An Early Bird Attempt at the Humble Administrator’s Garden

Suzhou has a handful of main attractions that draw in tourists from throughout China and beyond: its network of canals that earned it the moniker ‘Venice of the East’, the (free!) Suzhou Museum, designed by I.M. Pei, or its centuries-old silk industry. But the biggest draw of all would have to be its collection of classical gardens–69 in total, nine with UNESCO World Heritage status. Largest and most famous of these, and generally accepted as the thing to do if ever in Suzhou, is The Humble Administrator’s Garden, or 拙政园 (Zhuōzhèng yuán). Its popularity means it is often flooded with tourists, particularly of the variety that move in large groups. Humility may not be the first thing that comes to mind when walking (or pushing) your way through the 13 acres of Humble Administrator’s Garden. But as the 拙 (zhuō) in 拙政 (Zhuōzhèng) can also translate to clumsy, awkward, or inept, as well as humble, the irony of the garden’s name might not come across in other languages as nicely as it does in ours. Continue reading

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A Wet and Weary Weekend on Huangshan

Back in early spring, a friend suggested a group trip up Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, in Anhui province for the first weekend in May. The plan was to stay at a cheap hotel at the foot of the mountain on the Friday, hike up with our gear on Saturday morning, camp at the summit that night, and come back down after watching the sunrise on Sunday–all while enjoying the iconic landscapes of craggy peaks covered in small, spindly trees jutting out of the slowly rolling mist: basically, Dragon Ball in real life. The views and lore of Huangshan mean it’s now an extremely touristy UNESCO site, complete with hotels and cable cars, but still with adventurous options for the rugged.  For out of practice campers and hikers like me and Nick, this all sounded perfect. Continue reading

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A Not-Quite-Budget, Somewhat Vegetarian 2 1/2 Weeks in Cambodia (Part 3): Koh Rong Samloem & Kep

If you want to see what we got up to on the first legs of our trip through Cambodia, go ahead and read Parts 1 and 2 of this series.

After a very eventful several days traipsing around temples and overeating perfect renditions of our favorite food and drink from back home, it was time to just turn off. I’d had an inkling we would feel like this at this very point in the trip. So I chose Koh Rong Samloem–the smaller and quieter of the two dreamy islands off the southwest coast that everyone says you simply must see (but yea, you really must)–as our next stop. We came to realize that our only two options for getting all the way from Siem Reap in the northwest to Sihanoukville (where you catch the ferries to the islands) in the southwest: plane or an overnight bus that takes a million hours on terrible roads. So we bit the £100+ per person bullet and flew. Continue reading

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A Not-Quite-Budget, Somewhat Vegetarian 2 1/2 Weeks in Cambodia (Part 2): Kratie & Siem Reap

If you haven’t yet, have a look at Part 1 on our trip to Cambodia; there you can read what we got up to on the first leg of our trip in Phnom Penh and what our onward journey out of the city was like.


Most of the tourist stuff in Cambodia is in the western half of the country. Intent on doing/seeing something on this trip that not everybody else who visits Cambodia does, I chose Kratie as one of our destinations. It lies on the Mekong in the northeast of Cambodia, but not too far northeast (no all-day minivan rides for us, thank you). Our coach pulled into Kratie just as the sun was setting, and–especially after the previous three nights in Phnom Penh–everything around us seemed to be the best kind of chill.


Photo courtesy of Nick

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A Not-Quite-Budget, Somewhat Vegetarian 2 1/2 Weeks in Cambodia (Part 1): Phnom Penh

In your thirties and never ‘been traveling’? Have a large enough budget to avoid shared bathrooms? But not large enough to justify all those occasions where you inevitably ‘treat yourself’? Do you tell people your vegetarian for simplicity’s sake, because not everyone knows what a pescetarian is, and you know you’d be a good vegetarian if only squid and mackerel weren’t so delicious?  Then this two and a half week itinerary for the soft and slightly dietary-restricted may be just for you! Continue reading

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Winter, At Last

A late Happy New Year to all! It’s been nearly a month since Nick and I returned from our Christmas time tour of Cambodia, a full write up of which will be up very soon. As is the case every year, one of my resolutions is to write here more, especially since in 2017 I yet again moved away to another part of the world from yet another collection of people I’d really come to like. I’m aware that blabbering about things that are happening in my life is not the same as actually keeping in touch through personal correspondence, but hopefully my updates here can serve some purpose until we actually speak again.

Today, that purpose is me gloating, and you being on the receiving end of it. Continue reading

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How to Confront a Fear of Needles

Sitting on Dr. K’s* examination table in my underwear, I showed her where my back hurt, and I explained that an osteopath back in the U.K. said it was due to an inflamed disc. ‘Your disc?’ she asked me, wide-eyed. I nodded. ‘OK, lie down on your stomach and I’ll use the needles.’ That was the precise moment I learned that I’d be getting acupuncture for the first time. Continue reading

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