Written in Hobart, April 2020
In mid-2015 I found myself with a period of extended leave from my work, so I took the opportunity to travel. I chose to return to South East Asia, an area I’ve travelled in several times before, but I wanted to return to some places that I’d visited when I was briefly resident in Singapore during 2001.
In particular, I wanted to revisit and learn more about the Peranakan, or Straits Chinese culture and major towns along the Straights of Malacca from Singpore to Phuket. I also wanted to see more of Thailand, having travelled a couple of times around its beautiful southern beaches and islands. This time I wanted to head north and also learn more about the real food of Thailand.
Most of my trip was solo, and I aimed to travel overland as far as possible. I did book a small group tour with Intrepid Travel for my last week in Thailand. Intrepid’s small group tours and sustainable travel match my own, and it proved to be a good choice.
This trip was also my first fully digital trip, booked as I went using mobile devices and without the aid of a traditional travel agent. This wasn’t from any ideological reasoning, merely an acknowledgement that this is the way travel tends to work now. It was also not a big challenge for me – I knew the area well and had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do. I am not a digital native, but do enjoy learning about and using technology, and I have written several posts elsewhere on this blog about the various tools and servicesI found helpful (although the information is quite likely out of date by now).
A fellow traveller who I met up with a couple of times in Malacca during this trip was surprised by my writing a travel journal, asking ‘who is ever going to read it’. I think I replied that I really didn’t care who read it, that for me keeping a travel journal had become part of my travel habit, and that it gave me something to do while sitting on my own in cafes, restaurants and bus stations. I probably also mentioned that I tend to transcribe them and eventually post them online as a blog, if for no other reason than to provide a reason and some context for all the photos I take.
It has taken me nearly five years to find time to transcribe this journey, and I have not taken an overseas journey since. As I transcribe, we are in the midst of the COVID19 emergency – borders have been closed around the world and we are confined and unable to travel anywhere much beyond our local front doors and local food shops. I am grateful to have these notes and the act of transcribing them and checking details brings this journey, now distant in time, vividly back to life. If you do read this, Bill, this is why I keep those tedious and, to a practical person such as yourself, superfluous, travel diaries.
For any other readers who stumble upon this diary, welcome. I hope you might find some similar enjoyment from my words and pictures.