feeling the buzz

It’s taken a while but I’ve finally got my traveller mo-jo back. Sure, my mood improved as Vietnam went on and it certainly was lifted further by the sight of Steph in the arrivals hall in KL, but it just hasn’t been at the same levels that it was when I set off back in early October. Every day was similar to the last while every sight I laid eyes on wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen dozens of times before. Call it travel weariness, post cricket tour blues or whatever, but I just found myself becoming so blasé about nearly everything that I was doing and everything that I was seeing.

Waking up this morning, refreshed from a proper chill out on the isle paradise that is Langkawi, I couldn’t help smile at the prospect of seven weeks on the Asian sub continent visiting several new places with some more great friends. Langkawi has been superb and spending time with such a close friend has been awesome, but after ten days of doing as little as possible, I’m ready to strap on my backpack for what is the final chapter of this tale and get right into India and Sri Lanka. Maybe it is because the end is neigh. Seven weeks out of six months is nothing and I’m starting to realise that this trip isn’t forever. I had an email from my sister the other day admitting that she was starting ‘the final countdown’ till my return on April 6th. I’m not doing the same just yet because in my opinion, the best travel part of the trip is about to occur.

There is something incredible about India. It is like no other place on earth I have been too. I kind of expected parts of South East Asia to be similar to the parts of India I have been too in the past, but I found it just didn’t compete in terms of an experience. South East Asia is cool, it’s a dead easy place to travel once you get settled in (which for me took about twenty four hours) I wrote right at the start of the trip that part of me was travelling to be challenged on a personal level again. There were certainly challenging times. The several days spent finding our way across Sumatra were hard work. Getting to Borneo from Brunei turned into an adventure that saw me skip a destination I planned to be in at the end of the day and arrive in a city I wasn’t supposed to be in for another twenty four hours. My Ray Mears impression in the Khao Sok jungle nearly ended my trip before I had even started topping up my suntan. On a more personal level, dealing with the after affects of Australia alone was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. All of it has been a fine experience, but it still hasn’t come close to touching the feelings I have whilst travelling in the Indian sub continent. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed my time here, I’ve loved the vast majority, but I feel ready to get stuck into everything India can throw at me, no matter how tough it will get.

Brushing my teeth in tap water this morning for the last time in four weeks made me smile. Even a simple day to day task in India such as cleaning your pearlers involves making sure you have some bottled water close to hand. All of a sudden people will be out to rip me off again. Tuk tuk drivers will bargain for a ridiculously overpriced fare for the shortish of journeys. Good deals on hotels will be ruined thanks to ‘added service taxes’ on check out bills. Kids will undoubtedly be pulling at my clothes on any walk through a city centre asking for food or money, not taking no for an answer. Food will become an issue once more, as I won’t be able to eat what I want, when I want without getting ill. Everything in India is a challenge, from the moment you wake to the moment you sleep. And after several weeks easy travel up and down Vietnam and an excellent beach holiday chill in Langkawi, I’m ready for that challenge.

Now, obviously first and foremost the reason I am revisiting India for the third time in five years is because of the latest cricket tour. This will be a very different cricket based trip than any other one I have been on because the matches are one day internationals as opposed to five day tests. What this means is a large number of ‘days off’ and travel days between cities in comparison to the usual week per city you usually get when watching a test match tour. My itinerary for the next three weeks is pretty crazy. Two nights in Mumbai (if our delayed plane ever leaves Langkawi), three nights in Nagpur and then three in Calcutta. This will be followed by the extended break in Bangalore for a week thanks to the ICC switching the India game there and then a couple of nights in Chennai. From here it will be across to Anjuna in Goa to chill out before heading back to Chennai for our last group game. So, including the two flights I need to take to get to India, that’s a grand sum of seven flights, seven hotels, five England cricket matches and at least one train. And that’s all before my flight to Sri Lanka on March 18th. Now you can see why I needed a ‘holiday’ in Langkawi before hand?

All of it is very exciting. The main reason I am fascinated by India so much is because it’s unique nature. It’s frustrating, enchanting, passionate, contradictive and in the end, rewarding. Everywhere you look there is something you see which blows you away. I’ve seen some things in India that have stayed with me so vividly, unlike any other country I have visited. I’m also really intrigued to see how I find the place this time around as a more seasoned traveller of Asia. We were talking before bed last night after places in the world we had been to that we disliked. There were several that sprung to mind but only one was described by myself as a place that I ‘hate’. That place was Mumbai, and in particular the south of Mumbai, where I spent ten days fighting off beggars, illness and the shock of seeing such poverty that the ride from the airport shoved in my face like a punch from a heavy weight boxer. Not that I’ve been punched in the face by anyone since I was about twelve, and it certainly wasn’t from Mike Tyson or Lennox Lewis but still, you get the point. The reason I have booked me and Dave into a hotel in that same part of town for two nights is to see if that feeling of hatred for that particular part of the world is still justified. Are the people really that much ruder than other parts of the world I have now visited? Is the city really just on a level of it’s own in terms of poverty, dirt and poor hygiene? I’ll find out and will let you know.

All of that intrigue and I have barely even mentioned the cricket. Cricketers are treated like gods in India. The star players advertise everything from fast food to hair products to the latest car. You think David Beckham is a big face for brand names in the UK? You should see MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulker. They hold the weight of the entire nation on their shoulders, especially when it comes to one day cricket matches. To be there for a World Cup will be a special time. Away from the England games, I’m especially looking forward to watching the games involving India with the locals who will be supporting their nation as if their lives are reliant on the main host nation winning the trophy. I’m not as massive fan of Indian cricket because of the IPL, but it would be great for the tournament if they do well. I’d certainly take an England win in the final against India right now!

Postscript – Our flight from Langkawi finally left some two hours late and Steph checked in for her flight home with a matter of minutes spare. As she ran off to check in at the international departures terminal, I waited for her bright orange suitcase at the domestic arrivals! Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come. Oh, and in final news I had developed a love for the American comedy ‘Scrubs’. I never thought I’d say I would like a funny from across the Atlantic but I suppose that’s what happens when you are chilling in your hotel room with your mate who happens to be a female. I’ve also started to wear linen, though Steph was far from behind that idea!


4 Responses to “feeling the buzz”

  1. 1 Pat M
    February 18, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Great blog again Richie .
    The anticipation of India is building , finished work yesterday and spending today sorting out and packing my backpack . Having a curry with my daughter tonight then its on to watch the Town at Ebbsfleet tomorrow , straight after the final whistle my daughter will be racing me round the M25 to Heathrow to catch my flight to Mumbai , only 8 hours there then catch a night train to Nagpur , see you there on Monday buddy , can`t wait to smash a few Kingfishers with you 🙂
    Pat ,,

  2. 2 Martin Chapple
    February 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Nice linen mate – we’ll make a hippy of you yet! Keep the chinos and collared shirts for the golf! Your comments on India were spot on, what an exhilarating, beautiful, confusing and shocking place it is…glad you are looking forward to it. Sounds like you had a fab time with Steph, nice to share part of your trip with a good mate. I am on half term now and looking forward to at least 2 games of golf. Seeing your sis tonight and tomorrow for meals…looking forward to no bloody planning for a few days!!!
    See ya,
    Love Mart

  3. 3 Damo
    February 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    What the chuff? You ve changed old lad…………………keep em coming ace reads.
    Bet Dave does the bomb damage joke…..see ya in summer…

  4. 4 Andrew Stephen MacDonald
    February 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Good read as usual matey. Spoiled a perfectly nice piccie of Steph by sticking your mug in. The cable ride looks fit to rival Table Mountain – had to look twice. Bit shocked by your Mumbai comments, we loved it and would loved to have stayed longer but the travails at the time …..
    Nice to see Pat will be in Nagpur, with you at the Sukha H ? Anyway see you both there on the 21st, and NO scooters ’til we get there, as if.

    ps Good to see Damo is still alive if only on here.

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