• CategoriesTravel

    Riding the Death Railway

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    One of the most moving solo travel experiences of my life occurred in 2012, when I decided to visit Kanchanaburi, Thailand for the rather incongruously named “Light & Sound Festival”. This remarkable event is actually the commemoration of the day in 1945 when the Kanchanaburi Rail Bridge – popularly and inaccurately known as “the Bridge on the River Kwai” – was severely damaged by US Army Air Force bombers, knocking out two spans of the eight-span structure built entirely by slave labour, including locals and Allied POWs.

  • CategoriesExpat Life · Travel

    Lady Macbeth and the Long Drive Home

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    The exciting adventures of my 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo continue! In the last thrilling instalment, I succeeded in getting the off-road vehicle stuck in a beach within about 25 metres of leaving the road and was only saved from my own stupidity a passing group of kind strangers. However, it was now about 8:30pm, I was a good 300-km drive from home, I was covered in sweat and sand and I was absolutely terrified and exhausted. I wanted to feel safe and comfortable after my massive freakout on the beach. I wanted to drive home.

  • CategoriesExpat Life · Travel

    Lady Macbeth and the Beach of Doom

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    The story starts just a few weeks after I bought the Lady – my 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo – while I lived in Muscat, Oman. Within a week of buying it, it had already had to go to a mechanic to replace the radiator matrix, so I wasn’t exactly filled with confidence about its reliability. However, I had the weekend free and grand dreams of seeing the galaxy.

  • CategoriesTravel

    Chasing Waterfalls in Phang Nga

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    There are several activities which, when I was younger, I swore that I would never do, either because of the inherent risks or because of failing to see the point. The first was bungee-jumping, which I’ve now done twice. Next was going to a gym, which I now do four times every week. The last was whitewater rafting, which was ticked off last week.

  • CategoriesTravel

    Hard Reset on Koh Phayam

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    Koh Phayam is a tiny tropical island at the very southern tip of Thailand’s western border with Myanmar, near the city of Ranong. During the fabulous weather of the high season, it is an increasingly popular destination for sun-seeking backpackers, keen to enjoy a budget getaway on an unspoilt paradise. Unfortunately, it is currently the quaintly titled “green season”, better known as the low or rainy season, for obvious reasons.

  • CategoriesExpat Life · Travel

    The Battle of Thung Thale Beach

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    Keeping low and moving slow, rifle firmly gripped in both gloved hands, I crept through a patch of dense woodland. I was shielded from the harsh sunlight and the view of most of the enemy invasion force by a wall of leaves, but the web of thin trunks and branches I was creeping through presented challenges of its own, particularly when it came to moving quietly. My squadmate joined me, silently indicating that we should move further to the left. The enemy were reportedly moving up through this area and, if we were careful, we would be able to attack on their exposed flank.

  • CategoriesTravel

    Mandalay: Not the Venice of the East

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    I ended my post about Bagan with the iconic words “the road to Mandalay”. I say “iconic” because I can think of at least two songs which feature those words prominently, most notably the Robbie Williams song of the same name. Admittedly, the song has very little to do with the second-largest city in Myanmar. Now I know why.

  • CategoriesTravel

    Bagan: Pagodas, Elephant Pants and Little Else

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    The story behind Bagan is that the ruler of the area took to Buddhism in a huge way, some time around the 11th century and immediately decided that he wanted his capital city to become the religion’s principle city. So, over the following few centuries, there was almost constant construction of at least 3,300 known pagodas, temples and monasteries. The exact reason why construction suddenly halted and Bagan went into a crippling social and economic decline is lost to history. The place just suddenly all but vanished off the map, taking its amazing cultural heritage with it; storing it out of time. Now that it has returned to prominence, I feel that over 3,000 almost identical structures was perhaps overdoing it a touch.

  • CategoriesTravel

    Yangon: Surprisingly Organised Chaos

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    I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I arrived in Myanmar. Since my only frame of reference for the country was my grandad’s war stories, I suppose that a part of me was half-expecting it to be exactly as it was in 1945. In one or two regards, it actually kind of is.

  • CategoriesTravel

    Operation Longcloth (2016)

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    One of the three people in my family who influenced my decision to live as an expatriate was, in an odd sort of way, my grandad. It is an odd way because he spent almost his entire life in a tiny village near York in the UK, called Barmby Moor. However, as with most British men of his generation, he was called up to fight in World War II. I will go into more detail about his stories in other posts, but the important part is that he spent 1941 to 1945 in India and, as it was then, Burma.