Tuesday, 17 May 2011

2011 Asian Tour - Entry 1.

4th Jan – Day One
All the usual confusion about what to pack dominates my last few hours before we leave for the airport and with Xmas getting in the way i haven’t researched what the temperature will be in Vietnam and Cambodia at all so just end up throwing pretty much all i own into a case. James had told me roughly what to expect as he is the kind of guy who likes to figure out what he is getting himself into, but i just nodded and didn’t listen.

The other factor that makes packing slightly more stressful than a regular trip is taking our guitars and pedals. This means we’re always over the weight limit and always get asked questions when our bags set off alarms on the scanners.

“What is this in your hand luggage?”

“Its a fuzz pedal. I’m a musician.”

...this is usually followed by a look of confusion from the security guard and eventually a non-committal waving through that whilst sending you on your way also has an undertone of “...you may have got past us this time...but we’re watching you...”.  Oh and for those of you travelling with harmonicas my tip is put it in your case not your hand luggage. Harmonicas look like ammo clips on the scanner and it appears in the eyes of the staff this is NOT cool.

Ok, so the first day of our trip is pretty uneventful, just the usual “shit, i have forgotten....” thoughts followed by frenzied searching and a sigh of relief as you hold your passport aloft for the 5th time in an hour saying “it’s ok, panic over. I’ve got it.”

By bad luck (or someone else’s design) I am separated from the band on the plane and end up in the seat i dread the most. Not an aisle, not a window, but in the middle right between two really tall, big people men. Now, i am relatively tall myself so can never fit my legs in properly, this makes me really restless on planes so being trapped without being able to either, get up and walk about or at least lean against the wall by the window fills me with anxiety before we even take off. Knowing I’m going to feel claustrophobically insane, sat bolt upright for 13 hours is not comforting, but fuck it....i’m a lucky bastard getting to go to Asia so i shut up and settle down to a long flight.

As it turns out when of the big guys sat next to me proves an great distraction from the boredom. Hi is a seasoned traveller, a uni lecturer on Eastern history and heritage, originally from England but now based most of the time in Japan. We soon get talking about life, art, history and Chinese politics and even long distance relationships before hitting on the most interesting part. This guy IS Indianna Jones. He is a rugged, tall, hard drinking (he drinks beer after beer throughout the flight with NO ill effects), enigmatic academic who is going on a solo adventure before term starts to gather information on huge mysterious boulders found in some hard to reach part of Japan that he is writing a controversial book about. Is his trip gruelling? Yes. Is it dangerous? Apparently so. Is his theory at a critical stage, about to be proved or disproved on this trip? Yes. And finally, is his theory something wondrous and tinged with an ancient magic? He refuses to tell me....which is the perfect way of making me think it must be all those things and more. Oh and he has a classic British adventurers name, but i won’t mention it as i don’t have permission and somehow this all seems important enough that its the kind of thing where Permission is required.

In the tradition of my previous tour diaries i am doing short reviews of the films/books/tv I encounter on the trip and on this flight i see two films.

Schmucks to Dinner: Shit. Two hours of my life i will never get back.

The Other Guys: One funny joke in this one in the form of the line, “I’m gonna break your hip.” Out of context it means nothing, but 10 hours into a flight and 75% of the way through a laughless movie it was enough to make me spray my sleeping co-travellers with a half swallowed mouthful of beer. Sorry about that Mr Jones.

I find it hard to read on planes so i invested in some audio books and decided to give Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” a go. A collection of short stories of which the standout was one called, ‘Kaleidoscope.’

I was in a semi dream like state as i listened to this tale of a space ship smashing apart and the surviving astronauts floating apart at hundreds of miles an hour, knowing they will die and only being able to communicate by radio. Like a play on the concept of your life flashing before your eyes, these men have days to contemplate their lives as they drift away thinking of unfulfilled dreams, of family and of death. I really recommend reading it as it is profoundly moving and thought provoking. Plus it is not long at all and shows how much can be said in very few words. Pretty much the opposite of this diary so far.

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