Archive | Sights RSS feed for this section

Hue, with a Y

7 Mar

Lotus Bud, Thien Mu Pagoda, VietnamSo the Perfume River of Hue, Vietnam, technically, and sadly relevantly, pronounced huey, is just that little bit less perfumed today.

Timed, flawlessly, just as our dragon boat begun one of those alarmingly clangy parking manoeuvres which make you realise why they have tires on the side (and wish they had a few more), Z embarked on a, well, huey, that made Linda Blair in The Exorcist seem quite the dilettante. Continue reading

The Unwilling Soldier

27 Feb

The Cu Chi tunnels, twenty miles or so outside Saigon, make the trenches of Flanders look like R&R in Bangkok. More than 200 kilometres of them wind their way through laterite clay which sets as hard as concrete. Continue reading

I Heart Cambodia – Part 3

23 Feb

A fraction of the moat at Angkor Wat

A fraction of the moat at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat. The icon of a nation. One of the wonders of the world. Tens of kilometres of bas-relief. Acres of lawns. Sacred pools which drained a thousand reservoirs.

I am grubby, gobsmacked and tired just from looking at it.

Z is incensed. “Just think how many houses they could have built on this land,” he says. “And that stupid king just goes and builds a temple to say, ‘I’m bigger than you.’ Religion is rubbish.” Continue reading

I Heart Cambodia – Part 2

22 Feb
Children in Jungle Vines, Ta Prohm

Z and a child hawker take time out, Ta Prohm, Cambodia

It’s still uncomfortably early when we debike and hit some blessed calm at Kbal Spean, the River of a Thousand Lingas.

The mile-long path to the top of the hill has been swept clean as a village yard, and cheeutal roots form an elegant latticework, almost like natural stairs.

Ascents of grey, slabby rocks feel almost landscaped, and looping vines create natural swings and hammocks.

Z is in his element. I am in the throes of wondering at the marvels of travel and the joy of life — more specifically, I am pointing out a promising Tarzan vine — when my flip-flopped foot meets a rock and it all goes a bit Keystone Kops. Continue reading

I Heart Cambodia – Part 1

19 Feb

sun starting to set over angkor watZ and I are sitting in pitch blackness on the laterite stairs overlooking the lake of Banteay Kdei, Cambodia, between a sculpted Khmer lion and the light of a Chinese guy’s tripod, some unsightly period before 6am.

Tourist lore dictates that, when experiencing the grandeur of the Khmer god-kings, and the Angkor sights, one sees a sunrise. Holding to the belief that sunrises are best experienced without busloads of fellow travellers, I have picked Banteay Kdei as being less crowded than Ta Prohm.

“You wan’ buy flute?” asks a boy, who is probably in his early teens, for perhaps the fifteenth time.

“No, thank you,” I say, for probably the thirteenth time. “I do not want to buy a flute. I no want flute. Thank you.”

The per capita income in Cambodia is around $2000. When you take the elite out of the equation, it means most people earn very much less than that.

“I make you good price! One dollar!!! For your baby!” Continue reading

S-21: Genocide for Beginners

13 Feb

Tuol Sleng Prison, Phnom Penh, Cambodia“Kneel down, mum,” Z says. “Close your eyes.”

He fumbles with my hair. We are in the courtyard of Tuol Sleng prison, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, AKA S-21, where teenage true believers tortured and killed over 16,000 people, from babies to geriatrics.

On a concrete bench under a papaya tree a crimson-clad monk sits contemplating, Nokia in hand. The place is very still. Continue reading