and end up accepting an accommodation offer from a bloke at the market. Two tasty meals and a gallon of rice wine later and the day feels successful.

Day 75 – Ben Tre
Lovely Liem (mentioned favourably on Wikitravel) takes us for a 3hr cruise, past crushingly industrious locals at work. The bus to Saigon completes my S.E.Asian journey.

Day 76 – Saigon
‘Asia’s Worst Tourist Attraction’ is how Ash brands Saigon’s Reunification Palace. I think Mumbai’s cave island thing is worse, but agree that this sucks. Then the War Museum. Then a long wander through mopeds.

Day 77 – Saigon to BKK
No sense wasting time, so I see Cu Chi war tunnels in the morning then race to the airport. At BKK, I buy a large beer can and unroll my sleeping bag for the night.

Day 78 – BKK to Tokyo
Thank goodness Narita airport has such good amenities. I spend two hours here getting sorted and composing myself, then brave the train. Arriving by night, the metropolis seems endless. My hostel turns out the lights at 11 sharp.

Day 79 – Tokyo
Full English with chopsticks. Stupidly, I decide to cover the city in a day, before meeting a friend at 4. This, the largest city in the world. In short, I do so. My resulting tiredness makes it easy to sample my first public bath without too much stress.

Day 80 – Tokyo to Takayama
The Tsjuki Fish Market is best seen earlier. But I sleep through all attempt at alarm. It’s still good later. Tokyo is too incredible to leave. I miss many trains and arrive at Takayama just in time for bed.

Day 81 – Takayama
Gloves and a hat are essential here. Even cycling can’t counter chill. This thoroughly lovely town seems largely undiscovered today. I watch Stupio Gibli’s ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’ gleefully.

Day 82 – Fukuoka
Shinkansen trains allow me to cross the country before lunch. “Why did you come to Fukuoka?” asks the first person I meet, at which I am stumped. I waste a day wandering, watch Harry Potter for warmth, then check in for a night in Media Cafe Popeye.

Day 83 – Nagasaki
Spending a night in an internet cafe is entertaining, although not wholly restful. I visit bomb-related sights, spend an hour in Tower Records, then check in to my cozy ryokan room.

Day 84 – Hiroshima
A stunning breakfast sets me up for another atomic day. At last, I buy chopsticks- I hate using disposable ones consistently. Okonyominyaki (sp) is the tastiest meal ever.

Day 85 – Hiroshima (Miyajima)
Brice and I go to Japan’s ‘No.3 Attraction’, an archway in the sea. Brice is a French bloke who’s travelled for 18months straight. Someone in the hostel mentions a 70km bike ride…

Day 86 – Shimanami Kaido to Osaka
…on the basis of hostel chat and minimal information, I leave Hiroshima on a stupid cycling mission. Rain and cold makes the difficult dismal. Late in Osaka I crawl into a capsule.

Day 87 – Osaka to Kyoto
There’s a tangible touch of Blade Runner here. Spa World soothes my muscles and defies embarrassment.

Day 88 – Kyoto
Nobody wants to visit temples but everybody does nonetheless. In boredom, I plan and execute an evening of cooking my own noodle dinner.

Day 89 – Kyoto (Osaka)
Before Nil arrives, I take a day trip back to Osaka Aquarium. Two Aussie guys there are more stunned to see a fellow Gajin (foreigner) than to see the largest fish tank in the world. Nil and I catch up over sushi train then drink saki.

Day 90 – Kyoto (Nara)
There’s a festival on in Nara, but it’s bizarrely silent. Temples. In the evening we watch another Gibli- ‘Ponyo on a Cliff By The Sea’.

Day 91 – Yokohama/Tokyo
Bye Nil. Since it features in Jules Verne, I visit Yokohama. This cityscape makes all others look dismal. My final Japanese hostel is the crummiest yet.

Day 92 – Tokyo to Auckland
Oh no! I’m leaving Japan. On the plane I watch Citizen Kane, then talk to Irish Expat Fin about the glories of New Zealand and the disgusts of Kiwi Experience busses.

Day 93 – Auckland
Perhaps it’s jetlag, but Auckland disappoints below low expectations. Everything is too expensive and my hostel is full of people wearing beanies.

Day 94 – Auckland
Wishin to distance myself from lazy backpackers, I spend the morning in Auckland’s museum and the rest of the day in its University Library. The Times – from 2weeks ago – has never seemed so enthralling to my deprived eyes. I read about the Yakuza, Bumibol the Thai King and Lee of Singapore.

Day 95 – Mercury Bay
The dreaded Kiwi Experience bus isn’t as bad as expected. Mine is half empty and – thankfully – quite half hearted. We go to a nowhere town and do nothing.

Day 96 – Rotorua
I’ve booked my own hostel to escape Kiwi crowd, and am rewarded by meeting two nice guys with a car. We visit some mud. I spend the night with a Maori tribe, then join the guys again for gin.

Day 97 – Waitomo
Famed for it’s gloworm caves, Waitomo has priced me out of it’s star attraction. With two other budgeted backpackers, I take a brisk walk in the hills. I almost completely abstain from Christmas Eve boozing.

Day 98 – Christmas in Taupo
The much-longed-for Christmas BBQ arrives hours late. I almost drown in a post-lunch lake swim, but make it back in time to hitch an evening lift on a fishing boat.

Day 99 – Taupo (Tongariro Crossing)
This is one of the world’s greatest one day walks, past Mt. Doom itself. Before I can crash to bed, Japanese roomates quiz me at great length about my journey.

Day 100 – Taupo
I move hostels to somewhere nicely independent and walk to a Dam. Then I walk back via a hot spring.

Day 101 – Taupo
My idea of mountain biking falls short of Taupo’s. Theirs involves hairy tracks, steep climbs and rocky paths. And it rains heavily. This exertion finally finishes off one pair of travel trousers.

Day 102 – River Valley
Kiwi Experience takes us to a remote barn with no escape or alternative. For British get hammered and ruin everybody’s night (except mine, I stayed up with my headphones in reading a book about Carlos the Jackal.) The complaints ensure everyone a free night’s stay. Sweet as.

Day 103 – River Valley to Wellington
We sit around as the four British blokes who can afford to go rafting do so. My choice of Wellington hostel is horribly misjudged. It would feel haunted, but even ghosts would have checked out.

Day 104 – Wellington
Join an appalling parliament tour, ride the red cable car then cover Te Papa museum. It all seems ok. Ok. For NYE I drink some cheap wine with Sarah and Sefi from Kiwi Experience. Fireworks are cancelled, so we console ourselves with cheap wine.

Day 105 – Wellington
Everything will be shut, so I stay in and read the whole of Orwell’s ‘Burmese Days’ – the stifling jungle theme appeals for some reason. The girls and I treat ourselves to burgers.

Day 106 – Wellington
If there’s a boat to Eastbourne, it’s probable that there will be something there worth seeing. There isn’t. So I boat back for spaghetti and pesto. No pesto?!

Leave a Reply