[MI: Update 3] Making Progress

modest-industries-business-cards
Modest business cards with gold foil accents – phone number omitted, obviously.

Second week into the new business year and things are moving surprisingly fast. Faster than I had imagined anyway…

Website:

I’m sure there are thousands of designers and developers who’d agree that designing and building something for yourself is a completely different ballgame to doing something for a client. The main reason being is that the client gives you at least an outline of what they want, but we’re here thinking we can do anything and everything which is a helluva task to hone in.

I was thinking this would take the whole month but it’s started to shape up pretty quickly (it’s amazing what a couple of coffee overdoses can do). Saying that, I’ve got down the overall website style – clean, minimal and with an attempt at no information overload. I’m looking forward to starting the build of this one.

Business Cards:

With the website style defined, I was able to port that over to the business cards which are currently in the process of being printed. I’ve only requested a small run as they may change on the next versions. Some cheeky gold foiling on these too which will look amazing, though saying that – I kept it subtle because as tempting as it was to get my money’s worth, I think a little goes a long way.

Pitch Deck:

The pitch deck is something that I really need to get finished as soon as possible. At the moment it’s not as big a priority as the website, but it’s the next step once I’ve launched the website so I can start contacting potential clients and get a conversation going.

I’ve made more progress than I thought I would have at this stage having done the presentation design and most of the copy. It’s just a case of figuring out the platform I’m going to make it on like Powerpoint, Keynote, PDF – or something completely different like a new platform-agnostic idea I’ve had.

Office Space:

Steve and I viewed some offices last week. Originally we intended to get a small place that could hold at max 3 or 4 people, but after some negotiation we got a great deal on a much larger space, able to hold something like 10-15 people. I’m happy, he’s happy. Overall, we’re pretty happy! The plan is to move in next Monday which is great.

Having an office lined up is making all of this seem really real, really quick. I mean, it’s been real for the past year as I’ve had consistent freelance work, but moving from working in my client’s offices to now working from my own office – it’s a good feeling.

After literally finishing writing about our office space I had an email come through saying that someone sniped us by putting a deposit before us. First lesson in verbal agreements – if someone comes in with a better offer, you’re fucked.

Nevertheless, I’m still optimistic about getting a nice office space… just maybe not quite as big.

Until next time you sexy readers.

[MI: Update 2] Office Space

modest-officeIt’s the end of the first working day of 2016 and it has been productive. The day started off with some planning and brainstorming before I headed over to see Steve, a friend of mine who is in a similar situation to me. We look at some office spaces online and it’s not that exciting (our first choice was thrown out of the window when we realised its actually not that close to Liverpool Street Station as we originally thought) so we figure it’s probably best to see them in person.

Fortunately, we live near each other — just outside of London — so we arrange some local viewings to gauge what’s available and for what price.

We visited two main locations and on the whole I’d say we were impressed at what’s available for serviced offices around 300-500 a month (outside of London, of course). We need to decide if the premium is worth it to be in London or whether it’s more sensible to find a bigger and cheaper place with good train connections.

Either way, I’d say today was a good start to the year.

[MI: Update 1] Growing Modest Industries

modest-coffeeDay one of the new year for Modest Industries and it’s back to the drawing board (well, notebook).
This year my plan for the company is to grow it and transition away from a sole freelancer operation into a company with talented staff and a roster of quality, open-minded clients.

This won’t happen overnight.

It’s a process that many have done before and will continue to do, so for the sake of prosperity I’m going to post continuous updates here of the progress, successes, failures and whatever else is interesting.
Consider this my first update. I’m sitting in a coffee shop with my portable office, notebook in hand and with the whole of January booked out solely to focus on and develop Modest Industries.

We’ve got the logo and the brand ethos — the plan now is to grow this. I need to get a proposition and strategy together, make the marketing materials and ultimately build the holy grail that holds all of this together, the website.

Here’s to the New Year and the future of Modest.

MarcusFont2

Remember my hand-drawn typeface – MarcusFont? Probably not… but I won’t hold it against you because I’m happy to announce it’s been upgraded.

I’ve just added a load of new glyphs (including the much ñéêdëd åccented characters!)

I didn’t realise how much it needed an upgrade until I started using it on here as a webfont, but now it’s got all the extra characters it’s a much more complete font and guess what – because I’m so super duper excited, you can download MarcusFont2 here for free!

(personal use only please – drop me a line if you want to use it for any commercial projects)

MarcusFont2

Freelancing: Is the risk worth the reward?

I love being my own boss. I love controlling every aspect of my life, from managing my finances and choosing my clients to taking time off whenever I want.There’s no one to tell me that with the 365 days we’re graced with in a year I can only have 25 of those working days off. It doesn’t make sense to me.

The way we work as a society is broken. All evolutionary aspects aside let’s look at something simple like daylight, especially when it gets dark early. You see, we as a species need sunlight, the human body absorbs vitamins from it, it affects our mood, sets our body clocks and so much more, yet we’re actively avoiding it.

A typical Winter’s working day:

Wake up, it’s still dark > commute, while it’s dark > get to work, it’s getting lighter > hopefully spend an hour outside for lunch in the daylight > leave work and, what’s this… oh, it’s dark again. Boom. Day over, rinse and repeat.

But hey, what can you do about it?

Well actually, you can change it.

There’s a lot of hype around freelancing at the moment. Breaking the shackles of a permanent workplace to sit on a beach in some foreign land, laptop by your side, sipping on cocktails.

That’s the dream, right?

However, is the risk of leaving a financially secure job worth it, and is it actually possible?

For a lot of people being away from the office just wouldn’t work because your job may involve specialist or cumbersome equipment or your role requires your physical presence.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I sit at a single desk all day?
  • Do I use a lot of specialist equipment?
  • Is my work computer based?
  • Do I have a lot of in-person meetings?
  • Does my company keep all of its files on a local server?

Do I sit at a single desk all day?

Being desk-bound can be a key giveaway that you can probably work from anywhere in the world. Being at a desk means you’re getting stuff done on a table. If stationery and a computer is all you use – you’re golden.

Do I use a lot of specialist equipment?

If you need a lot of specialist equipment, e.g – high-powered microscopes, centrifuges, studio equipment – basically anything hard to carry, then your options are more limited. Stay employed or invest in your own equipment and start your own company.

Is my work computer-based?

Computers are so portable and so powerful today that if all your work is based in pixels then you’re already free. Well, trapped within the confines of your hard drive (hello cloud computing!) but essentially you can pick up that foldable chunk of circuit boards and crack on anywhere with an internet connection and electricity. That’s most of the world.

Do I have a lot of in-person meetings?

A lot of jobs involve real life meetings with real life people. 90% of meetings are bullshit and a waste of time. Saying that, however, it’s always best to meet people in person if you’re demonstrating a product, giving a pitch or presentation, etc. but with services like Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and whatnot – you can attend meetings from anywhere (just make sure your backdrop is appropriate… #NoToiletMeetings).

Does my company keep all of its files on a local server?

A lot of larger companies store their files on a local server. It’s a good idea for security and always having the most up-to-date files at any given time. Being away from the office means you won’t have access to these files. There are ways around this by having files sent to you, though one issue here comes with large files. Maybe you’re a designer needed to access a 4GB photoshop file, or a video editor with hundreds of gigabytes of footage to download. In these situations you either need to drop by in person or have some nut busting internet speeds.

Is it worth it for me?

Still reading? Good. Maybe you’ve thought about it and yeah, you can do this. If not, there’s still plenty of options – not for this article though.

From the outside looking in, this seems like a no-brainer, but actually ask yourself “Is this lifestyle worth it for me”. Everyone has their own battles and everyone has a different situation. Can you up and leave without any responsibility to family, friends, pets or plants? The beach life isn’t for everyone, and to be honest, I prefer the coffee shop scene in a city (#peoplewatching).

What I’m getting at is that only you can figure out if it’s worth it.

This is what makes it the hardest part for most people. Everyone can give you advice but only you can choose to take it. Having a steady job with financial security takes a lot of worry out of life, and if the worst should happen you usually get at least a month or so to figure out your next step. On the flip side, you could argue that there’s no ‘jobs-for-life’ anymore so why should you trust someone to feed you their work to do when you can go and get your own work?

Freelancing is a double-edged sword and what you put into it, you get out of it. You can make as much or as little as you want. Don’t feel like working for a couple of months? That’s great, but you won’t make a penny. Want to work solid for a couple of months? Even better – you could make more in those two months than four in your old job.

Let’s weigh up some pros and cons.

Cons Pros
No steady monthly paycheck Ability to earn more in a month than before
No one to guide you You’re your own boss
Pressure to acquire your own clients Build your perfect client list
Clients can stop giving you work You can refuse work for asshole clients
Harder to plan for the future Able to save more money, faster
It can be lonely Live and work where you want
Harder to meet new people The people you meet are usually likeminded
No routine 🙁 NO ROUTINE! 😀
You have to wear every hat in the business You have full control over your finances
You have to market yourself properly You can brand yourself however you want
People may give you a hard time as it’s not a ‘real job’ It’s way better than a ‘real job’
No pay on bank holidays or sick days

Anymore for anymore? Leave ‘em in the comments below.

I’m not here to tell you what to do with yourself, how to live your life or what’s in your best interests. Freelancing isn’t for everyone and unless you try it you’ll never know the control and freedom (good and bad!) you can have over your life.

For me, I’m enjoying the freelance lifestyle which may or may not end up being long-term, though by taking this risk I know exactly what I do like and what I don’t.

Looking for a way to get started?

Design, Photography, Copywriting and Coding are all great examples of things you can do on the move. If you want to go down the coding route because you want to build websites, apps and/or useful tools for specific problems I’d highly recommend Treehouse. It’s an online learning resource (the best one I’ve used) that teaches how to code, design principles and even how to start a business. Give it a go with my free trial.

Why I stripped the style from my blog

Good morning! Today sees my new WordPress theme launch.

marcusblog-wordpress-theme-2015

When I say “new WordPress theme” I really mean “basic stripped down version of a WordPress theme requiring only the minimum functionality and styles for it to work”.

I’ve always been an on-and-off blogger mainly due to not wanting to blog when I don’t like my theme, so my clever idea was to make this blog just about the content.

All you UX people out there will argue that I’m not maximising clickthroughs, that there’s no real thought-out user journey and maybe some aspects are clunky. I’m not going to disagree, I also don’t care. The important thing for me is that I start writing again. The styles I’ve built make posts easy to read on various devices and that’s all that really matters to me right now.

The design was a tricky one for me, as it’s a big part of my profession I strive to make everything I do look as good as it can. To some degree I’ve done that with this theme considering the restrictions I’ve put on it. It’s still early days and I’m still tweaking little bits that bug me but on the whole I can live with it.

I’d ask for feedback, but as I said above – I don’t really care right now, but obviously you can leave a comment telling me how awesome I am.

Back and busy… here’s my Twitter.

I was going to write a post, but I read it back to myself and it was terrible so I deleted it. Here’s my Twitter feed instead. It’ll be more up to date than my blog while I’m busy (and my Instagram… boy, has that gone downhill since I’ve been back in the UK!).


More Travelling Summaries…

I’m a terrible blogger. I have to come to terms with this. Here I am, galavanting around the world and one of the things I wanted to do was blog it all. Everything. All the little details, what I had for lunch, the people I met, where I stayed, awesome local knowledge.

I need to (and plan to) write more detailed individual posts about each country, experience, activity, whatever.

Forget about it.

The last time I blogged I was in Krabi. From Krabi we flew to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and stayed there for ten days, then dropped down to Singapore on a luxury bus (and unlike the ‘Luxurious VIP’ bus that came off the road in Cambodia, this one was really really nice).

After ten days in what I believe is the safest city in the world we flew (Singapore airport it awesome) to Australia. Spent a week in Brisbane (AirBnB), then got a JUCY campervan. I won’t go into details about us having to change campers because of a cockroach infestation, dead batteries and a sunroof that wouldn’t close right before a heavy heavy thunderstorm; but it was really fun and Australia is an amazingly chilled place with amazing coffee. Like, seriously – they know their coffee.

A month done in Oz and we fly out of Sydney and into to Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s relatively small but still with a load of untouched landscape. We stayed in Auckland for a month (another AirBnB) but rented a car and drove all around the north island (even did a few days in Wellington). We also checked out the Glowworm Caves in Waitomo which was a highlight of the trip that I’ll never forget.

Yet again, another month passes and from New Zealand we head to the states. We land in Los Angeles, stay in Hollywood for a week, visit a few key places – checked out Santa Monica, rented a car and road tripped through Santa Barbara, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Yosemite (jaw droppingly large trees), Las Vegas (gambled on Red… landed on Black), down to Palm Springs (#cougartown) coming full circle and dropping the car off back in Hollywood.

From Los Angeles we get the Amtrak from Union Station – 43 hours sitting on a sleeper train with no horizontal laying space – we travel through California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico (picked up a traditional Navajo blanket in Albuquerque), Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and finally Illinois where we get off in Chicago. It was an intense couple of days but with the stunning views and enthusiastic new Guatemalan friend sitting on the seat next to us (whose goal it was to teach us Spanish in its entirety in that one trip), it was fun.

Now I’m writing this in another AirBnB in Lakeview, Chicago and so far we’ve walked along the lake, checked out Navy Pier, visited The Loop and tasted far too much of the amazing food here. Oh, and we saw someone order a ‘chocolate milkshake’ at this burger joint that doesn’t actually sell milkshakes…

…they sell burgers, hot dogs, a whole lot of abuse and a black chick who gets her tits out and shakes them at you if you order a chocolate milkshake. Chicago is pretty cool.

Next stop: New York.

(or obesity, whatever comes first.)

10 little big things I’ve learned in South East Asia

Travelling through south East Asia has already taught me so much about the world, life and myself (cringe!). I could go on about the pursuit of happiness, how important family is, the kindness of strangers, blah blah blah. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all very valid and life changing stuff.

Everyone wants to tell you how to change your life with big, bold, life changing advice. I probably will too, but for now here are 10 little things that blew my mind.

10. The Bum Gun is amazing.

Holy crap, why have I never seen this in the UK. I’ve seen the Bidet in a lot of homes but man, that’s a lot of work. Using a Bum Gun on the other hand, means not even having to get up and you’ll save a ton of money on toilet paper.

Imagine a garden hose next to the toilet that instead of using to spray on your on your flowers, you spray on your flower… *wink wink, nudge nudge*. Next level cleanliness.

9. Thai Chili Paste is the shit.

It comes in a tiny jar and starts with a consistency similar to strawberry jam – mix this with anything and turn your boring, lifeless, good-for-nothing food into a gourmet treat. Rice, soup, pasta, even spread on bread. A little goes a very long way and sits firmly in the “Why did I not know about this as a student?!” category.

8. Planning is okay but not essential.

With a plan you’re unstoppable, without one you’re unpredictable. Throughout this trip the only things we planned were accommodation over Christmas and New Years near the start of our journey, and even that changed. It’s good to have to have a roadmap but don’t be scared of the dirt track.

7. You’re going to worry, even if it’s about not worrying.

What makes us human is the constant questioning of every possible variable in our lives, all the damn time. Are we fed? Thirsty? Safe? Is that mouse coming back when I’m asleep? Are those guys gonna steal my kidneys? If it happens it happens, don’t worry,  – or worry that you need to not worry.

6. Plane wings can flap.

They shouldn’t, but the way I’ve seen a plane (from the inside!) bounce across the clouds is kind of reassuring. Those things are resilient.

5. I’m a tourist.

Calling yourself a nomad, traveller, explorer, wanderer doesn’t change the fact that you’re a tourist. You’re touring the world. It sure makes us feel superior and cultured to try and avoid the ‘touristy’ places, and perhaps we’re not the stereotype of a tourist but the fact is – if you’re not a local, the only people you’ll be kidding are other tourists. And yourself.

4. Money can buy happiness.

Not in a sense of a literal exchange of money for happiness, but in the sense that if you know you’ve got enough to eat, get from A to B (and worst case scenario C) and a bed for the night, then there’s a less worry and more happy… just remember number 7 and don’t get too bogged down.

3. Bugs are everywhere.

Embrace them. The majority of them won’t kill you especially in the UK – there’s nothing to worry about – and they’re an affordable source of protein (there was an ant colony in my Pineapple).

2. Home comforts are awesome.

I can’t wait to get back and play Playstation, order a Domino’s pizza and get a Pick ‘n’ Mix and that’s okay. The things we miss fill the mind with happy nostalgia.

1. Face value means nothing.

You may think the fancy (and relatively expensive) beachfront restaurant will have better tasting food than that of the guy standing outside his home serving food from a stand in unmatched plastic bowls onto rusty tables with questionable hygiene standards, and, well, you’d be wrong.

Also, just because something looks artificially colourful, doesn’t make it sweet.

 

The Story through Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Where did all the tumbleweed come from?!

Sorry my updates have been a little but non-existent for a while. Truth be told, a lot has happened in not a lot of time and blogging seemed not that important.

It’s been one hell of a ride! I’ll do a quick run-through of everything in hopes I’ll write a longer post for each place in more vibrant detail (and with some pretty pictures too!).

So where did I leave you hanging? Oh yeah…

Luang Prabang, Laos
Retrospect is a funny thing. I remember writing how Laos was a weird one but when you look back on old times you only seem to remember the good things. I loved the elephants, the mountains, the sheer beauty everywhere I looked and the bakeries.

Flight from Laos to Vietnam
We flew from the quietest airport I’ve ever been to, Luang Prabang — from boarding the plane to taking off within 15 minutes. Flight time was about 50 minutes and was great. The clouds looked like candyfloss and we even got an inflight meal (albeit rushed).

Hanoi, Vietnam
Touchdown at Hanoi’s airport, pick up a SIM card and get transferred to our hotel. Drop off the backpacks and head out for food. The place is heaving. Traffic everywhere, street food galore. This is far removed from where we just came from.

We find a place next to the train tracks, sit on the children-sized stools and blindly order whatever it is they sell. The guy comes out with a portable stove, frying pan wrapped in foil and plates upon plates of raw meat and veg (and a few little extras too). It gets lit up, we start cooking and before we know it have already fall head over heels in love with Vietnamese cuisine.

The rest of the time was spent walking around exploring the streets and markets and tasting what else was on offer and holy crapdogs I discovered Vietnamese Coffee. It’s incredible. Hanoi is also where I truly learned how to fearlessly cross a road of non-stop oncoming traffic.

Sleeper train from Hanoi to Hué
Next stop was Hué (pronounced Hwey). We took a sleeper train there (14 hour journey?), it wasn’t as nice as the one from Bangkok to Chiang Mai but it wasn’t that bad. We both had top bunks (always, always, ALWAYS try and get the bottom ones!) which meant we were stuck laying down for the majority of the trip. This train has 4-berth cabins and has a door that closes and if needed, locks, all four passengers in the room. We were bunked with other travellers so not all bad.

Hué
WEYHEY! We arrived safely and almost instantly regretted our decision to stay for 5 nights after everyone we spoke to who asked how long we were staying said “Woah! That’s a long time.” and that’s coming from the people who lived there… even our hotel when we checked in. We reduced it to 2 — not that it wasn’t a nice place but because there wasn’t much to do.

Truth be told it was actually really nice, I mean, except for clouds blanketing the whole place making everything grey and also being targeted for money by some begging schoolgirls. I’ll get into more detail later but the gist of the story is that this small group of schoolgirls, fascinated by Charlotte’s blonde hair and “pretty nose” started talking and asking questions. One would shyly come over, ask a question, we’d answer and they’d run back to the huddle giggling. I assumed they were practising their English and were just curious of western faces. In part they probably were but then they started following us, picking up toys, showing them to us and then brazenly just outright asking for money by saying “mini, mini!”, over and over. The employees didn’t seem to mind this happening…

Train from Hué to Da Nang
We took a 3-hour train ride from Hué to Da Nang. Whilst waiting for the train in the station we had a few photo-ops with some Asian peeps who really wanted a photo with us. We thought it was a bit odd at first but soon realised that it was likely because we are just too damn awesome for people not to have their photos taken with us.

The train ride was okay. The blanketing clouds seemed to not want us to leave Hué as they started crying for the entire train ride. We rode round the mountains and saw our first glimpse of the sea from Vietnam.

Da Nang
We stayed in a hotel called The Finger. Innuendos aside it was a scenic place to stay. Our hotel was really far away from the city but really close to the beach. It was wet and cold so that didn’t work out too well for us. This was made up to us by being placed on a high floor looking at the colourful homes below us. If we were in the city the view wouldn’t have been nearly as humbling. We explored the city (taking a taxi there) and decided to do the long walk back, over the Dragon Bridge (where a mother and daughter pulled over their moped to get a photo with us… not even making this up), through the streets of the homes we overlook. Such a different vibe from one side of the river to the other.

More markets, more walking, more colours, more smells. Beautiful. Time to take the taxi to Hoi An.

Taxi from Da Nang to Hoi An
It took like half an hour. Really close, nothing to report.

Hoi An
Now, for travellers who like exploring places on foot, this is an ancient city made for walking! Aside from the barrage of women who follow you asking to take a look in their shop (only down one or two streets), this is a lovely place. The cakes, the coffee, the lack of scooters and cars and oh man, the Vietnamese doughnuts! Ring doughnuts, red bean filled doughnuts, coconut (real, shredded coconut) doughnuts, peanut (real, crushed up peanuts) doughnuts and the not-to-be-forgotten deep fried banana pancakes. Also more Vietnamese coffee. Damn that stuff is good.

We walked along the river, visited the night market, ate at an amazing restaurant (Vy’s Market Restaurant & Cooking School), rode bikes to the beach (still cloudy but the first beach of our journey!) and then headed back to Da Nang to board our next sleeper train.

Sleeper train from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon)
Same 4-berth cabin, same top bunk situation. The only changes were our fellow bunk-mates below. A few times actually and this time locals, probably commuting. Also I saw a mouse peeking at Charlotte from the luggage storage by her head… for the sake of a good night sleep I didn’t tell her until morning (and I made sure it was gone because I’m an amazing travel buddy).

Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon)
The locals call it Saigon, I call it a place for some retail therapy! Shopping malls galore and with Christmas approaching what a better time to hit the shops. After the disconnect from good old materialistic capitalism I needed an prebuilt ecosystem of commerce and eating. We browsed the shops and enjoyed the artificial lighting but in the end the only things we bought was junk food were food related items.

We were there for Christmas and we heard that Christmas Eve was celebrated by the Notre Dame Cathedral. They weren’t kidding! Hundreds, no, thousands of people lined the streets. Cars jammed in human traffic, people with spraycans of snow, vendors selling food. It was great! That is, until the spraycans of snow were turned on us. Kids chasing each other with cans, spraying and laughing. One sees us and for whatever reason gives a cheeky spray, cautiously waiting to see our response. We laugh, he does it again. Oh, and now his mate does… oh look, there’s like 5, wait, 10, oh crap… 15 or 20 kids surrounding us spraying snow! Not at each other, just us! All in good fun of course. We escaped with massive smiles and somehow a celebrity status as girls and boys pulling is left and right to get photos with us. Like, really, what is it with all these photos?

Then we hit up Dunkin’ Donuts for some good eats getting a lot of looks questioning our moist appearance.

Christmas Day rolls around which is a weird one when you’re not with family. The receptionist calls us and tells us they need to come in, we’re curious as to why but seconds after hanging up the phone there’s a knock on the door and two extremely happy Vietnamese girls. “Merry Christmas!” They roar as they stampede into our room with a plate of fruit, a luxurious looking box, a bottle of champagne, a rose in a vase and a letter we’re not allowed to open until they leave. Still dazed and confused I open the letter — those cheeky monkeys — miles away from home and my family still surprise us with gifts on Christmas. Inside that box was some classy cheesecake with Merry Christmas written on it. It tasted so good and maybe the champagne was thinking for me but I really missed home.

We explored the city more, walked by the river and checked out some local cafés, took countless selfies with Christmas Tree’s, visited the War Remnants Museum (recommended if you’re near), ate more doughnuts (or donuts) and then prepared for our next country. Cambodia.

Coach from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
We boarded the coach and settled down for a 6/7 hour coach ride from Vietnam to Cambodia. We go through the border, a lot of standing and waiting and such, finally get Ito Cambodia and stop for lunch. Get off and go inside a terrible place with terrible food and terrible people, pay over the odds for chicken and rice (and crushed up bones), pay, don’t get change, ask for change, “tip!”, I say “no tip!”, get change, give a tip, have it ungratefully laughed at (but still taken), eat, board the coach and hope I don’t get food poisoning. Half way there we get pulled over for a random police security check, an hour of worrying after we’re on the move again and get to our accommodation above Jay’s Diner.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
We arrive, settle down and get out for some food happy to reach our new destination. We find a place to eat and strike lucky as it’s really good, unfortunately I receive some really bad news and try to hold it together for the rest of the night. The next day we visit the Killing Fields and S-21 Genocide Museum. Interesting, moving, heartbreaking and inspiring. If you’re in Cambodia I’d suggest going out of your way to visit those two places. So far Cambodia hasn’t been the happiest of places, in fact, it’s quite eerie. The rest of the time was spent exploring, visiting night markets, eating, drinking and booking our bus ticket to Siem Reap.

Coach from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Cambodia doesn’t have trains and we’d heard the buses are okay and the roads are fine. Liars. The internet lies! Who knew? Long story short and I’ll definitely be posting the longer story up — we almost die when our double decker coach drives off the road, down a hill almost tipping! We get stuck at a 45 degree angle thankfully because of a small mound that got wedged under the front bumper. We hitchhike the rest of the way with two Australians (thank you for stopping!), two Germans, a Russian, an Italian and a Dutchman. The driver tries and stops us from leaving but we had a hard time trusting the coach before it left, let alone now. We stop for food enroute and get to Siem Reap.

Siem Reap
We arrive in Siem Reap (barely) and Charlotte gets her stuff stolen. I don’t know why but Cambodia really doesn’t like us! We ask the hotel staff a out the police and they say it’s closed until morning so Charlotte does what she can (blocks her sim, sets her devices to auto format when they connect to the internet). It’s not been a good day. The next day we go to the police station to get this sorted. We go in, start talking, I get asked to leave, Charlotte gets interrogated by three Cambodian police officers shouting at her that they “DON’T BELIEVE YOU!” because she can’t prove she was pick pocketed. They refuse to file the report even though they write it out and refuse to investigate further. Today isn’t so good either. I email the UK embassy in Cambodia. No help either. The next day we get and recover by the pool and relax before visiting Angkor Wat on our last day in Cambodia (also New Year’s Eve). The next day we fly to Bangkok because screw getting anymore Cambodian busses! Flying was pretty scary as well as more Asian planes went missing a day or so before.

Flight from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Bangkok, Thailand
Flight time was about an hour. We land in Bangkok and don’t make the same mistake of booking a taxi inside the airport like last time and instead go outside and get a taxi from the taxi rank (still convincing them to turn on that damn meter!).

Bangkok, Thailand
We decide to stay closer to the action this time. The first place had no windows and terrible service so deciding we want to stay in Bangkok longer move out and check in to a 5 star hotel for a change — The Berkeley (always check hotel websites directly, I got a cracking deal). Another reason for the lavish accommodation was for a solid internet connection and some extra space to I had some freelance work come in. Bangkok consisted of poolside pizzas, shopping mall exploration, Starbucks, work and room service. I love room service. These things can’t last forever though which is why we decided to head over to Phuket.

Flight from Bangkok to Phuket
Only animals and insects are supposed to flap their wings to fly — imagine my surprise when I look outside of the plane window and seeing it think it’s a bird! The turbulence was horrific for the entire journey. Landing was cool though as we come in so close to a beach that you think it’s going to land on it. It doesn’t. Still lands on a runway.

Phuket
We check in at the AllStar Guesthouse which is in the perfect just-off-the-main-road location and has a really great host. We’ve finally landed somewhere consistently sunny! We get drunk the first night and explore the markets a little. The rest of the time was spent eating, sunbathing and swimming in the sea. We were by Karon Beach and we’re lucky enough to watch the sunset over the sea while laying on the sand. Southern Thailand wouldn’t be Southern Thailand if we didn’t visit an island so we head to a still relatively untouched place called Koh Yao Noi by speedboat.

Phuket to Koh Yao Noi
We left our guesthouse and caught the local bus to Phuket Town, from there we were asked by everyone where we were going and everyone pointed to the same bus (by bus I mean small truck with two wooden benches drilled either side in the back). Finally get to the pier, and pay the little extra to take the speedboat over the Longtail boat to Koh Yao Noi.

Koh Yao Noi
We arrive and get taken to Suntisook Resort. We get a little wooden hut, no AC, mosquito nets above the beds, hammock outside. This place is great. It’s such a modest hut and there’s nothing to do unless you hire a scooter and drive a while to the town.

The family who run the resort have a restaurant which we ate at at least twice a day and after eating there and hiring a scooter and eating at the rusty table of a vendors house I can honestly say that it is the best tasting food I’ve had in Thailand. Roasted Duck Soup, Noodle Soup with chicken, vegetables or shrimp, Papaya Salad, Massaman Curry with steamed rice. Urgh. Incredible. Our hut was just on the other side of the road to a beach which overlooked mountain islands in the distance, when we found out that the sun rises behind them we made sure to wake up extra early to catch it and I have to tell you, it was the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen in my life.

Koh Yao Noi is a tiny island where the people are mainly Muslim. It’s just north of Koh Yao Yai and is still untouched. The people are friendly, the food isn’t westernised, there’s not a lot to do so relaxation is at a maximum. I doubt it’ll stay this way for long as once everyone gets wind of it it’ll end up like the rest of the tourist inhabited islands. Actually, I should probably just delete this whole section.

Longtail boat from Koh Yao Noi to Krabi
The Longtail Boat is a wooden boat driven by an engine in the rear which has a long pole coming off it with a propellor on the end that drives the boat. We had the pleasure of boarding it and riding up close and past those distant island mountains that we saw from the shore as we made our way to Krabi.

Krabi
This is where we currently are, staying in a nice condo with a balcony that sees the sun set. We’re a walk away from the main areas but it’s nice. It’s peak season here but it seems really quiet still and the prices compared to everywhere else are the highest for food and drink at the restaurants. Lucky for us this is the first place that has cooking facilities (and a rice cooker!) which we’ve already taken advantage of. We’ve taken a long walk along the beach, seen hundreds of tiny crabs (is that why it’s called Krabi?!) and are excited to beach it up while we’re here. From here we head to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia before landing in Singapore where we’ll leave South East Asia and start the second half of our journey though Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

One last thing — I try and upload at least one image a day to my Instagram which makes it the most up-to-date place to follow me around the world. So what are you waiting for? Follow me!