This book introduces me and my story while I explore Asia’s fascinating history, especially the relationship between Asia and Europe over the centuries, and how Western influence has played its part in Asia’s development. From simple fishing villages to high-tech industry, I have seen it all.
Shortly after my 21st birthday, a couple of friends and I travelled Europe by rail for seven weeks taking in all the usual sights in Paris, Monaco, Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome, Athens, Vienna, Munich, Belgium, Amsterdam … to name just the highlights. When I was 24, I lived and worked in the Costa del Sol, Spain, for 18 months, where I discovered there was no turning back – I was hooked. At the age of 28, I got my first taste of Asia on a short holiday to Thailand with my father. The following year I began my first solo long haul expedition, starting in Malaysia, where this book begins. It follows my journey over six years as I tell my story of some of the people I met, and the places I visited in my search across the continent.
Speaking of highlights, I wanted to write a book that I would want to read, and I don’t know about you, but I like things to be kept simple. Not to bog you with irrelevant information but merely an introduction to Asia and its history, its people, its customs and its cities, old and new. This book is intended as an easy going read, with some interesting stories throughout history that will hopefully guide you on your journey as they guided me on mine.
This story is about my travels through Asia and some of the things I saw, but it is also a book about what I learnt. I regale stories of trade history between the East and the West, as well as little known information the guidebooks don’t tell you while revealing some harsh truths about our colonial past. During my journey, I discover some of the darker sides of the human race, foreign and domestic, especially during times of war and the hardships that inevitably occurred. In my words, I also describe some of history’s most successful travellers, activists and invaders.
In 2010, I rented a house in a Thai village near the Myanmar border and lived in a small community for several months. I tried to blend in with the Thai way of life as best I could, often with disastrous consequences, and personal tragedy. During my time in the village, I discovered that Thai people are incredibly superstitious when it comes to life and death, and I manage to answer just some of the questions about Thai culture that many of us have in the West.
I learnt early on that having knowledge of the area I was visiting began to bring the place to life, and the more I unearthed about the country, and culture, I was visiting the more spectacular my encounters became. As I moved my way around Asia, discovering ancient cities that had once been crucial to the emerging world economy, I was enamoured when learning about the significant figures that have shaped the way we all live our lives today, orchestrating events that have changed the face of the earth.
When I first arrived in Asia, I had no real idea of what to expect, and I was a reasonably inexperienced traveller. While as I progressed through my journey, I augmented the necessary skills to gain the confidence to get off the beaten track and try to see a part of life that tourists don’t get to see, which unfortunately didn’t always turn out how I expected.
If you are only interested in partying than I can recommend right here and now, to go to Pattaya and Bangkok in Thailand, and you’ll find everything you’re looking for there. But, if you are interested in experiencing a truly fantastic world of beauty and idyllic locations then this book will point you in the right direction.
Before leaving for Asia, I was keen to learn more about the things I had only heard about from watching TV, or from family and friends. For instance, before going to India, I knew little about Gandhi and what he stood for, but after a chance encounter with another passenger on a flight to India, I realised I was already on the path to discovery. Before going to Japan, I was interested in knowing more about the samurai culture and the country’s high-speed railways. And then there are the things I have learnt along the way; trying to scratch the surface of Thailand’s way of life and, of course, the mesmerising history of China and the unexpected surprises of Malaysia.
I have always been fascinated by famous travellers throughout history, and over the course of my journey I attempted to follow in some of their footsteps – feel free to follow in mine … it’s a hell of a ride!
My book, A Learning Curve, is now available on Kindle – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01FPAA86K
Check out the contents page for A Learning Curve – http://goo.gl/aR9Kgj