Tag Archives: tourism

Kuala Lumpur – is this the most pedestrian-unfriendly city in the world?

Standing at the intersection beneath Bukit Bintang monorail station, I was beginning to lose patience. Traffic had been roaring past in both directions for five minutes, with nary a sign that the lights were going to change and let the growing crowd of pedestrians cross. Then, as the fast flow of cars ground to a halt, the lights phased to allow traffic to come across the crossroads and turn right, leaving us stranded on the sidewalk. Continue reading

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Trekking to sunrise at Mount Batur, Bali

2.45am is a time I equate with sleeping, the occasional booze-fuelled late night and Elliot Smith. But in Ubud, Bali, it’s at this time that I find myself sitting on the side of the road awaiting a pick-up to take us out to Mount Batur. One of Bali’s two active volcanoes, it’s one of the best spots on the island to see sunrise, with promised views of the towering Mount Agung and the island of Lombok.

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Cameron Highlands, Malaysia – getting the most out of wildlife in this stunning corner of South East Asia

Despite an unerring (some would say worrying) devotion to the BBC’s endlessly wholesome Springwatch and a penchant for lengthy country walks, my wildlife spotting skills are distinctly average. I try to put it down to bad eyesight, but the fact is I’m just not properly clued in on birds and other fauna to be able to tell a cuckoo from a chiff chaff at one hundred paces.

That’s not to say this isn’t something I’ve been desperate to remedy for a long time. And fortunately, in Malaysia’s gorgeous Cameron Highlands, I was afforded the opportunity to do so courtesy of some lush rainforest and guides with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area’s plant and bird life. Continue reading

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Biking to Beng Melea – off the beaten track in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Turning off the main road out of Siem Reap, our bikes crunch across wet gravel towards one of the many small local villages that surround Cambodia’s biggest tourist town. Turning around, our guide Samnang points to four uniformed men and a white Land Rover in the adjacent field. ‘Training to clear land mines,’ he says. ‘They’ve already cleared many temple sites, but there’s much work left to do.’

It’s a stark reminder that this area, and this country, are still suffering the horrific after effects of the Khmer Rouge’s brief but brutal rule. We’re on the road to Beng Melea, an ancient temple site that sits over 50km north of the main attractions of Angkor. Our ride though, which has only just begun, will cover 75km, through lush paddy fields, arid landscapes and tiny villages, as we get off the beaten track and try to find the real Cambodia. Continue reading

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Mekong Delta tour – how to do it yourself in Vietnam’s rice bowl

Finding a Mekong Delta tour is the least challenging thing a backpacker can do in Saigon. Operators from Sinh Tourist to Hanh Cafe offer similar variations on a theme.  A bleary-eyed 5am start on day one, visits to handicraft stores and various local industries and a whistle stop trip around a floating market. This is largely repeated on days two (and three), with the hours punctuated by hotel meals and little chance to interact with the locals that make the area tick.

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Vietnam’s endless development – ruin or redemption?

The road from Nha Trang is awash with litter from endless construction sites. Down to the water, rickety cranes swing huge concrete blocks into place. New golf courses and spas abound. This is wild west capitalism, where quick buildings and a fast buck have become the dominant feature of a nation in a desperate to hurry to keep pace with insatiable demand.

It’s not just on this stretch of coast either. The vast sandy beaches between Da Nang and Cua Dai are being sold off and developed at a rate of knots. Beaches that were once the R and R playgrounds of battle fatigued GIs are quickly becoming insulated playpens for those who want sun and sand without the local culture.

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