Vietnam: The Final Chapter

So I returned from my Vietnam trip almost two months ago now, and I haven’t fully written about how it all ended. It’s taken this long for me to get round to it. For me, I came home early having reached a point during the trip where I decided it just wasn’t for me (see a few posts back). The first two weeks were fantastic, don’t get me wrong, and my life has definitely changed thanks to the experiences we had. I’m very glad I did it, and should such a situation arise again I may very well partake such an adventure again.

Matthew Ian Avis

Unfortunately for my traveling buddy, he was never to return.

Matt (Mavis to his friends, and Matthew Ian Avis to the newspapers) continued on with the trip without me. Being the biker he was, he fell in love with the trails and the stunning roads. A bikers heaven. He carried on with two other backpackers we’d met before I left (a team of riders whom I had previously nicknamed TIBULA). On Friday 6th December he sent me the map of the final route for the final ride:

Mathew Ian Avis

He knew I’d had enough of the bikes and continued to update me (and a biker forum, so I later found out) of all their breakdowns on that final leg. He was so keen to keep to the rough schedule we’d both agreed (get there 3 days before our return flight so we could sell the bikes on to other backpackers who want to ride back North).

Matthew Ian Avis

On Sunday 7th December they completed the trip. Well and truly within the time limits. I know he was over the moon to have finished the journey. And I was incredibly pleased for him to have done so, if not a little jealous (and annoyed that I hadn’t completed it). It was long, arduous, painful, costly and life changing. But he did it (unlike me). A fantastic achievement.


Mavis died in the early hours of Sunday 8th in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. My understanding is that they had gone out that night to celebrate the end of the trip, and somehow (yet to be fully explained to me) he fell from a balcony at the hostel he was staying at and died from his injuries. He was 33.

It’s indescribable for me to try put anything into words that explains how I feel. People go through grief in a multitude of fashions. It pains me in unfathomable ways that I didn’t stay longer and complete the trip too. It pains me that I wasn’t there. It pains me that Mavis is no longer with us.

We all suffer the loss of such a fantastic friend, colleague, brother and son. But nobody loses out more than Mavis, for not being given the opportunity to carry on with the crazy, lucky, full life he lead.

But when he was here, we did incredible things with incredible people. And that’s what I’m taking from him. Be incredible.

Matthew Ian Avis

I tip my hat to our employer, Endemol and Channel 5, who allowed us to dedicate the first show of Celebrity Big Brother 2015 to Mavis as he was due to start pre-production Directing on the series when we returned from Vietnam in December. The entire crew (large enough that all our offices and portacabins are referred to as “the village”) have taken a huge blow with his loss. A donation was also made towards the charity chosen by his family at the funeral.

In Memory

Two days before Christmas of 2012 I was told that a work colleague of mine had lost his fight with cancer. Mark O’Leary was a Sports Producer at Sky, working closely with the gallery team and presenters at Sky News. He would waltz into the gallery wearing outlandishly bright hawaiian shirts, cracking jokes and having a laugh with everyone with seconds to spare before going back on-air from a commercial break. He was a genuinely good guy with a presence that could change the atmosphere of a room. He is a sad loss for all of us.

I only recently learned that Marko was a bit of a Trekkie. He loved sci-fi and had been watching the remastered High Definition episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation as it was being broadcast by the Syfy channel in the UK. I’d been doing the same thing over Christmas, having also discovered the re-run would be from the very first episode. It fills me with joy and sadness to think that Marko was watching and laughing at the same funny bits I was. A moment shared without realisation.

Unfortunately due to the amount of people Marko knew and left an impression with, there was only limited space at his funeral and I couldn’t be there. But I think I’ve managed to do something in his memory that he would have been thrilled with…

A team in the U.S. have been running a project to rebuild and restore an original Star Trek The Next Generation ‘Enterprise D bridge’ that was about to be thrown out by Paramount. The ‘bridge’ is one of the most iconic and fundamental areas for any Star Trek series. The entire Enterprise D bridge will become an interactive museum used for teaching as well as carrying the history of Star Trek.

The restoration team put out a message on their Facebook page asking for any names they could integrate into the restoration, so I left them a message and emailed them asking if they would include Marko’s name somewhere. And they replied saying “not a problem”.

And so Marko’s name will be inscribed onto an iconic Isolinear Chip, installed on the bridge computer, with his memory becoming an actual Star Trek memory chip on-board the restored Enterprise D bridge.

The set will eventually travel around the world to conventions and shows, before settling as a museum piece for all to experience.

I hope that works for you, Marko.

Enterprise D Restoration

Mark O'Leary

UPDATE: A separate memorial service organised by Marko’s employer, British Sky Broadcasting, is to take place on the 29th January 2012.