Matt’s Final Thoughts

It would be wrong of me to spend this much time seeing parts of the world and meeting people from different areas am cultures and not have had some thoughts about it all.

My general feeling about people is that we are all generally the same. We work to make a few dollars so that we can provide for ourselves and our loved ones so that they may in turn grow up to get employment, find a life companion and have kids for whom they will provide. This way of life, just like most things, follows the bell shape curve where the majority of us are all doing a similar thing and working honestly and in harmony with each other for the cycle to continue but there will always be those who lay in the extreme ends. It is these people who are the ones who change society as they do not follow the same path but deviate and forge their own. This can be for the positive or negative and their actions are an example for the rest of us to watch. People in these extremes are often leaders but they should not be followed blindly. We instead need to analyse their differences and decide for ourselves if what they are doing is right and good. Or bad if you want to do that. The figures who are remembers in history are those who do not conform to the norm and we remember them for the great or horrific things they did.
But we are not all meant to be leaders. I don’t want to be one because I am generally lazy and leaders often have to be hard workers. So here are my tips for the average person who wants to live a happy and full life as this is what I feel I have. I love life, I love my life and I enjoy everyday.

  1. Be content with what you have.
  2. Consolidate what you have got. Pay off any loans you have as soon as possible. Do not work for the bank. If a considerable amount of your income is going to pay interest on a loan then you are working for the bank. Have an automatic payment set up to funnel money into a savings account. Unattended money will vanish.
  3. Have a positive mental attitude toward all areas in your life. I know that will sound odd but part of the reason I live my life so much is due to the fact that I tell myself that I love my life. I also tell myself that I am lucky and therefore I am.
  4. Make good/smart short, medium and long term decisions. This might sound hard and perhaps for some people it is but we have history and common seance on our side. We can also ask the advise of others.
  5. Live a balanced life.

If there is one thing that has been reinforced on this trip it is that the universe and man was not made after a Big Bang. A world as incredible as ours is not a product of chance.

Matt Ramsay

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Day 137 – Sydney, Australia

After last nights early night we were up around 8:30am and ate delicious omelettes which dean made. The sun was shining and no one had work until the afternoon so we put on togs and headed to Shelly beach. Shelly beach is at the end of Manly Beach and is more sheltered from the wind and waves than the main beach. The walk there took us down manly beach, past the dozens of people surfing and then around path at the end of the beach.IMG_6137

By the time we arrived the clouds were starting to roll in but we figured they would pass through without affecting us. Dean and I headed out for a swim while Renee, Sarah and Naia watched from the beach. We did not stay in for long but did enjoy the refreshing waters and made out way out to the point before returning to the beach. As we got out it started to spit and in the ten seconds it took us to get up the beach to the girls the spits had turned into large drops which were falling very rapidly. We sought temporary shelter beneath a palm tree and then made a dash to a more suitable location. While we waited out the storm, under the veranda of the surf life saving building, we decided to go home for hot milk milos. We did have these and they were great but by the time they were ready the storm had passed and the sun had came out so we lost that warm cosy magic feeling you get when drinking a hot drink and listening to the rain.

After lunch we packed up our gear and headed toward the airport but not before stopping in at Dean and Renee’s new place of business – React Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation. It was a great space and had access to a large fitness area outside which they make good use of. After a short but sweet viewing it was back into the car for the drive to the airport where we caught the final flight of our journey home. It was sad to say goodbye but we were excited as we were so close to being back on home soil.

The flight was short and sweet and once through customs we found ourselves in the loving arms of Johnny and Joan – Sarah’s parents. The fact that our engagement ring had turned up that day was the icing on the cake and I wasted no time in getting it to its new home on Sarah’s finger to make things official. IMG_6153

It was an amazing journey home. Much more incredible than we could have dreamed we would have had. Thank you to everyone who helped us on the way, everyone we met and everyone who gave us tips and encouragement before we set off. Thank you especially to Sarah who was a better travelling companion than a boy could hope for.

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Day 136 – Sydney, Australia

We woke this morning after the longest sleep in we have had since leaving the UK. After showers, breakfast, lots of talking and plenty of baby watching we went for a walk to the beach. Renee’s anti-natal group were having a birthday catchup. We tagged along but didn’t really attend. We sat on the fringe for a bit and then realised that we just wanted to go swimming so that’s what we did. IMG_6133

The late spring waters were cooler than we expected and cooler than the late autumn waters we had enjoyed in Europe but it did not stop us getting in and enjoy it. IMG_6128

It was not a long swim or an exciting swim but pleasant and very refreshing. After drying off in the sun we walked back along the beach toward home. We headed into Coles to pick up some food for dinner but halfway through decided to order take out instead. It was the right move as we were too lazy to prepare the meal and the take out was called ‘rib runners’. Dean and I shared a massive rib and chicken wing feast while the girls went for more the girly (and gassy) options of nachos and burritos. We ate while watching a movie and the went to bed.

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Day 135 – Sydney, Australia

We woke at around 8:00am and head out to find Dean, Renee and baby Naia in the lounge. IMG_6081

Dean and I went for a walk to the super to pick up some breakfast supplies. We were in Manly and the beach was beautiful. Many people were out bathing on the golden sand and others were surfing. It was a surprise when it started raining only a couple of hours later. After heading home Dean made a delicious breakfast which was consumed with much enjoyment and then we headed out to catch up with Tommy, Ben and Sophie, Sarah’s cousins and Loui, Sarah’s second cousin. The plan was to play bowls but the rain put a bit of a dampened on that so we meet at the pub for a drink instead. It was great to see everyone again and after an hour or so it had fined up so we made the shift to Waverly Bowling Club.IMG_6091 The clouds had all gone and only blue sky and warm sun remained. I was expecting to be better than I was but in the end I improved enough to get one point for my team. IMG_6095

Sarah improved even more though and would have received the ‘Most Improved Player’ award if there was one. Her first bowl was brilliant as it stopped about 7m from where she bowled it. By the end of the session she was a major contender and would consistently be in the mix looking for points. Tommy was the best by far and the only person to be on the winning team twice. He was MVP. IMG_6098At about 6:00pm we called it a day and said goodbye to Tommy and Sophie before heading home. On the way we stopped off to pick up some supplies and I managed to loose my wallet. I think it fell out of my back pocket while at a shop and I only realised at the next that it was gone. I could not believe I had looked after it for four months while travelling only to loose it two days from home. Sarah saved the day though and ran back to the store and asked. It had been handed in so we got it back. I was very lucky.
At home we had a quick bite to eat and a couple of drinks before heading out to catch up with Jess, Sarah’s friend from high school, and her boyfriend Andrew. It was great to see them again and quite funny as we had stayed with them in Singapore on our way over to the UK and now we got to catch up with them on the way back. A great time was had by all.

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Day 134 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The alarm went off at 5:20am this morning waking us from a very short sleep. I’m not sure what happened but it was as if we had coffee before bed last night as neither of us could get to sleep. Anyway we rose showered and grabbed our bags. No one was at reception but we had prepaid for the room so I left the key card and receipt at the desk and cruised to the bus stop. The stop was only a couple of minutes walk from the hotel so we arrived with plenty of time and hoped on the 6:00am SkyBus to the LCC-T (Low Cost Carrier Terminal). It was a fairly quiet ride as I expect half of the passengers were still half asleep but as we went the night turned into day. We did not sleep but consumed a few finger bananas and guzzled a whole 1.5L of water. Not a bad effort before 6:32am.

We pulled in an joined the queuing masses. There were nine queues in total that we had to get through in order to be seated on the plane. They were for: check-in, document check, baggage drop, carry on baggage approval, passport control, gate entry, carry on baggage x-ray, second passport check, gate leaving, plane access boarding pass check and plane entry boarding pass check. I managed to squeeze in a short queue in at the toilets and at the shop in order to use up our remaining Ringgit which I completed to the cent – boom!! Weighing the bags was a bit of fun. We had paid for one 20kg bag each and I expected mine would be close as I had done some rearranging since its last weigh-in of 16.3kg. I had a plan of what to remove if it was over but when I put her on the scales it came in at 19.9kg. It was quite the relief.
So after a lot of queuing, a little waiting and some duty free testing we boarded the plane which would take us back into the Southern Hemisphere. IMG_6072
It was a massive plane (Airbus A330 300) and the first thing I noticed was the lack of in-flight entertainment. We both had books and I had some music but I knew I would get sick of both before the 8 hour flight was over. I therefore employed a lean entertained policy where I only allowed myself to use one form of entertainment at a time. No listening to music while flicking through the in-flight magazine. In sure it would have worked well but we actually got the use of an iPad for a couple of hours as a lady across the isle had two and her husband was sleeping. It was a great score and we used the time to watch Trance. It seemed that others also had a lack of entertainment as I noticed that several others behind were also watching our movie. Our books also got a good blast and then after a few more hours we landed and cruised through customs to find my good mate Dean waiting for us. We were pretty tired but had heaps to catch up on so talked continuously for the next couple of hours before hitting the hay.

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Day 133 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Another hot and slightly restless night saw us through to a clammy morning. After showers and breakfast we checked out and took the monorail to KL Sentral and our new hotel for the night – Sentral Hotel Kuala Lumpur. We had booked and paid for a windowless room as we would be leaving early in the morning but on entering the room we found… a window. The room was actually really nice but we did not stay to enjoy it as there was still plenty of the city to see. After checking the route to the bus for tomorrow we headed north and came across the National Mosque. We gowned up and headed in hoping to enjoy beautiful sights and the cool air near the many fountains. IMG_5970

Unfortunately the gowns were quite thick so while we did enjoy the sites, and a 10 minute sermon from a friendly Muslim chap, we found ourselves melting underneath. After exiting we completed a survey for a university student and then continued north into the lake park and orchid park.  The park was nice and there were plenty of orchids to see but they did not seem very fresh so we figured it might not be the season for them. IMG_5990

It was stinking hot and while we were not pushing the pace we certainly were getting fatigued pretty quickly. I think we were a little dehydrated also but managed to find out way out of the park and to civilisation where we necked a couple of beverages under the big flagpole (95m, one of the tallest in the world). IMG_6006

The drinks sufficiently revived us so we left and made our way to the Kuala Lumpur Gallery which housed a few pictures and a huge model of the city. It lit up during a short presentation about the city which we watched and then made a beeline for the exit. The heat was like a wall, which we hit upon leaving, but we pushed on and made our way to possibly the most important point of the city and what I consider to be a bit of an un-sung hero. It was here that Kuala Lumpur began, at the confluence of two muddy rivers, and where it derives its name. IMG_6034

Not far up the road was the famous Petaling Street, in the heart of Chinatown. I thought it was going to be restaurants and street food but it turned out to be market stalls selling similar knock-offs to those seen in Turkey. The shop-keepers were slightly more pushy but just as friendly and loved using their calculators for negotiations. IMG_6042

A few purchases were made and several declined. By this stage it was 3pm and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast so were fading fast in the heat. It was only appropriate that we should eat Chinese when in the neighbourhood so we went searching and finally found a dodgy looking alley way which had food stalls. We both had Dim Sum with ice tea and followed it with pork buns. The pork buns looked like dumplings but tasted a lot like Christmas mince pies. IMG_6052

On the way back to the street we walked further down the alleyway and saw chickens in cages which I expect will have been cooked by now. What worried us was that next to the caged chickens we saw fat caged cats. We did not want to guess what they were there for. I tried to convince Sarah that they were pets but she wasn’t having a bar of it. Hopefully they were not the ingredients of pork buns.

We walked from there back to our old haunts in Bukit Bintang as we had some cell phones to check out. Sarah’s phone had died a while back and she was on the look out for a replacement. She had decided on the new Google Nexus 5 as it seemed to be the best and had been endorsed by a certain trustworthy individual. We were aware of some global prices so wanted to compare them with Malaysia’s and thought Low Yat Plaza, the IT mall would be the place to find out. It turned out to be much more expensive in KL so no purchases were made but a cellular screen was replaced for only 50RM (£10) – boom. Out into the heat once again we went and as it was now dinner time wedecided to return to the place we went two nights ago. Their Malaysian (food) was pretty good and the place seemed clean so we expected to again get good food without the risk of having GI issues prior to our flight. It was not far away but we were still a little flustered by the time we arrived. The meal was great and the chilled coconut water very refreshing. IMG_6062

As we had almost depleted our Malaysian funds we decided to keep the remaining ringgit as contingency money and walked the 3km or so home. This time we had no navigation issues and we were soon home for a little last minute repacking before bed.

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Day 132 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We woke this morning after a mammoth 12 hour sleep. I am happy to say I slept on top of the bed all night. After showers and breakfast of cereal and toast we headed out to start the day. The Batu Caves were the first on our agenda so we took the monorail around to KL Sentral and then boarded the KTM Komuter which we took to the end of the line. IMG_5753

The tickets on the KTM Komuter train were ridiculously cheap at 1RM per person one way, which is like paying 20p to get out to zone 4 in London. We arrived and easily found the entrance as it was right next to the station. The first thing we noticed, other than the golden temples, were the monkeys. We had not really seen wild monkeys before so spent some time watching them and taking photos. IMG_5855

They were so mischievous and within the hour we were there we saw monkeys chasing other monkeys, monkeys looking through the bins for food and drinks, monkeys scattering rubbish around, monkeys trying to snatch cameras from the hands of tourists, monkeys intimidating tourists by being aggressive and growling, monkeys stealing wedding flowers and eating some of them, monkeys with babies and monkeys making babies. We got it all.
At the entrance to the cave steps we saw a big sign outlining the dress code. The sign said no shorts for men or woman and as it was probably 30 degrees so we were both in shorts (some shorter than others). IMG_5789

So we wandered around the few touristy shops to see if we could find some appropriate clothing or just a scarf to wrap around but found nothing. Sarah said I should just head up anyway as there were plenty of men going up in shorts, so I did. About half way up however, Sarah caught up to me and said the guard had asked her why she was not going up as he must not have had an issue with her attire. So we both saw the caves which were big, drippy and a little stinky, much like myself on the way down. IMG_5804

We took the train back to the centre and then walked down the road to Brickfields, or  ‘Little India’ for lunch. We had a little trouble finding our way as the maps were vague and the phone GPS was not on form but the music and shops were a good indicator of us being in the right place. The street food stalls were nearby and after walking up and back we decided on Selvam’s Corner. It was full of many people eating and had a big queue so we joined it and watched to figure out how to order. There was no menu and no board with specials or any pictures showing what was on offer. The way it worked was that a worker stood behind a table filled with foods and the person ordering would request and point to things. By the time we got to the front of the queue we had a fair idea of what we wanted and a successful transaction was made. I think we both got two different types of chicken curries but you never can be too sure as the taste is so well disguised by the delicious flavours of India. I got one that was exceptional but they were all good. IMG_5883

We then walked back to KL Sentral and took the Rapid KL to KLCC which was right next to the Petronas Towers. The towers were very cool and we spent some time just sitting under them looking up and cooling down. IMG_5918

We then cruised up the hill to check out the Manara Tower which was even taller, coming in at the seventh tallest building in the world. IMG_5924

We also spent some time cooling down here and enjoyed a coconut in the process. It was about the time where we would usually start heading home but as we are now no longer in Winter we have many more sunlight hours. So instead of heading home we wandered to find the Bintang Walk. On the way we came across an advertisement showing the Petronus Towers but from the other side to which we had been. This other side had a lake and park and as we were close we decided to head back there and check it out for ourselves. We sat near the lake (Simfoni Lake) and watched a bit of a water fountain show that came on but soon enough the clouds had rolled in and it started to rain. IMG_5936

We found shelter outside of a convention centre where a Palm Oil conference was being held. An attendee was outside so we had a chat with him about the industry. It was interesting and it seems that good money is made in the processing plants where a manager can earn more than his/her yearly salary in bonuses. The rain petered out so we pushed off, not toward the Bintang Walk but to Low Yat Plaza of which 70% is occupied with technology and electronic stores. There we made a few enquiries about smart phones and which ones were better than others. No purchases were made but a lot of info was consumed for later digestion. We returned home after that and had a little down time before returning to the streets to find dinner. We went to a place recommended by the hotel manager. The place was just okay but certainly could have been better. Looking back it was a bit of a waste of a meal but we will make sure we make up for it tomorrow.
From there it was home to sort a bed for tomorrow night, as we left one night unbooked in order to be closer to the airport for our morning flight on Friday.

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Day 131 – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

At around midnight we boarded our flight to Kuala Lumpur. The Boeing 777 300ER was massive and in the rear compartment, where we were, of the 70 available seats only 23 were occupied. We had not eaten much yesterday so when they came out with hot food at about 1:00am we got stuck in. After watching a movie we turned in for the remainder of the flight, each spreading out across a few empty seats. It was not the best sleep but we both got about 4 hours before being woken for breakfast. Our bodies thought it was 7:00am when we landed but the local time was 1:00pm. All we could do was hope that my sleeping plan of holding off to the second leg would pay off. After getting off we whizzed through customs and then got info on how to get into the city via bus. All of the options to get in were pretty cheap anyway but we figured it would help us get our bearings better than a train. This worked a little but when we we left the bus we were a little confused as to our location and extremely sweaty. I led us up the wrong road for a while and then we had to backtrack (and this was all after my bag strap had broken). Not the best start but the heat was delicious even though it was causing sweat to drip into my eyes.
After we updated our watches, had showers and put on dry clothes we headed out to see more of KL before it got dark and to eat some excellent food. We were very lucky as the hotel seemed to be in the middle of everything. About 2 minutes around the corner was a line up of Malaysian restaurants and three minutes around the other corner was China Town with many street vendors. IMG_5724

We looked at both and decided on Malaysian food as Malaysian food is excellent and it was appropriate, given it was our first night in Malaysia. We found a place which seemed to have active chefs, local patrons and a good vibe. The only thing that let it down was that their menu was the type that had pictures but with the language barrier issues we managed to overlook it.
I ordered Pad Thai and Mee Memek as I figured there are more excellent dishes here than I have nights so I will need to double up when I can. Sarah got Mee Goreng and some roti and we shared a fresh coconut water. IMG_5742

The food was up to standard and the coconut water cool and refreshing. I had to eat as fast as possible in order to get the two mains down before I felt full.
After the meal we considered going for a walk but we were so shattered we went home to bed instead.
I got in, or on bed as the case was, just before 7:30pm and the temperature at the time was 28 degrees. Bit of a change from Istanbul. From past experience I will sleep on-top of the bed all night if the temp stays above 26, so we shall see.

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Day 130 – Istanbul, Turkey

After a small sleep in we woke and showered before tucking in to our final breakfast in Istanbul. We made it a big one in order to have sufficient energy to see us through until our flight. We spent the next hour or so packing and re-packing in order to have everything in the right place. There was just enough time for one last attraction so we quickly made our way to the Basilica Cistern. The ticket price was sufficiently low and therefore did not exceed the funds we had left. After descending several steps we found ourselves inside a large cavern with many pillars. IMG_5698

The walls, floor and ceiling were sealed to keep the environment water tight. About a foot of water still remained in the bottom and extremely fat fish were lazily swimming around. The place looked a lot like a combination of the Adams Family house and the Phantom of the Opera’s lair. At the end of the cistern were a couple of pillars that had a statue of Merdusa’s head as the base. One was upside down and the other was on its side. I’m not sure why but I think they were cooler that way and maybe the planner thought so too. IMG_5701

After a brief but complete tour we left and rushed back to pick up our bags from the hotel before lugging them up the hill in the warm sun. It was a little unfair to be leaving Istanbul on the day with the best weather. The tram and then metro to the airport went smoothly and we arrived with plenty of time. Two security checks, two check-ins (first one required more info) and one passport control check later we were through to our gate and ready for boarding. Being early we sat at the front of the gate and boarded near the front. To our horror it was a small plane which did not have TVs in the seats so we would not get to watch the movies we had been planning to see, but at least this leg of the journey was only a three and a half hour flight. It was lucky we had taken books on with us. After take-off we had an excellent view of the city. I’m not sure if the pilot took us on the scenic route on purpose or not but he seemed to circle around the perimeter of the city, giving us an idea of what a city with a population of 14 odd million looks like from above; massive with condensed housing. We were able to point out a few landmarks including the Galata bridge and tower, the golden horn, several Mosques, the Bosphorus Straight and Bridge and even the big flag flying in the palace. The flight itself went quickly and we had plenty of leg room. Saudi Arabia greeted us with a balmy 20 degrees but we then had to wait in the cooler air conditioned area for our next flight. It was a little sad to be leaving Turkey and Europe but we were very excited to be heading home. The Turkish people we met were very nice, friendly and excellent hosts and even though it may have been because we were tourists, there to spend money, we were always made to feel safe and welcome. Perhaps Turkey as a society have learned that ‘what is best for the group is best for the individual’ and are putting it into practice.

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Day 129 – Istanbul, Turkey

I was still pretty tired when I woke this morning due to our busy, never-ending sight-seeing schedule. It was a beautiful day to be waking up to however, as the clouds had moved on in order to show us Istanbul in the sun. We showered, breakfasted and then set out to find a laundry. The hotel guy gave us directions to one but it was closed so we pushed on and managed to find another a few blocks up the road. Having dropped it off we were free to enjoy the day so cruised up to the metro and took it to Topkapi. IMG_5489

From there we walked north along the old city walls to the Kariye Museum/ Chora Church. On the way we fell into the ‘let me give you assistance’ trap where someone shows us where to go, even though we already know the way. He was a nice guy though and after giving our shoes a bit of a clean and accepting some coins we were on our way. Part way down the walls was a set of steep steps leading up to a vantage point. The steps were so steep even Ann Frank would have had trouble climbing them but we cruised up and enjoyed the panorama. IMG_5522The Chora Church was not far off once we climbed down and after getting tickets we cruised in. The mosaics and frescos were incredible and even though the church was small we still spent half an hour in there steering up at the ceiling. IMG_5556

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There were not many people in there looking but one tourist tried her luck and snuck around the barrier to see what was behind a closed door. I am not sure if it was locked or not but a guard was hot on her tail and got her out of there. We thought it was pretty funny, while she had a slightly embarrassed smirk on her face. Another funny moment occurred towards the end of our visit when a Dominos Pizza delivery man came in to drop off three pizzas for the staff. It seemed wrong to allow pizza into an area so fragile that flash photography is not allowed.
From the church we wandered downhill until we hit the banks of the golden horn. We did stop on the way to buy a loaf of bread which came out of the wood fire oven before our eyes. IMG_5576

It was delicious and provided us with enough energy to walk and shop for the next four hours. Both of us successfully put a good dent into our Christmas shoppimg and our wallets. We were such valued customers at one shop that the owners gave us a cup of coke each. I guess it was a little like being in a casino as the more comfortable we were the longer we stayed and the longer we stayed the more we payed. We couldn’t stay too long though as we needed to pick up our washing before 5:00pm. After collecting it we headed home hoping to rest our weary limbs but upon arriving decided instead to catch an early evening cruise around the Bosphorus. We had no idea what time the boats left but walked quickly as it was cold. It was lucky we did as no sooner had we boarded and found seats the boat cast off into the rapidly darkening night. IMG_5653

The cruise went for about an hour and took us up toward the Black Sea, under the Bosphorus Bridge and back to drop us off on the other side of the Galata Bridge. Even though it was dark the scenery was nice, as the more significant buildings were lit up from the outside. IMG_5659

The full moon also provided a little extra light and a cup of hot tea helped keep us warm. After getting off we took the lazy option and caught the tram up toward home. We returned to the same restaurant as last night – Zeya Baba – and Sarah had exactly the same meal. At least I had something different. Both were excellent and afterwards we returned home to do a little packing and a lot of sleeping.

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