All of Us

Sadly I have to report that I haven’t yet found a way out of this disturbing parallel universe. Meanwhile this dark version of history keeps getting worse. I don’t have words to describe the baleful destruction, divisiveness and stupidity playing out on both sides of the Atlantic at the moment. Instead I’ve found a hiding…

Help! My Plane Touched Down in a Dystopian Parallel Universe

Have you read The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, or Dominion (C.J. Sansom)? Two works of alternative reality science fiction in which the points on the railway of history are switched another way, throwing humanity down the wrong track. Well, I say science fiction, but this has just happened to me. Somehow on the return…

Thoughts on Solo Travel

“Where from?” the lady asks, trotting along to keep up with me. I can only see her eyes. She’s wearing trainers, trousers, a hoodie with the hood up and the sleeves stretched down over her hands, a floral face mask like a surgical mask, and a large conical straw hat on top of her hood….

Hanoi Howl

(Never speak to me of the sleeper bus.) I arrived in Hanoi at the worst possible time, late at night in the middle of the Full Moon celebrations. My taxi got as far as Hoan Kiem Lake, which was a miracle in itself, then became hopelessly enmeshed in a loud chaotic crush of people and…

Café Crawl

From the moment I first walked around Luang Prabang I felt at home. It was familiar to me, as though I’d lived there for years. I suppose this was down to the familiar French influence on the architecture, with elegant shuttered villas lining the quiet streets, tucked in between the gold-leaf temples and lush banana…

The Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

Once upon a time some intrepid travellers ventured on to the slow, low-slung, heavy cargo boats that furrow their way through the dun-coloured waters of the Mekong in northern Laos. What a voyage that must have been, chugging along to Luang Prabang, squashed on to wooden benches among sacks of rice and livestock. Inevitably, word…

Almsgiving Misgivings in Luang Prabang

One of the most famous things to do in Luang Prabang is to watch the daily almsgiving ceremony at dawn, in which lines of monks walk down the street to receive offerings of food from locals sitting on low stools or kneeling on the pavement. Tourists are asked not to give alms unless it is…

Unexploded Paradise

When I arrived in Luang Prabang it was still sizzling after a visit from Barack Obama, who flash-fried the town with his presence only hours before my own unremarkable arrival. During his visit Obama gave a speech in which he acknowledged the US’s secret war in Laos and its ongoing legacy of UXO, the unexploded ordnance…

Bread & Breath

“Meditation is bread.” At first my heat-saturated brain groped for the metaphor. Meditation as nourishment for the mind. Then I frowned. “Do you mean breath?” The novice monk nodded. “Yes, bread. Controlling monkey mind, always trying to have, always wants. Just focus on bread.” Then, of course, I became headily aware of my own breath….

Avoiding the Elephant

The elephant is the national symbol of Thailand, and as such it is virtually unavoidable. I have no idea what the UK’s national symbol is, although post-Brexit I would like to propose something along the lines of an ostrich. But Thailand seems to take its symbolism seriously, so you find elephants everywhere. Elephant lamps, statues,…

Theft at a Temple 

I left London with my usual feet at the end of my legs, but by the time I arrived in Thailand these had been mysteriously replaced by puffy great imposters that were significantly larger than my old ones, if not any longer, and they wouldn’t go away. This meant that my sandals, which fitted comfortably…

A Falang Attempts Street Food

It took a while to get the hang of the street food stalls in Bangkok. Jet lag meant I wasn’t hungry when I was supposed to be, and carts appeared and disappeared depending on the time of day. I would pass a string of bustling stands full of mouthwatering dishes when I didn’t want to…