I want to take a moment to explain to you my favourite day of the year.
But before I go on, I want you to promise to hold your judgement until I’m through, because my favourite day of the year isn’t a bank holiday, or my birthday, or some commercialised national awareness day, like National Crumpet-Hurling Day, or Skydivers’ Bird-strike Awareness Week, or whatever (though they are no doubt worthy events).
No, my favourite day of the year is Drink Like A Twat Day.
As I’ve mentioned before, Swarana and I are not very good at backpacking. No more evident is that fact than in our laborious exploration of Vietnam.
Most people pick a route: north to south or south to north. We essentially did laps.
We had pals to meet, you see; friends were coming over from the US, the UK and South Korea, not to mention a mate who actually lives in Vietnam. And in our endeavour to see them all, we went to Hue twice, Hoi An twice, Saigon twice and Hanoi THREE TIMES.
This makes a mockery of chronological blog-mongering.
So, in an effort to retain some semblance of form in this account, I’ll be merging all three visits to Hanoi in one post, despite many of the events book-ending either side our 45 days in the country.
Back in November 2014, Swarana and I threw a little leaving-drinks shindig in the Earl Haig in Crouch End. One of our friends, a well-travelled English fella called Martin, sat me down and said, “Mate, promise me one thing, make sure you’re in Chiang Mai on 14th April – it’s New Year there and this bloke I met in Thailand told me it’s mental.”
I asked what happens. “I don’t actually know because I couldn’t make it. But that’s it, see? That’s why you have to make it! Make sure you get Swarana there for the 14th.”
Ah, Vang Vieng. What a peculiar place it is. It’s undoubtedly most famous for its drunken tubing scene, but there’s much more to the beautiful mountain setting than getting ripped off by locals and being sick in a river.
Indeed, it’s the binge-drinking idiocy that makes graffiti like “Tourists Go Home” completely unsurprising. It’s a place that sold itself to tourists, but now wants its town back.
Laos – the land of smiles and striking scenery. From the mountains of Vang Vieng, to the colonial charm of Luang Prabang, this land-locked country has a lot to offer, not least the area of 4,000 Islands, an archipelago in the middle of the Mekong by the Cambodian border.
Make no mistake, Siem Reap is a tourist town. Everything here is geared towards tourists, or towards the infrastructure that the industry necessitates. Only here it is on an unprecedented scale. It feels as big as Phnom Penh as you drive towards its centre, with enormous resort hotels on the outskirts giving way to the bustle of dusty roads and boutique guesthouses further in.
That being said, they’ve done a decent job of it. The restaurants are excellent and varied, the massage parlours are professional, and the bustling night market is colourful and exciting. The night life isn’t too bad either. Continue reading Angkor blimey!→
The transition from Singapore to Cambodia’s sprawling capital city Phnom Penh feels a bit like Marty McFly travelling from the pristine future to a Biff-ravaged alternate 1985. There’s not as much on fire, and no one calls anyone a “butthead”, but the relative comparison is sound.
First thing’s first – transport form the airport. March straight past the taxis, with their air-con and English-speaking drivers, and head for the marginally cheaper tuk-tuks beyond – you’re a backpacker now, remember? You don’t get taxis. Continue reading Putting Phnom Penh to paper→
Romance. That’s what I’d hoped for from Melaka, and under different circumstances, it may well have delivered.
South of Kuala Lumpur and sat on the coast, Melaka was once a prosperous trading town with a long history of colonial influence. Now, it’s a quaint little place that’s clearly pushing its tourism potential, with tonnes of museums, tours and guesthouses springing up. You can ascertain the sentiment of the place by its garish tuk-tuks. Continue reading Knackered in Melaka→
We descended from the highlands refreshed and reinvigorated, and reluctantly acclimatising to the renewed heat and humidity of the lowlands. Props to Mr Cameron, and that glorious quasi-English climate he discovered.
First impressions of Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it is commonly known) included: Ooh, look at all the tall buildings; Aah, what a lovely clean monorail; Hey, look, Petronas!; and, finally, Titty wangs are great!