I live in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok, just a short tuk-tuk ride from Asok BTS station. The balcony of my condo has fantastic views of the gleaming towers of the ‘new’ Bangkok – shopping centres, luxury hotels, office blocks. In 10 minutes I can be shopping at Tesco, Boots or H&M, sipping a latte at Starbucks, or having lunch at McDonalds, Burger King or Subway. In short, this part of Bangkok, the part in which, along with Silom, most tourists spend their time, is much like any other modern city.
In the film Gladiator, Russell Crowe, playing a Roman General, is told, “Death smiles at us all … all we can do is smile back.” Truer words were never spoken in relation to Torajaland, a unique outpost amid the thousands of islands comprising Indonesia. Several elements make Torajaland stand out for those interested in overseas adventure. There’s the unique Torajan architecture. The inhabitants were former headhunters. The Dutch tried to conquer this area and only did so through the spread of Christianity. It is also famous for being a region where outstanding coffee is produced.
A few months back my good Cambodian friend Sinan called me & told me he was doing a road trip on the alternative route from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, via the city of Battambang. As it had been a while since my last trip to Cambodia, and visiting that country is always an absolute pleasure, I decided to hop over & join him.
The Cretin said, "The Cretans are always liars." - The Liar Paradox
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City by plane, checked through immigration and customs and walked out of the terminal to the taxi stand to get a cab to my hotel (the Trang Long Hotel on Mac Thi Buoi Street, a tourist hotel in the heart of a tourist district.) I had reservations and know the place well as I have stayed there several times. The taxis in Ho Chi Minh City are equipped with meters, but at the airport the drivers refused to use them, instead demanding a flat rate of US$10 into town. A rip-off price, but so it goes at airports and bus stations the world over where they have you over a barrel. Tired and anxious to get to my hotel, I argued only weakly, then agreed to the $10.
The waters of the Kampot River lapped at the sides of our long-tailed boat as we made our way north in search of one of nature's tiny nocturnal wonders.
The Kampot is full of fresh water in the river this time of year (in an interesting quirk of nature, the river running from Kep to Kampot and to the north is fresh water for six months, and salt water for the rest of the year), which means the phytoplankton aren't in the water to offer passersby a waterborne light show.
Not to worry. The fireflies are in charge of the night's entertainment.
Most Tourists and even expats that I know head for Sihanoukville (Kampong Som) when they want to get away to the beach for the weekend. However, I find it too crowded, too noisy, and too full of obnoxious tourists fresh out the bar and looking to "chat it up" on what was supposed to be my relaxing weekend getaway. Not to mention how disgusting the beach is the day after Khmer New Year, literally lined with trash.
Tourism in Vietnam is finally getting sexy! Late last year, the powers that be appointed a new “tourism ambassador” in the shapely form of actress Ly Nha Ky, who, as the comment in the title suggests, seems to be more famous for getting her kit off than for her knowledge of tourism or ambassadorial qualities.
Republished - Feb 2012
It was a decision based on avoidance. An avoidance of two things: Christmas and Cambodia. The idea of another December 25th with fake snow and Happy Merry Christmas written on every available surface while you felt your skin being fried under the relentless Cambodian sun was enough to prompt the quest for a location far, far away from sweaty Santas. After a bit of geographical and financial arithmetic Myanmar presented itself.
(Continued from last week, The Magic of Myanmar Part 1)
Republished - Feb 2012
I’m not sure if it was the suitcase crashing down on my head, or the cold and hunger on the train that did it, but when we arrived at our hotel in Mandalay, the Emerald land Inn, it did indeed feel like we had walked into a giant gem. The room was spacious, comfortable and had a bath. Sold.
(Continued from last week- Part 2 Mandalay and Beyond)
Republished - Feb 2012
Super early wake-up calls result in most of the morning resembling an out-of-focus film, and this one was no different. By the time I was able to concentrate I realized that it was dark and cold, and we were sitting on a boat staring at a TV screen playing back-to-back music videos by Boney M. I never remembered them as being such activists, and exactly how ‘far out’ their wardrobes were.