Today marks exactly two weeks until we fly home and, as much as I am looking forward to ol' Blighty, I am really getting used to this lifestyle now. It doesn't take long out here for you to understand why some people go travelling and never come back.
I think it could all be down to the prevalence of happiness. Pure, simple happiness. It's everywhere. Of the countries we've visited (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), in one way or another, they all have really horrific pasts. Genocide, dictatorship, oppression - you name it. Yet somehow, the people are the happiest I've ever met. Perhaps it's the relief of living in a country without those horrors anymore, who knows? It's especially evident in the children. With no knowledge of having more than what they're given, no bombardment of TV adverts showing them the latest gadgets and no worries except where to run next. It's so refreshing and so uplifting. We wave and smile at everyone now and the blankest of faces quickly relaxes into a toothy (or toothless) grin.
Even the other travellers that we meet have the same attitude. They're all so laid back and just wanting to meet new people, do new things and share their funny stories. We've not met anyone with a mean bone in their body although we have met annoying people...cough every American cough.
The last thing I want to do is to sound like I've had a spiritual awakening and to start getting all preachy but a trip like this does make you think differently. Happiness is a choice. You can wake up and decide you're going to have a good day. Smile at someone and the worst that can happen is they won't smile back but maybe you'll have cheered them up. Do something because it helps someone else instead of yourself and, you never know, it might make your day better too.
Since I last posted we've finished our time in Vietnam which, so far, is a stand out as our favourite country. Every place we've visited has been so distinctly different from the last and each tiny town and bustling city comes with bags of character. Our last stop was Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City) which was a chaotic, colourful maze of a city with telephone wires hanging haphazardly in every street, scooters practically running over your feet and neon signs signalling anything from laundry to 'massage parlours'. A lot of reports we'd had of the city were that it was too noisy, too busy and too dirty. Whilst these things are all partly true, it's also vibrant, intriguing and full of fascinating people - from the aggressive market sellers to the savvy street kids. We both commented that we could imagine ourselves living there although we'd have to do some intense moped training first.
We now head to the islands of Thailand for the last two weeks of our adventures. We feel we've conquered the cultural side of Asia (lots of temples) and so this is the hardcore sun, sea and sand portion of the trip. Some people advise you not to come in wet season (a.k.a. low season) but we have had no problems at all. Yes there is the occasional storm but it's over in minutes and is normally quite fun. Huge grey clouds, bellowing thunder and the brightest fork lightning outside your window. Nice to watch if you're inside and great to cool off if you're outside!
The skin debrief: huge improvement from when I left two months ago. That good old vitamin D in the sky really does work wonders. At home I have heard of people being prescribed time under a sun bed but we all know the issues there and I reckon a holiday is a far better treatment. As for the sea part of the trio I'm positive that every eczema sufferer will have a love/hate relationship with the big blue. The stinging. The unbearable stinging which gives you a painful reminder of every tiny scratch you have on your body. But as your mother will probably say: if it hurts it's probably doing it some good. And I've either been brainwashed by my mum or it is actually true because I do see a difference in any inflamed areas of my eczema after some time in salt water. The alternative to the sting of the ocean whilst here in Asia seems to be lying on the sand being savaged by sand flies; so if you have the opportunity to lie in crystalline turquoise waters and do a bit to help your eczema as well, I'd go for it.
And so now the final countdown begins... Britain, prepare yourself; Mum, get the snacks in; and dear god someone get the kettle on and the tea brewing as soon as I walk through that door in fourteen days.