Welcome to the long-awaited, much anticipated and highly acclaimed South-East Asian Awards Ceremony.*
*Only includes nations in SE Asia that Damo has visited.
This amazing region acted as the platform for my baptism by fire into the truly nomadic lifestyle of bicycle touring and indeed, travelling. It therefore had the opportunity to make or break the tour – to set me free or see me crawl back into my shell of dissatisfaction and restlessness.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate SE Asia on unequivocally achieving the former. These awards are a bit of fun and merely scratch the surface of what you represent, for what I can never capture in words is your grace, your diversity and cultural depth, your easy-going and overwhelmingly welcoming nature and your unique spirit, all of which have entered my heart, mind and soul and will remain there for the rest of my days.
So SE Asia, you have well and truly served your purpose and it has been my pleasure. I will miss everything about you, but I promise you; I will be back
Without further ado, let’s get into it, starting with the all-important award that everyone wants to know the winner of:
BEST LOOKING WOMEN: There is nothing sexier than a North Vietnamese girl cruising the chaotic streets of Hanoi, helmetless on her scooter, undertaking death-defying maneuvers with graceful ease, while her long, black, silky hair waves in the wind behind her. And for some reason, if she has her ipod blasting through her headphones at the same time, it increases her sex appeal five-fold. In saying that, the women are beautiful everywhere I travel. North Vietnam
BEST LOOKING MEN: Whether directing traffic with whistle in mouth or cruising around town on their chunky motorbikes, Thai police officers look very strapping in their tight, dark-brown uniform and long, black boots. The pistol on the hip didn’t do them any harm in winning this award either.
However, they do have their ugly side, which will be on display with baton in hand at the slightest provocation. Thai Policemen
BEST NATURAL SITE: When I was there I questioned whether I had ever been anywhere so beautiful. That question remains. Halong Bay, Vietnam
BEST MAN-MADE SITE: No competition, utterly amazing. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia
BEST FOOD: For price, variety, taste, hygiene, availability and success rate of receiving what I actually ordered, I can’t go past Thailand
However, the food was fantastic and so diverse right throughout the region that it is difficult to compare. I have come to love adapting to the local diet everywhere I travel and there is something I will miss from every nation, be it roti telur bawang and teh tarik for breakfast in Malaysia, gai yang kow nee-o for lunch on the road in Laos or com ga as a filling dinner in Vietnam.
BEST BEER: For 80c a long-neck and a supreme, refreshing taste in the Lao heat, you can’t beat Beer Lao. Although, at 15c a glass and for the great social street atmosphere it creates, bia hoi with a plate of peanuts in northern Vietnam is pretty damn good too. Beer Lao, Laos
BEST DRIVERS: Malaysians, Thais and Lao drivers are all courteous, patient and don’t make bicycle touring feel like an X’treme sport and I can’t ask for much more than that. Malaysia, Thailand & Laos
WORST DRIVERS: Vietnam has nearly 40 road deaths per day, enough said. Vietnam
BEST BEACH: Several kilometers long, palm trees for shade, white sand, ridiculously clear water, immaculately clean, backed by a lush jungle interior. Not a road or a ‘hassler’ waking you from your siesta to offer you some snacks or a massage, to be found; The Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
BEST CITY: It can be excessively crowded and polluted in parts, but find your way out of these areas to one of the many lakes and surrounding parklands and Hanoi is a beautifully romantic city that manages a perfect blend of east and west. Hanoi, Vietnam
WORST CITY: Due to massive overcrowding, heavy air and noise pollution and an almost constant and inescapable oppressive heat, Bangkok is utterly suffocating in every way. Bangkok, Thailand
BEST RIDE: The brand-spanking road from the mountains in Dalat towards the beach town of Nha Trang in southern Vietnam had it all; a baby bum smooth surface, mirrors at blind corners, virtually nil traffic, glorious views and an absolutely exhilarating downhill. That day I discovered a new kind of natural high. Dalat – Nha Trang, Sth Vietnam
TOUGHEST RIDE: At one point or another, there has been a time in all countries when my mental and physical limits have been tested, whether in the mountains of northern Thailand at the peak of the hot season or on the cattle-grid dirt roads of Cambodia, but riding through the construction site that was the mountains of northern Vietnam was the closest I have been to torture and it took me to the point of despair and beyond. North Vietnamese Mountains
MVP: And now for the all-important ‘Most Valuable Possession’ award. This is the item that no bicycle tourist should leave home without (besides a bicycle) and one without which I would not have lasted a week on the road.
And the winner is; my MP3 player!
My music is there to keep me company in times of loneliness, to energise me at times of listlessness, to entertain me in times of boredom, to remind me of happier times in times of pain. A well-chosen track has the ability to bring me back from the brink in times of despair.
– To alleviate a case of the homesick blues; Midnight Oil’s ’20,000 Watts RSL,’ every single track should be nationally heritage listed.
– To help deal with a two-hour climb when I wish to travel to an alternate reality; DJ Tiesto’s ‘In Search of Sunrise’ series.
– When I feel like a good, loud sing-a-long that gives the locals a good laugh as I cruise past; the Chilis’ ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik.’
– At time of utter listlessness when I need a charge of energy directly injected aurally or when I feel like a dance in my hotel room; anything by Pee Wee Ferris.
– On angry days or when I need to drown out the sound of the horns; Tool.
– And of course, to kick back and chill out after a long day on the road; Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, Paul Kelly, The Ohio Players, Air………….I could go on for 30gb.