Sunday, 10 August 2008

Be seeing you

This is the end of this blog. It's over!

You don't have to live a ben and/or debs-free life though. Ben has started a new blog over here, and Debs also has her own little spot just round the corner. Oh, maybe she hasn't. She might have changed her mind. She's thinking about it, she says...

EDIT: She's done it! Deb's new blog is up and running - go check it out!

It remains for us to say thanks to everyone who hosted us, bought us drinks or otherwise brought sunshine and joy into our gruelling travelling life:

Sarah and Steve in Leeds
Pod and Nats in Leeds
Chris and Clare in Birmingham
Camilla and Nick in London
Ken in Reading
Jim and Diane in LA
Rob and Vanessa in Hamilton
Brenda and Sandy in Wellington
Pep and Kate in Wellington
Shelley and John in Batlow
Audrey, Peter and Alma in Wangi Wangi
Baz, Alice, Renee, and Diarmuid in Melbourne
Stu, Deb, Sam and Joe in Brisbane
Mel and Phil in Dunedin
Masahiro and Mariko in Tokyo
Steve and Zoe in Singapore
Jamie and Clare in Amsterdam
Monica in Amsterdam
...and the people we have forgotten, sorry, but I've got a hangover this morning and can't think straight.

And thanks to all of you for reading, commenting and enjoying this blog. Glad you liked it!

Our bookshelf is now fatter by about a dozen Lonely Planets, Deb's orange notebook and 5 of Ben's diaries. It's like a paper trail or something.

See you then, byeee!

Ben and Debs

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Barbershops of the world, conclusion

It's all over: since we got home I have used my own clippers and shaved myself. It was kinda unremarkable.

So as a final treat for all you barbering fans out there, here is the summary of all the cuts I had over the past year.

Location Type Cost € Quality Fear
Havana Full 4 7 2
Campeche Beard 2.3 5 1
Guanajuato Full 4 8 0
Sigatoka Beard 0.5 2 0
Te Rapa Full 8 6 5
Wellington Beard 4.5 6 1
Greymouth Full 6.5 8.5 0
Queenstown Beard 2.75 6.5 1.5
Melbourne Beard 4 7 0
Sydney Full 12 8.5 2
Byron Bay Beard 3 6 1
Seminyak Full 1.1 9 0
Ko Lanta Beard 1.3 5 3
Chiang Mai Debs! 5 9 6
Luang Prabang Full 2.2 8 3
Savannakhet Beard 0.4 6 1
Phnom Penh Beard 1.3 7 1.5
Tokyo Full 17 9 0
Chennai Beard 3.3 5 3
Varkala Full 1.1 6 1
Munnar Beard 0.3 8 0
Hospet Beard 0.5 7 2
McLeod Ganj Full 1.9 8 0
Mumbai Beard 1 6 2
Patara Full 11 10 2
Patara Beard 4.5 10 0

Jesus, this is ridiculous! LOL! I was going to do graphs and stuff but I really can't be bothered. If anyone wants to do it for me, be my guest!

By my calculations that makes Mini Bharath Hair Dresses in Munnar the best value (highest quality relative to price). Feel free to dispute my assertion if you are better at wangling statistics than me. Let's face it, that wouldn't be difficult.

And that concludes the series. Feeling nostalgic already? You can revisit all your favourite hairy episodes nice and easy, via the power of hyperlinks.


Friday, 8 August 2008

Tops and tails

We've been home for just over a week now. Our stuff is out of storage and in our house again, we're cooking and eating delicious food - most of which is organic, drinking very few little bottles of exciting beer, sleeping in our amazingly comfortable bed, and watching Star Trek again - hooray! (Debs isn't so excited by that bit, but she's got reruns of ANTM instead, so...)

And over the past week we've met up with several hundred of our old friends and answered the same bloody questions each time: "What was your favourite place?", "did you get sick?", and of course, "was India really that bad?". (Answers: Laos/Japan/Fiji, not a lot, and yes).

Oh, and yes, haven't we lost weight and aren't we brown? Hearing this repeatedly isn't annoying at all, actually - keep saying!

So as a sanity-preserving measure for us, and a generally enlightening info-spang for everyone else, here is a round up of the highs and lows for the whole year:

Deb's bads:
Drowning when I was meant to be swimming with Manta Rays
The 18km trek in 35+ celsius conditions, Laos. 2L of water per person: "I'M TOO HOT!"
Puking in the sea, clinging onto our snorkelling boat's outrigger in Indonesia

Deb's goods:
Seeing friends and family throughout the trip
Watching the fatties stuffing their faces in Dennys, LA
Pinatas in Mexico
The amazing pottery in the Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
The Gibbon Experience - pretty much everything about it
Chili tofu in Indonesia - mmh! This meal turned me on to hot and spicy food
Songkran in Thailand with Joey and Debs
Everything about Japan, but especially the Giants baseball game at Tokyo Dome and the Thunder Dolphin rollercoaster ride, oh, and the 100 Yen shop.
Yoga in McLeod Ganj

Ben's bads:
Severe foot pain in NZ
Food in Laos: totally gross
A severe "stomach upset" in Chiang Mai, followed by a gruelling trek - oof!
Deb's constant whining about India ;-)

Ben's goods:
Palenque - beautiful ruins in an incredible setting - my favourite "big, impressive old buildings" experience in the whole world!
Mexican wrestling, especially when Debs moved from "Is he OK?" to "Break his legs! Kill him!"
Snorkelling in Fiji - sen-sational
Killer nights out in Wellington, NZ with our friends
Shelley and John's wedding in Batlow. Apparently I set the dancefloor on fire
Bogans in Australia, and my favourite new swear-phrase: "Get fucked!" - sounds especially good in an Aussie accent
Deb's comedy sayings, from confused babbling ("Have you been bitten by a bee?") to razor sharp improvisations which wouldn't make any sense here even if I explained them. "I cannon believe it" is now a catchphrase!
Tai Chi in McLeod Ganj

And for both of us, it was just brilliant being able to spend 24 hours a day with each other. Being back at home it's easy to become distracted by all the other attention-grabbing stuff and drift off into our own little worlds... there's no substitute for time and space and having to get through stuff together. We feel much closer to each other than before. Nauseating, ain't it?

In summary: we recommend doing this, it's awesome. We had our ups, we had our downs, and now we can look back over the whole thing in disbelief that we pulled it off.

Oh yeah, if you do something similar - make sure you blog it and Flickr your photos as you go along. We've been inundated with comments from happy friends and family members about how great it is that they could keep up with us as we went around. Not only that, but now we have a thorough record of everything we did, which will hopefully last for ever! And we won't have to wade through boxes of photos going "What was that guy called again? Where was that?" etc.

That's it!

Anyone want to see a slideshow?!

Ben and Debs

Sunday, 3 August 2008


We didn't find God. We didn't find ourselves. We didn't have any life-changing epiphanies. But we did see a lot of cool things and a lot of rubbish things, which made us think about how we used to live, and how we could change things for the better.

And now we're back home and starting everything with a more or less blank slate. It's a great chance to throw out old habits and get into new routines.

So here are our "how our lives will be different after all that travelling" resolutions:
  • Going organic: food, drink, toiletries, household cleaning products
  • Buying responsibly: no clothing or products from China or other horrendous regimes
  • Getting out more: see more of Amsterdam, geographically, culturally, etc. Also, the rest of the Netherlands probably has some interesting bits we should go see
  • Working differently: Ben's going freelance, Debs is... well, we'll see
  • Having the time of our lives: doing our best not to get sucked back into that stresslife rut we successfully levered ourselves out of this time last year; less rush rush rush, more relaxed enjoyment
  • Doing more sport: Debs likes yoga, Ben likes Tai Chi and swimming - we'd like to keep our healthy bods if we can.
  • Trying out lots more exotic recipes: Why did we never cooked with tofu before?!
  • Speaking more Dutch: We know it, but never use it. Must try harder (neither of us knows how to translate this phrase into Dutch - not a good start..!)
  • Making more cakes: Debs is now obsessed with cakes, and intends to make lots of them.
Ben and Debs

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Compare and contrast

If you've been following our trip from the off, you might remember this "things I want to fix" post that I wrote just before we left.

Well, here's how things stand after a year:
  • Stress sickness: Gone
  • Time poverty: Gone
  • Arms/ hands/ RSI twinges: Gone
  • Drinking: Significantly reduced
  • Alarm clocks: Unexpectedly used them quite a lot! Plenty of early morning starts to do cool things at dawn - discovered that I like getting up early as long as there's a good reason
  • Mobile phones: We took one, but barely used it as a phone, mainly because the go-sim chip we used was pretty useless. Shame. Came in handy for clock, torch and games functions though
  • Computers: Plenty of blogging and Flickring; much less timewasting. Good.
  • Rut life: No rut no more! 24 hours a day with Debs doing stuff. Very fun indeed. Will miss this a lot.

In addition to all this we also have some "how our lives will be different after all that travelling" resolutions. See next post.


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Back to the Dam

We are pretty much finished! Tomorrow we fly back to Amsterdam and get plugged back into life as we knew it... except different. It has been almost 13 months since we were in Amsterdam; almost exactly 365 days since we flew out of London to Havana.

The year has gone so fast it's amazing. Back here in London we've been chatting to friends and family, and the consensus seems to be that "not much has happened" while we've been gone. Maybe not for you guys :-)

Over the next couple of weeks we'll be wrapping up this blog, reviewing our year, comparing our thoughts before we left with what actually happened, doing lists of highs and lows and so on. I even have some Barbershop stats to crunch for y'all, I know you're waiting for that with barely controllable excitement.

So don't switch off just yet, there's a little bit more to come over the next fortnight or so.


Thursday, 24 July 2008

Home! Sorta...

We're back! It's London! Not quite home yet, but as near as dammit cos we're spending a week with Camilla and my family are all going to be here and it's warm and we're wearing jeans! We are both apparently a damn sight skinnier than we were this time last year.

Here, you can drink water straight from the tap, flush bog roll down the toilet, and use a properly equipped kitchen to cook delicious food. Luxurious lifestyle revisited - we could both get used to this sort of thing you know?

So far, being back is very tiring and quite confusing. There are a million things that we both want to start working on, and it all rushes into us at once and leaves us dizzy and babbling. I had to keep going and lying down today because I just felt completely overloaded. Strange.

Anyway, one day at a time and all that. We have made one very good decision today - to have a big meet up for all our friends in London. So if you know us, and want to see us, please come to a lazy outdoor pub afternoon this Sunday, 27th July. Time Out tells us that the Windmill on the Common is a decent spot, so that's where we'll be, from about 1 o'clock. Here's where it is.

Ridiculous to think it has been a year since we left all this stuff behind.


9 to 5

This post is all about the rest of our holiday in Turkey. There isn't really very much to report :-) We spent the vast majority of our time "in the office" - on our regular sun loungers by the hotel pool. We became so attached to our particular loungers that we even did that German thing of reserving them with our towels when we went down for breakfast. Vorsprung durch Tücher!

That's pretty much it. We did manage to go to Fethiye and have a Hamam, which was lovely. Not so lovely was the glimpse Debs caught up the towel of a nude Dutch lady... cover yourself up, meisje!

Otherwise, we ate, we drank, we lazed around all day and chatted with new friends Sterling and Louise (who, it turned out, know our other new friends Mel and Phil from NZ), Idris and Matthew, and the Neal family (and it turns out that Jane was at school with both me and my sister). Hello you lot!

Oh yeah, we did manage to haul ourselves off to Kalkan again, in order to spend the day sitting on a boat and swimming in the sea, rather than lounging by the pool. That was pretty cool. We got covered in mud on a beach and Ben went and chatted to some little fish underwater. It was deeper than it looked.

By the end of our stay we were INCREDIBLY EXCITED about going home, and spent the whole journey buzzing, and shifting uncomfortably in our horribly cramped Thomas Cook cheap seats. Don't think we'll be flying with them again.

So, that's the end of all that travelling. Well nearly - next up is a week in London.


Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Barbershops of the world, part 25 and a half

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Last day in Turkey - so I went back to Nasif to get my face in shape for our triumphant return to civilisation. He did the business again: a cracking, precision job on my cheeks, same stuff as before, ear singeing and all.

No photos cos it's the same as last time, innit.

Cost YTL 8 (EUR 4.50), plus a YTL 2 tip
Cut quality 10/10
Fear factor 0/10

Oh, this time he used his special massage machine on me. it buzzed my backbone. Bit odd, but not entirely unpleasant.


Sunday, 13 July 2008

Barbershops of the world, part 25

OMFG! We have a winner. İ have just awarded my first and only 10 out of 10 to Nasif's Unisex Barber Shop in Patara, Turkey. Why? Here's why:
  • First ever nose hair trim
  • First ever ear singe
  • Best cleanup action ever
  • Aftershave!

Basically, this was a tour de force of barbering. Stretching over a leisurely 45 minutes (yes, Debs did get a bit bored), and including a full head shave, crisp beard trim, plenty of cut-throat razor action with suds, and some mildly terrifying "singeing" where he soaked a little cotton bud in lighter fluid, lit it and then tapped it on my ears to burn off the little fluffy hairs - awesome stuff!

He also trimmed my nose hair, washed my face and head afterwards (and used cotton wool to clean out my ears), slapped a bit of aftershave on my cheeks and then gave me a head, neck and shoulder massage... total perfection, in other words.

To top it all off, there was a moment halfway through the cut where Nasif paused, gave a little sigh and wistfully said "İ like hair"... then just carried on as normal. Perfect!

Cost YTL 20 (EUR 11), plus a YTL 5 tip
Cut quality 10/10!!!
Fear factor 2/10 (my ears are on fire!)

No hesitation at all in awarding the full 10 points for this magnificent performance. Turkey, I salute you and your barbers!

Also, props to my Dad for recommending Turkish barbers! I would have gone anyway, but it boosted the anticipation excitement substantially.