Some Travel Notes

Travel related ideas, views, and news

Category: development

Phnom Penh: The Indian Transportation Takeover

It was a late arrival at the small Phnom Penh airport on the outskirts of the atmospheric city, ever bustling with street-food, motorbikes and people busy under the dim street-lighting and the warm, humid, night sky. We got into our 1980s Jaguar, began discussing with the driver about Sinn Sissamouth, Ros Serey Sothea and the other great singers and musicians of pre-war Cambodia. It felt good to be back in a country I’ve been to many times since my first visit in 2004.

Jaguar in Cambodia

Vintage Jag outside the Pavilion, Phnom Penh

But this time there was something different about the streets. And it was only a year since our previous visit. My first thought was that we’d boarded the wrong flight and ended up in Delhi. Of course ignoring the Khmer language and the drivers on the right-side of the road.

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Stop making nice places famous.

“Shit, busy would be an understatement. But the article said it was pristine and peaceful.” Every traveller has muttered words to that effect. Should it not occur to us that we went there, because of the guidebook, or that travel site we stumbled upon. AND so did all the others.

The LP effect. This often useful publication has been known for the influence it exerts on certain businesses and particular destinations. Recommend one cafe in Goa, and that cafe becomes the place to go for the average visitor. Suggest one beach over another, and that becomes the preferred beach for the masses, no matter if just over the headland there is an even more picturesque, and of course quieter stretch. Travel in India, and see that if a cafe has been recommended by the LP, you’ll see signs all over the business exterior shouting about it. You may also find that other enterprises have opened up with the same name, knowing full well that any recommendation in the LP would boost their takings hugely. Such is the influence travel writers can have.

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Vang Vieng: from one problem traveller to another

Humidity was building in the night sky, the tall coconut trees starting to sway dramatically, signalling a storm on its way. “I wish I’d come here 10 years ago”, I said as the last of the Chang beer dripped from the bottle whilst I lay in my hammock precariously strapped between the uprights of my 100 baht-a-night (£1.50 at the time) rickety beach bungalow. “Yeah man, me too”, replied my newly met travel mate, shouting over from his adjacent bungalow, in-between strums on his beat-up travel guitar.

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Change in Beijing’s hutongs 胡同

Beijing. A fascinating city, one that is thoroughly enjoyable to live in. But pollution can get even the most hardy of resident down, and like any big city, it can be overwhelmingly busy and hectic at times. Unsurprising for a city in excess of 21 million residents. But what arguably gives Beijing an edge over other similar sized cities, is being able to escape to the relative tranquility of the hutong areas. For those who are unfamiliar,

Rickshaw hutong Beijing

A 三轮车 san lun che rickshaw driver in a typical hutong

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