There aren’t many negative things associated with 4 weeks off. Apart from the fact that in Asia, holidays arent paid, so you lose a months salary, everything else about it screams sun, sea, sand, cocktails, too much bbq’d shrimp, cocktails, elephants rides and more cocktails… But just in case you were thinking about surprising your Mum back home on her 50th birthday, spending 2 weeks with your boyf, contracting glandular fever, allowing a car to speed into the left side of your scooter and nearly break your arm or kayak to your own island… here’s a little guide on what to go for and what to avoid.
DO HAVE 1 OF YOUR BEST FRIENDS FLY TO ASIAto say hello and to see your new world. Hayley struggled with chopsticks and scooter rides butI managed to wow her with a trip to the picturesque natural jacuzzi’s in the mountains, huge bustling night markets and cheap as chips local-style tapenyaki.
DO MEET YOUR LONG DISTANCE BOYFin Bangkok and have him organise a 2 day itinerary of shopping in the world’s largest outdoor market and mani/pedi’s. I loved Bangkok. Despite its reputation (which is completely true, it is dirty, smelly and full of hasslers) the shopping, food and transport were amazing.
DO TAKE A FLIGHT TO PHUKETand spend 6 days in tropical paradise trying to recall that distant memory of work, screaming Chinese children and that vague idea of responsibility. Koh Phi Phi is the most magical place I’ve ever been to. There are no cars, just a few bicycles and the odd motorcycle to move things around. That in itself is like therapy for someone coming not only from London, but from crazy crowded Hsinchu where giants roads are their signature look. Whilst in paradise I managed to ride an elephant, hold a monkey, snorkel with 10,000 tropical fish, kayak at sunset, watch the boyfriend get drunk from drinking too many buckets on the beach and buy far too many items of clothing that aren’t suitable for work or life in freezing England.
DO FLY HOME UNEXPECTEDLY unbeknown to all friends and family and have an entire 48 hours of screaming SURPRISE! to those who never expected to see your face. This included my Mum at work who burst into tears and my closest girlfriends at the Sanctuary Spa who deafened me. (Quite literally. I still haven’t quite managed to get my hearing back to normal since that day). I ‘ve discovered a wonderful new hobby this way. Surprising people never got old, I’d pay £600 just to fly home, say surprise and leave again!
DO SPEND TIME WITH AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN before flying home. These people are the people that kept in touch the last 6 months, people who remind me of where I came from and where I’m going.
DON’T DISREGARD A MINOR SORE THROAT when abroad. Asit turns out, the last day of my holiday turned into the start of something disgusting. Luckily I was armed with tranquillizers and antibiotics, but little did I know, it was the onset of glanduar fever. By the time I had gotten home and the adrenaline of surprising people had worn off I was ridiculously sick with no voice and no ability to swallow.
DON’T FLY AIR INDIA. Like, ever. We flew from Bangkok to Delhi, then Delhi to Heathrow with this wonderfully unprofessional airline who took it upon themselves to argue in front of passengers, give us cold egg cakes for dinner, scream at us to move bags at 3 in the morning and sneeze far too theatrically for my liking. The in-fight entertainment isn’t real in-flight entertainment unless you call the 1970’s version of Sherlock Holmes entertainment. The stewards aren’t real stewards. They’re your average 60 year old Indian aunty wearing a sari with unbrushed hair who might as well be a grumpy passenger. Luckily I was knocked out for the vast majority of our 30 hour ordeal, but the boyfriend had to endure what can only be described as a flight from last century. Before technology and the idea of hairspray had made their way to the middle East.
DON’T CANCEL TOO MANY PLANS when sick. After my binge on surprising people I then proceeded to make plans on every single day of my London trip. On most days I had booked some kind of breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks to make sure I got to see everyone I wanted to before heading East. However, this isn’t possible with glandular fever. And lots of my plans got cancelled. For those I didn’t manage to see, I promise next time I come bearing Asian gifts and duty free goodies.
DON’T GET TOO ATTACHED, you’ve got to go back. I had no idea 6 months ago that I would be back so soon. As it turns out I missed everyone way more than I thought I did and returning to Asia, as much as I love this place was a lot more difficult than I anticipated. It took me longer to settle back in and I found myself still working on London time for about 10 days after arriving back in Taiwan.
DON’T GET RUN OVER. After about a week of being back, I took a trip downtown and followed a friend on a route I wasn’t familiar with. Happily humming away on my tiny little 50cc scooter (Beyonce obviously) I turned onto a busy road and was completely unaware that in about 5 seconds time I’d be flat out on the floor like a starfish with a potential broken arm. The car and I collided. I screamed far too loudly for a sophisticated, civillised Asian country and landed on my right arm in the middle of a main road, which thankfully after an X-ray showed no broken bones. The driver picked my scooter up, mumbled something in Chinese, asked if I was OK and drove off. In shock I left my scooter downtown and took a taxi to the hospital. When I tell Taiwanese people this story they give me dagger eyes for not asking the driver for a lift to the emergency room or demanding payment of my hospital fees. Apparently this is the protocol here, and I was taken advantage of by not knowing these unwritten rules.
Luckily for me I have wonderful friends who bought me a new flashy Union Jack helmet with the idea that it would encourage me to get back on. 3 weeks later I’m driving. I might be yelling ‘b*stard’ and ‘p*ick’ every now and then, but at least I’m back on.
Since this little accident I’ve had to rethink the whole “I’m going to spend another year in this wonderful country” concept. As much as I love Taiwan, the idea of spending another year on these killer roads doesn’t really do much for me. I’m now looking into different countries and different options. Winter Break has been incredible. The Do’s and Dont’s have taught me many lessons and opened the infamous can of worms for what to do next.