Blog Archives

Hospitality and Scorpions in Marble Canyon

We were two weeks into our epic road trip around the US, now driving through the incredible southwestern states of New Mexico and Arizona; we’d just spent two days in Albuquerque for the July 4 Independence Day celebrations (and also one of my companion’s birthdays), and the next point of call was the Grand Canyon.

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Drugs Busted After the 2006 World Cup. Sort of…

“Sir,” she said in a suddenly stern voice, “your bag’s tested positive for amphetamines.”

My jaw hit the floor. My bag? Amphetamines? You what?

I was standing in the customs area of Christchurch Airport, the entire contents of my bags laid out before me on the cold metal counter,

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A Week of Fruit Picking and Verbal Abuse in Bundaberg

“Stop chatting to your girlfriend and get back to work, you Pommie cunt!”

The speaker was my supervisor, and we were in a Queensland tomato field pruning vines. My ‘girlfriend’ was my male coworker who, being a white Australian, couldn’t really be subject to the usual racial or national insults so was instead a ‘blooming pufter’

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Sailing in the Whitsunday Islands: 3 days of vomit and misery

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia

I looked along the deck at the picture of youthful beauty alongside me, all the long tanned legs and all the long blond hair fluttering in the breeze, and I looked out at all the beauty around us, all these magnificent tropical islands with their perfect white sand beaches;

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Overland Adventures: the stinky Filipino fish bus

Naked children leapt from the ramshackle pier in the tropical downpour, laughing and screaming as lightning flickering across the edges of a sky as threatening as any I’ve yet seen.

“That boat?” I asked hopefully, indicating the larger and (slightly) more seaworthy-looking of the two pieces of junk lashed to the pier.

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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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(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 Near Miss With One of Thailand’s Deadly Rich Kids

So there I was, bottle of Singha in hand, strolling along the street through On Nut (a suburb of Bangkok) towards the Skytrain station to go meet friends, when this car brushed past me – a matter of millimetres from connecting – angled off the road, and crumpled itself into first the lamppost and then the wall directly in front of me.

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Dog Bites Man: on soi dogs, getting bitten, and rabies shots in Bangkok

Thai soi dogs

Bitten in Bangkok

Khao San Road, circa 3am… (and this is not the first story I’ve told on these pages that picks up at that time & place!) …my Canadian buddy’s waiting for me in the street while I pop in to a bar to grab us two more beers and make use of their restrooms.

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On Khao San Road, late night beatings, and sticking your neck out

“That little fucker just tried to take my wallet!”

Not from what I’d seen… “You sure mate?” I replied, “looked to me like you just bumped into each other.”

We were drinking and dancing in the middle of Khao San Road at 3am, as you do,

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Leshan: Big Brawl at the Big Buddha

The huge stone Buddha of Leshan

The Great Buddha of Leshan in China‘s Sichuan province is one of the largest statues in the world, 71 metres tall, and the largest stone Buddha. It can easily be visited as a day-trip from the nearby city of Chengdu, especially since the opening of the high speed rail line connecting the two cities;

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Drunk Sleeping on the Train in Japan – and Getting Stranded in the Wrong Prefecture!

The cool air wafting across my face, combined with the train’s extended lack of motion, coaxed me out of my slumber.

“Shit,” I thought, “where the hell am I?”

To which the answer was: I was drunk and jet-lagged on an empty train in the Japanese countryside,

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Robert Plant’s Lemon Juice: surviving the Trans-Sumatra Highway (Sumatra to Java overland)

I flopped into a chair and ordered a plate of nasi goreng and a bottle of Bintang, now running on empty and entirely on autopilot. The nasi goreng was to satiate my hunger, the beer to celebrate my having survived the Trans-Sumatra Highway; it was hot and humid even in the small hours,

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A Crazy Journey to Bukit Lawang

We got off the ferry from Malaysia, cleared immigration, and made a mad dash across Medan (North Sumatra, Indonesia), just catching the last minivan to Bukit Lawang by the skin of our teeth.

This was one of those minivans where there are 12 seats but the driver’s taking however many people need a ride;

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Hostel Horror Stories: the Melbourne Bag Pisser

Spend any significant length of time backpacking, and you’ll hear plenty of hostel horror stories. Eventually, you’ll directly experience or witness your very own! I’ve had a few, but one of my hostel horror stories stands out head and shoulders above the rest: the Melbourne bag pisser…

So,

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Thailand to Malaysia Overland: getting stranded at the eastern border with a lonely policeman (or, how NOT to travel to the Perhentian Islands)

How NOT to travel from Thailand to Malaysia overland!

(for the sensible routes from Thailand to Malaysia, scroll to the lower half of the post)

Hat Yai bus station. The day was getting old, the sun dropping and the shadows drawing long, and I wasn’t sure if I had time to make it to Kota Bharu in Malaysia before the border closed.

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Beijing to Chengdu in the autumn holiday: 27 hours in a tin of sardines!

Obviously, the train was packed. It was the autumn holidays, when the whole of China travels home to see family, and the only tickets available had been for the hard seat carriages – these carriages do have numbered individual seats (‘hard’ meaning non-reclining, because there are so many packed in),

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Stuck in Siliguri (and Josh the Indian Travel Guru)

Another mosquito drifted slowly past my face, lazy with blood. I couldn’t even be bothered to properly go for her in the heat, just vaguely wafting my hand through the humid air while I focused on the subtitles.

We were watching yet another heavily-censored American movie, subtitled in Hindi,

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Hotpot Carnage in Chongqing

We got off the bus at some shithole bus station in a grim city that felt about two decades behind Beijing, under a smothering blanket of dirty brown smog so thick we couldn’t even see the tops of the faceless concrete blocks lining the hillsides. So this was Chongqing,

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A Beijing Bender

Beijing’s a city I’ve been to a whole bunch of times, including a spell living there for a few months in autumn / winter of 2013, so I’ve come to know the place pretty well and have plenty of memories there.

But it was that very first weekend I ever spent in mainland China that stands out the most from all the time I spent in Beijing;

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