Day 1,243: The 10 Courts of Hell

Sun 27.05.12:  Today I met up with Maryanne, the CouchSurfer who shared Mike’s flat with me in Hong Kong. Together with Kuni and our new CouchSurfer Callum we headed over the Haw Par Villa Theme Park to go see the TEN COURTS OF HELL!! Hell isn’t an exclusively western concept. What happens to you after die has obsessed the upright ape since it first climbed out of the trees, touched the monolith and killed off all the Neanderthals. In some instances the fanciful fables of the hereafter have assumed the status of myth (that place religions go when they die), but for many people on this planet hell is as alive and as real as Disneyland. So why not make a theme park out of it? That was the idea of brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the developers of Tiger Balm, who came…

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Day 1,242: Gotham City

Sat 26.05.12: Gangsters. I hate them. I hate their pathetic lust for money, their shocking insensitivity to the misery of others, their child-like desire for trinkets and weaponry. But I especially hate their taste – yes I may sound like a rambling old lord bemoaning the trashy habits of the nouveau riche, but sod it: these people are not just morally bankrupt, but creatively bankrupt as well. The kind of goons who would erect a tasteless golden statue of themselves as though it’s not going to be melted down the minute they shuffle off this mortal coil they’ve done so much to ruin for others. The kind of goons that buy cars that look like glorified roller-skates, spend more on sound-systems than looking after their kids, hang out with women more plastic than Barbie and wear shirts louder than Krakatau. One of the reasons I want…

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Day 1,241: The Arab Street Preachers

Fri 25.05.12: I lost my debit card last week in Bangkok. Foolish I know, but it’s only the second time I’ve lost my card since Dominican Republic back in February 2009, so don’t be too harsh. In fact, I lost both cards to the same lousy trick. Some cash machines have this bastard habit of giving you your money and THEN your card, rather than the eminently more sensible other way around – card then money. Because of the increased likelihood of you taking your money then wandering off with your card still in the ATM, there are very few countries that have this system. Dominican Republic is one, and Thailand is another. There is a circle of hell reserved for ATM designers who do this. Anyway, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice; Dude, Where’s My Card? So today I had to trek…

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Day 1,240: Fish n’ Chips n’ Curry Sauce

Thu 24.05.12: PIL you are the BEST!! Not only did I awake to find an email granting me passage on board the MV Kota Wirawan, which leaves next Monday for Colombo, I have also been offered a place onboard a ship leaving Sri Lanka to come back to Singapore and then a third ship to Madagascar. Now I have just TWO more shipping jaunts to organise and I’m done: The Maldives and The Seychelles. Behind the scenes while I was on board the Mell Sembawang last month, Dino, Mandy and my Mum were working tirelessly to try to get me on a ship from Hong Kong to Colombo. Once it became clear that Hong Kong was a dead end and that I intended to head down to Singapore, Dino put me onto a mate of a mate of his, Philip. He had been looking for a…

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Day 1,239: Wednesday Night Social

Wed 23.05.12: I had arranged to meet with Captain Paneer of PIL, the shipping company responsible for my crucial forays to Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Taiwan. I wanted to thank him and the company for being so incredibly generous and helping me to over half of my final 17 countries. And so I headed over to the PIL offices in the business district of Singapore clutching a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label. About 45 minutes later I walked out with a spring in my step. Captain Paneer had offered me a spot on a ship going to Sri Lanka. A few more days in Singapore and I’d be on my way. It was a huge weight off my mind. Country 198 effectively in the bag, I turned my attention to countries 199, 200 and 201. My current plan for The Maldives…

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Day 1,238: The Road To Singapore

Tue 22.05.12: One day, a British gent called Tom sat down before a map of the world. At the very tip of the Malay peninsular he noticed a small, jungle-covered island. Being a genius (a British syndrome if ever there was one), he figured that if he put a settlement there, one day it would be the shipping capital of the world. All ships travelling to and from The Far East and Europe would have to stop there to trade goods or pick up supplies. Tommy Boy convinced the British East India Company to get onboard with his crazy brilliant scheme and thus Singapore was born. I left the bus (a wave and a glad-to-never-see-you-again smile to Wolfgang the old Nazi, who responded with a ‘Sieg Heil’ as if it was funny… he’s probably at home now putting his cat in the oven) and headed over…

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Days 1,236-1,237: Escape From Khao San

Sun 20.05.12–Mon 21.05.12: When you gotta go, you’ve gotta go. I don’t need The Hangover II to tell me that Bangkok is more addictive than crack. I could happily stay here a long, long time, become that crazy drunken hippy guy with the nifty hat and the funny stories. But there is adventure afoot and nobody ever won an award for finishing 98% of a race. I HAVE FOUR COUNTRIES TO GO AND – ONE WAY OR ANOTHER – I WILL CONQUER THEM ALL!!! Wahaha! After my snail-like experience on the public bus from the border with Laos to Bangkok, I opted for a ‘VIP’ bus to take me down to Singapore (you can buy a direct ticket for about forty quid). It left at 6pm, giving me ample time to get myself a new fake student card on Khao San Road. Yes, I’m a criminal…

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Day 1,235: Bangkok-A-Go-Go

Sat 19.05.12: Another day of sifting through shipping timetables and arranging matters for further down the line. The most (de)pressing of which is what the hell is happening with Series 2 of my TV show. Well, some of you know the ins-and-outs of this, but most of you don’t. To cut a long story short, I was well and truly stitched up by the Powers That Be concerning Series 1. Criminally so, in my opinion. If I tell you that I have, to date, been paid less than £1,500 per episode for a show that’s been on heavy rotation for almost 2 years you might understand where I’m coming from, especially if you live in one of the fifty countries that my show has been repeated a zillion times on Nat Geo Adventure. Please understand that I’m not doing this for TV, I’m doing The Odyssey…

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Day 1,234: Something Fishy

Fri 18.05.12: I spent the day in the backpacker bar hunched over my computer attempting to find a clever way to get to Sri Lanka without flying. Now my mind had turned to the possibility of getting on a cargo ship to India (much more frequent) and then taking the ferry over to Colombo from Tuticorin. The ferry had stopped back in the early 80s as a result of the ongoing violence in the north of Sri Lanka, but with the Tamil Tigers now effectively (and quite possibly illegally) wiped out, the ferry had resumed. After finding some ships that might suit my purpose, I decided to have a look at the ferry timetable to see how frequent this ferry was and how much it was going to cost. That was when I found out that the ferry had once again ceased operations – this time…

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Day 1,233: Shot Down Over Bangkok

Thu 17.05.12: The bus got into Vientiane even earlier than expected – at around 3am. Nothing to do but wait in the tatty old bus station until the border opens. I tried to get some shut-eye, but ended up chatting with a backpacker called Arin. She asked me if I could guess where she was from and my first guess was South Korea… which was right! Oh yeah! Slam dunk! Man of the World, you better believe it! Arin joined me in a taxi from the main bus station to where the buses leave for the Thai border, but she got out at the airport from where she was flying home to Singapore. I wish I could bloody well fly… The buses to the border didn’t start until 7.30am, so I took a shared Tuk-Tuk, which was so painfully slow it was painful. He even stopped…

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