Monthly Archives: February 2010


Ladybird Hats

In South-East Asia, we’ve been spending a lot of time on the back of bikes. Call them motos, xe om or motorbike taxis, they’re generally the cheapest and always the quickest way of getting around. And, put it this way, I wouldn’t drive anything smaller than a tank in Saigon traffic. The safety laws in […]


The Unwilling Soldier

The Cu Chi tunnels, twenty miles or so outside Saigon, make the trenches of Flanders look like R&R in Bangkok. More than 200 kilometres of them wind their way through laterite clay which sets as hard as concrete.


Cambodian Food

cambodian food grown fresh khmer

There is an old Khmer saying which runs roughly as follows: “Eat anything that has four legs except a table, eat anything that flies except an aeroplane, and eat anything that travels by twos apart from a bicycle.” It is sentiments such as this which give Cambodian food a bad name. And, especially since we […]


A Tryst Arranged

a tryst arranged

One quiet evening, Francois’ brother played Mendelssohn on the balcony of our Phnom Penh guesthouse, and he played it well. Francois is a writer, two young children, separated. The brother is an artist and musician, living in Cambodia, getting by. The kids are skiing with their mother. He is in PP with a friend. It […]


I Heart Cambodia – Part 3

A fraction of the moat at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat. The icon of a nation. One of the wonders of the world. Tens of kilometres of bas-relief. Acres of lawns. Sacred pools which drained a thousand reservoirs. I am grubby, gobsmacked and tired just from looking at it. Z is incensed. “Just think how many houses they could have built on this land,” […]


Best Train Journey Ever? #1: The Bamboo Train


Z will contentedly nap on motorbikes, ride the tailgate on pickups, sit on the edge of a boat and stand up in the back of anything that will have him. But Battambang’s Bamboo Train, which leaps and rattles a few inches above rails so warped that they wobble into the distance like a child’s first […]


Dolphins on the Mekong


I was eighteen when I read about the pink freshwater dolphins on the Amazon. I’ve dreamed of seeing them ever since, and Z and I will do this later on this journey. In the meantime, though, we stopped in Kratie on our way back from Ban Lung, Ratanakiri, to see the Irrawaddy dolphins on the […]


I Heart Cambodia – Part 2


It’s still uncomfortably early when we debike and hit some blessed calm at Kbal Spean, the River of a Thousand Lingas. The mile-long path to the top of the hill has been swept clean as a village yard, and cheeutal roots form an elegant latticework, almost like natural stairs. Ascents of grey, slabby rocks feel […]


I Heart Cambodia – Part 1

tree roots at angkor wat

Z and I are sitting in pitch blackness on the laterite stairs overlooking the lake of Banteay Kdei, Cambodia, between a sculpted Khmer lion and the light of a Chinese guy’s tripod, some unsightly period before 6am. Tourist lore dictates that, when experiencing the grandeur of the Khmer god-kings, and the Angkor sights, one sees […]


SPF 50. Oh Yeah?

Remember when the highest sun protection factor on the market was 8? God, I’m old. Factor 15, when it came in during the 80s, was the ne plus ultra of sun protection. In fact, you could still get those coconut oil sprays that actually intensified the rays, creating the perfect BacoFoil roast. Picking up kids’ […]