Thursday, December 9, 2010

Farewell forever, Middle East

…or at least for another nine a half years, or until I lose my passport, and can get a new one without access-limiting Israel stamps. Whichever comes sooner (yeah, like losing my passport isn't inevitable).

Thanks, Israel and Egypt, it's been fun and strange, which for me is the ideal combination.

I'm writing this in Cairo International Airport, waiting for a convoluted (but relatively cheap) flight to Taipei. I had a mostly great time in the cradle of human civilisation, car horns and baksheesh, but now I'm finally heading East and I am bloody excited. Sorry for the language, mother, if you're reading.

Strange new worlds

When boredom with my Edinburgh life evolved into morbid repulsion and I realised I needed to escape or die before October, Japan was the first place I felt drawn to, before I decided to ease myself into travelling more gently by starting in Europe. Japan may end up being somewhere I spend a significant time, until I get similarly bored and head to Fiji or something.

But it's not just Japan: generic cityscapes aside, that whole part of the world is so fundamentally alien and different from what I'm used to, from the language to the introductory questions about your blood type, as if that's a normal thing to ask (I love it!), that I might as well be boarding a spaceship heading to another planet.

Admittedly, a rather unimaginative and slightly racist Star Trek-style planet that's essentially identical to Earth, except the rocks are made of polystyrene and the people wear shiny vests. But still a technicolor adventure, bursting with sexy aliens.

Deny that China is also one of the most quintessentially fascinating countries in the world and you're either an idiot or you live in China. Or maybe in Taiwan, a.k.a. 'Safe China,' which seems like the ideal base for exploring this quirky sector of the galaxy (I'm confident that future historians will trace the oncoming nuclear holocaust back to this blog).

Fantastic voyage

You could say that I've been trying to make this epic journey since childhood, when I made an ill-fated attempt to dig to China in a shallow patch of soil in the back garden, blissfully ignorant in the fields of geography and mining. Unfortunately, my task failed after just a few inches when my careless spade accidentally cut a worm in two and I ran inside, crying, to watch Count Duckula.

Thanks to 21st century technology, I can now be transported a quarter of the way around the world in less than a day (quicker if I'd paid more for fewer connections), but I'm determined not to take this for granted. I still believe that flights don't count as travel - sometimes they're just the only option to get where you want to be. But as soon as I touch down, I'm looking forward to starting the next part of my life in this zany, madcap place.

If this is the last thing I ever post, things either went very wrong or perhaps far too right. Either way, this would be a good one to bow out on. Oh shit, I just remembered I can't use chopsticks. I'm buggered.

(Oh, and it's type A negative, if you were wondering).

Middle East route map

A Tel Aviv
B Jerusalem
C Cairo/Giza (via Taba)
D Luxor/West Bank
E Aswan (down to Abu Simbel)
F Alexandria


  1. I forgot to ask you. You know how you said you didn't like Tel Aviv? Did you go to Old Jaffa while you were there? I realise this would've been a better thing to ask while you were in Israel, but it was a lovely little spot.

    If you didn't, you have more than nine years to travel there without worrying about the stamp on your passport.

  2. Nah, I didn't have a clue where sights were in Tel Aviv, and I didn't find them naturally by wandering around. I think a lot of my impressions of places are just down to my mood at the time I visit, and I was only there two days.