Blog Archives

Whale Shark Snorkelling in Donsol, Philippines

“There, there!” he kept shouting, “go straight, go straight!”

I kicked on through the murky water, peering through my goggles into the plankton-deepened gloom before me but seeing nothing.

“Where, where?” I yelled to the spotter on the boat, surfacing and looking back to shout, “I can’t see it!”

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Life in Beijing: the Street Barber of Shilipu

Pop-up street barber in Beijing

I was just going through some old photos and found this one of a pop-up street barber near my old place in Beijing. There isn’t much of a travel blog post I can write to go with it, but it shows a side of Beijing (and China) quite different from the grandeur of the Forbidden City or the Greatness of The Wall.

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The Best Places to See the Autumn Colours in Tokyo

Autumn colours at Tokyo Imperial Palace East Gardens

Seeing the cherry blossoms in spring probably tops the wishlist for most travellers visiting Tokyo, but an equally awesome time to visit the Japanese capital is during the autumn colours (the Japanese word is koyo, 紅葉, literally ‘red leaves’). The cherry trees are first (and least spectacular),

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The Five Grand Palaces of Seoul: which Seoul palaces should you visit?

Cherry blossoms at Gyeongbokgung palace, Seoul

The Five Grand Seoul Palaces of the Joseon Period, along with Jongmyo Shrine, make up the main traditional sightseeing spots in the Korean capital. Although the sites mostly date back to the 1300s – 1500s, the majority of the buildings standing on them today are actually recent reconstructions,

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The Best Places to See the Autumn Colours in Kyoto

Seeing the spring cherry blossoms in Kyoto is on many a bucket list, but an equally awesome time to visit the city is during the autumn colours (the Japanese word is koyo, 紅葉, lit. red leaves). The cherry trees go first, starting in mid-October, and by November the hillsides are mottled with varying shades and colours;

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Fushimi Inari to Tofukuji Hike

When visiting the incredible Fushimi Inari shrine in southern Kyoto for the first time, there are too many routes to check them all out; most visitors simply follow part or all of the main trail up, and perhaps the loop trail around the summit of the mountain. And if that’s what you do,

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Fushimi Inari: Complete Guide

Torii gates at Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari is hands down my favourite place in Kyoto, and my favourite place in Japan that isn’t a ski resort! When I first lived in Kyoto, my apartment was between Fushimi Inari and Tofukuji Temple, near one of the back routes up Mt Inari – and what a back garden Fushimi Inari makes.

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Tokyo, Blade Runner, and 2049

I first came across this lovely video montage of Tokyo cityscape footage set to the mournful tones of the Blade Runner score while writing this post about Ghost In The Shell; with the Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049, about to be released, the gods of the Youtube algorithm just (perhaps not so) randomly served it up again as part of my morning Youtube spiral (recommend hitting play and listening while you read):

The footage is great,

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Viewing the Disputed Kuril Islands from the Shiretoko Peninsula

Hokkaido’s remote Shiretoko Peninsula in the far northeastern corner of Japan was a place I’d wanted to go ever since I spent a ski season in Sapporo. At the time I’d made a trip out that way to Abashiri (famous for its once-notorious prison) and taken an ice-breaker cruise out on the frozen Sea of Okhotsk,

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Crossing the Great Seto Bridge (Seto Ohashi) from Okayama to Takamatsu

(I wrote this during my last visit to Japan, but only just getting around to sorting the pics and posting it now!)

Today I crossed the Seto Inland Sea from Okuyama to Shikoku via the Seto Ohashi (瀬戸大橋, Great Seto Bridge), for no real purpose other than to do so (ah,

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The JR Pass: is it worth it?

A shinkansen bullet train passing through Maibara Station

So, the JR Pass; man, how I always looked on with envy at all the tourists (including family & friends when they visited) just breezing through the Shinkansen gates, flashing their JR Passes like a wave of a wand, to be whisked away here, there, and everywhere at high speed on Japan’s iconic bullet trains.

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My Failed Tibet Trip: Permits, Solo Travel, Getting Stuck in Xining, and the Amdo Route from Xining To Chengdu

A mosque in Xining

Cold, tired, and hungry, I finally dropped my bags and plonked myself down on the bed; all I had to do now was go out for food and then shower & sleep, before getting up next day to take the world’s highest train across the Tibetan Plateau to Lhasa.

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Life in Beijing: Airpocalypse Now

One night while living in Beijing I coughed and hacked and spluttered all night long, with an itching and burning in my throat that nothing would alleviate.

I didn’t sleep much that night, and when I finally did wake up in the morning, shattered, I awoke to the horrifying sight of blood flecks across my pillow.

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(How NOT to) Go to Guizhou: the Hidden Beauty of China

“Go to Guizhou, the Hidden Beauty of China,” the TV advised me.

“No thanks mate – I already did, and it was kinda shit,” I replied.

I was sat in my Airbnb in Taipei, doing some work with the TV on in the background,

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A Stroll in Chongqing: City of Bridges and Spices, Phlegm and Trash

Historical courtyard in Chongqing

Why are you even here? This wasn’t the plan at all. You were supposed to be in Tibet.

A chaotic street scene in Chongqing

Crossing the road, you tuck in behind the old bloke bent under the weight of an enormous load of empty plastic bottles as a concrete mixer rumbles by,

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Life in Taipei: the Taiwan Receipt Lottery

If you’re travelling in Taiwan, you may notice that shop staff seem particularly keen for you to take your receipt; you may even notice members of public scrambling to scoop up discarded receipts from the floor.

The reason is the rows of digits printed near the top, just above the date:

Taiwan receipt lottery numbers on shop receipts

Every time you make a purchase in Taiwan,

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Life in Taipei: a Stroll Around Zhongshan

Street art in Taipei's Zhongshan District

This little bit of public art in Taipei’s Zhongshan District depicts a scene from a Chinese proverb, which tells us that though a hare may be faster than a snail, a snail will still win a race up the wall.

Street art in Taipei's Zhongshan District

Zhongshan is one of Taipei’s central shopping areas,

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Life in Taipei: Remnants of the Empire of the Sun

Rinzai Zen Temple, Yuanshan, Taipei

As a former resident of Japan who moved to Taipei, it was fascinating to see the Japanese influence on this originally Chinese culture, Taiwan having been a Japanese colony for 50 years from 1895 to 1945; this influence is actually most obviously present in the cuisine (and also if you dig in to the linguistics there are plenty of Japanese loanwords in Taiwanese Mandarin),

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Life in Taipei: Qilou Buildings

A typical qilou street in Taipei

I’m not sure why I stopped and snapped this picture at the time, but it captures a really typically Taiwanese scene – the guy doing the dishes in the gutter after the restaurant’s closed for the night, the lanterns, the other guy about to get on his scooter,

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Life in Taipei: Xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung

Xiaolongbao (小籠包, literally ‘little basket buns’) are a specialty of both Shanghai and Taipei – small dough parcels of pork and soup, they’re like bite-sized explosions of delicious joy in your mouth.

A basket of xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung, Taipei

Originally from Shanghai, xiaolongbao became a local staple in Taiwan with the wave of mainland immigrants that fled there in 1949 at the end of the Chinese Civil War,

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