Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Life & Near-Death in Cambodia

Half my life ago, when I was twice the idiot I am now, I flew to Cambodia to meet up with two friends who were riding tandem bicycles around the world. This was my first trip to a country without a sanitation department so naturally I was pretty excited.

The plan was for me to ride on the back of one of their bikes as we pedaled from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and out to the temples of Angkor. When I say the plan I really mean my plan. The plan, according to my friends, was not only to cycle across Cambodia and the rest of the world but to live to tell about it.

My plans tend to lack such detail.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Virtual Vacation - New Orleans, USA

New Orleans, I've always said, is the only place in the United States where you'll find culture of any substance. But of course this isn’t true. There are pockets of organic, uncontrived character in every corner and plain of the American west where Native American traditions still survive.

Culture goes back a long way in the New Orleans area, further even than the earliest gumbo recipe. Watson Brake, in northern Louisiana, is a burial mound complex thatwas constructed over centuries by a hunter-gatherer society. Dating from about 3500 BC, they are a thousand years older than the Pyramids of Giza.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Virtual Vacation - Chur, Switzerland

The town of Chur sits like a decorative knick-knack among the Alps of eastern Switzerland. The streets of the old neighborhood are a storybook come to life. The Plessur River flows down from the southeast, cutting a straight line through town, joining the fabled Rhine out on the northwest skirts. The verdant alpine slopes up above watch over Chur like loving grandparents. The surrounding countryside is replete with vineyards, keeping the town in good spirits.

If you aren’t checking flights by now I don’t know what else to tell you.

If you are checking flights, be prepared. Chur sits in the middle of a rough circle formed by Zurich, Munich, Salzburg, Venice, Milan and Geneva. The intolerable wonders of Paris and Vienna are slightly further-flung but eminently accessible. What hell to have to choose which city to fly into! You’ll then have to tolerate being whisked headlong into the Swiss Alps via a train system that is the transportation equivalent of satin sheets.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Virtual Vacation - Yakushima Island, Japan

Yakushima is a circular island off the southwest tip of Japan. By boat or by plane, it takes a bit of time and a chunk of change to get there. Barely fifteen miles across, Yakushima is home to fewer than fifteen thousand people, inhabiting towns and villages strung around the island’s perimeter. There’s no traffic, no noise, and definitely no night life.

There is, however, a lot of rain. Yakushima’s mountains manage to suck in just about every cloud floating across the East China Sea, bringing several meters - meters! - of annual rainfall to the island. Bring a change of socks.