The top 10 things we will miss about South East Asia

Another month has flown by. I enjoyed my trip back to Blighty while Nick and the boys got friendly with the animals of Borneo. Whether we’ll get more detail about their adventure remains to be seen because as the children have been taught to say “what happens on tour, stays on tour”. We were reunited in Singapore before boarding a flight to Sydney. Now that the South East Asian leg of our tour is over here are the 10 things we will miss the most!

 

1 Food

Mostly delicious, mostly cheap and mostly healthy – what’s not to love? Trying out new dishes (tarantula donut, anyone?) and getting re-aquainted with old favourites (Tom Yum!) was a big highlight.

2 Bum showers

Once the boys had got over the novelty of spraying each other and the bathroom the ‘bum shower’ became a welcome part of our ablutions. It makes so much more sense to have a good rinse than to send masses of loo paper down the u-bend. Not to mention it being more hygienic. I’m even thinking about installing one when we get home!

3 The weather

As much as we may have moaned about being hot and sweaty at the time, it’s been surprisingly chilly in Sydney and we’re more than a little worried about arriving back to UK winter!

4 Traveller camaraderie

The upside of sticking out like a sore thumb meant it was easy to meet fellow travellers and strike up a conversation. A casual chat can lead to weeks of shared travel.

5 Budget

South East Asia has long been a draw for budget backpackers. You really do get a lot of bang for your buck. You can cover long distances on local buses for a couple quid and feed a family of 4 for a fiver. In some countries beer is cheaper than water. Need I say more?

6 Warm sea

We spent hours in the warm waters of South East Asia, swimming, snorkelling and generally having a giggle. Fast forward to a spring day in Sydney and the boys were not happy. Tomas lasted about 10 seconds, George slightly longer. I hope they begain their hardiness by the time summer rolls round in Brighton.

 

7 Coffee

Vietnam is pretty well known for its coffee but when I was first offered one with condensed milk I turned my nose up. One day I got one by accident and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Served over ice with condensed milk Vietnamese coffee is like liquid caramel. Things will never be the same again.

8 Fruit

Mangos fresh off the tree. More pineapples and watermelons than you can shake a stick at. New delights such as mangosteen and rambutan. We were spoilt for choice. The tropical fruit back home cannot possibly compare and then there’s the bill.

9 The hospitality

With few exceptions we were welcomed in SE Asia with smiles and open arms. People went out of their way to help us by showing us the way or occupying the boys. We were given food and presents.

10 Language

We have loved learning a bit of local language along the way. And hearing the kids say thank you in Vietnamese or Thai always raised a smile. We’ll be in English speaking countries for the rest of the trip and we’ll miss trying to figure out the lingo. Mind you, Tom does still ask how to say things in Australian and is picking up his cousins’ accent. Fair dinkum mate.

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Keralaaaaaa

A three hour bus ride took us from Mysore to Sultan Batheri in the Wayanad district of Kerala. The journey passed very pleasantly marred only by a slight concern that a fellow passenger’s luggage may escape it’s precarious position and land on my head.

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We found a great restaurant and enjoyed a beautifully spiced biryani and set meal. Fully fortified we squeezed into an auto and headed to Spice Garden Farmhouse where we would hang our hats for the next few days.

The farm is set on 15 acres of coffee, rubber and spice plantation, with a stream, swing, tree house and rabbits. It was a really beautiful place to while away the hours. The boys loved having company in the form of Santosh’s daughters and nieces. During our visit we got to pick coffee beans and learnt how to make rubber sheets.

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We arrived on a Sunday followed by a Public holiday and a state-wide strike. Whilst this meant we didn’t get to visit the nearby wildlife reserve it did afford us with plenty of time with Santosh and his wonderful family who were hosting us. Not to mention all the delicious South Indian food we devoured!

Our next destination was Fort Cochin (read about the fun we had getting there here). We enjoyed having a go on the Chinese fishing nets, seeing a crab sculpture made from waste plastic and wandering through the back alleys admiring Indian antiques and the beautiful architecture. Other than that it was hot, expensive and full of mosquitos. We were quick to move on.

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A chance conversation lead us to Mararikulum. A beautiful and wild stretch of beach on the Keralan coast near to Alleppy. Think postcard perfect; white sand, palm trees and few people.

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We turned up and schlepped down the beach with our backpacks looking for a place to stay. Happily we found a great guest house with a lovely garden, hammocks and lots of friends for the boys to play with. One of whom invited us to visit her school, which is memorable not least for Nick’s basketball demonstration during break time.

Our next stop was another homestay. This time in the backwaters of Kerala.

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I was really looking forward to this part of the trip and it more than exceeded expectations. We were taken on an afternoon tour by canoe through the waterways around Munroe Island and Ashtamundi lake. It was very peaceful and we enjoyed close encounters with many bird species and a beautiful sunset.

The following day our host Vijeesh took us out on a walk round the village. He is very funny and was great at engaging the boys. He told us about many of the plants including a hydrophobic leaf that has been used to model technical waterproofs, an exploding seed pod and he showed us what happens when you slap a fern leaf against your skin.

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(we haven’t been able to it ourselves so will need to find out the trick!)

We also popped into the village kindergarten where we experienced an uncomfortable silence until Nick burst into song, which at least made me laugh, if none of the children.

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We also visited the ladies working hard sorting nuts in the cashew production factory, and some others spinning cotton. The boys cooled off with a dip in the river.

Kerala is a beautiful state; the spice covered hills, the golden sands and the palm fringed back waters. The pace of life seems slower than elsewhere in India, and the food is some of the best we’ve had. It is with happy hearts and happy tummies that we head into Tamil Nadu.

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