7 Countries in 85 Ways

7-countries-in-85-waysAfter travelling for just 6 months, through 7 countries, I had racked up a total of 84 forms of transport …. 85 including my face…. but we’ll get to that later.

MY INSPIRATION BEHIND THE COUNT

I have always been a huge fan of ‘The Long Way Round’ series’ with Ewan MrGregor and Charley Boorman. A couple of years later, Charley went out on his own and did a series called ‘By Any Means’. It was a great series where he travelled from Ireland to Sydney taking any means of transport he could. I remember watching each episode and thinking how awesome it would be to do something like that. What a story to tell!

MY ‘BY ANY MEANS’

Unfortunately my route was a little less epic than Charley Boorman’s however the idea was essentially the same and was always going to be a great inspiration throughout my journey.

I was travelling through 7 countries over 6 months. I was to start in Bangkok, Thailand then head for Cambodia, on through Vietnam and then into Laos before arriving back in Chang Mai, northern Thailand and back to Bangkok again. From there I’d fly to Australia for 3 months followed by Fiji for 8 days and on to Singapore for just 6 days before heading back to London, 6 months later.

SOUTH EAST ASA

I landed in Bangkok, Thailand. This is where it was all going to begin. Was I excited? You bet your ladyboy’s danglers I was.

South East Asia, as I am sure many of you may already know, is so immensely vibrant, full of craziness, mayhem and chaos. This is reflected perfectly in every form of transport available. And I was taking quite a few of them…..

THAILAND

There was no better place to start this trip than in Bangkok. It’s so completely different to London in every way yet the people make you feel right at home. Sure the journey there was a little eventful with Gridlock traffic, forgotten essentials and a fit at 35,000 feet, but I was going to have to get used to the unforeseen if I was to make it through the months ahead.

My highlights of Thailand: My stay at Lub d, finding a kindred spirit in Mr Tommy the taxi driver, having a private buddhist blessing in Wat Po and my visit to The White Temple.

Forms of transport: 

#1 By foot….of course, #2 Boeing 747 (London-Bangkok), #3 Bangkok Taxi, #4 Tuk Tuk, #5 Teak Boat, #6 Gap Adventures Bus, #7 Bangkok Metro, #8 BTS Sky Train, #9 Sleeper Train.

CAMBODIA

My time in Cambodia was the highlight of my entire 6 months of travelling. Not only is the country beautiful but the people are truly enchanting. No wonder its referred to as the land of a thousand smiles.

My highlights of Cambodia: Sunrise at Angkor Wat, spending time at New Hope, Cambodia, eating at the FRIENDS charity restaurant and a fishing boat trip to the small offshore island of Ta Kiev (pronounced Ta Kao).

Forms of transport: 

#10 Local Bus, #11 Remork-Moto (basically a trailer hitched to a bike), #12 Mercedez Mini Van, #13 Rikshaw, #14 Canoe, #15 Private Coach, #16 Fishing Boat, #17 Border Bus.

VIETNAM

I had heard so much about Vietnam but nothing prepared me for how beautiful a country it truly is. Travelling from South to North everything was constantly changing; the faces, the landscape and the feeling of becoming truly immersed in my journey.

My highlights of Vietnam: My 2 day trip through Ha Long Bay and kayaking to Monky Island, exploring Hoi An and playing football with the local Vietnamese  on the beach in Nha Trang.

Forms of transport: 

#18 Motorbike, #19 Ferry, #20 Junk Boat (Ha Long Bay), #21 Kayak, #22 Water Taxi, #23 Reunification Express Sleeper Train.

LAOS

After a 2 day drive from Han Oi I arrived in Laos. For anyone wishing to get away from vast numbers of tourists and feel right in the heart of South East Asia, Laos is the place! This is where my journey felt most ‘real’ like I was properly backpacking.

My highlights of Laos: A 2 day trip up the Mekong to the Thai border, spending time at an elephant sanctuary and mountain biking in Vang Vieng.

Forms of transport: 

#24 Mountain Bike, #25 Sentou, #26 Mekong Long Boat, #27 Elephant, #28 Toyota Mini van, #29 Laos/Thailand Slow Boat.

AUSTRALIA

On to Australia and after 2 flights from Bangkok (via Sydney) we landed in Melbourne.

I already missed the chaos of South East Asia but I was excited and eager to begin chapter 2 in Australia…. where a whole lot of adventure was awaiting me.

My highlights of Australia: My self drive on Fraser Island, my Wicked Camper trip along the Great Ocean Road and through the Grampian mountains, hiking through Kings Canyon and sailing through the Whitsundays.

Forms of transport: 

#30 Greyhound Bus, #31 Taxi, #32 Melbourne Tram, #33 Wicked Camper Van, #34 Melbourne Metro, #35 Sydney Underground, #36 Sydney City Rail, #37 Local Bus, #38 Sydney Harbour Ferry, #39 Sixt Fiat Hire Car, #40 Our friend Jen’s car, #41 Blue Mountain Cable Car, #42 Staywire and #43 Vertical Scenic Rail, #44 Warner Bros Studios Transfer Bus, #45 Sleeping Inn Hostel Limo (scrap any ideas of glamour and luxury… it was an Aussie Ute that had been elongated with a makeshift roof… something out of a Top Gear challenge), #46 Inner Tube, #47 Fraser Island 4×4 Self Drive (Toyota), #48 Fraser Island Car Ferry, #49 Whitsundays 60 foot Maxi Yacht (‘Freight Train’), #50 Yacht’s Rib,

#51 Annie’s Place Hostel Ute, #52 Mitsubishi 4×4 Hire Car (Ayres Rock Roadtrip), #53 Cairns Beach House Mini Van, #54 Barrier Reef Sailing Yacht, #55 Speed Boat, #56 Daintree River Ferry, #57 Thrifty Hire Car, #58 Scotty’s Beach House Truck, #59 Sea Link Ferry (Townsville to Magnetic Island), #60 Moped, #61 Shuttle Bus, #62 Nimbin Happy Bus, #63 Toyota Pick Up, 5 friend’s cars in Sydney (#64 Mark, #65 David, #66 Warren, #67 Jake, #68 Rob), #69 Bundena Ferry, #70 Toyota Hybrid Taxi, #71 D’Lux Mini van.

FIJI

I ended up back in Sydney a week early for my flight to Singapore. In 2010/2011 Australia suffered devastating floods. Throughout my time in Oz I had to dodge these and change my itinerary almost daily but now I was back in Sydney I had some time on my side.

Well what better to do with a spare week than fly to Fiji to experience a little paradise?

My highlights of Fiji: Ssnorkelling at Mantaray Resort and visiting the local village of Nalauwaki.

Forms of transport: 

#72 Boeing 777, #73 Taxi, #74 Local bus, #75 Marine Shuttle Bus, #76 Awesome Adventures Sea Cat, #77 Fishing Boat, #78 Diving Boat.

SINGAPORE

Singapore was a bit of a last minute addition to my trip. I made a few tweaks to my flight schedule and was able to make a pit stop in Singapore for a few days to catch up with a friend and check out what the city had to offer.

My highlights of Singapore: Spending the day at Universal Studios on Sentosa Island and photographing Marina Bay Sands.

Forms of transport: 

#79 Singapore MRT, #80 Taxi, #81 Sentosa Island Sky Train, #82 Night Safari Expedition 4×4, #83 Friends Car (Phil), #84 A380 (Singapore to London).

Oh, and I almost forgot…. #85 My Face!

COVERING DISTANCE ON MY FACE
 

Okay. So I was on Magnetic Island in Australia for a few days with a couple of friends. We rented motorbikes and explored the island from coast to coast, top to bottom, left to right and everywhere inbetween. For those of you who have never ridden a moped/motorbike the best advice I could give is  just don’t look at the road, you’ll fall off! Focus ahead and you’ll be fine!

All was going beautifully for the few days we were there but it was on our final journey back to the bike rental when things took an unexpected turn for the worse. We were making our way along the main coastal road by the beach which follows into an uphill section where the road hugs the cliff. On the last 100 metres of straight road I hit a solid piece of palm tree that decided to get itself wedged between the frame of my bike and the back wheel. Unfortunately while trying to kick myself free I forgot to take my hand off the accelerator and as I looked up I was mere seconds from impact with the cliff face. I hit… hard! Luckily I managed to turn the bike slightly so I impacted on my right side and front wheel of the bike. I hit the ground whilst still on the bike and continued to glide across the tarmac. As I travelled I became separated from the bike which ended up a good 30 meters away. I continued gliding across the road, flipping onto my knees before finally coming to a halt.

My friends were riding slightly behind me and I remember them saying I was straight back onto my feet by the time they came around the corner. It was then I noticed the blood coming from my knees, elbows, arms, hip and shoulder. My t-shirt was ripped, shorts torn and my crash helmet had cracked on one side. It’s fair to say, on retrieving the bike, that it was in better condition than I was.

Luckily the bike wasn’t unridable and I managed to get myself cleaned up before getting back on and riding to the rental shop. Thankfully the staff here were great; charging no extras and even handing us back our deposit. We caught the local bus back to our hostel and I assessed the damage.

Well, without getting too graphic I had to use tweezers to remove the bits of gravel in my wounds before sterilising and dressing them. As we were shortly leaving on the ferry back to Townsville I decided to wait before seeking medical advice. In retrospect this was probably a mistake. Following our return to the mainland I was to be sat on a Greyhound Bus for 21 hours. I was in agony! My cuts and bruises weren’t the issue but my shoulder was so painful I was literally sick.

After reaching our destination of Rainbow Beach, I submerged myself in the sea water, cleaning the wounds with the sea salt. I re-dressed them and repeated this process in Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay. My shoulder and collar bone were agony! I couldn’t carry my bag too far and finding a comfortable position to sleep in was close to impossible.

I dosed myself up on the strongest painkillers I could buy and a once back in the UK (6 weeks later), I went to the doctors. I returned twice to my surgery, each time being told all was fine and it was just bruising. Eventually however I was put in touch with a shoulder specialist who after a series of checks advised that it would seem that I had dislocated my shoulder and partially fractured my collar bone. To be more specific my shoulder had dislocated and then gone back into position however not as it should have.

4 years on and I still get bad days with limited movement, normally after exercise. It seems I’ll not only have an indefinate weakness there but also a lifelong reminder of that part of my trip.

FINAL COUNT

It wasn’t till I returned home that I took a final count of all the transport I had taken. Sure I didn’t travel across the world like Charley Boorman but I think I did quite well in just 6 months.

Charley Boorman ‘By Any Means’: 24 Countries. Forms of transport: 112 

James, Globe Wanderer: 7 Countries. Forms of transport: 84 …. 85 including my face!