Indeed, that little counter in the top right hand corner that adorns every page of this website has ticked over to a new decade. It reveals that this journey has been ongoing for over 10 years.
I could have done many things today. Cracked a bottle of champagne. Released a new web design. Published a book. Written about what it’s like to travel a single journey for so long … the list goes on.
However, when I look back today I think of those I’ve met and their words of “wisdom” or “not” as the case may be.
Today I’d like to share with you a list of quotes, conversations and situations that I’ve come across over the past ten years.
Some are personal that will make little sense. Some might seem humorous, other less so. There are a few politically incorrect conversations, by today’s standards, which is not surprising considering how much the world has changed in the past 10 years.
Either which way perhaps one quote will resonate with you as it did and still does with me.
Otherwise, there are still some interesting photos to peruse from my past 10 years.
In no particular order:
Pakistan: “Undercover policeman” (2007)
Walking in Peshawar city during emergency rule. A man in a white shalwar kameez covering a crisp suit approaches me from the side.
Him: “You like Pakistan?”
Him: “You going to stay long?”
Me: “I don’t know really.”
Him: “What are you going to see here?”
Me: “I see your shiny shoes. Are you the Pakistani undercover police I was told about?”
The man immediately wanders off to the right.
Morocco: “Moroccan Viagra” (2005)
Marrakech in 2005 was not quite the tourist hub it is today. The open night market in winter was filled more with Moroccan men in heavy shawls drinking steaming mint tea than tourists in designer jackets and selfie sticks.
I’d just finished a deliciously large meal of kebabs and apricots with a girl I was traveling with at the time when we decided to seek out one more sweet treat.
Me: “Do you have any desert?”
Moroccan man: “Eat this ….”
Me. “Smells like cinnamon. Tastes like … ”
Girl: “What’s wrong?”
Me: “It’s burning my throat!”
Girl: “Really, what did you buy?”
Me: “Cinnamon cake.”
Local Moroccan man standing beside us: “That’s not cake. That’s Moroccan Viagra!
Both Moroccan men laugh as the vendor winks: “You have good time with lady friend tonight.”
2 hours later and it’s the first of many hours of me disposed on a toilet due to Moroccan “Viagra poisoning”. Not quite the effect I wanted nor the dessert I wanted either!
Auschwitz/Birkenau, Poland: “One sentence” 2007
Tour guide: “My parents were killed in Auschwitz, now I work here.”
Don’t know if it’s a sympathy tip or true. Either way. It works.
Malaysia: “Non-Politically correct laughs are the best” (2010)
I was sitting on a stool with a French friend having dinner at a roadside cafe in front of a market.
There’s an idiot teenager riding up and down the wet street on a motorbike making a lot of noise and disturbing locals. The tourists nearby were not paying much attention.
Boy skids on the wet street flips over the bike and smashes into an old ladies clothes stall. Old lady swats the groaning boy with a handbag as he’s still on the ground groaning.
We nearly fall off our stools laughing. Nearby tourists turn around in horror at the cruel people behind them (us). To add icing to the cake of cruel laughter a “Monk” approaches us for money. We tell him to go ask the tourists for money instead.
Tourists in front get even more outraged.
(for anyone wondering the “monks” there are “always” asking for something. Aka, probably not monks).
Philippines / Malaysia: “Such a dangerous place” (2010)
Traveling from the Philippines to Malaysia. You’d think these two neighbouring countries would have more in common. They don’t.
A Filipino to me in The Philippines: “You’re going to Sabah Malaysia? Very dangerous place. Malaysians will kidnap, rob and shoot you there.”
A Malaysian in Sabah, Malaysia: “You came from The Philippines?! You’re so lucky. That’s a very dangerous place. They kidnap, rob and shoot people there.”
Romania: “Jesus is here too” 2007
I was in Sighisoara Romania in a lovely little guest house which was eerily empty. Next door there was another guest house which was full. I wondered why as the old lady running my one took me down into her basement.
Lady: “Stand over here. No, not there, here. Do you see it?”
Me: Slightly confused and half expecting an axe wielding manic to appear. “No.”
Lady: “Look harder. Do you see it?”
Me: “No.” *She is being nice, but this is weird.
Lady: “Look on the floor!”
Me: “I’m trying!” *Okay, now I’m feeling stupid. Maybe I should lie.
Lady: “Do you see his face?”
Me: “Who?” *She’s flipped.
This went on a while until finally …
Me: Still not seeing anything but a concreted floor. “Oh yes, there it is.”
Lady: “There’s more over here.”
On the floor were water stains. One of which could possibly have resembled a bearded face. I was then shown many more around the room. And a piece of stale biscuit with a face on it.
In fairness, the lady was lovely. I’d stay there again. It was just … different.
Tibet/China: “A North American lady without a gun” 2008
We were in the middle of the March 2008 Tibetan uprising. Buildings were burning all round us, cars blowing up and the Chinese Army were just starting to arrive en-masse.
I was out trying to find a French guy who’d disappeared during all this when I spotted the ex-police woman from the USA and her teenage son who stayed at our hotel sheltering behind a counter in a ransacked shop.
Me: “What are you doing in here?”
Woman: “If I had a gun I’d shoot them….”
Woman: “Any of them!”
Me: “Okay, well that’s probably not a great idea considering the tanks coming in over there. Have you seen the French guy by the way?”
Woman: “No, he’s probably dead. I don’t care who’s out there I’d shoot any of them.”
Me: “Well, you don’t have a gun. And I that’s definitely a good thing. Get some sense and get back to the hotel it’s just around the corner.”
In the end the woman came to her senses and took her rather panic stricken son back to the hotel. The French guy was later found. He’d been given shelter by a local Tibetan family.
Thailand: “The floods” 2011
Traveling from Malaysia to Thailand overland during flash floods. The train was stopped due to flooding at 4am so I took a bus in the hope of getting out of the flood plains. The road had disappeared under water and all around us was nothing but the same brown water. What did the bus driver do? He sped up of course.
Tourist: “Are we in the field?”
Other tourist: “No, it’s the road.”
Tourist: Why is the car beside us trying to overtaking us?”
Me: “Welcome to Thailand.”
The SUV overtook us too far and really did end up in a field of water. It slowed to a halt and the family was left stranded as our bus started overtaking more cars to escape the rising flood waters.
Tibet/China: “Memory cards aren’t built for your rectum” 2008
Again during the Tibetan riots. We’d taken a lot of photos and knew the Chinese military were rounding people up to confiscate cameras. I’d hidden my photos well. But still we were worried.
Italian: “I put it up my ass.”
Me: “Really? What type of memory card you got?”
Me: “I’ve Compact Flash, wouldn’t fit. Not going to try either.”
Iran: “border talk” 2007
I’d just crossed the border from Turkey to Iran alone. The border only had taxi transport and my destination was quite far. It called for a shared taxi which was still quite expensive. I had a choice to take a short shared taxi to a nearby town or wait it out for another shared taxi to the city I wanted to go. I chose the latter.
It didn’t take long until I met three Syrian men also wanting a ride to Tabriz. We chose to go together as we were ready. All we needed was one more passenger so we could go.
We ate lunch together, joked and laughed and waited. And waited. And waited. The Syrians bargained hard with the taxi man who wouldn’t budge. So we waited even longer.
By now it was getting close to the time I had to leave as I didn’t want a night journey. I offered to pay for the extra seat. But the Syrians wanted to bargain more. A new wave of people crossed the border and no one went with the Syrians who insisted on continuously bargaining. I sat back down thinking what a mistake it had been to agree a taxi with them. As I did I noticed one Syrian take his luggage out of our taxi and shuffle off to another.
Then the next Syrian did the same. As I walked over the last Syrian grabbed his bag and ran off to his friends who had met two other Syrian’s before driving off and leaving me.
I looked at the taxi man we’d all been waiting with for nearly 5 hours: “Did that really happen?”
Taxi man: “Arab Bastards!”
The taxi man got me another taxi to take me to another town where I got a bus to the city. Not after being chased out of a public toilet by a very strange and wild toilet cleaning man. Arrived into Tabriz on a late Friday night where nearly every hotel was full. Dinner ended up being some bread and yogurt.
I went to sleep that night pondering about the taxi man’s statement. Yep, they were bastards. Race didn’t matter. Actions did. But still, memory lasts forever.
Varanasi, India: “The smell of burning bodies at sundown” 2007
Standing on the rooftop of my guesthouse a new tourist arrives fresh-faced and clean as we look over the Ganges.
Tourist: “Some sight eh?”
Me: “Yea, some smell too.”
Tourist: “Really? What is it?”
Me: “That would be the dead bodies burning over there.”
Tourist: Goes yellow, “Oh no really?”
Me: “Yea, smells like Argentine beef doesn’t it?”
Big waft of dark smoke blows in. Tourist goes green. Goes back to room.
Ghana: “Get over it already” 2006
We were in a remote (ish) place which necessitated a taxi ride to a bus stop. Unfortunately the taxi man seemed to think we should pay double the rate. Upon refusing he lost the plot and started shouting at us.
Taxi man: “You white men cheat us for centuries make us slaves now we cheat you!”
Me: “No. Get your facts right. The white man came to Ghana where you were already enslaving each other. We did it better than you. Made more money than you. Became more sustainable than you. And ended slavery for you. I’ll get a better taxi man than you too.”
Nepal: “Hello” 2014
Standing on a rooftop in Pokhara my phone rings.
Nepalese Friend: “Namaste!”
Nepalese Friend: “How are you?”
Me: “Fine, how are you?”
Nepalese Friend: “Good thank you.”
Me: “Everything okay?”
Nepalese Friend: “Just fine.”
Me: “Em, why did you call?”
Nepalese Friend: “Just called to see how you are?”
Nepalese Friend: “Yes. You’re fine. So, bye.”
Strange as it may seem to many. But when you are constantly moving country getting a phone call like that is is A) very unusual B) very nice.
Afghanistan/Pakistan border: “It’s safe here” 2007
Having just traveled up the Khyber Pass in Pakistan to the border of Afghanistan I stood with the army overlooking the valley below whilst surrounded by arduous mountains.
Army officer: “Yes. we had an incident two days ago. Turkish man kidnapped. Taken into the mountains.”
Me: “Does it happen a lot?”
Officer: “About every week.”
Me: “Always like this?”
Officer: “It’s not so bad. Bad was three years ago. A Swiss man was cut up into pieces and sent to different parts of the market in Peshawar.”
Officer: “Selling arms … That’s not his job.”
Spain/Morocco: “We lost him … ” 2005
I was traveling with some friends one of whom originally didn’t want to come to Morocco. That was about to change on the ferry back to Spain.
Friend: “So do they have sniffer dogs at the port?”
Me: “I presume so, yes.”
Me: “I’m guessing you will take the ferry back then.”
Friend: “I love Morocco, I’m never leaving man.”
And that was the last we saw of him.
Philippines “The foreigner” 2009
One of the more annoying traits of the Philippines is the presumption that foreigners have more money than anyone else. In the big cities this is a constant annoyance. The government officials in big cars along with local people matter not. You as a tourist are grade A prime $.
Kids on the city street: “Give me money …”
Large SUV left running outside Starbucks with air-con running to keep it nice and cold for 20 minutes while Filipino owner buys coffee.
Lady on street: “Give me money …”
More large Filipino’s in designer gear queuing for Starbucks.
Child on street: “Give me money …”
Me: “Stop! You see those fat Filipinos coming out of that shop. They have more money than me. Go ask them.”
Nigeria: “Help! Lions!”
There are no safaris in Nigeria. You simply hire a car and head out into the bush to find what the Nigerians have not yet eaten or hunted to extinction. In this case we drove. We also broke down in the middle of the bush in the middle of the night.
Me: “Do you hear that?”
Sound of rustling.
Me: “What is it?”
Everyone: “Run into the car!”
Sure enough a few seconds later some very skinny (aka hungry) lions crossed behind us. We still had to get out of the car and repair it.
All the while hungry eyes twinkled at us from the bush.
Poland: “Ukraine bus services suck” 2007
Bus station receptionist: “The driver says he was here last night”
Me: “No he wasn’t I was here all night.”
Receptionist: “He says he was.”
I call my polish friend who arrives a little later. He talks with the receptionist.
Polish friend: “Yea you get your money back since they can’t cheat you now. I probably wouldn’t get the same bus tonight. It’ll be the same driver and he won’t be happy.”
Me: “Great, I’ll skip the Ukraine then and go to Hungary on the train.”
Barcelona Spain: “nightlife starts late” 2005
Me: “Do not go out drinking early in Barcelona.”
Friend visiting: “There’s a football match.”
Me: “Don’t do it. Don’t start until eleven like everyone else.”
Friend: “Yea, ok.”
Next day friend on phone: “Dave, I passed out and we got mugged.”
Malaysian shamans: “You will meet someone soon who will change your life” 2012
Shaman one: “You will meet someone who will change your destiny”
Shaman two: “You are already on that path.”
Me: “Within the year?”
Shaman one: “Within this year you will meet your destiny.”
Me: “Didn’t you say that to me 2 years ago as well?”
Shaman looks up.
Me: “You remember me don’t you?”
Both Shamans laugh.
Me: “I’m going to bed now.”
Pakistan “The Good Colonel” 2007
Taking a train from Quetta to Peshawar via Rawalpindi during Emergency rule. Benazir Bhutto was just arriving. I share a carriage with a Colonel from the Army. We spent many hours in discussion about life. The train pulls up near the Indus river during a discussion about how to be happy in life.
Colonel: “I think a simple life is better.”
Me: “The simple life can be a boring one.”
Colonel: “Not if you don’t know what’s out there.”
Me: “Don’t we all want to know?”
Colonel: “Maybe, but I think the wiser man is the man who does not want to know. Let me show you a man like that.”
We leave the train and the stop and visit a man selling soup and samosas. He is smiling at everyone.
Colonel: “This man, he is a simple man. He’s worked here in this spot since he was a child. He’s doesn’t read or listen to the news. And, he’s happy.”
We buy some soup and samosas. The man greets me with a huge smile. His young son helps him. He recognises the colonel and is happy he has a friend today.
Colonel: “You see, with all this emergency rule and trouble waiting in Rawalpindi. This man knows nothing about it and he is happy. A simple man. A simple life. A better life.”
Me: At the time I understood what the colonel meant. Though I did not fully agree. Today I am much more inclined to say that that simple man is one of the happiest men in today’s world. Which for all intents and purposes makes him a much smarter man than me.
Planning on booking a hotel room soon?
Looking for the best online rates?
I recommend you try my own search network for the best rates guaranteed.