Mainland Southeast Asia

Our archive of travel stories from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

A dragon protects a gate at Hue's citadeI

Catfish, no Mandala

Short-changed, shoo-ed out of shops and fleeced by taxi drivers: Vietnam can be hard to like, but why should that matter?

Krishna and his sidekick Garuda

Ancient Angkor: Stories in the Stone

The history of the Khmer Empire is written in the ruins at Angkor, from ancient Roluos to Hindu Angkor Wat & the Buddhist Bayon

Skulls in the Choeung Ek Memorial Stupa

Atrocity Tourism in Phnom Penh

The ethical consequences of dark tourism are ambiguous, especially in Phnom Penh, because the Killing Fields and S-21′s extermination camp are monuments to violence as well as its victims.


A Blood Buffet in the Cambodian Jungle

Hirudo orientalis has two heads, two sets of reproductive organs and nine pairs of testes. Hiding deep in Cambodia’s jungles, it waits for unsuspecting animals [...]

The Buddha at Wat Maha Pruettharam Worawihan, supposedly from Sukhothai

The Reincarnated Capital: A History

Southeast Asian history is mostly the story of competing city-states like Bangkok and Ayutthaya, which are reincarnations, in their way, of one another, with the same karma.

A mostly Akha congregation sing a hymn at Mae Salong's Methodist church

A Sunday Service Among the Akha

In Mae Salong, a Chinese minister and his wife invited us to a Sunday service, attended mostly by the Akha, one of Thailand’s hill tribes.

Zhan Dening outside his family home in Mae Salong

China’s Forgotten Army

An interview with a veteran of China’s Forgotten Army in Mae Salong. Abandoned by Taiwan and adopted by Thailand, he fought for over 40 years.

Morning breaks on the Mekong

Slow Boat Home to Luang Prabang

At the foot of Lasagongma Mountain, 5224 metres above sea level, the Mekong takes its first icy breaths. Under Tibet’s cobalt skies, it tumbles toward [...]

Ban Houy Fai, with Houy Fai Peak in the background

Hike to Houy Fai Peak

A travel story about a trek in rural Laos, near Luang Prabang, and the fine line that divides tourism from voyeurism.

Fishermen float by on an green jade Nam Khan

Paying Homage to Henri Mouhot

When Henri Mouhot travelled to Luang Prabang, he was the first white man to enter Laos in 25 years. He died beside the Nam Khan, where a tomb stands as a testament to his journey and his journals, “scribbled generally by the light of a torch, and on my knees at the foot of a tree.”

The Mekong reflects dusk's eerie light

Luang Prabang: The Elements of Heritage

Luang Prabang is a riddle that photographs can solve. It is a town popular with tourists and a World Heritage site, but it rarely feels [...]

Reclining Buddha at Blue Lagoon cave in Vang Vieng, Laos

An Alternative to Tubing in Vang Vieng

Claire and I went to Vang Vieng to laze in a grove of Edenic green. It was a picture-perfect fantasy, conjured up by a postcard [...]

Swings over the 'Blue Lagoon' in Vang Vieng, Laos

Land of the Banana Pancake Eaters

A jaded view of tubing along the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng, Laos, and other bad backpacker behaviour on the Banana Pancake Trail.

Jonnee Green menthol cigarettes, made by the China-Laos Good Luck Tobacco Company

Off the Record in Vientiane

A man I met in Vientiane, who spoke eloquently about the city and how it had changed, initially gave short, guarded answers to my questions. [...]

The new Fude Temple in Vientiane

The Chinese of Vientiane

A portrait of the Chinese immigrants transforming Laos’ sleepy capital.

Dining car on the night train from Bangkok to the Laos border

Night Train to Nong Khai

A night train from Bangkok to Nong Khai, on the border of Laos, is an opportunity to indulge in fantasies of the East.

Thailand's Quiet Island

Thailand’s Quiet Island

Koh Mak is Thailand’s quiet island. In the Gulf of Thailand, near Koh Chang, it isn’t visited by the hordes of tourists that fly into Phuket and Phi Phi; you can relax, and listen to the sound of the water curling its way up the sand.


Songkran Festival in Bangkok

Songkran in Bangkok feels more like a monumental three day water fight than anything sacred…Futilely swinging my pistol in defence, we made our way to the road leading directly to Khaosan. Throngs of chalk-smeared people ran through the whitened streets; where it was too crowded to run, they edged forward, with nowhere to hide from the ceaseless ambushes.

A fish tank in Bangkok's Chinatown

A Letter from Thailand

The censor didn’t deliver the letter, and through every promotion and every move, he made sure that he received the 95 that followed – and that the businessman’s mother, who must have thought herself abandoned by an ungrateful son, received none of these letters from Thailand.

A Mughal tomb in Allahabad

Writer in Transit

I don’t have a single journal entry about my three months in India. I didn’t write anything about my time there, except for a post about the dancer that didn’t dance, in a Bombay beer bar. The scene – a slice out of a furtive, alternative reality, swallowed up in Mumbai’s underworld – spoke to me, forming sentences in my head. But those brief moments of inspiration stood alone.