I first went travelling (by which I mean that we would only book the return flight when we’d run out of money) nearly eleven years ago when the follower with the complicated user name on the right hand side (aka Ni) and I spent four months exploring Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. It was the best four months ever and destroyed my enthusiasm for holidays (by which I mean that you book your outbound and return flights at the same time) for several years. After six months, we had begun to feel at home in Africa and I was sad to leave, but one of the great things about travelling is that departures are only the end of the chapter, not the whole book and I was cheered up by the prospect of returning to Asia.
There were plenty of good reasons for not returning to the countries I’d been to before: ten years is a long time for places I'd loved to become unrecognisable, I’d avoid boring Alex with endless observations of how things used to be and there were so many unvisited countries to see. But, actually, I was itching to return - and anyway, our flight schedule had already committed us to Thailand (which you’d have to be bloody-minded to avoid on a trip round Southeast Asia) and Vietnam (which made more sense at the time of booking than it did several months later when we came to working out the logistics).
Thailand was Tourist Central even then, but we’d heard there were still opportunities to get away from the crowds, so it would be ‘same same but different’, I figured. I couldn’t imagine Laos having the ambition or inclination to change much. But Vietnam, my favourite, was only just starting to make the most of the tourists beginning to flood over the borders. Ni went back five years ago and had already warned me not to expect the same. So, my expectations were suitably managed and our flight schedule showed that persuading Alex to go had already been taken care of.