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Nine Things NOT to Pack for Your RTW

26 Oct

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]1: Luggage Locks
Worried about valuables being nicked while you sleep? Why not stick a small metal sign on your pack saying: “Expensive stuff in here”? It’s not like these thieves have knives, right?

Alternatively, put the stuff you can’t afford to lose (passports, cash, card, electronics) in a daypack and use it as a head-rest. Let’s face it. It’s unlikely anyone’s going to want your clothes.

2: Mosquito Net
Newsflash! It’s not just you who knows there’s mosquitoes where you’re going. The guesthouse owners do too. Continue reading

Like Jane Austen But Not: The Single Gal’s Guide to Travelling Asia

19 Oct Z and me in Georgian silhouette, Penang, Malaysia,

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]

1: Avoid Spaghetti Straps
Shoulders are an erogenous zone in many cultures. Particularly shy ones. In South-East Asia, nothing, and I do mean nothing, says “hooker” more than spaghetti straps. OK. Maybe fishnets, Perspex platforms and a basque. And if you packed those, lady, make like the real fetishists and change before you leave the disco. Mm?

2: Hold the Back Bars of a Motorbike, not the Driver
In most cultures, pressing your breasts against a chap you’ve never met is a recipe for mutual discomfort. Continue reading

Travel Tips: 10 Most Common RTW Planning Mistakes

12 Oct brightly coloured rolls of packing tape

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]1: Booking a RTW Ticket
If you’re following a fixed route through expensive cities and your time is very limited, RTW tickets can work out cost-effective. In general? Continue reading

Tuesday Travel Tips: Avoiding Transport “Scams”

28 Sep

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]It’s probably the commonest travel complaint on the planet from folk travelling the developing world. Transport “scams”. Overcharging…

And it does relations between locals and visitors no good at all. Here’s how to make your life easier when travelling.

1: Agree a Price Before You Start the Journey.
Would you take a minicab or unmetered vehicle in your home town without agreeing the fare first? Continue reading

Tuesday Travel Tips: How to Hand Wash Clothes

21 Sep Framed picture on wall of girl in white glass holding martini glass at crotch level.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]1: Beware of washing powder in developing countries.
How do women who wash by hand in dirty water get their kids’ school shirts such a blinding white? They use a powder with lots and lots and lots of bleach. Avoid for anything not pure white. (In fact, avoid white clothes in general.) Continue reading

Fifteen and a Half Steps to (Back)Packing Mastery

5 Aug Hiking boot with yellow and green moths sipping moisture from it.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]1: Heavy Stuff High, Light Stuff Low
Thanks to the high-school physics principle of moment, things at the bottom of your pack feel heavier than the stuff at the top. Pack the heavy stuff higher up your body to reduce the strain.

2: Centre the Really Heavy Stuff
If you have more weight on the left-hand side of your pack than on the right, your shoulders will feel it. Soon followed by your back, your hips and your legs. Place the heavy stuff equidistant from left and right sides, and secure it with internal straps.

3: Distribute Less Heavy Stuff Evenly Across Two Sides
If you’re carrying water, put equal quantities on either side. In fact, even quite light stuff can unbalance a pack. Put the washbag on one side, medical kit on the other. Continue reading

El Nido

2 May

view of bangkas and islands in El Nido bay.

A good way to wake up...

After a few weeks in the Philippines, one becomes almost inured to beauty.

Almost, but not quite, for El Nido, in the north of Palawan, really does take your breath away. It’s named for the swifts’ nests which snuggle within the gothic cliffs that cast a shade so deep the backstreets need streetlights of an afternoon.

A little place, about three streets deep and three streets wide, El Nido sits on a shallow, deeply indented bay, dominated by jagged shards of the cliffs and studded with deep green karst islands, forced from the bay by primeval forces, whose surrealist precipices, humps and angles resemble nothing more than a child’s first sketch of islands.

The first amazing glimpse of the sea in all its glory as you wind through crazy chocolate drop hills, past lazing caribao and palm-thatch villages, is utterly gobsmacking.

I’ve posted before about the beauty of serendipity in travel. And in El Nido, serendipity has really struck. I could never, in my wildest dreams, have imagined that five hours on the top of an overloaded bus over bad roads could be a beautiful thing.

Buses, and for that matter jeepneys, function in the rural Philippines as a form of FedEx, delivering unaccompanied goods from sacks of rice and boxes of chicks through to fridges and air conditioners. The bus we took, amongst other things, was carrying furniture. Result! Continue reading

On Skype

15 Apr

Z on webcam with a friend

Z chatting on Skype with a friend

This is Z enjoying Skype.

It’s a webcam picture, that he shot himself, in the throes of one of the sessions of gurning, face-making, and toy-brandishing that enliven his week and keep him in touch with the people he loves.

And it’s joy. He’s talking, I think, to his best friend Fred, back in London. Talking, in this instance, means five minutes of gurning and video-chat followed by endless exchanges of emoticons, gifs and animal noises over Skype messaging. Continue reading

The Best-Laid Plans…

26 Mar

<a Cake display, Scandinavian Bakery, Vientiane, Laos

Not, actually, a piece of cake, after all

We have hot-footed it — well, night-bused it — back from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, with a sleeper train to Bangkok ahead of us tonight, in quest of the elusive Myanmar visa.

Whether because of Z’s performance in the embassy last time around (unlikely) or a verifiable and undeclared, though undistinguished and utterly apolitical, track record in UK journalism (likely), politically undesirable Facebook friends (possible), trigger-happy blogging (unlikely, but you never know), or the latest junta-unfriendly act of our own dear government (highly likely) our visa applications have been kicked upstairs. Or, rather, back home. Continue reading

The Pocket Diplomat

23 Mar

Z at the dividing line on the Vietnam-Laos border

The Thin Red Line.

Whatever our struggles with formal schooling, Z’s certainly learning a lot as we travel. And he sure does choose his moments to show it.

We are literally halfway between Vietnam and Laos, him ceremonially straddling the red line dividing the Laotian end of the (small) bridge from the Vietnamese end, about three stamps and five sets of uniformed officials into the border-crossing process, when he pipes up.

“Mum,” he says. “Vietnam and Laos are both communist, authoritarian states, aren’t they? Which one is worse?” Continue reading