I'm leaving tomorrow to spend a couple of weeks driving around New Zealand's South Island - well actually my wife will be doing the driving and I've been relegated to the role of map-reader. Despite the fact that driving a car was part of my job back in the UK, I haven't been behind a wheel for almost 18 years and the wife thinks that's far too long away. I keep telling her it's like riding a bicycle and something you never forget how to do, but my protests are all falling on stony ground as they say in the good book. I'm excited about this trip because New Zealand is a place I thought I'd never get to visit. One of my more cynical colleagues from years ago used to question why anyone would want to visit New Zealand when it's just like Wales only much further away. I can't argue with the distances. Even Australia has always seemed a ridiculously long way to go for a vacation - and yet look on a map of the Pacific Rim and you'll see that New Zealand is Australia and then some. It's a bloody long way from home! I've just checked the weather stats for Christchurch and it's a chilly sixteen degrees with a good chance of rain. That sounds like my idea of heaven. The food, the scenery and the people are all sure to be an enjoyable part of any trip to New Zealand but it's the change of climate I look forward to most. Imagine the joy of being able to wear two layers of clothing. Imagine the simple pleasure of not breaking into a sweat - just by walking from an office building to the nearest sky-train station.
I like to get out of Thailand once a year. Perhaps you can have too much of a good thing I really don't know. Mini-breaks in Chiang Mai and Hua Hin are all well and good but they are still Thailand. The same heat and humidity. The same language barriers. The same dishes on every menu. I remember my old friend Paddy who lived in Hua Hin (sadly no longer with us) and how much he used to relish his quarterly visa runs to the Malaysian border - despite being married, retired and well-qualified for a one-year visa. "I love to have a break from Thailand every three months" he used to say. "Meet a few different people and see something new". Mind you, if you'd met his Thai wife, you might have formed your own opinion.