An Order of LARGE with a Side of SEX.

The greatest contrast of the trip so far: saying farewell to the Canyon, this great chasm, silently dominating, unfathomable and waking up in the Big Easy. Big Swell of sweat, swill and swing.

The feeling of having been kidnapped, drugged, dumped in a bottom place of excess. Small city girl taken to be tested. Hard.

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New Orleans is special. Obvious to any visitor. Smoking at the bar, drinking on the streets, jazzy tunes floating down every street, into houses that are astonishingly handsome. Toulouse. The real and gritty France and Spain and England and America – manners bewitched and sparked, a cauldron of vice in the way of old school croonin’ jiving tap dancing blues. Muffaletta (look it up).

Our guide book has a downer on Bourbon St. Agreed, inasmuch as it’s over invested, working too hard and, unfortunately, lacking in the soul it once wore on its sleeve. Frenchman St is heralded as maintaining what N’Awlins is all about.

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– R Bar
– The Spotted Cat
– Apple Barrel
– Coops Place
– And More.

(Don’t forget the English pub on Algiers Point with a Tardis entrance. Or its local bar, cheapest Pabst Blue Ribbon yet).

It is cool. Small streets, Louisinia houses, rocking chair n all, with bars and dives that only care about the music and Wells. Alas, Kermit Ruffins’ famed Thursday night is retired, but jazz and funk remains when 3 for 1 Daiquiris have conquered elsewhere. Sophie Lee and Jumbo Shrimp – never has music lifted me up and spun me around into such a foggy whirlwind. A conversion for all who enter.

The humidity is just as heavy as in Asia. Building across the day into an ever predictable thunderstorm. At least air con is everywhere, although my wearing of the denim indicates a certain acclimatisation of which I am oddly proud.

A southern drawl that makes me miss House of Cards the more. Must watch Tremé. 

A drinking town. Beer and Jamesons.  But a sit down, talk and swing drinking town. Not a down it and snog. A savour and indulge, stick around, let the passions rise up, wrap around and sink in.

Hiking into the Canyon, dead heat on red skin and dust in throat. A different grittiness. Both the GC and NO are an evidence of how much wow can be found in the earth, with the dirt and the melting hue a fundamental part of its oomph. Depressing to discover how cheap the rent would be on a flat in the heart of it all down South. Hanoi seems to be second fiddle, except for Bia Hoi.

Bia Hoi, O how I miss thee.

Landed in Washington. Netflix is on and House of Cards is a go go. Must remember to leave the flat in the next two days…

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Waiting for the Godot Train: Beaches are nice.

Starting this entry at 19:25. Cafe. Waiting for a train due 01:26. Delayed by 80 minutes so 02.50. Worst part of travelling is the travel. The waiting to travel. Just a void of nothing. Nothing nothing nothing. At least we’re not the couple delayed 5 hours. Thailand has nicer trains but Vietnam had a working clock. Communism can do what Mussolini could, but definitely not the Thais.

Before starting this entry: bus, boat, bus to get to the train station from Koh Phangan. The islands – an education in Mother Nature’s untouchable and unwavering authority in the sublime. A storm will remind you of her power to destroy, but the serenity of such spotless water lapping onto the sand, a fundamental interface, washes away the blind complacency of banal existences to reinforce the grandiose. The calm giant,  the still beast.

Before the islands: A day in Phuket town. Mum was right – seedy. Retreated into a cinema (only Transcendence was showing in English – much disappointment in missing out on Watson in Noah) owing to Nic dying of Dengue Fever or Japanese Encephalitis. Couldn’t decide which but it definitely wasn’t the travel bug that it obviously was. Important update: he’s not dead, and perfectly fine but for an ever increasing hatred of cockcroaches.

Koh Phangan and burning my midriff after 10 minutes by the pool. Mortifying. Not much else to describe in many ways. Not the architectural wonder of Angkor, unbelievable for its age, or the grandeur of Halong Bay, or the visceral history of Vietnam and the vibrancy of its today, Agent Orange still alive in the cells of a generation’s children. This is an island, small, stunning, heaven on earth. And that is the attraction. The ease. No expectation to learn, mourn or pay attention. Just lie down, have a coconut and listen to Don McLean’s Greatest Hits with which I have formed an oddly strong connection. Also, an opportunity for Nic to discover Thailand’s third gender, the Ladyboy, outside Koh Samui’s very own Moulin Rouge.

“You can not be telling me she’s anything but just a woman.”

“I dare you.”

He didn’t.

Finishing this blog entry in Georgetown, Penang. 18:19 and all the more gloriously sunny for us having arrived after the 24 hour journey from the proverbial in the knowledge we have 4 days here sans any travelling at all.

Georgetown deserves a blog entry of its own, to come. Just a note to stress the mightily confusing phenomenon that is Malaysian society. A literal melting pot (38’C). Walking through the middle of Jaipur, you can cross the road into Bejing or turn left onto Armenian street within the space of a town much smaller than Oxford (although they definitely cram in more people). Watched Liverpool vs. Chelsea (Nic almost had a heart attack) in the street with locals blowing on horns louder than a cruise liner. Discovered the delights of a beer tower. Fascinating to watch the local waitresses sprinting up and down the street, athleticism matched by the mental ability to remember the orders of increasingly drunk holler-ers. And they can speak English, are shrewd and beautiful. I often feel outdone by waiters/resses. University was a doddle.

I Miss Kevin Spacey: Temples at Dawn.

(Or, Wat’ya saying!)

It is hard to describe Angkor Wat. Correction – the Angkor Wat complex, hundreds of the things once housing a 1 million strong capital of the Angkor empire, now inhabited by steadfast locals, their dogs and tourists with oversized cameras (myself inc.). Superlatives abound and this blog post could become the immediate copy of a 100 other Wat enthusiasts. Google Angkor Wat and you can see it. There it is.

Yet the scale is worth comment. Hours on a tuk tuk chasing temples and carvings through the jungle. Piles of rubbled ruin and skeletal arrangements of pillar, arch, pillar. A mind twisting complex of fallen stone to explore and goggle at. Praise be to whoever that it is not in England. No Entry. Follow this route only. Queue here. VIP tickets only. Safety Notice. The perks of corrupt Cambodian officialdom: freedom to climb and bound into any crevice that takes the fancy, save for the truly ridiculously large trees such as those growing out of the Tomb Raider Temple, Ta Prohm. They can not still be alive, they have no roots. Or the roots just go into stone. Natural wonder indeed. Shaky ladder thing up a pyramid temple. Nearly died.

Three day pass allows time to ration the temples, all of which are enchanting and magical but can quickly start to blur. *Pause in writing due to annoyance at Robin Thicke being the immediate association there.* Masterpieces of ancient architecture, hot and sweaty. It is a mission, but a mission worthy of a world wonder. It makes you work for it, work for the views, strive for the surprises and clamber for the miraculous. If you’re willing, it will deliver.

Bangkok for 4 days but couldn’t see the Kok for the Bang. Or Splash. Songkran, NY, massive water fight.

So it’s fun. You get a water pistol, put your phone into a water proof wallet and take to the streets, get soaking wet, have a beer, repeat. A spectacle, a party, a very unique event which Thai people take to with an almost unbelievable enthusiasm. But it is unrelenting and the rejection of normal etiquette regarding tourists becomes hard for such stick in ass,  upright Brits. After sun down, dry clothes for dinner — ice cold bucket down the back as soon as you leave the guesthouse. They say you have to engage to enjoy it. True. We did. We tried. But waking up in Chiang Mai after the last day of festival, to walk the streets without fear, the absence of water based anarchy – guerilla armies of youths on the back of trucks with guns and bucket grenades looking almost as threatening and screwed up as in a true break down of society – the most intense relief since having to double check I hadn’t bound the wrong draft of my thesis.

But most importantly it’s becoming more intensely difficult to live without Kevin Spacey. House of Cards. I think I love him. Even watching the Last Action Hero (yep, room with a TV again), which is one of the true greats and ‘an incredibly textured use of the postmodern meta’ (I give no prizes for guessing which of us said that) can not fill the void in my heart. Youtubing videos of his impressions the nearest I can get.

Chiang Mai is very cool. Chilled. Old School. Almost Oxford, city wall and all. Beat a guy called Rudy at pool. More temples.

The search for Frank Underwood continues.

A is for ATM, B is for Bus, C is for CNN

(K is for Khmer Rouge)

Ho Chi Minh, or Saigon to almost everyone there, would have been a frantic whirlwind of chaos were it not for us now being old hats. Streets wider, buildings taller, hawkers far more insistent. Winding downtown alleys, the smell of street noodles more intense. Grand boulevards below the sky tower, more open, more parisian than anything yet seen. Yet relaxing, calm and balmy – beers still downed on a curb side, museums still refuges for the air con addict and traffic still a blitz of noise. But not so much that nerves unwind or hearts forget to beat. Aclimatising to the heat and relaxing into the backpack Saigon feels safe and cosmopolitan. A new city, desperate to cast aside the shadow of its destruction, of the hellish cesspit it became for war. Now, Apocalypse Now is a hip nightclub (‘Aypo’), lurking beneath high rise Sofitels and Marriotts, but close enough to the Old Quarter to still feel seedy, uncouth – like anything could be happening in the alleyways around. But I sit, trying to tighten my heart to the groups of children, so small, who tap you on the arm with chewing gum to sell, not allowed a bed time until the basket’s empty. A reminder that cities all too often mask the harsh reality, the hard knock life.

ATMs have caused a dichotomy of laughter and stress. Absolutely everywhere. Driving through the back and beyond, a medieval world of horse and plough, hut and hurt. Then you see it, the windows shining, a modern, giant and branded-to-the-nines cash machine, loaded with dollar. They’re everywhere, like those Doctor Who boxes – what are they really and what do they want from us? …. Our cash! The transition to penny-pinching transaction fee maniac is complete. Walking past 20 of them to find the cheapest one. Insane.

Cu Chi Tunnels. Sombre and fascinating. Nic discovered his athletic twin and lept underground to crawl through the holes of VC and guerilla. Has been suffering from sore legs since, but the heat and inhuman smallness of where these people lay their heads is almost unbelievable. Another reminder of the living history that seems a 1000 years old.

Saigon – Phnom Penh. PP – Siem Reap. Then Bangkok. Buses, albeit the finest/pricest two nervous British types can find have proven to be the adventure one imagines. You rock, bump and grind forward. Cambodian roads are terrible. One understands, but still. Bump, grind, forward. Crunch, jolt, sideways. 7 hours to do 300km. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Phnom Penh. The Genocide museum. The country that imploded and brutally destroyed a a quarter (or more) of its population. A museum of torture and the story of a ideological dream utterly corrupted by the human temper in power and command. Not very nice. But fascinating – Khmer Rouge seniors are still here, under trial. Not very long ago at all and yet, despite kodak stills of decaying corpses found in the abandoned prison, ex high school, the only way of coping is to place it much further back in history.

CNN. The greatest news channel on the planet. Since we arrived in Kuala Lumpur the days’ highlight has been to return back to our room’s TV and discover that absolutely no developments have been made in the search for MH370, the only story that the 24 hour channel has been discussing since, it feels, the birth of Christ became old news, yet to witness their ability to talk about nothing for so many continuous hours is truly a marvel.

Breaking news – planes are still searching the ocean 900 miles from Perth. No luck just yet, but stay tuned for our panel of experts who will spend the next 5 hours dissecting and speculating when the real story is why mainstream media insists on fuelling our fearful obsession with catastrophic death.

Angor Wat tomorrow.