Priorities are a funny business. They are often so muddled and difficult to sort out. But then, once in a while, something cuts through it all and your priorities become clear. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Trip update 3 left off with us in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. We had just just decided to break our no flying rule by flying to Malaysia then on to Taiwan.
We only spent two weeks back in Malaysia but it was long enough for us to revisit some favourite spots. Melaka is definitely one of Tanya's favs. The little winding streets, historic buildings, easy to find tasty food and slower pace is certainly easy to like.
We first visited Melaka back in November of 2011. Now, a year later we returned with our heads full of happy and possibly slightly rose coloured memories. I was a little concerned that it might not live up to our expectations. Fortunately, Melaka delivered and we had a delightful little holiday.
We departed Melaka and returned to Kuala Lumpur. When we first visited KL long ago we really didn't like the place. After several visits it has really grown on us. It helps that we have ferreted out some areas of town that we prefer but I do wonder how much of a role simple familiarity has played. After visiting a stream of unfamiliar towns you start to look fondly on any place where you can easily get aroud town, find a toilet and order a cup of tea. We're now even considering Kuala Lumpur as a home base.
Next up, Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. Taipei was just the change of pace we needed. It's culturally different from anywhere we had been before, super modern yet still reasonably priced. What more could you ask for? There was no shortage of things to to do in Taipei and of course things to eat. Thanks to a really amazing public transport system it was also easy to take day trips from Taipei when we wanted to escape the city to see some of the surrounding country.
When discussing Taipei both Tanya and I tend to wind up sounding like we work for the Taiwan Tourism Board. Which we don't by the way. Job offers are welcome. We just had a really great time in Taipei. We did some house sitting, first with two cats then with two sugar gliders. We caught the cheap and thoroughly brilliant Taipei Metro all over the place. We ate a ridiculous amount of cheap and delicious sushi and dumplings. All in a setting that was clean, felt extremely safe and which was blessedly free of people trying to sell us things in the street, a welcome change after 9 weeks in Cambodia.
As much as we loved Taipei we couldn't not see the rest of Taiwan. So, before we departed, we took off on a two week rail trip around the island.
Unusually for us, this was pure travel. We didn't work at all during that two weeks and we were moving every day or two. We thought this would be a period of relaxation but it didn't quite work out that way.
We have really gotten used to slow traveling and staying in places for one week or more. Switching back to thinking in terms of individual days took some doing. Trapsing around wearing our packs every second day was draining. Perhaps foolishly, we retained our slow travel habit of only planning one stop ahead. That allowed us to avoid having to shift bookings when we decided to stay longer or leave somewhere sooner. It does mean that you arrive and immediately have to start thinking about how you're getting to your next stop and where you're going to stay when you get there. The perpetual treadmill of reading accommodation reviews became a real drag. In hindsight we may have been better off booking more accommodation in advance.
Despite our lack of practice at high speed travel we had a good time and we certainly packed a lot in. We're not Taiwan experts by any means but I feel like we got a pretty solid handle on the place.
After Taiwan we once again headed back to another familiar destination. This time it was Chiang Mai, Thailand. We lived there back in 2009 and are big fans of the place. We had a month scheduled during which we would catch up with some friends and crank out a bunch of work. Once we were all refreshed and our projects were complete we would head home to spend Christmas with our families. The next year would start with Japan.
Sadly, it was not to be. After two days in Chiang Mai we found ourselves at the airport waiting for a flight home to Australia. There had been a phone call from home. A family member had been admitted to hospital after an accident. If that wasn't bad enough the x-rays turned up something else. Their cancer had returned.
In the lead up to that moment we had been mulling over our options for the future. We find ourselves in the fortunate position of having few obligations and almost unlimited options. Our priorities were all over the place. We were becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of things we could do and places we could go. Nothing like a family emergency to clarify your thinking.
So we headed home with no idea what the future held. This certainly wasn't the end of our adventure but what exactly were we going to do? Now we've been here for two months and we've started to figure that out.
Some elements of our life have remained the same. We still work on our laptops. We're still doing some house sitting. There are some new elements. Child minding, family dinners, doctors appointments and hospital visits. We might not be on a tropical island but the new experiences, both good and bad, have continued.
What about the future? Well, recent experiences have taught us that things change and that we must be flexible. They have also reminded us to make the most of our time and to not take our lives for granted so we have made some tentative plans.
Mid January we're getting on a plane and heading to Bali. Revisiting Japan is going to have to wait. For now Japan is just too far away. Instead we're choosing to voluntarily limit ourselves to destinations that are directly accessible from Western Australia so 2013 is going to be all about Indonesia and Malaysia. That way we can visit home more often and, if necessary, we can get home in less than twelve hours.
Life in unpredictable. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. The best we can do is adapt and make the best of things as events unfold. The adventure continues.
Here is a conversation we recorded while sitting in Chiang Mai airport waiting for our flight back to Australia.