Back in late 2002 I set of on a journey of a lifetime to travel around the world, thinking if I can make it a whole one year I would be more than satisfied. Once my mind had been opened to how vast the world is and many amazing experiences are out there to be had, I was hooked. Nearly 10 years later I am still traveling and loving every day of it. Here are just a very small hand full of some of the fantastic experiences I have had since I first set off on that round the world adventure back in 2002.
One in Thirty Chance of being Shot at in a Helicopter over the Burmese Border.
It started with a late night out in the town of Kanchanaburi, Thailand. I was drinking with a few Thai friends in this bar and got chatting to this Thai guy. We really got on well and drank for hours, when the end of the night came he revealed to me that he was a helicopter pilot for the Thai army and asked if I would like to come with him the next day to fly over to Burma. He asked where I was staying and said he would pick me up in the morning. He had to go because as he said, he has to get some sleep and sober up because he has to fly his helicopter in the morning. I said, “ yeah, yeah, yeah” not believing anything he was telling me, said goodnight and thought that was that.
Then 10 am the next morning he is banging on my door. I could not do it, I was too hung over, I had to say no. We rearranged and did do it the next day.
Wow, so he was like the Captain super duper boy at the local army base and I was his VIP guest. We flew over the River Kwai, across the mountains and jungles of Kanchanaburi, heading west towards Burma where they had to drop of supplies for the Thai army guys who man the border. It was like a valley which was the actual border with sand bags and a machine gun on either side. A little Thai camp on this side and a little Burmese army camp on the other side.
It was only after we had been there and I was asking them if they ever actually start shooting at each other. They told me, in a relaxed way, “Not really, but about once a month as we are landing they sometimes shoot at the helicopter”. Seriously, I would have died from shock instantly if I had heard the pinging of bullets hitting this helicopter. Everything went fine and when we got back to the base in Kanchanaburi town, the whiskey and beers came out and it went on from there. Man, these fellas could drink.
Living and Training with Genuine Shaolin Kung Fu Monks at Wu Wei Temple, China
Whist I was in Dali in northwestern Yunnan Province, China in early 2003 I was lucky enough to become on of the first few foreigners to stay at this amazing Wu Wei Si ancient Shaolin Kung Fu Temple way up (7700ft) in the mountains of Cangshan.
I was only there for a week, but still an amazing experience. I had to live as they did. Right down to the vegan diet, which I wasn’t looking forward to but actually really enjoyed. One of the monks there had been doing these strict 8 hours a day training for 40 years. He was over 50 years old (looked about 25) and was a little guy, but you should have seen him move. He was somersaulting ,flipping and flying through the air with precision that would make your jaw drop. The way of living was also quite interesting and refreshing, with no electric and water from a mountain stream, the usual day would start about 4am and lights out and bed by 9pm.
Whilst there I learned a handful of ninja tricks and got really flexible, but I have to be honest and admit that I was glad to get out of there by the end as I felt the training over days turned to torture. We were pushed to our limits and well beyond, I was also desperate to eat some meat.
Once I got out of there I indulged in oven baked pizzas and yak meat goulash (the local delicacy-very tasty) in the main Dali town, which is an amazing place with fantastic little restaurants and cafes surrounded by some of the oldest Tang Dynasty (10th century) standing structures in southern China.
My International Traveling Movie Star Career
I have had background parts as an movie extra in 3 totally different movies whilst on my world travels so far. A Chinese Ghost Movie, A World War II movie and a Thai historical movie.
The Chinese Ghost movie was being filmed using the Shaolin Temple in Dali as a Background. They got us to where the black cloaks a run around in this forest at night. It was really interesting to watch the special effects of this movie. There were these guys running around burning some special leaves in metal cans and wafting a big board to fan the smoke into the scene. Another thing that was awesome to see was how they were using these spring boards where the actors would bounce into the air doing all sorts of tricks.
I was a Prisoner of War in a Thai movie where I was a slave working on the famous Death railway. Even more fun because I had a scene where I was shot in the chest, wearing an exploding blood pack under my shirt I had to die and fall off the railway into a pile of boxes. Being a stuntman for the day is so, so cool in my book.
Later that day I almost fainted on set because we were standing in the blazing sun most of the day and the movie team looking after us were spraying with ice cold water feeding us free beers all day. Sounds great, but the perfect recipe for sun stoke. Messy
In the Thai movie The Legend of King Naresuan I played 4 different Portuguese soldiers on different occasions. I worked on this movie loads of times and it sounds like fun (which it was), but it is actually really hard work. Starts 6am, Make up, big false beards, wearing heavy full body loads and saddled up with swords, guns and spears.
There is a lot of waiting round. Some days they would only use me for 10 mins, some days were harder.
Full action scenes involved running around in the sun dodging horses, elephants and pyrotechnic
explosions. This was the biggest budget Thai movie to date at the time and it was enormous in scale. They had taken over this huge Army Base and built full traditional bamboo hut villages, temples and massive battle fields. With hundreds of extras running around everywhere, I saw quite a few accidents because the safety procedures were maybe not to same level as Hollywood productions.
I heard a story that apparently after filming for 2 years most of the footage got lost or stolen and they had to film most of the film again. Filming went on for another couple of years, and I seemed to keep getting called back several times over the years.
Wearing a Police Mans Uniform in Cambodia
This one is a bit weird. I became friendly with a Cambodia guy who insisted that I came to visit his home village. It was far away deep in the farming communities along the Cambodia border. I was officially the very first foreigner to ever visit this tiny village. I was blown away at how much they welcomed me, every house in the village was almost fighting over having me come to eat at their home. They put on parties where the whole village came out to enjoy. It was amazing, but when it got weird was when the local village police man who was really drunk at the time started getting really insistent with me that I try on his police shirt. Next thing I knew he had stripped down to his underwear and had sort of forced me to wear his whole uniform. I remember thinking this is just odd as I am standing there in full police uniform and the policeman is standing there in his boxers.
Built an Indian Restaurant from Scratch in Thailand
Time for some slow traveling. The story of how I came to do this was back in 2006 I had been traveling round Southeast Asia for a few years and had enough money left to do about another year of traveling. I came up with the idea that instead of traveling for another year I could basically gamble my money setting up a business in Thailand that if successful would not necessarily make me rich but more provide me with free food and accommodation and a base 5 years. At the time I was partying and drinking too much and needed to get into something to keep myself busy and change my pattern. I did months of research and considered loads of different possibilities. I finally chose that I was going to open a high end restaurant in Kanchanaburi and I had boiled it down to either Italian, Mexican or Indian. I went for Indian and headed off to Malaysia to learn everything thing I needed to know about setting up an Indian restaurant from scratch.
It took six months to develop everything and I will never forget that first day opening, because I had done what I always say not to do, ‘Never put all you eggs in one basket’.
So with fingers and toes crossed the doors opened and I was in the situation where if this fails I’m in big trouble. Luckily the gamble paid off and the restaurant was an instant success. Some of the rave reviews we had were very good and word off mouth brought us more an more customers. After about a year assisting in getting it going I was able to step back and let it run by itself, (well actually my Thai missus was running it all, managing several staff and chefs from Nepal and Bangladesh).
I was now able to step back and focus on my next plan, figuring out internet marketing and learning about building an online business. I knew that the internet was definitely where I wanted to do future businesses because of the freedom of being able to operate the business from anywhere in the world. This was before the word location independent business even really existed.
The Indian restaurant business was fantastic for about 3 years then in the last 2 years it profits slowly fell as world economic problems and Thai political protests lowered tourism by about 70%. It had turned into a situation where the business was really struggling to exist let alone make a profit. The problem with this business was that it relied on a steady flow of tourists.
In May 2010 I had to bravely put a bullet in the head of this business and eliminate it. I could have saved it but chose to kill it so as to free up more of my time so I can concentrate fully on my online businesses.
Spear Fishing at Night in the Cook islands
This is one of those mind blowing experiences that I will never forget. Whilst staying in the Cook Islands for a month I became friendly with the family who’s guest house I was staying at. One of the sons who I became very good friends with started taking me out night fishing with him. We have these home made spear/catapults with underwater torches, snorkel, mask, flippers. We would walk out to sea and float on the surface looking for fish down in the corals. The fish are asleep and not moving so you are supposed to sneak up and pull back the spear and fire. We would collect many different beautiful looking fish and take them back to his home and store on ice. We went out doing this a few times over a week then on Saturday night I would help them prepare the pit barbecue. There is something that makes seafood seem to taste even better when you have caught it your self and share with friends.
This place was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.
Designed and Built a Fully Articulated Puppet Creature
I built a mini workshop/studio to the rear of my Indian Restaurant and took on this dream project of mine. In my early twenties I worked for several years as a freelance puppet builder, mainly working on small stop-motion puppets for animated productions such as Wind in the Willows and Noddy just to name a few. I had always wanted to build a full body high tech cable controlled creature puppet similar in construction to the original Yoda puppet used in Star Wars-The Empire Strikes Back.
So I did it, a massive project to take on, chipping away at it for a few hours each day for about 14 months, I went through the whole process from design on paper, sculpting, mold making, casting latex skins, building articulated skeleton, building mechanisms and controls.
I did all this using some basic tools that I got in Thailand and also basic materials; from resins from car repair shops to bicycle brake cables from bicycle shops. I found liquid latex many other materials from hardware shops and artist/craft shops. Sourcing the materials was part of the challenge.
For some parts I had to find a local Thai guy to help me, like the levers controls where designed by me but made in a motorbike repair shop where they had all the equipment to do metal welding. These Thai guys and some of the Thai locals who new what I was up to thought it was fascinating. Because it must seem to Thais that the stereotypical farang (foreigner) staying here are mostly just largeing it up on the piss.
I also videoed most of the design and building process and someday maybe would like to deal with the monstrous task of editing these tens of hours of footage.
There were plans that this creature was destined present a youtube video games review show, but for several reasons it didn’t get further than test shots. You can see more about this project at AtomicNinjaMonkey.com
One thing I can certainly say about this project is that I think I can honestly claim that I am the only Farang (forigner) ever to have done this (Creature Construction) in Thailand.
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