2 Friends, 8 Months, 86 Cities
Looking down to see a rubber still hanging off me, I realise I’ve hit rock bottom.
But here we are. After 3 years of talking, the only planning we did was buy our visa for Russia. I was a bartender at 28 Hong Kong Street, and Nigel had studied abroad; something to do with aeroplanes.
What began as a 3 month trip grew to 6 months, and then 8. At the end of it all, we had visited 86 cities without buying a single airplane ticket. This is the story of our crazy journey.
Or at least I did. In other words, I got dumped.
So there I was, giving my mum a big hug, telling our dog Chloe I loved her. Eventually, I was taking the cheapest bus out of Singapore. As soon as we crossed into Malaysia it started to pour, like a cleansing flood of sorts. Somehow, I felt alive again. Looking at Nigel, I wondered what was going through his mind. Was he excited? Was he afraid like I was? I never thought to ask but I realised he was going to be the only home I would have for the coming year.
More importantly, Vietnam is gangsta as fuck. They’ve apparently fought and won 8 wars in the past century, though you shouldn’t Wiki my facts. I got them from a Vietnamese friend.
The Vietnamese are honest, kind, and mostly skinny. The only fatty we saw was at a KFC in Hanoi. My buddy (from film school) Thai Anh, aka Thai Boi, joined us from his home town Vung Tau before we made our way to Hanoi through 8 other cities. It was great having him around, although he spoke Vietnamese only when needed.
He taught us to say ‘cheers,’ ‘how much,’ and ‘blowjob.’ Not in any particular order.
So I get behind the shortest line. Now I’m not calling anyone racist because I’m Chinese and so is everyone else here but every fucking time it gets to my turn, THEY CLOSE THE LINE.
After 3 racist vendors, 2 hours, and an archaic system that only accepted cash, there were no more tickets. While Nigel came up with plan B, I chain-smoked and yelled at random passers-by. We ended up with the only seat available: An angled piece of wood right behind the bathroom. For another 14 fucking hours.
Halfway through the journey I look at Nigel with watery eyes and whisper, “What the fuck were we thinking?”
This first emperor of China, thinking mercury was the elixir of life, was buried in a mountain filled with the stuff and some 700 concubines. What a man.
The next day we depart for a 6 day train ride on the Trans Mongolian Railway, part of the longest train ride in the world.
For the next 6 days we survived on instant noodles, cookies, and bread. With only a hot water dispenser available, it was the best we could do. We also bought a portable DVD player and tons of grade-A pirated movies. 15mins into “A New Hope,” it stopped working. Yeah, the irony.
His response: “Huh? What time is it? But I haven’t even had lunch yet.”
After another 30 minutes it was pitch black. I still don’t know why we only had 4 hours of daylight, but we figured it had something to do with crossing time zones. We met a couple that was freaking out about the world ending as well, so we did what everyone would do when its time to die and you have nothing to do on a 6-day train journey. We got hammered.
We made a run for the provision store at a 15 minute pit stop and bought bottles of cheap Russian vodka. Then we drank until things made sense again.
Not really. Like anything great that ever happens, it all started with a break up.
When you’ve had enough of the bullshit and you’re left to pick up the pieces, leaving becomes easy. Sometimes, it’s the only option. But feelings tend to resurface like adamant pieces of shit in a toilet bowl and sooner or later, you face them again (your feelings not the poop, okay maybe the poop too). Anyway, people are assholes, and sometimes leaving to find yourself will leave you with more questions than answers.
So face your problems, wear your heart on your sleeve, save every penny you can, and go traipse around the globe with your BFF.
But this is also the upside of hitting rock bottom. There’s no where else to go but up.
We were now making our way to the western most point of our travels—Ireland—where we would be just in time for Saint Patty’s!
Our first night in Killarney, we hit the pubs and boy did we hit them hard! If you’ve ever been to an Irish Pub anywhere in the world and had a blast, trying imagining that in Ireland during Saint Patty’s weekend. Bands were covering Mumford, girls were dancing, and we were downing pints after pints of that black, delicious creamy, goodness. That we were doing the Ring of Kerry the next day? We simply forgot. Along with the fact that Nigel would be driving for 8 hours.
We thought this was it. The end of our travels. We were going to have to pay for the car. Walking across the street to an automobile garage, we asked a guy for help. He phoned the cops while we felt sorry for ourselves. As the three of us stood by the side of the road, staring at an empty parking spot, Nigel suddenly turned to me and asked, “Did we move it?”
“Ireland 1 us 0,” we thought as we got in the car and burst out laughing.
Till today, I’m still impressed with the perfect parallel park Nigel had done in the state he was in after the night we had.
Anyway, I eventually found the building and got buzzed up. I walk in to see Nigel putting on his jacket. His eyes lit up as he went, “WHERE, THE FUCK, WERE YOU?!”
To which I could simply say, “I have no idea.”
Jeremy is the former head bartender of 28 Hong Kong Street in Singapore. He now spends his days as a consultant with Proof & Co, and if you’re lucky, you can still find him behind the bar on some nights. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this adventure in which Nigel & Jeremy travel across Australia.