Back in November, eight weeks after leaving, I shared my eight highlights from my first eight weeks. As today marks six months, here are six more highlights. In no particular order…
Eating all the food in Malaysia
Just edging out Sri Lanka, Malaysia has taken the title for “best food” so far. I was lucky enough to stay with a friend in Kuala Lumpur, who introduced me to some of the finest local dishes I may have otherwise missed. I also spent time in the food haven that is Penang and experienced “Lok Lok”: a pick-and-cook-your-own concept. From bak kuh teh (sweet pork rib that’s been very slowly cooked in a broth, served with rice), to chair siew sou (crispy pastry buns filled with a sweet, rich, gooey spicey soy centre and slowly cooked meat), to laksa (noodles with chicken & prawns in a spicy coconut curry soup) I ate to my heart’s content.
Running the Chiang Mai Half Marathon
As a running enthusiast, I packed my running kit so I could keep fit while travelling while also, maybe, taking part in an event or two. When in Chiang Mai, I saw the city’s annual marathon event was on while I was there and so, me being me, I just had to be part of it. I managed to get a spot in the half marathon, buoyed by my love for running (and not my dire fitness level). I wouldn’t say it was fun, but it was an experience: 2am breakfast, being offered a pre-race snack of rice & pork, a 5am start time, running on roads shared with tuk tuk’s bellowing out fumes and beside street food vendors frying up that morning’s noodles, being given spicy chicken, McDonalds’ burgers and miso soup after the race… It wasn’t exactly PB territory, for a few reasons, but it wasn’t about that (curious running mates, I clocked 1 hour 43 minutes).
Driving around Pai
It was simple but oh so memorable: hiring a scooter and driving up, down and around the roads of Pai in north Thailand. The spiky mountainous landscapes were mesmerising, the leafy surroundings shone against the bluest skies and glowing sun, the air was so fresh, so crisp and the roads were so quiet… I’d go back in a heartbeat.
Running in the Australian “bush” with Crosbie Crew
I’ve been in Melbourne for three months, yet I’ve only left the city twice. The second time was with my newly acquired crew – Crosbie Crew, to be precise: my new running club. A couple of week’s ago we headed north of the city for a training weekend away out in the sticks – or “the bush” as they say here.
We ate, we drank, we sung around a camp fire, we laughed, we got lost on trails, we saw wild kangaroos, we swam in an open water lake… A particular highlight was, at one point on Sunday’s long rung, I realised I was running on the heels of the current 100km world champion and had former marathon world champion/four time Olympian Steve Monaghetti on my heels. Not too shabby.
Working in Melbourne
Yes, that’s right, getting and having a job has been a highlight of the last six months. Sure, it’s not without its stresses and moments of “why the hell am I doing this?”, but on the whole it’s proved to be a positive life experience. Working has given me structure again, as well as immersed me into the huge cafe/brunch culture/scene here in the city. I’ve met locals and made new mates, I’ve eaten incredibly tasty food, come to fully appreciate the art in coffee making… Plus, I can’t shy from the fact that I’ve been able to flesh out my travel funds!
Being in such a vibrant city
This might be an odd choice, as it’s not one particular event, but I’ve never visited – let alone lived – in a city that’s has so much going on. If you’re bored in Melbourne then I advise you go see a doctor as clearly something’s up. There’s something taking place almost every day, from a plethora of free festivals to sporting events. I’ve also loved getting to see how the city clearly recognises the importance in colourful creative freedom. Tall, grey blocks and tired alleyways are common in some cities, but rare here in Melbourne because at almost every turn, walls are lit up with bright colours that ooze energy. Creativity, arts, sports, food, coffee and generally feeling great are largely what this city celebrates.