We entered Vilankulos around midday, one of the more popular tourist beach towns on the Mozambican coast. It was sunny and sandy, with lots of cars, lots of roundabouts and busy roadside markets. Vilankulos was bigger and more bohemian than Inhassaro, reminding me of a Mozambican Byron Bay.Read more
The three scooters parked in front of us looked rough. If we sat on them, I imagined we’d collapse into a clanging pile of rusted engine parts and bald rubber tyres. But Jeff and Wessel were wearing the biggest grins i’d ever seen.Read more
We didn’t book a hotel in Zanzibar. It was a mistake. We wandered around the city at dusk getting desperate, with a tout stalking us the whole time.Read more
We stared at the menu with skepticism. A pile of limp, pale, thick-cut fries was piled in the corner of a glass-doored display cabinet. On another wooden shelf was some kind of withered, skeletal fish. Both options looked like they’d been waiting for quite a while for a brave customer.Read more
I came across a quote by Leonardo da Vinci the other day, which I quite like: For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you long to return.Read more
A man with a bow and arrow was stalking the beach. He had a backpack full of other weapons, like blowpipes. He probably didn’t manage to sell many. Nor the salesman sailing a pirate ship-shaped kite through the air. Who needs that stuff, anyway?Read more
OK, i’ll come clean straight away. I’ve seen Eat, Pray, Love. I need to admit this, because that’s the preconception of Ubud I had in my head when we travelled to inland Bali for a few days. This is where Julia Roberts did all her movie stuff, bike riding through jungle mountain roads and past sparkling vistas of brilliant green rice fields shielded by lush tropical backdrops.
So we got there, and…wait a minute, where are all the rice terrace farms? I can see a lot of bars, and a lot of traffic, are you sure this isn’t Denpasar? We drove from Sanur to Ubud and all we saw were roadside art galleries selling paintings of the Buddha, roundabouts protected by huge weapon waving warrior statues, and silver merchants. For the whole 45 minute drive, just highway, and shops. Where were the rice terraces? Read more
The road was getting worse. I sat in the middle of the backseat, holding on to the headrests in front of me, trying not to wipe greasy smears of sweat on the arms of those next to me. Cindy sat to my right, holding on to the roof handle to stop herself from being launched up into the ceiling.Read more
The banana pancake trail: a nickname given to the popular tourist routes through South East Asia, where foreign influence has shaped that place to cater for foreign taste (ie. banana pancakes for breakfast in Asia!).
In June 2012, I had a little transit through Thailand, inbetween Vietnam and Myanmar. It was just four days; enter, visit the Myanmar embassy to apply for my Burmese visa, Exit. Cindy, who I was excited to see since we parted ways back in Borneo, was in Kuala Lumpur doing the exact same thing, and in a few days we were going to reunite. It felt strange to just ‘pop in and out’ of a country like that, especially one I’d never visited before, but I knew that I’d find time to explore Thailand properly later.
Applying for the visa was quite easy; read about it here.
So, with my visa being processed, 4 days to kill in Bangkok. What to do? Pad Thai. Cold beer. Relax. I followed Jeff’s advice, and tracked down a tiny family-run guesthouse called Apple Guesthouse not far from Khao San Road, the tourist centre of Bangkok.
What is this place, the infamous Khao San Road? And more importantly, why did you end up here, even if you didn’t mean to?
Basically, it’s everything that a party-oriented backpacker loves about Thailand, distilled and westernised and easily accessible. It has food, accommodation, and drinking, without the hassle of having to navigate the mighty urban labyrinth (and it is a labyrinth!) that is Bangkok. It’s a party street, without the red-light-districtness of Soi Cowboy.
You’ll be surrounded by travellers just like you. Most locals don’t come here; just those who work in the tourist trade. From anywhere on Khao San Road, you could turn a corner and run into a street food cart (most famously Pad Thai whipped up on the spot, and sliced fruit served with a skewer). Tuk-tuk drivers stalk passers-by with their eyes like vultures, asking to take you around, probing with that infuriating catch phrase of “hey you, where you go!?“