INTRODUCTION: Orbiter Lover Tour 2011

The South-East Asian leg of the tour

The South-East Asian leg of the tour

Introduction

There was a faze on Facebook a few years back, of groups such as “I bet this sausage roll can get more fans than Cheryl Cole” being created. The aim was to see if that food item could overtake the popularity of chosen celebrity and as a by-product, undermine their standing in popular society.

I doubt any were successful, but ultimately begs the question; could an ordinary persons story be that more enticing and interesting than a celebrities?

I’m pretty sure for most celebrities, life only gets interesting after their famous. Take the early years of a famous snooker player “after winning in that junior snooker tournament, I went and played at another junior snooker tournament. In between tournaments, I spent the rest of the time training every day for 8 years in a dark gloomy snooker hall practicing my break….”

Boring. They’re famous snooker players, because they didn’t do anything else but play snooker. That goes for most sportsmen or famous people.

It was incredibly hard to get one of my mates to write an autobiography for this experiment, so I decided to do it myself in the form of writing up my travel notes from 2011.

My notes would also be perfect for sliding across the breakfast table whenever I knew I’d be bound to answer questions by some half-interested party regarding my trip. After which it’ll probably spend the rest of its days in the downstairs toilet replacing the old Nintendo Game Boy that currently resides there as a quasi form of entertainment.

I’d also promised myself I’d keep a little journal for 2011 (“what? Are you some kinda of poofter, or something?”). Over the previous year they’d been a lot in the media about 24-year old Poppy Dinsey, an internet sensation with What I Wore Today. On New Years Eve 2009, she promised herself that she’d upload a daily picture of her outfit. As far as New Years resolutions go, it’s relatively harmless. She’s hardly Colin “the Gay Slayer” Ireland, who at the dawn of ’93, promised himself he’d make more of an effort to take up hate-filled murder sprees on the gay community. Albeit, with more notoriety than Poppy.

Using the little blue notepad that some unimaginative staff member got me in the office Secret Santa of 2010, I sporadically compiled all travel notes. A full write-up was conducted on my return, yet has lived solely on USB sticks for the past 3 years.

Writing

I think I’m slightly dyslexic. Never been diagnosed, never got a free laptop at school or an extra 20 minutes in the exam hall. I should’ve brought it up with the school psychiatrist. My school never had a psychiatrist per se, although the caretaker used to double up as one during his lunch break.

I’m not going to worry about my limited vocabulary or incorrect grammar. For Microsoft Word has eradicated most barriers of entry to the publishing world as now anybody can write an average sentence, before using the in-built thesaurus to create far more grandiose one.

This has been the biggest advancement in social mobility since the changing face of the investment banking sector in the 1980’s, where competence to survive a testosterone-laden trading floor no longer required the Oxbridge educated, but also those who possessed the confidence and swagger that only Essex’s finest wide boys could provide on demand; son’s of fruit ‘n’ veg stallholders, creators of wealth, “masters of the universe” and you know the rest……

Of course this power of the Microsoft tool is routinely abused by people using it to sound more witty than they actually are, especially when posting on Facebook. It’s these people who don’t understand extravagant words are there to simplify sentences, not prolong them. Not only do they come across as masters of cacology, but also as if desperately trying to drag out an essay to satisfy the 1,500-word minimum set by an English teacher.

“It’s just ostentatiously convoluted parlance, in essence too verbose and prolix, and the biggest affectation of them all” – I reckon.

Referencing

In post-analysis my notes from the trip were less about the things we did and places we saw. More so about the people and the incidences that happened along the way. It was supposed to be about the former, but essentially I’d never be able to do justice the beauty of the countries we visited – let’s face it, there’s a million other people who’ve done a better job in the past, and they’ll be a million more in the future.

One book I did read during my travels was The English by Jeremy Paxman. Instantly in awe of his rich historical references and extensive bibliography, I often sat back to imagine a tweeded Paxman below a bankers desk lamp scouring academic journals. However, my references aren’t in Tennyson or Yates but Aussie Paul and Nick Bennet from West Thurrock. My places of reference aren’t going to be Ypres or Waterloo, but Semuc Champey and Bang Kwang prison.

Of course this means my trump card of first hand knowledge and heuristic evaluation is even more pivotal. With the exception of French artist Henri Rousseau, who despite never venturing out of France managed to encapsulate the essence of the jungle, it’s a commonly held belief that one should visit the places they write about. Although of course if I wanted to write about pissed-up Aussies, I’d only need to head down to Walkabout, in Shepherd’s Bush. But just like the works of Rousseau, you’d probably be immensely underwhelmed when you saw the real thing.

When describing places and people, I will play to my strengths and use the ability of film references and lookalikes to describe my subjects, taking a nice break from the cliché “pursed lip” and “long flowing locks of blonde hair” phrases so common amongst budding writers and box room rebels like me who dream of somebody other than their parents reading the crap they put together.

The Trail

Starting in London on New Years Day 2011, I’ll make my way to Bangkok. From here, I’ll meet Ben (who’s flown from Australia via Indonesia) and we’ll head to Northern Thailand before moving into Laos, continuing East into Vietnam. From here we’ll begin our descent through ‘Nam and back to Bangkok via Cambodia.

From here a few weeks in the south Islands before Ben heads back to Oz. Shortly after, I’ll make my way to Los Angeles for a few days, before flying to Cancun. Here I’ll spend nearly 2 months snaking my through Central America, before flying out of Panama City back to London at the end of April.

Motivations

So, why Thailand, home to the one of the most well-beaten backpacker routes, so much so it’s even got it’s own nickname (Banana Pancake Trail)?

During 2009-2010, Me and Ben had been talking a lot about the pressing need to get South East Asia off our chests. It felt like a rite of passage; the tubing, the mandatory photos of temples, the full moon, the shooting of AK-47’s and the banality of relaying such experiences to everybody back home. My burning desire to be part of the zeitgeist was holding me back from making any long-term plans, as I could not plot for the future knowing I didn’t have this out of my system.

Sitting around at work and listening to others discuss their Thailand experiences made me feel the same gut feeling of exclusion, as I imagine being the only virgin out of your mates at school incurs. Feeling like they’d all done something that you hadn’t; I was always quick and keen to rectify these sorts of things.

It was also important to tick this off before the whole thing became one big joke. The whole travelling and gap year thing had already taken a few knocks, especially after the Youtube sensation “Gap Yah”. Also, at this point, I’d heard Hangover 2 was already in production with the majority of it being set in Bangkok, so time was of the essence if I ever wanted to join Koh Phangan’s fluorescent paint renaissance while it was still relatively acceptable.

Ben shared the same concern, and as soon as my employee referral bonus dropped in to my bank on 5th November 2010, I headed straight down to STA Travel on Goodge Street during my lunch break to book up my around the world ticket, leaving in a matter of weeks.

After applying for a 4 month ‘Leave of Absence’ from work, I emailed Ben my dates of departure. By the end of the day, my LOA was approved and Ben too was booked up. It was all very quick.

Myself and Ben had come close to Thailand with two other housemates 4 years earlier, as part of an enroute trip to a former housemates wedding in Australia. It never did actually materialise into any tangible. But this time, we not only had one foot in the door, but two. Even if this time there were just the two, not the four going.

Disclaimer

Some of the names in this book may have been changed for convenience. If I couldn’t remember/pronounce the names of people of interest, they’d often find themselves being re-christened by yours truly, often with its anglicised equivalent.

Also, to avoid any accusations of liable, slander or character infringement, this account is only 99.9% true – the rest is totally fictional.

And so the story begin…

I do hope this does not transpire to be a complete waste of your time

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