Seda: 6 months gone. Half way through…difficult to believe we’ve been travelling for half a year now! Exactly on 6 months mark, on the 13th November, we were boarding a plane to Australia accompanied by a full moon. We never intended to have a cut off point so spectacularly but there we were half way through our travelling year, leaving the continent of Asia moving onto the continent of Australia.
If you’ve read our previous post, you’ll remember us saying that we had arrived at Singapore Changi Airport very early to enjoy our time there. Well, the happy pictures of us in that post were taken long after the storm we’d been through at the check-in desk had passed. I’ve flown for 25 years and had never had a note against my name that said “do not board”!!!
Andy: We found that even though we were really early we could still check our bags in which we thought was great as then we wouldn’t have to carry them around for hours. The passport scan didn’t work, but there’s nothing new there as mine never seems to work. So, no boarding pass in hand we go to the bag check. Mine goes through ok, and I have a boarding pass printed. When Seda’s passport is scanned it flashed up “Do Not Board”. What does this mean we enquired? I think there’s a problem with your visa replies the lady. Well, Australia is a “free-visa” country for British, so basically a paperwork exercise but for some reason my good lady might not be allowed to fly.
Now, to say this turn of events was stressful is a massive understatement! When filling the online form in for our visas -which I did both – it asked for any other names we’ve been known by. So, I put down Seda’s previous surname and maiden name, but for some reason which I didn’t notice at the time, it changed her name from Cross to Çakan as the main name. Of course this didn’t match with what’s written on her passport = huge problems!
So, after much panicking, and running around the terminal like headless chickens we found out that we had to re-apply for her visa but all my efforts hit a brick wall because there was an un-finalised application still open. In the end we went to airport’s visa services paid them a hefty fee for a “no-fee-visa” country and crossed our fingers!
After spending the longest ever 10 minutes waiting for the result and preparing a plan-B where I’d fly alone and Seda would follow a few days later after sorting it at the Australian embassy in Singapore. Our sad faces lit up when the guy at the desk gave us a thumbs-up! We finally were free to get our boarding passes as a relieved wife and a happy husband. Now you can see why that glass of wine tasted so good! Cheers.
Seda: We sat there sipping our wine thinking about our 6 months in South East Asia…
Asia is a unique and affordable place to travel to. Nowhere else in the world is the food so delicious and cheap! Nowhere else people are physically so small but carry 3 times their weight. Nowhere else the sun shines so beautifully and ladies try to have “white” skin.
We are still missing certain home comforts such as sleeping in our own bed or cooking our own meals. But, sitting on a tiny stool half a meter from the road and car exhaust pipes eating local food at the price of 50p is an experience like no-other.
Any troubles we encountered so far, have mostly been related to companies back home. Banks, mobile phone network operators, finance companies, exchange offices, pre paid cards are all designed to simply rob you of your money! They do it in broad day light and totally legally too! They are the most difficult parts of being away from UK.
What makes our travelling experience unique is the people. All nationalities, ages, occupations… There are good people everywhere. Of course you might be unlucky enough to run into inconsiderate, rude and unhelpful people along the way but we are certainly having much more heart warming experiences. Funnily enough, the poorer the people, the more generous they are!
Sometimes, the local logic as-to how things work in a town is not an understanding one can develop easily. A scooter speeding down a pavement is not something a western brain can comprehend easily! Ticket offices that don’t sell tickets and lakeside benches facing the road … there must be a logic somewhere.
Service quality is so spectacular in Asia, especially in shops, restaurants and hotels, one struggles to comprehend how these people can manage to be this nice while earning a fraction of their UK equivalents. Our tour guide told us that she moved to the big city because she can earn twice as much there, even though that is still only £200. Yes, you read it right, £200 per month!
Andy: In many of the countries we’ve been to there seems to be a lack of knives in restaurants. You tend to be given a fork and a spoon, but never a knife! Do Asian people never need to cut anything?!
Seda: We’ve been together 24/7 for the last 6 months and have enjoyed sharing all the joy’s and challenges of Asia together. Seeing wonderful things is much more fun when you can tell someone “wow, look at that, isn’t that amazing”! We do get agitated and annoyed with each other from time to time but nothing fixes an argument as quick as a piece offering like an ice-cream in a hot country. I can’t imagine doing this with anyone but Andy!
The stuff we wear! The biggest problem an ordinary person has about clothes is deciding what to wear each day. During a year of travelling, living out of a back pack and wearing the same few clothes again and again is making them wear out quickly. Everything we own has been repaired and repaired again! Thankfully this stuff is cheap in Asia – clothes and shoes. So after replacing our sandals for a fiver each, we had a rather emotional ceremony parting from our trusty footwear of 6 months…goodbye loyal friends!
I should also mention that if you are lucky enough to find free washing facilities this doesn’t always mean that you’ll be lucky enough to find a dryer. This is our hotel room post washing in Taipei!
Andy: We sometimes forget just how many places we’ve been, or how many amazing things we’ve seen and experienced. It’s only when we sit and reminisce that we realise that this truly has been, and continues to be the trip of a lifetime.
We’re so glad we’ve continued to write this blog because it gives us a record to look back on fondly in years to come. Something to marvel at and wonder, did we really do all those things, and go to all those places?!
Seda: As I saw other day an immaculately dressed lady walk by us wearing stilettos and smelling like the cosmetic section of a department store, I mentioned to Andy that I missed dressing up smart like that. He said he did as well even though he never needed to wear a suit for work. Apparently as soon as we get back, Andy will put on his suit and head for the local pub…that will go down well I’m sure!
Here we are…at the end of our 6 months of travels in Asia. We are now heading to Australia where we will spend about 3 months. It will be much easier in many aspects; language, a modern life, a commonwealth country with a similar culture but the other thing that will be similar to the UK is the prices! Even a dorm bed in a hostel starts from £15 per person per night in Australia. With massive distances in between places we also will need a hire car for the majority of our time there. Food as always is a big expense and we will somehow have to avoid eating out all the time.
The answer to most of our problems will hopefully be the house-siting opportunities. Most Australians with pets chose to leave their homes to people willing to look after them while they are away. It works for everyone as their pets’ routine is not disturbed and people like us have somewhere free to stay. Of course any of these arrangements require trusting total strangers but that may be the best part of it!
Andy: We have paid our annual memberships fee and are now happily waiting for opportunities to look after people’s pets. Hopefully they will all be young sprightly pups, kittens or a tortoise at least under 50 so nothing will keel over on our watch! That would be our worst nightmare.
Seda: Australia is a big country with so much to see and do. Will 3 months be enough to see all that this land has to offer?