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One traveller's day-by-day account of a year-long journey through Japan, China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada

much. I'll call him Gonzo, as I was transfixed by his monobrow. I think he used some kind of hypnosis to hold my attention. "Look into my eyebrow..." Anyway, he was a sound chap, whatever the state of his forehead hair.

We trekked on and arrived at our second hill tribe village, this time belonging to the more developed Zay people. They had lush, modern wooden houses, the kind that wouldn't look too out of place in the English countryside. Instead of making a living sending their kids out to flog shitty metal trinkets, they took a more entrepreneurial approach, setting up shops at strategic restpoints on the trekking route to fuel thirsty travellers. Finally we crossed a bridge and approached the house where my guide and I would be staying the night along with another guide and a Dutch couple - and home to a Zay family!

The family were *absolutely wonderful*. They didn't speak a word of English, and to be honest my ethnic hill tribe Vietnamese is a bit rusty as well, but through beaming faces we managed to indicate our appreciation at their hospitality. The female owner was a jolly woman, in her early forties I guess (it's so hard to put an age on these people) who, er, took quite a shine to me. I kept on catching her staring at me and my beard with a look of fondness, and the guide would translate "Very