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Monday Photo Essay: Colours of Makassar

30 Aug

Orange green and pink lorry parked in front of green building. Makassar, Indonesia.[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]

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Makassar, Indonesia. The capital of Sulawesi. A hectic, noisy port city, where even the scuzziest scenes are full of equatorial colour. Like these trucks, parked near the old port where the Bugis sailing ships unload. Continue reading

Global Time = Quality Time

10 Jun Z holding wildflowers. Sapa, Vietnam.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]My son and I set out to travel the world together in January. I’d imagined many wonderful things about the journey. What I hadn’t imagined is the sheer quality and quantity of time together.

Terraced hillside and paddy fields, Sapa, Vietnam.

This morning's walk. Sapa, Vietnam.

Or, for that matter, the absolute, unalloyed luxury of starting every single day with a complete free rein.

Where shall we go today? What shall we do? What shall we see?

All, as it happens, for less than the rent or mortgage on a one-bedroom London flat. Continue reading

Shopping Mission — Hanoi

7 Jun

Bicycle covered in flowers parked in side street, Hanoi, Vietnam

Flowers by bike: Hanoi, Vietnam

It was S’s (the nine-year-old’s father’s) last day with us today. And we spent it in Hanoi. The bulk of it, in fact… drum roll… shopping for a… cymbal clash… pencil sharpener.

Now, when it comes to travel, I’m a great believer in the power of mooching. Sort of ambling around. Not doing very much. Gawping a little. Making friends with people you meet. Slowing way, way down. And seeing life around you as it is lived, not as it is composed for a tourist postcard.

But it’s good to have a mission. And a mundane mission, such as a quest for a pencil sharpener, a good kindergarten table spring roll joint, the perfect souvenir lighter for your pocket pyromaniac or all of the above, makes for a better walking tour of the city than any number of tour guides could provide. It brings you straight up against how alien life is, in its everyday mundanity, and takes you on a lazy tour of a great city’s back alleys and byways.

Because, believe you me, buying a pencil sharpener is a hell of a lot harder and infinitely more enlightening than scoring opium, silk dressing gowns or lacquer vases. And, yes, since you ask, I am regretting allowing Z his choice of lighter. Continue reading

Sweet Madeleines

30 Apr

Z up palm treeIt’s a wonderful thing, being a child. Who would have thought a palm tree could have provided pretty much an entire day’s amusement? Scaling it. Monkey-climbing it. Swinging from it. Jumping from it. Building fires under it…

I had planned to leave Port Barton today, which, given we hadn’t planned on being here in the first place, is understandable. My pocket pyromaniac, however, had other plans. And one of the joys of extending our trip was that I was able to say yes.

It was, of course, the palm tree wot done it. Dead-centre on the flawless crescent of white beach framed by viridian hills, it offers just about the perfect gradient. The slant is sufficiently slight to clamber up with ease, yet sufficiently steep for said activity to provide a challenge, with soft, white sand below it to cushion any fall.

It offers a pirate’s lookout over the tranquil bay, a place to watch the sheet lightning which has been flashing and crashing over the hills for much of the afternoon.

And, after a slight bout of homesickness yesterday, prompted in the most Proustian of fashions by the least Proustian of items – a packet of orange-flavoured chewy sweets — Z has been as happy as, well, as happy as a small boy up a palm tree.

Homesickness, I think, goes with the territory of long-term travel, whether as an individual or as a family. Continue reading

Unexpected Pleasures

24 Mar

sign to weaving village, luang prabang, laos

A sign of good things to come

Travelling with children, the best days sometimes come out of absolutely nowhere, and from the lowest expectations. And on our first day in Luang Prabang, Laos, my expectations were pretty much rock bottom.

Yet we ended up swimming in the most fantastic set of rapids, having masterclasses in weaving and petanque, meeting an utterly delightful baby, eating our best Lao food so far, watching an A-grade Mekong sunset, chatting for hours, and being given a pile of movies that one or the other of us has been wanting to watch for ages.

This journey, and the unmitigated blessing of ample time with my son, has converted me to mooching. But, of its nature, it’s not something you can set out to do. Continue reading

In Praise of Crap Towns

9 Mar

Here we are, in Savannakhet, Laos, the third-largest city in the People’s Republic, as all 120,000 inhabitants would, I’m sure, be pleased to tell you, if they gave a shit, and loving every minute of it (although I am slightly mystified by my son’s ineffable instinct to seek out the single most expensive restaurant in any one-horse dorp he hits).

The bus was a bit crap, as buses should be, and late, c’est-la-vie, but full of local people, also present and correct. When we got off, there was ONE (count him!) tuk-tuk driver.

“You want tuk-tuk?” he says, after a decent pause. Continue reading

Why Do Flies Have Eyes?

15 Feb

I’ve been wondering why we spent so much time in Kampot. It’s a lovely provincial capital, set around a river, with the beginnings of a promenade, easy to navigate, beautifully chilled, lots of countryside, plus gorgeous caves, but it isn’t somewhere I’d have pulled off a map as a destination, and I’d never have thought we’d spend the big end of a week there.

I think it’s something about the pace. On our last night, we went down to the river to watch the fishing boats racing down to the sea, an extended spectacle given the average longtail engine is held together with string and hope.

Continue reading

Mr. Toilet

15 Feb

The Phnom Penh riverside has been beautified of late. Glamorous pagoda-styled buildings in hues of red and yellow send serpentine corner eaves skywards like dragon’s breath, competing with the Royal Palace opposite. Much of the pavement is actually paving, rather than a colourful mix of dirt and plastic, and every side street is tarmaced to the max.

The breeze off the Tonle Sap both cools and and mitigates the general scent of garbage, burning and decaying, that permeates the city. There is even a pedestrian promenade! And grass!

Continue reading

Lotus Seeds

2 Feb

Lotus Flowerheads for Sale by the Roadside, Cambodia

Lotus Flowerheads for Sale by the Roadside, Cambodia

When someone you have never met in a country you have never visited gives your child and you a present and wants nothing in return but friendship, that’s special.

When that someone is a market stallholder in a border town poor enough to be fanning the flies off their few remaining pieces of pig bits with a plastic bag on a bamboo stick, that’s really special.

That the present was fresh lotus seeds, straight from the flowerhead, put this into stellar territory for me. Continue reading

Koh Chang

27 Jan

Sunset at Treehouse, Long Beach, Koh ChangSo… we spent our first few days of our big adventure at Treehouse on Long Beach, Koh Chang. More by luck than design, it’s virtually at the end of the road which will, ultimately, circle the island and connect everything up, and the generator clicks off at 1am.

So, when you wake all you can hear is the waves swashing back and forth below you, geckoes scuttling in the palm thatch, bird song, leaves and sometimes the occasional longtail boat.

It’s a very classic Thai beach, white sand leading into water so shallow at low tide that it heats to the temperature of a bath, tall palms leaning in towards the sea, limestone headlands covered in jungle projecting like camel’s humps at either end, and a view out to Koh Wai and the tiny Koh Nai islands. Continue reading