Climbing Kinabalu

‘Are they really what you’re wearing to do this?’

I look down at my circa ’02 gripless Lacoste pumps and back up into the narrowing eyes of mountain guide Ali. See, I had no idea I was going to do this when I left home. Once I’d committed, investing in a decent pair of trekking trainers for the sake of one tiny two-day venture seemed a bit excessive.

‘I’ll be fine,’ I say without much conviction.

Ali shrugs. ‘If anyone breaks a leg they can pay a guide to carry them back down. We charge per kilo…’ Continue reading

Perks and pitfalls of a female traveller

Seeing the world solo is daunting at the start. There’s that moment when you’re walking the streets, entirely lost, searching for a hostel, life in one bag, having quit your job, while everyone you love is at home down the local having their normal Friday night, and your brain does wonder ‘hmm, yes, what exactly was my logic here?’ But then you stumble on an amazing food market, or a bunch of fire-throwing street performers walk by, and everything’s alright again… Continue reading

Laos: Luang Prabang to 4000 Islands

‘Free bananas!’ Mr guesthouse owner gestures at the rainforest shower, the pretty scatter cushions, the lovingly buntinged balcony, as if these are the things I should be extolling. I nod appreciatively. ‘Yes, all lovely, but free bananas!’

Unlimited fruit supply aside, Luang Prabang has three big plus points Continue reading

Kanchanaburi: Erawan Falls

Strange that for one of the best places I’ve been out here I have little to say. It’s just beautiful. Erawan Falls has seven tiers, a bunch of which you can swim in, and any direction you swivvle you’re greeted with an image of twisting trees and bright larimar pools.

Continue reading

Island hopping

Much as I’m glad to have seen them, most of Thailand’s Southern islands are overrun with European men, Thai bride/hired girlfriend on arm, and 19 year-old gap yah fledglings (I am a 24 year-old gap four-monther, which is of course, completely different…) so memories are confined to list form…  Continue reading

Khao Sok National Park: hawkers and heroes

The journeys you make in Southeast Asia colour your memories almost as much as the destinations themselves. From beach to town in Phuket I was wedged in the back of a truck between a stack of ‘Abercromdie’ jumpers and a mesh crate of geese. From Bangkok to Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani down south, I took a night train. The truck wins hands down Continue reading

Bangkok: just your average day…

Travel guide and precious backpacker pet, Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia bible, claims: ‘The best way to overcome jet lag and acclimatise is to stay in natural daylight and get stuck in.’ Lonely Planet may well be right, and bless them for their evangelical enthusiasm, but after a whole day trundling from plane to plane, time zone to time zone and embracing Bangkok’s one-way system at rush hour, the only thing I’m getting ‘stuck in’ to is a solid three-hour nap.

Once my body clock stops throwing a hissy fit, Lumphini Park in the billboard-strewn high-rise side of town seems like a less abrasive place to start than infamous Khao San Road, haggler central. (Anyone who has ventured to these parts will be shaking their wise travel heads at this point and muttering ‘oh you fool. You absolute Bangkok beginner. You poor squat toilet-shy amateur’. For there is no such thing as easing yourself in to this capital. The faster you realise that, the more fun and games come knocking.) Continue reading