Spain was my first stop in Europe, and it was a real change from Asia. Madrid proved a problem for somebody who could not speak Spanish, and I struggled to find my hostel. Then I considered the distances shorter than they really were, and took a bus to Barcelona which took ages. Christmas Day was spent here, to no great fanfare as the culture celebrates the day before, unbeknownst to me at the time. It was one of the few times I felt quite alone during my travels. As everything was closed, I spent my time looking at the Gaudi Park and wandering around the city before flying out on a super-cheap flight to Rome the next night.
Japan is where my brother lives so it was a definite place to visit on my travels. We spent time around Tokyo, where we were able to visit the Tokyo Fish Market, and I tried to ride up Mount Fuji but was forced back by the cold. We also headed up to Hokkaido in the north to go skiing. It was a lot of fun and one of the highlights of my time travelling before flying out over the arctic to London.
I had promised my friend Won that I would come to visit him in Seoul one day as he left New Zealand. Now here I was, ready to arrive on his doorstep. His family welcomed me with open arms and took me on tour after tour of the city. It was tremendous. From a visit to Yonggi Cho’s famous church and prayer centre, to a fun park and many typical cultural expressions it was an amazing time.
Hong Kong has long been on my list of places to see. I knew nobody here, but really wanted to see what this famous location was all about. Since I had a visit to China reduce my time here drastically, it was not possible to see it all, but what I did get to see was both interesting and amazing. Technology and poverty, advancements and ancient ways. It was a true mix, especially now that it was back in China’s hands and many people only spoke Chinese.
China was an unexpected visit. I had already made my plans and organised all of the flights around the world that I was going to take. Only after this did somebody remind me of a friend that I had in China who was teaching English. Not one to ignore an opportunity while there is time, I quickly organised a visa for China and squeezed this visit into my time already planned for Hong Kong. So it came as a sandwich visit while in Hong Kong, and was an amazing turn of events. This was the first time I had ever experienced a true language barrier where I could not even understand their numbers. Finding my friend after arriving in Guanzhou was a sight for sore eyes.
Singapore was my first port of call, and not only did I have good friends here in Martin and Daphne, but there were more friends from New Zealand visiting at the same time, so we were able to enjoy the place together. This was a great start to my world trip, having left on the 31st of November.