Prologue

It was women who led me to travel. In 1982, there was the Eurail trip across Europe on discounted trains. I swept through Paris, Geneva, Milan, then a bit of Germany before Amsterdam and back. A Gilded Age Grand Tour. But the following summer, Sophie stayed on a kibbutz and then travelled through the West Bank to Jordan and beyond. Going further afield was a thing, no matter what the news reported. And when I met up with Peggy, she showed me photos of 14 months around Asia and the world opened up.

وا حد. First Sight

Took the death plane from Heathrow, a numbing multi-stop ride; first Schipol then Sofia, which only a few of us survived, before we landed in Cairo at two o’clock in the morning. At each stop, EgyptAir 778 bumped the tarmac and the empty seats flopped forward, their backs pointing to the ceiling, crash position. Is heads between knees, hands behind heads, really the best way to to make it through?

It was December and cold when I left, but when we reached the final destination it was hot and humid and my first thought was, Oh my God! After the jabs for yellow fever and tetanus, the pills for malaria and the cholera tablets, I had forgotten hepatitis!

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สอง. Rubies and Rucksacks

On to Pieria he stepped from the upper air,
and swooped down upon the sea,
and then sped over the wave like a bird, the cormorant,
which in quest of fish over the dread gulfs of the unresting sea

wets its thick plumage in the brine.
In such wise did Hermes ride upon the multitudinous waves. The Odyssey – Homer


A well-dressed man in a formal grey suit came up to me to ask where I was from. It was my third day in Bangkok and up until then, I had been alone. I was standing in Sanam Luang Park in front of the Grand Palace when he approached, and he had a generous smile, was fluent in English.

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Escape to Singapore

Lapan. Escape to Singapore

I arrived in Singapore after being burnt in Jakarta. And I had been told how dangerous it was but after six months of travel through already dubious locations I had become complacent. The late-night bus from Bandung was just pulling into Kalideres. A short trip and I had the whole bench, rucksack above, daypack below. Normally I would have used the daypack as a pillow, but the bench was wooden and not cushioned. It could only seat two and it was not possible to lie across it. Still, this time I was not thinking.