Travel: more memorable moments of 2013

A second installment of the travel moments that have stuck in my head the most from last year. (Click photos to zoom.)

6. El Nido, the Philippines
04PhilippinesOn Snake Island

Our family trip to El Nido didn’t all go smoothly (I’m looking at you, box jellyfish; yeah, you who decided that my three-year-old daughter’s thigh was the perfect landing pad for your tentacles) but it’s hard to deny that this part of the Philippines is completely stunning. Takes a bit of getting to, but worth it. Snake Island isn’t named after snakes but after a spit of sand that snakes its way for 500 metres from the island to the mainland of Palawan. You take a boat here and then you just kind of laze about. Happy days.

7. Fukuura Island, Japan
On the shore of Matsushima Bay06Japan

Journeying through the area devastated by Japan’s 2011 tsunami is a disquieting thing. Personal snapshots of the destruction, already sepia-tinged as the years start to tick by, can be found sticky-taped to the front windows of businesses that were destroyed and have been rebuilt. The bridge in this photo was one of the few lucky structures in gorgeous Matsushima Bay not to have been washed away. It leads to a beautifully peaceful island of simple paths among towering pines. Continue reading

Travel: memorable moments of 2013

Oops, I’m late with this. Anyway, here goes. (Click photos to zoom.)

1. Srinagar, Kashmir
At the floating market on Dal Lake01Kashmir

I have to say that the timing of my Kashmir/North India trip wasn’t great. On the day I arrived in Srinagar, five Indian soldiers were shot dead on the disputed border with Pakistan about 60km away. So the place was under curfew, armies were mobilising, tourists were advised to avoid going anywhere near the Old City, and everyone seemed a bit … jumpy. Everyone except the farmers on Dal Lake, that is. They just wanted to sell their pumpkins and smoke a few early-morning cigs.

2. Vientiane, Laos
02LaosAt Wat Si Saket

I made my first visit to the Laotian capital in 2013, and while it doesn’t have the same soporific charm of Luang Prabang, it’s still got a great vibe: beautiful Buddhist wats like the one where this picture was taken, French-style cafes selling baguettes and espressos, interesting colonial architecture, and bars with cold Beerlao and great sunset views over the Mekong. You couldn’t ask for much more, really. (You could if you were my wife; you could ask for great shops. And it has those too, apparently.) Continue reading