Blog Archives

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,

Read more ›

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,

Read more ›

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),

Read more ›

Visiting the DMZ (De-Militarised Zone) Between South and North Korea

North and South Korean soldiers facing off in the JSA, Panmunjeom DMZ

Visiting the DMZ (De-Militarised Zone) is one of the most unusual and interesting things you can do on a visit to Korea (or indeed anywhere), giving you the opportunity to take a peak into the hermit state and even step across the world’s most heavily fortified border and stand on North Korean territory.

Read more ›

Preah Vihear: failing to visit the disputed temple from the Thai side

“No, you can’t go there, army fighting with Cambodia now.”

What? I’d just checked two hours earlier with the policeman on duty back at Surin bus station, and he’d told me the situation was calm, so I’d continued on towards Preah Vihear; now this motorbike driver at Kantharalak bus station was telling me Preah Vihear was off limits again…

Read more ›

Sapporo to Kyoto by local train; a bizarre encounter in Tomakomai, the dog-eat-dog-politely world of busy Japanese trains, and a heroic last stand in Hiraizumi

Part One: A Bizarre Encounter at Tomakomai Station

“Hey. Fuck you!”

…what the? I heard this woman before I ever saw her; she’d sneaked up behind me while I was on the phone and suddenly started screaming in my free ear…

“Fuck you! Hey, fuck you!”

Read more ›