On The Move

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 […]

Vietnam 4: Last Stop

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 […]

Vietnam 3: Heading South

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 […]

Crossing The Road At Night in Vietnam

Two skills learned in London come in useful here. One is ordering Vietnamese food, the other is staring down traffic.

Vietnam 2: State Of The Art

‘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, […]

Vietnam 1: Hanoi

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 […]

In The Footsteps Of Martin Sheen

‘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 […]

Going Mad In Latvia: Day Three

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 […]

Mistakes In Latvia: Day Two

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 […]

Mistakes I Have Made In Latvia So Far

Two weeks ago Latvia switched to Euros, so I have the wrong money. January has a special kind of cold, a Russian cold that cuts deep into your heart and numbs your brain, rendering all normal thought impossible. I’ve quickly discovered the flaws in my wardrobe, the sweater that doesn’t quite cover my midriff, and even […]