Jerusalem is a Dizzying Disneyland of Religion

IN A SINGLE AFTERNOON, it is possible to see what some claim to be the sites where Jesus was crucified, where the ancient Jewish First and Second temples once stood, where the Prophet Muhammad ascended into Heaven, and the tombs of half the characters from the New and Old Testaments. Perhaps anticipating the plausibility of a 21st-century tourist boom, very few Biblical folks did anything … Continue reading Jerusalem is a Dizzying Disneyland of Religion

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 found, and to meet them requires you spend time in … Continue reading The People Around the Taj Mahal

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 better days, and now stand plastered and re-plastered with old … Continue reading Varanasi: Dodge The Cow Shit And It’s Actually Quite Charming

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 allowed to see the weaving factory because somewhere down the … Continue reading How We Spent Ten Dollars On Scarves in Varanasi and Why We’re Okay With It

Finding the Bang in Bangkok

THE FIRST THING WE SAW WERE DILDOS. Racks of them. Dozens, even. Black and pink, dangerously large, hilariously small, all dangling in streetside tents. One vendor was spoke casually on his cell phone as he hung up his thick rubber cocks, getting an early 8 p.m. start for what he presumed would be a normal, meaning busy, Tuesday night. Patpong is filthy in every conceivable … Continue reading Finding the Bang in Bangkok

The Viet-Lao Border: Wherein Our Bus Deserts Us on a Remote Mountain Range

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN Hue, Vietnam’s pre-communist capital, and Savannakhet, a sleepy Lao city by the Mekong River, is over 400 kilometres of thick tropical forest. The border checkpoint, somewhere in-between, lies truly in the middle of nowhere. Four hours got us this far, and it would be longer until Savannakhet: five hours by bus, and unimaginably longer if the bus, say, left without us. Which, … Continue reading The Viet-Lao Border: Wherein Our Bus Deserts Us on a Remote Mountain Range