Words are such a powerful thing sometimes, fear, joy, love and despair join a raft of emotions that can be dragged irrationally from seemingly nowhere and laid upon the unsuspecting victim from the utterance of a single word. These unbidden fish are plucked from the still waters of our minds so individually they rarely carry any shred of similar meaning to another person. For any traveller however there is an expression that is as soul dragging as it is universal: travel day. Just when you have clean clothes, the local accent becomes understandable and you start doing normal poo again from a sudden shift in diet you’re off. Not satisfied with just upsetting the apple cart of certainty we opt to do it via the bowel-wateringly sadistic world of plane travel. Travel also turns you into a whining princess with no idea of your own privilege, can someone send me a care package?
And so it goes, we’re off again, this time to Asia for the first time and towards mountains, new culture, a good timezone for Australia and above all: food. For two food junkies we have clearly planned this year on different priorities, we’ve had plenty of great food to be sure but culinary juggernaut cultures we haven’t seen. We climb into the sensory depravation chamber that is a plane with dreams of chilli, lemongrass, mint, sambal and the list goes on, I need to stop because I’m drooling on my tiny pillow. We can nearly taste Asia already, Nepal isn’t a big star of the asian food scene, that will hit us in a few weeks in China but the dream is big enough to keep us going.
First stop Singapore, just a quick stopover sadly, this three flight odyssey refuses to release us from the grip of boredom until it’s finally over. It’s 6am in a typically humid Singapore morning that refuses to reach me in my air conditioned airport cafe. This city of polished glass, clean footpaths and new money wealth wakes as the small rim of remaining coffee clinging so defiantly to the bottom of my cup prepares to say farewell. I’m transfixed, is this the last of my coffee I ponder, the complicated world is so easily simplified by a tired mind; dumb in spite of the coffee. More minutes pass than I have any idea how to count as my unseeing sweep of sight crosses the spacious Changi airport floor once again; this time Charlie is running back. Running; how odd.
“There is no flight, our flight doesn’t exist” he says with commendably measured concern while dragging the iPad out to call home, we thank the stars that it’s daytime in Australia; divine luck, intervention maybe. In no time we are now looking at our proper itinerary and not the old one, whoops, and in a flash our short sharp stopover is now a day in Singapore. Like the hand of a god, modern technology needs just 20 minutes to reach down from the clouds, or is it the definite article singular my short attention span wonders, and deliver us into a conversation with an old friend now in Singapore. Unlike a godlike phenomenon however we have a tangible outcome and we’re on a train to meet up, Singapore here we come.
Steve who I call ‘Panda’ much to his ire on account of his Cantonese heritage holds the dubious honour of being my first ever gay friend, and a friend he still is as much as ever will be. More like a family member, we know more about each other than we probably should, we trust each other more than is advisable and just like brothers care for each other more than we’d ever admit. And here he is, less than an hour ago he was somewhere in the pond of this world just like all the other fish and a few words on a screen later he’s here, this day is feeling more divinely guided as it goes along. It was no divine miracle, just an immaculately clean train shuttling a sea of phone screens being watched too closely by spectacled eyes but a struggling brain will cling for simplicity.
The backdrop of this chance reunion is lunch in a converted carpark of beef soup and nasi lemak that feels more of a spiritual awakening than a quick snack; Asia I love you already even if you are a surprise detour. Where many cities boast historical grace, the boom growth of Asia is right here and now delivering us a city that is clean, polished, perfect and full of architectural daring; a modern city in a way that Asia does better than anywhere. It lacks the gritty heart and soul of a cultural patina but in it’s place this movie set exactness draws you in none the less; well on a short visit it does at least.
Before our vague minds can grasp the surprise of this fantastic ‘bonus day’ we’re back in the chamber and off again into a world of overly important paper, ladies with perfect hair and socially criminal food for one. Time stands still and it spins too fast; it’s probably for the best not to know how much sleep we’ve lost or failed to catch in the dirty, chaotic and unwelcomingly pungent Kathmandu airport. This trip into Asia is full of expectation but lets not talk about food so much, we’re in one of the worlds most spiritual cities after a day that seems inexplicable to common reason. Ignoring that the above words basically have explained it all I’ll put it down to the vague inept headspace of travel drone to deliver me an explanation wrapped in mysticism and miracle. That makes sense; right?