Category: Asia

I fell in love with Hong Kong on my first visit in 2002. I love condensed megacities that grow into the air as ground to build on is scarce. I was taken by Hong Kong’s scenery. Hong Kong is mountainous; the peaks of Hong Kong Island reach up to 552 metres surpassing even the highest skyscrapers. And it is by no means all city, planning authorities have made sure that a clear distinction between the city and nature is upheld. […]

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I observe racism even before entering the country. Approaching immigration, a security guard directs people into different lines. So far so good, but the guard does not direct people with the intention that all lines have roughly equal length but separates people like me into the “short line” and people that look like labourers from South Asia into the “long line”. Whereas only a few people are in my line, there are more than 50 in the other line. Who cares if the labourers have to wait? […]

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The plane is late, I have to take a taxi to get to the train station and catch one of the last trains of the day. I enter the train armed with a sushi box, let myself fall into the comfy seat and soon we head south at 300 km/h. It feels so good after months of slow and uncomfortable transport. Outside, only the lights of cities and towns are visible. My plane had landed in the north of Taiwan but two-and-a-half hours later, I am already in Tainan in the south of the country. […]

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Fate brought me to Gunung Mulu National Park. Bad research led me try to take a non-existent ferry from Brunei and the only option to leave on that day was the bus to Miri in Malaysia’s Sarawak state. Before I entered the bus, I made sure to book the flights to Gunung Mulu. The National Park lies deep inside the mountains and planes are the only way to get there.
Gunung Mulu is famous for its caves. […]

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Brunei is a rich Sultanate occupying a tiny spot on the island of Borneo. Malaysia has a much bigger part of the island and Indonesia’s territory is much larger still. The sultan rules as an absolute monarch over the roughly 430,000 people in Brunei, applying a mixture of English common law and sharia law. Wealth from oil and gas has transformed Brunei in the last decades. Its GDP per capita, measured at Purchasing Power Parity, ranks among the highest in the world. Brunei just doesn’t look like a rich country. […]

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Time is running short. I have to decide if I want to visit Indonesia for only a few days or not at all. Getting a short impression is better than getting no impression at all, so I go. From Singapore I take the ferry to the nearby island of Batam and from Batam a perversely cheap flight to Padang on the western side of Sumatra. I am glad that I decided to visit Indonesia: Firstly, it is a very beautiful country; secondly, Indonesian girls love to smile and thirdly, the avocado-chocolate smoothies are amazing. […]

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Singapore is an island city-state located off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It sits at the entrance of the Strait of Malacca, a vital shipping lane connecting the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the British Empire. For the Malays its island location made it uninteresting, the city of Johor on the mainland was much more important. Colonial powers love islands though, they are easier to take control of and defend. […]

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I enter Thailand arriving from Laos in the northeastern Isan Province. It is the poorest part of the country and sees few tourists although it has quite a few attractions. For the average traveller it just doesn’t fit in the usual preconceptions of Thailand with beach and fun. The first stop is Ubon Ratchanthani. The Night Market is a great introduction into Thai cuisine, cheap and delicious food all around. […]

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Crossing the border brings an immediate change. Suddenly, every speck of land seems to be used for intensive agriculture or fish farming. The river we cross is full of fishing boats. Things seem a lot more hectic.
The Mekong River runs 4,350 kilometres from the Tibetan Plateau through China, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia before discharging its water into the South China Sea in the Mekong Delta […]

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Angkor Wat is full of people. Understandable, as it is totally worth a visit. The temple complex called “City/Capital of Temples” is the largest religious monument in the world and nearly everybody has seen pictures of its beautiful shape and towers. It is considered the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. But the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site is much more than just Angkor Wat. […]

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I had already gotten my first taste of the Buddhist new year in Yangon, Myanmar. Celebrated in mid-April, the festivities last several days and bring many countries in South-East Asia to a halt. Traditionally, Songkran involved the sprinkling of scented water in a silver bowl but nowadays it has developed, at least for some people, into a free for all water battle. […]

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Part of a trip through Southeast Asia encompassing Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia’s Sumatra, Brunei, Malaysian Borneo, the Philippines and Taiwan. Myanmar – visited March/April 2015 – I had first come into contact with Myanmar in 2003. I met a British traveller who told me about a strange place called Burma that […]

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The Philippines are a country that I honestly do not understand. Meeting Filipinos around the world they are usually well educated, often working jobs that the locals do not know how to perform. They speak good to very good English and when I look at the country, I mostly see potential. But still, the country is poor, the infrastructure is inadequate and Filipinos are leaving in droves. […]

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I have exactly the same feeling as last time. Again, I am coming to Taiwan from a poorer country and again I am in awe. Getting a SIM card takes 45 seconds from giving them my passport to getting my phone back with the card in it and the whole thing fully working. Shortly later, I browse through a convenience store looking for nice delicacies to try out, one of those lovely onigiris, something else? Hmm, maybe a box of sushi. I buy a digital payment card (no registration, no nothing) to conveniently pay for transport and anything else, I take the metro and soon thereafter I am sitting in the high-speed train heading south. […]

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Writing about the Maldives is writing a tale of two countries. One is the Maldives of the tourists, where people lounge on the beach in revealing (western) swimwear, drink alcohol and eat pork. The other is the Maldives of the Maldivians, where people go to the beach and into the sea fully dressed, where alcohol and pork are forbidden and frowned upon. For decades, these two countries coexisted with only limited contact and only a few employees of the tourist resort would straddle the line. Since 2009, the two worlds have started to mix. […]

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It is my fourth visit to India and I have got a fairly good grasp of this complicated country. There are aspects I love and aspects I greatly dislike. I have never been that far south. The state of Kerala is well-known for two reasons, first its natural beauty, especially the backwaters, a series of canals and lakes where tourists visit on houseboats, enjoying and (most of them unfortunately) destroying the environment. Kerala’s other claim to fame is a long history of communist governments. […]

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