I tried to find the artists' village a few years ago and failed miserably. When I was new to Saigon, a durable expat had told me about a place he had once been taken to, where a group of artists lived in traditional wooden houses.
I’ve often thought that “You are not special” is a terrible thing to say to someone as it trivialises the human experience. But staring up at 30 metres of raw Cat Ba Island mountain that you are expected to climb is a humbling experience — one that could make the most rock-strong of our bretheren feel a bit trivial or even unspecial.
We all know that travelling is mostly about who you meet. And the prime draw of visiting New York isn’t the tall buildings, theatres or pizza. It’s the 1,000 cultures that meet there, all building their kooky version of the American dream.
We meet in front of the Caravelle at 8.30am sharp, the earliest I’ve ever had call to be in Lam Son Square. All around us are departing tourists and waiting taxis, sticking to the frenzied itineraries of first-timers. We have one of our own coming up, but it’s a bit subtler than the well-worn path of the guidebooks. We’re going to be peeling back the layers of history.
It’s sunrise. The waves are riding high and the sky is cloudy — it’s about to rain. I got there early to see the fishing boats come in with their fresh catch. Like dots on the horizon, they bobbed on the tempestuous ocean making their way back after a hard night’s work.
“I’m on this trip because around this time last year my aunt died at Mt. Kailash on a pilgrimage,” Selva explains. “She went with a group of friends, when they reached Kailash she wasn’t feeling well so she told them to continue without her. They left to do the three-day Kailash Kora and she passed away before they returned. One of the women with her told me she looked so peaceful her sari wasn’t even ruffled.”
Given the increasing amount of attention it's received from tour groups, is Vietnam’s iconic pottery village an example of rich craft and cultural heritage or just another tourist cash cow? Marc Forster-Pert went to find out. Photos by Francis Roux
Just a 90-minute flight from Tokyo, the tropical climate and cuisine of the Okinawa archipelago makes it a unique destination for anyone heading to the Land of the Rising Sun. Words by Humphrey Morgan. Photos provided by the Okinawa Tourist Board
Think of a city with 2,000 years worth of history that has been burnt down once, bombed, rebuilt and remains the largest city in the EU. Imagine a place that mixes architectural grandesse and history with contemporary arts, great theatre, the best in English-language comedy and cutting edge music.
The sun has long since set, but for the food vendors on Lebuh Chulia, business is just beginning. Along the crowded sidewalk, local people queue up for steaming, fragrant bowls of wonton soup and heaps of fresh noodles, wok-seared in a dark sauce. Outside a shuttered shop, a vendor pours the water from coconuts into plastic bags filled with shredded fruit.