Tag Archives: Caves

Wool – Hugh Howey – [Book Review]

If Plato was still around today, it’s likely he would have been a big fan of science fiction. After all, he used fantastical constructs to explore the human condition, pioneering a unique exploration of individuals’ perception. That’s pretty sci-fi.

Plato Cave
Plato’s Cave

We can assume, too, his favourite sub-genre would have been dystopian sci-fi, if his Allegory of the Cave is anything to go by. In it, he imagines the plight of chained captives, held in position underground, their reality controlled by restricting their vision to view nothing but shadow puppets cast upon a wall by the light of an unseen fire behind them.

With no frame of reference or experience of the outside world, the shadows on the wall would constitute reality for those hapless captives. The sounds of the captors’ footsteps and voices would reverberate in the cave, Plato thought, and thus the illusion would be formed that the sounds were made by those very shadows. This was Plato’s dystopian vision – a populace imprisoned and manipulated by their overlords to such a degree that they knew nothing of it.

It is perception and the revelation of truth that drives dystopian fiction. At its best, it represents a functional, albeit oppressed, society, unaware of the shackles that bind its citizens: take for instance the controlled happiness of Brave New World; the Papa John’s clones in Cloud Atlas; the history-incinerating regime of Fahrenheit 451. Drama is drawn from characters finally noticing their prison, and rebelling against it.

Continue reading Wool – Hugh Howey – [Book Review]

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Vang Vieng vistas and vomit

A beautiful place, near-ruined by bingeing
Vang Vieng’s verdure vistas and violent vomiting

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.

Continue reading Vang Vieng vistas and vomit

King of Kong Lor

Coming out the other side of Kong Lor
Light at the end of the tunnel

Most Laos travel guides will begin with a list of top-five, must-see, life-affirming experiences, and a trip to the caves of Kong Lor will undoubtedly feature – and highly. Hyperbole abounds, to the point you might reasonably expect to asphyxiate from awe (awesphyxiation, you might call it).

It sounds wonderful, but to get there is a little tricky. We picked the town of Thakhek to the south-east of Kong Lor to base ourselves, because it sounded pretty and we had been presently surprised by Savannakhet.

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Ya-Ya, we’ve been to Battambang

Bats! Bamboo! Booze! Yes, Battambang is bursting with balliteration. Pronounced bat-tam-bong, the beautiful town rests in the north-west of Bambodia, and is totally bace.

But first impressions are bad. When you pull into Battambang bus station, inconveniently built a few kilometres out of town, tuk-tuk drivers place their laminated adverts up against your window and then mob you as you disembark. Continue reading Ya-Ya, we’ve been to Battambang

Getting deep in Ipoh

Buddha laughing in the sun
A fat laughing Buddha in the sunshine at Kek Lok Tong

Getting to Ipoh is a doddle. It’s about a tenner on the bus from Georgetown, including the transfer to Butterworth, which is the town on the mainland facing Penang. The roads are well maintained, and the view of lush rainforest-covered hills gives you something pretty to look at for the majority of the journey.

Yes, the bus terminates at a terminal about 45 minutes from the centre, but friendly staff there will stick you on a public bus that’s going the right way – and which are blessedly air-conditioned. And making your way around the city is easy too, with proper road signs at each junction and a river to keep your bearings. Continue reading Getting deep in Ipoh