How to find a hotel in Africa without a map

Wessel was complaining that he thought he had malaria. He felt feverish and nauseous. I said that that was highly unlikely; like all of us, he had been taking his daily Doxycycline, and we were in winter, not prime mosquito season. Besides, I imagined someone with malaria would probably feel significantly worse than Wessel.

Read more

Buying antiques in Zanzibar

In the back alleys and dogleg streets of Stone Town, locals were sweeping their doorsteps with brittle stick broomsticks and opening up their shops. There were T-shirt and souvenir shops, as you might find anywhere in the world, but that wasn’t the kind of souvenir we were hoping to find. But then, around the corner and appearing out of nowhere, was an antiques shop somewhere in the labyrinth.

Read more

The Dhow Palace in Zanzibar – A luxury hotel on a rough camping trip

We were going to sleep in the Dhow Palace Hotel, a 5-star hotel in Zanzibar, and a massive change from camping near lions and frying baked beans on campfires. We looked like a mess. Despite our beards, board shorts, unwashed singlets, and Crocs that didn’t fit our feet, they were happy to give us keys to their rooms.

Read more

Staying overnight in a tiny African village

Zambia was zooming past at great speed as we crossed it’s great arterial highway. Golden brown scrubland, dry skeletal trees, yellow-tinged earth, low rolling hills. Small villages clustered by the highway, clusters of tiny thatch huts with people and livestock standing around, sweeping leaves or carrying bales of wood. Tomato sellers and potters had stalls set up to sell to passers-by, their wares lined up in their hundreds alongside the tarmac.

Read more

Ha Long Bay: an illustrated guide

Jeff and I were sunbaking under the hot Vietnamese sun, passing a large plastic bottle of clear liquid around the deck of the boat. Inside was tonic, with a considerable amount of cheap gin, and we were sharing it with the other passengers to celebrate my 26th birthday. What better way to celebrate than to visit majestic Ha Long Bay!dav

The junk, one of hundreds of identical boats that cruised around the bay, was like a big, white, creaking wooden hotel. The cabins were downstairs, a main dining room/bar on the second level, and a lazy open deck on the top had long lounge chairs to enjoy the sun. Steel masts stretched upwards from the deck, but she rarely unfurled her distinctive sails. It’s old wooden hull protested and groaned as we sailed calmly around the bay, and shuddered with alarming splintery cracks when we docked alongside other junks.

Read more

New York City: A first-timers impression

I was bouncing up and down on my seat when the bus arrived at New York City’s Port Authority bus terminal, like a restless dog who just found out he was about to be taken for a walk. I cleaned the drool off the window as the city came into view (OK, maybe I didn’t drool, but you get the idea). Cindy and I had taken the bus all the way from Montreal, an overnighter that left from Berri-UQAM bus station in Montreal at about 10:45 at night. The 7-8 hour journey is a red-eyed, bleary and broken one, starting with a border crossing around midnight. Ahead of us at the border was a line of other buses, systematically dropping passengers off, and picking them up when the stamps were stamped. All in all, quite a smooth crossing. And only $3.

The new New York City taxi, in all shapes and sizes

As we approached the city, clichés of American society flashed past the window. Burger king and Dunkin’Donuts and Walmart, ‘adopt-a-highway’, Stop-n-Shop. In the city’s outskirts, bad traffic. A garbage truck with the statue of liberty painted and peeling on the side. Truckers and commuters and police cars and cabs. In the distance, visible through a web of steel and concrete, Manhattan glimmered in the rising sun.

Liberty City garbage truck

Read more

Feeling at home in a backpacker hostel

It’s true that you meet a lot of new people when travelling. Especially when staying in backpacker’s guesthouses. I checked into my hostel last night and within a few hours had gone in thirds with a Dutchman and a German in a bottle of vodka, and after finishing it with the help of a few Red Bulls, went to a local bar to meet more travellers.

Drawing of a hand holding a sliced mango snack in KL
Sliced mango snack
Read more