Bear Witness

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This was always going to be a tough day, but a necessary one. Every visitor to Cambodia denounces the capital Phnom Penh as a dirty city that has no redeeming features other than the necessity of visiting the two most well known relics of its brutal history: the Killing Fields and the notorious torture prison Tuong Sleng or S21. For what it’s worth, I found the city to be perfectly decent although by no means a wonderful place. There are decent cafes, restaurants and good hostels. Nevertheless, I was really only here for one reason and that was a painful one. Continue reading

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Buffalo buffalo buffalo Vietnamese buffalo

DSCF3660 (Copy)“You need taxi?”

“No thank you”

“You need hotel? I know really nice hotel. Cheap cheap. Ten dollar”

“No, thanks. I have a reservation”

“…You need hotel? Ten dollar”

“I… no, really. It’s fine. Thanks. I have a reservation. Could you tell me which way the cathedral is?”

“That way”, he says, pointing down the road.

So after ten minutes of walking in the wrong direction, I finally figured out the correct way to go, arriving wet and cold in the dark. Bastard taxi drivers have it in for me wherever I go. Continue reading

Carry On Up The Peninsular

DSCF2487 (Copy)The first decision to make upon planning a journey in to Malaysia is which direction to head in once you leave Singapore. Do you go north east and follow the coast to tropical paradise? Or do you realise it’s monsoon season and go north west and follow the culture?

No prizes for guessing which one I ended up doing. The eastern coast of the Malaysian peninsular is known for the Tioman and Perihentian islands and their unrivalled seas and pristine beaches. The annoying storms that shut down the ferries for months at a time were in full swing however, and so the day before I left I discovered my next few weeks of planned travelling were completely destroyed. Not to worry. We think on the hoof in these parts. Continue reading

Sing For Your Dinner In Singapore (Because You Don’t Have Enough Money)

DSCF2300 (Copy)Stepping from the icy air conditioned Terminal at Singapore’s Changi airport, the heat and humidity sucker punches you in the face. Like walking through hot soup, even a short walk will leave your shirt clinging to your body. Combine that with a heavy backpack and you will have an uncomfortable time. Fortunately it is a breeze to get an air conditioned minibus to your hotel/hostel, and so begins the life of hopping from air con to air con wherever possible. Continue reading

Hong Kong. All Of It.

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The final insult of China was at the border. In a final, desperate attempt to extract that last bit of cash from you, there is a bus that you have to take and of course this costs money. I throw my Yuan at the ticket counter and I have to make a conscious effort not to be bitter about this petty money grabbing that has been a feature of China since I arrived in Beijing all that time ago. Continue reading

Leaping Tiger, Snapping Tourists: On The Fringes Of Tibet

DSCF1807 (Copy)Chinese tourists just love Lijiang. When I arrived you couldn’t move for them and the winding alleyways and narrow lanes clogged with humanity as a result, which is a great shame and a perfect example of the behemoth that is the burgeoning middle class of China. It has been said that more than 50% of China’s entire population is middle class, and they want a holiday! The small city receives 5 million domestic tourists every year, all of them convening in the old town. With me. Continue reading

Panda Eyes in Chengdu

DSCF1695 (Copy)You hear tales of the sleeper trains in China. Jam packed with noisy noodle slurping locals stealing your seat, or in this case, bed. Smoking in the corridors. Spitting in the corridors… Happily this was untrue for me, and the night passed in a quiet, gently rocking style as the train trundled at a leisurely 60 mph to its final destination at Chengdu at a very sensible time of 10am. Cheaper than a hotel! Continue reading

Army In Darkness: Xian And The Terracotta Warriors

DSCF1584 (Copy)With smog so thick in Beijing you could spoon it over yoghurt, I was looking forward to getting out to clearer climes. How naive. Getting the train to the ancient walled city of Xian from Beijing allows you to experience the narrow end of China’s explosive development and how it is embracing technology as quickly as possible. The bullet train is every bit as sleek and clean as its Japanese cousin and is by far the simplest way to get to the central western city of a thousand stone soldiers. Five hours in a comfortable clean train or thirteen hours in a rickety old sleeper berth. It’s not really a choice is it? Continue reading

Five Days In Beijing (Is Not Enough)

DSCF1208 (Copy)The crossing in to China was a painless affair, assisted with beer purchased at the border from the convenient supermarket. A quick look at the shelves and it was clear we were no longer in Kansas. Vacuum packed pickled pig trotter anyone? And that was one of the few items that were identifiable. Many more nondescript but-almost-certainly-some-kind-of-offal lined the shop, and the fruit juices became all the more esoteric. Beer, thankfully, was easy to spot and with nary a crazy fruit or animal organ to be found in the bottle, it was about all I needed to take me to Beijing. Continue reading