Monday, 17 March 2014

Cambodia: tuk-tuks and temples

The main reason to visit Siem Reap is the nearby temples of Angkor, relics of the vast Khmer Empire that stretched across South East Asia from the 9th to 15th Century AD. It’s something of a modern myth that the temples were subsequently lost in the jungle, and the civilisation that built them forgotten, until they were rediscovered in the 19th Century by French colonial archaeologists.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Cambodia: ancient temples of the Khmer Empire

An early morning view of Angkor Wat, seen just after sunrise
© Andy Brown/Cambodia/2012
Two years ago, my honeymoon blog stalled in Luang Prabang, Laos. I returned to a busy work schedule, but it’s been at the back of my mind ever since to finish the story.

After leaving Luang Prabang, Joyce and I continued our overground trip by bus instead of boat. Our next stop was Vang Vieng, a beautiful riverside town backed by craggy cliffs that was somewhat spoilt by hordes of teenage backpackers getting drunk or high and ‘tubing’ down the river in tractor tyres. There were bars selling ‘happy meals’ laced with cannabis, and ‘super happy meals’ laced with opium. All this would have been fine on a party island like Ibiza, but felt somewhat inappropriate in rural Laos.

Out of town, however, we had great opportunities for mountain biking, kayaking and even a spectacular hot air balloon ride up the valley at sunset. We flew high over the river, then low over fields and villages. Trees cast long shadows and children chased the balloon, waving and shouting ‘sabai dee’ (hello in Lao).

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Sri Lanka: tea and trains

In Sri Lanka, the railroad is not just a track for trains. People build their homes along it, open shops on the sidings, and walk between the rails. We decided to take the train to Ella and visit World’s End, where the central plateau drops suddenly over a thousand metres to the low land below. It was like stepping back in time.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Time machines: travelling on Sri Lanka’s railway

Children greet us at a village on a hike through the mountains of Sri Lanka
© Andy Brown/2013/Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, the railroad is not just a track for trains. People build their homes along it, open shops on the sidings, and walk between the rails. This is what I was doing in November - walking along the train tracks to Ella Rock. Together with my friends Rob and Laura, I was on a hike high in the mountains of Sri Lanka’s central plateau. Our guide, Chamal, assured us that the train tracks were the best route. "No need to worry," he said, noting our concern. "If the train comes we'll hear it in plenty of time to get out of the way."

I'd already seen how slow Sri Lanka’s antique trains go - around 15km an hour - so it seemed reasonable enough. If I had to, I could probably outrun one over a short distance. Rob was less convinced. "Have you seen ‘Stand by Me’?" he asked our guide, and described the plot of the movie in which four boys go for an adventure along a railway line, get caught by a train on a bridge, and have to jump off into the river.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Thailand: Surasak photo walk

An afternoon spent wandering around the Muslim and Chinese districts of Surasak, Bangkok