The Daily Explorer

July 30, 2008

Man of a Thousand Days (Part One)

Chiang Mai, Thailand: July 2008

Mozzie Byte, Editor - The Daily Explorermozzie-byte-profile-44pt.jpg

Welcome back to all our Daily Explorer readers and greetings to those of you who are joining us for the first time. My name is Mozzie Byte(above) and I am the Editor of The Daily Explorer, responsible for the compilation of our on-line publications. Before you read about what Ray has been up to recently in Thailand, I would like to tell you a bit more about this ‘special anniversary’ issue.

On the 8th August, our global traveller will celebrate a milestone in his personal journey. Unbelievably, he will have been living nomadically for one thousand consecutive days since he left England on 12th November 2005! During that time, he has visited or travelled through twelve countries spread around the world. To mark the occasion, we asked Ray to trawl through all 60 previous issues of The Daily Explorer and choose some of his favourite pictures or moments from the last two and half years, so that you can enjoy them once again. Make sure you take a look at them in “Blogging all Over the World – The Highlights” below.

Above: 08.08.08 is a hugely significant date. Our global traveller will begin his 1,000th day as a nomad since he left England in November 2005. It is also the opening day of the 2008 Olympics, in Beijing, China. To commemorate this event, Bryan Berg (centre) has spent 160 hours constructing a model of the ‘Birds Nest’ Olympic Stadium and Beijing TV Tower entirely from playing cards

Just to remind you, in our last issue which came out in June, I followed Ray as he made a brief re-entry into the business world, travelling to Basel (Switzerland) and New Jersey (USA) to run a training course about Partnerships for a global pharmaceutical company. And he attended a compelling one day seminar in Brixton with David Icke. If you missed it, you can read it now at: New York, James Bond and Beyond.

Ray is currently in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand. I gave him a call there to find out what he had been doing since leaving London. “Well Mozzie, for the first time in quite a while, I really do not have that much to tell you. It is over one and a half years ago that I last did a cleanse and de-tox with Nikki at The Spa in Ko Samui. Thinking I was about due for another one, I decided to go back there on my way into the country and flew directly from London, checking myself in for 10 days” said Ray.

Above: Aerial view of Ko Samui with the runway of the recently upgraded ‘International’ airport visible on the far right of the picture (Photo: Barb Anthony)

Below: The hospitality in Ko Samui is legendary and the island is very popular with tourists. Consequently, it is developing rapidly, with new resorts constantly opening – “It’s great to be back” says Ray, as he arrives and heads for The Spa in nearby Lamai

Ko Samui is an island in the southern Gulf of Thailand and is extremely popular as a tourist destination with many lavish, exotic resorts available for people who want to take a break from it all. The Spa Samui is part of the establishment. “It is perhaps one of the best known and best value Spa’s in the whole world, and one of Asia’s best kept secrets” Ray told me. At $300 US dollars for the seven day cleanse programme, it is exceptional value for money too” he added.

Guy and Toi Hopkins founded The Spa Samui in 1992, with the primary aim of helping guests learn more about taking better care of themselves. “As well as offering an unrivalled cleansing programme, The Spa has some of the best vegetarian food in Thailand, and certainly has one of the best ‘raw food’ preparation schools anywhere in the world” said our health conscious traveller. “They offer guests a wide range of holistic health practices, including Yoga, Chi Gong, Meditation, Massage and Reiki classes” added Ray.

Above: (from left to right): Map showing Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand (circled), The Spa resort tucked away in the palm trees on the beach at Lamai and the colourful banana trees which grow abundantly in the local area (Photos: Barb Anthony)

Below: This picture of Ray was taken when he last visited The Spa in November 2006 – “I try my best to look after myself and eat as well as I can, which is easier said than done when you are constantly travelling. My health is becoming far more important in my list of priorities as I get older, especially as I really want to be physically active for many years to come” he told me

The regime at The Spa is straightforward. “Basically, you do not eat any food for seven days” said Ray. “Five times a day, at three hourly intervals, you go to the ‘Detox’ counter where a member of staff mixes a rather disgusting fasting drink containing psyllium which assists the process of soaking up toxins inside you and loosening up the stuff in your colon. When you ‘flush’ yourself out, you get rid of it all, becoming healthier as you complete every day of your programme” he told me. “They also give you daily supplements that provide your body with the nourishement it needs whilst you are not eating. It is all set up for you when you are there, so there is not much else you need to think about. That leaves you with plenty of time to talk with the other guests, do some yoga, have a relaxing massage treatment, sunbathe, swim or just enjoy the environment” explained Ray.

Above: The shirt this member of staff is wearing just about sums it up: “Shit Happens” at The Spa Samui!!

Below: There is plenty of time during the day and evening to enjoy one of the many types of massage treatments on offer – “The two hour oil massage is heavenly” said our faster (Photo: Barb Anthony)

Above: The pool at The Spa – “I stayed in one of these ‘A’ frame huts, which have ensuite bathrooms so that you can ‘flush’ in the privacy of your own room” said Ray. Many visitors organise accommodation at nearby guest houses along the beach, where the rooms tend to be cheaper and then use the Colema rooms at The Spa as and when they need them

Below: Ray takes advantage of the new wireless network that has been installed since he last visited as he packages up his latest collection of stories and photographs for The Daily Explorer – “Mozzie and his team do such a great job for me in compiling my blog. I always make sure I send him the things he needs before the agreed deadline so he doesn’t have to chase me” said our conscienscious traveller

Aside from the obvious health benefits that he enjoys from visiting The Spa, there is also a great social scene. “One of the reasons I love coming back is the quality of the people that hang out here. First of all, there are many freelance practitioners that offer treatments at The Spa and I have got to know some of them on a personal basis since I started coming to the island. For example, my friend Anna runs Yoga classes every day for guests and her partner Mark is an EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) practitioner. They always have a useful perspective on issues that concern health and well being and I learn a lot from talking to them. And then there are the other guests, who come from countries all over the world and from many different walks of life. You are just as likely to meet an Investment Banker as you are an artist, musician or author. The one thing we all have in common is that we all want to understand our bodies better and be able to take care of ourselves as a result” explained Ray.

“During this visit, I met a wonderful American couple called Greg an Barb Anthony who had come from their home in Saudi Arabia to do the cleansing programme. I noticed that Barb was taking a lot of pictures with an expensive looking camera, spending quite a long time preparing each shot. I discovered that she is a keen photographer and she kindly allowed me to send some of her pictures to The Daily Explorer for publication in this issue” added Ray.

Above: A typical social evening at The Spa Samui as a small group of people gather on the beach – “My lovely friends Anna and Mark (right – Anna is in the centre and Mark is to her right) live in a small bungalow on the beach and invited a few of us round for some food, drink and music (left). I met people from England, Russia, Denmark, Brazil and the United States and had a lovely evening” Ray told me. (Editors Note: I can assure Daily Explorer readers that Ray did not eat any of the food and only drank water as he was still fasting until the following day!)

Below: It’s a small world. Ray just happened to meet Ann Marie Woodall, originally from Manchester but now fairly nomadic herself, at The Spa – “Unbelievably, it turns out that we are both friends with someone in London who we both worked with at different times – and the lady in question was actually featured in the last issue of The Daily Explorer! Ann Marie was great company and has infectious charisma and energy. I think we established a really nice friendship and hope we will remain in contact” he told me

Above: “One of the things you see as a traveller when you return to the same place after a reasonably long time away is how rapidly economic development takes place, especially when the economy is heavily dependent on tourism as it is in Ko Samui” observed Ray. “This is a new five star, boutique hotel called ‘The Library’ which recently opened on the beach in Chaweng. With prices starting from 8,000 baht per night (about £120), it costs a small fortune for Thailand when compared with the typical backpacker guest houses that charge £3 or £4 per night. Still, for that money, you do get to take a dip in Thailand’s only red swimming pool! For obvious reasons, many of the cheap backpacker places are being flattened to make way for upmarket hotels that serve the growing affluent Thai society and wealthy foreign visitors

Below: There are two reasons why Ray looks so excited in this photograph, taken on completion of his fast. “I am so happy that I can start eating proper food again because the menu here is to die for” he told me. “I am taking it easy today, starting with ‘Guy’s breakfast’ – a mixture of organic goats yoghurt, bee pollen and papaya which is absolutely delicious, washed down with a glass of freshly squeezed apple juice” said our mouth watering, healthy traveller. And what is the other reason he is so excited? “It’s because I leave tomorrow and am going to see Nikki again” replied Ray

During high season, which runs from October – March, it is possible to fly directly from Ko Samui to Chiang Mai on a budget flight with Bangkok Airways. “Unfortunately for me, there were no direct flights available when I wanted to travel, so I had to book a ticket to Bangkok and then transfer on to another flight with Air Asia to Chiang Mai” explained Ray. “Even though the recent massive increases in oil prices mean the tickets are much more expensive than they were a year ago, there is still intensive competition in Asia for passengers and you can pick up some bargain fares here if you know where to look” said our budget conscious traveller.

Above: The vast domestic passenger terminal at the recently opened Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. “It is an impressive architectural achievement” observed Ray, “and was built to replace the ageing Don Mueang airport in order to cope with the ever increasing number of passengers transiting through Bangkok as the Asian economies continue to grow

Upon arrival, Nikki was waiting for our traveller at the arrivals hall in Chiang Mai. “Arriving at a foreign airport and being met by a friendly face, especially someone close to you, has got to be one of the best, most joyful experiences one can have in life” said Ray, as he recalled the thrill of meeting Nikki. “Although we spent a month together back in March when we went to Ko Lipe (southern Thailand), it felt like it was ages ago and it was wonderful to see her again” he added. “Nikki has an English friend in Chiang Mai who is a Yoga teacher. He has his own studio, complete with a separate small house on a secluded, leafy and very quiet property inside the ‘old’ city. He needed to go back to the UK for a couple of months and invited Nikki to look after the house while he was away – the timing was absolutely perfect” he told me.

Above: Nikki’s English friend has his own Yoga Studio in Chiang Mai in a quiet, leafy compound on the edge of the ‘old’ city (left), which comes complete with a small house within the grounds (right) – “Having spent the last few months living in guest houses, Nikki was thrilled to have her own space, especially her own kitchen” said Ray, “whilst for me, I have spent nearly 1,000 days moving from one accommodation to another, living out of the same holdall. The opportunity to unpack everything and put my few items of clothing into proper draws for a few weeks was like heaven and an opportunity to experience having a ‘home’ for a little while” said our appreciative nomad. “I have become grateful for the most simple pleasures since I started travelling” added Ray

Below: Nikki makes Ray feel at home straight away by serving up one of her legendary organic salads – “She prepares some wonderful meals for the two of us. There is an abundance of cheap, fresh local fruit and vegetables here that makes your mouth water every time you go shopping” said Ray

Above: Nikki has established a base in Chiang Mai over the past year and is working part time as an English teacher at the London House School there – “She teaches young children between 5-10 years old English and Drama (twice a week) and is always really excited about the lessons she prepares for them” observed Ray. “She also has a creative partnership with an American lady called Erin Palmer and the two of them sometimes run professional training events for local organisations and businesses. One of the things I love about Nikki is that she really does her very best to integrate into the Thai community. She recently attended a three week basic Thai Language course at the Chiang Mai University so that she could enjoy more dialogue with Thai people in their own language” said a very inspired Ray as he gave me this picture of her holding her course completion certificate

Below: Although Nikki is learning some Thai, some of the locals still have problems with their English! This sign (left) is a landmark that enables visitors to find the ‘M Apartment’ building which is adajacent to the Yoga Studio where Ray and Nikki are staying – “This is typical of the kind of spelling mistakes you often find in signs and menu’s, which really make me smile” observed Ray. Meanwhile, Nikki makes good use of her ever expanding Thai vocabulary as she negotiates a good deal with one of the local fruit and veg ladies (right)

There are many options available when it comes to getting around in Chiang Mai. “Although you can hire a car while you are here, you really do not need to” said Ray. “The roads can get quite congested and there is nowhere to park – its just like London” he joked. “There is no public bus service as such and metered taxis have only been introduced recently so there are not very many around, which is just as well as they are expensive and a lot of drivers do not like using the meter. So most local people use something called a ‘Songthaew‘ which is like a cross between a bus and a taxi” explained Ray.

“The Songthaew’s operate all hours on many different routes but always between two fixed points. They will stop anyhwere if someone wants to get on, provided there is room, which there usually is.  And once you are on board, you can ask the driver to stop at any place along the route when you want to get off. Most rides cost a standard 30 pence and are very good value” he told me. “Another option is the noisy but very quaint tuk-tuks, which are gas powered tricycles that zip around the city. “The tuk-tuks are mainly used by tourists. Mile for mile, they are more expensive than Songthaews, as you do not share the ride with anyone else. Most local people get around on 100cc or 125cc motor cycles and at any one time, you will see thousands of them buzzing around the place” observed Ray.

Above: Songthaew’s (left) are the most popular form of transport in Chiang Mai – “Although they operate on fixed routes most of the day and evening, sometimes a driver will take you to a destination which is not on his route, provided that you can agree the right fare between you” Ray told me. Tuk-Tuk’s (right) are mainly used by tourists, which is why there are always plenty of them parked at the most popular spots in town, like these at Thapae Gate by the moat on the edge of the ‘old’ city

There are around 17,000 expats living in Chiang Mai at ony one time, for a variety of reasons. “Some people come here to retire, others to hang out for a while, whilst some come to work here, taking jobs as teachers or working with numerous NGO’s that have a base or field operations in the region” said Ray. “An NGO is a non-government organisation, typically set up to serve the local communities in developing nations by people from more prosperous nations” he explained to me. They are called NGO’s because they are typically funded by governments, but not part of the machinery of government and in some cases, NGO’s receive funding from other relief agencies or private donors”.

One such NGO operating in Thailand is the Constellation for Aids Competence. “The reason I know about them is that two of their team attend the same Thursday evening meditation group as me and Nikki. When they told us about their work here, we were fascinated to find out more and arranged to meet them for lunch with some of their colleagues who were visiting from overseas” said Ray. “Over lunch, we discovered that their vision is to support communities in developing countries at a local level to make sure AIDS competence spreads more quickly than the virus. They have built a team of experienced facilitators who mainly work on a voluntary basis, to spend time with community leaders and help them acknowledge the reality of HIV and AIDS, support them to build their capacity to respond and reduce their vulnerability to risk. Ultimately, they want to see every human being coming into contact with AIDS have the opportunity to live out their full potential” said Ray.

Above: Ray and Nikki head for Pun-Pun, a delightful vegetarian restaurant within the grounds of Wat Suan Dok (pronounced Swan Dock), one of Chiang Mai’s largest Buddhist temples which contains the Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (that’s Buddhist University to you and me) – “It is one of our favourite places to eat as the food is so good and the atmosphere is the most serene imaginable” said Ray. They chose the tuk-tuk on this occasion as their preferred transportation to the venue

Below: A truly International line up from The Constellation for AIDS Competence. Nikki with (from left to right): Coach Laurence Gilliot (Belgium), founder member and Chair Jean-Louis Lamboray (France), founder member and coach Dusit Duang (Thailand) and coach Gaston Schmitz (Holland) – “I was very inspired by this group of people, who are passionate about and dedicated to what they are doing” said Ray

Chiang Mai has a thriving cultural scene with much on offer every evening of the week. “In our experience, it punches well above it’s weight in this area when compared to city’s of a similar size in other Asian countries and it is one of the reasons it is so popular with expats” said Ray and Nikki.

Ray was recently invited one Friday evening to join a group of friends at The Chabad Centre, to celebrate the incoming Sabbath. “I had no idea there was any sort of Jewish community in Chiang Mai, and was surprised further still when I arrived to find well over 100 people gathered for the short religious ceremony and traditional Friday evening meal” said our not particularly religious traveller. “The evening was a real gas, with lively conversation over four courses of great food which was generously provided by our hosts at the centre. During the meal, there were frequent interruptions for blessings, stories and singing and although I didn’t understand any of the words, I enjoyed soaking up the wonderfully energetic atmosphere. It is well worth attending if you ever get to visit Chiang Mai” added Ray.

There is also a new theatre group in town, now that Stephan Turner, founder of The Gate Theater Group, has moved here from Chicago. “I discovered that he is a graduate from the Goodman School of Drama and he also founded the Stage Actors Ensemble of Chicago” said Ray. “Nikki is very impressed by him. I think she intends to appear in one of his forthcoming productions and I have to admit, I would be quite interested myself” he told me in confidence. “Chiang Mai is not known much for English theatre but enjoyed the presence of local and international audiences for the recent production of ‘The Gin Game’, which was directed by Stephan. “It was superb, and Stephan starred in the play too” added our theatre loving traveller.

Above: The Chabad Centre (left) is the venue every Friday evening for a lively, energetic Sabbath supper and regularly accommodates over 100 travellers of all denominations for some wonderful food, singing and praying! The Gate Theatre group recently performed the Pullitzer Prize winning play ‘The Gin Game’ (right) directed by and starring Stephan Turner, who you can see sitting on the right in the picture. The story is a powerful and provocative drama about two people in their twilight years who meet in a old age home and pass the time playing cards with each other whilst revealing their pasts which are full of heartache, regrets and unfulfilled dreams – “That’s something I hope will never be the case for me when I am old” says Ray

Relative to other parts of the world, the cost of eating out is so cheap in Chiang Mai, it hardly makes any sense to buy your own food and cook at home. “Sometimes, it is hard to find places that have really healthy vegetarian options and they also tend to prepare their meals so they are very spicy, which does not really suit my palate” said Ray. “So occasionally, Nikki and I will eat at home but more often than not, we go out for pretty much everything. Local dishes like chicken noodle soup or Som Tam (traditional spicy salad) can be purchased for around 40-50 pence. Ironically, fresh coffee costs twice as much but it is still lovely to have at least one cup a day” confessed Ray. “As a thank you to Nikki for hosting my visit, I offered to take her out a couple of nights to some of the local eateries that are slightly more ‘up market’, especially ones that we had not yet tried out in all the months we have been in Chiang Mai. Since she is a bit of a foodie, this was an extremely well received invitation and I think it scored me some very valuable brownie points” he told me.

Above: Sunday lunch, and Ray and Nikki opt for a bowl of Khao Soy (pronounced Cow Soy) at a local Thai eatery (left) – “For around 50 pence, you get a very tasty and filling bowl of egg noodles with spicy chicken in a kind of soup” said Ray, “which tastes delicious”. They then went to a newly opened ‘Tea Shop’ along the river for a pot of English Breakfast Tea with a selection of delicious little cakes (right), which cost nearly ten times more! “You’ve got to have a good old cuppa every now and again” said our very English traveller

Below: Nikki is dressed to kill as Ray takes her out one evening to treat her to some rather posh cuisine at one of the more ‘up market’ establishments in the city – “The list of great places to eat here gets added to constantly so there are always plenty of new venues to try out” said Ray

The Buddhist Temple at Wat Suan Dok was mentioned earlier when Ray and Nikki went to meet the group of people from The Constellation for Aids Competence. Like most Buddhist temples in Thailand, the monks there have an ongoing programme which is open to any member of the public from any race or denomination, in which people are warmly invited to meet with the monks, ask them questions about life in the monastery and meditate with them. “I discovered that Wat Suan Dok have a programme which they call ‘Monk Chat‘ and went along one Wednesday evening” said Ray. “I sat with three or four monks from Cambodia, Burma and Bangladesh and asked them about their lives. It was fascinating to me when they told me that some of them became novices at the age of 12, are now in their late twenties and have lived the whole of that time within the monastery according to their Buddhist beliefs and values. I found contemplating that reality pretty difficult, so when they invited me to come back the following week and go to their meditation centre in the hills with them for 24 hours, I jumped at the opportunity and willingly accepted” he told me.

Above: The International Buddhist Study and Viphassana Meditation Centre – which belongs to the Buddhist University at Wat Suan Dok – is somewhere that ordinary lay people can go to learn about mindfulness and meditation and the monks encourage as many people as possible to experience it. Getting there takes about 40 minutes by road from the city

Below: “The grounds of the centre are beautifully kept and the atmosphere is so calm, you feel like you can really slow down and enjoy the present moment so much more easily – something I am encouraging myself to do more often these days” said Ray

Above: The beautiful buddha images inside the very modern and very serene meditation hall

Below: Guests are only permitted to wear modest white clothes at the centre so that there is no sense of distraction for the mind – “During the period I was there, the monks showed us many different ways of meditating including sitting, walking and laying meditations” Ray told me. “For anyone who is just finding out about it, this is a great introduction” added our traveller

Editors Note: We have heard recently that Ray is going to be travelling to Australia from Chiang Mai on 10thAugust. We expect him to be there about 6-8 weeks. He is planning to visit Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne for some exploratory business meetings as well as socialising with friends. He will then return to Thailand via Coober Pedy, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Alice Springs and Darwin. Naturally, we will keep you posted and bring you all of his news and pictures as they arrive at our office.

We aim to maintain our high standards of journalism and presentation at The Daily Explorer, so if you a regular reader, please take a couple of minutes and give me your feedback so that we can improve future issues. You can use the comments box online or email ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at thedailyexplorer@gmail.com

With only a few days to go until Ray reaches his 1,000th consecutive day as a nomad, you now have an opportunity to enjoy a selection of Ray’s favourite pictures or moments from the last two and half years. To help us compile this special ‘anniversary’ collection, we asked Ray to trawl through all 60 previous issues of The Daily Explorer and the results are here below, together with comments from Ray in some cases as to why he chose each one. In most cases there are also links that will take you to the original issues the photographs were featured in if you would like to read the whole story again. Enjoy!

MOZZIE BYTE

Man of a Thousand Days – Special Anniversary Edition

“Blogging all over the World” – The Highlights

It all started back in November 2005 when Ray approached me and asked if I would compile a regular online journal for him and Nikki, who were leaving England to travel around Asia, for what they thought at the time might be a few months. That’s me (Mozzie Byte) on the left below and my co-editor Amber Solaire on the right. Our first task was to recruit a team of experienced online journalists who we could send out to follow Ray and Nikki as they made their way through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Australia. This all culminated with the launch of The Daily Lama, in December 2005.

Above: Amber Solaire (right) and me (left). From December 2005, when we completed our first issue of The Daily Lama until its demise in March 2007, we published 37 action packed issues

Below: We were fortunate enough to attract some of the best online journalists from around the world to join our team. Two of the most popular with our readers were Gran D. Tour (left), our guest travel correspondent in Vietnam, whilst in Australia, Chuck Maboomerang (right) was our man on the ground bringing us Ray and Nikki’s stories and photos

Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

Above: (left) “I chose this photo because it is a visual image that is very unusual. At the time, I was sitting in a small covered market in Sa Pa (northern Vietnam) having a bowl of beef noodle soup for lunch and when I looked all around me, there were people from many different Hmong ethnic tribes. Although they all look similar to us, they distinguish themselves by their colourful headgear. Being there reminded me of a scene from one of the Star Wars movies when they go into an Inter Galactic bar and see loads of strange and wonderful creatures from different parts of the galaxy, all hanging out together” (right) “When I arrived in Laos, I was very stunned by how basic everything was and it felt like a million miles away from what I was used to in England. Some of the Hill Tribe villages I visited with our guide rarely, if ever, see white people like me. They are very poor and only have access to electricity for one or two hours per day. So everything is done by hand, including the grinding of wheat to make bread. But still, the children are so bright and playful and have such high spirits – this group were really fascinated by my video camera and laughed uncontrollably when I played them back their own video images”

Above: (left) “I could not believe my own eyes when I saw the millions of people riding motorcycles in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). It was overwhelming. The country is prospering but cars remain something that only very few people can afford, although I am sure it is changing”. (right) “I encountered more wonderful children in Cambodia. These two boys kept me company at one of the many temples in the sprawling Angkorian complex at Siem Reap (formerly Angkor Wat). Only discovered relatively recently, the complex is vast and Nikki and I spent a week exploring all of it. Luckily for the Cambodians, it is in their country as it one of the principal reasons why visitors come to their country to spend their much needed currency. Cambodia has been devastated for many years since the ludicrously destructive Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot wreaked havoc in the mid 70’s and indiscriminate bombing by America during the Vietnam war prior to that”

Above: (left) “When I visited the site known as ‘The Killing Fields’ outside Phnom Penh, I stood speechless for some time as I tried to contemplate what went on there not too many years ago. Thousands of perfectly decent, loving innocent Cambodian men, women and children were routinely tortured and murdered because they refused to acknowledge a set of rules and values that were violently imposed by the Khmer Rouge. Yet another example of people who refused to give up their inner freedom in the face of the worst kind of intimidation imaginable”. (right) “Thousands of bones have been recovered over the years, yet despite this, we were still able to find tiny shards of bone and fragments of rotting clothing in different parts of the site – a grim reminder of the horrific events that took place, which until I went there, I knew very little about”

The Scary Moments

Above: (left) “When we were on the tiny island of Ko Tao in Thailand, I slipped whilst trying to climb some rocks and cut my arm. At the time, I was not really aware that it was important to sterilise the wound and thought that a dip in the sea would be sufficient. How wrong could I be? Within days, I had developed a severe fever and my arm had swollen to nearly twice its normal size. I knew something was badly wrong and that I had some kind of infection so went to the clinic on the island, where I was immediately put on a drip and not allowed to leave for four days! However, I still have my arm and it works perfectly so I am not complaining!” (right) “Another scary moment happened inside a temple compound in Vientiane, Laos. I lost track of where Nikki had got to for a few minutes and started to get a bit worried. I searched furiously for her but all I could see were some rather shifty looking chaps standing by a freshly dug mound of earth, causing my mind to come up with all sorts of stories about what might have happened to her. Fortunately, Nikki showed up a few minutes later!”

Becoming English Teachers

Above: “When we arrived in Thailand in November 2005, we travelled non-stop for three or four months until we reached Chiang Mai. We had always thought we might stop somewhere along the way and take some time out to qualify as English teachers (TEFL), as it meant we would always be able to create work and income while on the road. We really liked the feel of Chiang Mai and decided to enrol on a course run by the Language Institute at the Chiang Mai University. For me, someone who left school at 16 and went straight into business, it was an opportunity to experience something I missed out on in my youth and I got my taste of University life. The five week course was very challenging and very intense, but immensely satisfying when we eventually achieved our qualification. (You can watch a fantastic one minute documentary I made about the course below). While we were studying, we rented this fully furnished apartment with a/c, pool and gym for the princely sum of £150 per month between two of us”

Below: “During the TEFL course, Nikki and I taught Thai University students English for two hours each day and gained experience in preparing lesson plans and managing classroom dynamics” (left). “When I enrolled, I heard that an outstanding student could pass the course with a distinction or even a High distinction, although only one person in the history of the course had ever achieved the latter. I decided I wanted to be the second and set about passing at the highest level. I entered the final three hour exam with 75 points in the bag and needed an overall total of 95, with the exam itself worth 20 marks. That meant no room whatsoever for error. You can imagine how proud I felt when I achieved the ‘perfect’ score from my paper and it meant I became the second person to gain the ultimate result from the course (right). Nikki passed with distinction too and is now working as a part time teacher and doing very well at it, whilst I have yet to take on my first English teaching job”

Hair today – Gone tomorrow

Above: “These photos made it in to my collection as they were both opportunities for me to try a completely new and extremely different look with my hairstyle. The first came in January 2006 when Nikki and I were invited to a ‘Carnival Party’ on Ko Samui, which meant I needed a style in keeping with the theme. Hence I managed to procure this rather amazing wig (left) for the evening and I absolutely loved wearing it as I got to experience what it must be like to have long hair. Then in April 2006, we were invited to an April Fools party in our apartment block and had to do something foolish, so I decided to completely shave my head for the first time ever (right), which felt really weird. I must admit though, I definitely prefer it now”

Letting Go

Above: “Thailand, like many other countries in Asia is predominantly Buddhist, which is not a religion in the conventional sense but more of a philosophy of how to live without ‘suffering’. And when they use the word suffering, they mean the anguish that people feel when they become attached to particular things which they lose or when their expectations about particular outcomes are not met. So whilst travelling in Asia, I was always consciously examining my own attitudes to attachment and suffering to see where and how I could be more compassionate with the parts of myself I was generally criticising myself about. Meditation was the main vehicle for this as well as talking to wise people I met along the way and reading spiritual books. After the completion of my TEFL course in June 2006 (see above), I briefly returned to the UK to complete the process of letting go of my last few owned possessions, which included my much cherished Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle (left) and my Mercedes (right), which I felt I no longer really needed. Although I was able to let them both go, I have to admit that in my most private moments, I really miss that motorbike!”

Life’s Little Luxuries

Above: “Having now tasted life as a budget traveller, I have to say that I like the honest simplicity of living modestly and think overall that I even prefer it to the excesses of affluent western society that I was so much a part of for so many years. Way back then, I think I lost my sense of appreciation for the finer things and started to expect them almost by right. Now it’s very different. You can imagine how happy I was when I returned to Bangkok from England, flush from having sold my car and motorbike. It was around the time of Nikki’s birthday so I secretly arranged for us to leave our £8 a night guest house off the Khao San Road and check in to the luxurious ‘Four Seasons’ Hotel for a couple of nights. She was thrilled! I remember how comfortable the bed was with the heaps of sumptous pillows they give you and I realised that a comfortable bed was something that I had really missed”

Below: “When we were in Bangkok a year earlier, Nikki and I enjoyed a really romantic evening at ‘Sirocco’, which is the highest outdoor restaurant in the world. I had read about it some time before and always thought how lovely it would be to have a meal there with an uninterrupted view of the Bangkok skyline and a cool, night time breeze swirling around us. It was appropriately expensive and worth every penny! I think I spent more on our meal that evening than I do on food for a whole month in Chiang Mai!”

The Best Book

Above: “Mozzie Byte at The Daily Lama recruited our very own book reviewer – Paige Turner – in November 2006. The first book she recommended to Nikki was called “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert (right). I watched Nikki as she was reading it, laughing and crying in equal amounts and obviously thoroughly enjoying it. Then I read it after her and could not put it down. It is a true story about the author and how she spent a year of her life healing herself from a divorce, travelling to Italy, India and Bali. She recalls everything she was thinking and the people she met in each country as well as the impact they had on her life. It is a truly inspirational story and I have since seen it in the hands of many travellers I have met on the road”

Celebrities

Above: “Within a year of launching The Daily Lama, Mozzie and the team had attracted over 10,000 site visitors and Blogster, who were our web hosts at the time voted the Daily Lama as their ‘Blog of the Week’. The big media players started to take notice of the amazing journalistic talent that Mozzie and Amber had brought on board and we were being offered syndicated deals and partnerships left, right and centre. One of our photographs was chosen for the front cover of Time Magazine ‘Best Photos of 2006’ feature (left) and Hello! Magazine ran an exclusive feature on our detox at The Spa in November that year”

The Wild Bunch

Above: “In Luang Prabang in Laos, I needed lightning fast reactions when unbelievably, a wild tiger wandered into a remote woodland restaurant where Nikki and I had gone for lunch (left). I tried not to panic and was determined to stay focused. Then I carefully made my move and managed to escort the wild animal off the premises before anyone could get hurt. It was a very scary encounter. We had a similar situation in the Australian Outback when just before dawn, we were chased away from our camper van by a bunch of giant kangaroos (right). On that occasion, we managed to find a hiding place behind a large tree and quietly waited until they had gone”

Below: “In Kaikoura, on the southern island of New Zealand, I had one of the best experiences of my life when I went out to sea with one of the whale watching boats, hoping to get a close up view of some sperm whales. The boats are loaded with loads of high tech, expensive sonar equipment and can ‘hear’ whales feeding several miles below the ocean surface. Once they are in audio contact, the skipper and crew have sufficient experience to know how to track them, because once they have fed, they are inevitably going to come to the surface for air, and they will remain there for around 10 minutes while they replenish their entire oxygen supply. The day was informative, magical and exciting and it was the first time in my life I had seen a sperm whale at close range anywhere other than on television”

The Best Drive

Above: “When Nikki and I arrived in Perth on the West coast of Australia in December 2006, we started to consider the idea of crossing the Nullabor – a vast 3,000 kilometre stretch of dry scrubland which can be traversed by car, provided that you carefully plan your route and take all the safety precautions necessary, like knowing how to avoid collisions on the road with kangaroos and other wild animals. In distance terms, it is the equivalent of driving from London to Moscow. After doing our research, we decided to rent a properly equipped camper van for a week and set off for a real adventure, going from Perth to Adelaide along the 2,700 kilometre Eyre Highway which crosses the southern edge of the Nullabor Plain. There were times when we would not pass another vehicle for hours and one stretch where the road was dead straight for nearly 90 miles”

Once in a Lifetime

Above: (left) “When we arrived in Perth in December 2006 to spend Christmas with Nikki’s family, we were absolutely chuffed to discover that her cousin James had managed to get us tickets to see the Australian cricket team play England at the WACA stadium as part of ‘The Ashes’ test match series. These tickets are like gold dust and we had come across travellers in Asia who were on their way to Australia to see some of the matches being played”. (right) “In March 2007, we spent three glorious hours climbing the iconic steel arch of the Sydney Harbour bridge – that’s us two on the left of the official photograph. No one is permitted to take their own cameras or carry any loose items to ensure that nothing falls on to the moving traffic below”

The Best Shot

Above: “Mozzie asked me to choose my favourite landscape shot of the entire trip so far, which was almost an impossible task! After much deliberation, I chose this picture of Wineglass Bay in Tasmania, which was featured in our ‘Island at the Bottom of the World‘ issue in February 2007. I love everything in this picture – the vibrant colours, the view of the mountains cascading into the distance, the shape of the coastline and the way in which Nikki is just peacefully sitting on top of a rock taking all of the incredible beauty in. We hiked for a couple of hours to reach the vantage point where we took this picture from and it was worth every single second!”

The Daily Explorer

In March 2007, Ray started solo travelling around New Zealand whilst Nikki returned to Phnom Penh in Cambodia for seven weeks to participate in a community development project sponsored by an NGO. It was not certain when they would get together again, so Ray decided to create a new online publication called ‘The Daily Explorer’ as a vehicle for his solo travel stories. Once more, I was hired as Editor and after getting the site up and running, started the job of finding and recruiting some new writing talent to join the team. Since our launch, we have compiled 24 issues (including this one), switching to this new format in February 2008.

Above: Following the critical success of The Daily Lama, we were able to recruit a new breed of more sophisticated, up and coming, edgy writers from around the world. Two favourites with our readers are Matt Adore (left) who followed Ray around Spain and Morocco in October 2007 and Nick Elandimer (right) who wrote about our nomad’s travel adventures in the United States as we entered 2008

The Adrenalin Rushes

Above: In March 2007, I began my first experience of solo travelling, with a three month visit to New Zealand. Starting in Auckland on the north island, it is known as the ‘City of Sails’ because its harbour has more yachts per capita than any city in the world. As I explored the place, I soon discovered why New Zealand is sometimes referred to as the ‘Adrenalin’ Capital of the world. Within one block of my hostel is the Sky Tower, which you can see to the right of the picture standing high above the Auckland skyline. It is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. What I did not realise until I took a closer look is that you can jump from the top! In fact, it is the highest tower based jump in the world and for a first time jumper like me, the ideal choice, not! After a little hesitation, I decided to do the jump and made my way to the top. When you leap off the platform, you fall for 192 metres, fast and smooth at 85 kph for 14 seconds, before slowing in the last few metres to land gently on the pavement. The jump is controlled by a ‘fan descender’ cable system, the same technology used in movies when stuntmen fall from tall buildings”

Below: “Look carefully at this picture and you will see me hurtling towards the ground!”

Above: “Unlike the Sky Tower jump, which was an act of spontaneous madness, doing a bungy jump was something I had made a promise to myself many years ago that I would do. And not just any old bungy jump – A.J. Hackett from Queenstown, New Zealand invented the concept years ago so I thought that if i ever got to do a jump myself, that is where I would do it. The bungy business has matured since the early days and there are now jumps all over the world. Operators compete by making them longer and more daring. I chose to do the ‘Nevis‘ jump, which at 440 feet is the second longest jump in the world, giving you a staggering 8.5 seconds of silent freefall before the chord pulls. It was truly awesome and for those of you that missed it first time around, here is another opportunity to see the video footage of the jump (below). The clip lasts around two minutes”

Above: (left) “Exploring the mighty Franz Josef Glacier on the southern island of New Zealand was another first for me, as I had never even seen a glacier before, let alone climb one! It is one of 140 that flow from the Southern Alps. Few sights equal the spectacle of these giant tongues of ice, grinding down through the landscape to just 250 metres above sea level (the only place outside Argentina where this occurs). There were signs alerting travellers to the obvious dangers of climbing the glacier, which is continuously moving, causing collapses which can lead to very serious injuries or deaths. The ice has a blue tint, due to the Rayleigh effect, where tiny particles and minute air bubbles suspended in the ice scatter light in different directions. This scattering affects light of shorter wavelengths more than that of longer wavelengths, which is why short wavelength blue-violet light is refracted back first” (right) “Like the bungy jump, I had also promised myself that I would make a tandem free fall parachute jump at some stage and New Zealand granted me that wish too. Climbing in the aeroplane to 16,000 feet, I could feel my mouth getting dry and my palms sweating and then suddenly, we were hurtling through the air, faces ripping off as we moved through the sky like a missile at over 100 miles per hour! It was so exhilarating. From that height, you get a full one minute and 20 seconds of free fall before the chute is deployed, which is a very long time up there”

Below: “With less than two minutes to go to my big skydive, I start wondering if all of this was such a good idea – in New Zealand, I felt like I was living out my own version of ‘The Bucket List’ and have fulfilled many of the promises I made to myself”

The Most Unusual Place

Above: “In the small town of Napier on New Zealand’s north island, I came across what has to be the most unique backpackers hostel in the country and possibly the world. This is the only real prison in New Zealand where it is guaranteed you are free to leave in the morning! It was decommissioned in 1993 and acquired by it’s current entrepreneurial owner some 10 years later. The owner told me that he saw an article in the local newspaper about people who kept breaking in to the derelict building to sniff glue. He already had one hostel in the town and was looking for a second site which had bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom facilities and the idea just clicked. He approached the council and the rest is history. I just love hearing stories like this as they are really inspiring”

Below: (left) This tiny cell, which is pretty much the same as it was when this was a working prison, was my home for a couple of nights. With the open bars on the window, it was bloody freezing in there – I had two fan heaters in my room, plus half my clothes on in bed. It made me consider what it must be like to be held against your will and I really consider myself lucky that I have my freedom and independence” (right) “Stand still! Inmate no. JF4454813 – you are hereby sentenced to a couple of days of good fun, great company and some chilly nights in your cell – a relatively easy sentence!”

The Fun Places

Above: “Two places stick out in my mind from my visit to New Zealand. The first was in a tiny little town called Harewa where I came across the most bizarre thing I would have expected to find. Kevin Wasley, a local man, has been an Elvis Presley fan all his life and has assembled the largest private collection of Elvis memorabilia in the country and possibly the world! His garage and half of his small home (left) are now a museum dedicated to ‘The King’ and he receives contacts and visits from people all over the world. The second place, the ‘Lazy Shag’ backpacker hostel in Kaikoura (right) makes it into my list, but not for the reason you might think! This place epitomised the joy of the travelling life for me. I was waiting here to take the boat out to sea and catch a sighting of my first sperm whale. The weather was very intermittent, so we were sort of on standby, waiting for a call. I hung around for two days and in that time, I had so many laughs and great conversations with other travellers, I did not want to leave”

Going Solo

Above: “This is me, proudly displaying my road map of New Zealand which traces my route around the country. In 12 weeks, I covered about 11,000 kilometres and checked out just about every inch of the place. I managed to visit virtually every corner and completed some of the most amazing hikes I have ever done. Before I left Australia to go there, I have to admit I was very nervous about travelling alone. Up until then, I had only travelled with Nikki, so there was always someone to talk to and share the planning with. Having this experience was like a rite of passage for me and I faced my fears about being on my own and taking care of myself, discovering that I am much more comfortable and capable than I thought I would be”

Below: In New Zealand, I felt like a real explorer, going from one extreme point on the islands to another. Slope Point was the furthest south I could go without ending up in the sea!”

Spirituality

Above: “The Dalai Lama is someone who I greatly admire. He is a powerful man who inspires people through love, compassion and humility rather than force, manipulation or violence. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. He has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. He also became the first Nobel Laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems. I had heard much about him from many different people and hoped that I might get the chance at some stage to see him talk in public. My wish was granted in Sydney in June 2007 when I turned out with thousands of others on a wet and windswept day to listen to him talk for over an hour. His message was clear and simple: World peace starts with inner peace within yourself”

The Producers

Above: “I spent a couple of months in California at the end of 2007. During my trip, I stayed with an old English friend of mine called Mike Banks, who has lived in America for many years now. We both discovered that a chap called Dov Simmens, a well known veteran of the movie business, periodically runs a weekend ‘film school’ for anyone who wants to know what it takes to produce, sell and distribute a hit feature film. The course has a great reputation so we decided to do it together. In two intense, information packed days, Dov really covered the A-Z of the business and our heads were reeling. My friend Mike has written a screenplay which he would love to see taken up for a movie, and the course has helped him clarify how he might make some progress with his project. As for me, it was strictly for fun at this stage, but I am glad I have done it and I have added ‘making a hit feature film’ to my dreamlist for some time in the future”

The End of an Era

Above: My most recent visit to the UK, in February this year, culminated in the sale of my consulting business. When I left the UK to go travelling, I had not been entirely sure what I would do with the company. Then in 2007, fate lent a hand and I started a coaching relationship with someone who was launching a very similar consulting practise. Suddenly, doing some kind of deal with them made a lot of sense and on 11th March we signed contracts agreeing the sale. For me, it was purely a choice – an opportunity to ‘let go’ of something that had been a huge and joyful part of my life, something that I had used for a long time to define myself and a really great way of closing that particular chapter of the story so far. It was also the realisation of yet another one of my goals – to create something that would outlive me and be useful to others. I have a lot to thank Charlotte, my ex-wife, for as without her, this would never have been possible. With no job, no business, no fixed base and no possessions other than those I travel with, the question of how I will define myself now has yet to be answered”

Below: “My favourite picture of me is this one, taken by my old friend Grant Atwell, who I met in California in 2007 after 24 years. He is an amazing photographer and during a visit to London in March this year, he asked me to pose for this shot in Covent Garden, demonstrating how a professional eye for compositon can make all the difference. Whatever is next for me, I will make sure that Mozzie and his team keep you posted in The Daily Explorer”

Editors Note: On the 8th August, we published “Man of a Thousand Days (Part Two) – How it All Began“. This Daily Explorer ‘exclusive’ supplement was put together in response to many of you who requested more information during the last couple of years about the background to Ray’s decision to swap his conventional life for one of travel, exploration and uncertainty. We interviewed him at length to get the whole truthful story, uncut and straight from the source. For the first time, Ray lets us into his personal and private world. He reveals what really happened, reviewing the events that were taking place back in 2003 which signified enormous change for him and desribes how he responded to them. He helps us join the dots in a seemingly random chain of events that led to the start of the incredible journey he is on and recalls how things curiously unfolded in a way he could never have foreseen. It is unmissable!

We aim to maintain our high standards of journalism and presentation at The Daily Explorer, so if you a regular reader, please take a couple of minutes and give me your feedback so that we can improve future issues. You can use the comments box online or email ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at thedailyexplorer@gmail.com

MOZZIE BYTE

3 Comments »

  1. I spent my last holidays in Koh Samui, what a beautiful place! a truly paradise island. I stayed at Kamalaya, a fantastic health spa resort on the South of the island.

    Detox retreats, yoga, holistic treatments… all you could expect and more. I hope I can come back next year to visit Koh Samui.

    Thank you for your blog and information

    Alberto

    Comment by Alberto — August 7, 2008 @ 4:01 am

  2. One of the most important things I found out about colon cleaning is you MUST juice fast for 3-5 days to get the OLD stuff out of your system. Of course clear the fasting with your doctor first.

    Comment by Emma D — April 19, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

  3. I certainly enjoy reading this blog. Thank you.

    Comment by Hannah — April 20, 2009 @ 1:43 pm


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