It's twelve months since I headed to Sydney airport, relaxed in the first class lounge (I'm still happy about that free pass!) before heading off on my round the world adventure.
In the last year I've visited 4 continents, 28 countries, made so many great friends, visited so many amazing places included more UNESCO world heritage sites than I ever knew existed and seen more ruins that I ever cared to see.
It has been the best year ever!
I am asked all the time what my favourite country is (Turkey or Mexico probs) or my favourite place. This is really tough as I've loved most places I've visited. Except Venice. Never go to Venice!
Rather than pick a few highlights I thought it would be easier to review the past twelve months one at a time. But as I started to write I had way too much copy for one post, so I've split up my one year of adventures into three parts. Here goes Asia...
February 2012I took my only slightly fit body to Thailand to train muay thai, traditional thai kick boxing. I've no idea why I thought this was a good idea. The initial plan was to train for a couple of weeks then relax on a beach for the next few weeks. Somehow I decided to book the training camp for a month .... and that was before I'd even set foot in the ring.
Training muay thai 4 - 6 hours a day in high humidity is the most exhausting thing I've ever done. But for some crazy reason I love it.
I seem to get some crazy looks on my face when training ... must be the focus!
I suffered busted toes, bruises and a world of aches and pains but as the days and weeks progressed my form got better, I got much fitter and dropped a load of weight. I also met some amazing people who have become good friends.
Leaving Rawai and all my new friends was really hard, but it would have been much worse if I had known that this was going to be the longest that I stayed in one place for the rest of the year.
I finished off my month of muay thai training, sadly said goodbye to many amazing people and boarded a flight to New Delhi.
Saying that India is an assault on the senses is the understatement of all time. There are so many people in this country and it feels like they were all trying to get to the same place that I was.
I had prepared myself for the worst in India, but it was loads better than I imagined. Yes people use the streets as a bathroom, yep I saw too many rats for my liking and yes everything is so very loud and chaotic .... but the people are amazing. They are so warm and welcoming and they loved that this Aussie could talk cricket with them. And the food .... mmm the food. Despite picking up a couple of tummy parasites on my travels, I managed to taste so many wonderful indian dishes, and I even learnt to cook a few.
Amid the dirt and grim that is India, there are so many amazing buildings. While the Taj blew me away (unbelievable really!) there are also thousands of temples, castles, forts and tombs that are also spectacular. I did get a little templed out, but kept visiting these buildings so I could see the intricate detail on every surface.
Low points in India ..... Definitely the toilets on the overnight trains. It is a fine art using a squat toilet on a moving train whilst trying not to touch any surface.
Highlights in India .... Attending an IPL cricket game was insane. I loved every minute of it.
Oh and sleeping in the desert near the Pakistani boarder. The 2 hour camel ride wasn't a whole load of fun but drinking Indian rum and making music around the camp fire was a hoot.
I also got caught up in some Happy Holi celebrations, so much fun ...
And I can't leave out watching the sunrise over the Taj Mahal.
And the beaches of Goa ...
April 2012Most of April was also spent in India. I headed south to Goa for a wonderful week of relaxing on Palolem beach. This part of the country is a world away from life in the north ... loads more tourists but so much more relaxed.
My first two weeks in Sri Lanka were spent at an Ayurvedic health retreat. I know, what was I thinking! It was two weeks of weird but delicious food, all sorts of massage and loads of yoga. Sounds amazing doesn't it, but I got bored very quickly. And I missed coffee. But I got through the two weeks ok with only a busted knee from a tough yoga pose.
I was invited to the local temple for Buddha's birthday celebrations. It was a big day as it was also the biggest full moon of the year. All the people from the area came to the temple and helped the staff from the retreat serve them lunch. Beautiful people.
May 2012Still in Sri Lanka....
After I left the retreat I quickly re-toxed then went touring with my friends Rukshan and Rosalie from Sydney who were back in Sri Lanka visiting their family. We climbed Sigiria rock which was a lot of climbing but loads of fun.
I travelled around the country on the local buses, so very cheap but packed to the rafters. Had my first experience with couch surfing in Kandy, visited tea plantations in Nuwa Elyia and swam with dolphins in Marissa.
I left Sri Lanka on 21st May, destination Tokyo. I was excited to be staying with my sisters in Tokyo for two weeks. I was also excited to have a futon to sleep on .... but that novelty soon wore off.
Tokyo was such a change from Sri Lanka and India. It took me a little while to get use to everything although I was very use to the hordes of people everywhere.
My days in Tokyo were packed with loads of interesting activities, Kathryn had everything organized which was such a great change from how I had been travelling. We shopped in Harajuku and Shibuja and laughed at the very, very long line of people wanting to buy macaroons in a new department store. We wandered around their neighbourhood, discovering little lakes where men were fishing and I chose my lunch from a vending machine. Initially I thought the food came from the machine but thank goodness it just gave you a ticket to take to the counter. Brilliant idea as I didn't have to try and communicate, my japanese is about as good as my spanish or arabic!
I won a water cooler while we were in Shinokubo, had some random Korean lady put eye cream on half my face, wandered around the fish markets, ate amazing food (everywhere!), hung out in the park in Kichijoji and did a day trip to Kamakura. Mt Fuji wasn't visible as there were too many clouds so Anita did a mighty fine imitation.
We celebrated Anita's birthday at the baseball .... gotta love those girls with kegs in their backpacks, and had birthday dinner at Anita's favourite restaurant in Chiba followed by loads of laughs at karaoke.
We took the bullet train to Aomori with a lunch stop for gyoza in Utsunuiniya. After some mighty fine gyoza we toured the town on the loople. I kid you not, the tourist bus was called a loople! Aomori was amazing, we went up the big A building, wandered through a fake Jamon period settlement, ate the best curry ramen and checked out the museum with all the famous parade floats.
The best curry raman in all of Japan .... well the best I've tasted anyway ....
The bits of Japan I saw amazed me ... such a contrast between modern and traditional. And it was so good to spend time with my crazy sisters.
I loved my time in Asia but it was time to move on. Next stop London. Stayed tuned for part 2 - the european edition.
And if you are interested in more photos than the loads in this post then check out my earlier posts as there is a link to each album.