At first I thought this was another ‘Look how dumb students are’ article – US teachers gave blank maps to a class and asked them to fill in the countries – but what surprised me in some cases was just how well these kids did do. They got the big countries right, and it was [...]
No proper post today as I’m in Saigon airport looking for a wi-fi spot among a lot of people shipping TVs and microwaves to Kuala Lumpar. The only place to sit down is outside in a Burger King (ugh) which has the unappealing-sounding ‘shrimp-balls’ on the menu. Eek – the family on the next table [...]
I have now left Hoi-An and have headed further south across Vietnam, finally reaching the spectacular Nui Chua National Park, an area of dry tropical woodlands and Arizona-type rocks which is home to around 1,500 species of plants, 160 species of birds and 60 species of mammals (including a few poisonous but shy snakes). At [...]
We’ve now reached Central Vietnam, and it’s still hard to equate the reality with the image I grew up with from American newsreels, especially as I’m reading Vietnamese literature.The jungles have been hacked back to more than 70 kilometres from the towns, so we look out at flat fields, rice paddies and the odd slash [...]
Two skills learned in London come in useful here. One is ordering Vietnamese food, the other is staring down traffic.
‘Those are the hidden police,’ says Tung. ‘Everyone knows them.’ They’re really not very hidden, and nor is the Communist propaganda, but seeing Communism from this side takes the bogeyman status out of it a little. Yes, there are probably too many ‘improving’ workers’ statues around, but since 2005′s Open Door policy things have changed, [...]
The curse of travel lies in selection; what do you fit in, what to leave out? I always want to shout at tourists in London; ‘Leave that, it’s not the real London, this is!’ And so, as I did in Delhi, I fall victim to bleary-eyed first impressions and mistake-making. Time is limited; my partner’s [...]
‘Saigon. Oh, spoons. I’m still only in Saigon.’ Wasn’t that what Martin Sheen said?
Then there was that Robin Williams chap. A little too fond of the sound of his own voice, that one. And wasn’t the heat on in Saigon, according to Jonathan Pryce in ‘Miss Saigon’?
Yes, armed with my copy of ‘Meditations In Green’ [...]
The book hand-off across Riga between old and new libraries took stamina in these temperatures, but the sight of so many adults and children passing books across the city was a joy. My friend Izabella once went to Arkangel. I asked her, was it as cold as this? She said ‘No, this is colder.’
So a [...]
Started off being too loudly friendly, frightened everyone off. The history of Latvia is one of enduring hardship and occupation, which probably accounts for the quiet reserve of its people.
The January cold is a living thing here that bites and gnaws. It actually hurts. Warding it off involves hot chocolate, gloves, hats, dead furry objects, [...]