Simon Tall: Asia Travel and Reflection
It’s always a treat to discover new writers, and one of my recent finds is the lovely Simon Tall (a.k.a @simonpoore). I came across him on Twitter, and after a couple weeks of casual banter, I decided to read some of his writing on smashwords. The first I read, a short fiction called Jones and the Mammoths, revealed an eloquent writing style and exquisite attention to detail. I knew that he’d be the perfect travel storyteller for my readers, and I cheerily set about with my plan.
I asked if he’d be interested in dropping by, and at first I thought he’d turn me down because fiction is his true forte (not blogging), but he didn’t. Yippee! it is with great pleasure and excitement that I turn the show over to Simon, without further ado.
When I was so kindly asked to do this I felt I couldn’t possibly do it justice. I am not sure what a blog is and maybe I feel a bit more comfortable writing fiction. This is perhaps why I don’t have a blog (yet…do you think I should? Answers on a postcard please?). A blog, it seems to me, is a personal journey; a bit like a shared diary or journal. So whatever people write about on them it is about travelling, a journey within oneself, one might say.
As I am a reserved Englishman, revealing personal insights about little old me doesn’t come easy. For one thing it seems a little like showing off (not that I am saying that anyone who writes a blog is a show off! Far from it, you are simply braver than I). What I am saying is that modesty prevents me from thinking people might be interested in my little world…
I can almost hear you thinking ‘why doesn’t he just get on with it!’…
So, onto my travels! Inner and outer. I have travelled to some wonderful places and always want to do more. I have been to the USA and Mexico, the Caribbean and Egypt, lots of Europe and even to Uzbekistan. But those and others are all different stories.
Today I will tell you something of a I had trip this summer. My companions were family; my wife, in-laws and my four year old daughter. This all sounds lovely and it was, except that my wife and I had split a few months before. The trip already booked and paid for, what else was there to do but go anyway.
So come August and we all flew from London to New Delhi, India. My daughter now loves planes and this was one of the best bits for her–a seat with her own personal TV! The plan was to have a few days in Delhi, then fly on to Thailand, spend three weeks there and then go to Mumbai on the way back.
Delhi I can only describe as deliciously bonkers, a place of contrasts and chaos, wonder and beauty coupled with poverty and heartache. It vibrates with the constant buzz of car horns and bustle. It’s an assault to the senses; sights, smells and colours like no other and culture shock for those unprepared. I recommend it.
Here we were tired as we took in the madness of the city, yet to relax. My inner journey was perhaps one of apprehension. Would I survive without arguments? Was this my last ever family holiday? A tiring night train took us to Amritsar, home of the famous Sikh Golden Temple, which is one of the most stunning places on the planet.
There I sat at the waters edge and watched my daughter happily dancing to the constant beautiful music, her headscarf linking her to the worshippers, her simple beauty enthralling to all who saw. The people visiting and worshipping had a grace and kindness to them so rare; their peace and generosity was infectious. Later, back in Delhi, I stood overlooking the tomb of Mahatma Ghandi and I began to realise that I needed to slow down, inside, and look to myself for peace. Worrying wasn’t getting me anywhere. Leave the worrying to others; concern and consideration should do for me.
Soon we flew on, to Bangkok, another amazing city–although one might more accurately call it a megalopolis. A stunning post modern skyline of skyscrapers, split by the ancient, fast flowing muddy brown river. It’s wide reaches crowded with river taxis, barges and tourist boats. Then to the infamous Khao san road: a mecca for backpackers and the gateway to southeast Asia, made famous in Alex Garland’s novel The Beach (Leonardo was in the film, you may have seen it). This was a place of legend but now a disappointment. Simply a market to take the tourist dollar with tat and fakery written all over it. This was the place we discovered Chang beer. A beer so lethal it cannot be described, laced with unknown chemicals. As ever, alcohol and a failed marriage do not mix so well…
From Bangkok, a day long bus to Koh Chang, the largest of Thailand’s many islands. This again reminded me of ‘The Beach’, with stunning beaches and a jungle back drop, and strangely of Apocalypse Now!. Incongruously I found myself reciting Robert Duvall; “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” as the ferry approached the jungle clad island.
Now at last was a chance to relax. Here we had a week of doing nothing on beaches. Firstly in beach huts at the oddly named “Porn Bungalows” and then on a beautiful amber beach overlooking the Cambodian mountains. All of us slowed down here, and I could feel the tensions lifting, my daughter in her element playing in the swimming pool. It seemed as if the relaxed Buddhist influence of the Thai people was beginning to affect us all.
After a week we returned to Bangkok, this time to stay in it’s Chinatown quarter. This for me was another wonderful experience. I felt like I was on the set of ‘Blade Runner’, with the noise and bustle and cosmopolitan feel of the place. I was Deckard eating noodles. The food, oh my goodness the food! And it was so good to feel the monsoon rain soak your skin as you rode a rickety tuk tuk through the teeming streets. Amazing.
Next we travelled north to Chiang Mai, and I reflected on the night train as the jungle carpeted mountains drifted past the window. This whole trip was a trip to be savoured, only one argument had been had, not bad considering. I tried to take in the reality of it, travelling in such wondrous places.
Chiang Mai is a lovely peaceful city full of golden Buddhist temples. The monks exude peace, their chanting like golden dust falling into your ears. We trekked on elephants, with me driving our gentle female elephant lazily into the river, the greenest paddy fields surrounding us in the lower reaches of the mountains. Here again I began to smile to myself, even perhaps to feel at ease with myself for the first time in such a long time.
I realised here too, that things between my wife and I would be ok. She took me to a Thai kickboxing match and we drank Chang and samsung whisky until we could hardly stand. The boxing I found barbaric and distasteful, but we laughed and I could be myself. After the fights, my wife drunkenly climbed into the ring, and I took her picture, as we giggled some more. I knew then that we would be friends, despite any differences or arguments. We would be friends for our daughter.
After this back to Bangkok again, and then we flew back to India and another massive amazing city; Mumbai. Here too the warm monsoon rain fell as we walked in the hazy surf of the Arabian sea. The bustle and poverty contrasted with the wealth and might of growing economy. A day and a half there was merely a drop in the ocean of delights that India holds.
So how did I feel at the end of this journey? It was one of mixed emotions but I hope to hold something of the spirit of those places. Something of their inner calm and beauty. Will I travel with my family again? I don’t know but I am hopeful. Are my wife and I friends? She has a new man and so far so good, we get along, because it’s good and the thing to do. And how do I feel about writing for a blog now I have nearly done? Well writing is a journey too, as is life. Our journey continues but I like to think that the destination is the here and now, where we exist within the sum of all of our experiences…what do you think?
Thank you, Simon, for entertaining us with your amazing Asia travel story. I appreciate you!
Read the last post: Le Frog and Faeriewood
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