Moving to a new home is always an interesting time for anyone. When that home is in a completely new city a certain amount of excitement and anticipation is added. Throw a completely new country into the mix and the senses are heightened, the anticipation becomes even greater and the trepidation that normally doesn’t come into play, does. Having lived in Southeast Asia for 5 years, and spent half of the previous four years here I was somewhat prepared, but nothing really gets you prepared for Saigon.
My teenage years happened at the time of the Vietnam War and my youthful vocabulary was filled with new words that previously had meant nothing to me. The Mekong Delta always sounded so cool. When I read at school the words that Kipling wrote, “The Road to Mandalay” was quite frankly, from a different planet. It might as well have been on Mars. I was never ever going to see it. I remember hearing news reports talking of Hanoi and Saigon. These were distant places in a mythical land. I would never ever go there. And yet here I am. I honestly look back on my life and still wonder just how the hell I got here.
I was born and raised in a small semi detached house 5 miles from Manchester city centre. Unremarkable school achievements followed. I was always in the top two or three in my class, passed my eleven plus, stayed in the top two or three in my class at grammar school, but that was sort of it. I was pretty crap at exams time and hated the sciences, I have since discovered that I hated them because I hated the teachers. I left school and pissed around for years.
Then I found music. I learned to play an instrument, started singing in folk clubs and before I knew it, people were actually paying to see me play. This was weird. I had always been good at poetry at school and this now manifested itself in song. I was writing songs and people were still paying to come and see me. Right out of the blue I was sitting eating breakfast one morning. I was at this time married, had a beautiful son and one more on the way. The phone rang and a voice asked me if I wanted to go and play some gigs in New Zealand. Now this really was getting crazy! Six months later I found myself on a plane to Hong Kong on my way to do a 5 week tour of New Zealand. The next twenty-odd years went by in a flash. I played in about 30 or more countries and got so used to travelling that I caught the bug. The unfulfilled part of my personality as a young lad was being fed. I had found the inner gypsy.
To cut a long story short, when I stopped touring full time, I simply missed the travel. There was a time when I didn’t miss the gigging, I really didn’t. I didn’t miss the schlepping round airports, train stations and bus stations at all hours, but I did miss the excitement of travelling to new places, terminally! So here I was two divorces later, my kids grown and settled-ish, what should I do? We all remember the terrible Tsunami of Boxing day 2004, I watched in horror as we all did, and something struck a chord. I was a single dad at this point and had been for about 7 years, I said to my two sons, I am going to Thailand. I just wanted to go for a holiday and spend some money, and I thought that would be it. But it wasn’t. I fell in love with Thailand, fell in love with Southeast Asia and fell in love with the Asian people. I never settled after that first short trip, I was back there within three months for a longer trip.
I told my sons that I would be moving out to Thailand at some time in the future. It took three years to put things in place to enable me to leave England. At first I owned and ran a bar in the centre of Bangkok. It was hard work and the staff drove me batty but for the most part it was enjoyable, if not very profitable. I made a lot of friends in Bangkok and had a lot of great times. I really love Thailand and would go back any time I could.
Circumstances change and mine did. I was offered a chance to move and decided to take it. As you can read about in my next ex pat diary piece.