Author: frauleinlouise

Southeast Asia In Pictures: Week VI

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. The sixth week of our trip was a watershed moment in our travels. Arriving in Hanoi, Vietnam meant we’d done it! We’d completed – and enjoyed! – our epic overland journey from Phnom Penh in Cambodia via the Mekong Delta. We’d weathered two temperature-raising bouts of flu, rattling sleeper trains, lukewarm rice and hair-raising minivan rides. It was both a relief and a triumph.  By the time we arrived in the Vietnamese capital, we were travelling at a slower pace. Less concerned with seeing the big ‘sights’, we spent a lot of time simply walking the streets, stopping for tofu banh mi packed with crunchy julienned vegetables and delicate herbs, our fingertips coated in an amber glaze of sweet, sticky chilli sauce. There is a storybook quality to Hanoi: something enchanting and slightly magical about the faded shopfronts, the colonial colour combination of peeling mustard yellow and deepest cetacean blue, the …

Poem For The Weekend #73

Bad things are going to happen. Your tomatoes will grow a fungus and your cat will get run over. Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream melting in the car and throw your blue cashmere sweater in the drier. Your husband will sleep with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling out of her blouse. Or your wife will remember she’s a lesbian and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat— the one you never really liked—will contract a disease that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth every four hours. Your parents will die. No matter how many vitamins you take, how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys, your hair and your memory. If your daughter doesn’t plug her heart into every live socket she passes, you’ll come home to find your son has emptied the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb, and called the used appliance store for a pick up—drug money. There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger. When she comes …

2017 In Pictures: A Retrospective

There was lot of talk on social media and in the papers about what a horrible year 2017 was, but I (perhaps naively) think it was an improvement on the year that preceded it. My heart was cleaved in two by 2016’s Brexit vote and the election of a certain American president and while twenty-seventeen saw the effects of these decisions come to fruition, I also took comfort in the resistance movements, demonstrations and positive forces of chance that sprung up as a direct result: like sunshine after rain, or the gold left behind in the sieve caked in mud, or the gleam of pearl in an oyster. The news has still been shocking, as usual, and I haven’t always succeeded in focusing on the glass half full, but I do think there are glimmers of hope. I’ve noticed a shift in the public discourse. Care for the environment is becoming daily more mainstream, gender inequality is more and more visibly discussed, the Women’s March was a pure joy to behold, and I protested more …

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 …