One month hitching Sumatra & Aceh

We travel from Malaysia to Sumatra, Indonesia, on the Vomit Boat. Its real name is the Star Express. But throughout the four hour journey we listen to everyone on board throw their dinners up into plastic bags (ironically, before this, the staff give everyone a meal of chicken and rice when the boat is still…

Hitchhiking, hiking & camping Malaysia

“Aaaaggghhhh! You fucking wankerrrrrr!” I scream at a young guy as I chase after him on my scooter. He has just grabbed my breast, whilst driving at 60kmph on his scooter, and now I’m on a high speed chase. But after just half a minute I wonder what I would actually do if I caught…

Ton Sai, Thailand: the destruction of paradise

“No Entry!! MOVE ON!” a security guard yells at us as we jump off the longtail boat at Railay beach. He is guarding a new, expensive resort, meaning that the ‘common’ public have to wade through the sea, waves crashing up to our waists, rather than step on the resort’s swimming pool grounds. Heaven forbid…

Problematic backpacker tourism in northern Thailand

The below blog post addresses just some of the problems of (mostly white European) backpacker tourism. When I first travelled in south-east Asia ten years ago, I did not see that my presence could be detrimental to the communities that I was visiting. My awareness of this has grown and evolved over the last few…

Scooter travels in northern Thailand

In July 2016 we spent two and a half weeks travelling around the far north of Thailand on scooters. We were careful not to photograph people without their permission, and we avoided driving into many of the small villages that we passed. This is because these villages never see tourists, and may not want to,…

Hiking the GR10 trail in the Pyrénées

We hiked the GR10 in June 2016. I don’t like climbing mountains. I think of it as macho: the egoic human wanting to conquer the peak. Don’t get me wrong, I love long distance hiking, and I have done my fair share of hikes. But I don’t feel the need to climb a few thousand…

Brighton: the invasion of the cupcakes!

You know that a city is too gentrified when you start to see cafes selling cupcakes. I have a particular problem with cupcakes because they’re just fairy cakes, similar to those that we used to make in primary school and sold for 10p. But rebranded as cupcakes, they’re now sold for £3 per tiny cake….

Travels in Rojava (part 2): Kobanê

“All religions have the same heart. We’re all one,” a man says to us warmly as we drink tea in his home. We are in the city of Kobanê in Rojava, an autonomous and democratically run region in the north of Syria. In late 2014, Kobanê became the focus of the world’s media when ISIS…

Travels in Rojava (part 1): Cizîrê canton

“We’re solidarity activists,” we say to a man who greets us as we cross the border into Rojava. “You’ve come too late!”  he replies. Nevertheless, he smiles widely, welcomes us and shakes our hands. In a way, I agree with him. We have come too late. We are only visiting Rojava when there has been…

Black Bogies and Phlegm in Bashur

  You know you’re in a polluted place when your bogies go black and your chest starts to hurt. I’m back in South (Iraqi) Kurdistan, which is also known simply as Bashur, meaning South, to Kurds. I’m with three friends, trying to cross the border into Rojava. Bureaucracy, politics and crooked governments have ensured that…

Reflecting on death

I have started to contemplate death properly for the first time. This contemplation began roughly one year ago, when I was in Bangkok. Running late for a Buddhist talk on impermanence, I dodged the heavy traffic as I walked across the road. Suddenly I saw a man laying on the ground with a sheet over…

Travels in Kurdistan (part 2) – The evil eye of Turkey’s military

Read Travels in Kurdistan (part 1) here It’s late June, and we arrive in Midyat as it’s getting dark. Unfortunately for us, President Tayyip Erdoğan has also decided to visit Midyat on the same evening, after a farcical PR stunt, giving Angelina Jolie a tour of the nearby Syrian refugee camp. Police are everywhere, roads are…