Two Months in Asia: Bullet Trains and Samurai Swords

Saturday 17th May

We slept for about ten hours straight after our Great Wall excursion. Had a bit of a lazy day the next day but managed to see a few more sights in central Beijing. The Drum and Bell towers are situated in the north of the city and provided the city’s first public timing system. On the way to this part of town we dove down some alleys and through some street markets. Street food here is excellent stuff, nothing like the generally mixed bag you get in England in that it’s actually good and doesn’t make you hurl.

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Two Months in Asia – Culture shock and an Embalmed Mass Murderer

Wednesday 14th May

On Wednesday we went to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City located in the heart of central Beijing. Tienanmen square has lots of interesting stuff like a mausoleum (Mao-soleum?) containing the embalmed corpse of Chairman Mao, a museum about Chairman Mao, statues of Chairman Mao, and also some large pictures of Chairman Mao. At the moment China is on high terror alert due to a series of attacks in other parts of the country. Consequently, the centre of Beijing is currently crawling with heavily armed soldiers (shotguns, sniper rifles), with security checks at most entrances and exits of public buildings, metro stations and tourist attractions.

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After Quitting the PhD – A Career Leap to Games Programming

It was a solid month after quitting my PhD before I really started to freak out about what to do with my life. For a while before deciding to quit I’d been convinced that it was a great idea to become some kind of amazing sci-fi author and live out a crazy, hermit-like existence. There’s even the opening chapter to novel kicking around somewhere that I was convinced was going to get finished. Whilst it certainly would’ve been interesting, I’m kinda glad I came to my senses and chose something sensible. Like a complete career shift to games programming.

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Two Months in East Asia – Off to China!

After quitting my PhD in December 2013, I got chatting with a few people about what I was going to do next. Generally I’d just sort of vaguely say “Travelling, I guess” followed by a swift change of subject. Mike Pettit apparently said something to his Mum about wanting to travel to Vietnam at some point, who then told my Mum, who then told me.  Subsequently Mike and I got in touch and ended up planning an epic adventure. Good old Mums.

To start with, we had a short list of geographically disparate destinations that we assumed it’d be fine to get round in two months. A fairly arsey travel agent informed us that we’d started planning far too late with our trip and that we couldn’t do all the countries we wanted to by a long shot. Great news! It turned out this guy was mostly a moron but he at least helped us narrow down our list of countries. We finally settled on China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and booked it all through another (far more enthusiastic) travel agent. Charles Clarkson, a man with whom I’ve a protracted love-hate relationship, decided to come with us for the three-week China leg of the trip. I was initially sceptical about this but it worked out pretty well in the end! My girlfriend, Rachael, flew out for the week we spent in Hong Kong too, which was a nice sort of mini-holiday in the middle of the whole thing.

We’d only booked our flights into Beijing and out of Bangkok so the rest of our itinerary was down to us. Initially I’d been quite concerned about this but it turns out that if you just wing it these things usually turn out fine. Over the next few months we had a seemingly endless procession of injections and visa applications. After all that it was a relief to be actually leaving and getting on with this whole “adventure of a lifetime” thing…

Editorial: 

These entries were written as letters to my family while on the road as we travelled around Asia. The writing style changes slightly and gets more verbose as I get further up my own arse. I’ll mostly leave these as they were written, adding occasional notes as needed. 

The following entry was written after a 17 hour flight from Gatwick to Bejing, therefore it’s a little disjointed. Decided to leave it as is to underline the level of jet lag.

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Quitting My PhD Course

During the first week of my PhD course we were told the pass rate was 95%. That is, 95% of those who make it to the end of the 3.5 years will pass their final examination, but around 40% of all people who start a PhD drop out before then. Upon being told this everyone automatically assumes this will never happen to them. After all, all you have to do is stick it out to the end, right? When contemplating quitting I’d be told things like

“Haven’t you got over half way through? Can’t you hang in there till the end and move on to something else? You’ll definitely regret quitting.”

When the remaining time feels like a prison sentence (melodramatic, but genuinely how I felt at the time) then it’s probably time to call it a day regardless of how far through you are.

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Let’s try blogging!

Hi Internet!

If you don’t know me, I’m a Physics graduate who’s been spending the last year teaching myself to code and trying to get into the games industry. So much has happened over this time that it’s going to be difficult to sum it all up in one post. The plan is publish a few posts on what I’ve been up to over the past year, including:

  • Quitting a PhD in Physics
  • Figuring out what to do with my life
  • Teaching myself to code
  • Making games
  • Travelling around the world
  • Trying to get into the games industry

After I’ve done all that I’ll move on to what I’m working on right now: Making a totally sweet first-person horror game and trying to get a job!

I’ll probably put all the travelling stuff in a separate sub-blog as it’s really it’s own thing. Most of these entries were written on the road while travelling around Asia in Spring of this year. I only managed to write up about two thirds of the trip as I got caught up in actually doing things rather than writing, but there is still a fair amount of material as I got quite carried away…

So yeah, that’s the plan. I’ll try and get a couple of posts out each week depending on how busy I am. In the mean time, here are some reviews of my travel writing:

“This is great! You should be a travel writer” – Mum

“Why are you writing this? Does anyone care enough to read all of that?” – Charles Clarkson

“It’s great and everything but it is starting to read like the diary of Anne Frank” – Mike Pettit