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

Towards Bangkok Via A Full Moon

DSCF3366 (Copy)From Koh Samui, the boat plodded to the north in the evening, leaving the lights of the larger island behind while heading to the infamous island of hedonism, Koh Phangan. Chatting to some Canadian girls on the ferry, I began to worry about my own choice of accommodation on the island. While they sensibly plumped for a place on a quiet beach, I was in the lion’s den as I thought it would be easier to get to (and more importantly, from) the largest party in the region. The Full Moon Party. Continue reading

Travel Is People

It’s raining in Hanoi, and the grey skies are matching my mood so I am going to take a quick break from the norm here and write a short piece about the actual act of travelling, that is as much for my own self indulgent therapy as anything else. Apologies if this ends up like a teenage girl’s diary. I have been inspired by the blogs of people I’ve met and they are incredibly open about their journeys and the ways in which it affects them. Continue reading

Bad Tats And Backwards Baseball Caps

DSCF3300 (Copy)Stepping from the boat on to the pier at Phi Phi’s main jetty, you suddenly realise what people are talking about when they turn their noses up at southern Thailand. I met a guy working on Langkawi who hated southern Thailand, and all the while I was on Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta and Tonsai, I had his comments in my mind, all the while thinking “Why?” Continue reading

Same Same, But Different: Island To Island In Thailand – Part 2

DSCF3143 (Copy)Koh Lanta lies on the opposite side of the Andaman coast to Phuket and its opposite to that place in almost every fashion. Where Phuket is rash and loud, Lanta is calm and sedate. You can drive up the entire western side in half an hour on a scooter and while Phuket is awash with luxury resorts and backpacker digs, most of Lanta is occupied by bungalows and low key affairs draped along the beach. Continue reading

Hop It. Island To Island In Thailand

DSCF2608 (Copy)Imagine, if you will, a border crossing between two countries that in many ways do not get along. There are bouts of violence between ethnic groups in Malaysia and Thailand, and the Foreign Office recommend that people do not travel across land borders here. I gave myself a free pass given I’ve moved from Ecuador to Colombia so everything that comes after that is easy. Nevertheless, there’s always an easier (and classier) way to do things and so I took a boat to Thailand. 200 horsepower jetted us from Langkawi to the southern island of Koh Lipe, preserve of honeymooners and young families. This is not a backpacker classic, but it was on the way north and by all accounts a beautiful place. Passport control was a dread-locked Thai-Rasta (a staple of southern Thailand) who took all our documents behind the cafe that served as immigration and after ten minutes sunning ourselves on a white sand beach, cooling our toes in the Andaman sea, we were all stamped and ready to go. Heathrow could learn a thing or two about convenience. 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

To Lah, Or Not To Lah, In Malaysia

DSCF2500 (Copy)After leaving Hong Kong, one of the first things that caught me by surprise in Singapore was the accented English. Singaporeans and to a lesser extent Malays, speak English as native speakers with (to my ears at least) Indian accents complete with mannerisms such as the head wobble. The usage of the word “lah” here and there in a fashion that is impossible for the outsider to crack in a short amount of time, supposedly has its roots in Chinese. Given the colonial history of the region, this isn’t a huge surprise, especially with the large number of Indians who have made their homes here for well over a century. I was expecting to English to be swept aside in toto as soon as I crossed in to Malaysia but this did not happen. True, the primary language switched to Bahasa Malaysia but I was certainly surprised by the number of locals whose grasp of English was that of a native speaker or close to it. Continue reading