Category South & SE Asia

In Defence of Malaysia: Don’t Let MH370 Be Your Last Impression

MALAYSIA’S BEEN BESMIRCHED in the media lately, and for pretty unfortunate reasons. First the shocking vanish itself of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370; then the rumours about Iranian terrorists, stolen passports, hijacked planes, suicide missions and missing black boxes. Maybe they found some rubble in the Indian Ocean; maybe they didn’t. Maybe it’s on land; probably it isn’t. […]

Stories Left Behind in Asia

I WRITE THIS FROM the last frontier of Asia, Turkey’s eastern half, before flying over the divisive Bosphorus River into what is securely the First World, and the second half of this four-month journey. I have a few thoughts leaving Asia, where V and I spent the last two years living and travelling; mostly I […]

Kolkata’s Street Food Walkers

THE TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR DETERRED US, but nobody surrendered: at 6 p.m., as scheduled, our food tour guide met us on a busy Kolkota corner, in front of a meek electronics store surrounded by scaffolding. I wasn’t sure you’d make it, she told us. We thought the same about her. In the end, it turned out, […]

The People Around the Taj Mahal

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE TAJ MAHAL AND AGRA FORT there is a quiet little town—quiet by Indian standards—and somewhere therein live quiet people, normal people, people not out to get your money or impress you with Mughal legends but rather who are interested in speaking to you. These are friendly people, too polite to be easily […]

Varanasi: Dodge The Cow Shit And It’s Actually Quite Charming

VARANASI IS A PROFOUNDLY DIFFERENT PLACE, spiritually bombastic and alive. Chants echo through dusty stone alleys and schoolchildren, in striped ties and checked skirts, sing and tease each other in the backs of colourful rickshaw trucks. The walls surrounding everything have been crumbling for so long that it seems unlikely that they have ever seen […]

How We Spent Ten Dollars On Scarves in Varanasi and Why We’re Okay With It

EVERYONE AND HIS BROTHER owns a silk shop in Varanasi. Walk down the street and you will be personally invited to one every few paces, told “No pressure” and “Just take a look” when you hesitate, persuaded when they explain the secret to proving real silk from polyester knockoffs (the threads burn into ashes) and […]

The Two Indias: Of Rules and Chaos

THE THING ABOUT INDIA that travel magazines ignore is its fetishistic addiction to bureaucracy. If something takes place in a large building with air-conditioning, rest assured you will be helplessly drowned in endless spools of red tape—yet the streets outside are inevitably a manic free-for-all. The schism is symbiotic and outlandish, and in either case […]

Stories Left in Southeast Asia

WE DEPARTED THE MAINLAND of Southeast Asia with some regret, having not met as many locals as we’d normally like. I also didn’t get as many good photos of the ones we did talk to, which you might notice below. This is because the conversations happened spontaneously, when I wasnt preared for them, which, in […]

Woody Elephant Camp and the Lesser of Some Number of Evils

“THIS IS POWER in the human hand,” our guide said as she showed us the elephant hook, holding it up for the whole group to see. V quickly shot me a glare. “We use to punish them,” she continued with a smile. The man behind her, Jay, jumped from his seat. “It’s not for fun,” […]

Chiang Mai’s “Old City” is Anything But

WE ARRIVED IN CHIANG MAI to get away from Bangkok—its hefty costs, its slimy touts, its unnavigable streets and invasive mall culture. Chiang Mai, we were led to believe, would be different, calmer, more authentic and inviting. If it weren’t for the all the expats and tourists who’ve inherited the centre of it, forcing any […]