January 2018: I make bookings to visit Lebanon for ten days in March immediately followed by four in Dubai, culminating in the Meydan World Cup (the most valuable horse race in the world). I also book a ten day holiday in May for Kerala in the South of India and book my ticket to fly to Rome on the 22nd of May. The Kerala trip was subsequently canceled.
February 3rd 2018: Take the early morning flight from Dabolim Airport in Goa to Mumbai for a weekend of horse racing.
Later that day I go to Mahalaxmi Racecourse for the first of two days gambling. Lost a little money but nothing to be worried about.
February 4th 2018: Again go to Mahalaxmi Racecourse for the feature race of the weekend, the Indian Derby.
As per the day before I place a kenchi (yankee) multiple permutation bet before leaving for the course. I had no luck until the 6th race which was the Derby. Rochester, the winner was owned by the brother of the guy I was staying with in Mumbai's Gateway to India area of Colaba in the South of the city. Much celebrating was done on and off course by me as much as the owner family and trainer as I had a big bet on Rochester as well as having it coupled with two other winners in the kenchi bet. The expenses of my upcoming holidays in Lebanon, Dubai and Kerala are covered.
In the enthusiasm of the moment I agree with the owner, his family and trainer to travel to Calcutta (Kalkota) on the weekend of the 4th of March for an encore performance in the Invitation Cup. I had a bad feeling about it though so later dropped out. Didn't even bet on the race. Rochester was placed fifth in the Invitation Cup but there were extra forces at play back in Mumbai for the Derby. We jokingly said that it was driven by the devil there as it was horse number six in the sixth race and drawn number six.
February 5th 2018: Return to Goa.
March 18th 2018: Take the evening flight from Goa to Beirut via Mumbai.
March 19th 2018: Arrive mid-morning in Beirut on route to a tourist destination called Jounieh which is about an hour North of the city.
As with all Mediterranean resorts, I realised pretty fast that March is between seasons. The summers being the same as any other Mediterranean location and winters when you can ski on snow slopes less than an hour out of town.
I also realise, or should I say assume that the reason Beirut is considered the party capital of the Middle East is probably because it's the capital of Lebanon which is the only Islamic state where alcohol is tolerated to the level of there being pubs and clubs where liquor and locally brewed Almaza and Beirut pilsener and imported beers are openly sold. This probably contributes to why there are so many night clubs there. Restaurants also sell alcohol.
March 20th 2018: Take a bus up the coast to Tripoli.
The one thing that immediately struck me in Lebanon was how friendly the locals were to Europeans.
March 21st 2018: Take a bus down the coast to Beirut.
March 22nd 2018: Take a bus up the coast to the oldest inhabited city in the world, Byblos.
March 24th 2018: Take a flight from Beirut to Larnaca in Cyprus for a four night stay.
March 25th 2018: Take a day trip to Nicosia.
March 26th 2018: Take a day trip to Ayia Napa.
March 27th 2018: Take a day trip to Limassol.
March 28th 2018: Lazy day in Larnaca before returning to Beirut in the evening.
I go out in a little style by staying at the Monroe Hotel on the Beirut waterfront overlooking Zaitunay Bay.
A somewhat wasted indulgence though considering I didn't arrive until late at night and was out of there by eight in the morning.
March 29th 2018: Take the mid-day flight to Dubai via Kuwait and arrive in Dubai mid evening.
March 30th 2018: Fridays are brunch days (first day of the weekend) in Dubai so after picking up my entry badge for the following day's races I have brunch at Rock Bottom which is adjoined to the Regent Palace Hotel where I've stayed on previous visits to the city. The hotel was closed for renovation.
March 31st 2018: Go racing at Meydan race course for the finale of the most valuable horse race meeting in the world, the Dubai World Cup.
April 1st 2018: Take the evening flight from Dubai to Goa via Mumbai.
April 2nd 2018: Arrive in Goa.
April 30th 2018: Take a flight from Goa to London via Mumbai.
May 4th 2018: After day a Cheltenham Races I recoup my losses of the previous few days handsomely, thank you very much.
May 7th 2018: Take a flight from London to Marrakech in Morocco.
May 8th 2018: Chilling in Marrakech.
My hotel is a one minute walk from Place Jemma El Fna, otherwise known as the main market square in the heart of Marrakech.
May 9th 2018. Take a day trip to Essaouira (the windy city) on the Atlantic Coast.
Stop to see the goats in the trees on the way.
May 10th 2018. Take a day trip to Ouzoud Waterfall.
May 11th 2018. Sightseeing in Marrakech.
May 12th 2018. Start a two day one night trip into the desert.
Stop half way at Ouarzazate, the location of the Hollywood movie Gladiator. At our destination Zagora, we take a one hour camel ride to our camp in the desert.
May 13th 2018. Return to Marrakech by the same route as we came including another one hour camel ride back to the highway.
May 14th 2018. Sightseeing in Marrakech including the Yves St Laurent Museum.
May 15th 2018. Sightseeing in Marrakech.
May 16th 2018. Take a day trip to Ourika Valley.
May 17th 2018. Sightseeing in Marrakech.
May 18th 2018. Take an early evening flight from Marrakech to London.
Not worth getting a hotel due to early morning flight so stay at the airport and while away the hours at Wetherspoons pub when they open at twenty-four seven.
May 19th 2018. Take an early morning flight from London to Rome and then take the airport transfer bus to the city where I take a train to Florence.
May 21st 2018. Take a train from Florence to Pisa.
May 22nd 2018. Take a train from Pisa to Rome.
May 23rd 2018: Sightseeing in Rome.
May 24th 2018: Sightseeing in Vatican City including the Sistine Chapel.
May 25th 2018: Take a day trip to Pompeii.
May 26th 2018: Last day in Rome.
I see it out in style at Scholar's Lounge (the Irish bar I made my local whilst in the city).
May 27th 2018: Move to Sorrento. by Flixbus to Naples then onward by train.
May 28th 2018: Day trip to Positano on the Amalfi Coast.
May 29th 2018: Sorrento, Italy - Naples, Italy by train then on to Rome by coach.
With seven hours to kill I again return to Scholars Lounge.
May 29th 2018: Take the overnight Flixbus from Rome, Italy - Pula, Croatia (via Zagreb).
May 30th 2018: Arrive in Pula at 16:00 following a 20 hour overnight coach trip.
May 31st 2018: Sightseeing in Pula
June 1st 2018: Take a Flixbus to Venice.
My original intention was to take the (twice weekly) water ferry a few days later but I had to change my schedule to fit in with an unexpected return to Jersey on the 5th.
June 2nd 2018: Return from Venice to Pula by Flixbus.
June 5th 2018: Fly from Pula to Jersey (via Birmingham).
June 7th 2018: Fly from Jersey to Pula, Croatia (via Southampton and Manchester).
June 8th 2018: Take a Flixbus from Pula, Croatia to Vienna, Austria.
I spend the whole time being a tourist in the day and chilling out in the evenings to recharge my batteries after the whistle stop diversion to Jersey.
June 11th 2018: Take a Flixbus from Vienna, Austria to Prague, Czechia.
June 14th 2018: Take a Flixbus from Prague, Czechia to Krakow, Poland.
June 17th 2018: Visit Salt Mines.
June 18th 2018: Visit Auschwitz Prison Camp.
June 19th 2018: Take a Flixbus from Krakow, Poland to Berlin, Germany.
From the time before this trip even began I had a bad feeling about my arrival in Berlin, not least because the only flight available from Krakow was Ryanair. Firstly I was arriving late at night and secondly there didn't appear to be any public transport from Shonefield Airport into the city after 23:00 which meant a taxi fare of around seventy Euros and a whole load of messing around in strange surroundings. In consequence, I ripped up my plane ticket and took a seven hour plus coach which arrived early evening and dropped me off in the city.
June 22nd 2018: Fly from Berlin, Germany to Oslo, Norway.
June 24th 2018: Take an overnight Flixbus from Oslo in Norway through Sweden and onward to Copenhagen in Denmark.
Copenhagen is wonderful. On a par with Krakow as the best stop on the trip for nightlife and simply just "being a place to be".
June 27th 2018: Fly from Copenhagen to Bristol in the UK then onward by coach to Wales.
July 4th 2018: Take a trip to Pulborough on the Sussex Downs.
July 5th 2018: Take the train from Pulborough to London where I stay overnight.
July 6th 2018: Go to a Roger Waters concert in Hyde Park.
A truly amazing experience.
July 7th 2018: Take a mid-day flight to Jersey.
What was meant to be the 07:10 flight (that had been canceled. the prior day) from Gatwick ended up with me travelling to Heathrow for a flight to Glasgow and then onward to Jersey arriving five hours earlier than my alternative option offered by British Airways.
July 14th 2018: Fly to London late afternoon in preparation for my onward flight to Bali the next morning.
July 15th 2018: Travel disruptions at the airport.
My 09:35 flight from Gatwick to Oslo was rescheduled to 20:20 which meant I would miss the next three flights to take me onward to Bali. Getting no help from the airline and little from the booking agent I took matters into my own hands by cancelling the original schedule (which included three airlines) with kiwi.com on the basis of them only offering flights to arrive a day later. I then booked and paid for the 14:30 Emirates flight from Gatwick North to Dubai and then onward to Bali, arriving at the same time as if nothing had happened. At that point I had no idea whether I would get any compensation for cancelling.
July 26th 2018: Full moon and the sea was really choppy, hence not so many people on the beach so I went shopping and bought a guitar to occupy my mind. The actual full moon wasn't until the following night but for whatever reason the effects of it were on the 26th.
I also used the time to book a flight for my upcoming exit to Phuket on the 12th September.
July 28th 2018: I was woken early in the morning by my apartment shaking vigorously. Thinking in my semi-slumber state that it was the builders next door using heavy plant machinery I went back to bed and forgot all about it. It wasn't until late in the afternoon after hearing people talking on the beach that I realised that it was a 6.4 earthquake in Lombok (the next island to Bali). Most people don't get to experience one earthquake in their lifetime, but that was number four for me. Little did I know at the time that this number would rise in the following weeks.
August 1st 2018: I see that tickets are on sale for a Guns'n'Roses concert in Jakarta on the 8th of November. This would tie in nicely with my return to Goa so I apply for tickets only to find at the last stage of the application that they will only be issued "in time for the concert" which is usually a few days before the concert and the only option is to have actual paper tickets mailed to a physical address. I have no option other than abandoning the idea of going.
August 5th 2018: Oh crap, here we go again. Another earthquake. This time measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale and it was pretty scary. The epicenter was close to last week's earthquake (see 28th of July above).
Initially I thought the French windows in my room were going to fall in on me with the place shaking so much but then came the realisation that the whole building could collapse. Upon getting out and into open space safely I intended sleeping outside on a lounger on the pool deck for the night but succumbed to reality after a few beers and eventually returned to my bed. On saying that though, I slept fully dressed with a pre-packed small bag that included my passport, credit cards and laptop (not that a laptop's essential). Latest death toll at the time of writing is in excess of 562 but there are still many unaccounted for. Eight of the dead were in the Gili Islands which were badly effected being so close to the epicenter.
David Beckham and family had arrived the day before and left the following day for another island, but this time out of the earthquake zone.
August 6th 2018: Go to immigration for the first of three visits to arrange an extension on my visa.
August 9th 2018: Return to immigration for the second of three visits. This time for photo's, fingerprints and retina scan. Also there was yet another earthquake while I was on the beach in the afternoon. This time a 6.2 magnitude.
August 14th 2018: Return to immigration for the last of three visits. This time to collect my passport and visa extension.
August 14th 2018: Independence Day. Nothing of note happened in my day.
August 16th 2018: Quite a lot of rain which is out of character for this time of the year. It was to continue until the 18th.
August 17th 2018: A 6.5 magnitude earthquake with it's epicenter in the next island east of Lombok called Tengarra was very noticeable in Bali.
August 19th 2018: Two more earthquakes. A 6.3 around mid-day and a 6.9 eleven hours later. The second especially was very noticeable with everybody leaving the pub to get out in the open should any buildings collapse. Again I slept fully clothed with basic essentials packed and ready to go at a moments notice.
Earthquakes by now have become the norm with constant after shocks and smaller quakes of which all had the epicenter in Lombok except the one in Tengarra. I have only listed the ones very noticeable in Bali.
August 20th 2018: Booked my flight from Bangkok to Goa via Delhi to arrive mid afternoon on the 6th of November.
August 23rd 2018: Early morning call, courtesy of a 5.2 magnitude earthquake. This time the epicenter was 100km to the south at sea.
August 31st 2018: First power cut since leaving Goa. Something must be preparing me for my return.
September 12th 2018: Fly to Phuket and check into The Guest House in Patong.
Despite my recent acquisition of a guitar and the unbelievably low Scoot Airline allowance of 7kg hold and 3kg hand luggage (one bag only), I still manage to get on the plane with the (too big for hand luggage) guitar and 11kg of hand luggage with no charges and nothing in the hold.
September 26th 2018: Check into Best Western Resort and Spar in Karon Beach (5km from Patong Beach).
October 3rd 2018: Check into Paradise Inn in one of the two nightclub streets.
October 10th 2018: Take the early morning coach to Hua Hin and arrive early evening.
Chaos of sorts when I arrive as instead of being dropped at what I thought was the main bus station I was put out at a lesser one 7 kilometres out of town and there were no taxis. I reluctantly took a motor bike taxi and arrived in one piece but only after my rider tried to drop me off again, in the middle of nowhere.
October 10th 2018: Check into Centara Beach Resort and Spa, Hua Hin.
This is the first time I'd stayed in a five star hotel and the best value for money of all the places I've stayed. The only other I've stayed at that can compare for quality was the four star Ras Fushi resort in the Maldives which was also a Centara resort. That was way more expensive though.
October 12th 2018: With the exception of a few restaurants around the Soi Bintabaht area Hua Hin was like a ghost town due to it being the second anniversary of the King's death. I end up having a few beers in the Irish restaurant Father Ted's before going back to the resort.
October 15th 2018: Check into what's called a Guest House but is actually three separate houses together. The one I was in had two separately lockable bedrooms (mine was a triple room to myself on the front with a large balcony), then there was a fully fitted kitchen, dining room, sitting room and bathrooms upstairs and down. As it happened, I was the only guest so had the house to myself. This would be perfect for two couples and a kid or a couple with three kids but as it happened, even more perfect for me.
October 20th 2018: Take a five hour ride to Pattaya in a private car (which turned out to be a glorified name for a taxi). The original plan was to take the ferry but the sea water was too low and the tourist season didn't start until November so the ferries weren't running until then. Speaking of water, I'd survived two weeks in Hua Hin without encountering any rain but within half an hour of arriving in Pattaya the sky opened. The rain continued for several hours daily for the next ten days. My budget guest house was in the heart of everything.
October 22nd 2018: By this time I'd decided that Pattaya wasn't my favourite place and neither was my Indian owned guest house. For the record, there are a lot of Indian owned restaurants and guest houses in the area.
It was clean, and like my place in Pula was recently renovated with new furniture, a new mattress on the new bed, still packed bedding and even a new flat screen TV. It was in the heart of everything but I immediately sensed that something wasn't quite right despite my room being the only one on the top floor and the only one with a balcony.
October 23rd 2018: I wake to no water in my bathroom (a fact that the staff seemed oblivious to until I complained). I decided there and then that it was time to find a new place to stay.
Later that day I pre-book my last five nights in the Hard Rock Hotel on the basis of "I wanted my lasting impression of Pattaya to be as good as could be expected so moving was a small price to pay". As it happened, that was never going to happen. Following my previous and only other visit to Pattaya I deemed it the seediest place on the planet. I still have the same opinion over thirty years later.
Further incidents in my previous hotel continued with: On the 24th no electricity on my floor for no aparent reason, on the 27th I was woken at 07:00 (and again 09:30 on the 29th) by staff who needed access through my room to the roof area to attend to further water problems, and throughout the duration of my stay, not once did I receive room service or a change of bedding, or towels. Oh, and there was a marijuana plant growing wild on my balcony. That's not a complaint but merely an observation of something that is not expected in a guest house that's listed on all the major booking sites.
October 31st 2018: Move to Hard Rock Hotel.
November 5th 2018: Take a taxi to Bangkok International Airport in preparation for an early morning flight back to Goa.
November 6th 2018: Take the early morning flight back to Goa via Delhi and arrive at my destination late afternoon.
Seems like I finally got the hang of this travelling mallarky. Over six months of continual moving around and all with only hand luggage.
(now available to read on-line in it's entirety).