Month: December 2017

Southeast Asia In Pictures: Week V

So we return to where we left off: in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang. Before catching the bus to Hội An, I spent a morning discovering the city’s avenues and narrow backstreets. I found these glorious blue shutters, observed cyclo drivers dozing in the shade, women peeling vegetables on the pavement, motorcycles on every corner. There isn’t a huge amount of ‘tourist’ fodder in town, but it felt like a genuine place, representative of Vietnam today, a blend of centuries-old traditions and burgeoning modern commerce. Hội An is geared towards tourists, but a beautiful place to wander around not doing much for a few days. My travel partner was felled by another bout of the flu, but my Singapore-resident mama and friend had already arranged to meet us there, so I spent two sunny, blue-skied days exploring with them, ferrying tea and pastries back to the invalid’s bedside at appropriate intervals. Hội An’s trademark silk lanterns, beautiful and evocative of an Old Asia, long lost on most parts of the continent. The Old …

Book vending machine at Books Actually in Singapore

The Reading Year | My Top Books Of 2017

Today I’m taking a break from travel-related missives to talk about books, glorious books – the top books of 2017, and those I didn’t enjoy so much too. Many of my favourite below-the-line discussions on this little website have revolved around the written word, why we read what we do, and shared recommendations. A surprising part of our long trip away from home has been how much I missed paper books – their unmistakable smell, thoughtfully designed covers, the crunch of a page between the fingers, the pleasing crack of a paperback’s spine. E-readers are ever so convenient, but nothing will trump a proper book for me. I’ve read thirty books this year (but plan to squeeze a few more in on the thirteen-hour flight back to London and over the festive period), far fewer than some years, but not too shabby. Last year, I promised “I’ll strive to always be reading, to always have a book on the go, to never be without one in my bag (Rory Gilmore, you’d be proud), to always …

Southeast Asia In Pictures: Week IV

Every week during our eight-week trip across Southeast Asia, I plan to post a handful of snapshots and stories from the week just gone. We sped into Vietnam, literally, in a minivan, mere minutes after being hurried through the border by our Khmer driver, who insisted we were about to miss our connection (an air-conditioned coach with functioning seatbelts, we’d been assured) to the Mekong Delta. We waved a flustered goodbye to the three Dutch women we’d befriended on the coach from Kep and ran, backpacks bobbing, across no-man’s land, into the waiting minivan. Which waited. And waited. And waited. And then, materialising like a mirage on the horizon, our Netherlanders re-appeared and, laughing as they caught sight of us, walked towards the vehicle and hopped into the van. What followed was one of the giddiest moments of our journey that day, high on new friendship and our shared experience, the van hurtled – and I mean hurtled – through the town of Hà Tiên as we chuckled and chattered, giggling at Dutch Girl #1’s …

cambodian beach travel

Southeast Asia in Pictures: Week III

Every week during our eight-week trip across Southeast Asia, I plan to post a handful of snapshots and stories from the week just gone. After a week exploring Phnom Penh and Kampot, we edged closer to Cambodia’s 275 miles of coastline, exploring the seaside town of Kep by motorcycle and taking a whirlwind one-night trip to the placid island of Koh Rong Samloem, returning to Kampot – our favourite riverside haunt – in between. Kampot, a base we kept retreating to, having grown fond of its oscitant feel, has a burgeoning food scene. Plenty of expats – likely having also fallen in love with their surroundings – have decided to stay and set up restaurants, many of them social enterprises. Brunch at Espresso Coffee, an Australian-run café and roastery, was one of our favourites. The in-house roasters uses coffee beans from Cambodia, Laos and Thailand and emphasises local and regionally produced java. The menu also featured local ingredients, such as local salt (cycling to the salt flats to see it being harvested is a good …